A Thrilling Summer Preview
It’s that time again. However, I think I’m a bit late. Most of the summer’s best thrillers have already come out in May.
The Scarecrow – Michael Connelly
Last seen in The Poet, Jack McEvoy is back. With Connelly at the top of his game, this one sure looks like a winner.
Synopsis: Forced out of the Los Angeles Times amid the latest budget cuts, newspaperman Jack McEvoy decides to go out with a bang, using his final days at the paper to write the definitive murder story of his career. He focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer in jail after confessing to a brutal murder. But as he delves into the story, Jack realizes that Winslow’s so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent. Jack is soon running with his biggest story since The Poet made his career years ago. He is tracking a killer who operates completely below police radar–and with perfect knowledge of any move against him. Including Jack’s.
Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
Flynn’s Sharp Objects was nominated for the Edgar, Barry, and Dagger awards. With all the critical praise and buzz, this new thriller is a shoe-in. This is definitely on my TBR list.
Synopsis: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her. The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club . . . and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.
The Last Child – John Hart
Hart is on a roll. Both of his previous books were outstanding, and Down River won the Edgar award for Best Novel in 2008.
Synopsis: Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is—confident in a way that he can never fully explain. Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene. Then a second child goes missing . . . Undeterred by Hunt’s threats or his mother’s pleas, Johnny enlists the help of his last friend, and together they plunge into the wild, to a forgotten place with a history of violence that goes back more than a hundred years. There, they meet a giant of a man, an escaped convict on his own tragic quest. What they learn from him will shatter every notion Johnny had about the fate of his sister; it will lead them to another far place, to a truth that will test both boys to the limit.
Road Dogs – Elmore Leonard
The loveable Jack Foley (George Clooney in the movie Out of Sight) is back. After reading a great review, Road Dogs is a TBR definite. It should be a hilarious.
Synopsis: Jack Foley, the charming bank robber from Out of Sight, is serving a thirty-year sentence in a Miami penitentiary, but he’s made an unlikely friend on the inside who just might be able to do something about that. Fellow inmate Cundo Rey, an extremely wealthy Cuban criminal, arranges for Foley’s sentence to be reduced from thirty years to three months, and when Jack is released just two weeks ahead of Cundo, he agrees to wait for him in Venice Beach, California. Also waiting for Cundo is his common-law wife, Dawn Navarro, a professional psychic with a slightly ulterior motive for staying with Cundo: namely, she wants his money. And with the arrival of Jack, she sees the perfect partner in a plan to relieve Cundo of his fortune. Cundo may be Jack’s friend, but does that mean he can trust him? And can either of them trust Dawn?
The Lovers -John Connolly – June 2 (US) and July 9 (UK)
After reading the entire Charlie Parker series from Every Dead Thing to The Unquiet, I will be first in line when this book comes out. Lyrical and haunting, Connolly never disappoints.
Synopsis: Charlie Parker is a lost soul. Deprived of his private investigator’s license and under scrutiny by the police, Parker takes a job in a Portland bar. But he uses his enforced retirement to begin a different kind of investigation: an examination of his own past and an inquiry into the death of his father, who took his own life after apparently shooting dead two unarmed teenagers. It’s a search that will eventually lead Parker to question all that he believed about his beloved parents, and about himself. But there are other forces at work: a troubled young woman who is running from an unseen threat, one that has already taken the life of her boyfriend; and a journalist-turned-writer named Mickey Wallace, who is conducting an investigation of his own. And haunting the shadows, as they have done throughout Parker’s life, are two figures: a man and a woman who seem driven to bring an end to Charlie Parker’s existence.
Synopsis: Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government. But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire. As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
The Dead of Winter – Rennie Airth – July 23 (US) and May 1 (UK)
One of my all-time favorite mysteries is Airth’s first book: River of Darkness. After a disappointing second book, I’m hopeful that the end of the John Madden trilogy will be worth it.
Synopsis: On a freezing London night in 1944, Rosa Novak is brutally murdered during a blackout. The police suspect she was the victim of a random act of violence and might have dropped the case if former police investigator John Madden hadn’t been the victim’s employer. Madden’s old colleagues at Scotland Yard are working on it, but their scant clues lead them to Europe, where the ravages of the war halt their inquiries. Madden feels he owes it to Rosa to find her killer and pushes the investigation until he stumbles upon the dead girl’s connection to a murdered Parisian furrier, a member of the Resistance, and a stolen cache of diamonds.
Shadow of Betrayal – Brett Battles – July 7 (US) and AKA The Unwanted – July 2 (UK)
After enjoying Battles’ first thriller, The Cleaner, I’m ready for another Jonathan Quinn adventure.
Synopsis: Jonathan Quinn, freelance operative and professional ‘cleaner’, is on a mission in Ireland – purely as an observer – but things go wrong when a hidden assassin kills four men and suddenly Quinn has bodies to dispose of and a clue which is to lead him on an extraordinary odyssey to Africa and back. Along with his beautiful Vietnamese colleague, Orlando, Quinn is charged with finding a disappeared UN aide worker and the child she is protecting. But as soon as he finds her, she flees – and Quinn and Orlando become involved in a terror plot so insidious that it could change the world.
Ravens – George Dawes Green – July 15 (US) and Aug 6 (UK)
After hearing NPR’s stellar review, this one looks too good to miss.
Synopsis: When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko pull up at a convenience store off I-95 in Georgia, their only thought is to fix a leaky tire and be on their way again to Florida-away from their dull Ohio tech-support jobs. But this happens to be the store from which a 318,000,000 million dollar Jackpot ticket has just been sold — and when a pretty clerk accidentally reveals to Shaw the identity of the winning family, he hatches a ferociously audacious scheme: He and Romeo will squeeze the family for half their prize. That night, he visits the Boatwright home and takes the family hostage, while Romeo patrols the streets nearby, prepared to murder the Boatwrights’ loved ones at any sign of resistance. At first, the family offers none. But Shaw’s plot depends on maintaining constant fear-merciless, unfaltering terror-and soon, under the pressure, everyone’s sanity begins to unravel . . .
Rain Gods – James Lee Burke – July 14 (US and UK)
Burke, like Michael Connelly, are so good that you can bank on it. Sounds like a great read…
Synopsis: When Hackberry Holland became sheriff of a tiny Texas town near the Mexican border, he’d hoped to leave certain things behind: his checkered reputation, his haunted dreams, and his obsessive memories of the good life with his late wife, Rie. But the discovery of the bodies of nine illegal aliens, machine-gunned to death and buried in a shallow grave behind a church, soon makes it clear that he won’t escape so easily. As Hack and Deputy Sheriff Pam Tibbs attempt to untangle the threads of this complex and grisly case, a damaged young Iraq veteran, Pete Flores, and his girlfriend, Vikki Gaddis, are running for their lives, hoping to outwit the bloodthirsty criminals who want to kill Pete for his involvement in the murders. The only trouble is, Pete doesn’t know who he’s running from: drunk and terrified, he fled the scene of the crime when the shooting began. And there’s a long list of people who want Pete and Vikki dead: crime boss Hugo Cistranos, who hired Pete for the operation; Nick Dolan, a strip club owner and small-time gangster with revenge on his mind; and a mysterious God-fearing serial-killer-for-hire known as Preacher Jack Collins, with enigmatic motives of his own. With the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a host of cold-blooded killers on Pete and Vikki’s trail, it’s up to Sheriff Holland to find them first and figure out who’s behind the mass murder before anyone else ends up dead. In this thrilling and intricate work, James Lee Burke has once again proven himself a master storyteller and a perceptive chronicler of the darkest corners of the human heart.
The Silent Hour – Michael Koryta – Aug. 4(US) and Sept. 2 (UK)
Koryta has always been one of my favorite new authors. His first novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye, is one of the best first books that I have ever read. Last year’s Envy the Night blew me away though. I can’t wait for this one.
Synopsis: Whisper Ridge—Home to Dreams—November 6, 1992– April 27, 1996. So reads the strange epitaph carved beside the door of the home called Whisper Ridge, a multimillion-dollar piece of architectural majesty that once housed the beginnings of a unique program for paroled murderers. It was the passion of Alexandra Sanabria, the daughter of a deceased Mafia don, but the program never got off the ground. Uninhabited for twelve years, the home now remains as a strange monument to dangerous secrets. Private investigator Lincoln Perry’s first involvement with the house and its legacy comes when Parker Harrison—a convicted killer and former tenant of Whisper Ridge—asks him to find Alexandra, who disappeared with her husband after the failure of the program. Disconcerted and embarrassed by his own immediate mistrust of Harrison, Perry decides to take the request at face value until he discovers that the bones of the Alexandra’s husband were discovered at the exact same time Harrison began his quest to locate her. Now the investigation is active again and decade-old threats are circling, confronting Perry with a sordid family mystery that will challenge both his abilities as a detective and his commitment to that calling.
The Amateurs – Marcus Sakey – August 6 (US and UK)
Along with Koryta, Sakey is another new author, who I’ve become obsessed with reading. As the highly acclaimed author of Good People, The Blade Itself, and At the City’s Edge, his urban thrillers are simply riveting.
Synopsis: The Amateurs asks a chilling question: Do you get what you deserve, or what you take? Alex is failing as a father. Ian keeps dangerous secrets. Jenn is pining for adventure; Mitch is pining for Jenn. Four friends just getting by. Every Thursday night they’ve found solace in a couple of beers and a couple of laughs. But months turn to years, and suddenly a decade is gone. None of them are where—or who—they hoped to be. And they’ve decided to do something about it. To stop waiting, and start taking. But what was supposed to be a victimless crime has become a bloody nightmare. People have been killed. A child is in danger. Ruthless men pursue them with relentless fury. And tensions they thought were long-buried threaten to destroy them. As their whole world begins to unravel, each will have to choose between their own life and the lives of others—including their best friends.
Heart of the Assassin – Robert Ferrigno – August 11 (US and UK)
I loved the first book in the series, Prayers of the Assassin, and the second, Sins of the Assassin, will be read shortly – just in time for this third and last book of the trilogy. Don’t miss it.
Synopsis: Time is running out for the Islamic Republic and the Bible Belt, the two warring nations that arose when the former United States split apart after an economiccollapse left tens of millions unemployed and desperate for leadership. Weakened by their endless conflict, both countries are now threatened by the expansionist dreams of the Aztlán Empire (formerly known as Mexico) to the south, which has steadily encroached deep into the regions once called California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Riven by intellectual and social decay, both the Islamic Republic and the Belt are at the brink of collapse. The only solution is to reunite the countries and regain America’s former power and global standing. And there’s only one man who can do it: Rakkim Epps, genetically enhanced shadow warrior and hero of the two previous books in Robert Ferrigno’s astonishing Assassin Trilogy. Time is also running out for Epps’s archenemy, the Old One, the sly, immensely rich Muslim fanatic who seeks to create one world under his domination. Now more than one hundred and fifty years old, he is dying and unhappily knows it. His solution is to reunite the Islamic Republic and the Bible Belt his way, and his plan involves his voluptuous but deadly daughter, Baby, and none other than Rakkim himself. The Old One is aided by his sadistic, carbon-skinned enforcer, Gravenholtz, whom Rakkim failed to kill in an earlier encounter and who now wishes to kill Rakkim and those he loves. Meanwhile, there is a rumor of a discovery of a sacred relic in the contaminated ruins of Washington, D.C., a radiation zone peopled by diseased zombies and daring treasure hunters. It is into this deadly wasteland that Rakkim must secretly travel and retrieve the icon if he is to defeat Gravenholtz, Baby, and the Old One, and have even a chance to unite the two halves of America.
Vanished – Joseph Finder – August 18 (US and UK)
Finder is the king of the corporate thriller. This new one looks like another tantalizing read.
Synopsis: Nick Heller is tough, smart, and stubborn. And in his line of work, it’s essential. Trained in the Special Forces, Nick is a high-powered intelligence investigator–exposing secrets that powerful people would rather keep hidden. He’s a guy you don’t want to mess with. He’s also the man you call when you need a problem fixed. Desperate, with nowhere else to run, Nick’s nephew, Gabe makes that call one night. After being attacked in Georgetown, his mother, Lauren, lies in a coma, and his step-dad, Roger, Nick’s brother, has vanished without a trace. Nick and Roger have been on the outs since the arrest, trial, and conviction of their father, the notorious “fugitive financier,” Victor Heller. Where Nick strayed from the path, Roger followed their father’s footsteps into the corporate world. Now, as Nick searches for his brother, he’s on a collision course with one of the most powerful corporations in the world–and they will stop at nothing to protect their secrets.