It seems like I’ve been reviewing a David Baldacci book every month lately, but it’s a labor of love. Baldacci excels at staging oft-employed plotlines in uniquely effective backdrops and his latest, A Minute to Midnight (Grand Central), is no exception.

Series stalwart FBI agent Atlee Pine sets out to prove the old Thomas Wolfe adage that you can’t go home again wrong when she returns to the very backwoods Georgia world where her twin sister vanished thirty years before. She’s hoping to at long last gain closure over the incident that has haunted her ever since. Before you can say “Hannibal Lecter,” though, a serial killer stakes his claim to Atlee’s small town, the past and present merging as secrets and twists pop up seemingly on every page.

In A Minute to Midnight, Baldacci seems to be channeling the likes of Greg Isles and John Hart (or the splendid first season of HBO’s True Detective) in crafting an angst-riddled tale with a Southern gothic tone. Brilliant storytelling that will leave you reading long after the clock strikes twelve.

I’ve lost count of how many thrillers I’ve read this year where dogs play significant roles. I haven’t, though, read a better one than Paula Munier’s Blind Search (Minotaur).

Once again, Mercy Carr and her canine sidekick Elvis take center stage. They’ve been together since they saved countless lives detecting bombs in war zones overseas, but that hardly prepared them for hunting down a murderer in Vermont’s Green Mountains, recast here to seem more like Romania’s Black Forest. Add in a blizzard, an autistic witness who speaks cryptically of what he saw, and a second dog-and-man team and you have the ingredients for a tale as riveting as it is relentless.

Blind Search reads like a treatise on how to craft a thriller bursting at the seams with converging subplots without ever moving us to throw up our hands in exasperation. Indeed, we’re too busy using our fingers to turn the pages.

Brian Andrews and Jeff Wilson continue their superb, beautifully crafted Tier One action series in Red Specter (Thomas and Mercer).

The now grizzled and somewhat jaded Navy SEAL vet John Dempsey finds himself in the midst of a dark ops, semi-hot war between the United States and Russia. That conflict includes a recent assassination attempt on the president by forces of a shadowy group called Zeta, pretty much the opposite number of Dempsey’s group. Escalation, of course, becomes inevitable, and it’s left to Dempsey and company to prevent World War III.

No strangers to the front lines of combat themselves, Andrews and Wilson have crafted a seminal thriller when it comes to the truth of how wars are fought today. Red Specter is pressure packed with everything you love about Tom Clancy with none of the excess verbiage you may tend to skip. A must for all fans of Brad Taylor, Vince Flynn (now Kyle Mills), and Brad Thor.

Deborah Crombie may hail from Texas, but her mastery of the classic British mystery tale is something to behold once again in A Bitter Feast (Morrow).

Once again Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife Detective Inspector Gemma James take center stage, though not in their usual arena. That’s because the couple’s on vacation at a country estate with their four children when murder spoils their fun. At the center of the maelstrom are the family’s host for the weekend in the form of the powerful Talbots. No strangers to butting heads with power, Kincaid and James aren’t about to play the gracious guests now that blood has been spilled.

Reminiscent of the superb Prime Suspect series on PBS featuring Jane Tennison, A Bitter Feast is mystery writing of the highest order, a sumptuous mind snack that will leave you devouring the pages like a gourmet desert.

Andrew Gross continues his remarkable string of historical thrillers with The Fifth Column (Minotaur), bringing the action home this time in a tale that resembles the best of Jack Higgins and Frederick Forsyth in all the right ways.

The setting is New York in 1941 and our hero is the flawed but noble Charles Mossman who just wants to put aside his violent past. His redemption comes in the form of uncovering a German spy ring operating right under the authorities’ noses, starting with an elderly couple who live next door to his ex-wife and daughter with whom he desperately wants to forge a relationship. The imbedded spy ring will ultimately threaten not just Mossman’s and his daughter’s life, but also the entire US war effort.

The Fifth Column reads like a World War II version of the brilliant FX television series The Americans. The kind of old-fashioned classic spy tale mastered by the likes of John Buchan and Helen MacInnes.

Vietnam Special Forces vet Walt Gragg is back with another outstanding geopolitical thriller in The Chosen One (Berkley).

The book imagines a nightmare scenario in the Middle East in which an actual army led by a murderous Islamic fundamentalist is on the March through friendly Arab states. America’s tit-for-tat military response unfolds from the perspective of Marine lieutenant Sam Erickson who’s staged an amphibious landing from the Mediterranean. As the missiles and bombs fly, Erickson slogs through the front lines where the war will be won or lost.

What follows is military writing at its absolute level best, making Gragg the chosen one in his own right when it comes to this kind of tale. But his follow-up to The Red Line presents war from a literary sensibility more like James Jones (From Here to Eternity) or Herman Wouk (The Winds of War), making this a must-read for all military thriller fans.

Nicholas Meyer, a filmmaker known for his speculative storytelling skills, again turns his talents in a more literary direction with The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols (Minotaur), his fourth re-imagining of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed Sherlock Holmes.

Like its predecessors, Meyer’s latest mines material lifted from Dr. John Watson’s supposed journals and the result is again a mystery that checks all the boxes. In true Holmes-ian fashion, our hero is investigating the purported existence of a cultish group bent on world domination. Before you can say “James Bond,” Holmes and Watson are riding aboard the Orient Express on the trail of a mysterious manuscript that holds untold secrets.

Believe it or not, Meyer has now written as many Sherlock Holmes novels as Doyle himself (The bulk of Doyle’s Holmes tales were short stories.) did and brilliantly channels the series’ creator at every turn. The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols serves up splendid storytelling for any era.

Dave Edlund’s Savage books comprise one of the most effective and addictive thriller series out there today and the reasons why are all firmly on display in Lethal Savage (Light Messages).

This time out, Peter Savage must deal with enemies both old and new as he follows the Oregon-based trail of an apocalyptic plot that hits home in both a figurative and literal sense, reminiscent in some respects of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. No stranger to such diabolical, world-changing skullduggery, Savage faces the highest stakes he’s ever confronted and a madman who might have been conceived by Ian Fleming.

Lethal Savage is a wondrously effective, ticking clock bio-thriller in the best tradition of Doug Preston and James Rollins. A tour de force in all respects.