Why do we like thrillers so much? There is something about being unsafe, but being about to do inside of a book—a safe place—that really grips us. Thrillers are such a large part of the fiction world and they seem to have really flooded the market as of late.
While this is probably due to the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and more recently the Gone Girl and Girl on the Train phenomena. (I try not to comment on these too often, but here’s the short of it: I read ARCs of each and honestly never thought that either would explode the way they did. I felt strongly that they were ordinary, even poorly written books. I’ve read plenty of other great thrillers that have been completely ignored. So you just never know [or at least I don’t] what will pick up and what won’t! No offense if you adore GG—so does the rest of the world.)
Of course, not every book can be those books—and not every book has to be a GG clone (thank whoever it is you deem fit). I like to see a wealth of diversity in my thrillers and even if I don’t always get it, I like to see books working toward that.
This week, I’ve got two thrillers of entrapment, though as you’ll see, the word means very different things in each book. The first, The Trap is already available through Grand Central Publishing (at your local bookstore)!
Linda walked in on the brutal murder of her sister and caught a fleeting glimpse of the killer’s face, but he was never caught. Eleven years later, she is a successful author, but she’s been in a self-imposed housebound exile ever since the murder, stuck in the trauma of that night and only comforted by isolation. When she sees the murderer’s face on television, she realizes she can set a trap to catch him by writing a novel about her sister’s death.
Sounds juicy right?! If that’s enough for you, dive right in; you won’t be disappointed.
The story is told in first person, from Linda’s perspective and she is a pretty straightforward narrator; no artistic frills or really descriptive sentences dangling around. I guess that only stood out to me because the character is a writer, so I expected that she’d see the world in a very illustrative and expressive way, but she really didn’t. There were also sections from her book—her trap, as it were—that the reader was privy to throughout and the style there was very much the same as the rest of the book. Perhaps there was something lost in the translation from the German, which I always hate to lean on as an excuse for a book.
The style of the book didn’t bother me, it was just lacking, and that is just something that I notice. This is something that you tend to see with debut writers—and there’s nothing wrong with that. They can definitely still have that talent to find and tell an interesting story but just lack the discipline and training that you see with more experience writers. That effortless style and feel for words. There aren’t any moments that make you stop and want to read it again, just for the language—not because anything particularly important is happening in the plot, but just because the sentence is perfect. Perhaps it will come.
What this book did well was put the reader in the mind of an extremely unreliable narrator and wrench us through her transitions and conspiracy theories until I didn’t know what to believe! One minute I’m completely on board with her, rooting for her to nail this guy to the wall for killing her sister, and the next, I’m thinking, this girl is crazy. It’s completely all in her head.
Linda’s sanity begins to waver and slowly disintegrates. Her hold on reality is tenuous to begin with, as the stories that she’s invented have often folded into real life for her. With only a little nudge from the right (or wrong) person, she could easily fall into her own trap—and no one knows what she’s done but the killer and herself.
Her slow-burning descent was probably the greatest strength of the book for me. I didn’t know if she was going crazy or going through some sort of hero’s journey and becoming stronger and saner—maybe the truth is that we need a little of both in our lives.
The Trap runs on a very small cast of characters, a trend that I’ve been noticing in thrillers recently (shattered by another translation, The Crow Girl, which I will attempt to dissect soon!). It’s difficult to hide much in so few people. Us thriller-ophiles are looking for tropes, clues, and hints because the name of the game is guess-that-twist, and it’s difficult to hide behind your characters when there aren’t many! This book gets away with that because Linda doesn’t know who she’s dealing with and her views of other people radically change throughout the book, sometimes more than once. As she is our in, we have no choice but to go along for the ride, and it is a bumpy one! Watch out for Chekov’s gun. . . (Couldn’t help myself, it’s a writer thing!)
Get your copy of The Trap
Find out more about the author: Melanie Raabe
Website (her site is in German) Twitter Instagram
Find out more about the publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
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Assistant editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.