Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet
Crown • $25 • ISBN 9780385347341
On sale August 6, 2013
Kelly Braffet's third novel unfolds through the dual perspectives of Patrick Cusimano and Verna Elshere, both solitary figures trying to find their place in the world. Both have their families to thank for their outcast status: Patrick's father's hit and run has left the entire community wary of all the Cusimanos, and Verna's goth sister and fundamentalist parents make starting high school a nightmare. In their individual searches for solace—Patrick in his brother's girlfriend, Verna in her older sister's "freak" friends—they head down a dark road where disaster is inevitable.
For the first half of Save Yourself, Braffet compassionately but honestly portrays engaging, confused characters in light, uncluttered prose. But a sharp turn keeps this from being a simple meditation on grief. This is a probing and emotional read that does not rest easy.
Read on for an excerpt from Patrick's opening:
It had been Patrick, after too much of this, who went to the garage and saw the dented bumper; Patrick who smelled the hot gasoline-and-copper tang in the air; Patrick who stared for a long time at the wetness that looked like blood before reaching out to touch it and determine that, yes, it was blood. Patrick who realized that the tiny white thing lodged in the grille wasn't gravel but a tooth, too small to have come from an adult mouth. It had been Patrick who had realized that somebody somewhere was dead.
Up until that point, there were two things that Patrick could count on to be true: the old man was a drunk, and the old man screwed up. And as far as Patrick was concerned, the first priority was fixing it. When he worked the morning shift at the warehouse you woke up before he did so you could make the coffee and get him out the door. When he passed out on the couch you took the cigarette from his limp fingers. When he ranted—about the government that wanted to take his money, about the Chinese that wanted to take his job, about the birth control pills that had given Patrick's mother cancer and killed her—you kept your cool and had a beer yourself, and you tried to sneak away all the throwable objects so that in the morning there'd be glasses to drink from and a TV that didn't have a boot thrown through the screen. You took evasive action. You headed disaster off at the pass. You made it better. You fixed it.
Staring at the bloody car, Patrick thought, wearily, I can't fix this.
Inside, Mike, his eyes wide with panic, said, No, little brother, hang tight, we can figure this out. Just wait. Even though there was nothing to figure out. All through that night into the gray light of dawn and on until the shadows disappeared in the midday sun, the three of them hunkered down in the living room, the old man sniveling and stuttering and saying things like Jesus, I wish I still had my gun, I ought to just go ahead and kill myself, and Mike—who would not even got into the garage, who point-blank refused—trying to force the reality of the situation into some less horrible shape. The longer they sat, the more it felt like debating the best way to through themselves under a train. Patrick, it seemed, was the only one who realized that there was no best way. You just jumped. That was all. You jumped.
Will you check this one out? What are you reading during Private Eye July?
Throughout her murder trial, Noa P. Singleton never spoke a single word in her own defense. Ten years later, Noa is six months away from her execution when she is visited by her victim's mother, who offers to change Noa's sentence to life in prison in exchange for only one thing, but that is the one thing that Noa will never do: tell her story.
In her debut novel, Elizabeth Silver has created an emotionally striking story that will cause readers to reflect on their own decisions. An engrossing rumination on the search for truth, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton will leave readers looking deep within at their own truths and deceptions.
For more about the literary psychological thriller, check out our full review and watch the book trailer below from Headline Books.
See what else is going on during Private Eye July!
The Land of the Midnight Sun continues to pump out more and more outstanding thrillers and mysteries, and this year is no exception. For readers who just can't get enough of Nordic noir and Scandinavian suspense, we've got a list of standouts so far in 2013:
Never F__k Up by Jens Lapidus
The second book in the Stockholm Noir trilogy is quintessential Scandinavian suspense: action from page one and hardboiled crime in a seedy criminal underworld. Just don't show the cover to your grandma.
The Redeemer by Jo Nesbø
Oslo cop Harry Hole is always a favorite. What starts out as an investigation into some shady Salvation Army dealings becomes an infiltration into a murder-for-hire organization in former Yugoslavia.
The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg
Detective Patrik Hedstrom is investigating the possible murder of a nondrinker who dies of alcohol poisoning when he discovers similar cases in other towns around Sweden. This one has less "razzle-dazzle horror" and greater emphasis on convoluted plotting and heightened suspense.
Norwegian By Night by Derek B. Miller
Curmudgeonly Sheldon Horowitz, who recently—reluctantly—moved to Norway, witnesses and flees a crime with a young boy in tow. Miller's (technically an expat living in Oslo) debut literary thriller is an expert blend of humor and questions of race, memory and time.
The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg
This debut thriller is a blisteringly fast read. Set largely in Stockholm, this one finds single mom Sophie caught in the middle of an international turf war, culminating in a cinematic gunfight in Spain.
Room No. 10 by Åke Edwardson
In his seventh book, Chief Inspector Erik Winter investigates a bizarre murder that reminds him of an unsolved case from early on in his career. This is a puzzling, complicated police procedural from one of the best writers in the genre.
Bad Blood by Arne Dahl
After torturing and murdering a Swedish literary critic, an American serial killer boards a flight to Stockholm and somehow slips through the cracks. It's up to Detectives Paul Hjelm and Kerstin Holm of Intercrime’s A-Unit to figure out what the homicidal maniac is plotting. Look for this one in our upcoming August issue.
Do you enjoy Scandinavian suspense?
Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
Thomas & Mercer • $14.95 • ISBN 9781611099690
published July 16, 2013
Marcus Sakey's new supernatural thriller, Brilliance, lives up to its name. From the very start, this first novel in a projected series is full of action and intrigue. Since the 198os, about 1% of American children are born "brilliant" with a special gift—they're also known as abnorms. Some of these aborms can be a problem, and it is Nick Cooper's job as a government agent to catch the bad ones—as his own abnormal gift is to hunt his own kind. Can Cooper stop all of the bad abnorms from hurting people, and how does he tell the good guys from the bad?
In the opening chapter, Cooper has spent the day tracking an abnorm and finally catches up with her in a hotel bar in San Antonio, Texas:
Cooper took a sip of coffee. It was burned and watery. "You hear there was another bombing? Philadelphia this time. I was listening to the radio on the way in. Talk radio, some redneck. He said a war was coming. Told us to open our eyes."
"Who's us?" The woman spoke to her hands.
"Around here, I'm pretty sure 'us' means Texans, and 'them' means the other seven billion on the planet."
"Sure. Because there aren't any brilliants in Texas."
Cooper shrugged, took another sip of his coffee. "Fewer than some other places. The same percentage are born here, but they tend to move to more liberal areas with larger population density. Greater tolerance, and more chance to be with their own kind. There are gifted in Texas, but you'll find more per capita in Los Angeles or New York." He paused. "Or Boston."
Alex Vasquez's fingers went white around her bottle of Bud. She'd been slouching before, the lousy posture of a programmer who spent whole days plugged in, but now she straightened. For a long moment she stared straight ahead. "You're not a cop."
Through some twisted ups and downs, the fast-paced Brilliance has all of the best with manipulation, revolution and social commentary in a world disturbingly close to our own. In an interview, author Marcus Sakey said that he hates for his plots to be revealed, so I will stop there and simply say be ready to stay up all night with this one.
Will you be reading Brilliance? What are you reading during Private Eye July?
Lauren Beukes, author of Zoo City, is receiving lots of literary attention for her newest thrilling novel. The Shining Girls puts a deadly spin on time travel, as a killer uses a secret portal to become untraceable after each brutal murder. That all changes when one of his victims survives.
Kirby Mazrachi barely escaped and is now determined to discover her would-be killer. As an intern for the Chicago Sun-Times, Kirby has the means to research her case and she knows that something is not quite right. Will Kirby's determination be enough to catch a murderer with a supernatural plan?
Be sure to read our full review of The Shining Girls and check out the eerie book trailer below by Hachette Book Group.
Stay tuned for more great coverage of thrillers and mysteries throughout the month of July!
I always love finding out what an author's research process is, so when I learned that writer Ingrid Thoft actually attended and graduated from the University of Washington private investigator program, I simply had to see how that helped her pen her debut crime fiction novel, Loyalty.
Loyalty is the story of P.I. Fina Ludlow, a kick-butt heroine who's the black sheep of a super-powerful, super-dysfunctional Boston family. When her brother's wife goes missing, the cops assume the husband's to blame, so Fina is called it to figure out what really happened. Fina's digging reveals so family secrets no one expected her to find, and as Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney writes, "Her allegiances will be tested, as will her detective skills, for it is likely that someone close to her is singularly undeserving of her loyalty."
I just love Thoft's answer about the coolest thing she learned in the P.I. program:
"One of the cases that stands out was part of a presentation done by a scientist from the Washington State Police crime lab. She discussed trace evidence and the idea that we all leave things behind wherever we’ve been and pick something up from that location as well, whether it’s fiber, hair or residue of some sort. Her example was ash from the Mount St. Helen’s eruption. The ash that was deposited into a suspect’s car filter could only have come from a particular place at a particular time. Suspects can be fastidious and cunning, but you can’t outsmart Mother Nature!"
A couple months ago, I commented on the creepy timeliness of Koethi Zan's debut thriller, The Never List. Coming July 16, The Never List tells a graphic, terrifying story with details similar to the real-life situation experienced by the three Ohio women who were rescued after being held prisoner for 10 years. Read our review of The Never List!
But as I look into the fall mystery titles, it's clear that The Never List was just a starting shot to what looks to be the most disturbing trend of the year: abduction thrillers. In September alone, three blockbuster thrillers bear distinct resemblance the terribly sad stories of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Each imparts graphic, intimate details of the mental and physical state of a woman held captive by a sadistic predator.
Alex by Pierre LeMaitre • MacLehose Press • 9/3
When Alex Prévost is kidnapped, beaten and trapped in a wooden cage hanging from the ceiling of an abandoned building, her only hope of escape is Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven. As Camille struggles to find the girl and her captor, he uncovers Alex's unusual past. With a 150,000-copy first printing, this is positioned to be a big one.
The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton • Minotaur • 9/10
Norton's true crime bestseller Perfect Victim: The True Story of the Girl in the Box was placed on the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit reading list. Now she steps into fiction with the story of Reeve LeClaire, who escaped her kidnapping six years ago. When she's asked to mentor another girl who experienced a similar situation, it's clear that the girl needs much more than guidance—she needs a protector from the villain that still watches.
Others of My Kind by James Sallis • Bloomsbury • 9/10
From the author of Drive comes the gritty, almost desensitized story of Jenny Rowan, who at age 8 was abducted and kept for years in a box underneath a bed. Years after her escape, a detective comes to her home and asks for her help with another young survivor. Of the four, this one might be the toughest.
Trends like this remind me of when I interviewed Therese Anne Fowler, who began writing Z, her novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, long before Jazz Age tales were back in vogue. Fowler had called it "radio waves in the zeitgeist," but this sadistic kidnapping thriller trend, coupled with coincidental recent events, pricks the spine.
Readers, I truly want to know your opinion: Why do you think all four of these authors—and probably many more—wrote on such similar topics? It this just a residual response to the popularity of last year's Room?
Do you think you'll be checking out any of these books?
In Benjamin Percy's Red Moon, the Lycan Republic is under American occupation, and all Lycans are required to suppress their instincts with Lupex, a drug that prevents the werewolf transformation process. The Lycans are our friends and neighbors, but when terrorist attacks occur, the guilty and innocent alike are targeted and rounded up. Claire Forrester is a Lycan on the run after seeing her parents murdered; Patrick Gamble is the sole survivor of a plane attack. The once peaceful coexistence is no more and with only weeks until the next full moon, no one knows what is waiting on the other side.
Bringing werewolves back into horror, Benjamin Percy has written a literary thriller with a complex world. More than a love story, Red Moon combines warfare and politics to create a story like none other. Watch the book trailer below by Hodder Books for a further look into Red Moon.
What do you think? Will you be reading Red Moon this summer?
Alafair Burke's new stand-alone thriller, If You Were Here, finds crime reporter McKenna Jordan investigating a mysterious heroine who clearly wants to keep her identity a secret. The unknown woman saved a boy from an oncoming train—and then vanished. However, the woman's face, caught in a brief snippet of video, resembles McKenna's former best friend—and McKenna just can't let a mystery like that go.
Many fans love Burke for her Samantha Kincaid and Ellie Hatcher series, so we wanted to know what makes McKenna Jordan stand out. Burke's answer, plus some fascinating insight into the real world of criminal investigation, can be found in our 7 questions interview:
"McKenna, in contrast, endures more trauma and drama than most people experience in a lifetime, which allows her to make enormous discoveries about herself in one little book. She's also incredibly tenacious, for better or for worse."
Reddish blond hair pulled into a ponytail at the nape of her neck. Long-sleeved white sweater, backpack straps looped over both shoulders. Despite the train's lurch, she typed with two hands, stabilizing herself against the bounce with her core strength.
Maybe that should have been a sign.
He stepped one foot into the car, grabbed the phone, and pivoted a one-eighty, like he had 50 times before. He pushed through the clump of angry riders who had followed him into the car and now stood before him, all hoping to secure a few square feet on the crowded train before the doors closed.
Had he known what would happen next, maybe he would have run faster for the staircase.
It wasn't until he hit the top of the landing that he realized he had a problem. Somehow he heard it. Not the sound of the shoes but the sound of surprised bystanders reacting.
What the . . .
You lost your shoe, lady!
Oh my God, David. We have to leave the city.
Nicky sneaked a glance behind him to see the woman kicking off her remaining ballet flat as she took two steps at a time in pursuit. She had looked sort of average middle-aged through the subway doors, but now she had a crazy look of determination on her face. In her eyes. In the energy of her forearms as they whipped back and forth at her sides.
Stay tuned for lots of mystery coverage throughout Private Eye July!
Meg Gardiner's new novel, The Shadow Tracer, is an explosive thriller about Sarah Keller, a single mom and a skip tracer. But what is a skip tracer, anyway? We asked Gardiner to share some insight on skip tracers and introduce readers to the heroine at the heart of her gripping new book.
Sarah Keller is a skip tracer. She hunts down bail jumpers, debt dodgers and people evading arrest. She searches for people who can’t be seen directly, because they avoid the light. But they cast shadows. And that’s what Sarah traces.
To penetrate those shadows, she has become a chameleon. A skip tracer, she says, is a hunter, a manipulator and a professional liar. But Sarah’s more than that. She’s a guardian.
Sarah is mother to 5-year-old Zoe. The little girl came unexpectedly into her life, and Sarah has rebuilt her world around protecting her. That’s how she ends up in Oklahoma City, trying to be a good mom while chasing down deadbeats and criminals. She has become a skip tracer to learn every trick about staying off the grid—not just to catch people on the run, but to train for the day she might have to run herself.
Disappearing is hard to do these days. Going dark in the age of Facebook and PRISM takes smarts, luck and incredible discipline.
That’s what Sarah Keller needs, because she has her own secret, and if it’s exposed, Zoe will be in danger. And that’s just what happens. An accident reveals Zoe’s whereabouts, and sets some scary opponents on her trail.
With their cover blown, Sarah takes Zoe on the run across the Southwest. She scrambles for safety with only her wits, her skip tracing skills and her meager savings to rely on. She’s backed up—maybe—by a U.S. Marshal and a nun. She’s up against the FBI and a criminal clan that wants to grab Zoe for their own purposes.
It’s a chase, a game of hide and seek, with a little girl’s life at stake. And at bottom Sarah is fighting to keep Zoe from being grabbed by her father’s family. The clan will do anything to get hold of Zoe. Sarah’s every brave and desperate move is designed to save Zoe from them.
Sarah considers herself half shepherd, watching over Zoe, and half wolf, running down rogues. But when push comes to shove, Sarah’s a hero. She’ll have to be, if she’s going to survive.
Thanks, Meg! The Shadow Tracer is out now! Readers, will you check this one out?
Stay tuned for many more guest posts from mystery and thriller authors throughout Private Eye July!