Summer Thrillers X 4: Meltzer, Hamilton, Kovacs, Freedland Friday, Aug 7 2015 

Here are four great summer thrillers for readers out right now, whether you’re at the beach or reading before bed. And if you missed Steve Berry’s The Lincoln Myth when it first came out, that one is now in paperback and ebook formats.

Brad Meltzer’s Culper Ring Triology has captivated readers, who are waiting for this third installment. The President’s Shadow shows his love of the National Archives and his relationship with former US President George H. W. Bush and First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush, who helped to inform the book, adding to the sense of reality that pervades the read.

The book opens with a wallop and never lets up, with First Lady Shona Wallace keeping her secret: she’s stolen a small section of the White House Rose Garden for her own flower garden. As she digs in the dirt early one morning, a persistent root finally gives way–and proves to have fingers attached to it.

That severed arm is only the start of trouble for Beecher White, erstwhile employee of the Nation Archives, who’s been visiting his mentor, Tot Westman, every day. Tot lies in a coma after brain surgery on the bullet wound in his frontal lobe.

The discovery of the arm immediately raises questions about security, the victim and the culprit. Beecher is called to a secret meeting of the Culper Ring, where President Wallace tells him that an item discovered with the arm links back to Beecher’s dead father.

That mystery surrounding what happened to his father has consumed Beecher, and this discovery might finally bring some answers. His membership in the secret organization that dates back to before George Washington became President holds the key, especially since the clue left was meant for Beecher alone.

Meltzer blends history with his fascinating story, mixed with that insider knowledge that lends authenticity to the conspiracy that is unveiled. This is great storytelling in an interesting and absorbing trilogy that blends fact with fiction in a compelling manner.

Past Crimes
Switching to a debut, Glen Erik Hamilton and Past Crimes
introduces Army Ranger Van Shaw, who has returned to his Seattle home after receiving a terse message from his grandfather after a decade apart. With flashbacks showing readers Van’s unusual childhood, the reason he joined the Rangers, Van Shaw promises to be an entertaining protagonist in this accomplished book.

Van finds his grandfather, Dono Shaw, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head. With their complicated past and Dono Shaw’s shady life, Van knows he will be the prime suspect in the shooting and must clear his name. But the only way to do that is to plunge himself into the life he thought he’d left behind when he joined the Rangers.

There will be an enormous diamond theft to handle as Van hunts for the shooter, using the skills he’s learned in his Ranger training, combined with his sharp wit to find the assailant as he works with the team Dono put together for his big jobs and realizes he can trust no one.

Filled with action sequences, the book’s visuality and sharp dialogue will lend itself well to being filmed and Auntie M has no doubt this will be picked up by Hollywood if it hasn’t been already.

Best known for his Cliff St. James crime novels, author Ed Kovacs is debuting a new series in The Russian Bride.

His protagonist is an elite agent in military intelligence, working undercover in Moscow to find moles in the US Embassy. Major Kit Bennings suddenly finds himself and his family the targets of a former KGB general-turned-Mafia don in a complicated coercion scheme when mobster Viktor Popov has Kit’s mother killed in California.

Popov threatens to do the same to Kit’s sister, Staci, whom he has already kidnapped. To free his sister, Kit must agree to marry a Russian woman, Popov’s niece, Yulana Petkova, and take her to the U.S.

Desperate to save his sister, Kit reluctantly agrees to the marriage but soon learns what Popov really wants: Kit’s help in stealing an electromagnetic-pulse device that could disable the economic and intelligence infrastructure of a large percentage of the U.S. and open the door to massive cyber-theft opportunities.

Now Kit finds himself hunted by killers on both sides of the ocean and saddled with a new wife,\ as he tries to rescue Staci and stop Popov’s plans from coming to fruition. He will call on all of his talented action-oriented friends for help and there’s plenty of specialists who rise to the occasion. There’s so much going on at times readers will feel breathless at the fast pace.

3rd Woman
Jonathan Freedland’s unusual premise makes The 3rd Woman an intriguing read.

Picture an alternate world where US has borrowed more money from China than it can repay–not too hard to imagine–and is forced to allow them a permanent military presence on American soil. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But to journalist Madison Webb, it’s her reality to live in this America of crisis in every quarter: economic, political and social.

Then the unthinkable happens: her own sister is murdered, and Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. There are local political elections in process, with Maddy’s ex-boyfriend working for a candidate, and Abi’s murder soon becomes a hot political issue.

After Maddy uncovers evidence that points to Abi as actually being the third victim in a series of killings, she realizes the deaths are being hushed up as part of a major conspiracy. In the new US climate, there are shades of truth and reality.

Maddy will be forced to use all of her connections to get to the truth. The use of social media adds a nice touch as her own life comes into the line of fire.

This is a clever, fast-paced political thriller. Maddy is a strong and capable female lead with a realistic edge who readers will want to see in action again.

What Doesn’t Kill her: Carla Norton Wednesday, Jul 8 2015 

What Doesn't Kill Her
Carla Norton caught readers’ attention with last year’s debut The Edge of Normal, which introduced her most unusual protagonist, Reeve LeClaire.

Norton’s back with its sequel, What Doesn’t Kill Her, and Auntie M is happy to report it’s every bit as well done as her first.

Reeve has put some semblance of normalcy back into her life after her years as Darryl Flint’s kidnap victim. She still has some locked memories of her time as his captive, but now she has roommates and is attending college, while Flint languishes in the psychiatric hospital where he’s been held since the car accident that freed Reeve and gave Flint his head injury.

He spends his days in apparently harmless rituals of his own making, until the day he puts his long-held plan into action: Flint manages to escape, killing on his first day out, and bringing Reeve to Washington State to aid in his capture.

Staying with former FBI agent Milo Bender and his family, Reeve and Bender will try their best to figure out Flint’s next move before he can kill again, but not before he manages to damage those close to Reeve.

With some chapters told from Flint’s point of view, the reader possess more information that Reeve or Bender, which ratchets up the suspense. And Norton has done her homework on psychopathic subcategories, educating readers on the scent of fear.

The pacing picks up as the manhunt does and Flint seems destined to elude authorities, with a blocked memory Reeve has holding the key to his capture.

Skillfully done, you’ll be rooting for Reeve and be as surprised as Auntie M at the final ending twist.

Elizabeth George: Just One Evil Act Sunday, Oct 20 2013 

Don’t let the length of over seven hundred pages deter you from plunging into Elizabeth George’s new novel, Just One Evil Act. The eighteenth Inspector Lynley novel will leave readers knowing much more than a few Italian phrases once they’ve finished this tome.    images_012

The action centers on the reaction of Lynley’s sergeant, Barbara Havers, to the news her handsome neighbor’s daughter has disappeared.

Havers’ friendship with the girl, Hadiyyah Upman, and her father, microbiolgist Taymullah Azhar, has grown over the two years the duo were the detective’s neighbors.  In the last installment, Believing the Lie, Hadiyyah’s mother had waltzed back into her daughter’s life, surprising the girl, her father, and Havers, all seduced by the woman’s easy manner and ability to fabricate a believable friendship. Angelina Upman is a complicated woman keeping multiple secrets, a beauty whose family has disowned her for having a child with the married Pakistani scientist.

Months pass with no word on the child’s whereabouts, despite Havers’ digging and helping Azhar hire a private detective.

Then Hadiyyah is kidnapped from a market in Lucca, Italy, where she’s been with her mother and Angelina’s fiance. Desperate to help Azhar, worried for the child, Havers makes the fatal mistake of enlisting a tabloid journalist to force the British police to become involved in the British citizen’s abduction. To her dismay, it is Lynley who is sent to Italy to liaise with the British family.

This splendidly plotted novel takes readers to Italy, introducing their very different policing system, and the wily detective Salvatore Lo Bianco. While Italian phrases liberally dot these scenes, George cleverly manages to convey their meaning without direct translations. The intriguing setting is well-described and adds another layer to this complex novel.

In London, Havers finds herself embroiled deeper and deeper into career-killing choices. On the personal front, Lynley is trying to convince himself he is starting to put his wife’s death behind him, and finds himself drawn to an unsuitable zoo veterinarian. His past fling with Superintendent Isabelle Ardery confuses everything, and will impact heavily on Havers’ future.

At one point readers will think the novel has reached its climax right in its middle, only to find that what would have been an ending for another writer is merely a step into the convoluted story that continues to branch off and have fingers reaching right into the lives of all these characters on different levels. At one point a resolution will appear completely out of sight, yet there is an ending that will satisfy readers, even as it does not satisfy every character.

This is a multi-layered story of love and betrayal, and what lengths we will choose when the heart is involved.

Michael Robotham: Say You’re Sorry Sunday, Mar 24 2013 

The incomparable Michael Robotham is back with my favorite psychologist, Joe O’Loughlin, in his newest addition to this stunning series. 13528436

The book opens with the musings of one of the two Bingham girls, two teens who went missing one night three years ago. It is Piper who talks to readers throughout the novel as she writes in her journal. Through her they learn of the horrors the girls have lived through for years. until one of them risks a daring escape.

Joe struggles with broken marriage and his relationship with his two daughters, most notably the older, Charlotte, a teen who prefers “Charlie,” and whom Joe describes as having “a smart mouth and a dozen different moods.”

Despite the heavy snow, Charlie is on her way up to London to spend four days with her father in Oxford. He’s to counsel her on a doubtful boyfriend and her behavior with the boy;  they will spend time together after his talk at a mental health symposium.

From the train window just outside Oxford, the train slows with the weather. Joe and Charlies glimpse a line of policemen moving across a snowy field. As their train moves slowly forward, they sees white-clothed crime scene officers struggling in the wind, trying to erect a canvas tent over the edge of a lake. They see what they are trying to shield: a body, trapped beneath the ice.

Their first full day together is interrupted by the sudden appearance of detectives, looking for Joe to consult on the ghastly murder of a couple in nearby farmhouse. Joe is not inclined to cooperate; this kind of thing has gotten him into trouble before. But Charlie, bored with the ancient town after one shopping spree, wants to see her dad at work, and soon Joe agrees to help with the case.

As he investigates, it soon becomes clear that these murders and the disappeared girls are related.

But will Joe figure out the murderer in time to save one of the missing girls?

The device Robotham uses of having Piper document her past and current habitats is chilling; her thoughts, so controlled and matter-of-fact to reality, show readers a young woman who was barely seen before, but will never be forgotten again.

For readers of the series who understand the struggle Joe has endured over several books, the ending will move you to tears.

Well-written, compelling, with complex characters, Say You’re Sorry‘s layered title will show readers its true meaning.