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Posts tagged 'Thriller'

Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Rice Moore is the caretaker on a private nature preserve in the Virginia panhandle. Moore is the sole human inhabitant in this pristine 7,000 acre wilderness. One sweltering summer day, he discovers a mutilated bear carcass on his property. He sets out to find the lowlifes who did this and put a stop to them. It’s going to be dangerous work that puts him square in the sights of disgruntled hillbillies, vicious motorcycle gangs, and ex-military poachers. He’ll have to be extra careful, because any scrape with law enforcement could ping his location to the deadly cartel mobsters he’s been hiding out from (these bad hombres are a big part of the reason he took the job in the first place). Rice’s skills will take him only so far; he’ll have to become a force of nature if he wants to come out in one piece.

Bearskin would be good enough if it were a typical tough-guy potboiler, but a few things make it stand out from a crowded pack. First, it’s surprisingly ecologically-minded. Rice deeply cares about all creatures great and small on his preserve, and the reader will learn much about the ecosystem of old-growth Appalachian forests. These forests also make a unique setting for this kind of story. We’re accustomed to seeing hardboiled anti-heroes carry out investigations in big cities, and it’s refreshing to see the story beats play out in depressed rural areas. Finally, McLaughlin is a first time author. It’s exciting to see a new talent debut so strongly, and I’ll be looking forward to what he does next.

Readers of thrillers, Southern Gothic, and rural noir will find much to like about Bearskin. Hikers, campers, and other outdoorsy types will appreciate it as well. I think it also may appeal to fans of more literary genres, as long as those readers can handle occasional bursts of bone-crunching violence. At any rate, I think it’ll be one of this summer’s hottest reads with lots of cross-genre appeal. 

Thriller  Nature  Jake Picks  Fiction

 

New People by Danzy Senna

 

New People by Danzy Senna

New People ambitiously combines comedy of manners with literary thriller. It is a character-driven novel that explores issues of mixed race, love, and infatuation, while examining what it means to be black. It also looks candidly at a mother-daughter relationship in which a daughter is never quite black enough to suit her mother. Issues inherent in adoption and the impact of parental expectations permeate the book.

Set in the late 1990s, New People features a young, upwardly mobile couple, Maria and Khalil, who are planning their wedding. Khalil is a mixture of black and Jewish, and Maria is the light-skinned, adopted daughter of a single mother. Khalil is starting his own dotcom company; Maria is finishing her dissertation on the Jonestown Massacre. Having met in college, they are in love with each other and in what they represent—“the King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom.”

Thriller  Sara Picks  Racial Identity  Literary  Humor  Fiction

12/05/17
 

The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein

 

The Punch Escrow by Tal M. KleinScience fiction is often hailed (and sometimes derided) for the miraculous-seeming technologies that drive stories. Characters can communicate at the speed of thought and traverse great distances with minimal inconvenience, and readers for the most part accept this as a narrative device. The Punch Escrow, Klein’s debut novel, is a thriller that challenges this trope by telling a gripping story about the pitfalls of taking such technologies for granted.

It is 2147, and 50 years after the end of “The Last War,” humanity finds itself in a relatively good state thanks to technological advances. Necessary items can be assembled from stray matter. Mosquitos have been genetically modified to drink pollution instead of blood. And teleportation (think Star Trek’s transporters) has become a reality. Overseen by the monolithic International Transport (IT) Corporation and utilizing their patented “Punch Escrow” technology, getting from one part of the world to another is as easy as riding the subway.

Joel Byram, a freelance computer programmer and a bit of a smart aleck, lives with his physicist wife Sylvia in New York. In an attempt to rekindle romance in their strained marriage, they plan a tenth anniversary vacation in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, just as Joel is about to teleport from the Greenwich station to meet Sylvia, a bomb is detonated, damaging the facility. Joel leaves the station seemingly unharmed, but learns that technical meddling has resulted in a perfect duplicate of him arriving to meet his wife. Furthermore, Joel’s full legal rights have been given to the duplicate, whom Joel designates as “Joel2.” The result is that the original Joel (Joel1 ) now is considered old data that needs to be “cleared.” But Joel1 isn’t ready to be cleared. He wants to live, and he wants to see his wife again.

Thriller  Science Fiction  Justin Picks  Fiction

 

Every Man a Menace by Patrick Hoffman

HoffmanEveryManQuestion: How does the designer drug MDMA (also known as Ecstasy or Molly) get from its naturally occurring state in Southeast Asian trees to getting snorted up noses in Miami clubs? Answer: Very, very carefully, and through many pairs of grubby (and often blood-stained) hands. Patrick Hoffman explores this supply chain in the pulpy, noir-tinged Every Man a Menace.

An ex-con returns to San Francisco to keep an eye on an erratic dealer, as a favor for his still-incarcerated boss. A Filipina grandmother ponders a power play. In Miami, an Israeli club owner grows depressed with the high-flying lifestyle of a drug-trafficking middleman—until he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman. They, along with a whole slew of unsavory characters are all involved in orchestrating a multi-million dollar shipment of Molly. With this much at stake, things are bound to get ugly.


Patrick Hoffman examines the intricacies of large-scale drug trafficking in a highly thorough manner (before writing he worked both as a public defender and a private investigator, so I suspect he really knows his stuff). The operation works out well, for a while. But when people start making mistakes (honest or otherwise) things take gruesome turns. The best part of this book is the way that that Hoffman captures the quiet desperation of his subjects. Sure there are a handful of “made” men (and one “made” woman), but most of the characters are low-level hoods in way over their heads. People's options narrow, until bad decisions are the only ones left to make. They think they're smart enough to pull off moves they have no business pulling off. They’re ready to leave the trade and go on the straight and narrow—just after this one last shipment, this one last score, this one last hit. On streets this mean, don't expect any happy endings.

- Jake

book

Thriller  Mystery Thriller  Mystery  Jake Picks  Crime

10/12/16
 

The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni

GeniMiranda’s life focus is nature photography.  She is pleased to spend a one-year residency on the Farallon Islands, a remote, rocky archipelago off the California coast.  The few human inhabitants are scientists, studying the wildlife through the seasons.  The year is formed by studies of the life cycles and habitats of shark, whale, seal, and bird. 

Geni’s skill as a writer makes nature, setting, elements, and animals come alive on the page. The beauty of this harsh place is realized through her descriptions.  “I will never forget the first moments of my arrival….Long ago, this place had been called the Islands of the Dead.  Now I could see why….The other islets were bare, bald, and broken….The shores were streaked with seaweed, the peaks fragmented and craggy.  The islands were arranged by height, like wedding guests in a snapshot.”  Geni writes of the setting in detail, with a naturalist’s interest and with a photographer’s eye. 

The other focus of the novel is the lives of the seven people isolated on the island; they share work, meals, and leisure time in a small cabin.  Miranda is the victim of an assault soon after she arrives, and her assailant is found dead shortly after that.  There is little boundary between the natural and the human worlds.  Loss and violence are constant themes in both, and add to the aura of mystery in the novel. 

Geni writes a multi-faceted and brilliantly revealed story through Miranda’s voice and vision. The reader sees through the lens of her camera, reads the unmailed letters she writes to her mother who died when Miranda was 14, and reflects on her internal thoughts and fears. 

Thriller  Suspense  Mystery  Gail's Picks  Environmental Fiction  Contemporary

03/11/16
 

The Illegal: A Novel by Lawrence Hill

LawrenceHillThe Illegal begins in 2018, not the far future, but it feels like a very different time.

Keita Ali is a black marathon runner.  He wants to use his talent at running to escape a difficult life and fate.  Keita’s homeland is the fictional island country of Zantoroland in the Indian Ocean.  The country is clearly corrupt and dangerous for its citizens.  As a child, Keita thrives, with loving parents.  But, his mother, untreated for an illness, dies, and his father, a political journalist exposing corruption, is killed.  Keita’s sister, through her academic skills, is able to attend  an American university, but later she is pulled back into the difficulties of her homeland, and Keita must save her as well as himself. 

People from Zantoroland often escape to the nearby country of Freedom State, the world’s third richest nation.  They enter illegally, as does Keita.  Freedom State is, on the surface, a different world, and one where people want to be.  For the white residents, there is wealth, seeming freedom, and good government.  Many of the country’s poor and illegals, like Keita, inhabit the community of AfricTown.  People in this ghetto live in shipping containers, with no running water, little food and, often, no work. 

Many issues, characters, and twists and turns in plot and action, make for a complex and complicated telling. The Illegal is, first of all, a fast-paced thrilling read.  It is also a book of issues - of race, discrimination, politics, immigration, poverty and wealth in these fictional lands, echoing the world in which we live. It is a novel of contrasting places that are not as different as they first seem. There are rich and privileged, poor and needy, in both lands.  There is also goodness, as well as corruption, in both.  Characters include the rich and elderly Ivernia, who helps Keita; John, a teenage video-journalist; police both violent and helpful (Sgt. Candace Freixa, another marathoner, befriends Keita); running entrepreneurs and coaches; politicians and government officials; Lula, the woman who runs AfricTown and its brothel and a lot more in Freedom State.  To detail the plot would lead to too many spoilers. 

Thriller  Gail's Picks  Contemporary  Canadian Literature

02/12/16
 

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