Category Archives: thriller

The Competition by Marcia Clark

The Competition

I first received a copy of a Marcia Clark book free from Amazon. I was totally surprised at how well written it was (yes the Marcia Clark from the OJ Simpson trials). This book did not disappoint me. It starts off with a school shooting, similar to Columbine, but with more deaths. And the shooters continue to try and out-do every other massacre, including the movie shooting in Aurora. As LA prosecutor Rachel Knight tries to connect dots along with her friend, Bailey Keller, the shooters still remain on the loose. Just when you think you have it figured it out, something happens to blow that theory away. It kept me on my toes until the end. My rating is highly recommend.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by Shelley Clark
Rating: Highly Recommended

A Single Spy by William Christie

A Single Spy

This is the best book I’ve read all summer and may turn out to be my favorite for 2017. The main character, who is difficult to love but fascinating to follow, is a Soviet orphan who takes the street survival skills of the Artful Dodger to a far meaner and more violent level. As a teenager, he’s recruited by the Soviets to impersonate the nephew of a senior Nazi official in Germany. After arriving in Berlin, he later joins the German army, where he becomes an intelligence officer. He winds up spying in the Middle East FOR the Germans, but at the same time, he’s spying ON the Germans for the Soviets.

Building a plot around a double agent can be tricky; I’ve read other “spy thrillers” where I’ve had to double back to make sure I haven’t lost the thread. But Christie does a great job keeping everything straight, which lets the reader focus on one of the best aspects of the book: all the spying and intelligence “trade craft” that Christie works into the plot. Although I seldom read a book twice, I might be compelled to read this a second time just to savor its cleverness. The ending is marvelous but I can’t say more about it without giving too much away.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Mary Hall
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Published in 2017

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

The AlienistOk– this review is more or less a joke review. That’s because, in the eyes of Kaitlyn and myself, The Alienist by Caleb Carr on audiobook is a joke book.

Full disclosure, our displeasure is our own (read: Kaitlyn, who downloaded it) fault. We downloaded an abridged book, and so what should have been 18 hours was only 4 hours, and those 4 hours were about as interesting as an episode of Criminal Minds. That’s not to be mean to Criminal Minds— we watch that all the time when we don’t want to think or really pay attention to our electricity use. And yes, in moving we canceled cable, but still… Shemar Moore, Paget Bruster, Joe Montegna, and the rest really do a nice job on this formulaic police procedural in the trappings of pseudo-scientific psychobabble.

And, if you listen to the abridged audiobook of Carr’s Alienist, which is set to become a TV show on TNT later this year, that’s exactly what you’ll get. “Alienist,” back in the later 19th century and into the 20th, was what we now call “psychologist.” The story of The Alienist tells a fictionalized story of the clandestine first use of psychological profiling in the tracking and arrest of a serial killer in New York City. So yes, it really is Criminal Minds, if you picture Penelope Garcia looking up information by going to the library. So like The Nick, a Showtime show about doctors and their drama set in New York at the turn of the 20th century, the Alienist is a period piece that we already know the story to. A sadistic, but abused and misunderstood killer evades a wily band of profilers until he doesn’t.

The promise of such a story is that we get to learn about the theories, methods, and mores of psychology in its formative years. That sounded great! But it turns out if you abridge a novel, you monster you, you pull out all the interesting and informative things about the period and make an episode of Criminal Minds that, while admittedly entertaining, is derivative drivel.

Here’s hoping the TNT show eschews that strategy when bringing Carr’s book to the screen.

Kaitlyn has refrained from contributing to this joint review as she is actually going to go read the book. I, on the other hand, am refusing to spend any more time on anything referencing this. Oh, and Teddy Roosevelt was a character and he actually was the police commissioner of NYC. There– we DID learn something!

Recommend—– THE FULL VERSION!!!

Availability: COSMOS (Print & Audio), USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Recommend the full audio version.

[Your editor burst out laughing at the Criminal Minds comment because that is exactly the way she watches the show. ]

Mangrove Lightning by Randy Wayne White

Mangrove Lightning

Randy Wayne White is always a quick fun read. I didn’t think this one was as good as previous novels. The sci – fi was a bit much. But I always like to see what the characters are up to in the newest novel. I’m going to recommend it, but it is not as good as past novels. If you haven’t been reading this series you would have missed a lot of background on the characters and even if that weren’t true this would not be a great as a first Randy Wayne White novel.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge Published in 2017

Camino Island by John Grisham

Camino Ilsand
This was far from my favorite Grisham – perhaps I’ve simply come to expect lawyers to play a major role in his books and there’s nary one to be had among the major players here. But, really, it was the plot that failed. I enjoyed reading about the theft of the manuscripts but the book just lost steam after that. I tried to inject some interest imagining Fernandina Beach, FL (where a friend of mine used to run a small bookstore) as Camino Island, and smiling at Bruce’s sartorial preferences as I recalled the guys I went to law school with in Georgia who lived for seeksucker and bow ties. And I enjoyed the antics of some of the secondary characters. But those just weren’t enough to generate my continued interest in the storyline. I enjoyed John Dunning’s Cliff Janeway series, also involving rare book collecting, much more.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Mary Hall
Rating: Not Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

FInd Her

This is one of Lisa Gardner’s DD Warren books. The story line was back and forth from DD’s story to the main character, Flora Dane. Flora survived a kidnapping and was missing for 472 days. Her return to life has not been an easy transition. As you read the book, more about Flora is revealed. It was hard to think about all the things Flora endured, even though it wasn’t based on anyone’s real life story. But in the end, Flora feels redeemed. I enjoyed the book, it was hard to put down at times.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Lynette Starke
Rating: Highly Recommended

Camino Island by John Grisham

Camino IlsandI think I must have read at least one Grisham novel in the 90s, but I remembered little of it (them?) and thought Camino Island sounded like a good summer read. It’s about the elaborate heist of five rare manuscripts (the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald) and the efforts of a young writer to infiltrate the inner circle of the popular book dealer who is suspected to have the stolen manuscripts in his possession. The premise was promising, but the prose was so clunkily functional that it felt more to me like a long description of a book I might be interested in than the book itself.

Since the plot involves a loose yet gossipy community of writers in a touristy beach town, Grisham is afforded an opportunity to comment at least indirectly on the compromises between art and commerce that the writing life entails. He launches a few barbs at the self-consciously literary Leigh, whose “tortured prose” saps the life out of even the most promising stories, as if to draw a contrast with his own uncluttered if unsatisfying style. That said, I did keep turning the pages!

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Eric Blomquist
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: Published in 2017