This month, Irish novelist Ken Bruen is back with Purgatory, a new novel in his uniquely written Jack Taylor series. Taylor, a former Galway cop with an impressive laundry list of vices, catches the attention of a serial killer known simply as "C 33." This new adversary poses a hefty challenge to Taylor's detective skills as well as his new found, fragile sobriety.
In a 7 questions interview with Bruen, we talked about classic noir films, classic albums and more.
Read an excerpt from Bruen's Purgatory below:
My name on a deep blue envelope, almost the color of a Guard’s tunic. Inside
A photo of a young man, on a skateboard, high in the air, looking like an eagle against the sky. Then a piece from The Galway Advertiser which read
…verdict due on January 10th in vicious rape case. Tim Rourke, accused in the brutal rape and battery of two young girls, is due in court for the verdict. Controversy has surrounded the case since it was revealed the Guards had not followed procedure in obtaining the evidence.
There was more, about this being the latest high-profile case likely to be thrown out over some technicality. And still
Continued to fuck us over every way they could.
A single piece of notepaper had this printed on it
"You want to take this one? Your turn, Jack.
Pamela Clare's Striking Distance is our Top Pick in Romance for November! The story involves a broadcast journalist, Laura, recovering in Denver after enduring 18 months as a terrorist hostage while on assignment in the Middle East, and Javier, one of the Navy Seals from the very team that rescued her. Our Romance columnist calls it "a steamy story filled with action, intriguing twists and an unexpected emotional wallop."
We caught up with Pamela Clare in a 7 questions interview and asked her what she loves about writing romance:
I really love the happy endings I get to create for my characters—something I wasn’t able to do as an investigative journalist. I can start with problems that exist in the real world, truly terrible situations, and I can make them better by the end, ensuring that the hero and heroine get their reward and giving the villain what he or she deserves.
Our Top Pick in Romance for August is Jami Alden's scorching new romantic suspense, Guilty as Sin. Our Romance columnist calls it "a shivery, sensual and sensational read" that finds two former lovers reuniting to find a missing girl—and to heat up the pages.
Kate and Tommy's thrilling story had us begging for more, so we chatted with Alden in a 7 questions interview. Read more about Kate and Tommy, and which scenes Alden believes are the hottest to write:
"For me the hottest scenes are the ones leading up to the first sex scene, including the first kiss. I love when characters are becoming increasingly physically aware of and drawn to each other. It's a great challenge as a writer to find the unique things about each character that the other will be drawn to. Then there's the first contact—the excitement of a first touch, a first kiss. It's something that, once you're in a long-term relationship, you don't ever experience again. It's fun to relive that, even if it's just in my head."
David Gordon's fun second novel, Mystery Girl, is our Top Pick in Mystery for August!
When failed novelist Sam Kornberg's wife walks out on him, he decides to take a job as an assistant to morbidly obese private detective Solar Lonsky. The gig: Following the "mystery girl." The result: A complicated, darkly comedic ride through L.A. with shootouts, murder and a little romance. It's a wild new take on L.A. noir, but it's also packed with clever literary and film references.
Check out our 7 questions interview with Gordon, where we talked about writing and other fun stuff.
Sound like your kind of mystery?
Contemporary romance fans know Susan Mallery's fictional town of Fool's Gold well, and the fun continues with our June Top Pick in Romance, Just One Kiss. For single mom Patience McGraw, Justice Garrett is the one who got away. When he returns, she can't resist allowing him back into her life. Romance columnist Christie Ridgway writes, "An endearing romance and intriguing new characters make Mallery’s latest a must-read."
In a 7 questions interview, we asked Mallery why readers love returning to Fool's Gold with each new romance. Her answer:
"Fool’s Gold is about more than the central romance. It’s about the community. Readers love to see who has gotten married, who’s pregnant, who has babies. (Not to mention, they love to see what the septuagenarian troublemakers Eddie and Gladys have been up to!) The Fool’s Gold romances allow readers to see what happens after the happily ever after."
Fifteen years ago...
Patience McGraw couldn't breathe. She placed her hand on top of her chest and wondered if it was possible to have a heart attack and die from fear. Or maybe anticipation. Her mind raced and her throat was tight and here she was on possibly the most significant day of her life and she couldn't catch her breath. Talk about lame.
"The snow's melting," Justice said, pointing toward the mountains just east of town.
She looked up and nodded. "It's getting warmer."
It's getting warmer? She held in a groan. Why did she have to sound so stupid? Why did she have to be so nervous? This was Justice, her best friend since he'd moved to Fool's Gold at the beginning of October last year. They'd met in the school cafeteria and they'd reached for the last cupcake. He'd let her have it, she'd offered to share. She'd figured because he was older, he would have refused, but he'd smiled instead and that day they'd become friend.
She knew him. They hung out together, played video games together, went to the movies together. It was fun. It was easy. Or it had been until a few weeks ago when she'd suddenly looked into Justice's dark blue eyes and felt something she'd never experienced before.
Her mom had reassured her it was normal. Patience was fourteen, Justice was sixteen and it was unlikely they would stay friends forever. But Patience wasn't sure she liked the change. Before, she hadn't had to think about everything she said or worry about what she wore, or how her hair looked. Now she was always thinking, which made it hard to just hang out.
After two months of sweating every word, every thought, every action, she was done. She was going to tell Justice the truth. That she liked him. That she wanted him to be more than her best friend. If he liked her back, well, she didn't know what would happen then, but she was sure it would be wonderful. If he didn't, she would probably die of a broken heart.
Beth Kendrick's new contemporary romance, The Week Before the Wedding, is our Top Pick in Romance for May. This charming, funny story will appeal to romance fans whether they're married, getting hitched this year or are making the singles' table look good.
The Week Before the Wedding finds bride-to-be Emily McKellips looking forward to seven days of pre-wedding festivities and marrying her surgeon fiancé at a lakeside resort. But who should appear at the wedding but her ex, no longer the wild boy she married on a whim 10 years ago. Emily is forced to choose between the two men in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy.
We chatted with author Beth Kendrick in a 7 questions interview about weddings and hot guys, and her answers are just as funny as The Week Before the Wedding promises to be. We asked her why she loves writing romance:
"Plot problems making you crazy? Deadlines getting you down? Need someone to join you on a 'fact-finding mission' to a male strip club? (Serious research!) Author buddies are there to help."
Finland’s best-selling international crime writer isn't actually Finnish. While he has lived in Finland for 15 years, James Thompson is actually a Kentucky native—but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a Nordic noir favorite.
The newest book in his Inspector Vaara series is Helsinki Blood (featured in our April Whodunit column). When an Estonian woman finds down-and-out Vaara and tells him that her daughter with Down syndrome has gone missing and is perhaps now in the clutches of sex slavers, he sees it as a chance for redemption.
Helsinki Blood is actually the final book in a trilogy (including Lucifer's Tears and Helsinki White) set within the Inspector Vaara series. So while this book is the finale of a storyline, fans have plenty more Vaara books to look forward to.
Check out our 7 questions interview with James Thompson, who shared insight into dark, gritty thrillers:
"Dark stories are for those who want to re-examine the world and themselves, to hold up a mirror to the world and themselves and ask themselves what they see. For those who want to question the truth of themselves and the world around them."
July eleventh. A hot summer Sunday. All I want is some goddamned peace and quiet. Now my house is under siege, I have an infant to both care for and protect, and I’m forced to do the last thing I wanted to do: call Sweetness and Milo, my colleagues and subordinates, or accomplices—the definition of their role in my life depends on one’s worldview—and ask them for help.
I’m shot to pieces. Bullets to my knee and jaw—places I’ve been shot before—have left me a wreck. Only cortisone shots and dope for pain enable me to get around with a cane, speak and eat without wanting to scream. I’m still recovering from a brain tumor removal six months ago. The operation was a success but had a serious side effect that left me flat, emotionless.
My feelings are returning as the empty space where once a tumor existed fills in with new tissue, but I only feel love for my wife and child, and intermittent like for one or two others. My normal state and reaction toward others is now irritability. My wife, Kate, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has run away from home, out of control of her own emotions, and abandoned me.
These combined problems, any one of which would drive a person to distraction under the best of circumstances, cloud my judgment and affect my behavior. My judgment and behavior were already clouded. I feel so certain it will all end badly that it seems more a portent than an emotion. Auguries and omens of catastrophe seem all around me, just out of sight, but every time I turn to face them, they disappear like apparitions.
Have you checked out James Thompson's Inspector Vaara series?
Miss Daphne Dale responds to a newspaper advertisement looking for a “sensible lady of good breeding for correspondence, and in due consideration, matrimony." Writing as “Miss Spooner," she strikes up a practical correspondence with “Mr. Dishforth." However, when she meets charming bad boy Lord Henry Seldon, she finds herself torn between the two men.
Writes romance columnist Christie Ridgway, "What transpires is an engaging comedy in which words and deeds sometimes confuse minds and hearts, and the happily-ever-after seems just out of reach. A charmer."
In a 7 questions interview, we chatted with author Elizabeth Boyle about all the fun she has while writing historical romances:
"Truly, who wouldn’t want to spend their days wrangling dukes? But I love the writing process—the nuts and bolts of a discovering a story idea/characters, pondering the what-ifs and weighing the story potential, and then exploring those characters by telling their story. Adding the historical elements is like the frosting on cupcakes—so many choices and always the chance to toss in some sprinkles."
And tonight, Daphne carried high expectations she would be . . . would be . . . She glanced over at her dear friend, and whispered a secret prayer that when she found her true love, she might be as happy.
And how could she not with Mr. Dishforth somewhere in this room?
Yes, Mr. Dishforth. She, Daphne Dale, the most sensible of all the ladies of Kempton was engaged in torrid correspondence with a complete stranger.
And tonight she would come face to face with him.
Oh, she would have stared down an entire regiment of Seldons tonight if only to attend this ball. To find her dear Mr. Dishforth.
“Who looks a bit pink?” Miss Harriet Hathaway asked, having just arrived from the dance floor, looking altogether pink and flushed.
Meanwhile, Lady Essex was growing impatient. “Miss Manx, how many times do I have to remind you how imperative it is to keep one’s vinaigrette close at hand?”
Harriet cringed and asked in an aside, “Who is the intended victim?”
Tabitha pointed at Daphne, who in turn mouthed two simple words.
And being the dearest friend alive, Harriet did. “It is just Daphne’s gown, Lady Essex. The pink satin is giving her a definite glow. A becoming one, don’t you think?”
Bless Harriet right down to her slippers, she’d tried.
“She’s flushed, I say,” Lady Essex averred. Then again, Lady Essex also like any opportunity to bring out her vinaigrette, and had even now taken the reticule from Miss Manx and was searching its depths herself. “I won’t have you fainting, Daphne Dale. It is nigh on impossible to maintain a lady-like demeanor when one is passed out on the floor.”
Tabitha shrugged. It was hard to argue that fact.
Yet Harriet was ever the intrepid soul and refused to give up. “I’ve always found, Lady Essex, that a turn about the room is a much better means of restoring one’s vitality.” She paused and slanted a wink at Daphne and Tabitha while the lady was still engrossed in her search. “Besides, while I was dancing with Lord Fieldgate, I swore I saw Lady Jersey on the other side of the room.”
“Lady Jersey, you say?” Lady Essex perked up, immediately diverted. Better still, she failed to remember that she should probably be chastising Harriet for dancing with the roguish viscount in the first place.
“Yes, I am quite certain of it.” Then Harriet did one better and looped her arm into the spinster’s, handed the hated reticule back to Miss Manx and steered the old girl into the crowd. “Weren’t you saying earlier today that if you could but have a word with her, you’d have our vouchers for next Season?”
Just like that, the hated vinaigrette was utterly forgotten and so was Daphne’s flushed countenance.
A Lady Jersey sighting trumped all.
With Harriet and Lady Essex sailing ahead, Daphne and Tabitha followed, albeit at a safe distance so they could talk.
“You are taking a terrible risk,“ Tabitha whispered to Daphne. “If Lady Essex were to find out--“
“Sssh!“ Daphne tapped her finger to her lips. “Don't even utter it aloud. She can hear everything.“
It was a miracle as it was that the old girl hadn't discovered Daphne's deepest, darkest secret—that she’d answered an advertisement in the paper from a gentleman seeking a wife.
There it was. And the gentleman had answered her. And then she had replied in kind. And so the exchange had gone on for the last month, all anonymous and mysterious and most likely beyond the pale and ruinous if anyone discovered the truth.
Certainly, if Lady Essex found out that such a scandalous correspondence had been carried out right under her nose, then the only notes Daphne would be composing would answering the messages of condolences for Lady Essex’s fatal heart ailment.
“Do you think he’s here yet?” Tabitha asked, looking around the room.
Daphne shook her head, glancing as well at the crush of guests. “I have no idea. But he’s here, I just know it.”
Her own Mr. Dishforth. Daphne felt that telltale heat of a blush rising in her cheeks. At first their letters had been tentative and skeptical, but now their correspondence, which was carried out in a daily flurry of letters and notes, had suddenly taken a very intimate turn.
I would write more but I have obligations this evening at an engagement party. Dare I hope my plans might intersect with yours?
Daphne pressed her fingers to her lips. An engagement party. Which could only mean, he was here.
Our Top Pick in Romance for March is historical romance The Last Debutante by Julia London, the fourth book in her Secrets of Hadley Green series.
Daria Bobcock, the last debutante of Hadley Green, plans to travel from England to Scotland to visit her grandmother. When she gets there, she encounters a naked, unconscious Scottish laird named Jamie Campbell in her grandmother's cottage. When he wakes up, he kidnaps Daria as ransom for money owed to his clan. Sparks fly, hearts are torn between desire and duty, a scandal is revealed—and you've got yourself a charming new romance.
If London's answer to my question, "What is it about those Scottish men, anyway?" doesn't make you want to read The Last Debutante, I don't know what will:
"They are the ultimate historical romance fantasy: Sexy and strong, they take what they want and discard what they don't. They are dismissive of rules and propriety when it comes to true love, and if one claims you and makes you his own, he is yours for life."
Will you check this one out? Romance fans: Where/when are your favorite historical romances set?
Looking for a great new thriller series? Lachlan Smith's debut thriller Bear Is Broken was one of our Top 10 books for February! (Don't know what I'm talking about? Sign up here for our Top 10 e-newsletter to receive a list of the 10 notable books for each month, all recommended by the editors of BookPage!)
In Bear Is Broken, young San Francisco attorney Lee Maxwell must track down the man who shot his older brother Teddy, an attorney with some questionable ethics. Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney calls Maxwell "a good egg," as he seems pretty far out of his element but nevertheless determined to see his first case through.
Author Lachlan Smith is a practicing attorney with a promising writing career ahead of him, and his debut belongs next to other masters such as Grisham and Turow. We chatted with Smith in a 7 questions interview, where he may have earned some sort of award for the most efficient use of a single sentence to describe his book. Read it here.
Will you check this one out? Have you discovered any new thriller series lately?