There is an old bromide that suggests “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and this has rarely been proven truer than in the case of Alafair Burke, daughter of best-selling mystery writer James Lee Burke. That said, the younger Burke’s approach to the craft differs dramatically from that of her old man. Where papa is world-weary, gritty and deeply attuned to the long-term development of his Deep South characters, daughter has stepped up her game with her first stand-alone thriller, Long Gone, an urban tale of deception and murder played out amid the tony art scene of New York City. As unlikely heroine Alice Humphrey approaches her third decade, she seems ensnared in the unenviable position of being a woman without a career. Then, resulting from a series of accidents almost too good to be true, she falls into a dream job, managing an edgy new art gallery. As veteran suspense readers know, however, if it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true; in short order, Alice will be a person of interest, major interest, in a sordid case of child pornography and murder. Highly suspenseful and cleverly crafted with a neat twist ending, Long Gone is a solid bet for the summer bestseller lists.
UP IN SMOKE
Sam Capra, CIA agent, was moments away from making a PowerPoint presentation at his London office when he got the hysterical call from his pregnant wife, Lucy: “I need you to step outside, now, Sam!” Making hasty apologies to his co-workers, Capra bolted. “Sam, now. Please. Run,” Lucy continued, urgently. Sam ran, looking everywhere and not seeing his wife anywhere. Then the blast came, and the building that housed his office vaporized. Only then did he see Lucy, an unwilling passenger in a silver Audi, speeding away from the wreckage. The intro to Jeff Abbott’s aptly monikered thriller Adrenaline would be a perfect setup for a tale of Capra’s search for his abducted wife, but Abbott takes the story in a different direction altogether: Because of his hasty departure just moments before the explosion, Capra’s bosses suspect him of treason. Faced with the choice of defending his actions to skeptical inquisitors or launching an all-out search for his missing wife, Capra opts for the latter, with consequences both unexpected and profound. Adrenaline, like its namesake hormone, is all about pace, and a high-speed pace at that. A word of caution: Don’t start reading Adrenaline just before bedtime!
NOTHING TO LOSE
If you’re looking for the perfect war correspondent, find a driven and reckless soul, someone without ties, without illusions, with nothing left to lose. Someone like Luca Terracini, on the ground in war-torn Baghdad, investigating a series of bank heists, in Michael Robotham’s high-voltage international thriller The Wreckage. When Luca draws a bit too close to the truth for someone’s liking, his visa is summarily revoked and he is forced to leave the country at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, in London, international banker Richard North has gone missing, on the heels of a scam by an artful pair of grifters. Ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, drawn in by the selfsame larcenous duo, soon finds himself embroiled in a transcontinental subterfuge involving truckloads of stolen currency, corrupt politicos, torture and murder. As Terracini and Ruiz pursue their separate inquiries, it becomes clear that their paths will cross; together, they have information that could bring down governments—if they can survive long enough to bring it to light. Terrific suspense set against an exotic backdrop, The Wreckage is easily one of the summer’s most unputdownable books.
MYSTERY OF THE MONTH
What? Yet another killer writer from the Lands of the Midnight Sun? Mankell, Nesbø, Larsson, Fossum, Nesser—the list goes on (and on). Well, find room on your bookshelves for one more more: Lars Kepler, whose debut thriller The Hypnotist is about to take North America by storm. This prediction is not simply reviewer hyperbole, but an educated assumption based on the book’s stellar performance in Europe (six languages and counting) and Japan. In the wake of a trio of gruesome murders, police summon psychologist Erik Maria Bark to hypnotize the sole survivor, a teenage boy, critically injured and apparently left for dead. What Bark unearths will leave police dumbfounded and scrambling to prevent yet another homicide. And then, as if by some malevolent design, bad things begin to happen to the hypnotist, events chillingly redolent of an earlier time when his practice took a deadly turn. So dreadful a turn, in fact, that Bark swore he would never hypnotize anyone again. He will live to wish he had kept that promise. You heard it here first: The Hypnotist will be the mystery buzz-book of summer 2011!