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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/12/14 Permalink
    Tags: , best thrillers, thrillers   

    The Best Thrillers of 2017 

    It seems like every year turns out to be a Golden Age of Thrillers, and 2017 was no exception. In fact, we saw so many edge-of-your-seat thrillers with so many compelling characters, surprising twists, and heart-pounding action scenes it was tough to narrow it down to just 25. But we’re professionals. The 25 books on this list are all guaranteed to get the blood pumping and the palms sweating—and they’re just the tip of the thriller iceberg.

    The Dark Lake, by Sarah Bailey
    Rosalind Ryan’s transcendent beauty made her a legend in her small rural town, but many years later, it also made her a target. As an adult Rosalind returned to Smithson High School to teach drama, and when she turns up in a local lake, dead of strangulation, it falls to lead homicide investigator Gemma Woodstock to solve the mystery of her murder. Except Gemma is a former classmate of Rosalind’s, and unraveling the puzzle of Rosalind’s strange and lonely existence stirs up Gemma’s own murky, questionable past.

    End Game, by David Baldacci
    Baldacci’s fifth Will Robie novel flips the script a bit on his competent, deadly characters. When Will Robie and Jessica Reel’s legendary handler, Blue Man, goes missing after taking a rare vacation to go fly-fishing in a rural area of Colorado, the two deadly assassins are dispatched to investigate. They find themselves in the town of Grand, a festering place of economic decline, crime, drug wars—and a growing population of militia-style groups. They also find an inadequate police force unable to cope. They quickly realize there’s more going on in Grand than meets the eye, and by the time they realize that even they, two of the most dangerous people in the world, are out-gunned and surrounded it might be too late.

    Vicious Circle, by C.J. Box
    The 17th Joe Pickett novel starts off in high gear and never lets up, opening with Picket in a plane using infrared technology to track Dave Farkus, hunter and disability scam artist. Joe catches up with Farkus just in time to see the man shot to death. It doesn’t take long for Joe to identify the key suspect—Dallas Cates, sometime rodeo star who just got done doing 18 months in prison thanks to Farkus’ testimony. Cates makes little effort to hide the fact that he’s seeking the ultimate revenge against Farkus—and has assembled a team of meth heads, sociopaths, and other scary folks to do so. Joe finds both himself and his family included in Cates’ plans, and Cates proves to be smarter and more evil than Joe could possibly have suspected.

    Origin, by Dan Brown
    Brown returns to his most successful character with an all-new Robert Langdon adventure, this time centered in Spain and focusing on more modern art. Langdon starts off the book as the guest of former student-turned-billionaire Edmond Kirsch, who is staging a provocative presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and hinting at the answers to two of the fundamental questions of human existence. Naturally, things go very, very wrong, and Langdon soon finds himself fleeing to Barcelona with museum director Ambra Vidal and working desperately to discover a password Kirsch left behind that will unlock all of the billionaire’s secrets. Their opponent, however, seems to be all-knowing, and firmly rooted in the Spanish royal palace—but there’s no one on Earth more equipped to deal with codes and symbols than Robert Langdon.

    Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown
    In some ways a darker version of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Disappear centers on the sudden absence of a notoriously unreliable woman, Billie Flanagan, during a hiking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. With no body left behind, and very few clues to go on, her whereabouts are a chilling mystery. Billie’s teenage daughter, Olive, begins hallucinating that her mother is alive and needs her help, while Billie’s husband, Jonathan, has a different response to the disappearance, having recently discovered she may have been unfaithful. A perfect book for fans of Liane Moriarty, A.J. Banner, Gillian Flynn, and A.S.A. Harrison, this marital suspense story also stands on its own feet.

    The Stolen Marriage, by Diane Chamberlain
    Bestseller Chamberlain’s latest concerns an aspiring nurse trapped in a marriage-of-convenience in a small North Carolina town where she is disliked and mistrusted. It’s 1943, and Tess’s life just took a hard left: Impregnated by a man not her fiancée, she casts off her dream of a medical career alongside her true love and moves away with Henry, the baby’s father, who is uninterested in Tess’s potential. It soon becomes clear Henry is hiding things from Tess. With the polio epidemic in full swing, Tess gets a chance to use her nursing skills at last, but the home front remains as unsettling and mysterious as ever in this suspense-filled, World War II-era tale.

    The Midnight Line, by Lee Child
    Jack Reacher is once again stepping off a bus in a small town in the middle of nowhere, this time in Wisconsin. Stretching his legs, Reacher sees a West Point ring in a pawn shop window and is moved to find out what would make someone sell something so difficult to earn. His quest for the ring owner’s identity leads Reacher to cross several state lines as he assembles a story of service in Afghanistan, opioid addiction, and a huge criminal organization that Reacher, once he’s aware of it, has no choice but to take on. He manages to acquire an ally, however, in the form of the cadet’s brother, a former FBI agent-turned private detective, who’s one of those rare people Reacher feels he can count on, if only for a while. Along the way Reacher traces corporate complicity in the opioid crisis and the desperation that drives people to make bad decisions—all while dishing out violence the way only Jack Reacher can manage.

    Don’t Let Go, by Harlan Coben
    15 years ago, Napoleon “Nap” Dumas lost his twin brother Leo when he and his girlfriend, Diana, were hit by a train. This is terrible enough—but in a puzzling twist, Nap’s then-girlfriend Maura also disappeared at the same time. When evidence surfaces linking Maura to a murdered police officer, Nap begins to suspect that his brother’s death wasn’t an accident. His investigation leads him to look up the other members of a high school group called the Conspiracy Club—and he soon realizes that someone else is also tracking down the club’s members as well…and killing them.

    Two Kinds of Truth, by Michael Connelly
    Connelly returns to the world of Harry Bosch with a pair of mysteries. Three decades ago, Bosch was convinced a man named Preston Borders was guilty of raping and murdering three young women, but the district attorney only pursued one case, convicting Borders of the murder of Danielle Skyler. Borders has been on death row ever since, but suddenly new DNA evidence seems to exonerate him, so he files a habeas corpus petition and seems determined to sue everyone involved. Bosch has nine days before the hearing to figure out what went sideways, but his efforts are complicated by the current murder he’s investigating, that of a pharmacist and his son, which has set off a chain reaction of revelations involving faked prescriptions. As Bosch prepares to go undercover as an addict for the first time in his life, even he might not be able to keep all of the clues straight.

    The Cuban Affair , by Nelson DeMille
    Set in 2015, just as relations between the United States and Cuba were beginning to warm up, DeMille’s latest digs into the side of the story that often gets overlooked: the Cuban expats living in the U.S. who hate the Castro regime and who abandoned their property, wealth, and standing when they fled. Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a veteran of Afghanistan trying to make his way out from under a mountain of debt with his charter boat business in Key West—and failing. When he’s offered a lot of money to assist in the recovery of money and documents from a remote cave in Cuba, he agrees out of desperation, ferrying a beautiful woman to Havana. When things go wrong, Mac finds himself depending on her—without knowing if he can trust her one bit.

    The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld
    Naomi Cottle was kidnapped as a child—although her memories only begin with a flight through a dark strawberry field. Raised in foster homes, she is still broken by things she can’t remember, and has dedicated her life to being a “child finder,” called in by devastated families to find missing children when the trail has grown cold. Naomi never gives up, sometimes finding the children dead, sometimes alive. When she’s called in to search for Madison Culver, who disappeared three years before and is presumed to have frozen to death, the family is still holding out hope. And rightly so—as Naomi struggles to stay connected to her foster family and her sense of self, Madison begins narrating her terrifying imprisonment with a man she calls “B.”

    Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich
    As her many fans are aware, to know Stephanie Plum is to love her. Evanovich’s long-running series following the madcap exploits of Jersey’s most illustrious bounty hunter takes a spooky turn when headless bodies begin turning up left and right. Although initially they’re corpses from the morgue, when a homeless man is found murdered and decapitated, someone has clearly upped their creepy game, Stephanie is compelled to take the case. In the meantime, she’s bunking with professional grave robber Simon Diggery and his pet python, and concerned about Grandma Mazur’s online dating escapades. Tall blonde and handsome Diesel is also back in town, which is stirring things up for Stephanie and her perennial paramours, sexy cop Joe Morelli and the enigmatic Ranger. Treat yourself to the latest mystery in the Plum series!

    Y is for Yesterday, by Sue Grafton
    Grafton’s famous Kinsey Millhone series is reaching the end of the alphabet, to the despair of legions of fans. Y is For Yesterday travels back to 1979, when four private school boys brutally assaulted a classmate—and the attack was filmed. The ensuing investigation resulted in the conviction of two of the perpetrators, although the main instigator behind the attack disappeared. Nearly twenty years later, one of the attackers is released from prison. Fritz McCabe is in pretty terrible shape, and he’s now being held a virtual prisoner by his parents. When he receives a copy of the video of the attack along with a demand for ransom, McCabe’s parents swing into action and consult with Kinsey Millhone, who is soon drawn into their convoluted family drama. In the meantime she’s also got a sociopath with a deep grudge to contend with. Fans know it’s just another day in the life of one of the best investigators in the genre.

    The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
    Grisham proves he’s still got his finger on the pulse in his newest, telling the story of idealistic but broke law students Mark, Todd, and Zola, who mortgage their future in the form of student loans to attend a third-tier law school. In their third year, the trio realizes they’ve been victims of the Great Law School Scam: the graduates of their school rarely pass the bar and almost never get jobs—and the school’s owner also owns the bank that wrote the paper on their loans. Naturally, smart nearly-lawyers go for the only option they have available: revenge. It’s going to take planning and risks (like dropping out before earning your degree) but it’s the only option if you want a little justice—and the result is an Ocean’s 11 for the LSAT crowd.

    Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
    The diabolically clever Magpie Murders opens with the text of a classic whodunit set in sleepy English village; the latest novel in fictional author Alan Conway’s popular Atticus Pünd detective series. That mystery itself is absorbing enough, but things take a turn for the weird when editor Susan Ryeland must use the clues woven throughout it to solve a chilling real-life murder. Horowitz’s prose is elegant, his characters multifaceted and deeply human, and the ingenious construction of this brilliant puzzler (which pays homage to the classic whodunnit while taking it apart and reassembling it into something completely new) will leave you reeling. In his bestselling novels Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, Horowitz proved his knack for writing spellbinding stories, but Magpie Murders is a tour de force mystery-within-a-mystery that takes things to an astonishing new level.

    Mississippi Blood, by Greg Iles
    Iles’ concluding novel in the Natchez Burning trilogy starts off at a tense boil…and then somehow increases the tension. Penn Cage, now mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, finds himself—and his family—targeted by the Double Eagles, a splinter KKK group led by the loathsome and deadly Snake Knox. Penn’s father, Tom, heads to trial for the killing of his nurse and lover, Viola Turner, and Penn turns to author Serenity Turner for assistance chasing down witnesses. As the racial violence escalates, everyone’s commitment to their ideals is tested, and Iles brings all of the plot threads together in well-constructed trail scenes that offer plenty of surprises.

    The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, by David Lagercrantz
    Even from solitary confinement in prison, Lisbeth Salander is an unstoppable force in Lagercrantz’s second book continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. The prison she’s held in is poorly run, with the inmates more in charge than the guards, but her hacking skills and sharp intelligence mean she’s as effective inside as she was out. Her old ally Mikael Blomkvist visits once a week, and she passes him a lead related to her still-mysterious childhood: a respected stockbroker named Leo Mannheimer she believes is connected to the psychiatric unit where she was confined against her will as a child. As Blomkvist does what he does best, Salander turns her attentions to the injustices in her new home, as intolerable to her in prison as they would be in the free world.

    A Legacy of Spies, by John Le Carré
    John le Carré is not only back, he’s bringing George Smiley with him—or at least Smiley’s assistant, Peter Guillam, called upon to fill in the blanks on an old operation called Windfall, now that the British government is being sued over some of the unintended casualties of the Cold War. Guillam begins piecing together the truth behind Windfall, digging through old files, listening to interrogations, and supplementing these discoveries with his own reliable memories. As usual in a le Carré novel, the combination of meticulous detail, skillful spycraft, and moral blankness makes for a slow-boil thriller that slowly increases the tension to unendurable levels. The intelligence and (above all) patience of the men and women working in intelligence becomes as thrilling as any gunplay.

    Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane
    Lehane’s newest thriller focuses on Rachel Child, a successful television journalist raised by a manipulative mother who doesn’t realize just how damaged she is until an on-air nervous breakdown ends her career. In freefall, Rachel locks herself up in her house and never leaves. With time to think, she wonders about her father, whose identity her mother hid from her, and contacts a private detective to try to identify him. That detective, Brian Delacroix, becomes more than a hire for Rachel—he becomes, she thinks, her lover and salvation. When she begins to suspect he might not be everything he seems, the story really kicks into high gear, an Rachel proves to be a surprisingly dynamic character despite her isolated status.

    Earthly Remains, by Donna Leon
    When the usually careful and meticulous Commissario Guido Brunetti finds himself coming precariously close to losing his cool during an interrogation of a particularly prickly suspect, he is given a leave of absence from work. His wife Paolo convinces to take a breather at a relative’s villa on the quiet island of Sant’Erasmo, and there Brunetti befriends Davide, the house’s caretaker and a quiet man with a passion for beekeeping. But trouble follows, as it often does, and before long Brunetti finds himself investigating Davide’s disappearance. [Hint: Davide took a permanent leave of absence.] In the satisfying twenty-sixth installment of her beloved Guido Brunetti series, author Leon, known for immersing readers in the lush settings of her novels [typically the bustling city of Venice]—gives Brunetti time and space to ruminate on man’s place in the natural world.

    The Breakdown, by B.A. Paris
    Paris’ clever thriller pivots on a chillingly familiar premise: a woman named Cass sees a driver on the side of the road, trying to flag down help near a broken-down car. She drives past without stopping, then later learns the motorist was brutally murdered. She begins to receive phone calls during which no one speaks, and her fear she has inherited her mother’s early-onset dementia are brought to the fore as her grip on details—and her own memories—slips. She comes to rely more and more on her husband and her best friend, who never liked each other, but this is one of those books in which no one is above suspicion.

    Glass Houses, by Louise Penny
    A mysterious figure has appeared in the idyllic village of Three Pines, standing alone and stock still in the freezing November sleet. As the villagers, including Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache, grow increasingly perturbed and even frightened, the figure remains. Soon after it finally disappears, a body turns up, which is very probably not a coincidence, and it falls to Gamache to discover whether the killing is in fact a terrible retribution. Later that summer, the accused stands trial, but Gamache is forced to face the consequences of the actions he took during those fateful days in November. The 13th novel in Penny’s incomparable series ratchets up the tension to an almost unbearable degree.

    Deep Freeze, by John Sandford
    Sandford’s tenth Virgil Flowers story finds the Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent’s life complicated by another small town murder in Trippton, and the arrival of an agent of chaos. The murder victim is Gina Hemmings, who inherited her parents’ bank—and plenty of the potential suspects’ debts. Making things more complicated is the arrival of Margaret Griffin, a Los Angeles investigator who lands in town with the governor’s request that Virgil assist in finding Jesse McGovern, who is supposedly manufacturing sex dolls in Trippton—though no one seems to have ever met her. Virgil’s path to solving each mystery is as enjoyably bumpy as ever, but it’s Sandford’s grasp of small town culture that makes this entry sing.

    Good Daughter, by Karin Slaughter
    If you haven’t read Karin Slaughter yet, The Good Daughter is the perfect novel to jump onboard with…and if you’re a fan of fast-paced, gripping, and impossible to forget thrillers (see: the incredible Coptown), you should definitely be reading Karin Slaughter. In her latest standalone novel, Charlotte Quinn fought back against a harrowing childhood trauma by following in her father’s footsteps and becoming an attorney. But when another attack occurs nearly three decades later, Charlie is powerless to stop a flood of terrible memories from that tragic incident, which destroyed her happy family and left her mother dead. You won’t know where this one is going, but one thing is for sure: you’ll follow this author anywhere.

    Heather, the Totality, by Matthew Weiner
    Weiner, creator and showrunner of Mad Men, has crafted a sharp, character-driven debut novel that examines class and parenting with equal power. Heather, smart and beautiful, has been doted on by her mother since birth, causing a rift between her parents. Heather is also increasingly aware of the gulf between her family, the owners of an upscale apartment building in Manhattan, and the people who work for them—including a construction worker, Bobby, whose appearance isolates him. Heather sees Bobby as a way to bridge the gap, but her father sees a threat in how Bobby looks at his daughter, and tensions rise in complicated ways.

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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2017/12/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , thrillers,   

    The Best New Thrillers of December 2017 

    If any month calls for a good thriller, it’s December. Between end-of-year work projects, holiday shopping, and lots of time spent in airports, you’re going to need as many distractions as possible. No matter where you find yourself stuck, one of these thrillers will help you pass the time in style.

    Tom Clancy: Power and Empire, by Marc Cameron
    President Jack Ryan, his intelligence agent son Jack Jr., and John Clark, junior’s boss at the Campus, trade off on the spotlight in the latest Tom Clancy thriller, as seemingly separate harrowing scenarios converge. The president is dealing with an aggressive China, staking claims in the South China Sea. His son is working with the FBI to take down a child sex ring. John Clark is on the trail of a missing girl after a traffic stop in Texas uncovers a Chinese agent. As the three men begin to realize there’s much more going on than meets the eye, world events ratchet up the tension between nations in the days leading to the G20 Summit—meaning all three men are working against the clock to understand how it all comes together.

    The Demon Crown, by James Rollins
    In 1903, none other than Alexander Graham Bell travels to Italy to bring home the bones of James Smithson, the founder of the Smithsonian. Bell finds a hunk of amber amongst Smith’s things, in which is the preserved body of a small dinosaur with a crown-like ring of bones on its head, along with the cryptic message, “what the Demon Crown holds is very much alive, and ready to unleash the very hordes of Hell upon this world.” In the present day, a secretive group known as The Guild has finally done just that—loosing giant, killer wasps that swarm civilization and threaten everyone and everything. Grayson Pierce, the commander of Sigma Force, is on a Hawaiian beach with partner Seichan when the first swarm arrives, and the fight is on to defeat the bugs before they reconquer a world they once ruled. Doing so brings Pierce to the most horrifying choice of his life—joining with his enemy to save the world, even if it means sacrificing his own.

    Death at Nuremberg, by W.E.B. Griffin
    The fourth Clandestine Operations novel is set in 1946, where James D. Cronley Jr., directorate of Central Intelligence, finds himself reassigned to the dual mission of protecting the judge overseeing the Nuremberg war crimes trials and investigating Odessa, the secretive organization helping Nazis escape punishment and flee to South America. Two attempts on his life follow quickly, and he finds himself not only tracking Nazi smugglers, but stumbling onto a cult founded by none other than Heinrich Himmler. As the chess pieces that eventually formed the CIA (and set the groundwork for the Cold War) are placed on the board, Cronley must ensure the trials go on as planned while everyone around him seems to have their own agenda—none of which involves his safety and wellbeing.

    The Last Man in Tehran, by Mark Henshaw
    The fourth book in former CIA analyst Henshaw’s Red Cell series opens with Kyra Stryker newly installed as the chief of the Red Cell. No sooner has she claimed her office than a dirty bomb explodes in Haifa, causing massive bloodshed. Mossad launches a ruthless global firestorm of retaliation—using information obviously leaked from the CIA itself. The FBI springs into action, and paranoid officials turn on each other to avoid being implicated. Stryker, desperate to save the agency and her own people, launches her own investigation, and a taut chess match begins that puts Stryker in conflict with anyone who has something to lose in the process—which is just about everyone.

    Direct Fire, by A.J. Tata
    The fourth Jake Mahegan book finds the former Delta Force operative traveling to a North Carolina golf resort at the request of General Savage after a series of horrific acts of terror. Jake arrives at a remote cabin to meet his colleagues Patch Owens and Sean O’Malley, only to be attacked by two gunmen. After dispatching the pair with typical Mahegan efficiency, he discovers that Patch and Sean have been kidnapped as part of a terrorist scheme being run by Zakir Lecha, a Chechen who got into the U.S. by posing as a Syrian refugee. When Zakir also manages to kidnap the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his wife, Jake joins forces with the general’s army ranger daughter, Cassie, to take down Lecha and save his buddies and her parents. The idea of a terrorist cell bringing ISIS-style tactics to the United States is terrifying, but Mahegan and Cassie are up to the task.

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  • BN Editors 3:00 pm on 2017/11/22 Permalink
    Tags: , enemy of the state, , , , , owen king, ruth wareorigin, sleeping beauties, , the lying game, the rooster bar, thrillers   

    Gift Guide: Up All Night Reads for the Thriller Obsessed 

    Diving into a gritty thriller and losing yourself in a page-turning story is an inordinately satisfying experience. This holiday season, why not give the gift of sleepless nights—the kind the receiver will actually thank you for? Some of our favorite big name authors (from Dan Brown to John Grisham!) have long-awaited brand new books out, and there’s something for every thriller fan. See the complete list in our Holiday Gift Guide for more ideas for your thrill-seeking friends and family.

    The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
    Grisham proves he’s still got his finger on the pulse in his newest, telling the story of idealistic but broke law students Mark, Todd, and Zola, who mortgage their future in the form of student loans to attend a third-tier law school. In their third year, the trio realizes they’ve been victims of the Great Law School Scam: the graduates of their school rarely pass the bar and almost never get jobs—and the school’s owner also owns the bank that wrote the paper on their loans. Naturally, smart nearly-lawyers go for the only option they have available: revenge. It’s going to take planning and risks (like dropping out before earning your degree) but it’s the only option if you want a little justice—and the result is an Ocean’s 11 for the LSAT crowd.

    Origin, by Dan Brown
    Brown returns to his most successful character with an all-new Robert Langdon adventure, this time centered in Spain and focusing on more modern art. Langdon starts off the book as the guest of former student-turned-billionaire Edmond Kirsch, who is staging a provocative presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and hinting at the answers to two of the fundamental questions of human existence. Naturally, things go very, very wrong, and Langdon soon finds himself fleeing to Barcelona with museum director Ambra Vidal and working desperately to discover a password Kirsch left behind that will unlock all of the billionaire’s secrets. Their opponent, however, seems to be all-knowing, and firmly rooted in the Spanish royal palace—but there’s no one on Earth more equipped to deal with codes and symbols than Robert Langdon.

    Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King and Owen King
    King and his son Owen team up for a book with a timely, terrifying premise: what if, in the very near future, most of the women in the world simply went to sleep and didn’t wake up? Covered in cocoon-like white membranes, the women become feral attackers if disturbed. the Kings being Kings, they set the action in a depressed Appalachian town whose main employer is a women’s prison. Men, left to their own devices, don’t react well, and society begins to unravel even as the question of what’s happening with the female half of the population lingers. One woman named Evie who appears immune, and might be a savior—or some sort of demon come to supervise the downfall of man. Filled with smart social commentary and larger-than-life characters, this is a top-notch collaboration from the biggest family name in the business..

    The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware
    Four women—Isa, Kate, Thea, and Fatima—spent their boarding school years at Salten House, sneaking away to hang with Kate’s art teacher father and her dreamy brother and play the Lying Game, a challenge to get people to believe the most outlandish stories they could dream up. It all ends in tragedy, and 20 years later, new mum Isa receives a note from Kate that sends her off on a train and back to the village of Salten, where she meets the rest of the old gang. It seems a bone has been found in the marshes nearby, and the women know all about its origins—and the discovery of a body means all of their lives, and the lies they’re built on, could come apart.

    Enemy of the State, by Kyle Mills
    The 16th Mitch Rapp novel (and third by Mills since Vince Flynn’s passing) finds Rapp enlisted by the president to clean up a growing mess in Saudi Arabia, as rival factions of the royal family and the government fund terrorists and plot against one anther, sowing chaos and supporting ISIS. Rapp employs his usual steady professionalism, assembling the sort of team you can rely on to carry out the high-level maneuvers required—including his lover, Claudia Gould, his former enemy Grisha Azarov, and former army sniper turned drug runner Kent Black. The seemingly impossible mission requires a clever plan, but as usual, readers can rest assured Rapp has one.

    Shop our Holiday Gift Guide, with prefect gifts for everyone on your list!

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  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2017/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , reacher returns, , thrillers   

    Jack Reacher Faces Tough Choices in The Midnight Line 

    In many thriller series, the heroes seem to go through the same stories over and over again. That’s not a bad thing; the reason we follow a series, in part, to replicate a pleasurable experience, and a good story is, after all, a good story. No one would deny that Lee Child writes great stories, but with The Midnight Line, his 22nd Jack Reacher novel, he’s crafted a pretty kick-ass book—both because it gives you everything you want out of a Reacher novel, and because it subverts the formula at every turn.

    The Anti-Procedural

    Reacher’s adventures are generally much less structured than those of most recurring characters in thriller novels. But his books do have a repeated structure: Reacher—retired former Army Major in the military police turned cross-country drifter—lands in a new town, runs into a few hard cases, and takes up a cause for someone. There are fistfights, gunplay, and a mystery to be solved. But the genius of Lee Child is that despite these similarities, every Reacher novel is different, because each book opens as a blank canvas. At the center of The Midnight Line is a hero questioning his role in the universe—a question that makes it the best Reacher novel in a while (and that’s saying something).

    Took the Midnight Train Going Anywhere

    The Midnight Line picks up in the wake of Make Me, the twentieth Reacher novel (last year’s Night School was a prequel). The opening sequence sees Reacher awaken to find that Michelle Chang, his partner and companion from the earlier adventure, has gone home to Seattle, leaving behind nothing but a note. Reacher climbs on the first bus going anywhere, and during a comfort stop, he wanders the street and spots a West Point class ring in a pawn shop window. It’s a small woman’s ring, and he wonders what would prompt a West Point graduate to pawn it off. The ring is dated 2005, which Reacher calculates put the graduate right in line for service in Iraq and Afghanistan—Reacher can guess at several sad stories that might lead to a desperate pawn shop visit.

    In these early pages, Reacher thinks about Chang often, and contemplates his procedure with a weary, mechanical objectivity. He isn’t a man eagerly searching for his next adventure; he’s a man who’s been living his life a certain way for a very long time, and wondering if he’s doing things right. As the story goes on, Chang fades from Reacher’s thoughts, but a vein of melancholy and exhaustion is threaded through the book. Reacher isn’t a superhuman; he’s big, well-trained in violence, and very smart, but he’s just a guy. Making him doubt himself is a tonic for the character—and the series.

    The Mystery

    This melancholy suits the story, too. Reacher’s detective chops are sometimes overlooked in favor of his fighting skills, but he’s always been a brilliant observational gumshoe, spotting details most people miss, and making the deductions few are capable of. The West Point ring is a clue, and Reacher brings all of his considerable smarts to bear on it, tracing its appearance backward through time and space, solely because he feels a kinship to the woman who sold it. He wants to return it, in the hopes that whatever trouble prompted her to sell it is over—or, at least, to satisfy his curiosity.

    His investigation leads him into the world of opiate addiction, which is just about as timely as you can get. At first it seems like Child is heading for a standard sort of story, but then Reacher meets a small-town bigshot named Scorpio. You expect Scorpio to try to run him off, and fail spectacularly. Then the story takes a surprising dive into the miserable life of the ring’s former owner, giving Child has a chance to explore the tragedies behind real stories of Purple Heart recipients, how people become—and stay—addicted to legal, made-in-America opioids, and the hidden economy of rural poverty, in which people sell off everything they have for a chance to feel good for a few hours, just one more time.

    Worth It

    In the end, Reacher gets the answers he wants, and, as usual, he stands up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. The mystery has threads that begin overseas and end in a small town in the Midwest, where Reacher shares a moment of grace with a woman who’s been broken and put back together again, badly . Along the way there are several attempts to assassinate Reacher and a bravura sequence in which the action hero and his allies rob a drug smuggling operation, all communicated via spare, unadorned prose Lee Child is famous for. On the last page, Reacher faces a choice, again: to take the next ride going anywhere, or to choose a destination, for once. Long time fans won’t be surprised at his decision—or at how great The Midnight Line is.

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  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2017/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , thrillers   

    We Talk with Lee Child About the Return of Jack Reacher in The Midnight Line 

    In an alternate universe, 2016’s Night School was the last Jack Reacher novel ever. Early in his second career as a novelist (a career he famously “backed into” after losing his television job at the age of 40), Lee Child thought he would put Reacher to rest after 21 books. Luckily, fan support has proven too powerful; number 22, The Midnight Line, hits bookstores on November 21st (though you can preorder a signed edition now), and there is undoubtedly more to come.

    We were lucky enough to be able to sit down with Child for a conversation about Reacher, writing and reading, and passionate internet gun experts.

    Do you still get the same thrill every September when you start a new Reacher book?
    Oh absolutely—I have exactly the same excitement, and the beginning of it is the best part of all. The format of the Reacher novels is that he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t have a home, and therefore the flexibility is enormous. This is not a cop in some particular city, he’s not a private eye or something, which would limit the type of channels that you could take him down. He can do anything and be anywhere. So each time I sit down with exactly the same kind of satisfaction and excitement. And those early weeks are the best of all, because I haven’t screwed it up yet—it’s still potentially a great book!

    You could say Jack Reacher novels are almost “anti-procedurals.”
    Exactly. And I have no idea what’s going to happen. I don’t have a plan or an an outline, I just start somewhere and see what turns up. The procedural plot is, I think, generally a difficulty these days, because with computers and cell phones, the standard tropes of procedural novels get harder and harder. What do you do about information being instantly available? Reacher inhabits a sort of timeless period where that technology isn’t much help, and I usually do that by taking him to remote places where maybe there isn’t a cell signal. It’s sort of a comment on this ownership society, where Reacher believes that you don’t own things, they own you—and he prefers his liberty. That has proved to be so popular—and I thought that was a guy thing initially, but it turns out women want to do exactly the same thing, in the same way. They just want to be somewhere else tomorrow if they could.

    There’s a real sense of melancholy in the The Midnight Line, almost as if Reacher is contemplating making a change. Is that our imagination, or is that on purpose?
    It is on purpose. The relentless self-confidence of Reacher needs to be tested once in a while. In a couple of the books, I’ve had him look back and think, “Did I make the right choices? Are they the idiots or am I the idiot?” I think to have him perfectly self-confident in every book would be a little same-y, so once in a while, he’s contemplative. It’s a miracle that I get away with it, really—he’s a homicidal maniac! I read one online description saying this is a detective series where the detective commits more homicides than he solves. The reader’s enjoyment of that is really a kind of comment on how frustrating real life is, with all the procedures we have to go through—which, of course, we understand we must have. But it is frustrating, and sometimes, you just want to dish out a little summary justice.

    You were famously fired for being a staunch union man. Yet Jack Reacher is the least union person ever imagined.
    Reacher is in a union of one. He’d be quite happy to bond with anybody like him, he just hasn’t found any yet. At the same time, he will stick up for the little guy as you would as a shop steward in a union, but he admits it’s not so much the little guy that he’s trying to protect. He just hates the big guy—that kind of arrogant sort of person who thinks they can get away with anything. I think his instincts are good, but he’s just too antisocial to ever join anything.

    In a sense he’s like a reluctant shop steward for the entire human race.
    Yes—which I kind of was myself, in that nobody else would do the job, and it was wrong that people were being intimidated. I didn’t want to do it, necessarily, but I just thought I had to—it was my real life “Reacher Moment.”

    You’re known for “adopting” a writer to boost when you go out on tour. How do you find new writers you want to promote?
    I get sent a lot of new books, and I love [finding] new talent. First of all, it scares me, because they are so good, and so full of energy and ideas, that it does spur me on. And certain writers just appeal to me in certain ways. This is a tough business right now, and mainly it’s a way of paying forward. I had a lot of help at the beginning, when the publishing business and bookselling was a lot different. We were indulged for a lot longer than you get now. I think if I can pay it forward, that’s the decent thing to do.

    Any books you’ve read recently that you think are particularly good?
    Nick Petrie. His character Peter Ash [starting with The Drifter] is an ex-marine who isn’t exactly Jack Reacher—but he’s in the rearview mirror, so to speak.

    What do you read for pleasure?
    I’m a phenomenal reader—just insatiable. I read all the time. Certainly I reread all my old favorites within the genre, and I read new things in the genre that have got buzz around them, but basically I read anything—anything at all. A lot of history and nonfiction. It’s kind of depressing, because however much you read, you can miss out on a hundred thousand books a year. But I read as much as I can, and fairly randomly—sometimes literally randomly. I have a process where I go to the store and judge books on how they look, how they feel, what the copy says, just touch them. I pick up ten or twelve random books—especially to take on vacation. Some of them are really good. It’s just frightening how much talent [is out there].

    Reacher sure knows a lot about guns. Do you have a gun expert you consult?
    I have a couple of guys who volunteer, usually; what they do is, they say “you know, I love your books, if you want to know anything just give me a call,” and I have. But in general I don’t call them, because what I’ve found is that whatever the issue, there is always a divergence of opinion amongst experts or enthusiasts.

    For instance, one time I happened to have dinner in London with a guy who was, at the time he mustered out, the most highly-decorated soldier in the British army. He’d been in the SAS, which is the equivalent of Delta Force or the Navy SEALs. He’d been on all kinds of operations you don’t want to know about, and he, as a soldier, couldn’t care less about what gun he was issued—all he cared about was that it worked. He said his only rule was that he would never use an automatic weapon that had been left loaded for a while because he wasn’t confident of the temper of the spring in the magazine; he was worried about it mis-loading on the second round.

    And I thought, wow, great—you know this is the most decorated soldier in the British army and he’s telling me this trick of the trade. So I put it in one of the books—I think it was Without Fail—and I got hundreds of thousands of e-mails from people saying “That’s BS! Leave it loaded as long as you want!” So in general, what I do is research in books, or online, or in gun magazines. Usually [it’s better if] I figure it out for myself.

    Have you ever considered writing something other than Jack Reacher?
    All writers have a lot of other ideas that they would kind-of-sort-of like to do. But because I backed into this career from the world of entertainment, I really believe that entertainment is a two-way street. It’s asking and responding, and it’s really up to the writer to take notice of what the reader is saying—and the readers are saying “we love Jack Reacher.” If, purely out of self-indulgence, I was to write something different, I think that would be a big disappointment to those readers—and probably a wasted book. People expect Reacher. After 22 books, they still expect me to write Reacher. If I write something different, that book starts out with two strikes against it. It’s a bit like if you go to Yankee Stadium: you know you’re going to see baseball. You don’t walk up to the stadium wondering, “is it going to be ice hockey today? Is it going to be basketball?” You need a certain amount of reliability in life, I think.

    As an author who’s already writing under a pseudonym, have you ever considered a second pseudonym in order to try something different?
    Well, that would be [the thing to do], wouldn’t it? But then we run into that 2017 discovery issue. That’s what J.K. Rowling did with Robert Galbraith, and until she was a outed, the exact same book, with the exact same words, was going nowhere. I’m not sure that I would love the experience of being a complete unknown in 2017.

    The Midnight Line is available November 7 in a signed edition from Barnes & Noble.

    The post We Talk with Lee Child About the Return of Jack Reacher in The Midnight Line appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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