Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

Towards Zero - WikipediaWhat do a failed suicide attempt, a wrongful accusation of theft against a young girl, and the romantic life of a famous tennis player have in common? At first glance, apparently nothing. But dig a little deeper under the surface of Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero, and you’ll find that nothing is as it seems, especially at Gull’s Point.

Superintendent Battle may be in over his head when he takes up the murder case of elderly widow Lady Tressilian, who was killed in her own seaside home at Gull’s Point. While it appears to be an open-and-shut case against her primary beneficiary, the wealthy sportsman Nevile Strange, new evidence comes to light that gives Strange an airtight alibi, leaving Battle with the question: who in the house wants to see Nevile Strange dead?

There is no shortage of suspects, and one thing is clear – nearly everyone in the house has a dislike for Nevile Strange. In the midst of this drama lies the strange nature of Nevile Strange’s love life, who divorced his ex-wife Audrey to be with a new woman, Kay. However, Strange’s true feelings may not lie with the law, and no one ever knows what Mrs. Audrey Strange is thinking…

In this slow-moving chess game of a mystery novel, Towards Zero will change the way you read murder mysteries (and Agatha Christie) forever. This book is recommended to all fans of the Queen of Mystery, or if you’re just looking for a new action/mystery book to occupy yourself with.

-Mahak M. 

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Ever since its infamous publication in 2003, The Da Vinci Code has succeeded largely in two things: become a massive international bestseller and stir up a contentious brew of religious controversy and criticism.

Controversy aside, I have to first applaud Dan Brown’s skill in weaving together an excellent thriller. When I first saw how thick the book was (689 pages; and I usually only exercise that sort of brainpower and patience with Harry Potter or Percy Jackson), I thought that Dan Brown better have a good story to tell.

Let me just say…he rose to the challenge and completely destroyed it.

My previous conceptions on the book were way off. I had this skewed idea that it was a biography of Leonardo da Vinci’s, ah, complex life, but it’s far more intriguing than that. In fact, the whole book is entangled in a complex matrix of enigmatic riddles, secret societies (ooh!), and the constant hit-or-miss run of the two fugitive protagonists, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu.

Langdon is a professor at Harvard–very prestigious, I know–and he studies the meanings of hidden symbols (sign me up for his class, please). He is drawn together to the other main character, Sophie Neveu, who is the granddaughter of a famous curator, Jacques Sauniere, through the mysterious death of Sauniere in the Louvre. Fair warning: this book is pretty intense. It literally starts with the curator’s murder by the hand of a monk under the religious group Opus Dei, but honestly, I don’t mind these intense openings, which makes me sound extremely psychotic. Guys, I promise the book didn’t ruin me.

Anyways, we eventually discover that Sauniere is part of a brotherhood, the Priory of Sion, that is devoted to the preservation of the pagan goddess worship tradition, and believed to be once led by Leonarda da Vinci (see, you knew da Vinci was in the title for a reason!), and that Sauniere is the last living member of the brotherhood. So that means…all their secrets are about to die! How could they!

Yeah, sorry. Jacques Sauniere outplayed us all, the genius man. Through excruciating pain before his death, he creates riddles and drawings around the exhibition, leading Neveu and Langdon on the most epic scavenger hunt I have ever witnessed. Sauniere doesn’t plan on having the secrets of the Priory lost anytime soon, and he trusts Langdon and Neveu to solve his puzzles and discover the truth. To be completely honest, Neveu and Langdon seriously make me question my IQ. I mean, they somehow escape the Louvre, slipping through the grasp of the French police by means of a bar of soap and a garbage truck (read the book to find out; the scene is pure gold, so I can’t elaborate too much >:) ). This might sound sort of cringy, but trust me, you have got to read this book, because you won’t put it down. Ever. How Dan Brown comes up with the puzzles in the story, the whole plot, the creative ways of escaping…it’s beyond me. At this point, I’m convinced that if anyone knows how to evade the FBI and disappear off the face of the planet, it’s Brown.

I’m not really going to go into more detail, because each puzzle just folds into another lead, then another. It’s insane. Now, though, I want to talk about the conflict about this book, which is partially what made it so well-known.

See, the book was banned entirely in countries like Lebanon because it poses some…well, interesting ideas about Christianity. For example, the whole focus of the Priory of Sion is the belief that the Holy Grail is not a cup depicted in da Vinci’s drawing The Last Supper. It’s a woman named Mary Magdalene, who the Priory believes to have married Jesus Christ and bore his child. I go to a religious high school, and yeah, that theory is definitely never brought up. Additionally, the book highly suggests that religious leaders such as the Pope and religious groups such as Opus Dei are surrounded with a dark history of blackmail and altering the true stories of the Bible, simply to make money. As the book says, the Bible isn’t the best book ever written, it was the best book ever sold.

Shots fired.

Brown argues that the book is completely factual, but many opponents of the book aren’t at all interested in listening. And I suppose they have a good reason to; the book does unravel some aspects of religion that Christians and others of faith may find highly offensive. For now, I’m choosing to remain neutral on the issue. I can definitely understand why some would renounce the book, but to me, I would still praise it for its compelling plot-line and lovable characters. If you’re looking for a thriller you can’t put down and will keep you occupied for days to come during quarantine, hit up Leonardo da Vinci, Langdon, Neveu, and the rest of the gang–and just lose yourself in the awesome world Dan Brown has created!

-Katharine L. 😀

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Image result for the da vinci codeWhat does the murder of an elderly curator of the Louvre, Leonardo da Vinci, and a secret society only rumored to exist have in common? That’s what famed Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon must find out in The Da Vinci Code

On a race against time, Langdon and a talented French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, attempt to unveil the truth behind the Priory of Sion, an ancient secret society that the late curator was involved in – one that is dedicated to protecting a historical secret that has proven to be as enlightening as it is dangerous. 

Blocked by both the Church and the Parisian police, Langdon and Neveu are left isolated and working against everyone they know. Together, the two of them must follow the trail of mystery and murder on a quest to stop a shadowy puppetmaster who appears to anticipate their every move and will stop at nothing to extract the Priory’s secret – not even murder. 

Fast-paced and unforgettable, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is a perfect example of historical intrigue and modern writing that makes this novel a contemporary classic. This book is recommended to all readers or any history buffs who want a new look at an old painting. 

-Mahak M. 

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Sadie by Courtney Summers

This book is not for the faint of heart. It contains very graphic and mature scenes and themes, but nonetheless, it’s a beautiful book. 

Sadie tells the heart-wrenching story of a girl trying to get revenge for her sister’s death. It’s told through her own narration, and through a podcast following her trace. 

As a non-avid reader of mysteries/thrillers, this book was nothing like what I had expected. Although it could be a bit slow at times, what is lacked is made up of impact. This book hits so hard, and it’s important to recognize these types of actions as something that sadly is a part of society today. 

As you learn more about Sadie and what she’s been through, and the stories of the people she meets, you find everything that happens is the absolute worst things imaginable. Society is a gruesome and horrible place, and reading this book gave me biggest reality check I ever could’ve gotten.

The most horrible thing is, that these predicaments are what some people live in, it’s all they know, and that thought repulses me. The idea that people can relate to this piece of work is truly a reflection of the worst parts of society today. 

But all that aside, I highly recommend reading this book. Again, it gave me every sort of feeling imaginable and left me wondering about each and every one of the characters we had the honor of meeting. The podcast format for some chapters is such an ingenious idea and executed so well, I regret that I read the physical copy and not the audiobook. 

Our main character is the strongest and most resilient person I’ve ever read about. She has been through so much in her life, and as the book goes on and on, the situation gets worse and worse. Sadie is such a broken and mistreated character that everything she does, and everything she goes through is remarkable to me.

In short, if you want an impactful read, this is it.

If you’re struggling with anything that Sadie encounters or is going through in this book please reach out for help. You are not alone. 

    National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 

    National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

    National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

-Asli B. 

Sadie by Courtney Summers is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel was one I was assigned as a summer reading assignment which, undoubtedly deterred my interests from the story. It took a lot of psyching myself up to finally delve into the world Marquez had exquisitely painted. But immediately the book was extremely intriguing. The first line of the novel was an eye-catcher stating “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.”

This novel, in the beginning, was confusing. The book was not written in chronological order as suggested but instead jumped around in time. This constant shift through time made it hard to understand a cohesive story during the early stages of reading. However, after a few chapters, the story came together. So as a suggestion, do not let this initial confusion deter you from reading this book.

By the end of the novel, this jumping through time helps create a more intriguing story, creating suspense because the author can choose specific information through different times to give to the reader.

This story is also accurate to the customs of the place in which the story was written. So, it gives an almost realistic feel to a seemingly horrific action. It also allows readers to have some insight into the practices of a different era and different location. This story, stating that the main character was to be killed, then follows the actions which allowed the main character to suffer such a horrific fate. This story ended up being one I extremely enjoyed. I finished the book in a day because I just could not put it down. So, sometimes these books that we are forced to read because of school can actually be enjoyable. It gave me something to do over the summer which was fun.

This book is a nice short read for anyone who is interested in a mystery book. I would suggest it to anybody looking to read something different than the popular books that are being written today. For, this book brings a totally different perspective to the way books can be written.

-Ava G.

Chronicle of Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

End of Watch by Stephen King

Only a mind like Stephen King could catalyze such strange, thrilling storylines and concepts as those presented in his 2016 novel, the third and final installment of the Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch. I admit, I began reading the novel blindly with no background on the previous two installments of the series but was appeased by the fact that King was extremely articulate in giving background on the origins of the trilogy, which easily made End of Watch a more enjoyable and smooth read.

End of Watch features a diverse array of characters, centering on retired Detective Bill Hodges as he juggles monumental health issues and an even more monumental case: a large stretch of suicides sharing a single common link, a handheld video game console with a strangely hypnotic effect. Hodges and his makeshift team — his current and former partners, Holly Gibney and Pete Huntley, and his lawnboy-turned-friend, Jerome — follow the sinister paths taken by Brady Hartsfield, the culprit of the so-called “Mercedes Massacre” that King created for the first book of the trilogy, Mr. Mercedes.

Through pages of suspense and moment after moment of action and mystery from King’s wild imagination, to the saddening farewell of the final pages, End of Watch brings the classic Stephen King “stranded in the murk” feeling, leaving us wandering stone-blind and never knowing when the next plot twist or mind-bending connection will strike. The premise made for King’s legendary style without a hitch and makes us consider the possibilities before swiping to play a video game again.

Upon closing the final curtain and concluding my journey with the characters in the book, I was struck with two very different realizations: the frightening reality of suicide cases across the globe and the authentic ties between friendships. Every character had a unique interaction with each other, which only made the story even more realistic, and consequently, all the more chilling.

So be careful next time you play a new game of Fishin’ Hole — or read a Stephen King novel — you might find it hypnotizing.

—Keira D.

End of Watch by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus tells the story of how deadly a rumor could end up. It started with an after school detention. Five kids walked in. Addy, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Simon all have detention. They don’t usually hang out, so they don’t talk very much. Simon has a gossip app called About That. He posts rumors about kids at the school on the app regularly. Simon gets up to get a glass of water and as soon as he finishes the water he starts having an allergic reaction and dies.

The main belief that the police had was that someone had poisoned Simon because of a rumor posted on the app. The police assume it was one of the four in detention with Simon. In the police investigation, they find peanut oil in the water. Now the four have to do their own detective work to find out who really killed Simon. At the time of Simon’s allergic reaction, the nurse had no EpiPens, and an EpiPen was later found in Nate’s locker. The police then took Nate to have him questioned. Bronwyn hears about this and realizes that their lockers were searched the morning of Simon’s death so somebody must have put the EpiPen there to frame Nate.

The three students keep looking for clues, and their search leads them to one of Simon’s only friends, Janae Vargas. They continually ask Janae if she knows anything until she finally tells them who killed Simon. She tells them that somebody made a plan to kill Simon by putting peanut oil in the water and that the person was…(spoiler warning! highlight text to read!)Simon himself. Simon planned every detail like hiding the nurse’s EpiPens and hiding one in Nate’s locker. Simon’s apparent motive was that everyone in the detention class had been rude to him so he decided to try and frame them

-Emilio V.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive. 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None is a great book written by Agatha Christie. She was known as one of the greatest writers of her time. She is also called the Queen of Mystery.

The book is about ten people who have done bad things in there life and are killed one by one because of the bad deeds. The murderer is following a nursery rhyme that explains how he or she will kill all the victims.

The author adds a big element of suspense into the book. It even adds the best setting for this all to happen: a creepy old mansion on a island. This read is differently then any murder mystery you have ever read.

Just at the end of every Agatha Christie book the murderer is a big shocker. She always adds the person that had nothing to do with it actually kill the victim. In this novel especially there are many red herrings. Sometimes they are meant to throw you off but either way it is awesome that they are in murder mystery novels.

My favorite part of the book is the whole nursery rhyme scheme. It is a great way for the author to incorporate the suspense in the book. I mean how creepy is it that your killing people based on a nursery rhyme? There is also a mini series based off this book. I haven’t watched it yet but I while and I hope it is really good.

Another thing about murder mysterious is that people who seem one way may die in a way that is surprising because the is the opposite of how he or she is behaving. For example if someone died from suicide and that person is having the time of your life.

That is just one of the thought turning things that Agatha Christie does in her novels. It’s like you think one thing and then he or she dies then it just goes on and on until the murderer is found.

Max U.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

You Will Be Mine by Natasha Preston

This was one of the best books I read. As always I enjoyed Natasha Preston’s book yet again; it was almost better than “The Cellar.” This book started with a scene of pure terror when all of a sudden two dorm mates get a letter signed to Sonny, one of their roommates. Included in the letter is a note that says “Your heart will be mine”, not only is it almost Valentines Day, but the note has no address stating who it came from. Not worrying too much about the note, Layla, Issac, Sienna, Charlotte, Chace, and Sonny go to a party to enjoy their break from college. Following their arrival at the party, they are accompanied with free drinks that were already paid for, but by who? Following the next day, Layla is startled to realize that Sonny never came home from the party, he is one to come home late, but with the startled advancement of the note, her roommates are questioning whether somebody killed him.

This book has the perfect amount of suspense, mystery, and action. This would definitely be a book I would recommend.

-Rylie N.

You WIll Be Mine by Natasha Preston is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Stranger by Albert Camus

If you were to see Monsieur Meursault walking down the street, he would appear to be an ordinary young man. He shows up to work every day, doesn’t disrespect any of his coworkers, and is on good terms with all of his neighbors. Unless you were to actually meet him, you would never realize that he was a bit different.

When people ask him things, he doesn’t ever seem to have a definite answer- it almost seems as if nothing really matters to him. Because of this, people will sometimes become annoyed at him. They want clear answers, and Monsieur Meursault won’t give them that. However, no one really questions him and his lack of feelings until the death of his mother (Maman, he calls her). He had sent her off to a home for the elderly because he was no longer able to support her. Now she has died, and to Monsieur Meursault, it doesn’t really feel as if anything has changed – everyone around him is grieving more than the woman’s own son. People question him: Why doesn’t he seem to be in mourning? Why has he not shed a single tear?

It’s not until after a horrific event takes place that Meursault’s actions (or lack thereof) begin to affect him. Meursault probably never would have expected this to happen, and neither would any of his friends and acquaintances, but it did, and now he must face the consequences.

Originally written in French by Albert Camus, this book has been beautifully translated to English by Matthew Ward. It’s written in an unusual style that I think is very fitting for the personality of Monsieur Meursault. Although it may not be filled with action and adventure, this is definitely an interesting read, and it gives us insight on how this strange man thinks. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about the French culture, as this is where the book takes place.

Despite the fact that this is a fairly short book, it took me a while to read it. I only read a little each day because it gave me so much to think about and the protagonist and his actions really intrigued me. This is the first book I’ve read wherein the main character thinks in such a strange way. I’m really glad that it’s written in the point of view of this man, else I wouldn’t have been able to understand him at all. This is a very unique book, written in the point of view of a very unusual protagonist, and although I probably wouldn’t read this book again, I don’t regret reading it and would definitely say that it gave me a lot to think about.

-Elina T.

The Stranger by Albert Camus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.