Action + Thrills = Great Reads Sunday, Mar 27 2016 

Auntie M has read a stack of high tension, high action books recently, so she’s grouped them for your reading pleasure.

Eric Rickstad’s Lie in Wait starts out with the murder of a young babysitter. The savage attack takes place at the Canaan, Vermont home of the lead attorney in a high-profile case, which convinces detective Sonja Test they must be related. With two children of her own, viewing the girl’s body as her first murder victim while her kids wait outside in the car is a neat juxtaposition to all things normal suddenly gone wrong.

Test will keep digging, uncovering past acts hidden for years that impact on the murder. This fast-paced thriller is heavy with the psychology of the characters which increases the tension. There will be several unexpected twists before the ending. The tension between Test and her job, and her allegiance to her husband and children ramps up the emotions.

Sarah Cain’s The 8th Circle
finds Philadelphia journalist Danny Ryan still reeling from the tragic loss of his wife and young son in a car accident a year ago. It doesn’t help that his wife was driving Danny’s car at the time. He’s not been back at work since the tragedy. Then his friend, journalist Michael Cohen drives his car right into the pond in front of Danny’s house after being shot.

An obvious murder, Danny is looked at with suspicion, which only adds to the tension as he tries to find out why Michael had to die. He digs into his friend’s last article, supposedly on restaurant reviews, but which turns more to be about Philly politics mixed with a twisted, secret nightlife. It doesn’t help that his father-in-law is a senator, implicated heavily in the secrets he uncovers, secrets the most powerful people in the city are desperate remain hidden. And is it possible that Danny was really meant to die in that accident?

Danny’s migraines interfere with his investigation, a nice side touch that makes him feel very human. A determined detective and a friend of Michael’s, legislative aide Kate Reid, are two other characters whose presence adds to the tension as Danny gets closer and closer to a truth he can’t ignore, one he won’t have seen coming at all.

John Clarkson debuts a new series with Among Thieves with an unlikely protagonist, ex-con James Beck.

The Brooklyn setting has a gritty, noir feel with Beck at the lead of this action-packed thriller. Beck’s spent his years since getting out of prison building a team operating out of the Red Hook area. Then one of the team, partner Manny Guzman, asks for Beck’s help: his cousin, Olivia, working at a NYC brokerage firm, noticed suspicious investment practices that led to her getting a few of her fingers broken, after which she was fired and blackballed from the industry.

Leave it to Beck to right the wrong, but in doing so, he realizes Olivia has found something far more compelling than anyone thought at first. And then all hell breaks loose as there’s a far too much money at stake. Beck and company will face threats from several sources, including Bosnian war criminals, with violence on terrifying levels.

There will be several surprising twists, a bit of sex and a whole lot of action before Beck’s team is finished.


Author Gregg Hurwitz has had many bestselling and award-nominated thrillers in the past, so it’s no surprise the first of his new series, Orphan X, is already being adapted by Hurwitz for a Warner Bros. movie starring Bradley Cooper.

Creating a character for the likes of Jack Reacher fans, there’s all the high-tech gadgets and action readers could want. Evan Smoak was raised in the secret Orphan Program, where the goal was to produce assassins who were so off the grid they didn’t officially exist.

All of his training and skills come into play when Evan breaks away and assumes a new name and persona, and decides to use these to help people pushed to the limit by murderers or kidnappers. Called the “Nowhere Man,” he lives with many layers of protection around him, until someone from his past turns up to ruin everything.

Yes, there’s a lovely woman or two in here, and even the occasional hint of humor to relieve the stress, but that doesn’t stop the heart-rending action nor the sense of outlandishness at times that makes this read even more cinematic. Lee Child says: “Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X is his best yet–a real celebration of all the strengths he brings to a thriller.”


New Zealander Ben Sanders fourth novel is his first published in the US, and in concert with high-action thrillers, it’s been sold to Warner Bros with the attached star and producer none other than the afore-mentioned Bradley Cooper. The actor is one busy guy, but he knows how to pick projects with fast-moving action. American Blood introduces Marshall Grade, a likable sort if you like your cops living in a New Mexico Witness Protection Program, trying to keep a low profile.

Marshall’s a bit of a rogue who reminded Auntie M of a tortured New York Longmire–not afraid to get his hands dirty and very persistent. There’s a contract out on Marshall and he’s supposed to be living a quiet life. But his undercover past is littered with bodies and he can’t quite forget them.

Instead he decides to investigate the disappearance of a local woman. Alyce Ray may have been taken by drug traffickers, and the opening scene in a diner where Marshall meets up with two whom he feels have information is a choreographed dance in itself and a clue to his steely nerves.

The plot is more complex than at first glance, with language that flows and lets readers experience a different kind of hero, one who treads a fine line to find justice.

First Response
Auntie M has reviewed thriller author Stephen Leather’s multiple previous books in two series. Stand-alone First Response is ripped from today’s headlines, and all too easily believed.

In London, several scenarios go off at once in nine different locations. Suicide bombers claiming to be from ISIS hold hostages in all of these locations, and they vary from a church to a pub to a childcare center. Their mission is to force the release of jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh prison, and their demands are firm: they are to be released that same evening.

But when Mo Kamran, Superintendent of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met investigates, he and his team find no links to ISIS, and none of the men are on known-terrorist watch lists. Are these clean skins, terrorist without a link to any particular group? Or is something else pulling these men together?

Imagine the chaos that would reign in such a situation with a deadline looming. Now imagine trying to coordinate Special Forces, EMS, and armed tactical units, and you have an idea of Mo’s day. The Muslim detective won’t have it easy, especially when he realizes the agenda being played out is not what it seems.

Leather couples clever plotting with detailed knowledge of the way the Government and the Police would respond with strong characterizations. For fans of his two other series, this one’s a sure-fire read. For readers new to Leather, there’s no better place to start than with this contemporary thriller.

Two in a Different Vein Sunday, Apr 22 2012 

Auntie M has learned that by  reviewing books sent by a publisher, instead of choosing them for herself, she is forced to read novels she ordinarily wouldn’t–and in the process, she is reminded that a well-written story will capture the reader, regardless of the subject.

Two action thrillers, available this month in paperback from Harper, will certainly appeal to the masculine side of readership, but there are plenty of female readers who will enjoy learning of the intricacies of the world of intelligence, politics, and the secrets, real and imagined, of government.

Dale Brown’s A Time for Patriots revolves in a world in the near future too easily envisioned: A crippling recession in the US leads to a rise of armed citizens protecting themselves. One group calls itself the Knights of the True Republic, home-grown terrorists who ambush a SWAT team and steal radioactive materials, leading to a nation-wide event with devastating effects. When they detonate a dirty bomb in Reno, Nevada, the state’s Civil Air Patrol is caught on a rescue mission in a no-fly zone. Tensions escalate, involving so many government agencies the author has a listing of acronyms and weapons at the opening of the book to guide the reader through the action to follow.

Brown’s hero is retired Air Force Lt.-Col. Patrick McLanahan, featured previously in multiple books that follow his career. Along with McLanahan’s son, Brad, and a roster of volunteers, they rise to the occasion of unearthing a major double-cross, leading to the President’s decision to send American-manned robots to aid the CAP crew, and a huge aircraft called the Skytrain: “Thanks to its advanced engines and mission-adaptive wing technology, with which tiny computer-controlled micro-acuators could make almost the entire fuselage and wing skin a lift or drag device,  the huge aircraft could fly close to the speed of sound at gross weight, as well as half as slow as any other aircraft of its size.”

Add in magnificent but believable robots, and nanotransponders, which, when swallowed, allow the host’s position to be tracked at all times, and you have the stuff of the imagination that is not too far in the future to be out of question. Of course, the McLanahans, father and son, and members of their team are at the heart of the drama, bringing human feelings, actions and emotions to round out the action.

A former US Air Force Captain, Brown is a current mission pilot in the Civil Air Patrol, and provides accurate information and descriptions of the workings of this group who rise to the task of protecting Americans everywhere.

The second thriller tells a different but equally compelling story. KBL: Kill Bin Laden is described as a “novel based on true events,” and it’s obvious that John Weisman, with books on both The New York Times nonfiction and fiction bestseller lists, is heavily steeped in the worlds of the intelligence agents and special forces soldiers who brought Usama Bin Laden to justice. The front of the book includes maps and photographs from the Department of Defense showing the location of Bin Laden’s Abbottobad compound with a schematic of its interior, compounding the feel of reality to the story about to be told.         

What could have been a dry retelling of the events leading up to the capture of America’s most wanted criminal comes alive through Weisman’s capable narrative using the details of the lives of those most closely involved in the final mission: the SEALs of Team 6, whose equipment could fill a twenty-foot dry weight container and who are trained to kill and then leave that behind them and return to wives and children; CIA Directors and assistants stationed in Pakistan; rangers, pilots, operatives, and most importantly, Charlie Becker.

Becker, a retired US Army Airborne Ranger, had his legs and most fingers blown off by an Iraqi suicide bomber. He used his over-five years rehabilitation to become fluent in Urdu and Pashto and understands Arabic. Becker is currently connected to the Special Activities Division of the CIA. His “special activities” include leaving his fancy prostheses in a locker in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. It means living outside that compound in a cardboard shelter and practicing getting around on a padded furniture dolly built from materials scrounged in Pakistan for weeks, eating the diet of a poor Pakistani, bathing only occasionally, and reciting passionately the prayers of the Salafist Jihadi  until he can pass himself off as a beggar in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Becker becomes the eyes and ears of the CIA on the ground, patrolling the city on his dolly and watching a CIA safehouse, while monitoring  GZ: Ground Zero, a probable home to UBL.

As the mission rehearsal and details are being worked out, back in Washington, politics are at play in the decision to mount the offensive and when it should occur. This is recent history made to come alive in a most readable and compelling manner.

It doesn’t matter that the reader knows the outcome of the mission; indeed, the Prologue contains a scene showing Bin Laden’s corpse being viewed in a body bag. What matters is the journey taken to annihilate a madman. As Weisman has Charlie Becker know in his heart, ” … there are some people on this earth who just deserve to die.”