The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.
Abandoning their own when an operation turns bad is what the CIA is known for. So sayeth one of the characters in this book, but is it the whole truth.
Seventeen year old Gwendolyn is an ordinary American girl. She is told by her father that he works for the Government and as a result they have lived in many countries especially Russia and Italy making her adept at several languages.
When her father goes missing in France on what he said was a routine operation, Gwendolyn’s life changes. The CIA call round asking questions. A neighbour upstairs tells Gwendolyn that all is not as it seems and gives her a book that her father said was for her eyes only. What she discovers takes her to Paris and the company of a taut bodied former Mossad agent, Yael ,who describes her job as 90% waiting around and 10% terror.
Gwendolyn toughens up under Yael’s guidance and after a gun battle Gwendolyn takes off for Berlin and later Prague. She assumes the identity of a 22 year old Russian stripper called Sofia and becomes involved with a gun running, drug dealing, young girl smuggling multi millionaire Bohden Kladivo. He tells her “a woman who seeks to rise in the World must be crueler than men”. As the plot evolves Gwendolyn/Sofia finds the cruelty rising within her.
An excellent action/thriller/spy story that makes for tense reading. One of the best of this type of novel that I have read and the good news is the story is not over. There must be a sequel. The plot is tight and believable and the style is clever, menacing and witty – “trains creep slowly along the tracks like snakes in a moat”
Teens and Young Adults will love it.
Boy X by Dan Smith. Pub Chicken House, 2016.
This is an easy to read action/ survival thriller set in a research Lab on an island covered in a deadly jungle.It is aimed at high school students and intermediate aged readers
Ash is about 16 years old and he awakes in a bed in the research laboratory with memories of a man called Thorn having stabbed him in the neck with a needle. He goes looking for his scientist mother and stumbles into a heap of action including a helicopter crash.
He meets Isabel, an Hispanic girl whose father is also a scientist and together they make their way to the laboratory where Ash’s mother and Isabel’s father are sealed in. They learn that both have been injected by a lethal virus called Kronos which has the potential to destroy the World.
Fortunately there is an antidote but some villains have taken both the virus and antidote and fled across the dense jungle to a boat on the other side of the island. Isabel and Ash need to stop the virus from leaving the island and to get back to their mother and father to give them the antidote.
They have 24 hours to do so. The countdown is on, the psychopathic Thorn is after them, and the jungle has terrors of its own. Not only that, Ash has developed heightened senses and can see, hear and smell things miles away. He is also stronger, heals quickly and can move like a vampire.
Read the rest and find out what happens. It is thrilling.
It is said that two is company and three is a crowd. That’s the way it is with Mandy, Petra and Tina. All three girls are new at school looking for friends to feel at ease.
Petra and Tina are friends first with Petra wanting the friendship to be exclusive. She inveigles Tina into her world by forming a girl band called the Red Roses. Tina is easy going and falls in line. When Mandy comes on the scene Tina is happy for her to join. The girls get on well and are closer in terms of family life and an easiness of manner.
Petra won’t have this and pressures Tina who submits. Petra’s home life is sordid. She lives with a violent drunken father who is always sorry after he beats her. Petra sees him entering a house with groceries one day and hears him talk of an old man who lives there.
Curiosity compels Petra to go into the old man’s property like a moth to a flame. She takes Tina in with her and tells Mandy to go home. Petra and Tina disappear. What has happened?
Not a trace is found of them and now it is 5 years later and the house from which they disappeared is being demolished. Mandy now 17 years goes to watch and this precipitates a series of events that tell of what happened.
Splendidly told by Anne Cassidy who is a master of suspense. She keeps the tension on for the whole book. This is a psychological thriller and a mystery.
I first read Cassidy’s book Looking for JJ in 2004. It was brilliant and this book is too.
High school students will love it and I suspect some intermediate girls will love it too.