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I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (2014)

A new author for fans of high-octane thrillers. Don’t be intimated by the size of this book (over 600 pages). I normally avoid books this size, but the description intrigued me enough to try it, and I’m really glad I did! I am Pilgrim is roller coaster ride of constant action; worldwide settings; a variety of complex, flawed, captivating characters; and many unpredictable twists and turns.

The main character, code named “Pilgrim,” a former member of a covert US agency that dealt with terrorism, is pulled into a murder investigation by a friend who’s a top New York City police detective. This, in turn, leads him (and us, the readers) to many places around the globe – Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey as he attempts to take down a terrorist group planning a potentially catastrophic attack on the US. Terry Hayes’ novel is a fun, high-adrenaline, and strangely addictive read.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (2016)

When a small charter plane with 11 passengers on board crashes mysteriously shortly after takeoff from Martha's Vineyard, only two individuals survive: Scott Burroughs, a painter, and JJ, the 4-year-old son of a multimillionaire founder of a network. After the crash, Scott hears JJ's cries, finds him in the dark night, and manages to get back to land with JJ on his back.

Throughout the novel, author Noah Hawley takes you backward and forward in time to learn about each of the 11 passengers and what brought them together on the doomed plane. The investigation into the crash and commentaries by the network headliner Bill Cunningham, who goes to illegal ends for information, keeps you hooked throughout Before the Fall.

A Very Simple Crime by Grant Jerkins (2010)

This first novel from Grant Jerkins grabs you from the very first chapter: Rachel Lee, a mentally ill woman, is brutally murdered; Grant is her grieving husband; and Albert, their mentally handicapped son, has a history of violent outbursts. The police think it is a simple open-and-shut-case.

In A Very Simple Crime, however, things are not always as they appear. Leo Hewitt, a disgraced prosecutor, is determined to keep digging to find out what really happened. If you’re looking for a fun escape, try this great crime thriller.

See Me by Nicholas Sparks (2015)

As with all of Nicholas Sparks’ novels, a developing romance is central to the story. In See Me, an unlikely pair meet and are shepherded together by the sister and friends. The reader wonders how a traumatized and tattooed cage fighter (Colin) with a criminal past could hit it off with a young woman lawyer (Maria) fresh from the county prosecutor’s office. And also fresh is the senior partner in Maria’s new firm where she hopes to advance, maybe to partner. More amazing are the changes in Colin’s life: he is now studying hard with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. Yet persons from Maria’s past bring trauma and thirst for revenge to the story so the reader has an exciting ride as danger enfolds and challenges the characters.

The Old Man by Thomas Perry (2017)

For thirty-five years, Dan Chase has lived quietly in Vermont, raising a daughter and happily married until his wife died ten years ago. Chase has kept himself mentally and physically sharp waiting for the day when someone discovers who he really is and comes to kill him. That day is now. All those years ago, Chase delivered $20 million for the CIA to a man named Faris Hamzah, who was supposed to give the money to Libyan insurgents. Instead, Hamzah kept the money for himself. Chase stole it back, and when he tried to get in touch with his superiors, they cut him off completely. Chase had no choice but to disappear. Now on the run, trying to outwit and overpower those who are coming after him, it's a cat and mouse game to see who comes out on top. Thomas Perry’s The Old Man is an extremely satisfying fast-paced thriller perfect for a cold winter's day.

Cemetery Girl by David Bell (2011)

cemeterygirlTom and Abby Stuart had a wonderful life—until their 12-year-old daughter Caitlin disappeared without a trace. Four years later, the police find their daughter alive. She refuses to discuss anything that happened to her during the time she was gone. Of course, she is a stranger to her parents, who are hanging onto their marriage by a thread.

Cemetery Girl is a good psychological thriller, told from Caitlin’s father’s point of view. When the villain is finally revealed, he is especially repulsive. I will definitely try more novels by David Bell.

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (2015)

drifterHighly recommend this debut novel to fans of mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and especially fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. The main protagonist, Peter Ash, is an ex-Marine Lieutenant who served for eight years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon returning to the U.S. a year earlier, he decides to live in the mountains, as PTSD causes him to have extreme claustrophobia and panic attacks when indoors for any time. When he finds out that his best friend from the military committed suicide, he goes to Milwaukee to help out this friend’s widow and two sons. The mystery begins when he finds a suitcase with lots of cash and explosives under the porch of their house.

In The Drifter, the cast of characters are vividly-drawn and complex, even the dog, Mingus. A central theme in this book is the effects of war on returning vets. I'm looking forward to Nicholas Petrie’s next book with Peter Ash (Burning Bright, which was released earlier this month).

Home by Harlan Coben (2016)

homeTen years ago, two boys—Patrick Moore and Rhys Baldwin—both from wealthy families, are kidnapped. Ransom was demanded and dropped off but not retrieved. Rhys' mother's cousin, Win Lockwood, has been determined to bring both boys home ever since. When Win receives a strange message that the boys have been spotted in London, Win enlists the help of his best friend, Myron, to help him in his search. Home is a quick, exciting thriller from Harlan Coben!

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley (2016)

bebeautifulThis psychological spellbinder introduces Catherine West, a wealthy woman who wants for nothing and trusts no one. She has fine art on her walls, runs her own business, buys anything she desires, has a masseuse on call, and many, many wealthy friends but trusts no one.

Catherine is in her 40s desiring a husband and child, and when a very rugged handsome man approaches her at an art gallery, she keeps telling herself it is all too good to be true. Maybe it is? Check out We Could Be Beautiful and read this twisty, intoxicating, unsettling story by Swan Huntley today!

The Couple Next Door by Sheri Lapeña (2016)

couplenextdoorAnne and Marco Conti leave their newborn baby at home alone and go to a party at the neighbor’s house. Despite them checking on the baby every half hour, the baby is missing when they get home.

Sheri Lapeña’s The Couple Next Door is a gripping, can’t-put-down tale of deception, betrayal, and unfaithfulness that will keep you in suspense until the final twist.

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham (2015)

roguelawyerSebastian Rudd treads close to the edge of the precipice as he represents clients other lawyers eschew. Among his clients are an accused child molester, a mobster who arranges an escape from death row, a homeowner who shoots a SWAT team member, and an ultimate cage fighter who dispatches a referee. A routine day for Rudd might include the threat of arrest, bodily harm, or disbarment. His personal life too has tension brought on by his lawyer ex-wife as she files court papers seeking to restrict his visits with their young son. Rudd cares deeply for his son and is greatly distressed when the boy goes missing, probably kidnapped to add to his stress. With amazing creativity, Rudd plays one against another in hope of a good outcome in John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)

13thtaleDiane Setterfield masterfully weaves together a gothic tale of suspense, mystery, and loss. The novel follows the story of two women, one a reclusive author, Vida Winter, who has weaved together so many stories about her life no one knows the truth and the other a young biographer, Margaret Lea, who has been chosen by Winter to take down her true story before Winter succumbs to old age and various ailments plaguing her.

Winter’s tale unfolds mainly in flashback, recounting her eccentric upbringing and the tragedy that tore her family apart. The reader is left to figure out which character Winter is in her tale. Meanwhile, Lea is forced to look to her own past, the loss of her twin and the resulting withdrawal from day-to-day life of her mother. She tries to examine how it has shaped who she is and how she can move forward with her own life. Themes explored include identity, loss, reconciliation, death, and twins.

The Thirteenth Tale was originally released in Australia as an adult novel, but subsequently was released in the United States as a novel targeted to young adults. In 2007, it won an Alex Award, which is annually given to ten books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults.

Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz (2015)

ashleybellOddly enough, Ashley Bell is not the main character of this psychological suspense novel. She is the focal point of Bibi Blair's quest after her fatal diagnosis of brain cancer at age 22. Bibi has always been an independent, intelligent, and creative person. She began her writing career as a child. She is much loved by her parents and fiancé, who is fighting terrorism in a secret location as a Navy SEAL when Bibi is diagnosed. In Ashley Bell, the three are powerless to help Bibi in her battle as Dean Koontz weaves an intricate adventure the reader will not soon forget.

A Necessary End by Holly Brown (2015)

necessaryendAdrienne is 39 and desperate to be a mother. Her husband Gabe isn’t that anxious to have a family, but goes along with the idea to please his wife. After failed IVF attempts and being scammed by a fake birth mother, Adrienne is willing to do anything to fulfill her dream. Into their lives comes 19-year-old Leah, who is pregnant and not interested in keeping her baby. Leah, however, has some stipulations, including living with Adrienne and Gabe for one year before signing the adoption papers. What could possibly go wrong? Well, just about everything.

A Necessary End is a good psychological thriller, told from two different viewpoints. Holly Brown’s novel includes some unexpected twists toward the end.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman (2016)

wildelakeWhen Lu Brant is elected the first female state's attorney of a county outside Baltimore, it should be the pinnacle of her career, but when she decides to try a murder case against homeless Rudy Drysdale, she's forced to confront buried memories of her own childhood. Lu's brother A.J. was involved at 18 in an incident where he broke his arm and another man died. Lu was ten at the time, enamored of popular A.J. and his group of friends. No charges were ever brought against anyone, but as Lu proceeds in her case, she finds that Drysdale was two years behind A.J. in school and that they might have known each other. Lu also reflects on being raised by her father, also a state's attorney, after her mother died while Lu was very young.

Wilde Lake is a novel that transports you to 1970s and 1980s suburban Baltimore and fully immerses the reader in a world of childhood and family secrets. Like Laura Lippman's best novels, Wilde Lake is a book that stay with you even after the last page is turned.