The Real Book Spy’s February 2020 Reading Guide

Happy February, thriller fans! 

After skipping January—because we put out a full 2020 Reading Guide (which you can read here)—we’re back with a full lineup of great thrillers set to hit bookstores in the coming weeks. 

As always, we’ve selected a few standout titles, and this month’s Featured Selections are Mark Greaney’s One Minute Out, Meg Gardiner’s The Dark Corners of the Night, and Joshua Hood’s The Treadstone Resurrection. Find out more about those titles, along with everything else coming out, below! 

 


Tuesday, February 4th 

 

Thief River FallsThief River Falls by Brian Freeman

Harrowing loss, psychological trauma, and a deadly mystery test the human will to survive in this electrifying novel from award-winning author Brian Freeman.

Lisa Power is a tortured ghost of her former self. The author of a bestselling thriller called Thief River Falls, named after her rural Minnesota hometown, Lisa is secluded in her remote house as she struggles with the loss of her entire family: a series of tragedies she calls the “Dark Star.”

Then a nameless runaway boy shows up at her door with a terrifying story: he’s just escaped death after witnessing a brutal murder—a crime the police want to cover up. Obsessed with the boy’s safety, Lisa resolves to expose this crime, but powerful men in Thief River Falls are desperate to get the boy back, and now they want her too.

Lisa and her young visitor have nowhere to go as the trap closes around them. Still under the strange, unforgiving threat of the Dark Star, Lisa must find a way to save them both, or they’ll become the victims of another shocking tragedy she can’t foresee.

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Crooked River New CoverCrooked River by Lincoln & Child

Racing to uncover the mystery of several light green-shoe-clad severed feet found floating in the Atlantic, Agents Pendergast is faced with most inexplicable challenge of his career in this installment of the #1 NYT bestselling series.

A STARTLING CRIME WITH DOZENS OF VICTIMS.

Appearing out of nowhere to horrify the quiet resort town of Sanibel Island, Florida, dozens of identical, ordinary-looking shoes float in on the tide and are washed up on the tropical beach–each one with a crudely severed human foot inside.

A GHASTLY ENIGMA WITH NO APPARENT SOLUTION.

Called away from vacation elsewhere in the state, Agent Pendergast reluctantly agrees to visit the crime scene–and, despite himself, is quickly drawn in by the incomprehensible puzzle. An early pathology report only adds to the mystery. With an ocean of possibilities confronting the investigation, no one is sure what happened, why, or from where the feet originated. And they desperately need to know: are the victims still alive?

A WORTHY CHALLENGE FOR A BRILLIANT MIND.

In short order, Pendergast finds himself facing the most complex and inexplicable challenge of his career: a tangled thread of evidence that spans seas and traverses continents, connected to one of the most baffling mysteries in modern medical science. Through shocking twists and turns, all trails lead back to a powerful adversary with a sadistic agenda and who–in a cruel irony–ultimately sees in Pendergast the ideal subject for their malevolent research.

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Golden in DeathGolden in Death by J.D. Robb

In the latest thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, homicide detective Eve Dallas investigates a murder with a mysterious motive―and a terrifying weapon.

Pediatrician Kent Abner received the package on a beautiful April morning. Inside was a cheap trinket, a golden egg that could be opened into two halves. When he pried it apart, highly toxic airborne fumes entered his body―and killed him.

After Eve Dallas calls the hazmat team―and undergoes testing to reassure both her and her husband that she hasn’t been exposed―it’s time to look into Dr. Abner’s past and relationships. Not every victim Eve encounters is an angel, but it seems that Abner came pretty close―though he did ruffle some feathers over the years by taking stands for the weak and defenseless. While the lab tries to identify the deadly toxin, Eve hunts for the sender. But when someone else dies in the same grisly manner, it becomes clear that she’s dealing with either a madman―or someone who has a hidden and elusive connection to both victims.

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Perfect Little ChildrenPerfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

The New York Times bestselling author of The Monogram Murders and Woman with a Secret returns with a sharp, captivating, and expertly plotted tale of psychological suspense.

All Beth has to do is drive her son to his soccer game, watch him play, and then return home. Just because she knows her ex-best friend lives near the field, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her.

Why would Beth do that and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora for twelve years. She doesn’t want to see her today—or ever again. But she can’t resist. She parks outside the open gates of Newnham House, watches from across the road as Flora arrives and calls to her children Thomas and Emily to get out of the car.

Except . . . There’s something terribly wrong. Flora looks the same, only older. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt, but they haven’t changed at all. They are no taller, no older. Why haven’t they grown? How is it possible that they haven’t grown up?

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The Museum of DesireThe Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman

Psychologist Alex Delaware and detective Milo Sturgis struggle to make sense of a seemingly inexplicable massacre in this electrifying psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense.

LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis has solved a lot of murder cases. On many of them—the ones he calls “different”—he taps the brain of brilliant psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware. But neither Alex nor Milo are prepared for what they find on an early morning call to a deserted mansion in Bel Air. This one’s beyond different. This is predation, premeditation, and cruelty on a whole new level.

Four people have been slaughtered and left displayed bizarrely and horrifically in a stretch limousine. Confounding the investigation, none of the victims seems to have any connection to any other, and a variety of methods have been used to dispatch them. As Alex and Milo make their way through blind alleys and mazes baited with misdirection, they encounter a crime so vicious that it stretches the definitions of evil.

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A COLD TRAILA Cold Trail by Robert Dugoni

In New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s riveting series, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite returns home to a brutal murder and her haunted past.

The last time homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite was in Cedar Grove, it was to see her sister’s killer put behind bars. Now she’s returned for a respite and the chance to put her life back in order for herself, her attorney husband, Dan, and their new daughter. But tragic memories soon prove impossible to escape.

Dan is drawn into representing a local merchant whose business is jeopardized by the town’s revitalization. And Tracy is urged by the local PD to put her own skills to work on a new case: the brutal murder of a police officer’s wife and local reporter who was investigating a cold-case slaying of a young woman. As Tracy’s and Dan’s cases crisscross, Tracy’s trail becomes dangerous. It’s stirring up her own haunted past and a decades-old conspiracy in Cedar Grove that has erupted in murder. Getting to the truth is all that matters. But what’s Tracy willing to risk as a killer gets closer to her and threatens everyone she loves?

Why you should check it out: Dugoni has come on strong the last couple of years, and his last book, The Eighth Sister, is one of the best spy novels I’ve ever reviewed. This one, of course, brings back Tracy Crosswhite, one of the best female protagonists in the genre, making it an easy pick for this list.

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Tuesday, February 11th

 

Salt RiverSalt River by Randy Wayne White

The sins of the past come back to haunt Doc Ford and his old friend Tomlinson in this thrilling new novel from New York Times-bestselling author Randy Wayne White.

Marine biologist and former government agent Doc Ford is sure he’s beyond the point of being surprised by his longtime pal Tomlinson’s madcap tales of his misspent youth. But he’s stunned anew when avowed bachelor Tomlinson reveals that as a younger man strapped for cash, he’d unwittingly fathered multiple children via for-profit sperm bank donations. Thanks to genealogy websites, Tomlinson’s now-grown offspring have tracked him down, seeking answers about their roots. . . but Doc quickly grows suspicious that one of them might be planning something far more nefarious than a family reunion.

With recent history on his mind, Doc is unsurprised when his own dicey past is called into question. Months ago, he’d quietly “liberated” a cache of precious Spanish coins from a felonious treasure hunter, and now a number of unsavory individuals, including a disgraced IRS investigator and a corrupt Bahamian customs agent, are after their cut. Caught between watching his own back and Tomlinson’s, Doc has no choice but to get creative–before rash past decisions escalate to deadly present-day dangers.

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The ChillThe Chill by Scott Carson

“A creepy tale of supernatural terror.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

In this terrifying thriller, a supernatural force—set in motion a century ago—threatens to devastate New York City.

Far upstate, in New York’s ancient forests, a drowned village lays beneath the dark, still waters of the Chilewaukee reservoir. Early in the 20th century, the town was destroyed for the greater good: bringing water to the millions living downstate. Or at least that’s what the politicians from Manhattan insisted at the time. The local families, settled there since America’s founding, were forced from their land, but they didn’t move far, and some didn’t move at all…

Now, a century later, the repercussions of human arrogance are finally making themselves known. An inspector assigned to oversee the dam, dangerously neglected for decades, witnesses something inexplicable. It turns out that more than the village was left behind in the waters of the Chill when it was abandoned. The townspeople didn’t evacuate without a fight. A dark prophecy remained, too, and the time has come for it to be fulfilled. Those who remember must ask themselves: who will be next? For sacrifices must be made. And as the dark waters begin to inexorably rise, the demand for a fresh sacrifice emerges from the deep…

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Tuesday, February 18th

 

One minute outOne Minute Out by Mark Greaney (Featured Selection)

From Mark Greaney, the New York Times bestselling author of Mission Critical and a coauthor of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, comes another high-stakes thriller featuring the world’s most dangerous assassin: the Gray Man.

While on a mission to Croatia, Court Gentry uncovers a human trafficking operation. The trail leads from the Balkans all the way back to Hollywood.

Court is determined to shut it down, but his CIA handlers have other plans. The criminal ringleader has actionable intelligence about a potentially devastating terrorist attack on the US. The CIA won’t move until they have that intel. It’s a moral balancing act with Court at the pivot point.

Why we’re featuring it: For years, Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva, and Brad Thor sat atop the political thriller genre, alone, as the best writers in the game. Greaney is the latest member of the club, recently taking his seat at the top—and the scary thing is, I’m not sure we’ve seen his best work yet. This is his grittiest novel to date, and it all just works so well together. Yeah, human trafficking is a tough subject to read about at times, but Greaney threads the needle here never going too far into that world. Besides, it really helps to know the Gray Man is out to kill everyone with a hand in selling other humans so, you know, there’s that. 

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The Dark Corners of the Night

The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner (Featured Selection)

I am the legion of the night

He appears in the darkness like a ghost, made of shadows and fear–the Midnight Man. He comes for the parents but leaves the children alive, tiny witnesses to unspeakable horror. The bedroom communities of Los Angeles are gripped with dread, and the attacks are escalating.

Still reeling from her best friend’s close call in a bombing six months ago, FBI behavioral analyst Caitlin Hendrix has come to Los Angeles to assist in the Midnight Man investigation and do what she does best–hunt a serial killer. Her work is what keeps her going, but something about this UNSUB–unknown subject–doesn’t sit right. She soon realizes that this case will test not only her skills but also her dedication, for within the heart of a killer lives a secret that mirrors Caitlin’s own past. Hesitancy is not an option, but will she be able to do what must be done if the time comes?

Tense and impactful, Edgar Award winner Meg Gardiner’s latest UNSUB thriller will leave you on the edge of your seat until its riveting conclusion.

Why we’re featuring it: It’s been a long wait for her third UNSUB book (the last, Into the Black, came out in January of 2018), but Meg Gardiner treats readers to her very best work yet . . . making that wait fully worth it and more. I am so high on this book. Pro tip: as with all her stuff, read this one with the light on—because it is scary good. Emphasis on the scary

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The Last PassengerThe Last Passenger by Charles Finch

From bestselling author Charles Finch comes the third and final in a prequel trilogy to his lauded Charles Lenox series.

London, 1855. A young and eager Charles Lenox faces his toughest case yet: a murder without a single clue. Slumped in a third-class car at Paddington Station is the body of a handsome young gentleman. He has no luggage, empty pockets, and no sign of identification on his person. And putting together the clues to the mystery of the man’s identity only raises more questions, when Lenox discovers that the crime has a significant connection to America.

As he seeks to solve this impossible case, the young Lenox must confront an equally troublesome problem in his personal life. Kitty Ashbrook, beautiful and cultured, appears to be his soulmate―but love comes with obstacles of its own. In tandem, this fiendish early case and passionate, deeply felt affair will irrevocably shape the brilliant detective and thoughtful gentleman Lenox is destined to become.

Written in Charles Finch’s unmistakably witty and graceful voice, THE LAST PASSENGER is a cunning, thrilling, and deeply satisfying conclusion to this trilogy of prequels to his bestselling Charles Lenox series.

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The Other MrsThe Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Altogether unpredictable.” —Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author

Propulsive and addictive, and perfect for fans of “You,” The Other Mrs. is the twisty new psychological thriller from Mary Kubica, the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl

She tried to run, but she can’t escape the other Mrs.

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

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Tuesday, February 25th

 

jacket TREADSTONE RESURRECTIONRobert Ludlum’s The Treadstone Resurrection by Joshua Hood (Featured Selection)

The first novel in an explosive new series inspired by Robert Ludlum’s Bourne universe, The Treadstone Resurrection introduces an unforgettable hero and the shadowy world that forged him…

Treadstone made Jason Bourne an unstoppable force, but he’s not the only one.

Operation Treadstone has nearly ruined Adam Hayes. The top-secret CIA Black Ops program trained him to be an all but invincible assassin, but it also cost him his family and any chance at a normal life. Which is why he was determined to get out. Working as a carpenter in rural Washington state, Adam thinks he has left Treadstone in the past, until he receives a mysterious email from a former colleague, and soon after is attacked by an unknown hit team at his job site.

Adam must regain the skills that Treadstone taught him–lightning reflexes and a cold conscience–in order to discover who the would-be killers are and why they have come after him now. Are his pursuers enemies from a long-ago mission? Rival intelligence agents? Or, perhaps, forces inside Treadstone? His search will unearth secrets in the highest levels of government and pull him back into the shadowy world he worked so hard to forget.

Why we’re featuring itClear by Fire author Joshua Hood hasn’t had his name on a book since Warning Order came out back in 2016. Now, he’s been trusted with penning the first Jason Bourne spinoff series, and he rewards the Ludlum estate with a well-written, action-packed thriller that brings the heat and introduces a captivating, ass-kicking new hero in Adam Hayes. The sky is the limit for this new franchise, and Hood’s return to the genre is a good thing for readers everywhere.

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The Warsaw ProtocolThe Warsaw Protocol by Steve Berry

New York Times bestseller Steve Berry’s latest Cotton Malone adventure, one by one the seven precious relics of the Arma Christi, the weapons of Christ, are disappearing from sanctuaries across the world.

After former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone witnesses the theft of one of them, he learns from his old boss, Stephanie Nelle, that a private auction is about to be held where incriminating information on the president of Poland will be offered to the highest bidder―blackmail that both the United States and Russia want, but for vastly different reasons.

The price of admission to that auction is one of the relics, so Malone is first sent to a castle in Poland to steal the Holy Lance, a thousand-year-old spear sacred to not only Christians but to the Polish people, and then on to the auction itself. But nothing goes as planned and Malone is thrust into a bloody battle between three nations over information that, if exposed, could change the balance of power in Europe.

From the tranquil canals of Bruges, to the elegant rooms of Wawel Castle, to deep beneath the earth into an ancient Polish salt mine, Malone is caught in the middle of a deadly war―the outcome of which turns on a secret known as the Warsaw Protocol.

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The Big LieThe Big Lie by James Grippando

As the Electoral College battle for the White House lands in a Florida courtroom, Miami attorney Jack Swyteck has never felt farther from the truth, fighting for a “faithless elector,” caught between a corrupt president and his manipulative opponent—with each revelation more explosive than the next.

The country is reeling. For the sixth time in American history, the winner of the popular vote will not occupy the Oval Office. President Malcolm MacLeod, the Machiavellian incumbent, was spared from impeachment only because his political foes were certain they would oust him at the ballot box. Now, he appears to have secured a second term, thanks to a narrow victory in the Electoral College.

His opponent, Florida Senator Evan Stahl, saw his campaign rocked by allegations of an extramarital affair—with another man. Despite the salacious headline-making scandal and the surrounding media frenzy, most Americans chose Stahl to lead the politically polarized nation. But Stahl is refusing to concede. Backed by millions of supporters, he looks to individual members of the Electoral College to cross party lines.

Gun lobbyist Charlotte Holmes is one of Floridas twenty-nine electors who is bound by law and by oath to cast her vote for MacLeod, who won Florida by the thinnest of margins. When Charlotte announces that she intends to vote her conscience and throw the Electoral College to Stahl, the president and his Florida machine haul her into court on felony charges—which, for some, isn’t nearly punishment enough.

Miami attorney Jack Swyteck is going to use every legal maneuver he can to keep his new client free—and alive. MacLeod’s hand-picked prosecutor is determined to prove Charlotte is unfit to cast a vote. Dredging through her past, he’s looking for skeletons to humiliate and discredit her, while others with far deadlier intentions have begun acting on their threats.

As the pressure mounts, Charlotte and Jack must decide how far they’ll go to stand their ground in the stand-your-ground state.

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Pretty as a PicturePretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little

An egomaniacal movie director, an isolated island, and a decades-old murder–the addictive new novel from the bestselling author of Dear Daughter

Marissa Dahl, a shy but successful film editor, travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with the legendary–and legendarily demanding–director Tony Rees on a feature film with a familiar logline.

Some girl dies.

It’s not much to go on, but the specifics don’t concern Marissa. Whatever the script is, her job is the same. She’ll spend her days in the editing room, doing what she does best: turning pictures into stories.

But she soon discovers that on this set, nothing is as it’s supposed to be–or as it seems. There are rumors of accidents and indiscretions, of burgeoning scandals and perilous schemes. Half the crew has been fired. The other half wants to quit. Even the actors have figured out something is wrong. And no one seems to know what happened to the editor she was hired to replace.

Then she meets the intrepid and incorrigible teenage girls who are determined to solve the real-life murder that is the movie’s central subject, and before long, Marissa is drawn into the investigation herself.

The only problem is, the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be finished.

A wickedly funny exploration of our cultural addiction to tales of murder and mayhem and a thrilling, behind-the-scenes whodunit, Pretty as a Picture is a captivating page-turner from one of the most distinctive voices in crime fiction.

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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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One comment

  1. Just read Michael Ledwidge’s new book,“Stop at nothing”. Five stars. He is a wonderful writer, great action scenes, good character development, and everything tied together beautifully.The story was every bit as good as his Michael Bennett novels.

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