The Real Book Spy’s September 2019 Reading Guide

September is finally here. Soon, leaves begin to change colors and fall from their branches, signaling that fall is finally here—and this year, there’s a whole bunch of awesome must-read thriller waiting just around the corner. 

As always, we’ve highlighted a few books that stand out among the crowd, and this month those Featured Selections are Lethal Agent, Kyle Mills’ latest Mitch Rapp book, Craig Johnson’s new Longmire mystery, Land of Wolves, William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, and Trained to Hunt, Simon Gervais’ action-packed second Pierce Hunt novel. 


 

Tuesday, September 3

All Out War by Sean Parnell

“Eric Steele and author Sean Parnell are the real deal.”— Lee Child

Special operative Eric Steele, introduced in Man of War, is on the hunt for a formidable Russian terrorist in this high-intensity tale of international intrigue from the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Outlaw Platoon.

Badly injured while stopping a rogue agent from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, elite warrior Eric Steele is drawn back into service before he’s ready when unknown assailants break into his home near Pittsburgh, injuring his mother and stealing his father’s pistol.

An Alpha—an elite soldier under the direct command of the president of the United States—Steele is hell-bent on finding the attackers and bringing them to justice. While tracking his foe, Steele discovers he’s become entangled in a far more sinister plan that’s already been set in motion.

A terrorist named Zakayev, once locked away in a maximum-security prison in Russia, has escaped and joined forces with Hassan Sitta, a man who’s shown his prowess and ingenuity with a spectacular bomb planted somewhere in the Middle East that hasn’t been ignited—and no one can find. But that is only the beginning of a horrifying plan that, if it succeeds, will shatter international alliances and bring the world to the brink of war.

Now, the hunted must turn the tables on the hunter—Steele must find a way to stay alive and stop Zakayev before innocent lives are lost.

Why you should be excited about it: Following his critically acclaimed fiction debut, Man of War, Parnell’s series has quickly become a favorite for fans of Brad Thor and Brad Taylor. I interviewed Parnell back in September, and at the time, he told me that he had just finished book two and said, “the same cast of characters will be back in action: Eric Steele, Meg, Demo, and Rockford. All of them will face a threat unlike anything the United States has seen before. And there will be casualties.” That last line should get fans’ attention in a big way!

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This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Featured Selection)

Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University–before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota. He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is a retired attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage–part Irish and part Ojibwe. His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last five novels were all New York Times bestsellers.

Ordinary Grace, his stand-alone novel published in 2013, received the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition for the best novel published in that year. “Manitou Canyon,” number fifteen in his Cork O’Connor series, was released in September 2016.

Why you should be excited about it: Atria Books has a deep roster of elite talent . . . and while thriller fans might think of Brad Thor, Kyle Mills, Jack Carr or Matthew Betley as being synonymous with the S&S imprint, it’s Krueger who is actually their best writer from a pure talent standpoint. His last standalone, Ordinary Grace (2013), was beautifully written and well-received by readers and critics everywhere. While some fans will miss not having a new Cork O’Connor book in 2019, Krueger delivers another wonderful, thought-provoking story here.

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Nothing Ventured by Jeffrey Archer

Nothing Ventured heralds the start of a brand new series in the style of Jeffrey Archer’s #1 New York Times bestselling Clifton Chronicles: introducing Detective William Warwick. But this is not a detective story, this is a story about the making of a detective . . .

William Warwick has always wanted to be a detective, and decides, much to his father’s dismay, that rather than become a lawyer like his father, Sir Julian Warwick QC, and his sister Grace, he will join London’s Metropolitan Police Force.

After graduating from university, William begins a career that will define his life: from his early months on the beat under the watchful eye of his first mentor, Constable Fred Yates, to his first high-stakes case as a fledgling detective in Scotland Yard’s arts and antiquities squad. Investigating the theft of a priceless Rembrandt painting from the Fitzmolean Museum, he meets Beth Rainsford, a research assistant at the gallery who he falls hopelessly in love with, even as Beth guards a secret of her own that she’s terrified will come to light.

While William follows the trail of the missing masterpiece, he comes up against suave art collector Miles Faulkner and his brilliant lawyer, Booth Watson QC, who are willing to bend the law to breaking point to stay one step ahead of William. Meanwhile, Miles Faulkner’s wife, Christina, befriends William, but whose side is she really on?

This new series introduces William Warwick, a family man and a detective who will battle throughout his career against a powerful criminal nemesis. Through twists, triumph and tragedy, this series will show that William Warwick is destined to become one of Jeffrey Archer’s most enduring legacies.

Why you should be excited about it: This book has a lot of potential to be both fun for longtime fans of Archer’s Clifton Chronicles and a favorite among critics. Archer has always been a fantastic writer, but his short-story collection last year was a bit of a disappointment. That said, now that he’s back to writing a full novel, expectations are high.

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The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

From Ann Cleeves―bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows―comes the first in a gripping new series.

“Ann Cleeves is one of my favorite mystery writers.”―Louise Penny

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers.

Why you should be excited about it: A new series from the author Louise Penny calls one of her “favorite mystery writers.” That pretty much says it all.

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Tuesday, September 10th

Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill by Reed Farrel Coleman

The opioid epidemic has reached Paradise, and Police Chief Jesse Stone must rush to stop the devastation in the latest thriller in Robert B. Parker’s New York Times-bestselling series.

When a popular high school cheerleader dies of a suspected heroin overdose, it becomes clear that the opioid epidemic has spread even to the idyllic town of Paradise. It will be up to police chief Jesse Stone to unravel the supply chain and unmask the criminals behind it, and the investigation has a clear epicenter: Paradise High School. Home of the town’s best and brightest future leaders and its most vulnerable down-and-out teens, it’s a rich and bottomless market for dealers out of Boston looking to expand into the suburbs.

But when it comes to drugs, the very people Jesse is trying to protect are often those with the most to lose. As he digs deeper into the case, he finds himself battling self-interested administrators, reluctant teachers, distrustful schoolkids, and overprotective parents . . . and at the end of the line are the true bad guys, the ones with a lucrative business they’d kill to protect.

Why you should be excited about it: Coleman is great at churning out hard-boiled, gritty crime thrillers, and while his style is very different from Parker’s, Jesse Stone has continued to thrive under his guidance.

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The Fifth Column by Andrew Gross

#1 New York Times bestselling author of The One Man Andrew Gross once again delivers a tense, stirring thriller of a family torn apart set against the backdrop of a nation plunged into war.

February, 1939. Europe teeters on the brink of war. In New York City, twenty-two thousand cheering Nazi supporters pack Madison Square Garden for a raucous, hate-filled rally. In a Hell’s Kitchen bar, Charles Mossman is reeling from the loss of his job and the demise of his marriage when a group draped in Nazi flags barges in. Drunk, Charlie takes a swing at one with tragic results and a torrent of unintended consequences follows.

Two years later. America is wrestling with whether to enter the growing war. Charles’s estranged wife and six-year-old daughter, Emma, now live in a quiet brownstone in the German-speaking New York City neighborhood of Yorkville, where support for Hitler is common. Charles, just out of prison, struggles to put his life back together, while across the hall from his family, a kindly Swiss couple, Trudi and Willi Bauer, have taken a liking to Emma. But Charles begins to suspect that they might not be who they say they are.

As the threat of war grows, and fears of a “fifth column”―German spies embedded into everyday life―are everywhere, Charles puts together that the seemingly amiable Bauers may be part of a sinister conspiracy. When Pearl Harbor is attacked and America can no longer sit on the sideline, that conspiracy turns into a deadly threat with Charles the only one who can see it and Emma, an innocent pawn.

Why you should be excited about it: Since switching genres a few years back, Andrew Gross has quickly become one of the best historical fiction writers on the planet. The One Man (2016) was a special book, and one of the best novels I’ve ever had the honor of reviewing. The Saboteur (2017) was solid, and last year’s The Button Man was pretty good—but The Fifth Column is better than them both.

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Tuesday, September 17th

 

Land Of Wolves by Craig Johnson (Featured Selection)

The new novel in Craig Johnson’s beloved New York Times bestselling Longmire series.

Attempting to recover from his harrowing experiences in Mexico, in Land of Wolves Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire is neck deep in the investigation of what could or could not be the suicidal hanging of a shepherd. With unsettling connections to a Basque family with a reputation for removing the legs of Absaroka County sheriffs, matters become even more complicated with the appearance of an oversize wolf in the Big Horn Mountains to which Walt finds himself feeling more and more empathetic.

Why you should be excited about it: Longmire is back, and while he’s still recovering from the beatdown he took in last year’s book, Walt doesn’t let injuries or anything else hold him back as he investigates the suspicious death of a shepherd. Craig Johnson is so good at what he does, and he’s in top form here.

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Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

The New York Times bestselling author of A Noise Downstairs and No Time for Goodbye returns with an edge-of-your-seat thriller that does for elevators what Psycho did for showers and Jaws did for the beach—a heart-pounding tale in which a series of disasters paralyzes New York City with fear.

It all begins on a Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds, non-stop, to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds, and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again, in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world—and the nation’s capital of media, finance, and entertainment—is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men in women working in offices across the city refuse leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? Why are they doing it? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find the answers before the city’s newest, and tallest, residential tower has its Friday night ribbon-cutting.

With each diabolical twist, Linwood Barclay ratchets up the suspense, building to a shattering finale. Pulsating with tension, Elevator Pitch is a riveting tale of psychological suspense that is all too plausible . . . and will chill readers to the bone.

Why you should be excited about it: Lots of twists and a double-dose of suspense here. While the ending is a tad predictable, readers who figure it out ahead of time will most likely still enjoy the journey getting there.

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A Cruel Deception by Charles Todd

In the aftermath of World War I, nurse Bess Crawford attempts to save a troubled former soldier from a mysterious killer in this eleventh book in the beloved Bess Crawford mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd.

The Armistice of November 1918 ended the fighting, but the Great War will not be over until a Peace Treaty is drawn up and signed by all parties. Representatives from the Allies are gathering in Paris, and already ominous signs of disagreement have appeared.

Sister Bess Crawford, who has been working with the severely wounded in England in the war’s wake, is asked to carry out a personal mission in Paris for a Matron at the London headquarters of The Queen Alexandra’s.

Bess is facing decisions about her own future, even as she searches for the man she is charged with helping.  When she does locate Lawrence Minton, she finds a bitter and disturbed officer who has walked away from his duties at the Peace Conference and is well on his way toward an addiction to opiates. When she confronts him with the dangers of using laudanum, he tells her that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies, as long as he can find oblivion. But what has changed him? What is it that haunts him? He can’t confide in Bess—because the truth is so deeply buried in his mind that he can only relive it in nightmares. The officers who had shared a house with him in Paris profess to know nothing—still, Bess is reluctant to trust them even when they offer her their help. But where to begin on her own?

What is driving this man to a despair so profound it can only end with death? The war? Something that happened in Paris? To prevent a tragedy, she must get at the truth as quickly as possible—which means putting herself between Lieutenant Minton and whatever is destroying him. Or is it whoever?

Why you should be excited about it: Bess Crawford is a strong, well-developed character, and, while we mean no disrespect to Inspector Rutledge, she might just be Todd’s best protagonist going. Interestingly, the authors (the mother-son writing team of Charles and Caroline Todd) have found a way to address a timely topic, even though the book is set just after WWI.

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What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

In New York Times bestselling author Nevada Barr’s gripping standalone, a grandmother in her sixties emerges from a mental fog to find she’s trapped in her worst nightmare

Rose Dennis wakes up in a hospital gown, her brain in a fog, only to discover that she’s been committed to an Alzheimer’s Unit in a nursing home. With no memory of how she ended up in this position, Rose is sure that something is very wrong. When she overhears one of the administrators saying about her that she’s “not making it through the week,” Rose is convinced that if she’s to survive, she has to get out of the nursing home. She avoids taking her medication, putting on a show for the aides, then stages her escape.

The only problem is―how does she convince anyone that she’s not actually demented? Her relatives were the ones to commit her, all the legal papers were drawn up, the authorities are on the side of the nursing home, and even she isn’t sure she sounds completely sane. But any lingering doubt Rose herself might have had is erased when a would-be killer shows up in her house in the middle of the night. Now Rose knows that someone is determined to get rid of her.

With the help of her computer hacker/recluse sister Marion, thirteen-year-old granddaughter Mel, and Mel’s friend Royal, Rose begins to gather her strength and fight back―to find out who is after her and take back control of her own life. But someone out there is still determined to kill Rose, and they’re holding all the cards.

Why you should be excited about it: Imagine waking up to find you’ve been committed against your will into the hospital for dementia, with no recollection whatsoever of how you got there. How much worse would that scene be if you were also convinced that you didn’t really have dementia? That’s the premise of Barr’s latest book, and it’s absolutely riveting.

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The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

Even good people are drawn to do evil things…

Twelve-year-old Rain Winter narrowly escaped an abduction while walking to a friend’s house. Her two best friends, Tess and Hank, were not as lucky. Tess never came home, and Hank was held in captivity before managing to escape. Their abductor was sent to prison but years later was released. Then someone delivered real justice—and killed him in cold blood.

Now Rain is living the perfect suburban life, her dark childhood buried deep. She spends her days as a stay-at-home mom, having put aside her career as a hard-hitting journalist to care for her infant daughter. But when another brutal murderer who escaped justice is found dead, Rain is unexpectedly drawn into the case. Eerie similarities to the murder of her friends’ abductor force Rain to revisit memories she’s worked hard to leave behind. Is there a vigilante at work? Who is the next target? Why can’t Rain just let it go?

Introducing one of the most compelling and original killers in crime fiction today, Lisa Unger takes readers deep inside the minds of both perpetrator and victim, blurring the lines between right and wrong, crime and justice, and showing that sometimes people deserve what comes to them.

Why you should be excited about it: Unger is a sure bet for those seeking a nail-biting thriller with enough twists and turns to have you gasping for air by the time you finally reach the ending. The promise to introduce “one of the most compelling and original killers in crime fiction today” should have her fans pre-ordering in bunches.

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Tuesday, September 24th 

 

Lethal Agent SDLethal Agent by Kyle Mills (Featured Selection)

An unprecedented and terrifying bioterrorism plot threatens to kill millions in the midst of a divisive presidential election in this new thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling Mitch Rapp series.

A toxic presidential election is underway in an America already badly weakened by internal divisions. While politicians focus entirely on maintaining their own power and privilege, ISIS kidnaps a brilliant French microbiologist and forces him to begin manufacturing anthrax. Slickly produced videos chronicling his progress and threatening an imminent attack are posted to the Internet, intensifying the hysteria gripping the US.

ISIS recruits a Mexican drug cartel to smuggle the bioweapon across the border, but it’s really just a diversion. The terrorist organization needs to keep Mitch Rapp and Irene Kennedy distracted long enough to weaponize a deadly virus that they stumbled upon in Yemen. If they succeed, they’ll trigger a pandemic that could rewrite the world order.

Rapp embarks on a mission to infiltrate the Mexican cartels and track down the ISIS leader who he failed to kill during their last confrontation. But with Washington’s political elite increasingly lined up against him, he knows he’ll be on his own.

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Trained to HuntTrained to Hunt by Simon Gervais (Featured Selection)

No limits. No rules. No mercy. Can one man take down an entire drug cartel?

Former Army Ranger Pierce Hunt is second-guessing his decision to join a CIA hunter-killer team that will take him far away from his daughter. But when a new performance-enhancing drug kills four football players—including his daughter’s boyfriend—settling down becomes the last thing on Hunt’s mind.

When Anna Garcia, Hunt’s lover and head of the largest drug cartel in Miami, becomes the prime suspect in the investigation, the stakes become even more personal. Not convinced that Anna is capable of such extremes, Hunt looks far and wide for evidence to exonerate her and stop a vicious enemy who plans to flood the US market with an addictive new drug. Outgunned, outmanned, and out of time, Hunt is the country’s last hope to stop a deadly new drug from making countless new victims.

Why you should be excited about it: Gervais has fast become one of the rising talents on the thriller scene, and his new series is a real step-up from his Mike Walton days, no offense to the former covert field operator. This one packs a triple-dose of action with a hearty shot of suspense for good measure—but it’s Gervais’ growth as a writer that stands out, as he continues to flash major potential that should have top-tier characters like Scot Harvath and Court Gentry making room at the top of the genre.

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All The DevilsAll The Devils by Barry Eisler

A search for a pair of serial rapists leads Livia Lone down the darkest and most dangerous trail of her life in a pulse-pounding thriller by New York Times bestselling author Barry Eisler.

Ten years ago, the daughter of Homeland Security Investigations agent B. D. Little vanished into thin air. So did seven other girls—the crimes all bearing the same signature characteristics.

Now the disappearances have begun again. And Agent Little’s efforts to investigate are being blocked by forces far above his pay grade. Desperate, he turns to Seattle sex-crimes detective Livia Lone, the most obsessive hunter of predators Little knows.

Livia will need that obsessiveness, and a lot more. Because the two men Little is pursuing are fearsome. Both Special Forces veterans with a dozen tours in Iraq between them. Both sadists and serial rapists. And one, the congressman scion of the vice president of the United States—a man who will use all his power to protect his son’s secrets and further his own ambitions.

The conspirators have all the assets and all the angles. And every reason to believe they’ll evade justice, as they always have before.

They don’t understand that for Livia Lone, justice is only a guideline. Revenge is the rule

Why you should be excited about it: Eisler is such a versatile writer . . . whether it’s deliciously-dark or all-out action, he simply can’t miss right now. His last book saw his two series protagonists, assassin John Rain and police officer Livia lone, finally team-up. Now, the author is pivoting back to a Livia solo book, delivering one of his most engrossing thrillers to date.

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Bomber's Moon

Bomber’s Moon by Archer Mayor

The murder of a small-time drug dealer snowballs into the most complex case ever faced by Joe Gunther and his VBI team.

It is said a bright and clear bomber’s moon is the best asset to finding one’s target. But beware what you wish for: What you can see at night can also see you. Often with dire consequences.

Bomber’s Moon is Archer Mayor’s latest entry in the Joe Gunther series and it may just be his best yet.

Two young women form the heart of this tale. One, an investigative reporter, the other a private investigator. Uneasy allies from completely different walks of life, they work together―around and sometimes against Joe Gunther and his VBI cops―in an attempt to connect the murders of a small-town drug dealer, a smart, engaging, fatally flawed thief, and the tangled, political, increasingly dark goings-on at a prestigious prep school.

While Gunther and the VBI set about solving the two murders, Sally Kravitz and Rachel Reiling combine their talents and resources to go where the police cannot, from working undercover at Thorndike Academy, to having clandestine meetings with criminals for their insider’s knowledge of Vermont’s unexpectedly illicit underbelly.

But there is a third element at work. A malevolent force, the common link in all this death and chaos, is hard at work sowing mayhem to protect its ancient, vicious, very dark roots.

Why you should be excited about it: Mayor’s 30th Joe Gunther book is another solid outing from the veteran New York Times bestseller. This time around, Gunther is investigating a pair of murders—and readers can expect plenty of misdirection and suspense along the way. I love the noir-ish vibe to these books, and Mayor knows how to hold readers’ attention.

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Sins of the FathersSins of the Fathers by J.A. Jance

Seattle investigator J. P. Beaumont is drawn into an intriguing, and shockingly personal, case in this superb tale of suspense from New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance.

Former Seattle homicide cop, J. P. Beaumont, is learning to enjoy the new realities of retirement doing morning crossword puzzles by a roaring fireplace; playing frisbee with his new dog; having quiet lunches with his still working wife. But then his past comes calling.

When a long-ago acquaintance, Alan Dale, shows up on Beau’s doorstep with a newborn infant in hand and asking for help locating his missing daughter, Beau finds himself faced with an investigation that will turn his own life upside down by dragging his none-too-stellar past onto a roller-coaster ride that may well derail his serene present. It turns out that, even in retirement. murder is still the name of J. P. Beaumont’s game.

Why you should be excited about it: Jance is a true pro, and one of the most successful writers on this list. Over the course of her brilliant career, she’s juggled multiple hit series over the mystery and thriller genres. I read this one a few weeks ago and thought it was as good as anything she’s written over the last five years I’ve been covering her stuff.

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Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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5 comments

  1. True believer,5 stars but the book could’ve been shorter.However, I learned things about Islam that I’ve never seen in other books. I will look forward to his next novel.

  2. City of windows was very good, and I will look forward to reading more by this author. I appreciated his knowledge of prosthetics, and I wish he had given more information as to how the earlier incident occurred,However, this may be for future novels. I also would’ve liked more information about how the author became so knowledgeable about prosthetics,and I did not find this in his bio. Four Stars.

  3. “Hush, hush”. Five stars. James Patterson and Candace Fox collaborate beautifully. Excellent book, and I will read all their other work.

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