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June 7, 2010 / C.T. Henry

My Summer Reading List

I’m in the mood for high-octane action this summer.  Even though thrillers make up most of the list, I can’t wait to finally have the time to read a few, meaty historical mysteries by Dennis Lehane, Dan Fesperman, and Philip Kerr.

So Cold The River by Michael Koryta

SYNOPSIS: It started with a beautiful woman and a challenge. As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man’s past–just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he’s kept his entire life.

In Bradford’s hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary history–a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled, and hot springs whose miraculous mineral water cured everything from insomnia to malaria. Neglected for years, the resort has been restored to its former grandeur just in time for Eric’s stay.

Just hours after his arrival, Eric experiences a frighteningly vivid vision. As the days pass, the frequency and intensity of his hallucinations increase and draw Eric deeper into the town’s dark history. He discovers that something besides the hotel has been restored–a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to regain its lost glory.

The Last Child by John Hart

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.

Pariah by Dave Zeltersman

SYNOPSIS: Once part of the holy triumvirate ruling the South Boston Irish Mob, Kyle Nevin is set up with the Feds by head mobster, Red Mahoney, which leads him to a court case and a stretch in the slammer. Now out of prison, Kyle wants revenge on his old boss and mentor, and just as importantly, to reclaim his former glory. A kidnapping gone horribly wrong leads to a major book deal for Kyle and a newfound celebrity status — but also brings about bigger problems for both himself and anyone unlucky enough to cross his path. Pariah is a heady mix of crime novel, history, social commentary and a satirical look at the publishing industry.

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Small Boat of Great Sorrows by Dan Fesperman

SYNOPSIS: Vlado Petric, a former homicide detective in Sarajevo, is now living in exile, and making a meagre living working at a Berlin construction site, when an American investigator for the International War Crimes Tribunal recruits him to return home on a mission. The assignment sounds simple enough. He is to help capture an aging Nazi collaborator who has become a war profiteer. But nothing is simple in the Balkans: Petric is also being used as bait to lure his quarry into the open, and when the operation goes sour he is drawn across Europe into a dangerous labyrinth of secret identities, stolen gold, and horrifying discoveries about his own family’s past.

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A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr

SYNOPSIS: When he introduced Bernie Gunther in the original Berlin Noir trilogy, Philip Kerr immediately established himself as a thriller writer on par with Raymond Chandler. His new Bernie Gunther novels have won him comparisons with Alan Furst, John le Carré, and Graham Greene. A Quiet Flame finds Gunther in Argentina, circa 1950, where he- falsely accused of Nazi war crimes-has been offered a new life and a clean passport by the Perón government. But the tough, fast-talking detective doesn’t have the luxury of laying low when a serial killer- whose crimes may reach back to Berlin before the war-is mutilating young girls. Taut, gritty, and loaded with evocative historical detail, A Quiet Flame is among Kerr’s best work yet.

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The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

SYNOPSIS: It’s 1918. Boston. A city in turmoil as soldiers return home from World War One, bringing with them an epidemic of Spanish influenza. Danny Coughlin is the son of one of Boston’s most powerful police captains. An undercover cop, he is hunting for revolutionaries and anarchists who, in the aftermath of war, are pledged to overthrow the city’s ruling classes. But Danny soon finds his ideals compromised as, drawn into the conflict, his family starts to question where his loyalties really lie. Luther Lawrence is on the run. Having survived a murderous confrontation with a crime boss, he lands a job in the Coughlin household. But it isn’t long before his dangerous past and his tenuous present are on a life-threatening collision course. As the city goes into meltdown, Danny and Luther must confront the storm of violence that threatens to engulf them if each is to survive…

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American Rust by Philipp Meyer

SYNOPSIS: Set in a beautiful but dying Pennsylvania steel town, American Rust is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation that arises from its loss. It is the story of two young men bound to the town by family, responsibility, inertia and the beauty around them who dream of a future beyond the factories, abandoned homes, and the polluted river. Isaac is the smartest kid in town, left behind to care for his sick father after his mother commits suicide and his sister Lee moves away. Now Isaac wants out too. Not even his best friend, Billy Poe, can stand in his way: broad-shouldered Billy, always ready for a fight, still living in his mother’s trailer. Then, on the very day of Isaac’s leaving, something happens that changes the friends’ fates and tests the loyalties of their friendship and those of their lovers, families, and the town itself. Evoking John Steinbeck’s novels of restless lives during the Great Depression, American Rust is an extraordinarily moving novel about the bleak realities that battle our desire for transcendence, and the power of love and friendship to redeem us.

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Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

SYNOPSIS: Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he’s long since made peace with not living the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.

Houston, Texas, 1981. It is here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning—and opens a Pandora’s box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Karen Russell / Jun 7 2010 3:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing! A friend loaned me “The Last Child,” so I’m definitely reading it, but I’m going to add a couple of these others to my list, too.

  2. Amandapine / Jun 21 2010 6:32 am

    “Black Water Rising” had me absolutely riveted, from page one to the very end. Locke is an incredibly talented writer, you are in for a treat!

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