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.

The Janus Stone Monday, May 30 2011 

I mentioned earlier that I would review the second Ruth Galloway novel by Elly Griffiths, Janus Stone, and one of my readers said it was good as the first. She was not mistaken.

This time the forensic archaeologist  is called in to investigate when builders demolishing a large ancient house uncover what appears to be the skeleton of a child. Bad enough, but its skull is missing. Found under the doorway, Ruth feels this might be a ritual sacrifice. While gathering her samples, DCI Harry Nelson, he of the complicated relationship with Ruth, becomes involved after it is revealed the bones are not ancient, and that the house was once a children’s home. He sets out to interview the Catholic priest who ran the home, who tells him forty years ago two children went missing, a boy and a girl.

When carbon dating proves the child’s bones are from an earlier period, Ruth maintains her ties to the investigation. She’s drawn more deeply into the case when it becomes obvious someone is trying to frighten her off it. They’re doing a good job of it, for Ruth is pregnant herself, and although she’s thrilled and determined to raise the child alone, is still dealing with telling her parents and friends about the baby, who include the child’s father.

Ruth is a grand creation, someone most women can relate to: an earthy, overweight gal who’s happy her pregnancy gives her a reason to stop trying to lose weight. Some of Ruth’s colleagues from the first novel, The Crossing Places, reappear, and add to Ruth’s wry sense of humor, which make these books a treat to read.

Griffiths does a great job of intertwining the emotional with the plot points and keeps them coming as the tension rises. There was one point at first where I thought she’d taken a jog off into the impossible, but her explanation and Ruth’s reaction to these events make that twist believable, and in the end, reasonable. Of course, that just makes me now anxious to read the third installment, due sooner than Ruth’s baby.


Christening, NC style Monday, May 5 2008 

Yesterday Auntie M and Doc were invited to the christening of a much-wanted baby boy, (Mum is 40 and after four misses, her final chance before adoption).  The church was the one she and her mum were baptized in, built in 1842 and still going strong, lovely in its simplicity, with beams and dark columns that supported a three-way round balcony where the slaves originally sat.  Someone had the foresight to put on the AC, so it was comfortable, too.  A huge vase of white flowers from Gram’s garden graced the simple altar in this Methodist church.

There was a group  of women from Manteo who played the bells–they had traveled over an hour to be here for this special baby’s day.  These handbell ringers practice once a week and with their soprano bells, sweetly played ancient hymns before the ceremony and in the middle of it, Amazing Grace, a lovely touch.  We sang along with “Joyful, Joyful” which is the recognizable bit from Song of Joy and to a hymn I didn’t know, but appreciated, about the planting of seeds and flowers in bloom and innocence.

Little Walker Samuel Breckenridge behaved admirably, wearing a long white dress over his cute white romper with bare feel wiggling  when he kicked it up (is there anything sweeter than baby bare feet???) and totally enjoyed his moment in the sun.  He listened to the music with rapt attention, esp. the bells, and smiled up at the preacher when he took him to do the actual baptism.  When said minister dipped his hand in the water and rubbed it on his head three times he frowned once, then chortled, cracking us in the pews up.  He smiled serenely when we repeated prayers for his health and happiness, closing long-lashed lids over startling blue eyes

By the closing hymn he had fallen gracefully asleep in his daddy’s arms.  Adjourn to Grams’ house, surrounded by blooming peonies and trees for delicate dips, nuts, spreads, hors d’ and the required mini-ham biscuits.  Lovely day, sunshine all around, proud mum and dad, truly grateful for this tiny baby’s presence in their lives, the only grand to both sets of proud grandparents.

It happened to be our own wedding anniversary (17 yrs to those of you counting and we think this one will last) and it was a great way to spend the day: being in that lovely old building, reminded of the innocence of children and the awesome responsibility we carry as their parents/grandparents/elders, thankful this baby had survived and made everyone so thrilled–just one of those days where everything is a positive and the ugliness that is also a part of everyday life recedes and we know we are truly blessed.

What brings out these feelings in you?