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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/03/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , thrillers,   

    The Best New Thrillers of March 2018 

    March is a naturally thrilling month, what with all the “Ides of March” killing Caesar business, so we’ve assembled a reading list to match: this month we’ve got a red-hot new one from James Patterson and Marshall Karp, another Kurt Austin adventure from Clive Cussler, and a darkly entertaining debut from BBC news veteran Alice Feeney.

    Red Alert, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
    The fifth NYPD Red book pulls out all the stops, depicting the 1% of Manhattan’s elite behaving badly—and being murdered at an alarming rate. When a film-maker’s sex games go wrong and end with a corpse and a charity function is bombed in the same night, Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald of the NYPD Red division respond, putting aside the romantic and sexual tension between them to protect the rich and famous. But as their investigation deepens even they’re shocked at the level of depravity and corruption they discover—and when their search for the truth puts powerful people in danger, they’ll have no one but each other to rely on as they seek to do their duty, no matter the personal cost, even as more bodies turn up.

    The Escape Artist, by Brad Meltzer
    Meltzer offers up a riveting launch of a new series starring Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a mortician working top-secret cases for the government at Dover Air Force base. When a military plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness without explanation, he gets the body to examine, and is shocked to hear that it’s Nola Brown, a woman who saved his daughter’s life when they were children. When Zig examines the body, however, certain identifying marks are missing—and there’s a note in the woman’s stomach addressing a warning to Nola, convincing him that this isn’t Nola Brown at all. Zig sets off to find out where the real Nola is, leading him into a maze of government conspiracy that goes back a century—and possibly into more danger than he bargained for.

    The Rising Sea, by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
    Cussler and Brown’s latest Kurt Austin adventure offers up a climate change-themed story with a twist. Sea levels are rising, threatening to flood the coastal areas of the world and cause unimaginable death and destruction, but it’s not due to global warming. A secretive Chinese group is deep-water mining a substance known as Golden Adamant, a “metamaterial” whose unique properties allow for the development of powerful technologies, and a side-effect of the mining process is the release of huge quantities of water previously trapped in mineral deposits. It’s up to Austin and the rest of the National Underwater and Marine Agency’s special assignments team to stop this cataclysmic process—and find themselves facing some completely unexpected threats in the process.

    The Bishop’s Pawn, by Steve Berry
    The 13th Cotton Malone novel finds the skilled government operative trapped between the present and the past. Nearly two decades ago, a younger, less-experienced Malone was given an assignment to dive into the waters off the Florida coast to retrieve a stolen coin worth millions—only to discover he’d been lied to. The case also contained documents related to an FBI program somehow involved with the assassination of Martin Luther King. In the present day, Malone receives a note saying simply “Fifty years have passed. Bring them,” and he heads to Atlanta for a secret meeting, leaning in to a dangerous feud between the FBI and the Justice Department involving explosive secrets from the past that could change the way everyone looks back at history—if Malone can survive.

    The Kremlin Conspiracy, by Joel C. Rosenberg
    Rosenberg’s newest is a nail-biter of a spy story, tracking the parallel careers of Russian attorney Oleg Kraskin, trusted son-in-law to the devious and dangerous Russian President Aleksandr Luganov, and Marcus Ryker, whose Marine heroism led him into the Secret Service and eventually the President’s personal detail. As Luganov plots to reassert Russian might by invading the defenseless countries of the Baltic—using nuclear weapons if need be—Ryker and Kraskin are right in the mix of things on opposite sides. As the crisis quickly swells to apocalyptic proportions it becomes clear that the one thing Luganov didn’t count on was Ryker, who comes back from a family tragedy with nothing to lose, and willing to put everything on the line to prevent disaster.

    Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney

    Amber Reynolds wakes up in a coma, her body paralyzed and her memories muddled, in this taut debut. Slowly, pieces of her life come back to her—her anxiety over her radio presenter job, her suspicions that her husband Paul has fallen in love with her own sister Claire and may have been unfaithful. As she tries to piece everything together to figure out what happened to her, events from her childhood seep back into her consciousness, indicating that this is all part of something much larger—and much darker—than a straying husband and family drama. Amber’s own mind plays tricks on her as she lays helplessly, struggling to remember, and no one who enters the room, including a mysterious man Amber doesn’t recognize, is aware that she can hear everything they say.

    The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian
    Cassie Bowden is a globe-trotting flight attendant with a serious drinking problem that often finds her waking up in strange places with no memory of her adventures. When she meets a handsome financier on a flight to Dubai, she isn’t surprised to wake up in swanky hotel room with him the next day, head pounding—but she is surprised to find the bed soaked in blood and her one night stand dead via assasination. The assassin, Elena, spared Cassie in a moment of sympathy—but has regrets in the bright light of day. Cassie is used to lying to cover up her drunken exploits, and she goes into deception overdrive to save her own skin, navigating suspicious police and a professional killer who is intent on correcting what she sees as a mistake in momentary weakness.

    The Sandman, by Lars Kepler
    The fourth Detective Inspector Joona Linna novel focuses on a serial murderer named Jurek Walter, convicted of two murders but suspected in dozens more and serving a sentence in a high-security psychiatric ward. When one of his victims, Mikael Kobler-Frost, suddenly reappears after he escapes captivity, he confirms Joona’s long-held suspicion that Walter didn’t work alone. Not only does Mikael describe his captor—referring to him as The Sandman—he insists that his sister, Felicia, is still alive and being held as well. In order to discover the location of The Sandman, Joona’s colleague Inspector Saga Bauer is sent into the psyche ward to pose as a patient and get information out of Walter, setting off a tense battle of wits as time slowly runs out for the poor girl.

    The Girl in the Moon, by Terry Goodkind
    Angela Constantine, born to a drug addict and abused almost from birth—is a survivor of horrific violence in her childhood—and she has the rare ability to identify killers simply by gazing into their eyes. Spurred by her bitter experience, she uses this ability to find men who abuse women and execute them with serious, cold brutality, making them suffer for their crimes before disposing of their bodies in a pit under her house. When events make Angela the target of a violent terrorist group, she learns of their terrifying plans and realizes she might not just be the only person who knows what they intend to do, she might also be the only person in the world capable of stopping them. Using her special ability and a lifetime of rage against those who would victimize others, Angela is the world’s only hope.

    Tangerine, by Christine Mangan
    This dark throwback of a story focuses on the easily manipulated Alice and the dominant, vivacious Lucy, who met at college in the 1950s and became extremely close friends—until a man came between them and a tragic accident that might have been no such thing drives them apart. Years later, the women meet again in Tangier, where Alice has moved with her new husband, John. Alice is miserable in the foreign land, Lucy loves it. When Alice begins to suspect John may have cheated, her emotional fragility gives Lucy an opening to reclaim her place as Lucy’s BFF—and the rekindled friendship quickly moves the women into a familiar pattern, a pattern that ended in tragedy before, and might end in much worse this time around.

    The post The Best New Thrillers of March 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/02/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , thrillers,   

    The Best Thrillers of February 2018 

    It’s no longer such a ‛new’ year; it’s incredible to think that we’re already a month in. While the increasing tempo of life means that the days speed by faster and faster, there are advantages as well as disadvantages: for example, the sheer number of truly excellent thrillers being written and published. This month is no exception, with a bumper crop of heart-pounding, sweat-inducing stories about spies, killers, flawed heroes, and plots for world domination from some of the best writers working today.

    Fifty Fifty, by James Patterson and Candice Fox
    Patterson and Fox’s second foray into the world of Detective Harriet “Harry” Blue centers on Harry’s brother, Sam, who is on trial for the murder of three young students. Things look grim for Sam, but Harry is convinced of his innocence and not shy about working to prove it. Her determination gets her reassigned to the tiny outback town of Last Chance Valley, population 75. There, Harry discovers a diary that seems to chart a madman’s plan to massacre the entire town, one citizen at a time—and the first murder occurs shortly after her arrival. As her brother’s case comes to pivot on a woman who holds the key to his guilt or innocence—a woman being held hostage—Harry has to find a way to stop an entire town from being killed while working to clear her brother’s name.

    Look for Me, by Lisa Gardner
    In Gardner’s ninth D.D. Warren novel, foster teen Roxanna Baez is the only survivor when her family is gunned down in their home. Seeking answers to the massacre, Warren pursues the girl—and so does Flora Dane. Dane survived more than a year of torture and abuse when she was kidnapped by a sadistic trucker, and now dedicates herself to helping other victims, and she sees a fellow survivor in Roxanna. Warren and Dane grudgingly admit to a mutual goal and work the pursuit in their own ways, slowly uncovering the shocking truth behind the murders—and why teenager Roxanna feels like she has absolutely nothing to lose.

    The Hush, by John Hart
    Hart returns to the story of Johnny Merrimon, who at the age of 12 solved his sister and father’s murder and became something of a celebrity in the process in The Last Child. Ten years later, Johnny now lives on the valuable plot of acreage in North Carolina known as Hush Arbor, but he’s cash poor, battling a suit challenging his ownership, and dealing with acts of inexplicable violence and murder occurring on on the land. Desperate, the supernaturally-healing and gifted Johnny seeks out his old friend and lawyer Jack Cross—because it’s not just legal problems that Johnny’s dealing with. It’s the cold, dark presence he senses on his property, land that was once sacred. But Johnny won’t tell Jack everything,

    Agent in Place, by Mark Greaney
    In the seventh Gray Man novel, Court Gentry is now-former CIA, working as a freelance mercenary. He’s hired to kidnap the wife of the Syrian President as part of a scheme to topple his brutal regime. When he finds out her infant son has been left behind in Damascus, he goes undercover amongst mercenaries in the pay of the President in order to rescue him. In his fellow mercenaries, Court finds greed, selfishness, and little to like. The situation steadily deteriorates, pushing Court inexorably towards a desperate decision: he’ll have to go after the President himself and pull off a near-impossible assassination in order to save the child and the whole geopolitical situation. Alone and surrounded by people who only care for themselves and money, it’s the biggest challenge Court has ever faced.

    The Deceivers, by Alex Berenson
    CIA agent John Wells returns, called in by President Vincent Duto to investigate an explosion in Dallas responsible for nearly 400 deaths. ISIS claims credit for the atrocity, but Wells isn’t convinced they could have engineered the attack. A subsequent sniper attack killing two high-profile ministers points Wells towards a Moscow connection, and he becomes convinced that Russia is orchestrating all of these attacks in support of right-wing Senator Birman’s presidential candidate’s campaign. As the country becomes increasingly agitated as nationalist sentiments get stirred up, the false flag operations have their desired effect, and the echoes of our own political reality add a sense of awful verisimilitude to the tense plot points.

    The French Girl, by Lexie Elliott
    Ten years after a group holiday in the Dordogne region of France when they met the beautiful, enigmatic Severine just before she disappeared, Kate and fellow former Oxford students are stunned to hear that Severine’s remains have been discovered on the property itself. As a murder investigation revs up, Kate becomes increasingly wound up, remembering her time at the Dordogne farmhouse and the rough breakup with her former boyfriend Seb—in part over his fascination with Severine. Kate’s sanity starts to slip as she begins to see Severine’s ghost and wonders if she really knows her old friends as well as she thought she did. The old friends, coming together, prove to be a shifting web of alliances and old grudges that drive Kate’s tension and rising paranoia, which isn’t helped by the insistent French detective who’s arrived in London to investigate.

    The Kremlin’s Candidate, by Jason Matthews
    Matthews’ Red Sparrow trilogy concludes with CIA agent Nate Nash scrambling to prevent the unmasking of Dominika Egorova, who has become a major U.S. asset in the Kremlin. Her cover is in danger because Russia’s own mole, Admiral Audrey Rowland, is on track to become CIA Director, which would entail his learning Egorova’s identity just as she’s captured the attention of Vladimir Putin himself. As Nash goes undercover to protect love interest Egorova, however, the CIA’s enemies back home are circling, attempting to force intelligence agencies to reform the black-hat practices they employ against the country’s enemies, tightening the tension as Nash moves pieces on the board with no guarantee of success. Matthews’ experience as a former intelligence agent brings a frightening level of authenticity to the techniques used to place assets in high-level positions in the government.

    Chicago, by David Mamet
    Mamet roars back into fine form with a story set in 1920s Chicago, an era when organized crime was almost a shadow government in the Windy City. A pair of murders drives the story—one a local celebrity involved in multiple shady activities, one the girlfriend of Mike Hodge, hard-driving journalist and former World War I flying ace. Hodge digs into the murders with a tenacity and verbal acumen few could withstand, pitting himself against brutal criminals and corrupt police and politicians—some very real and very famous, most obscure or fictional. In a city where gangsters run amok, it’s the reporter for the Trib that turns out to be the most dangerous man in any given room.

    The Plea, by Steve Cavanagh
    Eddie Flynn, former con artist-turned-attorney, returns in Cavanagh’s latest and is in the thick of trouble right from the get-go when he’s called in by the FBI and ordered to help them. A young tech billionaire, David Child, has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. Although he insists he is innocent, the evidence is grim. The FBI is looking to flip him into assisting them in an investigation, and they want Eddie to convince him to take a guilty plea so they’ll have the leverage they need. If Eddie fails or refuses, they promise to arrest his estranged wife Christine, who’s unknowingly involved in criminal activities. Eddie’s main problem—aside from the fact that he’s not actually Child’s lawyer—is that the more he talks to the rich kid and looks into the case, the more he believes Child is innocent. When attempts are made on Child’s life while he’s in custody, Eddie’s has to draw on all his grifter and legal experience to find out what’s going on—and to survive.

    A Death in Love Oak, by James Grippando
    The 15th Jack Swyteck novel is, unfortunately, extremely timely, kicking off at the University of Florida with the murder of a black student and President of a leading black fraternity. Worse, one of the suspects in the murder is the President of a white fraternity, reminding residents of a lynching that occurred in 1944—and how little progress seems to have been made. Asked for help by a friend of his father’s, Jack takes on the case while his wife leads an FBI undercover operation into a white supremacist terror group who might be connected to the murder. As the parallels between the 1944 murder and his case become increasingly uncanny, Jack risks his career and reputation in order to chase down the truth in the swampy badlands of rural Florida, no matter the cost.

    The post The Best Thrillers of February 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/01/15 Permalink
    Tags: c.j. tudor, the chalk man, thrillers, thrilling debuts   

    The Chalk Man Is a Chilling Old-School Thriller 

    In the grand tradition of Stephen King, C.J. Tudor’s devious debut thriller, The Chalk Man skillfully combines a realistic approach to characters and setting with an ominous, slow-boil sense of dread. The end result is a story that feels like a supernatural thriller even while the plot remains firmly rooted in a realistic universe. It’s a great trick, and gives Tudor’s story a pounding heart that injects rising tension onto every page.

    An English King

    One of the best aspects of King’s writing is how he crafts characters who feel like people you might meet on the street and places you can imagine visiting, then finds dark depths within them. Tudor has the same skill, making the small English town of Anderbury feel very real, filled with people who seem wholly genuine. The fact that her story uses a classic King template—children who experience a terrifying adventure while navigating the trials of adolescence, then return to the mystery as troubled adults—only reinforces this feeling. That isn’t to say Tudor is mimicking King; she’s got her own voice and sensibility. She tells a dark, shocking story that involves rape, bullying, gruesome murder, and mental instability, and manages to make you care about the characters through her clear affection for them, and for the place they inhabit.

    The Waltzer Girl

    The Chalk Man is told from the point of view of Eddie Adams, nick-named Eddie Munster by his gang of friends—fat, jocular Gavin, braces-afflicted Metal Mickey, stalwart Hoppo, and flame-haired girl Nicky, daughter of the humorless local vicar. In 1986, they’re kids tooling around Anderbury on their bikes. In 2016, Eddie is a teacher at the local school, reflecting on the events of thirty years before. The story flips back and forth between the two timelines, slowly revealing its secrets.

    In 1986, Eddie is involved in a fairground accident in which a beautiful local girl, Elisa, is disfigured when a ride called the Waltzer malfunctions. A newly-arrived teacher, Mr. Halloran (an albino) grabs Eddie, and together they save Elisa’s life, forging a connection between them. Over the next few months, a series of events leave the Waltzer Girl (as Eddie thinks of Elisa) dead, her dismembered body in the nearby woods, and her head missing, Halloran is accused of her murder, and several other lives  are destroyed or changed forever. These events are all marked by the presence of the chalk symbols the gang uses as a secret code between themselves.

    The Chalk Man

    The chalk symbols are a laugh for the kids; they assign each other a color, and use a simple code to communicate. Coincidentally, Mr. Halloran is nick-named the Chalk Man by the kids at school. When the chalk symbols are turned against the kids, they seem to take on a power beyond the kids’ understanding—mocking them, leading them, threatening them. And they return, 30 years later, in the form of ominous letters mailed to each member of the group, just as Mickey returns to town, claiming to know who really killed the Waltzer Girl. The subversion of an innocent childhood game that leads to murder and violence soaks the story in dread.

    The Unreliable

    Tudor uses the trick of the unreliable narrator with skill and subtlety. The mystery of who committed the murder, and why, takes on a sheen of the supernatural when ghosts plague Eddie—lucid dreams that turn malevolent as violence and betrayal in 2016 seems to parallel the events of 1986, tying the kids together, though they’ve become strangers in adulthood. Slowly, many of the tragedies that beset them throughout their lives are shown to be connected. It all leads up to the final, crucial pages, which shift our understanding of everything that came before in just a few paragraphs, leaving the reader unsettled and disturbed—like the best thrillers always do.

    The post The Chalk Man Is a Chilling Old-School Thriller appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , thrillers,   

    Why The Woman in The Window Is 2018’s First Must-Read Thriller 

    Twisty thrillers are easy to read, but they sure ain’t easy to write well—and when a debut thriller is the subject of serious buzz, with publishers competing fiercely for the chance to release it and discussions of who’s going to star in the film version long before the book has even hit the presses, the challenge is even greater, as readers come primed for shocking surprises and big reveals.

    That’s the precise scenario A.J. Finn’s debut, The Woman in the Window, finds itself in. The dark, twisty story of an agoraphobe who spies on her neighborhood, Rear Window-style, succeeds in fooling even the most expectant reader. In fact, it just might be the most surprising, crowd-pleasing thriller since Gone Girl. Here’s why.

    The Setup

    Anna Fox is a dedicated fan of old movies—especially thrillers and noir suspense tales. She’s also very self-consciously in the same position as Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window: compromised by an affliction—in her case, a severe case of agoraphobia—she spends much of her time sitting at the window that overlooks the park behind her house, using a camera lens to zoom in on her neighbors and watch their lives unfold.

    Finn smartly puts a button on this theme—Anna references old movies constantly, and dialogue from them shows up as background noise in key scenes, adding a dash of postmodern meta-fiction to a classic thriller setup: after she spies a new family’s arrival on the block (and does some light cyberstalking to learn they are the Russells: Alistair, Jane, and son Ethan), Anna answers her doorbell and meets Jane, who is friendly, cheerful, and vivacious. Later, as Anna drunkenly spies on the trio through their window, she witnesses a shocking crime…or does she?

    The Unreliable Narrator

    Anna calls the police in the midst of an agoraphobic panic attack so powerful she wakes in the hospital, and we begin to learn the depth of Anna’s problems. She drinks far too much, endlessly downing Merlot. She’s sloppy with the many medications she’s been prescribed by her full-time therapist—psychotropics with serious side-effects, including hallucinations.

    The Tailspin

    This all sounds crazy, and Finn allows Anna be perfectly aware of her own unreliable status. The Russells bitterly accuse her of stalking, and indeed, Anna’s behavior takes on the scent of the unhinged. As she continues to self-medicate with alcohol and poorly-managed prescriptions, her credibility is steadily destroyed, leading to a truly devastating and emotional reveal you won’t see coming, which convinces even Anna that she might be imagining things.

    The Deconstruction

    And that’s when the book’s hair-raising end game begins. It’s impossible to discuss the final act without spoiling it; needless to say, it piles on the reveals and reversals with dizzying speed. Finn handles this delirious series of plot turns so skillfully it’s hard to believe this is his debut. There are at least three moments the book could have ended on a satisfying note—only for Finn to throw in another swerve, with almost breathless glee.

    This is one of those thrillers that was born to be a film. The suffocating sense of tension, the meticulously explored, confined setting, the impressive control over plot and reveal—someday very soon The Woman in the Window will be hitting the big screen, and you’ll want to be in the know before it does. This is a crackling thriller that’ll have you gasping out loud. Pour yourself a glass of a good Merlot (skip the pills, though) and settle in for an all-nighter.

    The Woman in the Window is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post Why The Woman in The Window Is 2018’s First Must-Read Thriller appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/01/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , thrillers,   

    The Best Thrillers of January 2018 

    A new year brings a new crop of unputdownable thrillers. Here are 10 books to keep you riveted in January.

    The Woman in the Window, by A. Finn
    One of the most anticipated thrillers of the year is a real humdinger—a Hitchcockian meta-twister told from the point-of-view of agoraphobic, extremely unreliable child psychologist Anna Fox. Fox hasn’t left her apartment in 11 months, spending her time playing games, chatting with other agoraphobics on the internet, and spying on her neighborhood in self-conscious, Rear Window-style. It’s quickly apparent the reader can’t trust anything Anna says—so when she first becomes obsessed with a family across the park and then witnesses what she is certain is a murder, it’s no surprise that no one believes her. As the twists and revelations pile up, it becomes clear that Anna’s past and her mental state are just as important as what really happened in the house across the park.

    City of Endless Night, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
    FBI Pendergrast is back, investigating the corpse of a young woman who’s been decapitated and left in Queens. She’s quickly identified as the missing daughter of billionaire Anton Ozmian, but when more headless bodies turn up, things get messy fast, as the victims show no discernible pattern—aside from their missing heads. Pendergrast and old ally Lt. Cmdr. Vincent D’Agosta come under increasing pressure from the mayor’s office, Ozmian, and plenty of less-savory power brokers as their investigation runs into dead end after dead end. Slowly, Pendergrast realizes the killer has come to New York City for a very specific reason. As public panic mounts, his epiphany doesn’t translate into an easy solution, and this might be one time Agent Pendergrast’s unique mind fails him.

    Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland
    Vivian Miller is a devoted mother, a loving wife, and a CIA analyst dedicated to investigating potential sleeper cells working within the U.S. Her relationship with her husband is rock-solid, and her love for her special-needs child is fierce, so when she stumbles on a photo of her husband on the computer of a Russian agent, she panics and deletes it—but when she confronts her husband, he doesn’t even try to deny anything, confessing that he’s been working for the Russians for more than two decades. Vivian is forced to reconsider every aspect of her relationship under the possibility that she was chosen by her husband as cover, all while worrying over the implications her discovery has for her—and her children. Cleveland was a former CIA analyst herself, lending serious verisimilitude to the details.

    Unbound, by Stuart Woods
    The latest Stone Barrington story focuses on former CIA operative Teddy Faye, reinvented as Hollywood mogul Billy Barnett. When Barnett’s wife is killed by a drunk driver, Billy gets in his car and starts driving, finding his way to the film set of Dax Baxter, a rival filmmaker with a shady reputation, whose wife was the driver in the fatal accident. Baxter used his connections to keep his wife out of jail. Billy leverages his CIA experience to infiltrate Baxter’s film set under an alias, and begins to sabotage the production by way of revenge. When Baxter connects the dots, he brings in Russian thugs to solve his problem, but Billy’s got plenty of experience dealing with these types. A game of brutal cat-and-mouse ensues, spinning up all the best aspects of the Barrington universe.

    The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pakkanen
    Take liberal doses of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train and mix them up in wholly unexpected ways, and you have this crackling new thriller from former book editors Hendricks and Pakkanen. Vanessa and Richard got divorced after a series of failed fertility treatments left them childless, but now charismatic, controlling Richard has married a younger version of Vanessa—or so it seems to her. Nellie, the new fiancée, is a bright-eyed schoolteacher uncertain she’s ready to leave her fun lifestyle for the suburbs. And Richard’s secretive destination wedding brings up haunting memories of a traumatic event in her past. Meanwhile, Vanessa unravels, drinking and pushing herself to the brink of unemployment as she becomes increasing unreliable and increasingly obsessed with Nellie. To say this setup doesn’t go where you might think is the understatement of the year.

    Operator Down, by Brad Taylor
    Taylor’s 12th Pike Logan novel opens in Tel Aviv, where Pike and his fellow Taskforce agents Jennifer and Knuckles are shadowing an arms dealer suspected of selling nuclear trigger components. When they stumble on intel that indicates their old friends Aaron Bergman and Shoshanna are being targeted for elimination, and that Aaron has been captured, the decision to go rescue him seems obvious—until more intelligence comes in warning of a coup attempt in the fragile African democracy of Lesotho, and Pike and team are ordered to intervene. Faced with the choice of disobeying orders or saving their friend, Pike and company team up with the delightfully bloodthirsty Shoshanna to break the rules one more time in hopes of saving their colleague.

    The Take, by Christopher Reich

    Simon Riske owns a high-end auto repair chop in London—when he’s not working as a freelance spy, called upon by the CIA and the like to do things even they can’t touch. When Riske is hired to track down gangster Tino Coluzzi, he’s more than happy to do so, because Coluzzi betrayed him back in his own criminal past, letting Riske rot in jail. Coluzzi masterminded the daring robbery of a Saudi prince, but one of the things he stole was a letter the Russian government will kill to get back, and the CIA will kill to get their hands on. Riske uses all of his knowledge of the criminal underworld, the finer things in life, and of spycraft to get to work getting revenge and saving the world—not necessarily in that order.

    Light It Up, by Nick Petrie
    Peter Ash returns as a member of his old friend Henry Nygaard’s Heavy Metal Protection Team, escorting a truckload of medical marijuana to Denver shops and then guarding the money on the way back. On a deserted mountain road, the truck gets hijacked, and the violent encounter leaves Peter as the sole survivor—and a suspect for the police.Meanwhile, he wonders if the thieves were after something more than just money. Gathering his old friends Lewis and June, Peter sets out to find out who was behind the job, get the money back—and get bloody, remorseless revenge for his dead friends. Few fictional characters can deal out death and violence as effectively as Ash and company—but in the end, it’s Ash alone against an array of forces, both man-made and natural.

    The Chalk Man, by C.J. Tudor
    Eddie Adams is a young teen in the beautiful town of Anderbury in the U.K. in the 1980s, hanging out with his best friends, using a code of chalked figures to leave messages for each other. A series of grisly experiences and dark pranks sour the boys’ adolescence and haunt them into adulthood, including a disturbing experience where a stranger leads the boys to see a dismembered young girl in the woods. The man suspected of the killing commits suicide before justice can be done, but decades later, one of the Eddie’s friends, Mickey, returns and tells him he knows the identity of the real killer, and all the friends receive letters containing one of their old chalk figures. Then, Eddie’s friends begin dying, and he realizes it’s time to solve all the mysteries of his past if he’s going to survive into his future.

    Cutting Edge, by Ward Larsen
    Trey DeBolt is a rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard in Alaska. During a difficult rescue, his helicopter goes down—and he wakes up in cabin by the sea in Maine. He’s got a nasty scar on the back of his head and no memory of how he got there; his nurse informs him that he’s been declared dead even as a Coast Guard investigator in Alaska finds evidence he’s still alive. His nurse tells him that he’s undergone surgery that has gifted him with incredible abilities. Just as he’s figuring out he’s part of a secretive government experiment, his nurse is killed by a team of professional assassins—assassins meant for him. A sudden vision showing him information he couldn’t possibly know saves his life—and suddenly, Trey is on the run, trying to figure out just what’s happened to him, and how to control it, before it’s too late.

    The post The Best Thrillers of January 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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