Septemeber is here, and with it comes eight must-read novels for thriller fans everywhere. Like always, we’ve chosen two ‘Featured Selections’ to highlight which books we recommend you buy right away and move to the top of your t0-read list. This month, those picks are William Kent Krueger’s Manitou Canyon; and Harlan Coben’s brand new Myron Bolitar thriller, Home.
Even if you’re busy, trust us, you don’t want to miss those two well-written, can’t-put-’em-down thrillers from a couple of today’s solid-gold authors!
Tuesday, September 6th
Manitou Canyon by William Kent Krueger (featured selection)
John Harris, accompanied by his two grandchildren, Lindsay and Trevor, and a guide, ventured deep into the thick wilderness near the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota, before mysteriously vanishing.
A few days into their camping trip, John and Trevor agreed to a friendly fishing competition. They broke camp and each headed in opposite directions, setting out on Raspberry Lake in their own canoes with nothing but fishing gear and a healthy determination to win.
Trevor came back a few hours later with a mammoth-sized walleye. His grandfather, a wealthy businessman who runs one of the largest construction design companies in the country, never returned.
The remaining trio went about looking for him but only happened across his canoe. Inside was his fishing stuff, but John Harris was nowhere to be found. Even when the Tamarack County Search and Rescue teams led an investigation into his disappearance, nothing turned up. After several weeks, the sheriff’s office called off the search.
John Harris was presumed dead, but his grandchildren weren’t ready to give up hope. With nowhere else to turn, the siblings paid a visit to one of their grandpa’s old friends, Cork O’Connor.
Cork, a man who knows all too much about searching for a missing loved one after his wife disappeared many Novembers ago, used to live across the street from John Harris way back in the day. Now his most pressing concern is patching the leaky roof of his burger shack, which sits on the shoreline of Iron Lake, deep in the Northwoods. But when the grandkids of his old friend show up looking for help, he doesn’t have it in him to turn them away.
Cork, a former law enforcement officer who keeps one hand in the cookie jar by working as a private investigator when he’s not flipping burgers, invites Harris’ grandkids inside to talk business. Lindsay and Trevor want to hire him to continue searching for their grandpa, but Cork was part of the search team that already spent weeks looking for the old man.
So what’s changed? Nothing really. Well, not unless you count the fact that Trevor had a weird dream that was essentially a mashup of Old Testament bible verses and a scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. While that’s far from what Cork would consider new evidence, there’s one feeling he just can’t shake.
From the very start of the search, Cork felt like something about Harris’ disappearance was off. It just didn’t add up. If John is, in fact, dead, then where is his body? Divers searched the lake and cadaver-sniffing dogs roamed the woods for miles searching for a corpse with no luck at all. At the same time, there was no indication of foul play.
Cork eventually takes the case but tells the siblings that after they retrace their grandpa’s last known steps, the search will officially be over whether he’s found dead, alive, or not at all. They agree, and the three of them set off for the wilderness.
One of the keys to this book is that everything takes place during the harsh winter month of November in northern Minnesota. For Cork, though, who hates this particular month with a passion, past demons sting nearly as bad as the biting cold winds and frigid temperatures.
Then, while searching for John Harris, Cork also disappears. It would appear from the outside looking in that the harsh, snowy conditions of the thick woods swallowed up its second victim, but a far greater mystery lays underneath the crusty ice and snow.
To discover the truth about Harris’s disappearance and his own situation, Cork must also learn a few things about himself. First, though, he has to find a way to manage the conditions and stay alive.
Manitou Canyon is a top-notch thriller with a mystery that will chill you to the bone, literally.
Publisher: Atria Books
Why you should check it out: William Kent Krueger is a fantastic author, and his characters are as relatable as they are inspiring and encouraging. Manitou Canyon is some of his best work, a full-speed thrill ride from the first to last page.
End Game by David Hagberg
It’s been twenty-seven years since bestselling author David Hagberg first introduced readers to Kirk McGarvey. Since then, the legendary CIA operative has faced numerous threats, challenges, and daunting circumstances.
Nothing, though, compares to his current mission…
In End Game, the twentieth novel in Hagberg’s series, McGarvey must face off against a young assassin with an extraordinarily lethal skill set.
When a string of murders claims victims from the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, all the way to a prison in Athens, the world’s most notorious spy agency must find a way to stop the killer at work.
But stopping a killer requires the skills of a superior assassin, and no one has had a more storied career than McGarvey. So with few reliable options on the table, the old spy is summoned to head up the murder investigation.
As McGarvey searches for the killer’s end game, he discovers that someone has carved a cryptic code into the iconic statue known as Kryptos, which sits in the courtyard just in front of the CIA’s headquarters. The code, McGarvey believes, provides a motive for the killer’s actions and ultimately leads him to the city of Kirkuk, where he must unravel a mystery that reaches back to just before the first Iraqi war.
Using the real-life statue Kryptos, which has boggled some of the greatest minds on the planet and still remains partially unsolved to this day, isn’t an entirely new plot point (Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol) on its own. However, Hagberg, a former Air Force cryptographer, is uniquely qualified on this subject matter and offers expert insight and an entirely new take on things, making End Game surprisingly fun and unique.
McGarvey, for his part, continues to get better with age. And while he may have lost a step or two since his younger days, he makes up for it by relying on his instincts and experience to give him an edge over younger, more physical opponents.
While The Fourth Horseman (Hagberg’s previous novel) completely missed the mark, End Game delivers a precision shot at center mass by mixing adrenaline-pumping suspense and hair-raising conspiracy.
This is probably David Hagberg’s best novel since The Cabal (2010) and proves that there’s still plenty of gas left in the tank for fan-favorite Kirk McGarvey.
Why you should check it out: Hagenberg’s Kirk McGarvey has been around for a long time, and there’s a reason for it. He’s a unique and interesting character who, as I already stated above, only gets better with age. He has a little bit of a James Bond thing going on in this book (the Sean Connery version, not the Daniel Craig version), and End Game is shockingly better than the author’s last novel.
Downfall by J.A. Jance
Joanna Brady, Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, is back for her seventeenth go-around in J.A. Jance’s latest mystery novel, Downfall.
This time around, Brady is pregnant and grieving the loss of her mother and stepfather, who both died in what appears to be a tragic car accident. Her bereavement period is cut short, though, when one of her deputies confirms a 911 caller’s report that there are two dead bodies at the bottom of a mountain cliff known as Geronimo.
Joanna has a bad feeling about the scene from the very beginning as she and her deputies race to collect evidence (with the help of state crime-scene analysts) before a large storm rolls in. Initially, all they know is that two women are found dead next to each other. Whether they were pushed off the ledge above or jumped is the real question, one that Joanna sets about trying to answer.
One of the victims is identified as a student named Desiree Wilburton. Due to the nature of her studies, Joanna and her team believe that the young woman might have been in the area studying certain plants and cacti before her death. That conclusion was drawn rather easily thanks to the evidence, but connecting her to the other victim proves to be the real challenge.
The other victim, Susan Nelson, is a teacher and the wife of Drexel Nelson, a local preacher. The second curveball of the investigation, after unearthing no evidence tying Susan and Desiree together, is Mr. Nelson’s reaction and body language to hearing that his wife was found dead. Joanna can’t help but note that the man acts suspiciously okay with losing his wife, especially for a proclaimed man of God.
With the investigation ongoing, Joanna’s life is made increasingly more difficult with the upcoming election, where she faces stiff competition for keeping her job. On top of that, there’s mounting public pressure for the local law enforcement to do a better job after a string of crimes, including a homicide, shakes the community. And, as always, there’s the personal battle within Joanna, who always fears that her job is keeping her from being an effective wife to her husband, Butch, and mother to their son, Denny.
As Joanna tries to keep it all together, a job made tougher by the baby growing inside her and the toll it takes on her body and emotions, she soon makes a startling realization about the deaths of Desiree and Susan. It’s during those pages, roughly the last quarter of the book, where Jance is at her absolute best, mixing suspense with a final twist that reveals the killer in grand, you’ll-never-see-it-coming fashion.
Downfall is everything readers have come to expect from J.A. Jance. Packed with the kind of breathless suspense that will have you racing to the finish line, the bestselling author delivers another crowd-pleaser that longtime fans of her series are sure to enjoy.
Publisher: William Morrow
Why you should check it out: J.A. Jance knows what she’s doing. Few are better at leading the reader one way, only to jerk them in the opposite direction as the plot takes a swift, sudden change in the opposite direction. Downfall is a very solid mystery, with a last minute twist that will surprise most readers.
Tuesday, September 13th
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Set in 1948, officers Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith were patrolling the Negro streets of Atlanta one night when a Buick came into view driving erratically before plowing into a lamppost.
Boggs and Smith prepared to write the driver a citation but were surprised to find that the driver of the car was a white man. Legally, there wasn’t much they could do other than give him a ticket. Unfortunately, both the driver and the officers know this, so the driver steadfastly refused to cooperate with them.
When asked to produce his license and registration, the driver responded with racist remarks and a number of obscenities. The officers then noticed that the man wasn’t alone. There was a black woman with him who appeared to have bruises on her face. They tried to talk with her, but the women wouldn’t even look them in the eye.
Once the white man decided he’d had enough of the questioning, he drove off knowing full well that the Negro officers couldn’t do a dang thing about it.
Boggs and Smith called for a white officer to provide assistance. A few blocks later, they saw the same car once again stopped in the middle of a street. The black girl jumped out of the vehicle and ran away, but Boggs and Smith didn’t pursue her, a decision they’d later regret wholeheartedly. Instead, they stayed with the car, waiting for the white officer to show up.
Upon arriving, the white officer let the driver, a man named Brian Underhill, off without so much as a ticket.
A few days later Boggs and Smith found a dead body in an overgrown field that doubled as an unofficial dumpster for garbage.They recognized the yellow dress clinging to the stiff body of the deceased black woman and knew it was the same woman they’d seen in Underhill’s car.
The sad fact is that nobody seems to really care about the dead woman other than Boggs and Smith, who weren’t even allowed to investigate her death. They did suggest someone check out the man she was last seen in a car with, and said his name was in their police report, except that it wasn’t. Someone removed Brian Underhill’s name in an effort to protect him, but why?
Meanwhile, two white cops named Dunlaw and Rakestraw are involved in a number of other incidents, One was regarding an escaped convict named James James Jameson, or “Tripple James” for short. Dunlaw is an open, proud racist who spews his prejudice at every man or woman of color. His young sidekick, Rakestraw, doesn’t necessarily agree with what his partner’s views and beliefs, but he never stops him either.
When another negro is found dead, this time it’s the body of Tripple James, Boggs and Smith decide they’ve finally had enough. If nobody else is going to care about these crimes, they will. They decide to protect one of their own, for a change, and together they vow to solve the two murders, risking their jobs and lives as they seek justice and closure for her family.
Thomas Mullen has managed to stay true to the past, as ugly as it may be, tackling incredibly sensitive topics (like segregation and racial tension) with incredible grace. On top of that, he also wrote a brilliant mystery novel and fit it all together with the stroke and touch of a master artist.
Publisher: Atria Books
Why you should check it out: Mullen has written a beautiful novel that eloquently sheds light on just how bad racial tension was in the not-so-distant-past. Darktown is a mystery novel at its core, and a darn good one, but it’s so much more than just that.
Red Right Hand by Chris Holm
When a family stops near the Golden Gate Bridge to record a special anniversary message at the very spot their grandparents once posed for a photo nearly forty years ago, things take a tragic turn as a tugboat carrying explosives slams into the bridge, detonating on impact.
In the aftermath of the explosion, FBI special agent Charlie Thompson is called back into work, cutting short a trip home where she planned to introduce her family to Kate O’Brien, director of the FBI’s CID. It was the first time Thompson brought a woman home with her since coming out to her disapproving parents, and the two exited quickly to FBI’s New Haven, Connecticut field office, but not before things reached a boiling point with Charlie’s father.
Upon seeing the family’s recorded footage of the moments just before the explosion, Thompson makes a startling discovery. Frank Segreti’s face was captured on the video, signaling that he’s apparently alive and well, which is a shock to the FBI, as they previously thought him to be dead.
Seven years prior, Frank Segreti came to the FBI offering key evidence about a shady organization comprised of different crime leaders, known only as the Council. In return for his betrayal, the Council hired someone to take him out. Until now, Segreti was believed to have been killed in an explosion.
Thompson hopes that Segreti can once again help lead her to the Council, but keeping him alive–especially once Council members find out he’s still breathing–poses a real problem. Thinking outside of the box, she turns to another man wanted by the FBI, hitman Michael Hendricks, to keep Segreti safe.
Hendricks is an assassin who lives by his own code, which is to only kill other assassins. A few years ago, the Council sent someone after Hendricks. Instead, it was his best friend who ended up in the ground, with Hendricks swearing to avenge his death at all costs.
Since then, the Council has sent numerous hitmen after Hendricks. All have failed. In response, Hendricks has pledged to burn the Council to the ground, a mission that he’s actively working towards when Thompson tabs him to make his way to San Francisco and find Frank Segreti.
The author weaves in Hendricks’ mission with Thompson’s investigation into the terrorist group who took credit for the Golden Gate Bridge bombing. Not only did this lesser-known group of Syrian-based terrorists send their video message to the media, but in doing so, they warn that the bridge bombing was just the beginning.
With more attacks planned to follow, Thompson must find a way to stop any further bloodshed on American soil. While initially working under the assumption that Hendricks’ mission to secure and protect Frank Segreti was a separate matter altogether, she’ll soon find out that things are far more connected that she ever could have imagined.
Red Right Hand has a tight, straightforward plot that follows a terrific antihero who shoots first and asks questions later.
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Why you should check it out: Michael Hendricks is an antihero in the vein of Tom Wood’s Victor the Assassin. He’s anything but the stereotypical leading man that you’d normally find starring in an action thriller, yet he has enough redeeming qualities that readers will still find it easy to cheer him on.
Tuesday, September 20th
Home by Harlan Coben (Featured Selection)
From the publisher:
“Ten years after the high-profile kidnapping of two young boys, only one returns home in Harlan Coben’s gripping thriller.
A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend? Drawing on his singular talent, Harlan Coben delivers an explosive and deeply moving thriller about friendship, family, and the meaning of home.”
(This portion will be updated in the next twenty-four hours, after our official review of Home is published online.)
Why you should check it out: Nobody does suspense like Harlan Coben, and nobody does suspense better than the famous author who has had seven consecutive #1 New York Times bestselling novels. While Home isn’t quite as good as Coben’s other 2016 offering, Fool Me Once, it’s not far behind it.
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
From the publisher:
“Husbands and wives. Mothers and daughters. The past and the future.
Secrets bind them. And secrets can destroy them.
The author of Pretty Girls returns with an electrifying, emotionally complex thriller that plunges its fascinating protagonist into the darkest depths of a mystery that just might destroy him.
With the discovery of a murder at an abandoned construction site, Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is brought in on a case that becomes much more dangerous when the dead man is identified as an ex-cop.
Studying the body, Sara Linton—the GBI’s newest medical examiner and Will’s lover—realizes that the extensive blood loss didn’t belong to the corpse. Sure enough, bloody footprints leading away from the scene indicate there is another victim—a woman—who has vanished . . . and who will die soon if she isn’t found.
Will is already compromised, because the site belongs to the city’s most popular citizen: a wealthy, powerful, and politically connected athlete protected by the world’s most expensive lawyers—a man who’s already gotten away with rape, despite Will’s exhaustive efforts to put him away.
But the worst is yet to come. Evidence soon links Will’s troubled past to the case . . . and the consequences will tear through his life with the force of a tornado, wreaking havoc for Will and everyone around him, including his colleagues, family, friends—and even the suspects he pursues.
Relentlessly suspenseful and furiously paced, peopled with conflicted, fallible characters who leap from the page, The Kept Woman is a seamless blend of twisty police procedural and ingenious psychological thriller — a searing, unforgettable novel of love, loss, and redemption.”
(This portion will be updated after our official review of The Kept Woman is published online.)
Publisher: William Morrow
Why you should check it out: Karin Slaughter is every bit as good as more high-profile authors such as Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn. Her mystery novels pop with realism and are full of nail-biting suspense. If you’re not reading her already, now is as good a time as ever to start!
Tuesday, September 27th
Shoot ‘Em Up by Janey Mack
Janey Mack’s latest novel picks up right where her last one left off. Shoot ‘Em Up opens with Maisie McGrane in an ambulance on her way to the hospital. Surrounded by her entire Irish Catholic, close-knit family, Maisie wakes up from surgery to find everyone waiting for answers about why she was mixing it up with criminals and how she managed to get herself stabbed in the thigh.
Maisie comes from a well-known Chicago family where you’re expected to become either a cop or a lawyer. Maisie had previously attempted to follow her Da and brothers’ footsteps by joining the Chicago Police Department (Time’s Up). But she was disqualified from the academy over a bogus technicality, which she later learned was actually all her father’s doing in an effort to keep her from harm’s way.
To say that the McGrane family is overprotective would be a massive understatement. The entire clan still lives at their parents’ home, a huge house in one of the nicest parts of Chicago. Maisie is the only girl surrounded by a handful of big brothers, half of them cops, who watch over her with a loving, tenacious sense of responsibility.
Yet as the McGranes nicely interrogate Maisie about how she got herself into this mess, unable to comprehend how she could have put herself in harm’s way, little do they know that she’s not actually a freelance reporter for the Chicago Sentinel like everyone thinks. She’s actually an undercover police officer and no one other than the Chief and a few seasoned officers are privy to that information.
Rather than spill all the events leading up to her stabbing (which is the basis for Mack’s second novel, (Choked Up), she allows the pain killers to put her back to sleep. Doctors order two weeks of light duty, and then it’s whatever she can handle.
Her family insists that she come home to recover. Maisie had been living with her boyfriend who, as seen in the last book, lives a bit of second life himself. With Hank out of the country, she reluctantly agrees to return home, where she spends a few weeks resting and healing up. Then, just as soon as possible, she gets back to work.
An assassination attempt on the Mayor of Chicago has the police force busy. Something about the way it went down doesn’t feel right, including how the mayor–a womanizing schmuck–leaped to protect his wife as shots rang out around him.
Using what little pull he has with the Justice Department, the mayor has agents from the ATF and the DEA brought to Chicago. Maisie, the only deep-cover officer with ties to the gang believed to have a role in the assassination, is expected to help out.
In addition to that, there’s Violetta Veteratti, who now runs the streets and criminal underworld in Chicago after her brother, Eddie, was forced to enter rehab. Believing Maisie’s cover, Veteratti offers her a shady business deal that would only put more heat on Maisie in the future should things ever go south.
She also learns that Hank, her AWOL boyfriend, has put a security team on her 24/7. That makes her job and cover more difficult, but not nearly as bad as her boundary-pushing family who doesn’t allow her even a shred of secrecy. Their overprotecting ways were merely a life-long annoyance until recently, but now, unbeknownst to them, it was actually threatening her safety.
Things get even dicier when Maisie learns that one of her lawyer brothers has taken on a gang-banging client that she has ties with–a guy who literally helped Maisie hide a dead body not even two months prior. And then, with her plate already stuffed to maximum capacity, Maisie’s situation becomes even more complex after her brother, Cash, is shot during a SWAT raid.
As Maisie tries to clear the painkiller-induced haze from her mind, she feels lost without Hank’s guidance and calm demeanor. Between the ATF and DEA investigation, Violetta Veteratti’s offer to become partners in crime, her brother’s client who, should he talk, threatens her entire career, and vowing to seek justice for whoever shot Cash–Maisie can barely tell up from down. But she’s a McGrane, and McGranes don’t ever give up.
Even with the entire world crashing down around her, Maisie is determined to navigate her way through the numerous obstacles and come out on the other side. No matter how stacked the odds are against her, she attacks each situation with the same sardonic smile, foul-mouth, and quick-witted personality that makes her one of the genre’s most charming and lovable leading ladies.
Filled to the brim with conspiracies, action, and Aaron Sorkin-like dialogue, Shoot ‘Em Up is a fun, first-rate thriller that will satisfy a wide range of readers. Janey Mack is a rising star, and those other female authors whose books have “Girl” in the titles ain’t got nothing on her!
Why you should check it out: Janey Mack packs numerous L-O-L one-liners into her novels. Especially in Shoot ‘Em Up! But Mack brings more than just her quick-witted humor and engaging dialogue (which is Aaron Sorkin-like) this time around, as she delivers her most conspiracy-laden, action-packed story yet.