Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

Description: The all-new thriller from #1 internationally bestselling author Matthew Reilly!

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can’t…

Matthew Reilly is one of the best action writers in the business, but even so, I was a little hesitant when I began this book. I was worried it would be too derivative of Jurassic Park. It didn’t take me more than a few pages to put those fears to rest. Reilly has delivered another outstanding action thriller and The Great Zoo of China is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The idea of ancient creatures somehow surviving into the present day, or being recreated in the present day has been intriguing writers and filmmakers and fascinating readers for a long time.  From Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World to King Kong and all the way up to Jurassic Park and beyond.  The thrill of pitting human skills against the apex predators of an earlier age is tremendously exciting when done well, and Matthew Reilly does it very, very well.

Dragons have long been fascinating creatures and date back to some of our earliest literature. They also figure strongly into Chinese mythos, which helps make China a great setting for this story. The secretiveness, world financial dominance, and competitiveness of China make the scale of the effort to create the worlds largest and most impressive zoo. With these type of stories, it just takes a nod toward plausibility to let go and enjoy the action. Reilly does more than that and puts some thought into how and why such a thing could come to be.  That is more than enough to propel you into the story.

Reilly has made a career out of writing strong characters and incredible action sequences.  CJ Cameron is a great and resilient character and she is more than equal to the task when events at the zoo inevitably begin to go wrong.  What really shines in this book though are the impressive action sequences.  Once the action begins, it doesn’t let up. The characters are thrust from one dangerous situation to the next and at each stage the action and the stakes go up another notch. Reilly isn’t the first to tell this kind of story, but he takes a back seat to no one in telling it. This is a popcorn thriller and if you like high voltage action, you will love The Great Zoo of China.  Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

If you enjoy this book, you might want to check out The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, Carnosaur by Harry Adam Knight, and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Description:  In the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife, The Devil You Know is a thrilling debut about a rookie reporter, whose memories of the murder of her childhood best friend bring danger—and a stalker—right to her doorstep.

The year is 1993. Rookie crime beat reporter Evie Jones is haunted by the unsolved murder of her best friend Lianne Gagnon who was killed in 1982, back when both girls were eleven. The suspected killer, a repeat offender named Robert Cameron, was never arrested, leaving Lianne’s case cold.

Now twenty-one and living alone for the first time, Evie is obsessively drawn to finding out what really happened to Lianne. She leans on another childhood friend, David Patton, for help—but every clue they uncover seems to lead to an unimaginable conclusion. As she gets closer and closer to the truth, Evie becomes convinced that the killer is still at large—and that he’s coming back for her.

From critically acclaimed author Elisabeth de Mariaffi comes a spine-tingling debut about secrets long buried and obsession that cannot be controlled.

Evie Jones is an interesting character and Elisabeth de Mariaffi has created a really interesting world for her to inhabit. The 90’s setting is old enough to feel dated yet it doesn’t seem like an out of touch world.

The tragedy that happened to Evie’s friend Lianne when they were children colors Evie’s world and all her relationships. The need to know what really happened has influenced her decision to become a reporter and it influences how she relates to her parents and her friend David.  

Elisabeth de Mariaffi creates some very interesting secondary characters, particularly Evie’s mother. Evie herself lives with one foot in the real world and one foot in her imagination. The story is told entirely from her point of view and you never know if what she believes is happening now, as well as what happened in the past, is real. You live in Evie’s mind and quite frankly, it’s a bit claustrophobic.

I never entirely trusted Evie’s perception, and frankly neither did she. The problem with this is that it robbed the story of some of its tension. Further, I never really warmed to her character and was less invested in what happened to her. The story of her mother and her youth was more tantalizing and I would have been interested in learning more about that.

The Devil You Know is a solid story but it doesn’t quite rise to the level of thrilling. As a main character, Evie felt lacking. The other characters were mostly solid. The book has mild chills in places and the writing is good, but it never quite took off for me.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.