New Mysteries and Thrillers: Top Books to Read This Summer
It looks like a thrilling summer ahead for mystery fans: This season's blockbusters and new favorites include a pulp-fiction roller coaster ride by Stephen King and a steamy new series from Janet Evanovich, a bordello madam in East Africa and the (mostly) friendly ghost of Alfred Hitchcock, the return of a well-known Jackal and a debut ripped from the headlines about a suburban kidnapping. Don't get so caught up you forget your sunscreen!
Anyone who's read "It," Stephen King's classic horror novel starring the most terrifying clown ever created, will be familiar with King's enthusiasm for a carnival atmosphere. And while his latest thriller, "Joyland," does feature carnies, it's not Kingian horror but rather a hard-boiled crime thriller in the pulp tradition. In the summer of 1973, a newly heartbroken college student named Devin Jones comes to work at a North Carolina amusement park--and discovers clues to a vicious murder.
Jeffery Deaver's newest thriller, "The Kill Room," takes us on a trip to the Bahamas--but it's no vacation for Lincoln Rhyme, Deaver's star quadriplegic detective. An American citizen, Robert Moreno, is suspected of planning a terrorist attack and is executed at the behest of the U.S. government. When it looks like Moreno may have been innocent after all, Rhyme is called in to investigate while his partner (in more ways than one), Amelia Sachs, follows Moreno's trail in New York City.
After 23 bestselling novels starring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich is embarking on a new series with Lee Goldberg, writer for the TV show "Monk." "The Heist" introduces FBI Special Agent Kate O'Hare, who has spent years chasing international con man Nicholas Fox. Just when Kate thinks she's about to nab him, Fox outfoxes her by landing a job with the FBI--and now Kate and her charming quarry are partners in crime fighting.
2013 marks 10 years on the page for Odd Thomas, Dean Koontz's hero who sees dead people--and who has a sixth sense for the doors upon which death is about to knock. This time around, Odd has a vision of three innocent, soon-to-be victims of a killer, unless he can intervene. He has a little help from friends both living and dead, including one quite familiar with murder: the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock.
Koethi Zan's debut thriller, "The Never List," has a premise that will seem eerily familiar to those who've been following the Cleveland kidnapping case--a group of girls are held captive in a dungeon-like cellar: "There were four of us down there for the first 32 months and 11 days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn't made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, wondering which of us would be next in the box."
Before Stieg Larsson kicked off a craze for Scandinavian crime fiction, Henning Mankell was thrilling readers with his Swedish crime series starring hard-bitten Inspector Kurt Wallander. But Mankell's latest thriller, "A Treacherous Paradise," is a standalone that stars a different sort of protagonist: Hanna Renström is a Swedish expat who's become the owner of a bordello in Portuguese East Africa. Hanna navigates a treacherous path as a white woman in the African sex trade, contending with deeply entrenched beliefs about sex and race.
An under-the-radar favorite of thriller enthusiasts, Charlie Huston has dabbled in several genres: a series of nouveau noir novels, starting with "Caught Stealing," about an average Joe caught up in a mistaken identity; an urban vampire saga, beginning with "Already Dead"; a series of comic books for Marvel and several standalones that don't fit easily into a category. His new novel, "Skinner," is another departure. The title character is a brutal sort of super-bodyguard trained by the CIA, who's become so scarily effective that his handlers are desperate to have him tossed from the organization.
Formerly the head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan D.A.'s office for 26 years, Linda Fairstein has had a colorful career in the courts and on the page: She prosecuted the high-profile "Central Park Jogger" case in 1990; she was a media consultant during the 2004 molestation suit brought against Michael Jackson; and recently she weighed in on the upcoming Amanda Knox trial. Also a bestselling thriller writer, in her newest novel, "Death Angel," Fairstein returns to New York's Central Park, sending her heroine, Assistant D.A. Alex Cooper, after a serial killer before yet another young woman turns up dead.
Benjamin Black, the pen name that Booker Prize–winning author of "The Sea" John Banville has used for a series of thrillers since 2006's "Christine Falls," has returned with a new installment. In "Holy Orders," Black's hero Quirke, a pathologist in the Dublin city morgue who's "more at ease among the cold silent slabs than the company of his fellow men," follows clues from his autopsy table that lead him to discover an unholy alliance of church and state. And in 1950s Dublin, Black is risking it all in crossing the Catholic Church.
There's a lot of killing, naturally, on this year's roundup of summer thrillers. And we'd be remiss to omit the killer pen strokes of a master of the genre, "The Day of the Jackal" author Frederick Forsyth. In "The Kill List," Forsyth introduces a harrowing villain, called The Preacher, who radicalizes young Muslims abroad and compels them to carry out assassinations. Meanwhile, a shadowy American organization called Technical Operations Support Activity keeps a "kill list" of deadly enemies of the U.S. Each side, of course, is keenly interested in the other.