It’s that time again! Thriller author Jon Land has you covered with the best thriller books of September.
C.J. Box has never lacked in talent for writing rugged frontier-type heroes, like Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski, who’ve helped define the post-modern Western. His Cassie Dewell character is all that and more as is firmly on display in The Bitterroots (Minotaur).
No longer a cop, Dewell is now working as a private investigator to–in part anyway–enjoy the rigors of being her own boss. That is, until at a friend’s behest she takes on the case of an unlikeable (to put it mildly) rancher accused of assaulting his own niece. Putting bad guys away is one thing, using her skills to potentially exonerate them something else again. Worse yet, Dewell finds herself mired in a thicket of corrupt family values that give new meaning to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous quote, “The rich are different from you and me.”
This is thoughtful crime-thriller reading at its level best, told in typically sparse Box prose and packed with characters who excel at pursuing their own agendas at everyone else’s expense. A tour de force triumph.
In a tale that echoes of Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River, three young friends are victimized by a potential kidnapper. Rain Winter was the only one to escape and twenty years later the former savvy journalist is raising her own daughter when she learns the culprit has been released for prison. Rain’s shock has barely worn off when the man turns up dead, around the same time another murderer who escaped justice is killed.
Seeking a connection between the two murders for Rain means venturing back into the dark, depraved world that has long haunted her dreams, resulting in a stunning tale that challenges our morality, while upending our notion of good and evil.
The tin badges of the title refer to retired detectives called back into service to investigate cases well suited to their expertise and career history. Tank Rizzo is one of those tin badges; he’s no stranger to battling the worst of the worst when it comes to organized crime. Hi quarry, who goes by the name of Gonzo, proves relentlessly elusive until Tank’s orphaned nephew Chris, who’s come to live with him, steps in.
Tin Badges has both brains and brawn, as well as heart thanks to the unique bond Tank forges with his nephew. This is great work, cut from the cloth of gritty crime novels by the likes of George Higgins and Ross Macdonald, albeit with a measure of light slicing through the noir.
Emily Hollow is a stickler for organization to the point where she’s actually a professional at educating people on how to eliminate the clutter in their lives, in stark contrast to her husband who’s a step short of being a hoarder. So Emily can relate to having a husband who doesn’t share her priorities. We seem to be bound for a story cut from the cloth of Judith Krantz or Susan Issacs. That is, until the tale takes a number of strange turns that leaves Emily in a mess herself after a client indicates in interest in having her particular life clean-up include her husband being taken out with the rest of the trash.
The tale’s irony is both striking and sumptuous, as we watch Emily struggling to apply the principles of her trade to untangle herself from the web in which she’s mired.
Rookie CIA agent Talia Inger finds herself less than enamored to be assigned to Eastern Europe instead of a more glamorous and important post. Little does she know that a plot involving a world-changing new technology is centered there and she’s up against any number of duplicitous types from both the civilian and government worlds. It’s up to young Talia to sort through the morass that culminates in the high-stakes heist of the title that left me fondly recalling the old A-Team television show.
“I love it when a plan comes together,” was the popular refrain of George Peppard’s cigar-chomping Hannibal Smith’s character. Well, The Gryphon Heist comes together in magnificent fashion, too. An ambitious, beautifully realized thriller cut from the cloth of James Rollins and Steve Berry.
Carla Neggers proves to be at the top of her game in the richly atmospheric Rival’s Break (Mira). The latest Sharpe and Donovan thriller which sets up shop in Maine instead of abroad to great results.
Emma and Colin are spending a quiet weekend there to celebrate the wedding of Colin’s brother. All is well until a mass poisoning is uncovered aboard a yacht and one of the victims turns out to be a British intelligence officer. Before you can say “James Bond,” a passenger acquainted with Sharpe and Donovan goes missing along with a priceless painting. Worse, the mastermind behind the plot isn’t done yet, the couple’s casual wedding weekend swiftly turned into a race against time before he can strike again in even deadlier fashion.
Just as she does with the bogs and fog-rich havens of the British Isles, Neggers wondrously paints southern Maine in typically mixed tones of dark and light. This is romantic suspense writing of the highest order—sultry, smooth and scintillating.
Today’s powder keg of politics makes serving up a treasonous vice president an original and striking dilemma. That’s only the tip of the iceberg—or spear, in this case, since World War III remains a distinct likelihood should he fail. West has his usual high-end task force behind him, but the conspiracy is massive and the insidious plot is already in motion, leaving him racing time as well as bullets.
No stranger to high-stakes or high-velocity tales, Betley outdoes himself here. We seem to be in a kind of golden age for this kind of thriller, thanks in large part to military veterans who’ve traded their M-4 for a keyboard. Betley shines among that group, his prose as sharp as his aim, coming in staccato bursts that leave us breathless.
Like Matthew Betley, he puts his vast professional experience to good use, this time as an intelligence specialist in Northeast Asia which includes China and North Korea. But the multiple plotlines of this devastatingly effective thriller focus more on the Middle East and the Homeland.
Anderson’s death predated much of the chaos that defines Washington these days, but the events and agendas he depicts could just as easily happen today.
The result is a keenly focused, expertly crafted international thriller etched from the distracted landscape of the Western world, highlighting our vulnerabilities and questioning our capacity for response. Horus makes for a virtual textbook on what could go wrong if we’re not careful–and maybe already has.
Which of these are you aching to pick up? Tell BookTrib below!