Review: The Anonymous Source

Anonymous Source

I am not a frequent reader of thrillers, although I do have quite a fondness for John Le Carré. But A.C. Fuller caught my eye when I read in an interview somewhere that his favourite book was Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. I was impressed. Most people haven't even heard of it, let alone liked it, and I have always been of the opinion that it was far superior to Hesse's more famous Steppenwolf. So I got a little excited. I guess I was a prototypical hipster, getting excited about the things nobody else has heard of. (One year I dressed up as a hipster to greet kids at the door for Halloween, and nobody realized it was a costume... Wait, I'm supposed to be writing a review.) A thriller writer who likes obscure German literature that I also happen to like. That was a promising start. I figured I'd get a thriller with a difference, so I asked for a review copy.

And yes, there are some differences from what I normally expect in a thriller, but not enough to offend readers of the genre. There is a bit of a mystical touch and he delves perhaps a little more deeply into the personal issues of the characters than is normal in a thriller (at least the ones I've read apart from the aforementioned Le Carré).

In The Anonymous Source Alex Vane is a young and rising newspaper journalist in 2002, hoping to break into TV journalism. He's been assigned the courtroom beat and fortunately for him, is covering a murder case that has transfixed NYC. All is going well until he starts getting tips from an anonymous source, one that has taken the care to use a voice scrambler. Alex starts going beyond courtroom reporting and starts investigating the murder itself and it isn't long before he finds himself in the crosshairs of an assassin who is taking his assignment far too personally.

I don't know if this is going to be a signature of Fuller's work but food is something that figures prominently in the book. Meals are often described in loving detail, and Fuller seems to find amusement in underscoring the differences in eating habits between Alex and Camila, a lady who finds herself more involved in his investigation than she would perhaps wish. Don't read this book while hungry or you could find yourself snacking more than you should... ;o)

Fuller leaves us hanging on a number of details, which would normally be a fault, but seeing as this is not meant to be a standalone book, we can hope that they will be resolved in a future episode. While the story does resolve in a satisfactory way, Alex still doesn't have all his answers, and somebody still wants to pull his strings. And I personally want to know about the sense of shame that Alex feels on occasion. He's not sure where it's coming from and I do hope we will find out before the series (?) is over.

All in all, I would recommend this book to thriller lovers. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

A.C. Fuller's website 

Review: Rivers

Oh man! I mean, OH MAN! Tear my heart out, why don'cha, Michael Farris Smith!

I first heard of Smith and his debut novel Rivers on a Twitter chat where they were featured. It was an interesting chat, so I checked the author website and first pages, and decided it was worth looking closer. I am not at all sorry.

Rivers is a near-future dystopia. (And a thriller. And a literary novel. People who know me know how happy this is making me already.) Climate change has brought about an almost non-stop barrage of hurricanes battering the Gulf Coast states and as they increase in frequency and strength, the American government gives up. They draw a line ninety miles north of the coast, evacuate all but the most recalcitrant, and suspend all government services below the Line. Cohen is one of the most recalcitrant. He refuses the expropriation offers, ignores evacuation attempts, and holds out in one of the few houses left standing, riding out one hurricane after another. After all, he has a house. He has money. Most of all, he has ghosts, ghosts he doesn't want to leave.

Smith's mostly spare prose is haunting in its impact, as Cohen moves through the non-stop rain, eventually reaching a tipping point. He decides to leave, a group of women and children in tow. He is up against predators, mostly human, increasingly violent weather, and a host of logistic challenges that are monsters in and of themselves. There is a twist that I maybe should have seen coming but didn't, and flashbacks to a sunny vacation in Venice.

I often binge-read, devouring a novel in only one or two sittings. It was impossible with Rivers. I needed a break from the intensity and all that rain. Do not mistake this for a complaint or a criticism. It is a masterful book, which hits all the bases I look for to deserve the moniker of Gourmet Reading: superb understated prose, powerful characterization, and a plot that keeps me turning pages. In this case you can throw in an incredible depiction of the setting as a bonus.

So yes, if you are a fan of anything but light fluff, read this book!

Michael Farris Smith's website

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