Published by Harper on August 4th 2015
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A chilling high-concept thriller from No. 1 bestselling author Sam Bourne. Perfect for fans of Robert Harris.
The United States have yielded to the People’s Republic of China – Beijing has written off trillions of dollars of US debt in return for a permanent military presence on US soil. America is now a former global superpower, dependent on and junior to China. And the evidence – cultural and political – is everywhere.
Madison Webb is a work-obsessed journalist who will do anything to get to the heart of a story; to expose lies and corruption. When her sister is brutally murdered, the police seem too eager to write it up as an isolated incident. Madison starts digging and uncovers a series of similar rape-murder cases.
As her investigation beings to attract the media spotlight, Madison draws the attention of some powerful people. And when she reveals the link between the victims, Madison will find out that the Chinese military makes for a terrifying enemy…
I am glad I joined the tour for The 3rd Woman. The premise of the book totally intrigued me. How was this even going to work? This book had the potential to go very, very badly. I really enjoyed this one, but I had a few issues, and they are totally not what you are probably thinking.
Length-The book is simply too long for a thriller. Pacing is a bit slow and there is so much exposition and conversation that feels repetitive and makes the book boring in places.
Themes-I always get uncomfortable when a man writes a book like this. There are way too many references to vaginas-from the killer leaving a poppy flower in the panties, to a woman getting herself off in front of a mirror, to Madison being kicked in the crotch repeatedly while she was being jumped in a crowd. I know that it was probably completely innocent, but it gave me a creepy vibe that I couldn’t shake.
Characterization-The protagonist is female, and since I already mentioned above what made me uncomfortable, it’s important to mention how cardboard she felt to me. The book is plot driven, that much is obvious, but I felt like she could have had more depth as a woman. The male characters were much stronger, but all Maddy was, was a journalist. She had very little personality and was lacking in voice. This happens sometimes when men write female characters.
So what did I like?
The Plot– In many ways it was a typical thriller, but the fact that it happens in a future world–a world that is not unthinkable–gives it a different feel. The Chinese have several bases on the west coast of the United States because the U.S. has failed to pay them back the trillions we owe them. As a result, they have bases called “pearls” in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. There might be a couple more cities but I forget. Anyway, women dying, and one of the things they have in common is that they all have a connection the the Chinese garrison on Terminal Island. There is a serial killer at work, responsible for the death of her sister and three other women, and Madison Webb suspects it is one of the junior officers stationed there.
The Writing– While not particularly special, the writing was great at building atmosphere and plot at a reasonable pace. I just wish it had moved a bit faster because this is a thriller and it lacked a certain excitement that I was looking for. I found the political scenes and the rivalry between the incumbent mayor and his competitor to be pretty boring. I wish those had been tightened up and left out where they didn’t add anything to the story. That said, I did like the way the author created this “other” Los Angeles that felt very realistic, mixed with some places that existed and some that were fictional creations from the author’s mind.
This is the second thriller in a row I have read, and I enjoyed both. This one was not quite perfect, just like the other, but I do recommend it for the different element it brings to the genre. It could have gone incredibly wrong, stereotypical, even racist, but it manages to not cross over that line and still is a very tense story that I think most readers would enjoy.