April 29, 2011 by Reader's Connection
Cheryl Holtsclaw, West Indianapolis Branch thriller connoisseur, has put together a list of ten recent thrillers. Each was the first published novel by its author, but as Cheryl says, “Truth be told, there are already 2-3 on the list I’m sending you that I thought I’d discovered, but now see that they already have a second or third book out. Rats!”
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Annie O’Sullivan was a 32-year-old realtor when she was abducted while holding an open house. She was held in a small cabin for a year while The Freak did unspeakable things to her. When the story opens, Annie is talking to her shrink, so it’s obvious she’s survived the ordeal—so where’s the mystery, the suspense? All I can say is that while reading this book I was constantly torn between being mesmerized by the story and wanting to slam the book shut because what she endured was so horrific. The real question may well not be how someone survives something like Annie experiences, but how one would be able to trust anyone ever again. It’s not often that a new author—yes, it’s Stevens’ first book, and one can only hope that she continues writing for a long time to come—can apply such a deft hand to a story that would have been so easy to sensationalize, but Stevens does, and does it well.
Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti
Imagine surviving a plane crash in a South American jungle. What would you do? How would you survive? Now compound that problem: imagine that the other survivors are taken hostage by guerilla forces and forced to march deeper into the jungle. Do you follow them? Try to find your way to safety? And who do you trust in an area where paramilitary forces, government officials, and drug cartels are all battling for any edge they can get? Such is the dilemma faced by Emma Caldridge. Fortunately, she is a marathon runner and chemist, skills that she relies on repeatedly as she struggles to survive against not only the enemy, but the forest itself and the wildlife that lives there.
Running from the Devil is the first book by Ms. Freveletti, who is, like Emma, an endurance runner and, pardon the pun, appears to have what it takes to go the distance. Note: A second book in the series is now available.
Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks
Murder in Newark is hardly newsworthy, but when four people are shot execution style and the police appear to be going for the easy solve, Carter Ross of the Newark Eagle-Examiner (and, yes, he’s heard the jokes) decides to investigate. Ross is “as WASP as they come”, which makes him the perfect foil for the oddball characters around him. While Ross pursues the story behind the crime, he is aided by an intern set on correcting his fashion mistakes and a city editor chasing him non-stop as her biological clock ticks louder and louder. Ross, no hero but as dogged as they come, travels Newark at night, shaking in his boots, but attracting help from unlikely sources—even managing, at one point, to get himself made an honorary member of a Newark gang. Parks, with enough journalistic years under his belt to lend credibility to his writing, creates a terrific combination of plot and humor. No wonder, then, that one reviewer referred to Parks as “the literary love child of Janet Evanovich and Harlan Coben”. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad description.
Takeover by Lisa Black
If your morning starts with you checking out a dead guy, the day has got to get better, right? Not necessarily. For Theresa MacLean, forensic scientist with the Cleveland Police Department, it gets worse, much worse. First she learns that her fiancée is one of the hostages at a Federal Reserve Bank robbery gone amok. Then a hostage negotiator arrives who she fears is more concerned with preserving his perfect record than the hostages he is trying to save. Implausibly, before the day ends, Theresa herself becomes one of the hostages. Once inside the bank, Theresa begins to suspect that the hapless robbers may not be quite as inept as the police believe. Takeover is a terrific mix of forensics, psychological suspense, and action. Not only that, but Black plays fair with the reader, planting CSI-type clues along the way so that the mystery is solvable but only if you pay close attention. Black is off to a great start and once her main characters gain a little more depth, this is a series that should have staying power. Note: Although this is her debut novel, Black has added two more books to the series.
Intelligence by Susan Hasler
You intercept a message sent by a suspected terrorist that references “the city of the poison river”, then the next day another talking about “land of dogs” and “pigs’ sty”. What does it mean? Does it mean anything at all? Or is it simply part of the vast deluge of deliberate disinformation the terrorists are so adept at creating? How do you decode such messages and evaluate which are worth investigating out of the thousands which have to be checked out every single day? That’s the job of Maddie James and her team of terrorist analysts. The building they work in is in crumbling around them. They’re repeatedly pulled off more pressing issues to write mundane reports for politicians. And, worst of all, when they do have good information that doesn’t coincide with the administration’s agenda, it gets buried along with the analyst’s career. Given Hasler’s years with the CIA, it’s not a big stretch to believe that, as fictionalized as this book is, there’s got to be some truth to it. And that’s the most chilling part of all.
Crashers by Dana Haynes
In spite of Meghan Danvers’s heroic efforts to save her plane, Cascadeair Flight 818 is about to come crashing to the earth. When it does, NTSB members will be called in from all parts of the United States to investigate. Each contributes a different expertise and the team doesn’t always play well together. But their goal is clear: Find out what caused this tragedy so that a fix can be implemented to prevent its happening to another airplane. The investigation can last months, or even years. But in this case, the group doesn’t have anywhere near that long because they learn early on that this was no accident, merely a trial run for terrorists who plan to bring down an even larger airliner in a few days. Battling the clock, regulations, and sometimes each other, they race to find how it was done in order to figure out who did it and stop them before they do it again. Whether you’re a white-knuckle flier or seasoned veteran, you’re going to want to buckle up for this one because it’s a wild ride.
Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Rogue Island isn’t about pirates, thieves, and thugs on some remote Pacific island. It’s about thieves, thugs, mobsters, con men, and politicians in Rhode Island. It’s about a 6’5” fire chief Rosie and the reporter who loves her, but isn’t in love with her. Liam—don’t call him that—Mulligan is an ace reporter with the dying Providence newspaper. He’s in love with a gorgeous but upwardly-mobile and strangely elusive reporter named Veronica who is aggressively ambitious. He’s saddled with a rookie reporter he calls Thanks-Dad because Edward is the heir apparent to the publishing throne and is simply biding his time, learning the business. Fires are breaking out all around Mulligan’s old neighborhood of Mount Hope. People are getting killed. The cops are crooked or inept, the arson investigators even more-so. What’s a reporter to do? He’s got to get the story and to get the story he’s got to solve the crime. Rogue Island reads like a good old-fashioned hardboiled detective story. Mulligan’s newspaper may be dying, but this series is off to a great start.
Law of Attraction by Allison Leotta
A few sobering statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence; 85% of domestic violence victims are women, with females 20-24 years of age most at risk of nonfatal violence; and, historically, females are most likely to be victimized by someone they know. Most attacks are never reported to the police. But in Law of Attraction, Laprea Johnson does report her abuse. Sadly, as is so often the case, when the case goes to trial, Laprea changes her testimony and her boyfriend, D’marco is set free. Months later, when Laprea is found dead, the prosecuting attorney, Anna Curtis, is wracked with guilt: Could she have done more to protect Laprea? Had Anna’s relationship with D’marco’s attorney tainted her judgment in prosecuting D’marco? Leotta is a felony sex crimes and domestic violence prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and she writes knowingly of the gritty, ugly side of relationships soured by violence perpetuated under the guise of love.
Power Down by Ben Coes
If you’re looking for a good thriller, you could do far worse than Power Down. While the terrorists-attacking-America storyline has become a staple and some of the action scenes seem a bit too ready for Hollywood, the story is credible, the characters believable. This time, it is America’s resources which have been initially targeted. When first Capitana, the largest US-owned oil source, is attacked, then Savage Island, which provides much of the electricity for the Eastern states, it becomes obvious that the terrorists have found America’s Achilles heel. If the terrorists aren’t found and brought down quickly, America may be nearly destroyed. All because of its dependence on foreign oil. And yet, while America may be down, it is far from being out, especially when loyal Americans work together to solve this latest threat. This story is more than a reminder that we are far too dependent on foreign resources; it is a reaffirmation of the spirit and strength that lies within so many Americans. Fans of Vince Flynn are likely to add this new author to their list of thriller writers.
The Cruelest Cut by Rick Reed
As I was reading this thriller, I kept asking myself: a serial killer like this–in Evansville, Indiana? Seemed pretty farfetched to me. That is, until I checked Reed’s credentials. He’s a 20-plus-year veteran police detective with the Evansville Police Department. And yes, during his time on the force he did investigate a serial killer who ultimately claimed fourteen lives. So although this is a fiction book, one has to wonder how much of the story has its foundation in Reed’s real-life serial killer investigation. Perhaps just as frightening was his description of all the politicians seeking to use the investigation to further their own careers. The cops in this story are real life people, complete with flaws, who are doing their best to protect the rest of us from the monsters in our midst, despite being hampered by inept and corrupt cops who have managed to finagle their way to the top. At its heart, this book is as much about the political maneuverings within and above the police department as it is about catching a serial killer.