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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2019/01/03 Permalink
    Tags: thrillers,   

    January’s Best Thrillers 

    Liar, Liar, by James Patterson and Candice Fox
    The third Harriet Blue book finds the detective marked as armed and dangerous, on the run from her peers, even as she races to chase down her brother’s killer, Regan Banks. Throwing aside her principles, Blue is determined to make Banks pay for all the people he’s killed before he kills her too—and in the process, she breaks just about every law she swore to uphold. Going from a respected officer to a fugitive, Blue is all in on finding justice, no matter the cost to her career or sense of self. Patterson and Fox deliver on the thrills with a gripping story of a woman willing to sacrifice everything for personal justice, including her own life.

    An Anonymous Girl, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
    Hendricks and Greer, whose The Wife Between Us made a splash last year, return with a dark, twisty story about manipulation centered on 28-year old Jessica Farris. Reeling from a #MeToo experience that’s left her career in shambles, Jessica cheats her way into a paid ethics and morality study run by the impossibly cool Dr. Lydia Shields. Farris finds herself engaging in real-world role-playing directed by Dr. Shields, with the scenarios progressing from the uncomfortable to the outright disturbing. Farris’s paranoia spikes, and soon, Dr. Shields seems to be pulling strings in every part of her life. When Farris discovers the terrifying truth about the last woman to participate in Shields’ study, she realizes that it’s only paranoia if no one is out to get you.

    The Woman Inside, by E.G. Scott
    Rebecca is a pharmaceutical sales rep who leverages her career to feed her growing addiction to opiates. Her 20-year marriage to Paul is falling apart, and her career is crumbling under the weight of her drug use. She suspects Paul is having an affair with her boss’ wife Sasha, who happens to have been Paul’s high school sweetheart—or perhaps with their sexy neighbor, Sheila. When Sasha and then Sheila both go missing, the police close in. Naturally, this is a thriller, so nothing is as it seems. Scott trades off points of view, each offering a varying level of unreliability, slowly revealing secrets via one dizzying twists after another, guaranteeing you will keep those pages turning.

    48 Hours, by William R. Forstchen
    Forstchen takes us a few minutes into the future, after a solar storm has dropped many areas of the country into chaos, with power grids knocked out and martial law imposed. Dr. Richard Carrington and his team have detected a second, much more dangerous flare—nicknamed Sauron’s Eye—that could wipe out all life on the planet. As Dr. Carrington briefs the president, struggling to see the right way to handle the situation, a former cop named Darren Brooks struggles with his knowledge that the underground facility he works security for could offer a safe haven to thousands. Except the military has just taken over, and isn’t in the mood to share. Tense, smart, and fast-paced, this is a near-future thriller ready-made for the summer blockbuster treatment.

    Daughter of War, by Brad Taylor
    Taylor’s 13th Pike Logan novel follows Amena, a 13-year old Syrian refugee who helps her family survive in Monaco by stealing from the wealthy tourists. One day, Amena makes a great score, stealing an iPhone—and finds herself and her family in serious trouble: the phone belongs to a Syrian intelligence agent, and contains information about a deadly North Korean poison known as Red Mercury. The Syrians plan to use the poison against the United States,. As Amena goes on the run for her life, Logan and Taskforce get wind of the Red Mercury plot, and the race is on as Pike, ally Jennifer Cahill, the Russians, Syrians, and North Koreans all pursue Amena and the information she holds.

    The Rule of Law, by John Lescroart
    Dismas Hardy returns as part of a newly-formed law firm held together by long-suffering secretary Phyllis McGowan. McGowan’s behavior and unexplained absences have alarmed Hardy of late, and his fears appear to be well-founded when Phyllis is arrested on accessory to murder charges. The victim is Hector Valdez, a human trafficker, and Hardy discovers that Phyllis is involved in saving refugees from ICE, smuggling through a modern-day underground railroad. With a new District Attorney determined to make his name on the case while destroying Hardy and his new firm in the process, Hardy must solve the riddle quickly, or lose more than just his invaluable secretary.

    Judgment, by Joseph Finder
    Judge Juliana Brody is smart, experienced, and loves her work. While presiding over a high-profile, high-stakes sex discrimination case, she travels to a conference in Chicago, where the married judge has a rare moment of weakness and indulges in a one night stand with a stranger named Matias Sanchez, who claims to be in town from Buenos Aires on business. When she gets back to work in Boston, however, Juliana is shocked to discover that Sanchez is actually part of the defense team involved in the trial. Juliana is told to rule in the defense’s favor or her indiscretion will be revealed. Juliana finds herself embroiled in a ruthless conspiracy that threatens everything she loves, including her family. When Juliana decides to fight back, she goes up against a cabal of enemies who are as ruthless as they are smart—and she’ll need every scrap of her wits to survive with her sense of justice intact.

    Freefall, by Jessica Barry
    In Barry’s crackling debut, Maggie Carpenter learns that her estranged daughter Allison died when a plane piloted by her wealthy fiancé, pharmaceutical CEO Ben Gardner, crashed in the Rocky Mountains. Maggie, who had no idea her daughter was even engaged, can’t bring herself to believe the story everyone, including the police, is telling her, so she launches her own investigation. Plunging into a world of money, power, and deception, she learns her daughter was not the person she thought she was. To say too much more would spoil all the fun of this twisty, suspenseful thriller.

    The post January’s Best Thrillers appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2018/11/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , thrillers   

    10 New Books for the Thriller Reader on Your List 

    There really is no gift like a book. Whether your intended recipient is a voracious reader who can never get enough, or the sort who only reads when the mood strikes them, one genre works for everyone: thrillers. Twisty plots, two-fisted action, moral complexity, and a delightful blend of heroism and antiheroism? Sign us all up, please.

    Here are ten thrillers that’ll make awesome gifts for anyone on your list.

    Button Man, by Andrew Gross
    Gross spins an absorbing tale fueled by well-shaded characters, set in New York’s Lower East Side in the rough early days of the 20th century. Morris Rabishevsky lives with his family and learns early on that you have to be tough in order to survive—a lesson his brothers Sol and Harold never could grasp. By sheer force of will, Morris inherits a garment business, renaming it Raab Brothers and bringing Sol in to keep the books. But one of brother Harold’s criminal cohort, a childhood enemy of Morris, makes his living muscling in on garment unions, using violence and terror as needed—and he’s set his sights on Raab Brothers. Luckily Morris has never backed down from a fight in his life.

    Lies, by T.M. Logan
    Logan’s debut begins with a chance sighting: Joe Lynch and his son William are driving in North London when William sees his mother’s car and insists they surprise her. Joe follows her to a hotel, where he watches her argue with her best friend’s husband, the wealthy Ben Delaney. Before he can confront her, she drives off, so Joe confronts Ben instead. The resulting fight ends with his phone missing and Ben unconscious; when Joe returns for his phone, everything is gone. His wife denies an affair, but a murder reveals a different story, and Joe finds himself framed for a crimes he knows never happened—because he’s sure Ben is still alive. Behind that mystery lies the real question: how long has his wife been lying to him—and why?

    The Fox, by Frederick Forsyth
    Forsyth is a master of the spy thriller, and The Fox is a wonderfully old-school, classic story of chess espionage featuring Sir Adrian Weston, retired Deputy Chief of the SIS—but still on the Prime Minister’s speed dial. When a teenaged UK hacker penetrates the NSA, Weston is called in to advise, and sees an opportunity for a daring, dangerous plan. Convincing the not-so-bright U.S. President to cooperate, he hides the hacker away in safe houses and launches a series of audacious cyber attacks against enemies like North Korea and Russia. These attacks result in some of the most famous recent headlines around the world, giving the book a fantastic sense of realism even as the stakes rise after each operation, putting not just Weston but his hacker in danger’s crosshairs.

    When the Lights Go Out, by Mary Kubica
    Jessie Sloane is seventeen when her mother, Eden, passes away. While attempting to restart her life, Jessie discovers that 17 years earlier, someone filed a death certificate in her name, leaving her with no official identity. As her sleepless nights melt into nightmare, Eden’s heartbreaking story comes to the fore: before Jessie’s birth, she and Aaron were in love and desperately wanted children, but couldn’t conceive. Eden’s obsession with having a child slowly transformed into a frightening compulsion, driving Aaron away. Separated by decades, a mother and a daughter both go down dark paths, as two tense storylines hurtle toward a shocking convergence.

    Cross Her Heart, by Sarah Pinborough
    Pinborough’s tense new book stars Lisa, a tightly wound overprotective mother whose daughter Ava is a champion athlete, sneaking around with her boyfriend and chatting up a mysterious man online. Marilyn, Lisa’s bestie, is pushing her to “get back out there,” but Lisa has secrets that have taught her to be careful. When she drops her guard and lets her photo be taken, those secrets come for her, threatening her safety and her relationship with her daughter. Lisa and Marilyn have to push through their problems and join forces in order to save Ava from the past that has come with a vengeance.

    Foe, by Iain Reid
    In the near future, quiet couple Junior and Henrietta live on an isolated farm, until the arrival of a man named Terrance. He congratulates Junior on being accepted to a space colonization program called The Installation—but Junior never applied. Terrance assures him a synthetic version of himself will be created to keep Henrietta company, but as Terrance moves in to gather data, Junior and Henrietta sense he’s keeping something from them—and that they’ll have to do something to save themselves before it’s too late.

    Limetown: The Prequel to the #1 Podcast, by Cote Smith, Zack Akers, and Skip Bronkie
    For the forward-thinking thriller fan, Limetown: The Prequel to the #1 Podcast, might just be what the future of the genre looks like. This prequel to hugely popular podcast fiction Limetown drips with ominous atmosphere. Student journalist Lia Haddock lives in Limetown, Tennessee, a small town with a big problem—more than a hundred people, including Lia’s Uncle Emile, have disappeared. Lia digs into the mystery, and is amazed when her own parents refuse to help in any way—and what she discovers on her own forces her to do a lot of growing up really, really quickly.

    The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton
    Turton takes one part classic manor house mystery and adds a layer of supernatural sci-fi, as Aiden Bishop relives the same day over and over, inhabiting a different body each time—each a guest at a masquerade ball thrown by the Hardcastle family at the downtrodden manor house known as Blackheath. He must solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, the young daughter in whose honor the party has been organized, within eight days—and eight identities—or have his memory erased and be forced to start over from scratch. Turton doesn’t skimp on the red herrings, plausible suspects, and twists that every great mystery needs, while the ticking clock on Bishop’s efforts ratchets up the tension in this near-perfect postmodern mystery.

    Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty
    If someone on your shopping list is a big fan of Big Little Lies, they’ll love Moriarty’s latest, Nine Perfect Strangers. Tranquillum House is the upscale spa of your dreams, and the perfect place for bestselling novelist Frances Welty to nurse her aching back and broken heart. She can’t help but take an interest in the eight other people enjoying the spa, as well as its mysterious owner—but soon Frances is torn between thinking spa will give her the answers she’s always sought, and thinking she should run away as fast as she can. It isn’t long before the other guests are thinking the same thing, and some truly astonishing revelations follow.

    The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware
    It’s cons all the way down in Ware’s newest twisty thriller. Harriet “Hal” Westaway just scrapes by working as a psychic at Brighton Beach, using her skills of observation to con easy marks. She owes very bad people very serious money, so when she receives a letter informing her that her grandmother has passed away and left her something in the will, she’s determined to claim the inheritance—despite the fact that she the woman who passed is not, in fact, her grandmother. Intending to use her cold-reading skills to parlay this case of mistaken identity into some cold, hard cash, she travels to an estate in Cornwell—and learns the truth of why she’s there is far more twisted, and potentially more deadly, than she knew.

    The post 10 New Books for the Thriller Reader on Your List appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2018/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , new thrills, thrillers   

    November’s Best New Thrillers 

    Time—and publishing schedules—wait for no one, so if you slacked off on your TBR pile in October, watch out, because November is bringing a bumper crop of new thrillers. This month’s picks of the litter are heavy on the returning faves as James Patterson, Lee Child, and Clive Cussler bring back some of their most popular characters, while Anthony Horowitz delivers a brand-new adventure for one of the most famous classic thriller characters of all time—and David Baldacci goes the other way, hitting the ground running with a brand-new character.

    Long Road to Mercy, by David Baldacci
    Baldacci takes a break from Amos Decker to introduce FBI Agent Atlee Pine, whose skill set makes her one of the FBI’s top criminal profilers, but who chooses to work in solitude as the lone agent assigned to the Shattered Rock, Arizona, resident agency. Pine is haunted by the kidnapping of her twin sister, Mercy, when they were six years old; the kidnapper sang out an old nursery rhyme as they chose which twin to abduct. Mercy was chosen, and Atlee never saw her sister again, and dedicated her life to saving others. When a mule is found dead in the Grand Canyon and its rider missing, Atlee is plunged into an investigation that would be beyond most agents—but not her. At least not until she’s abruptly ordered to close the case just as she’s figuring out the terrifying scope of what’s she’s chasing after…

    Target: Alex Cross, by James Patterson
    Patterson’s twenty-sixth Alex Cross book opens on a somber scene of mourning as hundreds of thousands of people gather in Washington, D.C., to mourn the president—among them Alex Cross, whose wife, Bree, has just become D.C.’s chief of detectives. When a sniper takes out a member of the president’s cabinet, it falls to Bree to solve the crime—and it’s clear her job is on the line. Cross begins to suspect the sniper is only getting started, and as usual he’s right—and the country is plunged into a violent crisis like nothing it’s ever seen before. Patterson raises the stakes beyond anything Cross has ever dealt with before—and that’s saying something.

    Past Tense, by Lee Child
    Jack Reacher returns in his twenty-third outing in fine form, as Child continues to get tremendous mileage from an older Reacher’s slow-burn journey into his own past. Faced with yet another fork in the road, Reacher chooses to walk into Laconia, New Hampshire, where his late father, Stan, was born. Meanwhile, a young couple driving from Canada stop at a mysteriously empty motel near Laconia when they have car trouble. Reacher, as usual, steps in to help the helpless and gets nothing but trouble for his efforts, while his efforts to learn about his father turn up a disturbing lack of information. As the two stories slowly work toward each other, Reacher discovers he might be more like his father than he suspected—and another batch of small-time goons discovers they’re no match whatsoever for Jack Reacher.

    Tom Clancy: Oath of Office, by Marc Cameron
    Cameron returns to the Jack Ryan universe for the second time with a complex story of betrayal and realpolitik that begins in Iran, where a Russian spy mourns his lover, Maryam, cut down by the Revolutionary Guard. This spurs Erik Dovzhenko to defect, traveling to Afghanistan to contact Maryam’s friend Ysabel Kashani. Ysabel brings in Jack Ryan, Jr., son of the President of the United States and member of antiterrorism unit the Campus. Ryan is in the area as part of a mission to track down two stolen nuclear weapons, and meets with Erik and Ysabel even as his father deals with an attack on an American embassy in Cameroon. The twisting story builds to an explosive conclusion in true Clancy style.

    You Don’t Own Me, by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
    Clark and Burke deliver the fifth book in the Under Suspicion series, featuring television producer Laurie Morgan, whose penchant for getting into trouble is just as strong as ever. Laurie is busy planning her wedding to former host Alex Buckley (who is about to be confirmed as a federal judge) when she’s contacted by the parents of a physician famously gunned down in his own driveway five years before; they’re in a bitter custody battle with his wife, and believe she was the killer. As Laurie takes on the story she finds, as usual, more layers to it than meet the eye—but as she works she’s being followed by a mysterious man who admires her from afar and thinks she might not be missed when she’s gone, pushing the tension to the breaking point.

    Sea of Greed, by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
    The sixteenth NUMA Files novel depicts a world on the verge of chaos as oil supplies dry up and stock markets drop. When a massive explosion in the Gulf of Mexico destroys three crucial oil rigs, the President of the United States is concerned enough to ask Kurt Austin and the NUMA Special Projects Team to investigate. Their attention is drawn to a maverick billionaire who sees her alternative energy company as the future—and who might be willing to take drastic measures to get to that future sooner rather than later. The crew of the NUMA finds evidence that an oil-eating bacteria thought lost fifty years before has been deployed in the Gulf, and now threatens to plunge the world into chaos if Austin and his team can’t get to the bottom of the mystery in time.

    Forever and a Day, by Anthony Horowitz
    Crafting an origin story for no less of a pop culture icon than James Bond is a daunting task, but Horowitz is in familiar waters after 2015’s Trigger Mortis, and does an expert job. The story kicks off with the death of the prior 007, found floating in the water off of Marseilles. M calls up Bond, newly attached to the Double-O section, and assigns him to investigate the agent’s death. Bond goes toe-to-toe with the Corsican mob and a classic Bond villain in the immensely obese and incredibly dangerous crime boss Jean-Paul Scipio. Horowitz seeds the story with plenty of Bond Easter eggs for longtime fans while crafting a tense, action-heavy story that satisfies simply as a modern-day spy thriller that’s gritty, violent, and morally complex.

    The post November’s Best New Thrillers appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/10/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , thrillers,   

    October’s Best Thrillers 

    The Reckoning, by John Grisham
    Grisham’s latest is a compelling mystery set in the wake of World War II. Veteran Pete Banning, now enjoying civilian life as a farmer, gets up one day, has breakfast with his sister, and then drives into town and shoots the Reverend Dexter Bell three times, killing him. Banning makes no attempt to resist arrest, and only states that he has “nothing to say” about the murder. Is it connected to his wife, Liza, so recently committed to a hospital? Or is there a less obvious mystery afoot? As the community struggles to understand what’s happened, Grisham digs deeply into Banning’s backstory, following his journey through life and war on the way to a killing no one understands.

    Dark Sacred Night, by Michael Connelly
    Connelly pairs up two of his most enduring characters as Harry Bosch, now retired and working cases for his own reasons, and LAPD Detective Renée Ballard see their paths cross. After Ballard files a sexual harassment claim against the police department, she gets relegated to the graveyard shift. One night she catches Bosch looking through an old case file, researching the unsolved murder of a runaway girl in 2009. When she learns the girl’s mother, Daisy, is staying with Bosch as he helps her recover from drug addiction, Renée is moved to help. Meanwhile, Bosch’s other activities have put him directly in the sights of one of the most violent and ruthless street gangs in the area, Varrio San Fer 13, making the new partnership an extremely dangerous one—not that the detective is the type to spook easily.

    Ambush, by James Patterson and James O. Born
    When Detective Michael Bennett receives an anonymous tip that leads him into an attempted assassination, he quickly realizes it’s the work of a talented and mysterious professional, who soon targets Bennett’s family, while serving perfect red herrings clues to keep Bennett and his fellow cops chasing their tails. As Bennett puts the pieces together while protecting everyone he cares about, he realizes that while the assassin’s motivates are related to the rival cartels trying to corner the city’s drug traffic—cartels that may have joined forces to take out their main obstacle: Detective Michael Bennett.

    Paper Gods, by Goldie Taylor
    When Ezra Hawkins, a long-serving black congressman from Georgia, is assassinated, a hunt begins for both the killer and the congressman’s replacement. On the same day, infamous reporter Hampton Bridges is almost killed in a car accident that doesn’t seem so accidental, which drives him to dig even harder into the seamy underbelly of Georgia politics. Hawkins’ obvious successor would be his protégé, Atlanta Mayor Torrie Dodds—but dissatisfaction with Hawkins has soured Dodds, who resents a system controlled by wealthy white elites. As Bridges tracks down corruption and skulduggery, more killings ensue, and Dodds finds a mysterious link between the victims—one of whom is her own disgraced brother.

    The Night in Question, by Nic Joseph
    Paula Wilson works a rideshare gig to help with the medical bills that are crushing her family. One night she picks up her final passenger and is thrilled to recognize famous musician Ryan Hooks in her backseat. When she brings him to his destination and he’s met by a woman decidedly not his equally famous wife, Paula does something desperate—she suggests the best way to keep his meeting out of the papers is to pay her. But when it later turns out someone was murdered at that address, Paula realizes she might be the only person to know about Hooks’ secret affair, and thus the only witness to a terrible crime.

    The Trust, by Ronald H. Balson
    Balson’s fourth book following Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart sees Liam returning with reluctance to Northern Ireland for a funeral. He isn’t looking forward to seeing his family again, but is soon  astonished to find he’s been named the executor of his uncle’s secret trust, which can only be settled after Fergus’ murder is solved. Liam is forced to do the last thing he wants: take a deep dive into his family’s affairs, their long-standing connection to the IRA and the Troubles, and the skein of greed, resentment, and violence at the end of his every inquiry. Whoever killed Fergus is undoubtedly watching.

    Smile, by Roddy Doyle
    Booker Prize-winner Doyle returns with a fascinating character study that follows Victor Forde, a past-his-prime radio commentator who returns to his dingy hometown after separating from his celebrity chef wife. Abandoning his determination to make friends and do some writing, Forde drinks his sorrows away at Donnelly’s pub, spending time with the locals and then tottering off to work on a project he never quite gets started. One night at Donnelly’s, Forde encounters an old schoolmate, Fitzpatrick, a man he quite doesn’t remember from hisviolent years at St. Martin’s Christian Brothers School. Fitzpatrick forces Forde to revisit those dark childhood years, unraveling a decades-old mystery and memories of sexual abuse, and slowly becomes the man’s unlikely best friend, as Doyle builds to an ending both unexpected and inevitable.

    The post October’s Best Thrillers appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , thrillers   

    Every Megan Abbott Book, Ranked 

    Megan Abbott is having a Moment. With the publication of her ninth novel, Give Me Your Hand, comes the realization that this brilliant author has flown under the radar for too long, and it’s time we all caught up. Abbott hasn’t really written a bad book yet, but we have our own ideas about where you should start. Below, we rank the novels, leaving the best for last. Disagree? Tell us in the comments..

    The Fever
    Abbott’s assured 2014 novel tells the tale of a sleepy town whose teenage girls suddenly start suffering a mysterious illness. As thrillers go, it’s low key but tense: on one hand, Abbott easily crafts a creepy, sexually-charged atmosphere and populates it with true-to-life characters struggling with teen sexuality from every pained perspective—and then ramps up the paranoia and horror by stages. On the other hand, if you’re looking for action, or an explosive conclusion that burns off all the high-pressure unease the novel generates, well, that’s not what the author is going for here.

    You Will Know Me
    This story of a young gymnast with Olympic aspirations and a dread of her growing bosom, the obsessively supportive parents who have given up everything to push their daughter forward, and the isolated, suffocating world of gymnasts, is great. The unlikeable characters are reliably fascinating and well-rendered, and the setting and sense of dread is palpable. While the book is offered up as a mystery, however, Abbott is absolutely disinterested in that aspect of the story. Said mystery, involving the death of teen boy, isn’t much of one, and readers paying the slightest attention will know exactly what happened shortly after the body’s discovered. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t fantastic—but it does mean those looking for shocking twists should start elsewhere.

    Die a Little
    Abbott’s first published novel follows a schoolteacher in postwar L.A. who begins to suspect her policeman brother’s new wife is on the sketchy side, and it’s about as great a debut novel as you can hope for. If Die a Little isn’t as polished, tight, or spellbinding as Abbott’s later work, its subversion of traditional noir gender roles and other tropes is delightful fun, if a bit on-the-nose—something else Abbott got better at as time went on. It’s still a definite must-read, if only to see how a very good writer slowly evolves into a tremendous one.

    Bury Me Deep
    Based on a true story, Abbott’s 2009 novel (nominated for an Anthony Award) is an immersive, slow burn telling the story of Marion Seeley, whose husband, a doctor, leaves her in Phoenix so he can go to Mexico for work and to kick his drug habit. Marion falls in with a group of other women and meets Joe Lanigan, who seduces her—and then, things go really, really badly for everyone involved. Abbott takes her time with the pacing of this one; the first 80 percent of the book, finds her wallowing in her own gorgeous writing and the increasingly unbearable tension of the story. The final act is therefore an exhilarating explosion that feels oh so good, even as it highlights how slow the buildup was.

    The End of Everything
    This story of a 13-year old girl, Lizzie, whose best friend suddenly disappears, is so much more than a mystery—the revelation of what happened comes fairly early in the story, and isn’t too surprising. It is more a deep-dive into the girl’s unreliable, confused psyche. Abbott infuses Lizzie with vigilance, confusion, and dark secrets, then layers on a serious lack of reliability—Lizzie doesn’t always seem to be totally in control of her own narrative. Lizzie’s voice is what makes this book so incredible. Spending time with her is almost overwhelming—she’s a brilliant character, and a narrative device that you’ll really love. But you’ll be happy, too, to see the back of her at its end.

    Give Me Your Hand
    Abbott’s newest book, about two brilliant girls who pushed each other to achieve back in high school and fell out over a terrible confession, only to be forced together professionally years later, loads all the author’s weapons into one powerful vehicle, which then proceeds to run you over. There’s the exploration of dark, twisted teen girl relationships. There’s the slow boil of inarticulate rage that results in horrific violence. The careful study of small, claustrophobic groups. The entertaining rendering of characters who are, at best, unlikeable. At this point, the top four Abbott novels approach a kind of singularity of excellence, so feel free to consider this on equal footing with the three that follow.

    Dare Me
    Dare Me is probably the book that woke most people up to Abbott, and for good reason. Set in the world of teenage cheerleading, it explores the “Mean Girls” dynamic with a story packed with the sort of ruthless twists and subversions that are Abbott’s hallmark—asking the simple question, what happens when the Regina George of your group gets demoted? If you’ve read any of Abbott’s books, you know the answer involves murderous rage, and the way former Queen Bee Beth reacts when her loyal sidekick Addy becomes enamored with the cool new cheerleading coach is a compelling study of sociopathic teen girl angst. At the same time, Abbott smartly positions the cheerleading team as being disdained by the rest of the school—they’re not the popular girls, because cheerleading, despite its demanding athletic standard, is seen as silly. Dare Me is an drum-tight book that captures the true terror of being a teenage girl.

    The Song is You
    If you’re only familiar with Abbott’s more recent novels set in contemporary times, get thee to her classic noir The Song is You, which seems so old-fashioned at first blush, it’s easy to miss its electrifying subversions. Set in Golden Age Hollywood, it’s got all the boozy, jazzy earmarks of a period piece, aping the bleak mood and dark style of the time. At first glance, the gender roles he characters fall into seem traditional as well—the protagonist is a man, a “fixer” for the film studios when scandals arise, and he’s haunted by his involvement in covering up the disappearance of a young starlet. Dig deeper, and you find Abbott knows exactly what she’s doing, and what tropes she’s playing with. The end result is an Ellroy-esque twister that revels in the debauchery of old Hollywood, but does so with razor-sharp purpose.

    Abbott’s third novel is nearly perfect (it won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original). It’s another red meat dive into noir, telling the story of a girl who’s adopted by the titular Queenpin of the criminal underground, Gloria Denton, who teaches her everything she knows about the rackets—and then falls for precisely the wrong man. As the unnamed narrator and her mentor slowly circle each as their respective roles change, the violence and tension of the story ratchets up as if a supercomputer was tasked with crafting the perfect thriller plotline, even as Abbott explores and interrogates gender roles and classic tropes with a modern, gimlet eye. Even if you think you don’t enjoy hardboiled-style stories, check out Queenpin—there’s so much more going on aside from the whiskey, cigarettes, and gunplay.

    What Abbott novel left you breathless?

    The post Every Megan Abbott Book, Ranked appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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