Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Can't Keep it to Myself: Buried, by Ellison Cooper

One of my very favorite things, reading-wise, is hitting on a new series as it starts. Does it sort of suck waiting for a year for a new book? Absolutely. But the anticipation? The feeling of finally holding that new installment in your hands and settling in with it? Those feelings are the drug of the bibliophile.

You may remember me going on about the first novel in Ellison Cooper's series, Caged, featuring FBI Senior Special Agent Sayer Altair. In fact, I couldn't keep that one to myself, either. The sequel, Buried, picks up six months later as SSA Altair heads back into the field after riding the desk following an on-the-job injury. As fate would have it, her first day starts with a bang, taking her immediately to a mass grave deep in a national park that soon proves likely to be the dump-site of another killer. Though the remains date back over the last two decades (around the time a local teen went missing) cold cases meet active case when another body is found, this one quite recent. The ties that bind will bring Altair full circle, back to a subject she's been studying and who might just be able to help her stop the predator before he can bring down more prey.

For readers who love engrossing page-turning thrillers with plenty of plot-twists, I cannot recommend Ellison Cooper highly enough. Fans of Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Gardner, Thomas Harris and Karin Slaughter should absolutely add Cooper to their lists, ASAP.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Meg's Picks: August 2019, part 1

There are so many things I want to talk about that are coming up, I had to start early!

City of Windows, by Robert Pobi. This buzz-worthy series launch introduces retired FBI agent (and astrophysicist) Dr. Lucas Page. In the field, Page was best known for his ability to survey a crime scene and allow him to break down the topography to math and statistical probabilities, like being able to pinpoint the origin of a sniper shot in the middle of a city. But the loss of a leg, an arm, and an eye during a shootout put an end to his FBI career, as well as his first marriage. There's nothing wrong with his brain, though, and ten years later he is teaching at Columbia University and writing books. He's reluctant to put his new life on the line when he's called upon to help investigate the shooting of his former partner, but old loyalties run deep. A tense plot and unique protagonist make this a good bet for a breakout thriller this summer.

The Doll Factory, by Elizabeth MacNeal. Psychological suspense meets 1850's London in this sharp new novel. A chance encounter in a crowd is a brief, forgettable encounter for alluring artist Iris, but for curiosity collector Silas, it is the beginning of an obsession--one that will only deepen and darken as Iris's star begins to rise among the city's artists. Fans of Caleb Carr's The Alienist should be placing their requests now. 

Inland, by Tea Obreht. Obreht made quite a name for herself with 2011's award-winning novel The Tiger's Wife. She returns now with a tale set in late-1800s Arizona, where Nora waits on the family farm while her husband treks for water to revive their failing farm. Her two older sons have vanished after a fight, leaving Nora to fend for herself when a local outlaw starts making his presence known. If your ideal summer read is full of larger-than-life characters and gorgeous prose, look no further.

The Perfect Wife, by J.P. Delaney. Five years ago, Abbie suffered a terrible accident and is finally coming back to consciousness with the help of new technology. She's a wonderful mother and a talented artist and certainly will be again, or so says the man who claims to be her husband. The catch? It's not really Abbie--the real Abbie disappeared and was never found. The Abbie who is waking up is actually a companion robot or "cobot", developed by the original Abbie's husband. It's as she begins to uncover her namesake's secrets that things start to get scary. Tech suspense with a twist.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Reading Ahead: August 2019, part 1

Various flavors of suspense are on the menu for next month. Which will be your favorite?

The Last Widow, by Karin Slaughter. Readers haven't seen GBI special agent Will Trent since 2016's The Kept Woman, but the wait is finally over. Here he and Sara Linton, GBI medical examiner and Will's fiancee, must do battle with a group of radical homegrown terrorists bent on wreaking catastrophe on the state's capitol...just for starters. Slaughter is one of my favorites--this new title cannot get here quickly enough!

Outfox, by Sandra Brown. FBI special agent Drex Easton, hero of 2018 bestseller Tailspin, returns on the trail of a serial killer who has been preying on wealthy single women for decades. The quarry is cunning, leaving no clues, just a string of missing women and emptied bank accounts. He follows a lead and goes undercover, only to find himself falling for the suspected killer's next victim. If you like your suspense with a healthy dose of heat, Brown has you covered.

A Dangerous Man, by Robert Crais. Crais's latest picks up with investigators Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, following 2017's The Wanted. Pike rescues a young bank teller from two abductors, and then things get complicated. The abductors wind up dead, the teller vanishes, and Elvis does some digging to try and find out why the woman was targeted in the first place. Then things start to get really interesting...

The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware. Ware has a beautiful touch when it comes to modern gothic, and this updated retelling of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw is the perfect combination of classic elements and modern creepiness. Rowan Caine describes, in a series of letters to a lawyer from where she sits in prison, how she took a nanny position with the Elincourts because it solved both her job and living situation woes in one easy step. But the well-behaved girls were less so once their parents left, and the house's smart control system was no longer working as intended. High on the creeping dread factor, this is guaranteed to keep you up past your bedtime.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Meg's Picks: July 2019, part 2

Summer reads come in all shapes and sizes. If your preferences run serious or suspenseful, these might just be what you were looking for!

The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead. Whitehead's 2016 novel The Underground Railroad won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction. So if we're eager to see what comes next, I think that's only natural. Here, the strand of history he's dramatized follows two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim-Crow era Florida, based on an actual reformatory which operated for 111 years. If you prefer your summer reads serious and intense, you cannot miss this.

Lock Every Door, by Riley Sager. Riley Sager is totally a staff darling here at the library. We loved his debut, Final Girls, and his sophomore novel, The Last Time I Lied. We absolutely anticipate a hat-trick with Lock Every Door, in which Jules's new job as an apartment sitter in one of New York's oldest and most glamorous buildings may just cost more than it pays...

Stone Cold Heart, by Caz Frear. Frear is another new favorite, following her stellar suspense debut last summer, Sweet Little Lies, with a second novel featuring Detective Constable Cat Kinsella. She's back at London Metropolitan Police with her wisecracking partner Parnell, both of them trying to avoid the ire of boss DI Kate Steele. It's all business when they catch a case, though, involving a young Australian woman who's turned up dead following a party thrown by her new boss. The lead suspect's alibi is his wife, and she contradicts him, but which one is lying, and why? Murder is only the beginning of the mystery here.

Someone We Know, by Shari Lapena. Following 2018's An Unwanted Guest. Someone has been sneaking into houses, and their inhabitants computers, in a quiet suburb in upstate New York. They've been learning their neighbors' secrets, and perhaps sharing them. Who is he? What might he have learned? After two anonymous letters show up, rumors circulate, suspicions grow, and then a woman is found murdered. How far will these nice, unassuming neighbors go in order to keep their secrets?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Meg's Picks: July 2019, part 1

History, humor, and heart. These are just some of the bounty of July's new novels.

Dragonfly, by Leila Meacham. At the height of World War II, a group of young Americans receive a mysterious summons from their government, asking if they willing to fight for their country. While they are from very different backgrounds, each heeds the call for their own personal reasons. The group, code name Dragonfly, bond immediately. This is war, however, and the stakes in the cat-and-mouse game they're playing are incredibly high. One or more of them will have to pay the ultimate price... For fans of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, most definitely. 

The Chelsea Girls, by Fiona Davis. Hazel and Maxine meet as USO performers in Italy at the end of World War II, one a sheltered daughter of a renowned theater family, the other facing discrimination owing to a German-born grandfather. Following the war, Hazel pens a Broadway-bound play based on her experiences during the war, and Maxine comes from Hollywood to star...but a secret will threaten to tear their friendship apart. Davis has been developing quite a fan-base with novels like The Dollhouse and The Address--this latest is sure to be in demand.

You've Been Volunteered, by Laurie Gelman. Gelman's debut, Class Mom (2017), introduced snarky 40-something mom Jen Dixon whose appointment to kindergarten class mom put her smack in the middle of PTA drama with hilarious results. In this follow-up, Jen's son Max is now in third grade and Jen is once again catapulted into the role of class mom, even as her family life gets pulled in a dozen different directions. If your perfect summer read is a laugh-out-loud speed read, this is for you!

The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal. I adored Stradal's 2015 debut, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and I've been anxiously awaiting her new novel, inspired by true events in Stradal's own family. Once upon a time, Helen Blotz inherited the family farm, which alienated her sister Edith. Helen used the proceeds from the sale of the farm to invest in her husband's family soda business, helping to turn it into the hottest brewery in Minnesota. Two generations later, the brewery's success is waning, though Edith's granddaughter's brewpub may bring family together again. Stradal's characters are deftly drawn and are deeply memorable. Have I mentioned I can't wait?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Reading Ahead: July 2019, part 3

If variety is the spice of life, then this summer's book list is quite spicy!

Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman. Modern psychological insights meet classic noir in Lippman's latest, set in 1960's Baltimore. Thirty-something housewife Maddie separates from her husband after an old friend reminds her of all she used to long to be, beyond marriage and motherhood. She relishes her newfound freedom, her own apartment, her affair with a city patrolman. It's only when she manages to leverage her story concerning a murdered child and her correspondence with the killer into a position with the Star that Maddie really hits her stride. If a sophisticated crime novel is your favorite brand of summer reading, this should absolutely hit your list.

The Golden Hour, by Beatriz Williams. Willams's latest is an epic foray into one of the most enigmatic couples in history, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as seen through the eyes of a young woman who arrives in the Bahamas in 1941 determined to work her way into their inner circle. Williams is fast becoming a favorite staple for summer reading enthusiasts.

Window on the Bay, by Debbie Macomber. This standalone romance from Macomber finds college friends Jenna and Maureen now divorced empty nesters, each encouraged by their children to try dating again. Maybe it's time to dust off their passports and travel? Or maybe romance is right in their own backyard, just waiting to surprise them. A comfortable, easy read.

Surfside Sisters, by Nancy Thayer. Keely was eager to leave Nantucket behind to follow her dream of becoming a writer. Now a successful novelist with all that accompanies it, living in New York, keely's starting to reconsider what's important to her. A relationship gone sour has resulted in some serious writer's block, made worse when her editor rejects her latest novel. The slower, calmer pace of island life may be just the cure for what ails her.

I'll be picking up next week with my Meg's Picks posts--hint: there's a LOT of them for July! See you then!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Reading Ahead: July 2019, part 2

A selection of new suspense for your perusal!

Game of Snipers, by Stephen Hunter. Hunter's latest Bob Lee Swagger novel, following 2017's G-Man, finds storied marksman Swagger, now 72 and retired, enjoying the solitude of his Idaho ranch. That peace is interrupted by a stranger, Janet McDowell, who comes to Swagger for help: track down the man who killed her son, a task that will require him to assemble his old team and work with both the FBI and Mossad in a race to the epic showdown implied by the title.

Good Girl, Bad Girl, by Michael Robotham. Robotham's new haunting thriller features a forensic psychologist, Cyrus Haven, who is preoccupied by two major cases. One is the case of a murdered young figure skater, cut down just as her star was on the rise. The other is to assess the fitness for release of a highly vulnerable teen from a children's home--she was found six years ago, hiding in a North London home when a murder had recently occurred. At that time, she was malnourished and so traumatized she couldn't remember her name. Though the two girls' cases are vastly different, Cyrus soon discovers the very adult problems of each were absolutely enough to incite violence. If one girl already died for such secrets, might the other still be in danger?

Bark of Night, by David Rosenfelt. When lawyer Andy Carpenter finds out that his veterinarian has been instructed to euthanize a perfectly healthy French bulldog, Truman, he's understandably angry and agrees to take on Truman as part of his canine rescue program. When they check the dog's microchip, however, they discover that the man who dropped him off was not his owner, and then his real owner is found murdered. And then the man who ordered Truman's demise is also found murdered...

The Shameless, by Ace Atkins. Years ago, teenager Brandon Taylor walked into the woodlands of Mississippi and was found a week later, dead of what was ruled a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But a cold-case podcaster and her producer are in town now, questioning the ruling and asking after files and evidence that seem to have gone missing. Sheriff Quinn Colson (last seen in 2018's The Sinners) wants to help, but an old case that was supposedly closed will have to take a back burner to his current concerns: a crime syndicate running guns, drugs and a human trafficking ring through the county, and a racist gubernatorial candidate whose campaign seems to be funded by the syndicate. If Quinn can't shut the whole thing down, fast, trouble is going to make itself right at home in the county, for good.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Reading Ahead: July 2019

I know, we're already talking July! But this summer's books just cannot wait any longer! And some of your favorite best-selling authors are leading the charge!

The New Girl, by Daniel Silva. Legendary chief of Israeli intelligence Gabriel Allon (last seen in 2018's The Other Woman) has spent much of his life fighting terrorists. Now, he's the one man who can be trusted to track down the men who have brutally kidnapped the daughter of the much-maligned crown prince of Saudi Arabia and rescue the young woman in question. In the process, Gabriel and the prince become uneasy allies in a secret game that may change relations in the Middle East forever. If you like your espionage plotted at breakneck speed, this is for you.

Under Currents, by Nora Roberts. At a distance, the Bigelow family looks like perfection: successful surgeon father, stylish wife, two children who excel. But those children, Zane and Britt, know the truth: appearances can be very deceiving. As Zane's father's abuse becomes more severe, and his mother ever complicit, Zane tries to protect his little sister, even as he counts down the time until he can be free of this oppressive household. It's only after one final act shatters the facade that Zane realizes that there is both pain and freedom in facing the truth, and he vows to do better as he forges a new life and starts a family of his own. How long will it be, though, before darkness looms again in his life?

Labyrinth, by Catherine Coulter. The new FBI thriller from Coulter (Paradox, 2018, etc.) finds Agent Sherlock navigating the winding roads of West Virginia only to lose control of her vehicle. She's knocked unconscious, but upon waking, she's sure she remembers someone else involved in the accident. Perhaps he is involved in the string of local murders she's investigating?

Smokescreen, by Iris Johansen. When forensic sculptor Eve Duncan learns that a guerilla attack on an African village has left a number of children burned beyond recognition, she races to the site to lend a hand in identifying the bodies for their desperate families. Upon her arrival at the site, however, she soon realizes that something even more dire is afoot. Series fans won't want to miss out.

Shamed, by Linda Castillo. Castillo returns to Painter's Mill and Police Chief Kate Burkholder as an Amish woman has been murdered and her young grandchild kidnapped. Kate now needs answers from the tight-lipped Amish community, and quickly, as she learns that long-kept secrets may be responsible for a current crime-spree. If you're looking for an Amish cozy, this isn't it--Castillo's Amish suspense series is gritty and deeply engrossing.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Meg's Picks: June 2019, part 2

New novels from favorite authors and debuts are on the horizon. What's on your reading list?

Searching for Sylvie Lee, by Jean Kwok. I adored Kwok's debut, Girl in Translation (2010), and given the buzz about her upcoming novel, I'm extra excited. Amy Lee's family was too poor to keep her older sister Sylvie, who was then raised for some time by a distant relative. Now an adult, Sylvie has disappeared, and as Amy starts to retrace Sylvie's steps in an effort to find her, she uncovers a number of her sister's deeply buried secrets. For those who like a page-turner with strong family ties, this should be at the top of your list for summer reads.

Conviction, by Denise Mina. Mina, who is best known for her series of novels set in historical Glasgow (The Red Road, etc.), moves seamlessly into the present with a timely new novel of suspense. Anna McDonald left her past behind in London and started over in Glasgow, which was great, until it wasn't. Now her husband's run off with her best friend, Estelle. Anna and Estelle's former rock-star husband fall in together on a road-trip that follows the true-crime podcast they're binge-listening...until Anna's past looms up on all sides. A story in a story that is getting some excellent advance praise.

Girl in the Rearview Mirror, by Kelsey Rae Dimberg. I'm always on the lookout for the next debut smash, and I think this might be just such a novel. Finn Hunt is bored with her office job and jumps at the chance to nanny for Phoenix's first family, the Martins. Philip is being groomed to take on his father's seat in the Senate, and Marina is a museum director who oozes class and glamor. Finn's new life as nanny to four-year-old Amabel makes her feel protective of the family she views as completely ideal...until a stranger hands her information that shatters her illusions and may yet bring down the family's dynasty. This is one to watch!

The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo. Speaking of brilliant debuts to watch next month, Lombardo's thriller is garnering huge praise already. David and Marilyn meet and marry in the 1970s, raising four daughters in a rambling suburban Chicago home that had belonged to Marilyn's father. The daughters all find professional success of one sort or another, but decades later, none of them have yet found the spark shared by their parents, even after forty years of marriage. Each of the four sisters struggles in different ways, and sibling rivalries and secrets are never far below the surface over the course of the story, one year in the Sorenson family. Expect your friends to be talking about this one.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Meg's Picks: June 2019, part 1

I have to say, sometimes the length of time I have to hold back on these lists is crazy-making! I've had some of these titles on order for months, and I am so excited I finally get to share now that they're on the near horizon.

After the End, by Clare Mackintosh. Latest by Mackintosh (Let Me Lie, etc.) is an emotional page-turner about impossible choices, and the different paths that life can take. Based loosely on her own experiences, this departure from her normal mystery-thrillers follows the journey of couple Max and Pip Adams as they must make heart-rending decision regarding the care of their terminally ill son. Make sure you bring your tissues!

Recursion, by Blake Crouch. Crouch, author of Dark Matter and the Wayward Pines trilogy, follow Dark Matter's Barry Sutton as he investigates a technology that was originally created in order to preserve our most beloved memories, and which now is also being used to implant false memories, shredding reality and ruining lives. I'm recommending this for fans of Andy Weir (The Martian) and Michael Crichton.

The First Mistake, by Sandie Jones. Author of 2018 reader favorite The Other Woman, Jones brings readers a new novel of domestic suspense. Alice is happily remarried to Nathan after the death of her first husband, and grateful for her good friend Beth. But she's growing suspicious about Nathan's long stretches away on business. Then she starts to wonder about just how reliable Beth is, after all. Deftly paced suspense with a roller-coaster's worth of twists and turns--if it's not on your list, it should be!

The Islanders, by Meg Mitchell Moore. Moore (The Admissions, etc.) follows the lives of three strangers who connect one summer on Block Island. Anthony's second novel has been a flop, and he's retreated to house-sit and hopefully jump-start the work on his comeback novel. Island bakery owner Joy is trying to juggle keeping her small business solvent while single-parenting her teenage daughter. And Lu is supposed to be riding herd on her young sons, but is more and more absorbed by a side-project she's keeping a secret from everyone including her husband. Moore is a reliably engaging storyteller, so you won't want to miss this.