Harlan Coben rolls the dice with Win (Grand Central) and comes out a big, well, winner. The Win of the title, of course, is Windsor Horne Lockwood III, a central figure in Coben’s terrific Myron Bolitar series, who we know as a fabulously wealthy fixer not afraid to get his hands dirty or bloody.

Coben’s gamble lies in spinning Win off into a standalone where he’s the driving force instead of just a passenger. That’s what happens when a Lockwood family keepsake resurfaces after being stolen a generation before, the catalyst that sets Win on the trail of the original criminals that intersects with domestic terrorists. As is his custom, Win dispenses his own brand of justice on a host of bad guys with typical skill and aplomb, for his own cause this time instead of someone else’s.

I’m starting to think Coben could rewrite the phone book and make it into a page-turner. The pages of Win don’t flip, they fly, the story’s many interconnected strands knitting together in a tense, tight, wholly satisfying fashion. Thrillers don’t get any better than this. (Read BookTrib’s review here.)

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Once in a while, an author happens upon a book he or she was born to write, a seminal tale that’s both a departure and a revelation. Such is the case for Lisa Scottoline with the mesmerizingly effective epic Eternal (Putnam).

The story follows three friends growing up in Italy on the foreboding eve of World War II. Mussolini is about to join forces with Hitler, changing the friends’ lives in gut-wrenching ways as each faces their own tests where success and failure are relative terms. Add a love triangle to the mix and you have a recipe for a saga that spans time and place, tugging at our heartstrings and turning our emotions into putty in Scottoline’s hands.

Eternal magnificently captures the essence and sensibilities of its characters, who find themselves in a constant struggle for their own identities. Scottoline has fashioned a tale that evokes Jeffrey Archer as much as Leon Uris and Herman Wouk in constructing a world where William Faulkner’s famed quote, “the greatest conflict is the human heart at war with itself,” has never rung truer. A modern-day masterpiece.

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It’s hard to come up with new superlatives to describe C. J. Box. But his latest, Dark Sky (Putnam), demands the attempt.

In his 21st adventure, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett finds himself escorting a Steve Jobs-esque Silicon Valley executive on a hunting holiday. Comes with the job, as they say. What doesn’t come with the job is a family out for vengeance that’s hunting Joe’s party at the same time. While his right-hand man Nate Romanowski races to his aid, Pickett finds himself having to go old school in a pure, modern-day Western of the highest order.

In that respect, the moral complexities and portrayal of the New West in Dark Sky evokes comparisons with the classic John Wayne starrer The Searchers. Box’s sparse and pragmatic prose is the perfect complement to the wilderness vistas Pickett knows like the back of his hand. This is terrific reading entertainment, as riveting as it is relentless.

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Heather Graham’s written over 200 books but her latest, Danger in Numbers (Mira), is among her most ambitious, fully realized and broadly fashioned.

In large part, that’s because Graham’s subject matter this time out deals with cults spouting dangerous beliefs that have little or no basis in fact. I say “dangerous” because we start out with a savagely murdered body being recovered in the Florida everglades. Good thing FBI agents Amy Larson and Hunter Forrest are on the case, following up leads that reveal the truly twisted nature of the cult they’re pursuing and how far its minions will go to prove their unfounded theories are real.

QAnon has taught us the palpable danger that comes with enabling belief systems forged in a kind of alternate reality. And in Danger in Numbers, Graham has fashioned a high-octane page-turner that’s two parts thrills, one part cautionary tale and an absolute blast to read.

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Speaking of cautionary tales, John Gilstrap ventures far from his comfort zone in the blistering Crimson Phoenix (Kensington), giving his stalwart Jonathan Graves a book off in order to introduce us to Congresswoman Victoria Emerson.

I thought I was in for an action-packed political thriller along the lines of Brad Thor or Vince Flynn; Crimson Phoenix is all of that and more since the bulk of the book is set in the harrowing aftermath of all-out nuclear war. Emerson and family must learn to live from scratch amid a complete breakdown of societal norms and services, having to struggle for the things they’ve taken for granted all their lives as Emerson leads the effort to rebuild society from scratch.

At its best, which is pretty much all the time, Crimson Phoenix reads like a follow-up to Fail-Safe or a contemporary version of On the Beach. A scintillating and stunning treatise on the human condition that reads like The Walking Dead without the zombies but human beings who are far worse.

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J.T. Ellison’s Her Dark Lies (Mira) is a romantic suspense melodrama distinguished by notes of noir, along with a true gothic tone and feel. The result is a magnificent post-modern update on the Victorian classics that came to define the genre.

The setting, appropriately enough, is the storm-swept Italian coast where a wedding is soon to take place until the bride, Claire Hunter, suspects something is awry. In true gothic fashion, the doubts she’s begun to experience fall at the feet of her fiancé Jack Compton, who seems too good to be true, maybe because he is. Before you can say “I do,” Claire finds herself in a struggle for her life in the midst of a raging storm.

On top of everything else, Her Dark Lies is an exquisite exercise in psychological suspense that would have made Alfred Hitchcock proud. Ellison is at the absolute top of her game, her readers emerging the winners here as a result. (Read BookTrib’s review here.)

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Nobody writes thrillers dominated by the geopolitical realities of the Middle East better than Joel C. Rosenberg, the reasons for which are all on display in The Beirut Protocol (Tynedale).

The stakes couldn’t be higher when an advance team prepping security for an upcoming visit from the secretary of state, led by Special Agent Markus Ryker, is kidnapped by terrorists beholden to Hezbollah. As if that wasn’t bad enough, plans are afoot to move them to Iran, threatening a vital peace treaty and bringing the region to the brink of war when the inevitable escalation sets in. For his part, Ryker realizes he’s a pawn in someone else’s game, leading him to take matters into his own able hands.

While lagging a bit behind Rosenberg’s Israeli-dominated tales in form and function, The Beirut Protocol is nonetheless a splendid treatise on the fragility of Middle Eastern politics wrapped in the fabric of a nail-biting thriller. (Read BookTrib’s review here.)

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