Must-Read Books: The Best Mysteries and Thrillers for Fall 2013
The lineup of this fall's mysteries and thrillers has us on the edge of our seats: Stephen King and John Grisham both give fans sequels to their early classics; Lee Child, Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly all introduce new installments in their iconic thriller series; patriarch of the legal thriller Scott Turow has a new standalone novel and William Boyd reinvents James Bond--plus two novels starring identical twins and two new books that could be the next film vehicles for Matthew McConaughey.
The master of horror returns in a much-anticipated sequel to his 1977 classic, "The Shining." Grown up and struggling with alcoholism (like his father before him) along his terrible memories of that fateful winter at the Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance has found his calling--using his power of "the shine" to comfort the dying. But he is soon faces a bigger task: He and a young girl named Abra must stop a band of wanderers called The True Knot--quasi-immortals who torture children gifted with the shine, living off the "steam" that rises from their writhing bodies.
Mega-prolific author Joyce Carol Oates is no stranger to horror herself, having written "Zombie," a novel about a serial killer based on Jeffrey Dahmer; the story collection "Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque" and, recently, the gothic horror novel "The Accursed." In her new book, "Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong," Oates returns to the darker corners of the human psyche in stories about adultery, abuse, terrible secrets and crimes against family.
The son of a war hero, Jack Reacher was raised in the military and became a decorated military cop himself before exiting a life of service and turning into something of a drifter who thought he would never return. But in "Never Go Back," Lee Child's 18th novel featuring Reacher, the ex-cop gets a call from the headquarters of his old unit and is accused of a homicide that took place 16 years ago. Trying to clear his name, Reacher is pulled back into a past he thought he'd escaped.
Sue Grafton is winding down to the end of the alphabet in her Kinsey Millhone series, which began more than 30 years ago with "A is for Alibi." In "W is for Wasted," Grafton's sparky private detective is trying to connect the dots between two seemingly unrelated deaths in Santa Teresa, Calif.--those of another PI with a bad reputation and of an unidentified, possibly homeless man who'd been sleeping on the beach, with Kinsey's name and number in his pocket.
Another thriller writer returns to a classic from decades past: John Grisham's "Sycamore Row" is the follow-up to his 1989 debut novel, "A Time to Kill," in which attorney Jake Brigance (played by Matthew McConaughey in the film) takes on as a client his friend Carl Lee Hailey, a black man charged with the murder of two white men who'd raped his 10-year-old daughter. Now, we return the same courthouse in Grisham's fictional Ford County, Miss., as Jake is embroiled in the racially fraught case of a wealthy man who's hanged himself from a sycamore tree, leaving a handwritten will bequeathing most of his fortune not to his children--but to his black maid.
After he wrote "A Time to Kill," Grisham cited as an influence Scott Turow's classic 1987 novel, "Presumed Innocent," which established the legal thriller as one of fiction's most compelling genres. In a new, standalone novel, "Identical," Turow follows Greek-American identical twins Paul and Cass Giannis--the former a candidate for mayor, the latter newly released from a 25-year prison sentence for the murder of his girlfriend, Athena Kronon. There is no statute of limitations on suspicion and betrayal, and the Kronons are delving back into the murder case. Turow loosely based the book on the Greek myth of twins Castor and Pollux, one mortal and the other divine.
Michael Connelly joined John Grisham among the ranks of thriller authors whose protagonist lawyers have been portrayed onscreen by Matthew McConaughey in 2011 with "The Lincoln Lawyer," based on the first of Connelly's thrillers to feature attorney Mickey Haller. "The Gods of Guilt" picks up where "The Lincoln Lawyer" left off, with a prostitute Haller thought he'd rescued. But now he discovers she's been murdered, and it may have been Haller himself who put her into harm's way.
The world's favorite lusty, lustful secret agent has had a storied afterlife in the wake of the death of his creator, Ian Fleming, in 1964: We've had James Bond novels from celebrated authors including Kingsley Amis ("Colonel Sun," in 1968), John Gardner (16 novels, beginning with "License Renewed" in 1981), Sebastian Faulks ("Devil May Care," 2008) and Jeffery Deaver ("Carte Blanche," 2011). Now, award-winning author of "A Good Man in Africa" and "Any Human Heart" William Boyd has picked up the pen--or the martini shaker--of the 007 series in "Solo," in which Bond goes rogue on a self-appointed mission.
Men aren't the only ones pursuing passion with a "devil may care" attitude (if "Fifty Shades of Grey" has taught us anything). Elissa Wald's thriller is about identical twin sisters--one a sexually repressed defense attorney preparing for the toughest trial of her career, the other a former libertine living quietly in suburbia until she's hounded by a stalker. Written in the pulp fiction tradition but with an artist's eye for detail and propulsive storytelling, "The Secret Lives of Married Women" throws into question the boundaries of desire.
Lyndsay Faye caught the attention of thriller aficionados with her Edgar-nominated historical novel "The Gods of Gotham," about down-on-his-luck Timothy Wilde, who joins the brand-new NYPD in the 1840s. In the second book in Faye's Timothy Wilde trilogy, "Seven for a Secret," Wilde has proved himself an able cop, and he's horrified to learn of the powerful underground network of "blackbirders" who steal free black Northerners and sell them in the South as slaves.
Long before Walter White and "Breaking Bad," Tony Hillerman was the master of New Mexico thriller writing, with 18 detective novels in his Navajo tribal police series starring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, including "Skinwalkers" and "Coyote Waits." Five years after her father's death in 2008, Anne Hillerman has taken on the Leaphorn and Chee mantel with her first novel, "Spider Woman's Daughter." With his boss Leaphorn retired, Chee teams up with his wife--and new police partner--Bernadette, who witnessed a shooting at close range.