January has held so many twisting thriller titles, Jon Land decided to split his top monthly reviews into two action-packed parts. Courtroom drama, black-ops teams and more in this final featured installment for January suspense.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorbuzz.png

Fiona Barton adds international spice and flare to the tried and true formula that made The Widow and The Child huge hits in her recent release The Suspect (Berkley), a stunning triumph of suspense and pacing certain to solidify her hold on the psychological thriller genre.

The action again centers around driven journalist Kate Waters, who revisits old nightmares of her own when the disappearance of two college-age co-eds in Thailand rekindles painful memories of her own son who went missing there years before. Once things take a tragic turn, Kate finds herself on a collision course with her own past which, it turns out, is intrinsically connected to the present.

You would be hard-pressed to find a better thriller for the rest of 2019 or any year, a thriller that breaks the mold even as it reinvents one for itself. The angst-riddled The Suspect tugs at our heartstrings, even as it leaves us gasping for more.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorbuzz.png

Speaking of breaking the mold, Joseph Finder has masterfully blended the psychological and legal thrillers in Judgment (Dutton), a book that combines his penchant for nuanced plotting with the rapid-fire pacing his more recent titles have displayed.

Big things are ahead for Judge Juliana Brody who aspires to reach heights few jurists can even envision. That is until a one-night stand out of town leads to a whole bunch of trouble back home in Boston. It turns out that one-night stand was anything but random, intrinsically connected to a complex case she’s presiding over that now threatens to derail her storied career. What’s a well-intentioned lover of the law to do when her only recourse is to break it?

The book at first reminded me of the steamy post-modern film noir “Body Heat,” before approximating the best of John Grisham or Scott Turow. A stunning success in all respects.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorbuzz.png

Gregg Hurwitz is back with the fourth entry in his stunningly successful Orphan X series, featuring mystery man Evan Smoak, in Out of the Dark (Minotaur), a title that’s especially pointed.

This installment sheds more light on the black-ops specialists populating the sinister organization behind Smoak. This group surfaces in a determined attempt to wipe the slate clean of the entire program that provided the skills and mindset Smoak has keenly exhibited in the past. In order to survive, Smoak must surface too, only to find himself going mano a mano against his opposite number, the alpha to his omega. Think Batman versus Superman without gadgets or superpowers.

Nobody walks the line between blistering action and searing character development better than Hurwitz. And that combination, more than anything, makes Out of the Dark a book you’ll savor well into the night.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorbuzz.png

Jessica Barry shoots for the moon in the wondrously ambitious Freefall (Harper), mixing and matching so many genres, perspectives and sensibilities that at times I felt I almost needed a program to keep everything straight.

That’s a good thing, given the creative originality that lends the book its almost manic energy. Starting out in many respects as a survival story, Freefall quickly morphs into something much bigger as the plane crash that almost killed Allison Carpenter proves to be only the beginning of her story. Across the country, her widowed mother Maggie is dealing with her own issues that are only compounded when the mystery surrounding Allison takes one staggering turn after another.

On top of all that, Freefall has a literary bent to it, a structural complexity that borrows the nature of its storytelling from the classic Faulkner teaching that the greatest conflict is the human heart at war with itself. A stunning triumph of both form and function.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorbuzz.png

John Lescroart’s legal eagle Dismus Hardy returns to the courtroom in The Rule of Law (Atria), a tale that may force the stalwart Hardy to break, or at least bend, the rules.

This time out Hardy’s client is his long-time secretary Phyllis, who’s accused of murdering a Mexican coyote involved in sex trafficking across the border. Hardy smells a connection with Phyllis’ ne’e-r-do-well, criminal brother just released from prison. Add this development to Hardy’s uneasy sense that far more is going on here than meets the eye, which means proving Phyllis’ innocence puts the pieces of a murderous mosaic together.

The Rule of Law cements Lescroart’s status as the undisputed master of the courtroom thriller, as always spiced with richly drawn characters and genuine emotion. Neither he nor Dismus Hardy has ever been better.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorbuzz.png

I don’t buy the comparisons of Nick Petrie’s Peter Ash with Jack Reacher. Ash is now so much his own man as to defy comparisons with any of his contemporaries from the world of thrillers, and all the reasons why are on display in Tear It Down (Putnam).

Ash heads to Memphis as a favor for his lover June. An old friend of hers named Wanda Wyatt needs help and Ash is just the man to deal with the threats she’s been getting. At the root of those threats is a maelstrom of gang violence Ash walks square into. He’s determined to keep his distance this time, which only lasts, of course, until the thugs menacing Wanda go too far, meaning all bets are now off.

Petrie’s prose does resemble Lee Child’s in its supremely effective minimalism. He knows just what to say and how to way it, which helps turn Tear It Down into a gritty crime-thriller noir extraordinaire that is not to be missed.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is authorbuzz.png

Once in a while you come across a book destined to stick with you for a long time. That happened to me recently with Rob Kaufman’s heart-wrenching A Broken Reality (Bowker).

When a ten-year-old boy goes missing, friends, family and an entire town band together to find him. From there, this well-crafted and written tale becomes a study in tragic irony and misplaced morality. Danny Madsen’s kidnapping is only the inciting incident that sets an entire town ablaze, figuratively and perhaps literally too.

If you’re looking for black and white, don’t look for it in A Broken Reality where all the characters are broken indeed. This is a book where the dominant color is gray and ambiguity is the watchword, resulting in a tumultuous emotional journey as riveting as it is relentless.

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