As we near the end of September, you don’t want to miss the best of thrillers that came out in the last month before the new influx comes in. Luckily, master thriller writer Jon Land has selected the best of the past month in his reviews so you can make confident choices for an immersive story at your leisure. Twisting family relationships, Hollywood, science-fiction, and more in this month’s featured selections!

Karin Slaughter’s bracing Pieces of Her (William Morrow) is a classic mother and daughter tale steeped in angst and mystery that might be called emotive noir.

That’s what awaits Andrea Oliver when she uncovers the fact that her mother Laura has been living a double life, another person entirely before Andrea herself was born. Even when a fresh hail of violence exposes the truth, Laura refuses to come clean, putting the onus on Andrea to dig into her mother’s past to uncover all the shadowy and shattering secrets.

This is storytelling at its level best, Slaughter’s command of the page equal to the very best orchestra maestro’s mastery of the notes he’s conducting. Pieces of Her reads like a hybrid combo of Fannie Hurst (Imitation of Life) and Harlan Coben. An exquisite tale in which pain seems a mandatory offshoot of love.

Decorated combat veteran Sean Parnell knows of what he speaks and in the mesmerizing Man of War (William Morrow) he has fashioned an action-thriller extraordinaire mined equally from the heart as well as the mind.

Parnell’s hero Eric Steele exists, appropriately enough, in a kind of dark netherworld that’s off the grid as well under the radar. An operative for something known only as “the Program,” Steele’s skills and acumen are tested to the max when he picks up the trail of a nuclear weapon that may have fallen into the hands of Islamic terrorists.

There is something more patently visceral about Parnell’s action writing than even Brad Taylor’s or Brad Thor’s, as if he’s channeling the likes of Joseph Conrad and Philip Caputo in equal measure.

Hank Phillipi Ryan has fashioned the best mystery of the year so far in Trust Me (Forge). Journalist Mercer Hennessey steers her way straight into her own heart of darkness, by opting to write a book about Ashlyn Bryant, a woman accused of murdering her own daughter, in the wake of the tragic deaths of Mercer’s own husband and child. In a fashion akin to Truman Capote’s classic In Cold Blood, she becomes obsessed with her quarry, even as she draws closer to the shattering revelation that explains why.

This is psychological thriller writing of the highest order. A book not to be missed for fans of Lisa Scottoline, Lisa Gardner, and the aforementioned Karin Slaughter.

In the scintillating Scorpion Strike (Kensington), the ever-reliable John Gilstrap may well have fashioned the best Die Hard-esque tale ever not starring Bruce Willis.

His version of John McClane, the stalwart and aptly named sterling operative Jonathan Grave, is vacationing at a posh island retreat when it’s taken over by criminals, terrorists or some combination thereof. Grave doesn’t have his usual cache of weapons, but he still has his wits and his skills, which he’s going to need to both save dozens of lives and avert an international catastrophe that could lead to World War III.

Scorpion Strike reads like an 1980s action movie unspooling in our imaginations. Relentlessly paced as well as brilliantly told and constructed, this is as good as thrillers get.

Some books are just plain fun, sidesplitting in the case of Carl Hiassen and Tim Dorsey. And now, thanks to Last Looks (Dutton), we can add Howard Michael Gould to that list.

Self-banished from the dregs of society he once ran herd over, former Los Angeles detective Charlie Waldo lives pretty much off the grid with no more than a hundred possessions at any given time. That is until he’s lured out of the emotional and physical hinterlands by his former girl friend and lands smack dab in the middle of a murder case that sweeps through the dark underbelly of La-La Land.

The relentlessly entertaining Last Looks actually resembles the work of Michael Connolly more than Hiassen or Dorsey, its lightness wrought by the colorful Hollywood grotesques in a manner that would make Nathaniel West (The Day of the Locust) proud.

Speaking of dark underbellies, the ever-brilliant T. Jefferson Parker gives us a guided tour of the moral depravity lurking beneath sun-splashed San Diego in Swift Vengeance (G.P. Putnam’s Sons).

His latest series top-liner, the battle scarred private detective Roland Ford, specializes in helping both current and former soldiers find justice. This time out, that’s drone operator Lindsay Rakes who finds herself in the cross hairs of a terrorist mastermind who takes offense at this particular method of ridding the word of his operatives. Helping Rakes, though, necessitates Charlie venturing back into his own anguish-riddled world, his personal demons ready to pounce at any opportunity.


Parker remains one of our finest novelists as well as mystery-thriller writers. And in Swift Vengeance he has fashioned a powerful tale rich in both character and story that makes Roland Ford the modern day equivalent of John D. MacDonald’s Travis Magee.

Science fiction makes for great allegory, a fact wondrously on display in Jay Schiffman’s Game of Gods (Tor).

In a future based on equal parts structure and order, Judge Max Cone goes along to get along until he finds himself in a nightmare lifted right out of Kafka as channeled through Judge Dredd, after his own family falls victim to the deepest of states. Armed with a device that may or may not be able to tell the future, Cone joins the proverbial rag-tag band of rebels who are all that stand between the world and potential annihilation.

Game of Gods combines the dark visions of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson with the more hopeful view of Ray Bradbury in fashioning a dimly elegant portrait of a not-too-distant future not so different than the present. That’s the point, of course, one Schiffman chillingly makes it with skill and aplomb.

Want more BookTrib? Sign up NOW for news and giveaways!