The Monster Librarian Presents:
Reviews of Thriller and Crime Noir Novels
Books involving human beings as the source of terror can be some of the most terrifying around. Whether you believe it reveals that darkness of the reader's soul or the causes the reader to question the people around them. Many of these books are going to be too intense for young readers and should be recommended with caution when recommended in readers advisory.
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by Allan Watson*New Review
Candy Séance, 2009
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition
One, two, three, four… that exciting count down to a band’s
song. Twenty years ago, Ewan Wallace was lead singer in a Scottish band with a
small but rabid following, including a teenage Polish girl. Now, working for a
Glasgow radio station, Ewan begins to receive threatening letters from that
affronted fan, Karina Maciek, who has remade herself into a superhuman monster,
plotting her revenge for an obsession gone wrong. Ewan’s job producing the
station’s art program is a platform for introducing an abundance of colorful
characters, such as the Wolfman (an American werewolf), and Alamo, an artist in
demand for his portraits of female clients’ private parts. Nothing is going
right for Ewan-- his wife is having an affair with the postman, some thugs at
the office rough him up, and a poltergeist scrawls messages in the steam on his
bathroom mirror. Now he must round up his former band mates for a performance to
appease the wrath of the evil Karina. A fast-paced mix of adventure, humor, the
supernatural, and a palm-sweating ending make this a can’t-put-it-down
thriller.. Highly recommended.
Contains: Sex, violence, supernatural, strong language
Reviewed by Julie Adams
All Things Slip Away by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Thomas & Mercer, 2005
Available: Hardback, Paperback, eBook(Kindle)
Frank Lester retired from the Chicago police force with one case unsolved: a serial kidnapper and killer who left small rough clay sculptures of the victims to mark targets. None of the victims were ever found. The press dubbed the villain The Mud People Killer. A shootout between the killer and Frank one winter's night left the killer wounded— mortally, Frank hoped. There was no sign of a body but there were also no more kidnappings or Mud People sculptures.
After Frank retires, he returns to his hometown, Spooky, and becomes a writer. He meets and connects with local artist Abigail Sutton. But while he may have have forgotten his old case, the Mud People Killer has not forgotten Frank.
All Things Slip Away is the sequel to the title Scraps of Paper. If you liked the first volume you'll like this one too. The author continues the story of the characters’ lives, picking up about a year after the end of Scraps of Paper. The author did a great job of weaving in just enough references to the past to build the mystery and keep it interesting. The characters’ voices ring true to the original work and the development of their relationships was good to see. The plot line was well thought out and kept me guessing what would happen next. The story flowed well, and kept the mystery going. The antagonist was very well-developed and made me cringe as his mind and motives were gradually revealed. The tone worked well, and kept the tension growing until the end. All Things Slip Away is a good sequel and worth reading. Other works by this author I have read are: Scraps of Paper and Human No Longer.
Recommended for adult readers.
Reviewed By: Aaron Fletcher
Age of Blood: A SEAL Team 666 Novel by Weston Ochse
Thomas Dunne Books, 2012
SEAL Team 666 returns in Age of Blood. When an influential senator's daughter is taken by a sea monster, the team is given the task of investigating the disappearance, and reclaiming her if they can. The mission brings the team to Mexico where they are caught in a web involving drug cartels and diabolical supernatural forces. This time around, the team has a new member, which allows Jack Walker the enjoyment of no longer being the new guy on the squad. When the training for the team involves hand to hand combat with zombies, the new member, Shonn Yankowski, realizes he is being thrust in a new world.
Age of Blood builds upon the world Ochse introduced us to in the first book. Ochse offers up great detail on the military equipment, and while some of the supernatural creatures from the first book make an appearance, there are new forms of evil awaiting the team. The action starts fast and it doesn’t let up, yet Ochse continues to develop his characters. All of the attributes that made Seal Team 666 a great gateway book between readers of military thrillers, urban fantasy, and horror are found in Age of Blood. Ochse is a gifted storyteller who has written a wide variety of both short stories and novels. While the SEAL Team books are a great gateway between different genres, they also serve as a great showcase for his writing. Very highly recommended, it is a must have title for libraries.
It should be noted that SEALTeam 666 has been optioned for a movie, which will provide an excellent opportunity for libraries to showcase their supernatural and military thrillers.
Review by The Monster Librarian
Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
Thomas & Mercer, 2013
Available: Paperback and Kindle
Every once in awhile a book arrives that is truly different, a thriller surrounded by a concept that intrigues with a cross-genre appeal. Brilliance paints a bleak picture of our world, just a few years into our future. This story is already in development in the cinematic forum Sakey envisioned.
Agent Nick Cooper is good at his job-- much better than the average man. That's because he's much more than average. In 1986, children began being born with special gifts. They're not superheroes; maybe they're just a small step up on the evolutionary ladder. These individuals, first identified as “brilliants”, are now referred to as “abnorms” Nick is an abnorm, with the ability to instinctively read people and situations, and his job is to track down and kill abnorm terrorists. He is chasing a man who predicted stock market movements that ended up shutting doing the New York Stock Exchange, and the "Girl Who Walks Through Walls," a woman who mysteriously and consistently escapes detection, and works with "John Smith". Smith is the self-appointed leader of the abnorms, and mastermind of the war against abnorms. He is also Nick’s target.
Children deemed "abnorms" find themselves in institutions akin to internment camps, and are trained brutally for a future which may remove much of their humanity. When Nick's own daughter is marked as a "brilliant," he does the only the thing he can do to save her-- he goes undercover, tracked by his own agency, in the hope that he can find the one man who can help him-- or more likely, kill him. Marcus Sakey has created a thriller that will likely, and should, wind up on best-seller lists this summer. This story is already in development in the cinematic forum he envisioned. Highly recommended.
Review by David Simms
The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido, translated by Thomas Bunstead
Amazon Crossing, 2013
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition
The Corpse Reader is a historical murder mystery set in thirteenth-century China, inspired by the life of the world's first forensic-science expert, Ci Song. The story begins as he starts his adult life studying to be a judge, at the hands of his highly respected mentor, Judge Feng. Their methods are controversial; they follow the ways of science rather than using the traditional methods of art and magic to solve crimes.
Ci's life takes a turn for the worse when his brother is found guilty of murder by Judge Feng. Not wanting to dishonor Judge Feng, Ci leaves his mentor. After a mysterious explosion destroys his home and kills his family, Ci finds himself thrown into life on the streets. This leads to an adventure involving the Emperor himself, that will allow Ci to achieve his dreams, reveal the truth, and restore honor to his family name.
The Corpse Reader has a slow start, with the plot meandering a bit until about page 200, but from there, the tension builds much more noticeably, and it doesn't let up until the final words. The plot line is extremely intricate and reaches back to the beginning to tie everything together. The characters had enough identity to make it easy to keep track of the variety of voices. The descriptions of the setting of thirteenth-century China were quite good and gave me a strong sense of place. Particularly excellent were the descriptions of the investigative scenes and the reveal at the end. My only real criticism is that sometimes, especially in the earlier, slower parts, the story is a bit description heavy. I would have preferred to have more of the description slipped in as dialogue, which would have also allowed the author to pick up the pace. However, that is a minor flaw in this well-written mystery. Recommended for adult readers.
Contains: Sexual Situations
Reviewed by: Aaron Fletcher
Femme by Bill Pronzini
Cemetery Dance Publications, 2012
Mr. Pronzini shows his command of the genre with this case file of the Nameless Detective series. Femme is a great novella and follows the classic lines of “femme fatale” stories. The tale starts with a definition and exploration of the Femme Fatale in fiction and real life. The Nameless Detective meets Cory Beckett, who hires him to find her brother, Kenneth Beckett. Kenneth skipped town to escape prosecution on a charge of grand theft of a diamond necklace worth $20,000. The stage is set, as, little by little, the evil known as Cory Beckett is revealed. She is willing to use anyone, and any means necessary, to get what she wants.
The author grabs your attention at the start and never lets go. This is a hard-boiled story of manipulation, and the dark side of the “weaker sex.” The tone is set at the start, and is maintained to the very last word. The plot is tight, the prose is rock solid, and the tension builds as more and more story is revealed. All these elements work together to create a classic. I have previously read Kinsmen by this author. I really enjoyed reading Femme and look forward to more of this series. Recommended for adult readers.
Contains: Incest, Sexual situations, Sexual descriptions
Reviewed by: Aaron Fletcher
Freak by Jennifer Hillier
Gallery Books, 2012
Available: Hardcover and Kindle
Freak is the follow-up novel to Jennifer Hillier's first published novel, Creep. Unlike the first novel where Ethan Wolfe stalks his professor, Sheila Tao, Freak contains a serial killer who is knocking off expensive call girls and carving a special message into their backs. Several characters return in this sequel, but naming some of them might give away some important key plot elements from Creep.
Not all sequels live up to the first books in a series, but Freak definitely does. It's as good, if not better, than its predecessor. This novel follows the events in the first book, but could be read as a stand-alone if so desired. Hillier does a good job of filling the reader in on some of the back story from Creep, without spoiling all of the surprises. Additionally, Hillier doesn't bore fans of the first book by repeating too many things that they already know. I read these books four months apart and found the reminders from Creep very helpful. The events that occur throughout Freak keep the reader guessing--Hillier does a fine job of twisting events and making you guess one thing right before something else major happens and you realize how wrong your guess was. As I said in my review of Creep, Hillier may be new to the publishing scene, but this woman knows how to write! She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I just wish her books were coming out faster. Highly recommended!
Contains: adult language, adult situations, violence, mutilation
Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson
Holmes: Revenant by William Meikle
Dark Regions Press, 2011
Available: Paperback and Kindle editions
Sherlock Holmes: Revenant is a real treat for fans of the famed
detective. Author William Meikle easily cloaks himself in the verbiage of Conan
Doyle and effortlessly brings Holmes and Watson to life on the page, capturing
the essence of the characters. As a supernatural thriller, Revenant
succeeds on every level. This novella is a most welcome addition to the occult
detective genre, as Meikle understands the mechanics of telling a good story,
and he stays true to his pulp roots.
Reviewed by: Bob Freeman
SEAL Team 666 by Weston Ochse
Thomas Dunne Books, 2012
The members of SEAL Team 666 live in a world where daemons, homunculi, and other creatures of lore exist, and are threats to the security of the United States. The job of SEAL Team 666 is to face when these paranormal dangers when they arise. The team is the best of the best, with the knowledge and skills in dispatching supernatural monstrosities. SEAL cadet Jack Walker is pulled out of his normal SEAL training and finds himself immediately thrown into a world of supernatural warfare. Jack has been assigned to SEAL Team 666 because of a past event in his life, which will either make him an asset to his teammates or a dangerous liability.
SEAL Team 666 is an excellent gateway book. Ochse provides enough well thought out detail of military weaponry and equipment enough to satisfy the most ardent Tom Clancy fan, and yet has enough supernatural creatures to attract those who enjoy horror and urban fantasy. Ochse’s pacing is fast, and gives the reader a real sense of Walker’s experience of being thrown into an operation, and quickly getting whisked away on mission after mission, with very little downtime between them. It is worthwhile noting that SEAL Team 666 stands apart from other supernatural thrillers and urban fantasy titles. While the SEALs are battling supernatural creatures, the members of the SEAL team are all humans, without any paranormal powers, succeeding instead with rather impressive fire power and equipment. As a result, the book will appeal not just to lovers of supernatural thrillers, but to readers of military fiction, and to some readers of urban fantasy and horror fiction as well.
SEAL Team 666 has the feel of a first book in a series. While it works fine as a standalone book, Ochse does enough world building and character introduction with the members of SEAL Team 666 that readers will be looking forward to more. This is the type of book that you can display with military thrillers on one side and supernatural on the other and have it bridge the two quite well Highly recommended.
Review by Dylan Kowalewski
Nocturnal by Scott
Available: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle ebook
Scott Sigler has come a long way from his podcasting days, when he used to serialize his stories (and novels) for a rabid fanbase - for free. He still does this, but since he started out, he has also become a blockbuster novelist. From the science fictional alien invasion in Infected and Contagious to the bio-thriller Ancestor (a reworking of a previous podcast sensation), he has mastered the science-action-horror-thriller. Imagine that Michael Crichton had merged DNA with Stephen King or David Morrell, and you might have a good idea of how this man writes and entrances his audience.
In Nocturnal, Sigler gives us an urban nightmare. San Francisco is home to multiple gruesome murders, with a sick twist no one can decipher. Detectives Bryan Clauser and "Pookie" Chang want to take the case but are deterred, repeatedly, without reason. Bryan has an anger issue and a reputation for killing the criminals he tracks down, while his rotund partner would rather develop a television show and reap the female rewards.
Rex is a teenager who knows the effects of bullying too well and draws the revenge he wishes to inflict on those who wrong him. Soon, his drawings come true. Bryan dreams similar visions, ones which come true.
What ensues is a thriller bordering on sci-fi horror that may remind many of a Preston & Child novel but one that has its own identity. Sigler's characters carry the story, especially the subterranean ones who wish to fulfill their own destiny.
The writing is strong and cinematic. Sigler keeps the science in layman's terms without dumbing down the concepts. Nocturnal delivers, just as expected.
Nocturnal is another winner from a writer who will likely see his vision on the big screen sometime soon. Sigler has yet to disappoint.
Reviewed by: Dave Simms
Creep by Jennifer Hillier
Gallery Books, 2011
Available: Hardcover and Kindle ebook
Newly engaged professor Sheila Tao is looking to end the three-month long affair she has been having with her student/assistant, Ethan Wolfe. Problem is… Ethan has grown more attached to his professor than she realizes, and he starts stalking her. Ethan goes out of his way to learn as much as he can about Sheila’s fiancé, Morris, in order to find out what she truly sees in him, and also digs into some of Sheila’s deepest secrets, ones she has even kept from Morris. With the information he collects, he sets out to stop their wedding, no matter what it takes.
Jennifer Hillier strikes it big with this first book in a new series. The reader follows Ethan’s thoughts and movements, as he stops at nothing to keep Sheila for himself. Hillier weaves a vicious web of twists and turns, leaving the reader unsure up to the bitter end of how things are going to turn out for both Ethan and Sheila. This novel kept me turning page after page wanting to know the final outcome, and at the end I was already eagerly awaiting the sequel, Freak (due out in August 2012). I would recommend Creep to any fans of psychological thrillers or mysteries. Jennifer Hillier may be new on the publishing scene, but she’s far from being an amateur. Even if you don’t try any other new authors this year, at least check out Jennifer Hillier! Highly recommended for public libraries.
Contains: Sexual situations, adult language, adult situations, violence
Reviewed by Rhonda Wilson
by Thomas Enger
Altria Books, 2011
Available: Paperback, Kindle ebook
Burned is the first book in a series by Norwegian author Thomas Enger about his crime journalist hero, Henrik Juul (yool). Henrik works for a very popular newsmagazine. He had a very good life, even a wife and a child, until a fire killed his son, melted his face, and ended his marriage. In Burned, we meet Henrik as he is ready to start working again after 10 months of therapy and rehab, and his first story is a doozy. A young film student is found dead, stoned to death in a seemingly in a “Middle-Eastern” fashion, While her Arab boyfriend is thought to be responsible, the truth is far more strange and horrifying.
Henrik is a very interesting character, and he feels much more approachable than someone like Mikael Blomqvist (see The Millennium Trilogy). Norway is a very unusual place, in that it’s very easy to go all over it in a car in a day or so. Many conversations have people talking about all sorts of parts of Norway that should be far away from each other but each are pretty close by car and ferry. This is a fantastic book, and when it ends, you’re entirely ready for the next book, and the setup for that novel is just fantastic. This book is highly recommended for fans of true crime, mystery, suspense, and light horror, and for public library collections.
Contains: profanity, gruesome imagery, adult situations.
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
The Summoner: A Novel of Suspense
by Layton Green
First Ward Trade Paperback,2011
Available: New and digital
When an ancient Nigerian religious ceremony makes a U.S. diplomat and other natives disappear before hundreds of witnesses in Harare, Zimbabwe, Dominic Grey is called to find out what really happened. Teamed with Nya Mashumba of the Zimbabwe Embassy, Grey follows a path through Yoruba rituals and encounter mysterious characters that each have their own motivation for "helping". Everything points to the supernatural powers of one man, N'anga of the JuJu religion, who summons demons, and possibly the devil himself. Grey and Nya witness his abilities firsthand, raising more questions about this man and why he has come to Zimbabwe to wreak havoc. Both have to put their own beliefs to the test in order to reach the end of this twisted maze.
The Summoner moves deftly through its storyline with barely any downtime or slowness. Green does an excellent job of setting the mood and scene in Harare to almost drag the reader along this journey to find out the truth without revealing any major plot elements too soon. Thriller readers will be pleased to discover this gem of a novel that expertly keeps them on their toes guessing until the very end how the tale will conclude. The Summoner will be a welcomed addition to any public library’s adult thriller collection.
Contains: minor violence, language
Reviewed by: Mason Fann
Red Wolf by Liza Markland
Washington Square Press; Reprint edition, 2011
Annika is a newspaper reporter in Sweden doing a series on terrorism, basing her research on an airfield base attack in northern Switzerland during the 1960s. Annika’s research puts her in touch with another reporter in the small town in which the attack took place. However, when she goes to see this newfound contact for more details, she arrives to find he has been murdered. By investigating deeper into both events, Annika discovers they are related not only to each other, but also to many more deaths and political events, including the current Swedish administration. Along the way she is led to the prime suspect in the airfield attacks, who is also believed to be active in other terroristic acts… but is he really the one responsible?
Liza Markland’s writing style can be difficult to follow, as there are numerous subplots happening within the storyline. Additionally, the language feels disjointed and awkward, with descriptive statements leaving the reader wondering what exactly the author was trying to convey. The heart of the story is good, but finding it can be problematic.
Recommended for public library mystery/thriller collections.
Contains: mild violence
Reviewed by: Mason Fann
The Burning Soul by John Connolly
Atria Books; First American Edition edition, 2011
Anna Kore, a young girl from Pastor’s Bay, Maine has gone missing and now Randall Haight is worried he’ll be implicated in the crime. He’s worried for a good reason: Randall served eighteen years in prison for the murder of a young girl when he was only fourteen years old, and someone knows all about it. Randall has been receiving anonymous pictures of the exact location where he committed his murder and feeling the pressure to clear his name, he hires detective Charlie Parker to find the culprit that seems to be stalking him and possibly find the kidnapper at the same time.
Connolly continues to write in his suspense mixed with the paranormal that avid fans have come to know and love. His style is reminiscent of Stephen King or Dean Koontz, which makes him an accessible choice for horror fans that are driven to story lines and plots with strong character development. Libraries would do well to have the Charlie Parker character series on their shelves as the fan base is wide and they will be looking for the latest release.
Recommended for public library mystery/thriller collections.
Contains: mild violence and language
Reviewed by: Kelly Fann
Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger
Atria Books; First Edition edition, 2011
In the midst of a family vacation, a massive storm strikes, and Cork O’Connor and his oldest daughter Jenny find themselves separated from the rest of the group, stranded on an island on the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. After seeking refuge on the island from the storm, Jenny discovers a woman’s body, tortured and murdered, left in a shack, with a crying baby hidden outside underneath tree limbs and other debris. In an effort to uncover the truth, Krueger allows Northwest Angle to explore morality, spirituality, faith, and good versus evil. Northwest Angle is the eleventh book of a character series featuring Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor, a former county sheriff who is half Native American of the Ojibwa tribe.
True to Krueger’s style, Northwest Angle moves at a pretty quick pace with well-formulated characters and settings and plenty of suspense. As with his other Cork O’Connor books, Krueger invokes Native American folklore in his mysteries, which provides an air of the supernatural. The ending rushes a bit too quickly as Krueger attempts put all his characters into position for the conclusion, but the story still ends well.
Like Krueger’s other novels, Northwest Angle stands alone within the series and it is not necessary to have read the previous ten works, nor is it necessary to read Krueger’s novels in order. This is my second Krueger novel to review for MonsterLibrarian, but after the first I became a steadfast avid fan and Northwest Angle does not disappoint.
Recommended for an adult public library fiction/thriller collection.
Contains: mild language
Reviewed by: Mason Fann
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Atria Books, 2011
Available: Hardback and Kindle
Richard Doetsch has carved out a neat niche for himself in the world of thrillers. Not quite horror, more than simple thriller, he pens stories which deftly cull from the best of several genres without seeming to do so by design. Story is what propels each novel, through the eyes of characters who stick with the reader.
Jack Keeler wakes up believing it to be just another day as district attorney. His wife has left for her job at the FBI, leaving her Jeep on empty as always, and their two daughters away at the grandparents.Then he looks in the mirror. Bruises and cuts adorn his face, but it's the hole in his shoulder which steals his attention. It's been stitched, but there's another strange change to his body - a tattoo on his forearm written in unintelligible language.
When he looks at the newspaper, he sees the headline: District Attorney Jack Keeler Dead. According to the article, their car careened off the bridge and their bodies have yet to be found. Within minutes, he realizes his wife, Mia, has been kidnapped.
And off they go, Jack and Doetsch, on an adventure which twists and turns through loyalty and betrayal, staid government types and ancient Asian religion. The supernatural lingers and creeps through the periphery but never changes the focus or pace of the story. The reader bounces through the ever tightening noose with Jack as he struggles to hold on to hope through increasing pain and loss. The terrorist he faces, Cristos,is human and believable. Mysticism surrounds him and death eludes him, but he still breathes a three dimensional evil onto the pages. Reality is the only thing to waver within the covers of Half Past Dawn - a thriller which is everything but what it appears to be, and one of the strongest stories of the year.
Reviewed by: David Simms
The Paradise Prophecy by Robert Browne
Available: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
The Paradise Prophecy is the first book in a new series. In it, the lapsed alcoholic professor of literature and Milton fanatic Dr. Sebastian LaLaurie – Batty for short – is approached by Bernadette Callahan, an agent of a secret government group which is studying the events around the apparent suicide of a young South American pop singer. The investigation uncovers a fiendish plot concerning the War with Heaven, which was thought to be over a long time ago, or even mythical. However, when it becomes clear that the singer was burned to death by a fallen angel, the mystery of her death and how it came to pass must be figured out.
Batty and Bernadette travel the world, searching for clues and writings which would help them solve the mystery of the pop singer’s death, and discover what it has to do with big picture events. A suspenseful thriller, The Paradise Prophecy is a wonderful and creepy book. If you ever thought ‘Paradise Lost’ was boring, this book will give you a whole different view of that particular story. Highly recommended for fans of suspense, mystery, dark fantasy and action adventures of a religious nature.
Contains: Adult situations, nudity, violence, graphic images, profanity
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
Now You See Her by Joy Fielding
Atria Books, 2011
After her daughter commits suicide (or at least it appears she does since her body was never found after a canoeing accident) and her husband leaves her for another woman, Marcy Taggart embarks on a trip to Ireland alone on what would have been her 25th wedding anniversary, hoping to gain some stability. Marcy has never believed her daughter, Devon, was really dead, and after spotting a girl she is convinced is Devon (as she has done many times in the past two years) in a small Irish town, her trip becomes anything but stable. She befriends a local barkeep who helps her track down the girl she believes to be her daughter. Who she finds at the end not only brings some resolution to her daughter's disappearance, but also reveals a plot of another kind that almost destroys another family.
Joy Fielding does a wonderful job of setting thrilling scenes and engaging characters to generate tension and curiosity that will keep the reader turning pages just to see "what happens next"?
Contains: Mild Language
Reviewed by: Mason Fann
The Ice Princess: A Novel by Camilla Läckberg and translated by Steven T. Murray
Free Press; Original edition, 2011
Biography author Erica Falk has an opportunity to write her next book that could be a huge success. The only problem is the subject is an old childhood friend who has just been murdered under strange circumstances. Alexandra Wijkner, daughter of wealthy parents and a pseudo- celebrity in the local region, was found dead in what at first appears to be a suicide, in the bathtub of her weekend home. This sends Erica on a trip that takes her back to childhood memories of Alex, and discoveries of her life since her sudden departure from grade school as well as their relationship. With the help of the local detective and a childhood friend, Patrik, Erica pieces together the mystery of why someone would kill Alex, as well as her strange move when they were kids.
Camilla Läckberg leads the reader down this trail of mystery and suspense in a way that doesn't rely on gore or fantastic scenarios to keep you interested. Her style is intelligent, simple and easy to read. She gives you a great description of the people involved, as well as the towns and Scandinavian countryside, which are treated almost as living characters themselves. Stieg Larsson fans will greatly enjoy the latest addition to the Scandinavian literature canon.
Contains: mild gore, minor language, minor sex
Reviewed by: Mason Fann
Fifteen Minutes by William Ollie
Dark Regions Press (Dark Thriller), 2011
When 16 year old Simon is shipped off to his grandmother's, he expects to have a long, boring summer. Things start off well, when he meets a pretty girl on the bus. Then Granny turns out to be quite the hipster, diving a new BMW and acting crazy. Then, things get even weirder, and Simon ends up with a magical ring that allows him to become someone else, for twelve hours at a time. Throw in a rock star, a mob boss, and...well, I don't want to spoil the surprise, but, Simon is in for one wild time.
William Ollie's Fifteen Minutes is comparable to a modern, action packed version of Freaky Friday, or any of the body switching movies that seemed to pop up throughout the '80s. Simon, our nerdy protagonist, has never been with a girl, and, once he has the power to be just about anyone, all he wants is to rectify that situation. But, things go wrong as often as the go right, and poor Simon finds himself fighting for his life over and over again. Ollie sets a nice pace and keeps things from ever slowing down too much. At one point he even breaks away from Simon, spending several chapters on Frank Diori, the local mob boss. Don't worry, it all ties together quite nicely.
Ollie has created a nice little world, filled with interesting people. Aside from some of the ancillary mob guys, who tend to sound alike, each character has a unique voice. The exchanges between the mobsters and the rock star stand out as some very entertaining dialogue. All of the main players have plenty of backstory, as well, helping to flesh out what could have been just the same old stereotypes. Frankly, the weakest character is Simon, himself, who does come off as the typical "nerdy kid just trying to get laid." Thankfully, he isn't Simon that much.
While there are a number of mistakes in this book (something which seems to plague the small press), that doesn't take away from the fun of reading this rapid fire fantasy/thriller. William Ollie has crafted an enjoyable story and has even allowed for the potential of a sequel. I recommend Fifteen Minutes to libraries and fans of thrilling storytelling.
Contains: Sex, strong language, and violence
Reviewed by Erik Smith
The Disappeared by David Silva
Dark Thrillers Press,2011
Available: New Kindle and Nook
Since I got a review copy, I assumed this was a brand new book, so I was a little jarred by the fact that no one had cell phones. Then I looked at the copyright date, and that was 1996. The dated content might not matter to some, but did affect my reading experience.
The Disappeared is a pretty strong mystery tale that crosses the lines, moving back and forth between mystery, thriller and horror. It contains strong elements in all those genres, with the mystery perhaps its greatest strength.
The novel opens with Gabe Knight, who disappeared ten years ago, showing up on his mother's doorstep. In those ten years, his parents searched for him, his mother almost lost her mind, and his dad moved far away. As for Gabe, he has not aged a day. That sets off a great mystery. Where was Gabe? Why has he not aged a day? Who are the guys trying to capture him?
Written with short, minimalist chapters, The Disappeared is an interesting page turner. My biggest problem with the book was the structure. The book pushes you into the action by starting with Gabe's front door return. There is strength to that opening, but we as readers don’t have a chance to feel Teri Knight's grief over the loss of her son, which would have given his return more meaning.
There were moments I found unbelievable, but patient readers will find that most of those moments have pay-offs. The Disappeared is compelling, and appropriate for a wide audience. It contains nothing gruesome or perverse. Silva is a talent to watch for.
Reviewed by: David Agranoff
Soul Trapper by F.J. Lennon
Atria, January 2011
Available: New Hardcover
In this day of movies based on video games and amusement park rides, Soul Trapper, a book written by the same developer that created the iPhone app by the same name, is a pleasant surprise of creativity. F. J. Lennon does an excellent job of weaving together ghost hunters, demonology and pop music references to tell the tale of Kane Pryce, a seemingly derelict young man that drinks too much while carousing with the women. With the help of a mysterious machine, and a computer/mathematical genius named Ned, Kane can actually meet with souls face to face and give them the push they need to let go. Kane loves classic rock and thus has a minor obsession with the famed “27 club” of rockers that died at the same age. Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and more left this mortal coil at the age of 27. After what first seems to be a routine ghost capture (ghosts are actually souls that have not crossed into the afterlife for some reason), Kane develops a new, and somewhat stronger, obsession to help the soul of a small boy finish his journey as he has for others before. In doing so, he uncovers the hidden, demonic past of one of Las Vegas’ most powerful and rich players. Kane just might join the Club, either by his own choice or by the choice of one of several bad guys he crosses paths with.
Not far into Soul Trapper, I was reminded of Joe Hill’s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box. Although the books are quite different, the music references combined with subdued use of supernatural elements are similar to Joe Hill’s work. This is a pleasant read that doesn’t foreshadow the ending and doesn’t bog down with the details or minutia that can spoil a reader’s interest in the characters and plot. Nor does Lennon get too fantastic and force the reader to suspend disbelief to the point of dismissing the whole thing. Now if you'll excuse me...I have an app to download to my iPhone.
Recommended for an adult fiction collection. While Soul Trapper would normally be shelved in paranormal thriller adult fiction, this title would also be enjoyed by a young adult audience, ages 15-18.
Contains: mild language and sex.
Reviewed by: Mason Fann
Moses Expedition by Juan Gómez-Jurado
Atria Books, 2010
The Moses Expedition
The Da Vinci Code
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
An eccentric (to say the least) billionaire business man draws from his
childhood as a Jewish refugee in World War II to set out in search of perhaps
the most sought after religious artifact ever: The Ark of the Covenant. Using
closely guarded secrets that have been passed down for generations in his
family, he assembles a team of scientists, religious experts, and mercenaries
for an expedition in the Middle East. At the same time, secret keepers of
religious artifacts within the Catholic Church as well as radical Muslim groups
catch wind of his intentions and trail along, too, as well as a CIA double
agent. Each one has a plan for if and when the Ark is found, and who should
have control of it. Some want to prevent world domination, others want o ensure
that one religion reigns supreme over all others. Problems quickly arise on the
trip, as team members start dying and others have attempts made on their life.
Who's behind the killing and why? The secret Catholic keeper of the relics? The
Jewish doctor trying to protect her home of Israel? The gung ho mercenaries? Or
maybe another player that no one suspects until it's almost too late? And just
what happens with the Ark if they are successful in finding it?
Juan Gómez-Jurado does a wonderful job of intertwining ancient Jewish folklore with modern day politics and high-stakes business to lead the reader through an adventure over 50 years in the making. Some unusual twists as well as plausible intelligence agency operations make The Moses Expedition an excellent read that doesn't push any certain religious views but still gives details and plot to make it all meld together in a story that you'd believe could be happening at this very day. This title will make an excellent addition to any public library's general fiction or mystery/thriller collection for an adult audience.
Contains: mild violence and mild language
Reviewed by: Mason Fann
The Whisperers: A Charlie Parker Thriller by John Connolly
Atria; 1 edition, 2010
Anyone that likes Stephen King will feel right at home with John Connolly's The Whisperers, which is book 9 in Connolly’s Charlie Parker series. Set in Northern Maine, Connolly's style has that same tone and sense of suspense-meets-paranormal that King elicits.
The Whisperers starts in a war-torn Baghdad, with U.S. troops moving through what's left of a museum that was once filled with ancient treasures. One of these treasures is a box that holds a dark and deadly secret. Released back in the States, it begins to take its toll on the soldiers, who have moved on from fighting war to smuggling the spoils of war. When Damien Patchett, one of the soldiers from the Museum, takes his own life without showing any signs of PTSD or depression, his father hires private investigator Charlie Parker to find out why. Parker is then led into a world of smuggling, PTSD, the paranormal, and more.
Current fans of the series will readily enjoy the ninth installment of the Charlie Parker series, but it is also accessible to those who have not read any of the prior novels. This is a must-have addition to an adult fiction/thriller collection.
Contains: mild violence and mild language.
Review by Mason Fann
Vermilion Drift by William Kent Krueger
Atria; First Edition first Printing edition, 2010
I don't know if William Kent Krueger plays poker or not, but if by
chance he does, I'll pass on any hands with him. Vermilion Drift shows
its cards without revealing its final hand too soon, keeping the reader engaged
and second-guessing himself to figure out 'whodunit'?
Vermilion Drift is the tenth book of a character series featuring Corcoran "Cork" O'Connor. Cork is half Native American, Ojibwa to be precise, and half Chimook, or white man. In this book his two worlds sometimes try to lead him in separate directions, while he tries to go his own, separate, way. Vermilion Drift is set in the mining towns of Minnesota, where big business meets the ancient ways of The People. When several bodies, some old and some new, are found in a disused mine that is about to be reopened, Cork has to discover the truth of the situation before either side can move forward. He gets to know more of both halves of his lineage and how they interlace with one another from the time he was a boy.
Vermilion Drift is well paced, and the characters are easy to identify with. Krueger does a wonderful job leading the reader through a not-too-complicated web of murder and history with a touch of the supernatural, and the Native American mysticism is dealt with respectfully. In just a few brief interactions with characters in the story you get a fairly well defined idea of just what each person is about in life, and build your own sense of where they will fall in this tale. By the end, though, you may be surprised on how right and wrong you are. Some of the characters even learn they are not what they believed themselves to be.
This was my first William K. Krueger novel, but it won't be my last. It's easy to see why his Cork O'Connor series has made Krueger an award winning author. He knows how to lead his reader down a road that may or may not be the one they think is right.
Contains: mild foul language.
Recommended for an adult public library fiction/thriller collection.
The Ocean Dark by Jack Rogan
Random House Publishing Group, 2010
Near a remote, uncharted island with a graveyard of ships surrounding it in the
Caribbean, the cargo ship Mariposa is on its way to meet the Antoinette, a ship
that is to be filled with illegal weapons for a little illicit business
transaction. When the crew of the Mariposa arrives, they find the crew of the
Antoinette gone except for one survivor who mentions “devils”. The FBI has
been aware of the Mariposa’s smuggling of contraband, and is following the ship,
looking to catch them in the act. It all boils to a head as the law and the
smugglers find themselves facing deadly creatures who view humanity as a fine
The Ocean Dark is a fantastic blend of horror and thriller. It has a great combination of character development and an intriguing story that will keep you turning pages. Rogan avoids making his characters clichéd, and some of the smuggler characters are just as likeable as the law enforcement. Rogan’s creatures are creative enough that they will have any reader look at any body of water at night with a bit more trepidation. The Ocean Dark should appeal to both traditional thriller readers and horror readers. While the book is a fine stand alone tale, Rogan has left enough of an infrastructure, by creating an arm of the Department of Defense that investigates lost cultures that might pose a threat to humanity, that he could write additional tales along this line. The Ocean Dark is highly recommended for public libraries. Reader’s Advisory: Fans of Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child or Subterranean by James Rollins would enjoy this creature thriller.
Contains: Violence and some gore.