Thriller writer and BookTrib contributor Jon Land has checked in with his top thriller picks for the month of August. Among the reviews: a heart-pounding mix of period mysteries, FBI missions, and cross-country chases to keep you on the edge of your seats for hours.
Sandra Brown has written dozens and dozens of books, a number virtually equaled by her appearances on the New York Times bestseller list. But the tremendous Tailspin (Grand Central) might be her most ambitious and finest effort yet. This exceptional slice of neo-noir features rogue pilot Rye Mallet whose known for flying anything, anywhere at any time. At least until he meets the mysterious Dr. Brynn O’Neal who shows up supposedly in the stead of another to collect an equally mysterious black box.
His sudden attraction to Brynn turns them into a team on a mission to deliver said box across a path laden with death and danger. Tailspin is thriller writing at its very best, a non-stop, topsy-turvy frantic ride that steers an adrenaline-fueled course from first page to last.
Speaking of being at the top of her game, Lisa Scottoline has fashioned the year’s top legal thriller in Feared (St. Martin’s), again featuring her crack team of Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato. Only this time out, the difference is they may need lawyers of their own. That’s because a several fledgling lawyers not hired by their firm are suing them for reverse discrimination and the complainants attorney, aptly named Nick Machiavelli, is determined to win at all costs.
Not surprisingly, murder enters the picture, further ratcheting up the stakes and suspense, as our stalwart heroines fight for everything they hold dear. With Feared, Scottoline continues her masterful blend of psychological and legal thriller in a seamless fashion seldom seen since Barry Reed’s The Verdict and Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent. Not to be missed.
Peter James is back with another must-read for procedural crime thriller fans in Dead if You Don’t (St. Martin’s), once again featuring beleaguered Detective Superintendent Roy Grace.This time out, Grace is called in to investigate a man of similarly personal baggage in Kipp Brown whose son is kidnapped in a jam-packed stadium during a soccer match.
Ah, if only the case were that simple. But those familiar with James’ work know full well it’s just a crack in the door. Opening that door all the way brings Grace into a dark netherworld populated by those who will challenge even this intrepid detective’s dedication to playing by the rules. This is stellar crime writing, comparable to the best of Lawrence Block, George Higgins, and Donald Westlake. Modern masters with whom James stands shoulder-to-shoulder.
No one writes thrillers on as grand and rich a tapestry as M.J. Rose. And with Tiffany Blues (Atria), she takes her classic Gothic underpinnings to a whole new level in a tale rich in history, melodrama and mystery akin to E. L. Doctorow of Ragtime fame. Indeed, this period piece takes us back to the 1924 jazz age where young Jenny Bell seeks to escape her shadowy past at a Long Island artists’ colony operated by Comfort Tiffany, explaining the book’s title.
A fledgling writer, Jenny seeks to script a better life for herself, but her plans are thwarted when her past comes crashing in. Jenny knows that realizing her dreams means putting it behind her once and for all, but those shadows have other plans. The first-person narration suits Tiffany Blues perfectly, narrowing the point of view and further honing the book’s dark underpinnings. And Rose’s colorfully lyrical and deeply drawn prose makes this a historical thriller extraordinaire.
Speaking of shadowy pasts, Allison Brennan serves up a doozy for investigative reporter Max Revere in Abandoned (Minotaur), a book that forges Brennan’s own path through grounds staked out by Lisa Gardner and Harlan Coben. That comparison comes courtesy of Brennan putting Max on the trail of her mother’s own disappearance and suspected death, a trail that takes her into the heart of Chesapeake Bay country which, in this case anyway, seems to be playing the secretive town role culled from the Spencer Tracy classic film Bad Day at Black Rock.
Everyone says just enough to convince Max they know more about her mother’s fate than they’re saying. Filling in the holes, though, risks her following in her mother’s footsteps. This is psychological suspense of the highest order. Brennan has never been better and in Max Revere has fashioned a heroine of rare depth and dogged determination.
Once again this is an adventure featuring your favorite FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan. Clearly, avoiding danger wasn’t in their recent marriage vows as witnessed when Boston-based US Attorney Tamara McDemott goes missing.
Her disappearance is somehow connected to another one involving an art expert across the pond in London, thanks to a fiendishly cunning villain who would give Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty a run for his money. Good thing Emma and Colin haven’t let their nuptials slow them down. Neggers fashions a colorful landscape shaded with just enough darkness to create the brooding atmosphere in which her heroes best thrive. Impostor’s Lure reels you straight in and doesn’t let go.
Ward Larsen has been making a name for himself in the international thriller sub-genre for several books, and in Assassin’s Run (Forge) he ups his game even further. When series stalwart David Slaton is falsely blamed for the assassination of a Russian oligarch, he races to both clear his name and find the actual killer responsible before facing a similar fate.
Being set up is nothing new for Slaton, nor is working on his own.And that’s exactly what he does in a dizzying, cross-continent chase in which Slaton’s after the truth, while a host of Russian operatives are after him. This terrific and timely tale enjoys a resonance drawn from the current reality we’re all living through. Just as John le Carre staked his claim to the Cold War and Robert Ludlum to post-Watergate paranoid America, Larsen joins Brad Thor and Daniel Silva as masters of lending sense to our current unstable world.
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