Thriller/Suspense

FRICTION by Sandra Brown

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The minute Judge Spencer starts asking about his past, Crawford knows he’s lost.  His in-laws will keep custody of Georgia, and his sweet little girl will only see him on weekends.  A split second later, a masked gunman enters the courtroom, kills the bailiff, and aims for the judge.  Crawford’s Texas Ranger instincts kick in.  He tackles Holly Spencer to the ground, shielding her bodily, and kicks out at the gunman, who flees the scene.  Crawford follows.  After a rooftop shootout, the man with the gun is killed, but no motive can be found.  And Crawford’s reckless pursuit has likely sealed the fate of his custody case.  But when Crawford  goes to Holly’s house to check in on her, things take an unexpected turn as their mutual attraction leads to one amorous encounter after another.  Their relationship gets more complicated as Crawford becomes a suspect in the shooting–and it turns out that Holly might not have been the target after all.

This fast-paced romantic suspense novel is marred only slightly by the stereotypical tall-dark-handsome male lead.  But his love for his daughter rounds out his character a bit, and the compelling female protagonist makes the relationship more engaging.  The sex-at-first-sight is a little ridiculous, but it is not atypical for the genre.  Overall, a fun read for romantic suspense fans!

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins

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Rachel’s life fell apart before the divorce, really.  It was the drinking.  If she hadn’t been such a drunk would Tom have taken up with Anna?  Maybe he wouldn’t have kicked Rachel out and taken his new wife and child into the house that used to be hers, the house she still passes every day on the train to London.  To distract herself from looking at the home that used to be hers, Rachel focuses on a couple a few houses down who seem to be perfectly in love.  She makes up stories about their perfect life together.  But one day, she sees something that makes her wonder if their lives are so perfect after all.  And the next morning, Rachel wakes bruised and bloody with no memory of the previous night except a vague certainty that she went to her old neighborhood.  Even worse, she discovers that the woman she has been watching disappeared that same night.  Despite warnings from the police, Rachel cannot help but begin her own investigation, trying to recover the memories of what she saw–or did.

This excellent thriller will soon be a film.  Through the perspectives of the three main female characters, the mystery slowly unfolds with enough foreshadowing to allow readers to gradually solve it themselves and enough complications to make them second guess every one of their inferences.  Even once my suspicions of what had happened to Megan were proven correct in the final chapters, I still wasn’t sure how it would end.  Well-crafted, full of deeply flawed and suspicious characters, and impossible to put down, this is a must-read for thriller lovers.

ICE CHEST by J.D. Rhoades

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Lingerie shows aren’t generally of interest to career thieves like Rafe and L.B.  But then lingerie shows rarely feature jewel encrusted bras worth $5 million.  Better yet, Rafe’s nephew Branson works at the hotel where the show will take place and the kid needs money badly enough that he’ll be glad to join the team.  Unfortunately, the plan isn’t quite as foolproof as they thought and Branson finds himself being chased down by a team of security guards and the mobster ex-boyfriend of a lingerie model while Rafe and L.B. try to turn their mishaps into millions.  

Don’t expect anything too deep from this plot – driven thriller.  A cast of fairly flat characters tumble together in a fast-paced, humorous adventure story that is an entertaining, light read.

ODD THOMAS by Dean Koontz

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Odd can’t help it that the dead communicate with him.  They sense that he can see them, and often they tell him the stories of their deaths–which, for those spirits restless enough to stick around, were usually untimely and unpleasant. Odd is not a cop, and he has no desire to be. He is nothing more than the best short order cook in Pico Mundo. But sometimes he can’t help getting involved with apprehending a murderer or preventing a future crime. His gift just won’t allow it. And when a suspicious man comes to the diner surrounded by the shadowy spirits that usually gawk at mass-murder, Odd knows it is up to him to prevent an unthinkable tragedy, despite the warnings that his involvement may lead him down a path of incredible suffering.

Wow, was this novel great! It starts with a quick case to get you hooked and then moves into the slow-moving but incredibly suspenseful main plot. Do not mistake “slow-moving” for a negative qualifier. Odd is an unreliable narrator. He admits at the beginning that he is leaving out major details for the sake of the story. When he deviates from the main plot into quirky asides about particular ghosts, characters, the town, or himself, he both deepens the incredible character development and ramps up the suspense. In this case, the slow-broil is brilliant and ultimately very satisfying when so many little details come together in the end. And I have never read an adult mystery/thriller series with this level of character development. This is a new favorite for me!

I highly recommend the audiobook!

SOUTHTOWN by Rick Riordan

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He planned the jailbreak for months. Some of his associates were less than perfect, but he could always get rid of them on the outside. Once Will Stirman escaped, he would have only one thing on his mind: revenge. The private detectives responsible for putting him in jail will pay for his imprisonment and for the innocent lives that their treachery took.

PI Tres Navarre knows his boss is keeping something from him. Ever since Erainya heard the news about the infamous human trafficker’s escape from prison, she had been on edge.  She had even contacted her bitter rival Sam Barrera to arrange a meeting, though she won’t explain why. Tres knows the only way to get to the truth is to find out what really happened when the human trafficking ring was busted eight years ago. But the case reaches a new level of urgency when Stirman threatens Erainya’s son.

This fast-paced mystery/thriller is part of Riordan’s Tres Navarre series. The story is marked with interesting characters, but it is the plot that keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end. The book is short and the story moves quickly. Riordan gives enough clues for the reader to puzzle out the mystery along with (or possibly before) the detectives. The stakes are high for both the detectives and the criminal, and there is enough blame on both sides to make the story morally intriguing. I would recommend this book to adult readers who enjoy thrillers and fast-paced mysteries.

YOU BELONG TO ME by Karen Rose

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When Lucy first sees the body slumped over the table at the park, she is sure that it is her former music teacher, Mr. Pugh.  After all, he is wearing Mr. Pugh’s clothes and sitting where Mr. Pugh always sits.  But the initial shock of thinking her mentor is injured is immediately overwhelmed by two more horrifying discoveries: first, the body is horribly mutilated—face and teeth pulverized, fingers sliced off, bones shattered and heart cut out—and second, it is not Mr. Pugh after all; the killer clearly dressed the body and left it for Lucy to find, to torture her emotionally.  Being a police Medical Examiner, death doesn’t usually phase Lucy, but as the gruesome bodies begin to stack up—and all in places where Lucy is sure to find them—it becomes apparent that this killer is targeting Lucy as he executes people from her hometown.  Detective J.D. Fitzpatrick is determined to catch the ruthless killer and to keep Lucy safe, but as their professional relationship blossoms toward romance, J.D. realizes that Lucy has a lot of secrets, and their only hope to solving the case might be to delve into her past.

This book kept me reading through to the very end!  In addition to the main plot with Lucy and J.D., concurrent plot lines give you glimpses of the serial killer and the PIs who unwittingly helped him change his identity—all of which just ramps up the intensity.  Although you know the serial killer’s main motivation from the start, readers have to put the puzzle together to figure out how Lucy fits in and how the killer is able to track her every move.  And the relationship between Lucy and J.D. throws in a bit of romance.  I would recommend this book to readers who like a fast-paced mysteries, thrillers, and/or romantic suspense.

BORN TO DARKNESS by Suzanne Brockmann

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Mac and her Obermeyer Institute colleagues aren’t sure what to expect when they begin their mission to take down and contain the latest Destiny user.  The drug enables its users to integrate their brain function at a much higher level than the average 10%, which could give them any number of superhuman abilities, including flying, telepathy, and in this case deflecting bullets. Mac and her colleagues (all of whom have integration levels of 50% and above without chemical enhancement) are finally able to take him down, but not before Mac injures breaks her ankle.  Stopping at a bar on her way home, however, she meets a former Navy SEAL, Shane Laughlin, and discovers that just by touching him, her powers to heal increase.  And their night of sex does wonders.  Thinking she can leave it as a one-night-stand, Mac is dismayed when Shane shows up at the Obermeyer Institute the next day—identified as a “potential” for high integration himself.  Though she fears where a relationship with Shane could lead, a little enhancement may come in handy when an opportunity arises to take down the merciless criminal organization that manufactures Destiny by abducting and torturing gifted teen girls and draining their blood.

I loved this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller!  The science of the sci-fi isn’t fully realized (and the directer of the OI is totally a rip-off of Professor X), but it is a cool concept.  There is lots of graphic sexual content, so if that’s something you like to avoid, this is not the book for you.  But if you like sci-fi thrillers with a bit of romance, this was an exciting one!