Crime novelist Elmore Leonard once said writers should “try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” That’s advice Scott Frank clearly takes to heart in his debut novel, Shaker. Frank captures the underbelly of Los Angeles’ streets to perfection with sharply written prose and biting dialogue. There are no wasted words here, as right from the start things take an unexpected turn and the complications begin to multiply for main character Roy Cooper.
Vincent Zandri captures readers’ attention from the opening scene of his new suspense novel, Orchard Grove, and proceeds to careen through lust and lives. Lana, as a young girl, brutally slays her stepfather who has been sexually abusing her for months. In an unusual twist, Lana relishes the power she experiences when she kills him, and he becomes the first of many men she murers throughout her life.
Beneath the suspense-filled action of a homegrown terrorist plot, Nicholas Petrie’s debut novel, The Drifter, follows the compelling story of one former Marine’s struggle to reacclimate himself to civilian life while honoring his commitment to a fallen soldier. That alone is reason to keep reading, but Petrie amps up the stakes in surprising fashion, creating a story that is moving, thrilling and satisfying on every level.
Bestselling author Thomas Perry loves plans, escapes and perfect getaways. He also has a low-key, sardonic sense of humor and is a master at creating witty and likable thieves that we end up rooting for, often over the more straight-and-narrow option. All of these keystones are in place in Perry’s most recent standalone thriller, Forty Thieves—and there are at least that many iffy characters tumbling around in this winning novel.
There are precious few angels, burning or otherwise, in Tawni O’Dell’s intense psychological thriller Angels Burning, set in a bleak, backwoods Pennsylvania town where mining, money and good times have pretty much come and gone.
British author Charles Lambert’s latest, The Children’s Home, is like a strange dream in which you can’t quite tell if you’re awake. Morgan, its disfigured, 20-something protagonist, lives isolated in his powerful family’s sprawling home. His estranged sister sent a housekeeper to live with him, and soon after, children began arriving. They appear with no backstory—one, in fact, materializes out of thin air—and Morgan and the housekeeper, Engel, become parents of sorts. The resulting story is a weird, poignant journey reminiscent of Calvino that explores fear, power, revenge and redemption.
Just after well-known British mystery writer Ruth Rendell died in May of this year, at the age of 85, her life and talents were described in the media with words like “brilliant,” “discomfiting” and “challenging.” Readers who’ve long been gripped by Rendell’s imaginative crime fiction, however, knew that already. From her popular Chief Inspector Wexford series with such hallmarks as the top-notch An Unkindness of Ravens and Not in the Flesh, to standalone classics like A Dark Adapted Eye (as Barbara Vine) and A Judgment in Stone, right up to her last, Dark Corners, the author’s unsettling prose has always attracted legions of readers.
In 1952, Barcelona trembles beneath the oppressive, tyrannical regime of Franco’s fascist party. Ana Marti, a young journalist sick of detailing debutantes’ fashions and high-society scandals, gets her big break when socialite Mariona Sobrerroca is brutally murdered in the exclusive upper part of the city. Ana’s shocked to be assigned such an important case, but she holds her ground while working with Barcelona’s finest detective, Isidro Castro, despite his misogynistic grumblings about working with a woman.
Several years ago, after researching his true crime book The Serial Killer’s Apprentice, James Renner was diagnosed with PTSD. It’s not uncommon for journalists to suffer such effects after witnessing trauma for a story, and Renner’s 10 years of hunting serial killers and writing about unsolved murders caught up with him. Fiction provided an unexpected safe haven, and his genre-bending time-travel thriller, The Man from Primrose Lane (2012), was a crime he could finally solve. His latest thriller, The Great Forgetting, digs at a much larger mystery, one with more questions, no generic answers and therefore plenty of room for an imaginative author to play. The result is a mix of conspiracy theorist paranoia, alternate history and cross-country adventure.
Violinist Julia Ansdell is the troubled heroine of Playing with Fire, a haunting new literary suspense novel by Tess Gerritsen, the best-selling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series and a number of standalone thrillers such as The Bone Garden and Harvest.