Michael Palmer: Political Suicide

I’m immune to John Sandford and James Patterson, but I’m a sucker for Michael Palmer, a medical thriller writer whose books are a complete guilty pleasure.  Usually I get an advance copy in December, right about the time I’m fried by Christmas, and it’s just the ticket for relaxing at the end of a busy day.

Palmer has written a long string of medical “stand alones,” but it seems like he now may be tackling a series, beginning with his most recent paperback, Oath of Office. In that book he introduces Dr. Lou Welcome, an ER doc, recovering drug addict, and divorced father who also works in the Physician Wellness Office (PWO) where he mentors physicians with substance abuse issues. read more

S.J. Watson: Before I Go to Sleep

This was a book club selection, and it’s one of the few I can remember where I had advance e-mails from delighted club members saying how much they loved this book.  One woman even came in and bought another copy to give to a friend.  When I finally got to reading this book – a multiple award nominee this year in the U.S., and last year in the U.K. – I found out how intelligent my book club members really are.  I loved it too, and like them, I couldn’t put it down.  I was making a drive home and had to pull into a rest stop to finish reading it.  The last book that required such a drastic measure was Michael Connelly’s The Poet. read more

Hank Phillippi Ryan: The Other Woman

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s smart, fun thriller set in the world of Boston news – a world she is very familiar with, as it’s one she’s worked in for decades – will have you flipping the pages faster and faster as you get to the twisty end.  Her central character, Jane Ryland, a former television reporter, has left her TV station in disgrace as she’s been on the losing end of a million dollar lawsuit, one where she’s refused to reveal a source.

Jane is starting over as a print reporter at the fictional Boston Register. While she’s adjusting to the fact that she doesn’t have to look great all the time like an on air reporter does (a positive) she’s also adjusting to the fact that she’s often digging in her bag for her own camera as, unlike an on air reporter, she has no following camera-person (a negative).  Also she has to share a desk with the mysterious and elusive Tuck (another negative). Her first assignment is the seemingly simple and uncomplicated task of getting an interview with Owen Lassister’s wife, who seems to be MIA.  Lassiter is running for the senate. read more

A.J. Kazinski: The Last Good Man

Thanks to Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell, the axis of the mystery universe has shifted.  Where American readers used to feel as familiar with the streets of London and the interiors of British country houses as with the streets of New York or LA, they can now feel familiar with the streets of Copenhagen, Stockholm, and many other Scandinavian locations. It’s been a slow seepage, but our international fiction section had to claim its own fixture a few years ago, with steady sellers like Cara Black, Colin Cotterill, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbø and Arnaldur Indridason taking pride of place, and with the advent of the Stieg Larsson trilogy (those books actually have their very own special store location) the lust for foreign fiction has just exploded. read more

Marcus Sakey: The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes

Marcus Sakey’s strengths as a writer are many, and all are on display here. This may be the strongest entry yet from this gifted suspense writer (though I still have a real soft spot for At the City’s Edge). His ability to set a hook is first up. In this book, the main character finds himself almost drowned on a Maine beach, freezing, alone, and without his memory. Luckily he climbs into a nearby BMW, cranks it up to get warm, finds some clothes that seem to fit, and he takes it from there. read more

P.J. Parrish: The Killing Song

While this isn’t in P.J. Parrish’s fine Louis Kincaid series, they (the sisters who make up P.J, Parrish) are pretty expert at whatever they turn their hands to, and this novel is no exception. It’s a serial killer novel with their own special twist. Their main character is a reporter, Matt Owens, who loses his sister to the killer early on in the book. The scenes of Matt’s search for his sister, and of his and his parent’s grief, is so movingly done that I was crying so hard (at the laundromat, no less) I had to put the book down for a bit. It’s this grief that sets this novel apart from any other serial killer novel. I guess what I really mean is that by having Matt’s sister be one of the victims, as a reader, you are fully invested in what happens, and totally behind Matt as he spares nothing in his search for his sister’s killer. read more

Julie Kramer: Killing Kate

This will be the most entertaining 24 bucks you spend all year. I’ve enjoyed all of Julie Kramer’s Riley Spartz books but I think this is my absolute favorite. It’s a serial killer book but by instead focusing on only one victim, Kate, the little sister of Riley’s estranged college roommate, Kramer makes this a more original reading experience. It also makes the murder more heartbreaking and, as a reader, you are far more emotionally invested than you would be with a long string of victims. Kramer has a few things she sticks to through the series – all are set in the world of television news, as main character Riley is an on-air reporter for a Minneapolis TV station. There’s often a sidebar story involving a dog – though this one is pretty heartbreaking, it gives the whole book more depth. And there’s lots of off hand humor. Riley looks at the world in a commonsensical, humorous manner that’s especially compelling. read more