Mostly Fiction BOOK REVIEWS


Espionage / Thriller

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The Dead Man's Brother

by Roger Zelazny

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Beat the Reaper

by John Bazell
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The Tourist

by Olen Steinhauer

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Almost Home

by Pam Jenoff
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Fault Line

by Barry Eisler
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Gun Work

by David J. Schow

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The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano - When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed an act of violence so brutal that it changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, and they went gratefully. But the program took Melody's name, her home, her innocence, and, ultimately, her family. She's been May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, and countless others--everyone but the one person she longs to be: herself. So when the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in another town, she's stunned when a man confronts her and calls her by her real name. (March 2009)

The Spy Game by Georgina Harding - On a freezing January morning in 1961, eight-year-old Anna’s mother disappears into the fog. A kiss that barely touches Anna’s cheek, a rumble of exhaust and a blurred wave through an icy windshield, and her mother is gone. That same morning a spy case breaks in the news—the case of the Krogers, apparently ordinary people who were not who they said they were; people who had disappeared in one place and reappeared in another with other identities, leading other lives. Obsessed by stories of the cold war and of the Second World War, which is still a fresh and painful memory for the adults around them, Anna’s brother, Peter, begins to construct a theory that their mother. (March 2009) author page

Paths to Glory by Jeffrey Archer - Some people have dreams that are so magnificent that if they were to achieve them, their place in history would be guaranteed. Francis Drake, Robert Scott, Charles Lindbergh, Amy Johnson, Edmund Hilary, Neil Armstrong, and Lewis and Clark are among such individuals. But what if one man had such a dream, and once he’d fulfilled it, there was no proof that he had achieved his ambition? Paths of Glory, is the story of such a man---George Mallory. Based on a true story. (March 2009) author page

Pandora in the Congo by Albert Sanchez Pionol - It is 1914 when Marcus Garvey, a bedraggled British manservant, emerges from the depths of the Belgian Congo. He is the sole survivor of an ill-fated mining expedition in which both his masters, William and Richard Craver, died and from which their African porters fled. Garvey returns to London carrying two diamonds of extraordinary size, spinning a story too unspeakably terrifying to be believed. He is promptly arrested. Tommy Thompson, a London ghostwriter for a ghostwriter for a ghostwriter (don’t ask!), is approached by his attorney to document Garvey’s unholy African odyssey.(March 2009)

Fault Line by Barry Eisler - So who would want an inventor, a patent attorney and a patent office official dead? What do they have in common? Fault Line centers on a conspiracy that has spun out of the shadows and onto the streets of America, a conspiracy that can be stopped by only three people– three people with different worldviews, different grievances, different motives. To survive the forces arrayed against them, they’ll first have to survive one another. (March 2009) author page

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer - Milo Weaver used to be a “tourist” for the CIA—an undercover agent with no home, no identity—but he’s since retired from the field to become a middle-level manager at the CIA’s New York headquarters. He’s acquired a wife, a daughter, and a brownstone in Brooklyn, and he’s tried to leave his old life of secrets and lies behind. However, when the arrest of a long-sought-after assassin sets off an investigation into one of Milo’s oldest colleagues and exposes new layers of intrigue in his old cases, he has no choice but to go back undercover and find out who’s holding the strings once and for all. (March 2009) author page

This is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams - Once upon a time, there were four of them. And though each was good at a number of things, all of them were very good at games... In this near-future thriller, Walter Jon Williams weaves a pulse-pounding tale of intrigue, murder, and games where you don't get an extra life. (March 2009)

The Deepest Cut by Dianne Emley - Back from the dead. That’s how it feels for Nan Vining–a Pasadena homicide cop, a struggling single mother, and a woman determined to find the brutal madman who left her for dead a year ago. Now, in Dianne Emley’s brilliant new thriller, Nan Vining must face the truth: her attacker is still out there and he’s killed at least three other women. (February 2009)

Above the Law by Tim Green - Feisty Dallas lawyer Casey Jordan must contend with illegal immigrants, abuse of power and pure unadulterated evil in this rousing legal thriller. (February 2009) author page

Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child - Two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle lies Alaska’s Federal Wildlife Zone, one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth. But for paleoecologist Evan Marshall and a small group of fellow scientists, an expedition to the Zone represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the effects of global warming. Everything about the expedition changes, however, with an astonishing find. (February 2009) author page

The Associate by John Grisham - Kyle McAvoy grew up in his father’s small-town law office in York, Pennsylvania. He excelled in college, was elected editor-in-chief of The Yale Law Journal, and his future has limitless potential. But Kyle has a secret, a dark one, an episode from college that he has tried to forget. The secret, though, falls into the hands of the wrong people, and Kyle is forced to take a job he doesn’t want—even though it’s a job most law students can only dream about. (January 2009) author page

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell - Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you want to see in your hospital room. Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person ... (January 2009) author page

Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis - Inspector Jian is a tough Chinese cop who thinks he's seen it all. But his search for his missing daughter takes him to the meanest streets he's ever faced -- in rural England. (December 2008)

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell - An action-packed epic about King Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. (January 2009) author page

Killing Castro by Lawrence Block - (December 2008) author page

The Weapon by Dan Poyer - Poyer's fine military thriller, the 11th in his Dan Lenson series (November 2008) author page

Divine Justice by David Baldacci - Known by his alias, "Oliver Stone," John Carr is the most wanted man in America. With two pulls of the trigger, the men who destroyed Stone's life and kept him in the shadows were finally silenced. But his freedom comes at a steep price: The assassinations he carried out prompt the highest levels of the U.S. government to unleash a massive manhunt. (November 2008) author page

Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz - tselling master of suspense comes a riveting thriller that probes the deepest terrors of the human psyche—and the ineffable mystery of what truly makes us who we are. Here a brilliant young man finds himself fighting for his very existence in a battle that starts with the most frightening words of all…(November 2008) author page

Cross Country by James Patterson - When the home of Alex Cross's oldest friend, Ellie Cox, is turned into the worst murder scene Alex has ever seen, the destruction leads him to believe that he's chasing a horrible new breed of killer. As Alex and his girlfriend, Brianna Stone, become entangled in the deadly Nigerian underworld of Washington D.C., what they discover is shocking. (November 2008) author page

Second Violin by John Lawton - The sixth installment in the series, Lawton’s novel opens in 1938 with Europe on the brink of war. In London, Inspector Troy, newly promoted to the prestigious Murder Squad at Scotland Yard, is put in charge of rounding up a list of German and Italian “enemy aliens” that also includes Frederick’s brother, Rod, who learns upon receiving an internment letter that despite having grown up in England he is Austrian-born.

The Gate House by Nelson Demille - Sequel to The Gold Coast. (October 2008) author page

The Spy Who Came For Christmas by David Morrell - It’s Christmas Eve in Santa Fe, but among the revelers on Canyon Road, a decidedly unholy scene is taking place. A desperate man, dressed all in black, feverishly seeks refuge for himself and the squirming bundle he holds tightly against his breast; a baby who has the power to change the course of global events. His pursuers are his former colleagues—members of the Russian mafia who will stop at nothing to accomplish their mission. Now Kagan is a spy on the run—he must ensure this baby’s survival, even if it will cost him his own life. (October 2008) author page

Primal Threat by Earl Emerson - On a late August day in the foothills of the Cascades, five bicyclists climb into the hot, dry air, the breeze of their movement cooling their overheated bodies, the stress of a workweek slipstreaming behind them. But another group has entered the park, too. They’re in cars, for pleasure and for vengeance. In Earl Emerson’s gripping new novel, a grudge turns an idyllic setting into a terrifying landscape of men and nature at their most dangerous. (October 2008) author page

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader - Sometimes the weakness we fear most can become our greatest strength . . . Jack McClure has had a troubled life. His dyslexia always made him feel like an outsider. He escaped from an abusive home as a teenager and lived by his wits on the streets of Washington D.C. It wasn’t until he realized that dyslexia gave him the ability to see the world in unique ways that he found success, using this newfound strength to become a top ATF agent. When a terrible accident takes the life of his only daughter, Emma, and his marriage falls apart, Jack blames himself, numbing the pain by submerging himself in work. Then he receives a call from his old friend Edward Carson. Carson is just weeks from taking the reins as President of the United States when his daughter, Alli, is kidnapped. (October 2008)

The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss - Ethan Saunders, once among General Washington’s most valued spies, now lives in disgrace, haunting the taverns of Philadelphia. An accusation of treason has long since cost him his reputation and his beloved fiancée, Cynthia Pearson, but at his most desperate moment he is recruited for an unlikely task–finding Cynthia’s missing husband. To help her, Saunders must serve his old enemy, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who is engaged in a bitter power struggle with political rival Thomas Jefferson over the fragile young nation’s first real financial institution: the Bank of the United States. (September 2008) author page

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue. (September 2008) author page

Iodine by Haven Kimmel - The terrifying story of a young woman emerging from layers of delusion, fantasy, and lies. Kimmel elevates the notion of the unreliable narrator to thrilling dimensions, parceling out Trace Pennigton's strange, dark story in mesmerizing bits that obscure as much as they reveal, and keep the reader guessing until the end. (August 2008) author page

Illegal Action by Stella Rimington - The new installment in Stella Rimington’s series of “frighteningly authentic” espionage thrillers (Chicago Tribune) featuring the fiercely intelligent, ambitious MI5 officer Liz Carlyle. (July 2008) author page

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva - The death of a journalist leads Gabriel Allon to Russia, where he finds that, in terms of spycraft, even he has something to learn. He’s playing by Moscow rules now. (July 2008) author page

Volk's Shadow by Brent Ghelfi - Volk’s Shadow finds Colonel Alexei Volkovoy—covert agent of the Russian army and major player in the Moscow underworld—once again struggling to stay afloat in the swirling currents of Russian political and economic intrigue. (July 2008) author page

Oxygen by Carol Cassella - With the compassion of Jodi Picoult and the medical realism of Atul Gawande, Oxygen is a riveting new novel by a real-life anesthesiologist, an intimate story of relationships and family that collides with a high-stakes medical drama. (July 2008)

Close by Martina Cole - The #1 bestselling novelist in the UK now makes her U.S. debut with a hardhitting story that combines the brutality and deep family ties of The Sopranos with an unparalleled look at the underbelly of London's gang land. (July 2008)

House Rules by Michael Lawson (June 2008) author page

The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst (June 2008) author page

Sail by James Patterson (written with Howard Roughan) (June 2008) author page

Black Out by Lisa Unger - On the surface, Annie Powers’s life in a wealthy Floridian suburb is happy and idyllic. Her husband, Gray, loves her fiercely; together, they dote on their beautiful young daughter, Victory. But the bubble surrounding Annie is pricked when she senses that the demons of her past have resurfaced and, to her horror, are now creeping up on her. These are demons she can’t fully recall because of a highly dissociative state that allowed her to forget the tragic and violent episodes of her earlier life as Ophelia March and to start over, under the loving and protective eye of Gray, as Annie Powers. (May 2008) author page

Losing You by Nicci French - Mother fights to keep her composure as she hunts for her missing child in this nuanced, literate thriller. (April 2008) author page

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith - (April 2008) Read Our Review

Body of Lies by David Ignatius - one of the best post-9/11 spy thrillers yet. (April 2008 pb)

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci - (April 2008) author page

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer - Archer (Kane and Abel) pays homage to Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo in this delicious updating of the adventure classic.(March 2008) author page

Pinkerton's Secret by Eric Lerner - This romantic adventure conjures up the passionate life story of the Civil War era's legendary private eye, recounting dramatic exploits and his clandestine love affair with his partner. (March 2008) Read Our Review



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About this Bookshelf:

It is the adrenaline rush that defines a good thriller!Looking at how other web sites categorize their books, I realize that I could just as easily put these selections in with the Mystery/Suspense. However, there's something I feel that's different about these novels, deserving a space of their own.  Let's face it categorizing is arbitrary.

So what I decided is that spy stories and thrillers do not have murdered bodies as the central theme as do Murder Mysteries. Yet, it's not that bodies aren't routinely murdered.  However, the focus is instead on political or corporate intrigue, they are usually technical and detailed, they sometimes weave historical events or headline news. The plots tend to take place in several locations hopping from country to country. The protagonist is often affiliated with a government or other covert organization and the antics range from breathless chases to stealth operations. The heroes are not always good guys but are on the good team or they're the good guy on the wrong team. The bad guys are capable of the most heinous punishments and ruthless subterfuge. Out of all fiction, these make the best movies.

And maybe that's the real difference right there, you can turn these books into good movies because they are so action packed and visual and with so little of that heady stuff that just doesn't convert easily to the Hollywood film media.

Judi Clark, Editor
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