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What a Thrill(er)! March 1, 2013

Posted by stacey in Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Thrillers.
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Are you ready for a list of books that are fast paced, have twisty plots, and make your heart beat a little faster? Then you’ll love what’s coming! Our latest discussion featured books that fit into the suspense/thriller category and are meant to appeal to a reader’s feeling of uneasiness and build tension until the villain is defeated by the hero(ine). Sounds pretty exciting, right? Well, you’re about to find out if everyone was thrilled with their selection:

Ann: Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry is a first novel filled with heart-stopping suspense and a touch of gothic intrigue. When Troy Chance jumps into the water from the ferry she’s riding, she is not 100% sure that she saw someone fall from the ferry boat traveling in the opposite direction. But in the cold waters of Lake Champlain she finds a little boy and drags him to safety. It’s when they finally reach the shoreline and sit together sopping wet, and the boy utters his first word, “Merci,” that the reader is hooked. Sara J. Henry is a great new voice in the mystery-suspense genre, and this book is the Winner of the 2012 Anthony Award for best first novel, 2012 Agatha Award for best first novel, and the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award. It was also nominated for the Barry Award and Macavity Award. I loved this book!

Carol: In A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller, Bell Elkins grew up in the shadow of the mountain in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia, where one violent night ended her childhood and destroyed her family, leaving Bell to bounce from one bad foster home to the next. She escaped as a married young woman, and went to law school, but couldn’t handle life in busy Washington D.C. with her charming by straying husband, Sam, a lobbyist’s attorney. Drawn to return to home to make a difference after her marriage falls apart, Bell and her daughter Carla moved back to Acker’s Gap and now, Bell is Raythune county’s no-nonsense prosecuting attorney–determined to drive out the rampant prescription drug peddlers in town. When Carla becomes a witness to a violent triple murder, however, will their sleepy town ever feel safe again? Why were these men killed? Was it random? Drug related? An already sullen teen, Carla is shocked and horrified by what she saw, but, too tough to admit it, she puts herself in jeopardy to help her mother do her job. With its wonderfully flawed characters, a atmospherically painted West Virginia, and plenty of white knuckled moments, this first novel will keep your eyes glued to the pages. By the time they reach the book’s impossible to guess ending, readers will look forward to returning to Acker’s Gap.

Chris: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn opens on Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, unfortunately the Mrs. is missing. What happened? You could turn to the back of the book for the jaw-dropping ending, but then you’d miss out on a scary tale written in a unique way: the first half of the book is told in the first person, alternately by both Nick and Amy. Amy’s perspective is told in the past through journal entries; Nick’s is told in the present tense. Of course–there are two sides to every story. Can’t talk about the rest of the book without giving away the ending. Let’s just say that another possible title for this book could be Love Is Strange, Very Strange.

Emma: The portrait of Mrs. Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford takes place in New York City in 1893. The city is under attack by a parasite that eats “the soft tissue of the eye”. Victims weep blood and eventually die. The majority of the novel however involves Piambo. Artist Piambo is offered the chance to paint a portrait of the mysterious Mrs. Charbuque. Her generous commission will be tripled if she is pleased with the painting. Piambo has a month to complete the project but must paint without ever seeing her. Mrs. Charbuque will sit behind a screen while Piambo spends one hour a day talking with her. Mrs. Charbuque is very different with multiple personalities and psychic abilities. The painting is finished but nothing bodes well for Mrs. Charbuque. According to reviews, the novel is smart, spellbinding, and a literary thriller standout.

Maureen: In the latest novel by Dutch writer Herman Koch, The Dinner, Paul and wife Claire meet Paul’s brother Serge and his wife Babette in a trendy Amsterdam restaurant with the intent of discussing a serious family matter involving both couples’ children. As the dinner slowly progresses from course to course, family histories are revealed through flashbacks, bringing to light each character’s true colors. The plotting is slow and deliberate but is absolutely perfect for building the almost impossible-to-endure suspense that builds as the reader finally discovers just what the teenage boys have been involved in and what the parents are going to do to resolve the situation. Told by narrator Paul, the subject matter is dark, the characters are flawed, and the resulting book is riveting psychological suspense. Not to be missed!

Megan: And She Was by Alison Gaylin introduces readers to Brenna Spector, a private investigator with a rare neurological condition that is both a blessing and a curse in her line of work. Triggered by the trauma of her sister’s disappearance, Brenna developed Hyperthymestic Syndrome, which allows her to have perfect recall. Now she puts her skills to use searching for missing people. Her current case appears to be tied to a cold case involving a missing child. Could the disappearance of Carol Wentz may finally lead police to the missing Iris Neff? This quietly suspenseful mystery will slowly draw readers in and then hit them with a shocking end.

Rosemary: The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter is the newest in the Bob Lee Swagger series. It is a fascinating recreation of the events leading up to and following the assassination of JFK. Hunter focuses on the question of just what part Lee Harvey Oswald played in the tragedy and how Oswald might have been used by other, even more dangerous men. Vietnam veteran Bob Lee Swagger is a very appealing hero and when he sets his mind to figuring out the JFK question, no one should even think about getting in his way.

Dori: In Ghostman, by John Hobbs, ‘Jack’ is called in to clean up the mess after an Atlantic City casino robbery has gone all wrong. Jack is a ‘Ghostman’, a criminal’s criminal; he lives off the grid, moving constantly, changing names and identities. Owing a debt to Marcus, the organizer of the casino heist, because he botched a Malaysian bank robbery five years ago, he flies into Atlantic City with 48 hours to find the stolen money before it blows up. Action-packed, technically detailed, unpredictable, and gritty, Ghostman is one gripping thriller.

Steve: Timeline by Michael Crichton, is a mix of sci-fi, history and all thriller, that divides its time between contemporary New Mexico, and 1300’s France. The secretive company, ITC, headquartered in New Mexico, has pioneered a way to transport humans back in time. ITC also sponsors an archaeological dig in France. The leader of the dig, Professor Edward Johnston, is sent back in time and goes missing. Four researchers from his team are then called upon to go back to 1357 France to bring back their professor. Fast-paced and with lots of plot twists, this is well worth reading.

Stacey: Defensive Wounds by Lisa Black has plenty of suspenseful elements and lots of police procedural details, but it’s the Cleveland setting that made this book really special. Theresa MacLean is a forensic investigator for the city’s police department and is called into investigate the murder of local leading defense lawyer, Marie Corrigan. No one seems very sorry that Marie’s been killed, especially anyone on the force, but there’s a strange lack of suspects or motives for murder.

Next time? We’ll be selecting books we call gentle reads. These books tend to focus on the everyday joys, frustrations, and sorrows of ordinary people living in tight-knit, recognizable communities. Usually centered on a particular group of friends with a common interest, their story are told without the extreme highs and lows found in other genres making them…. ta-dah!… a gentle read. (See how neatly these things can come together sometimes?) Enjoy!

— Stacey

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