A good thriller can do more than just keep your pulse up and keep the pages turning as you rush to figure out what happened and whether something worse is going to happen soon.  It can also introduce you as a reader to another time, another culture, without reducing any of the tension. Two new thrillers take us to unique and unusual times and places, so if you’re interested in the wilds of Montana in the present time or Iceland during World War II, you’re in luck.

A Sharp Solitude, by Christine Carbo, is set in the gorgeous and very wild Glacier National Park in Montana, and the setting is an essential part of the story.  A journalist, Anne Marie Johnson, was staying near the Canadian border in the wilderness of the Glacier National Park, researching for an article about a canine program where specially trained dogs help do scientific research.  She was interviewing Reeve Landon, owner of one of the dogs in the program, just before her murdered body was found, so Landon is obviously one of the main suspects in her death. Landon contacts his former lover, the mother of his child, FBI investigator Ali Paige, and asks her to help him.  Of course she’s not supposed to be working on this case at all: the crime appears to have been committed outside Federal land, and her relationship with the chief suspect would disqualify her even if the FBI had jurisdiction. But that doesn’t mean she can turn her back on Landon, and so she starts working to find out who really killed Anne Marie, as Landon runs deeper into the wilderness to hide from the tightening noose, at the same time feeling he might deserve this persecution because of a terrible thing he did when he was younger.  The book switches back and forth between his viewpoint and Ali’s, as the characters discover that even in the vastness of the Montana country, no one can truly outrun his past.

Arnaldur Indridason’s The Shadow Killer takes place in 1941 in Iceland, where the British army forces are leaving the island and being replaced by American ones.  A man is murdered in a small apartment in Reykjavik, shot through the head with an American weapon, the blood drawn into a swastika pattern. Two people, neither of whom has much experience investigating murders, are brought together to investigate what happened and who’s responsible.  Their investigation begins with difficulty, as the main suspect, the murdered man’s roommate, is nowhere to be found, and things get more complicated as people who might be suspects include the dead man’s former girlfriend, who had left him to fraternize with the soldiers, and some of the soldiers stationed in the city.  The more the investigators dig into the background of the roommate, the more unsavory it seems, especially his involvement with a Nazi experiment on young children. There are too many secrets people are keeping in this environment of spies and counter spies, locals and foreigners and the background of the war complicating everything, and the question becomes more than just who committed this crime, but encompasses the whole changing world of wartime Iceland.




If you’re in the mood for a thriller that not only keeps you guessing about who did what but also about whether what you’re seeing really happened at all, then you’re in luck, because we have two new thrillers here at The Field Library which each, in its own way, plays with our expectations of what’s actually going on.

Michael Koryta’s How It Happened starts off with a seemingly familiar trope: a person of dubious credibility comes in to the police to confess to her role in a crime, and people, for the most part, don’t believe her because of that credibility problem, but one officer does believe her. In this instance, the person doing the confessing is Kimberly Crepeau, well known in her Maine community as a snitch, a liar, a heroin addict and a generally no good human being.  However, Rob Barrett, the FBI investigator listening to her confession, has long suspected she had something to do with the killings of two prominent people in the community, whose bodies were never found. His expertise is in telling truthful confessions from false ones, and he is convinced that this is one of the true confessions. Except that the bodies are found 200 miles away from where she said they’d be, killed in a different way than she described, and with a different person’s DNA over them, which would seem to be proof Kimberly was, once again, lying. Barrett is disgraced and reassigned, but the father of the murdered woman doesn’t consider the case closed, and Barrett finds himself drawn back into the matter, into Kimberly’s confession and how the murders actually happened, in the interests of comforting a grieving father and seeing justice done once and for all.

Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin, by contrast, involves two main characters who may or may not be what they claim to be.  One protagonist is a young woman who’s become obsessed with the murder of her sister, researching every detail of her sister’s last days, training herself to find and deal with the man who killed her sister. And now she believes she’s found him, found him and lured him out of the halfway house he was in by claiming to be his long-lost daughter. The man in question was a documentary photographer in his day, and took some eerie, haunting pictures around scenes where unsolved crimes were committed. Now he claims not to remember anything about that past, and doesn’t recognize his supposed daughter either, but he goes on a road trip with her through Texas, to the sites where he took those pictures. He denies being a serial killer; she doesn’t believe him. He claims to have dementia, and seems to have some degree of dementia; could he be faking it?  Is she what she claims to be? Is she the grieving, haunted sister of a murder victim, or is she a con artist with her own agenda? As the road trip progresses, neither one of the main characters seems completely trustworthy, and the question of what’s really going on becomes slipperier and slipperier.



There are always going to be thrillers about world events, about spies and high powered people preventing wars or shaping the future of the world, and there’s certainly a place for books like that (for one thing, they make good movies). But there are other kinds of thrillers, too, the kind focused much more narrowly, featuring people like us, the readers, who are thrown into nightmarish situations that we could only imagine too well, and those are the kinds of thrillers I like to read myself.

A new example of that kind of thriller is The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy. The setup couldn’t be more ordinary, more relate-able: a group of new mothers, all of whose babies were born in the month of May, get together twice a week in Prospect Park to share their stories and to remind themselves that they’re not ONLY mothers, that they have lives outside of their all-demanding babies. What mother, especially of a first or only child, hasn’t felt the urge to do something like that?  

So one Fourth of July night, the mothers get together at a local, hip, bar.  Winnie, a single mother, was kind of reluctant to leave her six week old son with a babysitter, but the other mothers persuaded her it would be fine.  What could go wrong?

Naturally — this is a thriller, after all — something does go wrong.  The baby goes missing. This is the worst fear of any new parent (and of older parents, too), and now Winnie has to find her baby.  Time is running out, secrets are being revealed, marriages are being tested, friendships destroyed, and readers are kept on the edge of their seats, not because the fate of the world is at stake, but because it’s personal.

For a nail-biting book of suspense, check out The Perfect Mother.



Three new thrillers have just arrived at The Field Library, all turning, in one way or another, on the question of memory. Hard as it is to solve a mystery when you have all the pieces available to you, it’s logarithmically more difficult to solve the mystery when you yourself have serious blank spaces in your memory, and those blank spaces could be where the most important information resides.  

Police officer Doug Brock, the protagonist of David Rosenfelt’s Fade to Black, suffers from traumatic amnesia.  Shot in the line of duty before the book begins, Doug is trying to rebuild his life, retrieving some of his memories and joining an amnesia support group to help him work on getting the rest of his memories.  So it makes sense to him to try to help another man from the amnesia group who has made a most disturbing discovery. In Sean Connor’s attic, he says, he’s found a scrapbook of a murder victim, but he has no memory of the girl or why he might have put that scrapbook together. Doug takes the matter to his chief and reopens the closed case of this girl’s murder, only to discover that he himself had a personal connection to the case (a surprise to him).  As he investigates, the case causes him to question everything he knows about Sean, about the case, and about his own past.

Cassandra Bowden has few excuses for her own lack of memory in Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant. She’s a binge alcoholic, and has many times drunk herself into complete blackouts, which are starting to interfere with her job as a flight attendant. However, what happens when she wakes up from a bender in a Dubai hotel is much worse than any hangover she’s ever encountered before. The man in bed beside her is dead, clearly murdered, and Cassandra has no memory of anything having to do with the man, how she got there, how he got there, what might have happened to him.  She then makes a disastrous decision: she doesn’t call the police, but begins to lie about what happened. She lies to the people she works with, she lies to the people she’s serving in First Class, and, most dangerously of all, she lies to the FBI agents who are waiting for her in New York. With so many lies and so little memory, Cassandra has put herself into a position where it may no longer be possible for her to tell the truth, even if she could figure it out. Who killed the man?  Could she have done it? If she didn’t, how did she end up in bed with a murdered man?

Alice Feeny’s Sometimes I Lie involves a protagonist with even more serious problems than Doug or Cassandra.  Amber Reynolds is a victim of shut in syndrome. She’s in a coma; she can’t move, speak, or even open her eyes, but she can hear everything that’s going on around her. The people around her don’t know she can hear and understand them, and there’s nothing she can do to make them aware of her conscious state. If this isn’t nightmare fuel by itself, there’s more.  She can’t remember what happened to her, but she has a suspicion her husband, who no longer loves her, had something to do with her present state. She goes back and forth in her mind between her scary present situation, the events of the week before her accident, and childhood memories from 20 years before, trying to find the truth in a world of lies and half truths.


There might be a better person to write a novel about Chicago in the 1920’s than David Mamet, famous for his screenplays for the movies The Untouchables  and Wag the Dog and his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross, but it’s hard to imagine who that might be.  Mamet’s new book, Chicago, is his first novel in decades, and it’s set in the rich and dangerous world of Prohibition era Chicago, like The Untouchables.

The protagonist is Mike Hodge, a veteran of World War I, currently working for the Chicago Tribune. As a newspaper writer, he’s got a front row seat to observe all the corruption and crime, all the aspects of the dark underbelly of the city.  He should have known better than to fall in love with Annie Walsh, since he knew perfectly well that her family was involved with organized crime.  But he did fall in love with her, and when she gets murdered, he’s not about to let her go unavenged.  And so begins a tale which interweaves Mamet’s vivid and hard-boiled characters with real life figures, including the legendary Al Capone.

If you’ve seen Mamet’s plays or movies, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from his novel: dense, quick moving dialogue, plots involving crosses and double crosses, and compromised characters. If you’re a fan of David Mamet, all you need to know is the name of his new book.   If you’re interested in 1920’s Chicago, and you enjoy witty, hard-boiled dialogue that does most of the heavy lifting in telling the story, this is a don’t miss book for you, too.


This week we have some new and exciting thrillers at The Field Library where women are the focus, as witnesses to crimes, as investigators of crimes, as potential or actual victims of crimes.

Christina Dodd’s new book, The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream, starts off with an intriguing (and somewhat disturbing) title. Merida Falcon, the protagonist, lost her voice due to a traumatic accident in her past.  After the incident, she was married to a rich, elderly man who treated her as a trophy wife, there to adorn his arm and do his bidding without question.  After nine years of marriage, her husband died, and she deliberately moved, changed her name and set out to reinvent herself, with the unspoken goal of finding and getting revenge on the man she’d loved who betrayed her.  Disappearing, though, isn’t as easy as she’d thought: it turns out that the sheriff of Virtue Falls, her new home, is someone Merida knew in her school days, and a former lover is searching for her.  More disturbing, someone is stalking and slashing women in the town to death, and she’s beginning to wonder whether this person might have something to do with her injuries, and if he or she is out to get her now, when she doesn’t know who, if anyone, she can trust.

Have you ever considered going for a hot-air balloon ride?  Well, if you have, you may change your mind after reading Dead Woman Walking, by Sharon Bolton.  The story begins with Jessica and her sister, Isabel, among a group of people taking a ride on a hot-air balloon, which Jessica chose as a special treat for her sister.  As they’re riding on the air currents, the people in the balloon witness a man on the ground below beating a woman and then shooting her.  Jessica actually takes pictures of the murderer, and he sees her doing so.  When the balloon crashes, killing everyone on board except Jessica, the thrills really begin.  The killer knows she’s still alive, and he wants to eliminate the last remaining witness. Both the police, investigating the crash, and the killer, responsible for the crash, are looking for Jessica, and she’s trying to keep alive, but can she actually trust anyone in these circumstances?  

Milly, the protagonist of Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land, also has some issues with trust, which are perfectly natural in the circumstances.  Milly’s mother is a serial killer.  Milly realized she was the only one who could stop her mother, by informing on her, and ultimately testifying against her at her trial.  For her protection, Milly is given a new name, a foster care placement with an affluent family, and a spot in an exclusive private school.  But things aren’t simple or straightforward even in these circumstances: her foster sister bullies her, one of her teachers betrays her trust, and her new friend tempts her to behave badly, and, with the trial coming up, Milly has to wrestle with her situation: is she bad by nature, or by nurture?  Does she have the ability to be a good person or is she in fact her mother’s daughter?



As the seasons change, it’s time to settle down with new projects, including new books.  And what better category of book to start your fall than a page-turning thriller?  We have several new thrillers at The Field Library that should give you exactly the pulse-pounding entertainment you need.

Charlatans, the new thriller by Robin Cook, starts with a classic Robin Cook premise: Boston Memorial Hospital, known for its medical innovations, has some new operating rooms set up as hybrid “operating rooms of the future,” and everything is going well until a perfectly healthy patient dies under anesthesia during surgery.  Noah Rothauser, the new chief resident, suspects that Dr. William Mason, an egomaniacal surgeon, made a mistake during the surgery and has been trying to cover it up by pointing fingers at the anesthesiologist, Dr. Ava Lincoln. Then more people start dying under anesthesia, and Noah has to figure out what’s really going on, and the more he investigates, the more interesting (for certain values of interesting) Ava turns out to be, with her multiple online personae.  His own and the hospital’s reputation on the line, Noah needs to determine which doctor is lying and why, before more people die under the knife.

Air Force veteran and PTSD sufferer Clay Hickman has escaped from the mental institution where he was being treated, in T. Jefferson Parker’s The Room of White Fire, and the people who were taking care of Hickman are desperate to bring him back. They hire Roland Ford, a private investigator who used to be a police officer and then a Marine, who saw combat himself in Iraq, to find Hickman. Ford has problems of his own, including his mourning the recent death of his wife, but he’s fairly good at finding people in general, so he assumes this won’t be too difficult. Nor would it be, if the people he’s dealing with were telling him the truth, but it seems that everyone he talks to about Hickman has a different story, and it becomes clearer and clearer to Ford that Hickman knows something that some desperate people would do a great deal to keep him from revealing. Down the rabbit hole Ford goes, into a treacherous world of powerful and dangerous people who force him to question his most basic assumptions about truth, justice and the American Way.

Allison Brennan brings together two of her series characters in her newest book, Shattered.  Maxine Revere is a reporter who’s brought into a case when her friend’s wife has been charged with their son’s murder, and the friend begs Max to prove her innocence. Unfortunately, the police and district attorney believe they’ve got the right woman and won’t share any of their information with an investigative reporter.  Looking for another angle, Max starts digging around in some cold cases involving the deaths of three other young boys, which leads her to the father of Justin Stanton, one of those dead boys.  He’s willing to help Max but only if she’s working with FBI agent Lucy Kincaid, the dead boy’s aunt.  Neither Lucy nor Max is thrilled with the prospect of working with someone else, and someone else she barely knows, but they both, for their own reasons, want the truth about Justin’s death and the deaths of the other boys. As they struggle through the tissue of lies and misinformation about the past cases, they begin to realize that Justin’s killer may still be out there, and may have already chosen the next victim, and they may already be too late to save this one.

As anyone who’s been reading this blog (or listening to me rant at the Circulation desk at the library) knows, I am sick and tired of this trend of using “Girl” in the title of books to suggest a link to Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. In the case of Erica Spindler’s new book, The Other Girl, though, I’m willing to let it slide, because the “girl” in the title really is an underage person, a teenager, in fact.  Miranda Rader is a police officer in Harmony, Louisiana, a well-respected, reliable person. But she had to work hard to earn that reputation and to live down her youthful reputation as a wild kid, often in trouble, and known to be a liar.  Kidnapped as a teenager, she escaped and tried to tell the police about the other girl kept captive in the same place, but nobody would believe her. Miranda has put that past behind her, she thinks, until she’s called onto the scene of a brutal murder of the son of a prominent professor in town, and discovers a clipping in his possession describing the night she escaped.  Then a police officer is found murdered, the same officer who took her statement that night, and evidence is found linking Miranda to the crimes.  The past, it seems, is coming after Miranda with a vengeance, and solving these murders will require her to face the things she’s long kept buried, including the nightmares of that other girl she left behind when she saved herself.

So set aside some time to get absorbed in a great thriller and come down to the library to pick up one of these hot new ones, and prepare to lose yourself in an exciting read.



Some of the best thrillers start with a perfectly ordinary situation and then ask, “What if?”  What if people were lapsing into comas in a hospital after simple operations for sinister reasons? What if someone managed to clone dinosaurs on a special island?  And now, in Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips, the question is, what would you do if you were a mother of a young child and the two of you were caught in an active shooter situation, and what if that active shooter situation took place at the local zoo?

Aren’t you intrigued already?  

Joan is spending a pre-Halloween day at the zoo with her four year old son, enjoying the exhibits and their time together.  It’s an all but perfect day as they’re leaving, just before the zoo is closing, and suddenly she hears what she thinks at first is firecrackers and then recognizes as gunfire.  Then she sees that what she thought were fallen scarecrows on the path are much more sinister and scary.  Realizing there are active shooters at the zoo, she takes her son and runs back inside to hide with him for their protection. Her son, Lincoln, is only 4 years old and doesn’t really understand why he needs to keep calm and quiet, how very dangerous everything is, so not only does Joan have to think fast and keep away from the shooters, but she has to make sure Lincoln doesn’t accidentally do something that will endanger them both.

Now everything the two of them had seen and enjoyed during the day takes on a different aspect: the hidden pathways, the exhibits that are being renovated, the carousel, the snack machines are no longer interesting things to see and explore, but potentially life-saving hiding places.  Joan and her son are trapped in the zoo, almost as much as the zoo animals themselves.  What is she willing to do to survive and to protect her precious son?  

She’s not the only one trapped inside the zoo, and we see the perspectives of some of those other characters as well as the killers themselves, but the heart of the book is Joan and Lincoln, their bond, their danger, and the moment by moment decisions she has to make that could have catastrophic consequences for her and her child.  This is the kind of book you won’t want to put down.


This week we have three new thrillers by authors who are old hands at the suspense/thriller genre, set in California and in the deep South.  Serial killers, sexual harassment and retaliation, newfangled bank robbery and old-fashioned corruption: these three books have it all.

Let’s start in the South, specifically in Tibbehah County, Mississippi, where Ace Atkins’ new book, The Fallen, takes place.  Sheriff Quinn Tolson and his able assistant, Lillie Virgil, are faced with some very slick, very well-prepared bank robbers who are almost supernaturally good at hitting a bank and then disappearing before the law can begin to catch up to them, almost as if they were professionals, almost as if they were following the rules of the Army Rangers, Tolson’s former military outfit. Trying to catch the skillful robbers is complicated by the maneuverings of the county’s truck stop madam, and the self-righteous county official who vows to put the madam out of business, together with an appearance from the old-school Dixie mafia and the disappearance of two teenage boys who might just be the key to solving all these crimes.  If you’ve been reading the continuation of Robert Parker’s Spencer series, written by Atkins, you know the man can paint a vivid picture of Boston, but his heart is definitely in Dixie, as you’ll discover when you dive into the Southern Fried Crime of The Fallen.

What would the suspense and thriller genre be without a good serial killer or two?  Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen, no strangers to the world of killers and those who stalk them, have come up with quite a serial killer in Look Behind You. Kendra Michaels, the protagonist of the book, lives in San Diego when a serial killer starts leaving what at first seem odd, disconnected objects at the scenes of each of his murders, all of which, disturbingly, take place around Kendra’s home and office. She’s not surprised when the FBI comes to question her about the crimes, and she’s more than ready to cooperate, especially when she discovers that the objects aren’t random after all: they’re artifacts from other unsolved serial killer cases around the country, and, to make them worse, they’re all things which were known only to the police working on those cases and never revealed to the general public.  As Kendra works with the FBI to find and stop this killer, she becomes more and more convinced that she is, in some way, a target herself, that the killer is specifically trying to communicate with her and that he might even be one of the people supposedly working to catch the killer.

You would be forgiven for assuming, when you see the name of Michael Connelly on the cover of a new thriller, that you’re going to be reading a new Harry Bosch novel, but you will be surprised to discover that the protagonist of his newest book, The Late Show, is in some ways very different from Bosch, though still a compelling character. Renee Ballard is a Los Angeles police officer, but ever since she reported her supervisor for sexual harassment, she’s been relegated to what’s contemptuously known as the Late Show, the overnight shift. There she and her coworkers may catch interesting cases, but at the end of the shift they have to hand them over to the day shift officers, so they never actually finish any of their cases. To someone as driven and dedicated as Renee, this is totally unacceptable (especially since she is essentially being punished for doing the right thing).  So when she catches two cases, one involving a brutal torture and near murder of a transgender woman, and the other involving a non-terrorist but still appalling shooting at a nightclub, she decides she’s not going to give them up. She’ll still do her regular night shift, but she’s also going to continue to investigate those two cases during the day (sleep?  Who needs sleep?), without the permission of her supervisors, and mostly without their knowledge.  Tough and determined as she is, Renee intends to follow both cases to their resolution, no matter what the bad guys or her own department throw at her.



One of the great tropes in thrillers and mysteries is the person who is not what she or he appears to be.  When someone you think you know well turns out to have a secret past or a different life, it can feel as if the earth has moved under your feet, and that’s a great place for a thriller to go.  Several new thrillers came out this week that touch on this theme, coming from different directions, so come to the Field Library and check them out.

Watch Me Disappear, by Janelle Brown, seems, at the beginning, to be a book about how people deal with the loss of someone close to them.  A year ago, Billie Flanagan, a Berkeley woman who seemed to have an enviable life all around, went on a hike and disappeared. Nothing was found but her shattered cell phone and one hiking boot.  In limbo, her husband, Jonathan, drinks too much and is working on a memoir describing how wonderful his wife was. Her daughter, Olive, is withdrawing from her father and from her friends at her all girls’ school.  But then she starts getting visions of her mother, alive, which Jonathan believes at first are signs that she’s suffering a mental disturbance. However, he begins to change his mind as he digs deeper into Billie’s past and finds that he didn’t know her nearly as well as he thought he did, that maybe she was someone completely different. Jonathan and Olive delve into Billie’s life and disappearance, though what they find might not be what they hoped to find.

Nicci French’s Dark Saturday also turns on a tragedy in the past. Ten years ago, the Docherty family was murdered, all but Hannah, the 18 year old daughter, who was obviously responsible for the killings of the rest of her family. An open and shut case, it appeared, and Hannah was obviously mentally ill and not legally responsible for her actions, so she was locked away in a psychiatric hospital. Now psychotherapist Frieda Klein is sent in to do a psychiatric evaluation of Hannah, but she is shocked to see the difference between the woman she expects to meet and the real Hannah she meets. Far from a psychopathic killer, Hannah comes across as tragic and aged before her time, and maybe, just maybe, as much a victim of the events in the family house as the rest of the family.  Frieda starts wondering if Hannah might even be innocent, but as she starts investigating, Frieda discovers there’s someone out there who has a strong interest in keeping the truth hidden, even if that means killing anyone who comes too close to the truth.

It’s very unusual for an Amish man to kill someone else (in fact it’s against everything the Amish believe in), but Joseph King, an Amish man who was seen as “fallen” from the community,  was convicted of killing his wife and sent to prison for it before the beginning of Linda Castillo’s Down a Dark Road.  Kate Burkholder,  the local chief of police, was herself brought up as Amish and knew  and had a crush on Joseph King when they were both younger.  When she finds out that he has escaped from prison and headed for Planter’s Mill, where she works, she and the rest of the police are worried, and when Joseph brings a gun and takes his five children hostage at their uncle’s farm, things go from bad to worse. Kate is on the scene to try to defuse the situation, and Joseph begs her to help him prove his innocence of his wife’s murder, and lets her go. He’s killed in the standoff, but Kate finds herself haunted by his story, by the apparent change between the young man she thought she knew so well and the supposed murderer, and when the facts don’t line up the way the official story says they should, she can’t help trying to discover what really happened, who really killed Joseph’s wife.  It’s an investigation that’s more dangerous than she knows, pitting her against some of her fellow police officers as well as shadowy figures who really don’t want the truth to come out.