ARC REVIEW: The Fourth Courier – by Timothy Jay Smith

Title: The Fourth Courier
Author: Timothy Jay Smith
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 2nd 2019
Publisher: Arcade
Finished reading: March 13th 2019
Pages: 320

“It’s not death that we fear but being erased by history if we leave nothing behind.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Arcade in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I always have a weak spot for a good and honest historical thriller with an international setting, so of course I was immediately intrigued by the blurb of The Fourth Courier. It sounded like a fantastic read and I found myself really looking forward to dive into this story set in post-war Poland. Sadly, I can’t say that I was impressed with what I found. Firstly I have to say that I might be the wrong target group here as the writing style seems to be more focused on a so-called ‘white male’ audience. No offense ment here, but I found The Fourth Courier to be sexist and a lot of negative stereotypes and cliches were used, not only regarding the character’s sexual preference but also regarding their race and nationality. Some readers might be fine with that, but personally it was a huge turn off for me. For the same reason I wasn’t able to connect to the writing style at all. Both writing and plot felt chaotic and all over the place… There are inconsistencies in the plot and there are so many different characters and storylines that it’s too confusing and difficult to keep track of the who, what, where and when. You literally get lost in the chaos, and not in a good way. The idea behind The Fourth Courier on its own is interesting and does have a lot of promise. Unfortunately, I can’t say I enjoyed the execution of this idea though and I had a really hard time reaching the final page. It could have been a case of a story that’s simply not for me, but I won’t go so far as recommending it to anyone else either. Oh well, we can’t like them all, can we?

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Set in 1992 Warsaw, Poland, the FBI is called in when a series of murders takes a dangerous turn. The locals suspect that the victims may have been couriers smuggling nuclear material from Russia to Poland, which means they might have to deal with a future nuclear treat. FBI agent Jay Porter is sent to investigate and stop those behind the murders before things escalate further. Things are quickly spinning out of control though…

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I really wanted to enjoy The Fourth Courier and it initially had all the signs I would. But between the chaotic plot, too many characters, sexist comments and negative stereotypes and cliches I ended up really disappointed by this story. I confess I probably would have DNFed if it wouldn’t have been an ARC… And I can’t say that reaching the final page was all that satisfying, with the forementioned negative comments and plot getting on my nerves every single page. Like I said before, I might have been the wrong target group here, so I suggest deciding for yourself if you want to give this story a try or not.


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ARC REVIEW: A Gentleman In Moscow – by Amor Towles

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Title: A Gentleman In Moscow
Author: Amor Towles

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Hutchinson
Finished reading: February 24th 2017
Pages: 462
Rating 4,5qqq

“No matter how much time passes, those we have loved never slip away from us entirely.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Hutchinson in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I first heard about this book last year and originally wanted to read it before the Goodreads Choice Awards last November, but I wasn’t able to get a copy in time. I’ve heard nothing but great things about A Gentleman In Moscow ever since and I was delighted to both find it mentioned at Netgalley AND actually receive an ARC copy of it shortly after. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but it’s been a while since I last read a story set in Russia. This novel by Amor Towles starts in the 1920s and follows the main character during the next two decades, successfully combining historical facts with the personal stories of the characters and making A Gentleman In Moscow that much more intriguing to read. Sure, this novel has quite a slow pace and that might disencourage some readers. But the prose and descriptions more than make up for it and the slow pace can be explained in the first place by the fact that it’s a mostly character-driven story. It’s beautifully written story that will appeal to both fans of the historical fiction genre and to those who enjoy a proper character-driven story. Because it’s the main characters who make this book into such a lovely story; without Count Alexander Rostov and his new friends at the hotel, this story would simply fall apart.

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On 21 June 1922, the life of Count Alexandre Rostov is about to change forever… In fact, he is lucky to be still alive the next day. The Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is forced to spend the rest of his days inside the Hotel Metropol just across the Red Square. And they don’t take him to his usual suite either; he is led to a small attic room without even a proper window. Rostov is forced to embrace his new life stripped of everything that used to define him, and it makes him question what makes us who we are… And during his years at the Metropol, he slowly starts to discover new ways to find purpose in his life.

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If you want to try the historical fiction genre, but are afraid of dense fact-ridden bricks that are difficult to read, A Gentleman In Moscow will come to the rescue. It’s true that the pace is a bit slow, but apart from the beautiful descriptions of the 20th century Russia this novel is mostly about the life of Count Alexander Rostov inside the hotel and the way his character develops over time. It’s a truly fascinating read and the prose is wonderful; more than recommended!


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