Tis’ the season… for a good thriller! From some of the best known thriller writers come some great suggestions you don’t want to miss, like unforgettable novels by James Rollins and Lisa Gardner. No matter what adventure you’re looking for them to take you on, here are some suggestions for every thriller lover:
The Demon Crown, James Rollins
All the usual Rollins staples are firmly on display right from the start: a massive threat to mankind, the stalwart Sigma Force’s desperate attempts to stop it, and a cunning villain determined to thwart their efforts at every turn. For a MaGuffin this time out, Rollins serves up skeletal bones unearthed beneath the National Mall, linked to secret scientific work dating back to the Civil War under the auspices of none other than Alexander Graham Bell. Like the mythic Pandora’s Box, those bones have the potential to unleash unprecedented woe on mankind, including even extinction on a global level if Commander Gray Pierce’s Sigma Force team can’t uncover a means to stop the wave from spreading.
In Demon Crown, Rollins has crafted a perfect thriller that never fails to enlighten and entertain, leaving us hanging on every word even as we dangle from a precipice chiseled by high stakes, high energy storytelling.
The Wanted, Robert Crais
Robert Crais may not raise the stakes quite as high as Rollins, but The Wanted still packs just as much of a punch—literally, given that this outstanding crime-thriller features the sensational duo of Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.
This time out, Elvis and Joe find themselves sorting through the morass involving teenager Tyson Connor. A sharp uptick in the boy’s lifestyle from flashing Rolex watches to frequenting posh Hollywood clubs leads his mother to seek out help in determining the source of teenage Tyson’s newfound disposal income. As always in this stellar series, the road twists in unexpected ways, leading Elvis and Joe to a pair of especially despicable villains who seem to have learned their manners from No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh.
In the past Crais has often wielded a lighter touch with this seminal series. Not so here, as the tone is clearly dark, bordering on noir to spectacular results. The Wanted is a book you should definitely want to find under your Christmas tree. A relentless and riveting read that is everything great crime fiction is supposed to be.
A-List, D.P. Lyle
Think classic James Ellroy-like Hollywood gothic relocated to New Orleans when superstar actor Kirk Ford wakes up one morning next to a dead girl whose mob relatives promise to be none-too-happy about her denouement. Enter Lyle’s trusty private eye Jake Longly to weave his way through the tangle before both Ford’s latest movie and his life get shut down for good.
The result is one part Carl Hiaasen mixed with two parts Elmore Leonard and garnished with Robert Parker at his best. In Longly, Lyle has crafted a modern-day Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade, perfect representatives for their age, just as Longly is for ours. His first-person narrative is peppered with snappy, staccato prose that pops clean off the page, making this a series and author you don’t want to miss.
Moon Hunt, Michael & Kathleen Gear
Few authors have ever been able to lay claim to a genre. But Kathleen and Michael Gear have taken historical fiction and made it all their own, as clearly displayed in Moon Hunt, the third in their Native American, Morning Star series.
All the staples of the Gears’s brilliant, richly drawn tapestries are firmly on display here, once again featuring the Cahokia tribe, the oldest on record on the North American continent. This time out, the story follows a pair of intrepid heroes, Night Shadow Star and Fire Cat, setting off on a quest to find the tribe’s missing god from which they draw their power. That means a desperate trek down into a cave that hold its own deadly secrets.
The Gears have reconstructed Moon Hunt’s ancient world with such vivid tones and expertly crafted detail that it magically comes to life in the tradition of James Michener. But they’re much better storytellers and the result is a tale certain to generate broad appeal, whether you’re a history buff or not.
Not That I Could Tell, Jessica Strawser
The bar for Jessica Strawser is a bit higher than it is for most authors, since she cut her teeth editing Writer’s Digest. But I’m happy to report that Not that I Could Tell finds her not just practicing what she preached but doing so in a manner that makes for a smooth and sultry match for Lisa Gardner.
As in Gardner’s books, as well as those of Harlan Coben, something apparently innocuous gives birth to spills and thrills. In Strawser’s latest, that event is something as simple as a lady’s night out—until, that is, one of those ladies turns up missing. That’s easily enough to roil the small, close-knit community of Yellow Springs where things like that don’t happen, as the book’s moral center Clara learns as she battles her own past in trying to unravel the mystery.
Not that I Could Tell is a psychological thriller of the highest order, as well written as it is structured. That means the magazine Strawser once edited might well be covering her from the other side and deservedly so.
George’s Hurricanes, K.W. Garlick
George’s Hurricanes serves up a trifecta for fans of local fiction: a Rhode Island-based publisher in Stillwater River, author in K. W. Garlick, and setting thanks to Prudence Island. But it’s also a solid mystery thriller, steeped in tones of gothic noir and making the most of its claustrophobic, isolated setting.
Talk about your great setups! In Garlick’s fictional take on one of our state gems, a serial killer has been plaguing Prudence Island for nearly half a century, striking every time a hurricane barrels up the coast. With a fresh storm looming, the island’s sheriff Brad Wheeler, channeling his inner Martin Brody from Jaws, is determined to put an end to the scourge that’s caused by something far beyond barometric pressure.
The richly atmospheric George’s Hurricanes is solid in all respects. Call Ken Garlick Rhode Island’s own Thomas Harris to the point I wouldn’t have been surprised if Hannibal Lecter turned out to be living in one of Prudence’s million-dollar seaside cottages.
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