This November, the weather is getting cold and we’re ready to sit down and read some favorites. Thrillers are a hit right now, so we have some suggestions for you to help you pick up the next novel for your bookshelf.
The Midnight Line, Lee Child
Jack Reacher, the best series hero in thrillers today, seems even bigger than usual in Lee Child’s mesmerizing The Midnight Line, in which he finds himself embroiled in a high stakes criminal conspiracy that raises the stakes considerably from his past adventures.
The set-up is pure gold, with Reacher typically stepping off a bus to stretch his legs and happening upon something that sets the story off to the races. In this case, it’s a West Point graduation ring, plenty to raise his hackles and his suspicions since what self-respecting soldier would ever part with such a symbol? A victim, it turns out, of the kind of bad guys Reacher revels in bringing to justice. Turns out many other victims have already been claimed, with more in the offing until our nomadic, modern day gunfighter takes up the chase.
Child’s prose (third person, in this case) has its usual edge and Reacher himself has never been sharper. A human knife slicing through anything and everything in his way in a terrific, tumultuous thriller that succeeds at every level.
End Game, David Baldacci
While Jack Reacher’s clearly a one-man show, David Baldacci offers two for the price of one in the persons of Will Robie and Jessica Reel in the exemplary End Game. And, interestingly enough, the comparison doesn’t end there.
That’s because the path Baldacci’s seminal series pairing takes on the trail of their missing handler the “Blue Man,” takes them to the kind of small, out-of-the-way town Reacher thrives in laying waste to. No slouches themselves, Robie and Reel find themselves in lawless Grand, Colorado in a kind of modern day retelling of the classic Spencer Tracy film Bad Day at Black Rock. Like Tracy’s John J. Macreedy, they aren’t going to stop until they find what they came for, no matter how many bodies they have to leave on their way.
This is storytelling of the highest order, at once equal parts crime noir and action thriller fashioned by a master at the absolute top of his game.
American Drifter, Heather Graham and Chad Michael Murray
American Drifter, a romantic thriller pairing the unlikely duo of mega-bestselling author Heather Graham with actor Chad Michael Murray, reminds me of comparable classics ranging from Hitchcock’s Vertigo to Brian DePalma’s Obsession.
The book’s hero, River Roulet, is an American war vet seeking relief from the PTSD symptoms that have plagued him with memories he can’t shake. Desperate for an answer, he flees to Brazil, the personal Xanadu he’s always dreamed of visiting, in the hope that dream can trump reality. Unfortunately, his efforts run him afoul of a notorious drug lord and gangster who takes offense at River’s running off with his girl friend Natal. The couple’s attempted escape takes them deep into the heart of the rain forest where a shattering twist lurks amid the foliage.
This wondrously effective debut from Murray and departure for Graham is as steamy and lavish as its Brazilian settings. The best book of its kind since Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers and a stunning, angst-riddled triumph of romantic suspense.
Thief’s Mark, Carla Neggers
Speaking of romantic suspense, Carla Neggers has long excelled at forging neo-gothic, brooding tales rich in setting and atmosphere. With Thief’s Mark, though, she ups the ante in fashioning a crime thriller of rare depth and complexity.
Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are enjoying their honeymoon amid the bluffs of Ireland when the past returns with a vengeance in the form of both Emma’s art detective grandfather and the mercurial Oliver York, witness years before to his parent’s murders and kidnapping victim of the killers himself. Or was he? That’s only one of the questions confronting our stalwart duo as they sort through all manner of murder and mayhem along a trail that winds its way back to the United States.
Thief’s Mark reads like a dark entry in the classic Thin Man series, with Emma and Colin standing in for Nick and Nora Charles. But Neggers’ mastery of atmospheric noir adds somber gray tones to the mix, fashioning an exquisite portrait in classic mystery storytelling.
The Fourth Ruby, James Hannibal
I don’t often read or review books aimed at young people, but the Harry Potter-esque The Fourth Ruby is something special. Indeed, the second installment in James Hannibal’s Section 13 series is a tale of pure epic storytelling that anyone can enjoy.
Our hero from The Lost Property Office, Jack Buckles, returns to the page, having enrolled in the secretive Ministry of Trackers to further refine his gift for being able to “find” things. This time out that takes the form of a classic quest story that sends Jack on the trail of magical gems with the ability to tilt power toward anyone who possesses them.
Great storytelling makes us feel like kids again, enraptured by a book or movie we can read or watch a hundred times. That’s the effect The Fourth Ruby had on me, a timeless and supremely effective coming-of-age tale that touches the heart as it enthralls the mind.
Evil Awakened, J.M. Leduc
When four contemporary teenage Cree braves unwittingly release a powerful demon, it’s left to young Pamoon, an outcast and outsider, to use her quasi-mystical powers to save the day from the hellish army that demon is culling from a Lovecraftian netherworld. In saving the world, Pamoon is really trying to save herself in a tale that’s as much about redemption as belonging.
As ambitious as it is tightly woven, Evil Awakened features the perfect blend of good and evil, light and dark, gods and demons, questions and answers, as Leduc defies genre specification and blazes his own trail through the heart of pop culture.