Review: Orphan X

Review: Orphan XOrphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
Published by Penguin on September 1st 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thrillers
Pages: 427

'Do you need my help?' It was the first question he asked. They called him when they had nowhere else to turn.
As a boy Evan Smoak was taken from an orphanage. Raised and trained in a top secret programme, he was sent to bad places to do things the government denied ever happened.
Then he broke with the programme, using what he'd learned to vanish. Now he helps the desperate and deserving.
But someone's on his trail.
Someone who knows his past and believes that the boy once known as Orphan X must die . . .

I got Orphan X for Christmas, so it hadn’t been sitting on my shelves too long before I just had to pick it up. I don’t read many mysteries/thrillers, but I mix things up with one occasionally, and the person who bought me this knew (rightly) that “top secret government programme” are words absolutely guaranteed to get me to pick something up!

Orphan X picked up fairly slowly but then got addictive – over a few days I slowly got to 25%, but then I was totally hooked on the remaining 75%. The story is action-packed, with plenty of twists and turns as Evan tries to help his latest client while also being hunted by person(s) unknown.

Current day Evan Smoak has a kind of James Bond vibe going on, without quite so much charm. He’s wealthy, he kicks ass, and he approaches relationships with cold calculation. He’s likable enough, but at times a little too perfect for me: he thinks three steps ahead, is extremely efficient and (most of the time at least) is detached from life and people, because they just get in the way. I find that with the majority of thrillers I pick up, there just isn’t enough character depth for me, and while Orphan X definitely had more interesting, complex characters than I expected, I’d have still liked more. Hurwitz’s writing is detailed and engrossing, but I wouldn’t have minded a little less of the technical fighting and weapons details in exchange for a little more character time. I absolutely loved some of the supporting characters, the moments when Evan is thrown off his footing in a social situation, and seeing him try to blend in during day-to-day life.

I really enjoyed the flashbacks to young Evan – to his recruitment into the mysterious orphan programme, his training and his mistakes. I’d love to see more of this, but I can also understand that it slows the pacing down and so it makes sense to stick mostly in the current events. Orphan X was an interesting, gripping start to the series and I’ll definitely be picking up book two (but not so-secretly hoping for a little more secret government conspiracy).

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Just What Kind of Mother Are You? (Paula Daly)

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? (Paula Daly)Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly
Published by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. on 09-03-2013
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 256
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

What if your best friend's child disappears? And it was all your fault.

This is exactly what happens to Lisa Kallisto, overwhelmed working mother of three, one freezing December in the English Lake District. She takes her eye off the ball for just a moment and her whole world descends into the stuff of nightmares. Because, not only is thirteen-year-old Lucinda missing, and not only is it all Lisa's fault, but she's the second teenage girl to disappear within this small tightknit community over two weeks. The first girl turned up stripped bare, dumped on a busy high street, after suffering from a terrifying ordeal.  Wracked with guilt over her mistake and after being publicly blamed by Lucinda's family, Lisa sets out to right the wrong. But as she begins peeling away the layers surrounding Lucinda's disappearance, Lisa learns that the small, posh, quiet town she lives in isn't what she thought it was, and her friends may not be who they appear, either.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★

I picked up Just What Kind of Mother Are You? as part of Dewey’s 24 hour readathon, about 4 hours before the end.  I hoped the mystery would help me squeeze one last book in before the end of the readathon, and it certainly did that!

The storyLisa Kallisto is an overworked, perpetually busy mum.  She forgets to buy the ingredients her daughter needs for food tech, is constantly juggling several things at once, and never has enough money for the animal shelter that she works at.  Her go to phrase is “Leave it with me, I’ll sort it”, even when she has no idea just how she’ll go about it.  She lives happily (if busily) with her taxi driving husband and their two kids.

Lisa’s best friend, Kate, is one of ‘those’ mothers.  The cake baking, never forgets anything, always smiling and put together mothers.  Despite their friendship, Lisa can’t help feeling a little jealous of Kate, and her perfect seeming life.  Through a series of miscommunications, Kate is left thinking that her daughter Lucinda is staying at Lisa’s for a night – but she’s not.  When she goes missing, Lisa blames herself – and so does everyone else.  Wracked with guilt and fear, Lisa watches hopelessly as the police try to find Lucinda.

The characters
The story alternates between first-person chapters from Lisa’s point of view and third-person chapters from Detective Constable Joanne Aspinall, with a few chapters from the kidnapper.

Lisa’s first person chapters are easy to get engrossed in, because let’s be honest, we all have days when we’re overwhelmed, when we forget things, where we look at someone else’s life and think it seems so easy. Lisa’s not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination – she makes mistakes, she sometimes doesn’t appreciate how amazing her own family life is and she struggles with feeling worthy.  Despite that, or perhaps because of it, she’s very easy to relate to.  There are moments where you’ll dislike her, and moments when you can’t help but feel so strongly for her because she’s a very three-dimensional character.

DC Joanne Aspinall is a steady, hard-working woman, trying to piece together the case of Lucinda, and the other missing girls.  She’s very likable, and although her chapters were perhaps slightly less emotional than Lisa’s, I think the story needed those breaks in order not to leave the reader just feeling burnt out.

It’s hard to comment on any of the other characters without giving away spoilers, as at points throughout the book, you may find yourself looking at EVERYONE!

final thoughtsJust What Kind of Mother are You? was truly gripping and engrossing, heavily emotional and with a twist filled-end.  Unfortunately, while the ending was definitely a twist, I wasn’t ultimately satisfied with it.  There are a lot of secrets kept throughout the town, which in itself I could have lived with, but there were certain secrets that I felt would have been impossible to keep quiet and so the ending felt less plausible the more I thought about it.  (I know that’s very vague, it’s impossible to say more without giving any spoilers away!).

Buy it? This is probably a library borrow for me.
In a nutshell: A hugely gripping, tense and emotional mystery.

Other Reviews of Just What Kind of Mother Are You?: The Infinite Curio | The Lost Ent Wife | Books and Reviews

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