SUMMER READS 2014: Chilling mysteries to beat the summer heat

in Thrillers by

It’s hot. You’re sweaty, even sitting next to the pool or on a blanket on a nice beach somewhere. Luckily, your bag—and if you’re like so many of us at BookTrib, your reading material outweighs everything else—is full of opportunities to escape the oppressive temperatures with some good, old-fashioned suspense, the kind that makes cold sweat run down the back of your neck. These six thrilling summer reads will be like ice cubes to your nerves. Just remember, BookTrib is not responsible for any sleepless nights.

Suspicion coverSuspicion by Joseph Finder (Dutton, May 27)

The moral of Finder’s adrenaline-fueled ride is simple: don’t accept money from strangers. Especially large sums of money from very powerful, and very shady, men. Single dad Danny Goodman just wants to do the right thing and pay for his daughter Abby’s private school but the steep price tag makes that nearly an impossible task. Until Tommy Galvin, the father of Abby’s best friend and one of the most influential men in Boston, steps in and offers Danny a loan. As in any good Finder thriller, there are major strings attached to this so-called loan, most notably the immediate appearance of the DEA and claims that Galvin is a major player in one of Mexico’s deadliest drug cartels. This is the perfect page-turner to read—though maybe not during a week in Cabo—when you can keep one eye on the page and the other on your teenager. Finder is equally adept at portraying teenage drama and edge-of-your-seat suspense where one misstep could mean a grisly death.

 Mr Mercedes coverMr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Scribner, June 3)

King’s name alone is enough to send shivers down your spine so a new book in time for summer is a special treat. Newly retired homicide detective Bill Hodges is finding downtime difficult after years on the job. Then he receives a letter allegedly from someone claiming to be the Mercedes Killer, the catchy name for a sadistic killer who, the previous year, deliberately drove a car (can you guess what kind?) through a crowded job fair, killing eight and severely injuring 15. Hodges tracks the letter writer to an Internet chat site, where he’s drawn into one of King’s signature games of cat-and-mouse. It’s no surprise given King’s track record that the villain is the epitome of terrifying. This time, it’s sociopathic computer genius Brady Hartsfield, a man Publishers Weekly describes in its review of Mr. Mercedes as “a genuine monster in ordinary form who gives new meaning to the phrase ‘the banality of evil.’” And just to keep you glued to the page and away from all those tempting summer treats, Brady just happens to operate the neighborhood ice cream truck.

all day and a night cover All Day and a Night by Alafair Burke (Harper, June 10)

Burke returns to her hard-hitting NYPD heroine, Detective Ellie Hatcher, after several stand-alone novels (If You Were Here etc.) and we’re over the moon to see Ellie again. She’s the kind of tough, take-no-prisoners, snarky protagonist that proves that crime fiction isn’t just about who got knifed in an alley. This time around, Ellie and her partner, JJ Rogan, investigate the murder of a prominent Manhattan psychotherapist whose wounds are eerily similar to the signature of a convicted serial killer. Not one to sit idly by and let coincidences go unexplored, Ellie is pulled into a decades-old crime with chilling present-day ramifications. Burke knows how to mix action with compelling characters, with the added bonus of a dynamic setting. Pack this on the plane for your summer trip to the Big Apple.

Lincoln Myth Cover173x263The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry (Ballantine, May 20) 

Tough ex-Justice Department agent Cotton Malone returns in his tenth adventure, this time giving readers a wholly new perspective on both the 1787 Constitutional Convention and President Abraham Lincoln’s decision to fight the Civil War. Berry is at his best making history come alive and here is no exception: readers fully believe in the existence of a secret document passed down from each president and hitting a snag when Lincoln received it and used it to make a secret pact with Mormon leader Brigham Young. Cotton Malone enters the contemporary picture when a powerful senator from Utah joins forces with a wealthy Spanish businessman to recover the document and use it as legal basis for secession. It’s up to Cotton to thwart the plan, with his on-again off-again love interest Cassiopeia Vitt by his side. An utterly absorbing combination of action and history lesson, this is the book not only to take on your road trip (to the Lincoln Memorial, perhaps?) but also to school your less learned friends on the finer points of Lincoln lore.

The Fever coverThe Fever by Megan Abbott (Little, Brown, June 17)

Being a teenager is hard enough, but being a teenager—especially a teenage girl—in one of Megan Abbott’s superb novels is even worse. Just like she did in 2011’s The End of Everything and 2012’s Dare Me, Abbott captures the hormone-soaked essence of what it means to be a teen. In her latest suspenseful walk down high school’s treacherous hallways, she creates a strange epidemic that strikes one teen girl after another, causing fits and kicking the school’s rumor mill into high gear. While parents and teachers fret over everything from a possible tainted vaccine to drugs to garden variety female hysteria, 16-year-old Deenie Nash tries to navigate a uncertain world of shifting adolescent loyalties and a home life that’s less than ideal. Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you won’t stay up all night reading this like your life—or at least your final grade—depended on it.

One Kick coverOne Kick by Chelsea Cain (Simon & Schuster, August 19)

Best known for her blood-soaked series starring battered Portland, Ore. homicide detective Archie Sheridan and the beautiful but deadly serial killer Gretchen Lowell, Cain introduces a new heroine here: 21-year-old Kick Lannigan. Kidnapped at age 6 and rescued five years later—after learning to pick locks, shoot guns, and make bombs by her abductor—Kick’s skill set is specialized, to say the least. Instead of therapy, she overcomes her anxiety by mastering the art of being safe, from martial arts to escaping from the trunk of a locked car. Of course, she can’t leave her past entirely behind and when two children disappear Kick reluctantly agrees to help John Bishop, a mysterious former arms dealer with connections, track down the missing kids. For those of you who’d like a touch less figurative blood on your beach towel, this new series from an established voice in thrillers is the perfect read.

Jordan is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon, after spending six years in NYC for college and graduate school (where she earned her MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia) before realizing that her heart belonged in the Pacific Northwest. She (hopefully) puts that degree to good use writing for BookTrib and Publishers Weekly about the vast quantity of books she reads. While Jordan’s literary diet is largely crime fiction—as she was raised, often literally, in Portland’s only mystery bookstore—she’s perfectly content to read novels and nonfiction that lack a murder because good writing transcends labels. Follow her on Twitter @jordanfoster13.

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