August 2014 Must Reads in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction

Here are the  books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for August-and it’s a bumper crop this month (click on the covers to pre-order)! Note I took out the Top 10, because I never (ever) can keep it to just 10. 


thekillsThe Kills by Richard House (Picador-August 5th )

Synopsis (all synopsis are from Amazon or B&N)-A MASTERWORK OF INTERNATIONAL INTRIGUE SET IN THE ASHES OF WAR-TORN IRAQ, ITALY, AND AREAS IN BETWEEN.

The Kills is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy told in four books. It begins with a man on the run and ends with a burned body. Moving across continents, characters, and genres and with the intelligence of John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and the scope of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, there will be no more ambitious or exciting novel published this year.


allwehadWe Had by Annie Weatherwax (Scribner-August 5th)
Synopsis-The stunning debut novel from sculptor and painter Annie Weatherwax, a wry and sharply observed portrait of a gritty mother and daughter, living on the edge of poverty, who find an unlikely home amid the quirky residents of small town America.

For thirteen-year-old Ruthie Carmichael and her mother, Rita, life has never been stable. The only sure thing is their love for each other. Though Rita works more than one job, the pair teeters on the edge of poverty. When their landlord kicks them out, Rita resorts to her movie-star looks and produces carpet-installer Phil, “an instant boyfriend,” who takes them in.

Before long, Ruthie convinces her mother to leave and in their battered Ford Escort, they head East in search of a better life. When money runs out and their car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in a small town called Fat River where their luck finally takes a turn. Rita lands a steady job waitressing at Tiny’s, the local diner. With enough money to pay their bills, they rent a house and Fat River becomes the first place they call home.

Peter Pam, Tiny’s transgender waitress and the novel’s voice of warmth and reason, becomes Ruthie’s closest friend. Arlene, the no-nonsense head waitress, takes Rita under her wing. The townspeople—Hank and Dotty Hanson, the elderly owners of the embattled local hardware store, and even their chatter-mouth neighbor Patti—become Ruthie and Rita’s family.

Into this quirky utopia comes smooth-talking mortgage broker Vick Ward, who entices Rita with a subprime loan. Why rent when you can own? Almost as soon as Rita buys a house their fortunes change. Faced once again with the prospect of homelessness, Rita reverts to survival mode, and the price she pays to keep them out of poverty changes their lives forever.


whiskeytangoWhiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (Mulholland-August 5th)
Synopsis-Three young adults grapple with the usual thirty-something problems–boredom, authenticity, an omnipotent online oligarchy–in David Shafer’s darkly comic debut novel.

The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee.

Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark’s platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading–and erasing–Leo’s words. On the other side of the world, Leila’s discoveries about the Committee’s far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her.


nosafehouseNo Safe House by Linwood Barclay (NAL-August 12th)
Synopsis-Seven years ago, Terry Archer and his family, who first appeared in No Time for Goodbye, experienced a horrific ordeal that nearly cost them their lives. Today, the echoes of that fateful night are still audible. Terry’s wife, Cynthia, is living separate from her husband and daughter after her own personal demons threatened to ruin her relationship with them permanently. Their daughter, Grace, is rebelling against her parents’ seemingly needless overprotection. Terry is just trying to keep his family together. And the entire town is reeling from the senseless murder of two elderly locals.

But when Grace foolishly follows her delinquent boyfriend into a strange house, the Archers must do more than stay together. They must stay alive. Because now they have all been unwillingly drawn into the shadowy depths of their seemingly idyllic hometown.

For there, they will be reconnected with the man who saved their lives seven years ago, but who still remains a ruthless, unrepentant criminal. They will encounter killers for hire working all sides. And they will learn that there are some things people value much more than money, and will do anything to get it.

Caught in a labyrinth between family loyalty and ultimate betrayal, Terry must find a way to extricate his family from a lethal situation he still doesn’t fully comprehend. All he knows is that to live, he may have to do the unthinkable….


deadlineDead Line by Chris Ewan (Minotaur-August 5th)
Synopsis-If you’re a security expert, what do you do if your fiancée suddenly goes missing, presumably kidnapped?

If you’re Daniel Trent, a highly trained specialist in hostage negotiation, the answer is simple: You find out who took her and you make them talk. But what if your chief suspect is taken as well? How do you get him back quickly—and alive—so you can find out what really happened to your fiancée?

Set in Marseille, Chris Ewan’s Dead Line is a fast-paced stand-alone thriller that pitches the reader into Daniel’s world, as he tries desperately to secure the release of Jérôme Moreau from a ruthless gang in order to interrogate him on the whereabouts of his fiancée. When things don’t go according to plan, Daniel must use all his skills and instincts to find the answers he’s looking for, but will he be in time?


theblackroadThe Black Road by Tania Carver (Pegasus-August 15th)
Synopsis-The honeymoon is over for newlywed criminologist Marina Esposito. Her house is in flames. Her detective husband is in a coma. Her baby daughter is missing. And then her phone rings…

“I have something you’ve lost,” the voice said. “Your daughter.”

The voice at the other end wants to play a game. If Marina completes a series of bizarre tasks within three days, she wins her daughter’s life. If she fails, her little girl dies. The clock starts now.

In a desperate race against time, Marina begins to suspect that the madman is someone she knows – someone with a past as troubled as her own. But the truth is far darker than she imagines…


onekickOne Kick by Chelsea Cain (S&S-August 19th)

Synopsis-Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.

Trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of the average young girl after her release. So, in lieu of therapy, she mastered martial arts, boxing, and knife throwing; learned how to escape from the trunk of a car, jimmy a pair of handcuffs, and walk without making a sound—all before she was thirteen.

Kick has trained herself to be safe. But then two children go missing in three weeks, and an enigmatic and wealthy former weapons dealer approaches her with a proposition. John Bishop uses his fortune and contacts to track down missing children. Not only is he convinced Kick can help recover the two children—he won’t take no for an answer.

With lives hanging in the balance, Kick is set to be the crusader she has always imagined herself. Little does she know that the answers she and Bishop seek are hidden in one of the few places she doesn’t want to navigate—the dark corners of her own mind.


oneofusOne of Us by Tawni O’Dell (Gallery-August 19th)
Synopsis-Dr. Sheridan Doyle—a fastidiously groomed and TV-friendly forensic psychologist—is the go-to shrink for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office whenever a twisted killer’s mind eludes other experts. But beneath his Armani pinstripes, he’s still Danny Doyle, the awkward, terrified, bullied boy from a blue-collar mining family, plagued by panic attacks and haunted by the tragic death of his little sister and mental unraveling of his mother years ago.

Returning to a hometown grappling with its own ghosts, Danny finds a dead body at the infamous Lost Creek gallows where a band of rebellious Irish miners was once executed. Strangely, the body is connected to the wealthy family responsible for the miners’ deaths. Teaming up with veteran detective Rafe, a father-like figure from his youth, Danny—in pursuit of a killer—comes dangerously close to startling truths about his family, his past, and himself.

In this masterfully told psychological thriller in the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, the past and present collide to put Lost Creek’s long-lived ghosts to bed.


sweetness9Sweetness #9 by Steven Eirik Clark (Little, Brown-August 19th)
Synopsis-It’s 1973, and David Leveraux has landed his dream job as a Flavorist-in-Training, working in the secretive industry where chemists create the flavors for everything from the cherry in your can of soda to the butter on your popcorn.

While testing a new artificial sweetener–“Sweetness #9”–he notices unusual side-effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a generalized dissatisfaction with life. David tries to blow the whistle, but he swallows it instead.

Years later, Sweetness #9 is America’s most popular sweetener–and David’s family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter suffers from a generalized dissatisfaction with life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David’s failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?

David’s search for an answer unfolds in this expansive novel that is at once a comic satire, a family story, and a profound exploration of our deepest cultural anxieties. Wickedly funny and wildly imaginative, Sweetness #9 questions whether what we eat truly makes us who we are.


confessionsConfessions by Kanae Minato (Mulholland-August 19th)
Synopsis-Her pupils murdered her daughter. Now she will have her revenge.
After calling off her engagement in the wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old child, Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.

But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a diabolical plot for revenge.

Narrated in alternating voices, with twists you’ll never see coming, Confessions probes the limits of punishment, despair, and tragic love, culminating in a harrowing confrontation between teacher and student that will place the occupants of an entire school in danger. You’ll never look at a classroom the same way again.


youYou by Zoran Drvenkar (Knopf-August 19th)
Synopsis-Take one man traveling down the highway.
Imagine him without mercy.
Call him the Traveler and fear him.

Take five girls who open the door to chaos and watch them run.
Put five kilos of heroin and a gun in their luggage.
Call them the Sweet Nightmares and fear them.

Take a father haunted by his past who never forgets a grudge.
Call him the Kingpin and don’t go near him.

All hurtle toward each other.
Full of revenge, they have no idea that
YOU
are watching them.

It’s a late-summer night in Berlin and notorious criminal Ragnar Desche isn’t too happy. He’s just found his brother, Oskar, dead, frozen stiff and sitting in his home next to a swimming pool full of marijuana plants. Someone’s flooded the pool and stolen a Range Rover, but what’s worse is that Ragnar’s huge cache of drugs is missing—and he’s going to want it back.

Meanwhile, nearby, a group of teenage girls are out at the movies. Thinking about boys and worrying about acne, they notice that the prettiest member of their clique is missing. She hasn’t been seen for days, and the trouble she’s found herself in is about to set all of the girls on a collision course with the Desche gang and drag them into a fight for their lives—a fight that might turn out to be more evenly matched than it first appears.

A gritty, pulsating, psychological thriller told through the eyes of an enormous cast of characters, You is an audacious and unpredictable combination of pulp, pluck, and revenge.


fivesandtwentyfivesFives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre (Bloomsbury-August 26th)
Synopsis-It’s the rule—always watch your fives and twenty-fives. When a convoy halts to investigate a possible roadside bomb, stay in the vehicle and scan five meters in every direction. A bomb inside five meters cuts through the armor, killing everyone in the truck. Once clear, get out and sweep twenty-five meters. A bomb inside twenty-five meters kills the dismounted scouts investigating the road ahead.

Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine’s life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where every pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger.

Lieutenant Donavan leads the platoon, painfully aware of his shortcomings and isolated by his rank. Doc Pleasant, the medic, joined for opportunity, but finds his pride undone as he watches friends die. And there’s Kateb, known to the Americans as Dodge, an Iraqi interpreter whose love of American culture—from hip-hop to the dog-eared copy of Huck Finn he carries—is matched only by his disdain for what Americans are doing to his country.

Returning home, they exchange one set of decisions and repercussions for another, struggling to find a place in a world that no longer knows them. A debut both transcendent and rooted in the flesh, Fives and Twenty-Fives is a deeply necessary novel.


summerSummer of the Dead by Julia Keller (Minotaur-August 26th)
Synopsis-High summer in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia—but no one’s enjoying the rugged natural landscape. Not while a killer stalks the small town and its hard-luck inhabitants. County prosecutor Bell Elkins and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong are stymied by a murderer who seems to come and go like smoke on the mountain. At the same time, Bell must deal with the return from prison of her sister, Shirley—who, like Bell, carries the indelible scars of a savage past.

In Summer of the Dead, the third Julia Keller mystery chronicling the journey of Bell Elkins and her return to her Appalachian hometown, we also meet Lindy Crabtree—a coal miner’s daughter with dark secrets of her own, secrets that threaten to explode into even more violence.

Acker’s Gap is a place of loveliness and brutality, of isolation and fierce attachments—a place where the dead rub shoulders with the living, and demand their due.


furiesThe Furies by Natalie Haynes (St. Martin’s Press-August 26th)
Synopsis-After losing her fiancé in a shocking tragedy, Alex Morris moves from London to Edinburgh to make a break with the past. Formerly an actress, Alex accepts a job teaching drama therapy at a school commonly referred to as “The Unit,” a last-chance learning community for teens expelled from other schools in the city. Her students have troubled pasts and difficult personalities, and Alex is an inexperienced teacher, terrified of what she’s taken on and drowning in grief.

Her most challenging class is an intimidating group of teenagers who have been given up on by everyone before her. But Alex soon discovers that discussing the Greek tragedies opens them up in unexpected ways, and she gradually develops a rapport with them. But are these tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge teaching more than Alex ever intended? And who becomes responsible when these students take the tragedies to heart, and begin interweaving their darker lessons into real life with terrible and irrevocable fury?

Natalie Haynes’ The Furies is a psychologically complex, dark and twisting novel about loss, obsession and the deep tragedies that can connect us to each other even as they blind us to our fate.


deadoutDeadout by Jon McGoran (Forge-August 5th)
Synopsis-A trip to an island off the New England coast—and away from the demands of police work—might be just what is needed to jumpstart Detective Doyle Carrick and Nola Watkins’ stalled relationship. But a mysterious plague is killing the island’s bees. Nola takes a job at an organic farm hit hard by the disease, working for the rich, handsome, and annoying Teddy, with whom she quickly becomes a little too friendly for Doyle’s liking. When Teddy’s estranged father offers Doyle a big payday to keep his son out of trouble until he can close a big government contract—and when Doyle meets Annalisa, a beautiful researcher studying the bees—Doyle decides to stick around.

Stoma Corporation, a giant biotech company, moves in with genetically modified super bees that supposedly are the answer to the world’s bee crisis. As tension grows between protestors and a private army of thugs, Doyle realizes that bees aren’t the only thing being modified. Annalisa’s coworkers start to go missing, and she and Doyle uncover a dark, deadly, and terrifying secret. Things spin violently out of control on the tiny island, and when Doyle closes in on what Stoma Corporation is really up to, he must race to stop them before their plot succeeds, and spreads to the mainland and the world.

Deadout is thrilling follow-up to McGoran’s highly acclaimed novel, Drift.

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