Thriller

“The 13th Hour” by Richard Doetsch

 

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Have you ever been so angry that you stormed out of the room, tied up in knots with feelings of hurt and frustration? When you had a chance to cool off, did you wish that you could take back what you had said – redo the last ten minutes? Regrets are often shared at funerals about the ‘if only’ moments: “If only I had gone along with her, if only I had agreed…"

 

But, what if the person you were fighting with is found murdered just a few hours later? Your fingerprints are on the murder weapon found in your car, but you didn’t do it? Nick Quinn is in jail for killing his wife. But is Julia really dead?

 

In an inventive method of storytelling, Richard Doetsch begins “The 13th Hour” at chapter 12 and works backwards. A mysterious man visits Quinn in jail and offers him the opportunity to find his wife’s killer and inexplicably, stop her from being murdered, to make the murder disappear as if it never occurred. The catch? Quinn only has twelve hours to solve the puzzles thrown at him. At the end of each hour, the clock will restart, taking him back to an hour earlier. Each decision he makes will change the future for everyone with whom he comes in contact. And, he will give anything, do anything, to have his wife back at his side.

 

The twists and turns that occur as the future/past is rewritten are surprising and make for an extremely clever plot. Nick discovers things about his wife and best friend/neighbor he did not know in the past and begins to wish hadn’t been revealed in the now. Interesting supporting characters’ lives are shifted in sometimes chilling ways and nobody is as honest as they first appear.

 

Doetsch also tells the story of the people affected by the reverse time travel, so that we see how each of them handles their alternate reality, but our fast-thinking hero is the only one who knows what is happening all the time. We think that we know the ending, because that’s how the book started, but that would be too easy. There are some nasty villains, a devastating plane crash that factors into the twelve hours of choices, a heart-breaking deception, unexpected intrigue, and a theft that made me wonder what could possibly happen next? What else could possibly go wrong for this likeable, desperate man? “The 13th Hour” kept me going as each new wrinkle was disclosed, right until the last page. Great read!

 

Doetsch’s most recent novel, “Thieves of Legend,” (the fourth in the Michael St. Pierre series) is also an action-packed thriller, with unwilling thieves as the protagonists.

 

For more information about Richard Doetsch’s fascinating life off the page, his bestselling books, and future projects, visit www.richarddoetsch.com

 

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“The Brass Verdict” by Michael Connelly

 

 

The Brass Verdict CoverI discovered this book (and author) while at Thrillerfest, a thriller/mystery/suspense  writers’ workshop held annually in NYC during July. During breaks between sessions, Barnes and Noble opens a store for the guests, both writers and speakers. I rubbed elbows with bestselling author, Steve Martini, who was checking out the competition and buying books like the rest of us mere mortals. He picked up “Brass Verdict” and I followed his lead.

 

“Brass Verdict” is a gritty legal thriller featuring a lawyer (Mickey Haller) and a police detective (Harry Bosch) who bring scum to justice.

 

Each character has been featured in a Connelly series of his own, but in “Brass Verdict,” the two work on the same case, not always together. Bosch is the investigating detective dealing with the murder of a lawyer and Haller inherits the dead man’s practice. That inheritance places Haller in danger and also gives him a chance to try his biggest case yet. Bosch will stop at nothing to catch the lawyer’s killer and Haller just might be his prime suspect.

 

Bosch and Haller are both flawed in their own grumpy, wrinkled way, each has interesting baggage and the pairing of the two characters is terrific!

 

In the big reveal near the end of the book, we find out why they have been brought together in “Brass Verdict.” The novel is so well crafted that I became a big Connelly fan and have read several other titles since, most notably "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "The Black Echo."

 

Connelly famously sat in on poker games (playing himself) in “Castle,” the TV show, and when he once ribbed the fictional author about only writing one book a year, I wondered how many Connelly himself, had written. The man is prolific, having published twenty-five novels in twenty years. Fifty million copies of Connelly’s books have sold worldwide and have been translated into thirty-nine languages. He has won the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, and Macavity Award, among several others.

 

For more information about Connelly, his various series as well as movies based on his books, visit www.michaelconnelly.com

 

 

 

 

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“Buried Secrets” by Joseph Finder

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What’s the definition of a 5-star book? “Buried Secrets,” by Joseph Finder. Totally, slam-dunk, 5-star thriller!

 

Ratings can be subjective, but I think everyone would agree that certain elements are apparent in each reader’s choice for a 5-star book, whatever the genre.

 

5-star books have characters so compelling that it’s impossible to forget them. Nick Heller is a former intelligence officer with Special Forces background. Heller is excellent at uncovering secrets, is loyal to his family and friends and has an ache in his heart for an old FBI flame. He has a secretary who can hack into anything and contacts going way back. And a look that you defy at your own peril. Even Heller is not always immune to ‘the look.’ A family friend, evasive billionaire Marshall Marcus, asks for Nick’s help when his daughter, Alexa, is kidnapped. Alexa is a troubled, intelligent teenager with an earlier kidnapping experience that colors her fear of small spaces. This time, she has been buried alive with limited food and water. Finder has drawn Alexa so well that I felt her terror as she pushed against the coffin, as she tried to stay calm and lost it, as she pleaded for release, as she screamed.

 

5-star books can’t be put down until the last word is read. I carried “Buried Secrets” everywhere. I read it while waiting in line, while eating. I just couldn’t abandon Heller while he dealt with the constantly lying father, the rule conscious FBI, the sick kidnappers, the layers of secrets, the pulse-pounding race against time.

 

A 5-star book makes me want to buy the author’s next book or backlist titles right away. I purchased “Vanished,” the first Nick Heller novel, the day after I finished “Buried Secrets.” Joseph Finder has several award winning novels to his name, as well as “High Crimes,” upon which the Freeman/Judd movie of the same name was based. I’m going to read them all.

 

A 5-star book pushes ‘tell-all’ buttons. I wanted to tell everyone about it. I gushed about compelling characterization and riveting storylines, achieved realistically.

 

A 5-star book is saved, whether on an e-reader or in hardcover, so that it can be relished, studied and enjoyed again. My copy is a hardcover edition. Terrific thriller!

 

For more information about Joseph Finder and his work, visit www.josephfinder.com

 

"Buried Secrets" won the Strand Critics Award for Best Novel.

 

 

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“Foreign Body” by Robin Cook

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Robin Cook, author of over two dozen medical thrillers, took on the medical tourism industry in “Foreign Body.” As in all his books, we are invited to view the dark side of medicine, so if you are considering traveling overseas to get a kidney transplant or a hip replacement, think again. Just kidding…  maybe…  😉

 

The sinister plot revolves around the untimely passing of a sixtyish grandmother after undergoing hip surgery in India. The fourth-year medical student granddaughter, Jennifer Hernandez, finds out about her loss while watching CNN in California only hours after granny has died. Medical tourism is the culprit behind the death (and two others), with American medical company employees out to discredit surgeries performed in other countries in order to keep business firmly in the USA.

 

We know who is at fault from the beginning, but the fun is in seeing how the granddaughter travels to India and unravels the complex crime, then discovers the criminals trying to cover their tracks. Her mentor, NYC medical examiner Dr. Laurie Montgomery, and Laurie’s husband, Dr. Jack Stapleton, follow Hernandez to India when unexplained medical questions arise and she is pressured unnecessarily to cremate her grandmother. We aren’t sure until nearly the end how it will all work out, but we are fully invested in the characters as the tension mounts and the stakes escalate.

 

I met Dr. Cook at a writer’s conference (where he was interviewed by “Sandstorm” author, James Rollins) and he was kind enough to autograph a copy of “Foreign Body” for my mother, a huge fan. She chose it for me to read to her during a hospital stay and several chapters work well as cliffhangers. It was hard to put down and leave behind when the story moved along so well. Fun read.

 

Fans of Cook have probably seen the movie, “Coma.” The book of the same name was Cook’s breakthrough novel, largely defining the ‘medical thriller’ genre over thirty years ago.

 

Visit www.robincookmd.com for more information about Dr. Cook, his many bestselling books, and the 50 webisodes of “Foreign Body.” 

 

 

 

 

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“Sandstorm” by James Rollins

Book Cover - Sandstorm

If you’re looking for a little syfy, lots of science, tons of thrills and even a romance packed into a great book, then “Sandstorm” should be your next read.  

 

A mysterious blue ball of fire explodes in the Kensington Gallery in the British Museum, the security guard is incinerated, and almost all the artifacts destroyed. The benefactor of the exhibit, Kara Kensington, is sure there is a connection between the explosion and her father’s death from blue fire in the Arabian desert years before. Dr. Safia al-Maaz (curator of the gallery and childhood friend of Kensington) uncovers a clue in the middle of the destruction to an incredible secret, and demonstrates unusual capabilities for a curator. The bodies pile up after an assault on the gallery is made.  

 

Painter Crowe is an agent for Sigma Force, a covert group working for the US government to keep scientific discoveries safely in US control. Cassandra is his previous ally, has stolen secrets and is now working for the opposition. Dr. Crowe is dispatched to London to investigate the possibility that the explosion was caused by anti-matter – has someone uncovered an unlimited energy source?  

 

An expedition to the Arabian Peninsula and Ubar, the lost city of the desert and source of all anti-matter secrets, is organized. Dr. al-Maaz reluctantly travels along, unwilling to face her former fiancé, Omaha Dunn, the archeologist/Indiana Jones type needed on the expedition. Crowe and his partner are forced upon the trip by the US government, but nobody knows the real reason behind the interference.  

 

And that’s just Part 1. “Sandstorm” gets even more exciting as the plots develop.  

 

Part of the fun of reviewing novels is taking a look at the book that launched a dynamite series. “Sandstorm” is the first of eight in the bestselling Sigma Force stories, and it’s easy to see why there are so many fans. The unexpected twists make this a page-turner as we root for the very likable main characters to overcome the obstacles of storms, ancient curses, and government entities. Even the bad guys are interesting and make worthy adversaries for the heroes.  

 

“Sandstorm” incorporates lots of real science in the action-packed storyline, and it’s so well done that I began to wonder how much was fiction and how much actual fact. Happily, Rollins includes a fact disclosure at the end of the book for the curious. No plot spoiler here, but who knew that buckyballs were real?  

 

One of the intriguing subplots involves gals from an ancient sister society. They have the ability to disappear at will in front of your eyes – I REALLY want to learn that trick. Thrilling five-star adventure! With scene after scene of slam-dunk writing, and an ending designed for the big screen, I’d love to see a movie made of this one. I’m casting the major roles in my mind right now.  

 

For more information about James Rollins, the Sigma Force series, his work in YA fiction, as well as his collaboration with Rebecca Cantrell for the 'Blood Gospel' series, visit www.jamesrollins.com          

 

 

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“Wrongful Death” by Robert Dugoni

 

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David Sloane comes off a big courtroom win (the 18th in a row) and seems unstoppable in the legal arena. Then, an impossible situation is placed before him: challenge the military to acknowledge a widow’s claim that her husband died a wrongful death while fighting for his country. What should be an easy case to turn down, becomes a personal issue when a preliminary review of the paperwork indicates something stinks. But, what?

 

The case evolves into a legal grenade tossed into the world of government contracts and the big players involved. The damage is messy and unpredictable. Sloane’s family is threatened, witnesses are dying and the stakes are higher than anyone had imagined. He calls on friend and former CIA operative turned P.I., Charles Jenkins, to help find answers and arrange protection for his new wife and stepson.

 

Bestselling author and former lawyer, Robert Dugoni, has written a legal thriller that combines courtroom drama with explosive investigation in the field and flashbacks to a military convoy traveling through hostile Iraqi territory. Dugoni reveals some of the facts of the Iraqi operation through the eyes of the dead man being defended.

 

“Wrongful Death” flows seamlessly between the flashbacks and present day events and was tough to put down. Almost none of the action seems far-fetched. Dugoni has created a suspenseful story so realistic that I can imagine a lawyer and his family being thrust into these circumstances and then dealing with the fallout in just these ways – if I had two top-notch operatives as friends.

 

Kudos to Dugoni for writing the two lead women in the book (wife-Tina, bodyguard-Alex) as smart and resourceful without becoming cartoonish; relying on brains to stay alive. And the action involving Sloane that is a little over the top, is just plain fun. Who wouldn’t want a tank coming to the rescue, just when you need it?

 

I met Robert Dugoni when he was teaching a writing class at a NYC conference. “Wrongful Death,” the second in the ‘David Sloane’ strand, had just come out and Dugoni autographed the book for me. I’m especially delighted that I waited in line because this one is a keeper. An equally intelligent screenplay would make for a great movie.

 

"Wrongful Death" (2009) was followed by "Bodily Harm," (2010) "Murder One," (2011) and "The Conviction." (2012) Dugoni has written other, stand-alone novels, as well as co-authoring a non-fiction title, “The Cyanide Canary,” a true crime story.

 

For more information about Robert Dugoni and his work, visit www.robertdugoni.com

 

 

 

 

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“Killing Floor” by Lee Child

Book cover - Killing Floor

 

“I was arrested in Eno’s Diner” – the phrase that began the wildly successful Jack Reacher series.

 

Reacher strolls into a spotless, apparently prosperous little Georgia town, looking for a man his brother suggested he check out –  a musician from the area. Reacher eats breakfast in a brand new local diner and less than thirty minutes later, gets thrown in jail for a murder, just because he’s a stranger in town who passed a crime scene on his walk into the burg. But, he knows he hasn’t killed anybody. “Not for a long time, anyway.” Events go from bad to much worse. Within a few hours, he is taken to prison along with another innocent man and both are ‘mistakenly’ delivered to the 'Killing Floor.' Only Reacher’s exceptional skill set saves them from becoming two more bloody smears on the Floor.

 

Reacher is a loner who likes women and thinks of each of them kindly, fondly, respectfully. But, enjoying his six months of freedom on the road after years of following orders as a military brat and then doing a stint in the service as an MP, he is not thinking of settling in one place any time soon. He doesn’t even have a suitcase – he buys new clothes, takes the dirty ones off his back and throws them away. No need for a car either – he walks everywhere.

 

It is impossible to discuss the plot points without giving away the incredible story, but the thrill ride is spectacular and never disappoints. The bad guys are evil, the murders vicious and the twists and turns truly surprising. Throw in the reason for the entire town keeping a secret, as well as his own brother’s involvement in that secret, and Child hooks his readership for good.

 

“Killing Floor” was a solid beginning in 1997 to the tough guy Jack Reacher series and won the Anthony Award as well as the Barry Award. It is not a gentle read, but “Killing Floor” makes me want to find out more about Reacher’s inner workings. Lots of people choose to travel for a bit, but what would really cause Reacher to choose the life of a rambling man, off the radar, without even a mobile phone to call his own? Child has legions of fans that have followed the Reacher character through 17 books, quite satisfied with plots, action, and what makes Reacher tick. "A Wanted Man," published in 2012, received the UK National Book Award for Thriller and Crime Novel of the year.

 

Reacher enthusiasts are anticipating the release of the movie, "Jack Reacher," opening on December 21st. Tom Cruise fans (and detractors) are curious to see whether or not he measures up to the very tall shadow cast by the character developed during the 17 book (#18 comes out next year) run. Child is very happy with the casting and "Rolling Stone" says that Cruise nails it.

 

I can't wait.

 

(R for adult situations, violence, and some language.)

 

For more information about Lee Child and his books, visit www.leechild.com

 

 

 

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