Always to the rescue with the next best reads, Jon Land shares his favorite thrillers of August.

Sandra Brown continues her string of remarkable hardcore thrillers with the canny and clever Outfox (Grand Central). This neo-noir crime story reads like modern-day James M. Cain.

FBI agent Drex Easton has long been in pursuit of the chameleon-like con Weston Graham. Then Drex suspects she has found Graham’s next victim, another wealthy woman. This being a Sandra Brown tale, though, appearances are inevitably deceiving. Maybe Graham’s targets aren’t the only ones being tricked.

Brown is a perfect match to Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner. She is equally comfortable conveying the procedural aspects as well as her characters’ intense emotions. Sultry, scintillating storytelling of the highest order that never lets up or lets us down.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child take a break from their Aloysius Pendergast and Gideon Crew series in the brilliantly realized Old Bones (Grand Central). The tragic real-life story of the Donner Party acts as a jumping off point.

The Donner Party has stoked tales of mystery since 1847. Marooned by a harsh winter in the California wilderness, the party resorted to all manner of lurid methods to survive. It’s left to historical museum curator Nora Kelly to uncover the truth. A rookie FBI agent joins forces with her, neither suspecting that their efforts threaten to make them another casualty.

Old Bones exceeds our expectations at every juncture, a thriller extraordinaire that turns history upside down in forming the basis of a riveting and relentless tale.

Karin Slaughter is remarkably adept at using a single, tragic incident as a doorway to far more devilish acts. Her skill is typically masterful in The Last Widow (William Morrow).

In a parking lot, a scientist for the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control is kidnapped. Before you can say “outbreak,” an apparent terrorist bombing shatters a swath of the city. Good thing Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s stalwart Will Trent is on the job. Turns out his efforts are charged with saving thousands of lives, but the one he cares about the most is his partner Sara Linton.

Nobody balances thrills and emotion, pacing and heart, better than Slaughter. In The Last Widow, she proves her success is not hype. A stunning triumph in all respects.

Joe Pike has evolved from a bit player in the Elvis Cole thrillers to the hero of his own narrative. A Dangerous Man (Putnam) is Robert Crais’ latest book, with Cole and Pike sharing screen time.

In Jack Reacher-like fashion, Pike just happens to be nearby when a bank teller is kidnapped.  He intervenes to help but soon realizes that is only the beginning. He’ll need Cole’s investigative and martial skills to solve the mystery.

Another sumptuous mystery that exceed our expectations, A Dangerous Man is not to be missed.

Hank Phillippi Ryan dips her literary toe into the domestic suspense sub-genre in the mesmerizing The Murder List (Forge). This is a traditional legal thriller, only on steroids.

Rachel North, wife of superstar defense attorney Jack Kirkland, is interning for her husband’s arch nemesis. But Ryan writes Rachel as less than reliable, to the point where we’re not really sure if her husband is a dangerous psychopath.

Hitchcock would have been first in line to adapt The Murder List. It exceeds The Girl on the Train and others of such ilk in stitching a cogent, conflict-riddled narrative that makes it impossible to put down.

T. Jefferson Parker is one of our great novelists and thriller writers, the reasons for which are all on display in The Last Good Guy (Putnam).

Reminiscent of Ross MacDonald and Donald Westlake, there is just enough John D. MacDonald thrown in for good measure. Private detective Roland Ford, still reeling from the death of his wife, is on the trail of a missing teenage girl. The question is whether Daley Rideout ran away or has fallen into the clutches of some twisted Jeffrey Epstein-like cabal.

Parker has wondrously carved out his own territory in crafting an extraordinary, pitch-perfect tale that just might be the best crime thriller of 2019.

The modern-day Western has captivated writers for years. Texas-based Reavis Wortham is one of the genre’s masters. Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke’s latest adventure, Hawke’s Target (Pinnacle), could just as easily be set in the nineteenth century as the twenty-first.

A one-man outlaw vigilante threatens everything the Ranger believes in. An execution squad is one thing, an entire clan is something else entirely. In this lawless frontier, “trouble happens fast.”

Too bad John Wayne’s not around. This deeply wrought, visceral tale elevates Wortham to the level of C.J. Box and Craig Johnson, only on a deeper emotional level that makes Hawke’s Target one of the best thrillers you’ll read this year.

This seems to be the month for noir, which makes Casey Barrett’s pointed and polished The Tower of Songs (Kensington) the perfect choice to round out this column.

Once again, Duck Darley takes center stage, this time at the behest of a troubled teenager who witnessed her father’s kidnapping. Or did she? And is Duck supposed to take evidence against the mother-in-law at face value? Add in ruthless drug dealers and the ultimate femme fatale in Duck’s former partner and you’ve got the recipe for a tale that would make Hammett or Chandler proud.

This is hard-boiled crime writing par excellence cut from the cloth of Lawrence Block, Andrew Vachss with just a touch of Walter Mosely tossed in for good measure. Superb in all respects and a must-read for those who like to explore the dark side absent a flashlight.