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.

Deborah Crombie: No Mark Upon Her Sunday, Apr 1 2012 

In the latest installment of her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma Jones series, Texas author Deborah Crombie’s  love and affinity for England once again shine through.

Detective Inspector Gemma Jones is finally very married to Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, and their blended family is adjusting to its newest member. Crombie skillfully weaves the tapestry of their lives into the investigation of their latest case.

Preparing to trade Gemma’s domestic leave to take his own turn, Duncan finds himself at the last minute involved in a murder investigation filled with far-reaching tendrils, as the victim was a detective with the Metropolitan Police and an Olympic-grade rower. A subplot includes a high-ranking predatory policeman which complicates his investigation at every turn.

Becca Meredith is a solitary and competitive rower, hoping to regain her footing in a controversial bid for a place on the Olympic team. Her dreams are ended when a training row ends with her being tipped from her scull and drowning in the Thames River near Henley. Her lover, Kieran Connolly, struggles with post-war injuries. Part of the volunteer K9 search and rescue team with his Labrador Retriever, Finn, he is among the first to find Becca’s body, caught near the downstream weir near Mill End.

When the mysterious drowning becomes Duncan’s case, his team investigates Becca’s past, including her rowing for Oxford Blue, and her ex-husband, a former rower. It quickly becomes obvious that Becca’s talented but difficult personality has led her to acquire many admirers and just as many enemies. Complicating matters is a politically fraught work situation that will spill over into a  separate investigation Gemma has gotten entangled with just as her family leave is ending, and this widens the list of suspects for both detectives.

Then Kieran is targeted in a horrid accident, it becomes obvious that there is a killer who needs to silence people and it’s up to Duncan to stop him before he can kill again.

Rooted in reality, Crombie’s endpapers on the hard-covered books contain a lovely hand-drawn map by Laura Maestro of the area, which goes a long way to helping readers unfamiliar with the area visualize the main places of the action. The descriptions and feel of The Leander Club, a revered Henley rowing club, as well as the grueling routine of an elite rower, add to the pleasure. One of the hallmarks of Crombie’s books is the way she brings to life pockets of the UK we readers vicariously come to know, and the clubby, status-conscious world of Oxford rowing blends well with the routines of the K9 rescue team and their dogs.

Denise Mina: The End of the Wasp Season Sunday, Nov 20 2011 

Ian Rankin calls fellow Scot Denise Mina: “The most exciting crime writer to have emerged in Britain in years.” Readers of Auntie M will know that she follows Mina’s crime novels, from her stand alones to her Paddy Meehan series. With a law degree in her pocket, Mina also writes short stories, has authored a play, and is a regular contributor to TV and radio.

Mina is back with a new protagonist, as original as any of her others. DS Alex Morrow is pregnant with twins when she catches a murder case that will send shock waves through the wealthy suburb of Glasgow where the victim lived. It will also touch Morrow’s personal life and impact her career as she tries to keep her own ghosts at bay.

Sarah Erroll had taken exceptional care of her ailing mother until the woman’s recent death, providing round-the-clock care in the home Joy Erroll loved. When Sarah is found brutally murdered at the bottom of the stairs of that home, it appears to be a vicious but random attack. Then Morrow listens to the recording made when Sarah tried to call 999 and hears her tell one of her murderers: “I know you.” The case is further complicated when stacks of cash are found hidden under the kitchen table, totaling close to $700,ooo Euros. What was the source of Erroll’s money? Who knew about it?

In a seemingly unrelated event in Kent, millionaire banker Lars Anderson hangs himself from the oak tree standing on the sacred lawn of his mansion. Under investigation for fraudulent business practices that have left his clients destitute, his death is seen by many as a penance for his lifetime self-serving attitude, a just decision in a world damaged by ever-widening recession. Although left in financial straits, his deeply damaged family mostly feel  a sense of release at his death. But just how damaged are they?

Stonewalled by DCI Bannerman, a man who’s learned how to turn rudeness into an art form, it will be up to Morrow to sort out the tangled web that connects both deaths. Travel to London follows as Morrow begins to unravel the threads that will lead to a shattering resolution.

This is a complex and multilayered novel, full of plot turns, with Mina illustrating a deft rendering of the complicated emotions of the people in the book’s world. This talent makes her characters eminently human, and her novels are ones easily gobbled up as the pages turn.