Our February Mystery of the Month, Defending Jacob by William Landay, taps into a parent's worst nightmare. No -- worse.
Assistant D.A. Andy Barber's son seems the most likely suspect for a neighbor's brutal murder. Andy finds himself desperately defending his son, holding his family together and keeping at bay that tiny nagging doubt. Writes Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, "Defending Jacob is one of the most disturbing books of the year, and soon to be one of the most talked-about."
Check out an excerpt from Chapter 1, when Andy is being questioned by the prosecuting attorney:
In the grand jury room that morning, the jurors were in a sullen, defeated mood. They sat, thirty-odd men and women who had not been clever enough to find a way out of serving, all crammed into those school chairs with a teardrop-shaped desk for a chair-arm. They understood their jobs well enough by now. Grand juries serve for months, and they figure out pretty quickly what the gig is all about: accuse, point your finger, name the wicked one.
A grand jury proceeding is not a trial. There is no judge in the room and no defense lawyer. The prosecutor runs the show. It is an investigation and in theory a check on the prosecutor’s power, since the grand jury decides whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to haul a suspect into court for trial. If there is enough evidence, the grand jury grants the prosecutor an indictment, his ticket to Superior Court. If not, they return a “no bill” and the case is over before it begins. In practice, “no bill”s are rare. Most grand juries indict. Why not? They only see one side of the case.
But in this case, I suspect the jurors knew Logiudice did not have a case. Not today. The truth was not going to be found, not with evidence this stale and tainted, not after everything that had happened. It had been over a year already — over twelve months since the body of a fourteen-year-old boy was found in the woods with three stab wounds arranged in a line across the chest as if he’d been forked with a trident. But it was not the time, so much. It was everything else. Too late, and the grand jury knew it.
I knew it, too.
Only Logiudice was undeterred. He pursed his lips in that odd way of his. He reviewed his notes on a yellow legal pad, considered his next question. He was doing just what I’d taught him. The voice in his head was mine: Never mind how weak your case is. Stick to the system. Play the game the same way it’s been played the last 500-odd years, use the same gutter tactic that has always governed cross-examination — lure, trap, f*ck.
Does it sound like your type of thriller?
Teresa Medeiros' The Pleasure of Your Kiss is our January Top Pick in Romance. It heats up the desert with the tale of a notorious adventurer sent to rescue his brother's fiancée—who happens to be his first love from long ago—from a sultan's harem.
Naturally, it's spicy, with lots of sun-kissed skin and burning glances.
Enjoy an excerpt from The Pleasure of Your Kiss:
He had come for her, Clarinda thought, her treacherous heart leaping with hope as she met Ashton Burke's gaze for the first time in nearly ten years.
In those dark hours after he had first left her behind while he went off to chase his dreams, her spiteful imagination had supplied her with hours of entertainment by conjuring up countless scenarios during which they might once again come face to face.
There was the one where she alighted from a gilded carriage drawn by six snowy white horses only to find his wasted figure huddled in the gutter outside her father's Mayfair town house. Favoring him with a pitying smile, she would pluck a farthing from her purse and toss it to him before blithely stepping over his rag-wrapped form and proceeding into the house. (If she were in a particularly mean-spirited mood, it would be snowing outside and she would accidentally stomp on his fingers as she swept past him.)
Those vengeful fantasies had been the product of a young girl's bruised heart, hardly befitting the mature woman Clarinda had become. A woman who had spent years mastering her more petty emotions.
Which didn't explain the malicious twinge of satisfaction she felt as she came face to face with Ashton Burke while she was cradled in the muscular arms of a devastatingly handsome Moroccan sultan and wearing little more than an enticing collection of veils. Even her bountiful imagination hadn't been able to whip up such an unlikely—or delicious—scenario.
As their gazes locked in the shadows beneath the brim of his hat, Ash's familiar gold-flecked eyes narrowed without betraying so much as a trace of regret or yearning. On the contrary, he looked more inclined to step over her body as she lay gasping her last in some filthy gutter. Or to give her the cut direct in a crowded ballroom before a throng of gawking onlookers.
She had to blink more than once to dispel the image of the beautiful boy she remembered from her youth. The jaded stranger who stood before her now was every inch a man. A man who looked as if he'd be more at home in a seedy saloon than an elegant salon. Wind, sand, and time had polished away all traces of youth and vulnerability, leaving him lean and hard and infinitely more dangerous than the boy who had walked out of her life all those years ago. Flecks of sand clung to his sun-baked skin, catching like powdered gold dust in the rakish hint of beard stubble shadowing his jaw and upper lip.
Medeiros certainly has a knack for creating sizzling moments . . . but as proven by our 7 questions interview, she also has a great sense of humor! We chatted about hot guys, some of her favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings movies and much more!
What is your favorite setting for a historical romance?
Don't you love when an author's backstory is just as interesting as his or her fantastic new book? Take Taylor Stevens, for example, whose second Vanessa Michael Munroe novel, The Innocent, is featured in our January Whodunit column.
Self-employed spy Munroe has the difficult task of infiltrating a religious cult called "The Chosen" in order to rescue her best friend's kidnapped daughter. Sounds intense, right?
It just so happens that Stevens was born and raised in a very similar cult, the Children of God. Her education stopped at age 12, she hopped from country to country and lived (as she describes on her website) as a "worker bee child in a communal apocalyptic cult."
So before you check out The Innocent, read what Stevens had to say about the Children of God in our 7 questions interview. (And if you haven't read her first book, The Informationist, you should read that, too.)
Is Vanessa Michael Munroe your type of heroine? And does knowing an author's cool backstory entice you to read their book?
Ian Rankin's The Impossible Dead, featured in our December Whodunit column, is the second book in his new series starring Edinburgh cop Malcolm Fox, who investigates corrupt police officers. Columnist Bruce Tierney says it's packed with "fascinating backstory, compelling characters and some sly social commentary."
Now, we're continuing the conversation in honor of Fox's second tale. Rankin answered some great questions such as this one:
Would you make a good cop?
I would make a terrible cop. I don't work well as part of a team, and don't take well to being told what to do by those in positions senior to mine. (I know this from past experience.) So I would have to be a maverick, and the real-life police have little patience with those.
Are you a fan of Rankin's new character?
Our November Romance column features Jaci Burton's newest romantic suspense, The Heart of a Killer. It's a story of murder and gritty romance featuring Special Forces soldier Dante Renaldi and police detective Anna Pallino. Columnist Christie Ridgway loved it: "These are lovers to root for and worry over as violent death dogs their every step."
We chatted with Burton about hot guys and all the many reasons she loves to be a writer. I just love her description of the sexiest type of hero! Read our 7 Questions interview.
The following excerpt gives you just a taste of the tension in The Heart of a Killer (read more at Jaci Burton's website):
Anna Pallino's steps faltered when she entered the alley.
First, because she was in this godforsaken alley again, a place she hadn't set foot in since that night twelve years ago. Now she was back again, and someone was dead in the alley. Again.
Second, Dante Renaldi was back.
Those were enough to justify the stutter in her step.
Roman greeted her.
"What the hell is this?" she asked as she caught sight of Gabe standing next to Dante. "Old-home week? Dante comes back and you three decide to have a reunion here?"
"Then why am I here?" Something had obviously happened, but why would Roman call her to this crime scene? Because Dante was here?
And why the hell was Dante here?
She hated questions with no answers.
"Thought you'd want to know. That's George Clemons back there."
Third reason she almost tripped over her own feet. "George? Oh, my God, Roman. I'm so sorry. What happened?"
He laid his hand on her arm to halt her forward progress. "You need to know, Anna. He's been beaten to death."
She sucked in a breath and grabbed onto Roman, fighting to stay in the here and now. "And? There's more. Tell me."
She saw the reluctance in his eyes. "Tell me."
"Someone carved a heart in his chest. Right where..." He glanced down at her shirt, at her left breast.
Oh, God. No. The heart carving just like hers. Her scar throbbed and she resisted the urge to touch it, to rub the ache away.
George Clemons, beaten just like the guys had beaten Tony Maclin that night.
She took a slow long breath, then let it out. "I don't understand."
Dante appeared beside her, but she had no time for him. Not now, not when her vision was nothing more than a pinpoint of light.
Breaking Point, the sequel to Dana Haynes' Crashers, doesn't lose any of its prequel's original momentum. Writes our reviewer, "This is a book for adrenaline junkies; it grabs you by the frontal lobes right at the outset, and doesn’t let go until the last page."
Featured in our Whodunit column, Breaking Point finds the Crashers--the government airplane crash investigators--racing for their own lives. They must unravel the mystery behind a crash as it burns around them and threatens to destroy the evidence.
We chatted with Haynes about his new book, what his shoes look like and much more. More than anything, I wanted to know: After writing Crashers and Breaking Point, are you afraid of airplanes? Click here to see his answer.
What about you? Does reading books about airplane crashes make you afraid to fly?
Breaking Point came out yesterday! Will you pick up a copy?
Penny's newest novel centers on a death in the Quebec art community. Clara Morrow's art show is ruined when her childhood friend is found murdered, and signs seem to point to Clara as the culprit. CI Gamache must reveal the secrets within their world, bringing to light their jealousies and competitions using his unmatched powers of deduction.
Read our 7 Questions interview with Louise Penny for more on A Trick of the Light, Quebec and CI Gamache. She also gives some phenomenal writing advice!
A Trick of the Light is out now! Sound like a good read to you?
Our August 2011 Romance of the Month comes from Cindy Gerard's Black Ops series. With No Remorse stars supermodel Valentina and ex-SEAL Luke, and they find it difficult to resist each other while running for their lives.
Our columnist gives a little preview of the high-octane romance:
Val’s survival depends on trusting Luke, and trust is hard for her to give these days, even when she finds the man at her side so capable and so downright sexy. With the help of Luke’s team, they piece together the ugly truth. Righting old wrongs might mean losing her life . . . or Luke losing his.
With No Remorse came out in mid-July. Have you or will you pick up a copy?
From a fun fact about where she writes to a disturbing fact about her (ex)Japanese publisher, Mo Hayder shared some surprises in this week's "7 Questions" column. Read the Q&A to get the full scoop.
Hayder's The Devil of Nanking consistently ranks at the top of our list of most horrific thrillers ever, and her latest novel, Gone, is February's Mystery of the Month. It's the fifth Jack Caffery book, and this time the detective is chasing a carjacker who goes after young girls.
Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney believes that "Hayder writes some of the most carefully plotted, gripping and downright scary books in the mystery genre."
Do you agree?
Author photo by Arnaud Fe?vrier.