June was by far the best month of the year for thriller fans. July wasn’t far behind in terms of quality must-read thrillers. And, thanks to top-notch writers like Andrew Gross and John Connolly, August is no slouch either.
Of the ten books on our list, though, my personal favorites are Andrew Gross’ The One Man, which is so good I genuinely had a heard time describing it, and Erik Storey’s Nothing Short of Dying. Incredibly, this is Storey’s debut novel, though he writes like a seasoned veteran. You really can’t go wrong with either book, but just in case buy them both. You’ll be glad you did, I promise.
Scroll down to see the complete list, broken down by weekly releases, then leave me a comment to say which book you’re most excited about finally getting your hands on!
Tuesday, August 2
A Time Of Torment by John Connolly
Charlie Parker is a man haunted by past events. He’s also a detective (only now he’s technically a federal investigator), and a darn good one at that.
This time around, he’s called into action when Jerome Burnel, a man who was once revered as a hero before being publicly shamed for crimes he didn’t commit, wants nothing more than to clear his name and prove his innocence.
If you’ve not read the last two or three books in the series, you’re in for a real shock because the Parker seen here is not the same man we knew before. He’s changed and has more of an edge to him, all of which is the result of pain from past experiences.
Parker’s investigation leads him in several directions before eventually pointing him towards a weird, creepy, cult-like group who call themselves the Cut.
The Cut is a group of people who are both nutty and nasty, with a hint (and by hint, I mean a double-dose) of evilness. This is where the paranormal angel, which Connolly is so well known for writing into his books, comes into play as members of the Cut serve a master known as the Dead King.
Living in the West Virginia wilderness, they’ve been around for a long time and follow their own somewhat demonic religious practices. Crossing them in any way is most certainly a death sentence, as nobody has ever done so and lived long enough to talk about it.
Of course, the Cut has never had Charlie Parker and his gang of sidekicks hot on their trail. With series regulars Angel and Louis lending a helping hand and Parker’s young daughter rounding out the band of unlikely teammates, Charlie uncovers a dark secret the Cut has been protecting for many years.
A mixture of horror and fantasy, Connolly leads readers down a spiral-staircase-of-a-plot, complete with trap doors and pressure pads that shoot poison darts at unsuspecting onlookers. If there was a “Kept Readers Guessing The Longest” award, Connolly would most assuredly take home the prize for his work here.
Complete with supernatural beings and enough suspense to fill up every floor of the Burj Khalifa, A Time Of Torment is a wickedly dark and entertaining thriller.
Publisher: Atria Books
Who Might Enjoy It: Fans of suspense and supernatural thrillers. Connolly will keep you guessing until the very end!
Smooth Operator by Stuart Woods
From the publisher:
“When President Kate Lee calls Stone Barrington to Washington on an urgent matter, it’s soon clear that a potentially disastrous situation requires the kind of help more delicate than even he can provide . . . and he knows just the right man for the job. Teddy Fay: ex-CIA, master of disguise, and a gentleman not known for abiding by legal niceties in the pursuit of his own brand of justice.”
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Who Might Enjoy It: Stuart Woods has long been one of the top-notch thriller authors in the genre. However, somewhat uncharacteristically for him, his last few books haven’t been quite up to par. Sadly, that doesn’t change here. If you’re a longtime fan of his, by all means, you’ll likely enjoy this one.
A Time To Die by Tom Wood
The thriller genre’s most compelling anti-hero, Victor The Assassin, returns to star in his sixth book. This time, the killer-for-hire is working with the British Secret Intelligence Service, better known as the SIS.
Tasked with eliminating Milan Rados, a former Serbian military commander-turned-warlord, Victor heads off to fill his latest contract. Things are complicated, though, by the fact that someone has put a bounty on Victor’s head, drawing the attention of another highly skilled, dangerously lethal assassin.
Author Tom Wood has changed up his formula just enough to make this book feel different from the rest in the series. While early parts of the plot seem to drift off-course just a bit, Wood recovers by pulling readers back in with perfectly laid out action sequences and acute attention to detail–something he shares with Victor.
Victor is one paranoid dude, a trait hardwired into his DNA that, frankly, is one of the only reasons he’s still alive. His head is always on a swivel and his eyes are always scanning, searching for any sign of a threat. His thought process, broken down flawlessly by Wood, is fascinating to read and one of my favorite things about this series.
While already dealing with a leak inside the SIS and another assassin hellbent on taking him out, Victor also learns that he’s not the only person looking to kill Rados. His competition is a woman named Ana, whose primary reason for bloodlust stems from a drive to avenge her family, who was brutally murdered under the orders of Rados.
While Ana seems like the perfect person to team up with, Victor is not the trusting type, and for good reason–he’s basically made a living questioning everyone and everything. That may prove to once again be the smart play here, as more questions than answers surround Ana and her past and present motives.
Simultaneously playing the roles of both hunter and prey, Victor must fend off attempts on his life so he can bury the man he was sent to put in the ground–-a man who has already dodged death more than once and is on equal footing with Victor when it comes to the art of killing.
A Time To Die features Victor in the most dangerous situation we’ve seen him in yet: a battle of assassins where one slip-up could mean the difference between killing or being killed.
Who Might Enjoy It: If you’re a fan of spy thrillers and haven’t met Victor The Assassin yet, it’s time to say hello. With everything working in sync here, there’s never been a better time to jump into this underrated series and discover Wood’s unique, fun style of work.
Tuesday, August 9
When The Music’s Over by Peter Robinson
From the publisher:
“Inspector Alan Banks—hailed as “a man for all seasons” by Michael Connelly—must face the music when he becomes embroiled in one of his most perplexing and distressing cases in this haunting page-turner from New York Times bestselling author Peter Robinson.
Two women. Two crimes.
The first is a poet claiming she was assaulted decades earlier by a man now regarded as one of the country’s national treasures. The second is a girl found on a remote roadside, her body broken, her life snuffed out.
For Alan Banks, newly promoted to Detective Superintendent, the first case rips a tunnel into long-ago days of innocence and discovery, of music and light. And in the victim, he sees an opportunity for magic recaptured—if he can bring her assailant to justice.
For Detective Inspector Annie Banks, the lifeless young woman poses a baffling mystery—a mystery that will lead her into the unlikeliest of places, interviewing the unlikeliest of suspects.
Emotionally resonant and ingeniously plotted, When the Music’s Over begins a new chapter for Banks—and shows Peter Robinson at his tense, triumphant best.”
Publisher: William Morrow
Who Might Enjoy It: If you enjoy detective mysteries, this is your best bet to find a worthwhile novel this month.
Tuesday, August 16
Nothing Short of Dying by Eric Storey (Featured Selection)
When readers first meet Clyde Barr, he’s back in Colorado for the first time in sixteen years. Even before learning any of his backstory, Barr has a real presence on the page as someone who can definitely take care of himself. That notion is reinforced as Barr’s calm demeanor, even under the most stressful of times, shines through the first-person narrative that Storey writes in.
When the goin’ gets tough, Clyde stays calm, cool, and collected–the mark of someone who has complete confidence in themselves and what they’re capable of.
The action begins on page one when a ringing cell phone disrupts Clyde’s quiet evening by his campfire in the middle of nowhere. Jen, Clyde’s youngest sister, is on the other end and she’s scared out of her mind.
In a quiet, shaky voice she begs her big brother for help, explaining that the man she’s with is going to kill her once she’s done helping him. But before Clyde can find out what she means or ask her any questions, the line goes dead.
Barr has no idea how long he has to find his sister, or even where to start looking. He makes calls to his other two sisters, neither of whom are on speaking terms with him, and comes up empty. Desperate for answers, he goes to the only person he still somewhat knows from a lifetime ago, before he left Colorado, hellbent on never coming back.
This person from Barr’s past helps provide him with his first real lead, which takes him to a tiny bar his sister used to hang out at. He finds nothing but trouble there, and in the process of “taking out the trash,” he inadvertently causes real problems for the attractive, twenty-six-year-old bartender named Allie.
Unwilling to leave Allie behind to face the wrath of an unhappy boss and his drug kingpin brother, all of which is Barr’s doing, he takes her on the run with him. The two have great chemistry and their back-and-forth dialogue is sharp and realistic, as they hit it off and bond together over their rough pasts and current predicament.
It’s about this time that we start to unravel the mystery of Clyde’s past life and transgressions-–which he’s running from in more ways than one–-and the nature of his relationship with his little sister. He owes her, she reminded him of such when she called to ask him for help, but for what reason is just one of the many mysteries surrounding Clyde Barr.
While Clyde would love to keep those mysteries about his past hidden forever, he learns the hard way that sometimes the skeletons in one’s closet have a way of coming back to life and haunting not only you but the people you love, too.
Up against the clock and on the run from both bad guys and shady government types, Clyde Barr will stop at nothing to save his sister and leave his old life behind once and for all.
Who Might Enjoy It: Storey is one of the hottest new authors in a genre that has badly needed an infusion of young talent. Reacher, Rapp, Harvath, Allon, Pickett, and Wells have all been around for ten-plus books. And while I’d argue that most of those characters are stronger and better than ever, they can’t possibly last forever. Storey is a five-tool, blue-chip prospect. I’m betting this will be a huge series in just a few years, so why not jump on the bandwagon early? (Note: If you like the movie Taken, buy this immediately!)
Any Minute Now by Eric Van Lustbader
Sometimes less is more.
Apparently, Eric Van Lustbader doesn’t believe that because his latest non-Jason Bourne thriller, Any Minute Now, has more plot threads than an Egyptian cotton bed sheet. Unlike the bed sheet, though, this leads to a particularly uncomfortable narrative that even veteran readers who are experienced in supernatural thrillers will struggle to keep up with.
The book is (mostly) centered around Red Rover, a private security firm that’s billed as being able to handle “blacker than black ops.” The bulk of their work comes from the NSA, who hires them through a subcontractor to handle their most dangerous missions.
Led by Greg Whitman, their veteran team leader, Red Rover heads to Pakistan in search of a man named Seiran el-Habib. Instead, they walk into an ambush and, after suffering one casualty and numerous injuries, Whitman’s superiors abort the mission. Whitman, however, decides to disobey orders and forge ahead.
To fill the void of the fallen team member, Whitman turns to his old fling, Charlie Daou, a weapons expert who makes her own custom boom-sticks. Playing up the supernatural theme at work here, Daou’s weapons are unique in that they’re undetectable, even to scanners.
Unbeknownst to Whitman, Luther St. Vincent, one of the NSA’s top dogs, is heading up an experimental operation to chemically engineer and weaponize soldiers. Doing so requires doctors to play mad scientist with the soldier’s brains, which, as you might imagine, doesn’t exactly turn out to be a good thing.
The conspiracies are deeper than that, though, as everyone seems to be connected in one way or another to a shadowy, mysterious character called the Preacher. Then, to top it all off, it turns out there’s another player at work here, a group called the Alchemists, who make all other secret societies look like stuffed teddy bears.
Everything is thrown together in what I’m sure was designed to be a riveting, supernatural action-drama or suspense novel. Instead, Van Lustbader overused a few ingredients and the end result reads more like a randomly tossed together jambalaya that is sure to leave readers confused and wondering what they just read.
As hard as this book was to get through at times, there are bits and pieces of positive seeds sewn throughout. The characters are all interesting and unique, and I liked their interaction with one another. If nothing else, Van Lustbader did come up with an original story, even if it did miss its mark.
If this is the start to a new series, I’d like to see the next book’s plot simplified, with a clear direction that’s not so hard to follow.
Who Might Enjoy It: There are other good books coming out this month, so my advice would be to save your money and spend it on one (or two) of those. But if weird stuff is what you’re into, and you think you’ll be able to follow this story and keep it straight, good luck!
Tuesday, August 23
The One Man by Andrew Gross (Featured Selection)
In the midst of World War II, America and her allies find themselves racing against the Germans to see who can construct the first atomic bomb. While scientists all over the world are working on different formulas and equations, there are only two men on the face of the planet with the necessary knowledge to complete one of the most crucial steps in developing the bomb.
One of those men, a scientist, is working for the Germans, which means America must locate and secure the other. Unfortunately, they discover that the man they need is in the last place anyone wants to go in order to get him.
Nathan Blum is a young intelligence operative who, when we first meet him, is a translator for the OSS. Having escaped the dangerous Krakow ghetto, leaving his parents and sister behind (who were later all killed), Nathan journeyed to America to make a new life for himself. Eager to prove himself to his new country, he applies for deployment in an effort to “do something more” than just sitting at a desk.
Instead, Nathan is summoned to the office of William “Wild Bill” Donovon (the head of the OSS), where he’s informed that he was handpicked for a special undercover assignment.
His Jewish heritage and ability to speak multiple languages, plus the fact that he’s already proven to have the necessary skillset to escape dangerous circumstances when he fled to America from Poland, make Nathan the perfect man for the task ahead.
His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to infiltrate Auschwitz, the most dangerous Nazi death camp in Poland. Once inside, he would have only two days to find Professor Alfred Mendl, who possesses critical information that, should Nathan be able to sneak him out of the camp, could be a game-changer for America.
Clinging to a key Jewish principle found in the Torah, Nathan decides to risk everything to save just one life, which he believes is the first step to saving the world.
Getting caught means certain death in an almost assuredly painful and agonizing way where he would be made to suffer and serve as an example to the rest of the world. But far more than just his life is at stake, as failure could quite literally be the difference between winning or losing the war.
A beautifully written novel that is heartbreakingly suspenseful, The One Man is an emotional ride through what can only be described as hell on earth.
This isn’t just Andrew Gross’ best book to date, it’s easily one of the best novels of the year. Everyone, regardless of which genre you typically enjoy, should read this book.
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Who Might Enjoy It: Everyone, regardless of which genre you typically enjoy, should read this book. I was so stunned by the overall impact of the story that I was literally speechless after turning the final page. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cheer on these extraordinary characters as they attempt to defy the odds and escape beyond Auschwitz’s barb-wired fences. Trust me, just click the “Order Now” button below!
Tuesday, August 30
Liar’s Key by Carla Neggers
Back for their sixth go-around, FBI Agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan return for Carla Neggers’ Liar’s Key, which follows last year’s Keeper’s Reach.
The story begins with Gordon Wheelock, a retired FBI agent, swinging by the Massachusetts office of Emma Sharpe. Wheelock is somewhat of a legend amongst FBI agents, having had a long and successful career. So when he tells Emma that he was recently at a party with Oliver York and heard rumblings about ancient mosaics that were stolen, Emma is intrigued. It’s also personal.
Many years prior, Emma’s grandfather was hot on Oliver’s trail. Wendell Sharpe founded Sharpe Fine Art Recovery and spent more than a decade chasing Oliver, a notorious art thief. In the end, though, Oliver avoided prosecution by striking a deal with Britain’s MI5, rendering him untouchable for his many crimes, even today.
But when the body of someone who has ties to the situation is found unexpectedly, Emma realizes there’s more going on than meets the eye. For starters, she’d known for years that her grandfather was holding back information on Oliver, but now she senses something far more foul-smelling between the two men.
Joining the investigation is Emma’s fiancé and trusted companion, Colin Donovan, an undercover expert with a keen sense of awareness and a finely-tuned BS detector. His presence is a welcome addition to a story that starts slow but picks up the pace about sixty-five pages in.
Also present are Emma’s brother, Lucas, and an Irish priest named Finian Bracken. Both of them play fairly important roles, making an already supporting cast even stronger.
With a murderer on the loose and evidence mounting that, if true, will leave Emma between a rock and a hard place both professionally and personally, she and Donovan must work quickly to solve the puzzle and put a stop to the bloodshed.
However, as Emma will soon find out, sometimes the pursuit of truth leads to an internal battle with oneself, because once the cat is out of the bag, things will never again be the same.
Who Might Enjoy It: By no means is this an action-packed story, as it falls more in line with something between a soap opera and a Law and Order episode. There’s more of a romance-type feel in this book than in most traditional thriller or suspense novels, which is consistent with earlier novels in the series. While the beginning is slow, the final act is driven by conspiracy and suspense. If you’re into mysteries and conspiracies, and can make it through some of the dull, uneventful beginning chapters, Liar’s Key will meet your suspense-seeking needs.