The Novels I’m reading …. NOTE THE UPDATE

Welcome to my Fiction Library. Here, you’ll find all of the novels that I’ve included in Sword Tips, the weekly Exkalibur Newsletter. As you’ll see, most of them are in the Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre, a great escape from the demands of the business day. You can always come back here as a reminder of something you remember from one of the newsletters and use it as a handy reference.

UPDATE: To make it easier for you, we’ve now moved all of these items to a new blog category you can find on the Main page. Click here and you’ll get there immediately. This page will no longer be updated but we will update the Mystery category every week.

A little background on The Novels I’m reading

In the long run, you’ll find more here than in the Non-Fiction category. I’m always reading a non-fiction book, but not as quickly because the books share time with newspapers, magazines and blogs … and there’s a lot of those.

These novels are invariably in the Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre and usually are part of a regular series with a recurring protagonist.

I have probably read over 2,000 books in this genre. Novels in this genre dominate the Best Sellers’ lists, and include popular authors like James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci and John Grisham to name just a few of the great authors in this category.

How I Read These Novels

Understandably, the authors write each book in a series to stand alone. They recognize that new readers come along all the time and they want them to be able pick up any book in the series and enjoy that particular novel.

Notwithstanding the author’s pitch, I always recommend starting with the first book in the series. That approach gives you a much better understanding of the series arc as well as a chance to binge read much like you might do with a newly-discovered TV series.

When you identify a great character, it’s an extra kick to follow the growth and development of the series, the author and its primary character(s).

By now, you probably realize I like to binge read a new series and invariably insist on starting with Book #1. I know that series authors painstakingly work to make each book “stand alone”, knowing that new readers will emerge anywhere along the path. That’s fine, but if you really want to see the character arc and his/her growth, always best to start from the beginning.

If you’re looking for something to accompany you on a long trip or a summer vacation, I think you’ll love the great storytelling of Jeffrey Archer.

I’ve now finished Cometh the Hour (#6 of 7), and on a long flight, started on the final chapter, This Was a Man, closing in on the end of the 2,500 page Clifton Chronicles series.

You may be tired of hearing about it, but if you like books in the Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre … with plenty of intrigue, betrayal and treachery … with a few untimely deaths mixed in … the Clifton Chronicles will give you many hours … MANY HOURS … of a compelling story.

If you’re looking for something to accompany you on a long trip or a summer vacation, I think you’ll love the great storytelling of Jeffrey Archer.

I’ve now finished Mightier Than The Sword (#5 of 7), moving me toward the end of the 2,500 page Clifton Chronicles series.

It’s a refreshing departure from the usual assassin/spy/murderer stuff in the Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre, but there’s plenty of mayhem, intrigue, treachery and surprises to keep you reading.

An impressive accomplishment for Jeffrey Archer, whose books have sold more than 300 million copies.

I’ve now finished Best Kept Secret (#3 of 7), and I’m almost done with Be Careful What You Wish For, (#4), putting me more than halfway through the 2,500 page Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer.

It’s a great story as members of prominent, and not-so-prominent European families struggle with everyday problems starting on the eve of World War II.

By this point, the story has moved into the 1960s.

I’ve now finished Sins of the Father, Book #2 of the 7 book, 2,500 page Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer.

It’s a great story as members of prominent, and not-so-prominent European families struggle with everyday problems on the eve of World War II. What’s unusual is how Archer deftly slips back and forth between the lives of the major characters, backtracking in some cases, forward in others to illustrate different perspectives on the same events.

It’s time for me to tackle the Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer, a fabulous English storyteller.

Archer is the bestselling author … of over 330 million books … and begins this ambitious series with Only Time Will Tell. You can see Archer’s short video about the Clifton Chronicles here.

The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.”

“A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again.”

The only catch is that the Clifton Chronicles is a series of 7 novels totaling over 2,500 pages. Whenever I approach such a big series, I always wonder if it will keep my interest, but in my experience with all of his other novels, Jeffrey Archer’s storytelling is second to none.

Take a look at this recent run of badass protagonists:

Evan Smoak, an off-the-books assassin, novel #2, The Nowhere Man

Sean Dillon, former IRA assassin in book #22, The Midnight Bell

Jericho Quinn, Special Agent, book #7, Field of Fire

Pike Logan, an off-the-record Taskforce member, book #11, Ring of Fire

And now comes Court Gentry, the Gray Man, the world’s deadliest assassin who returns in Marc Greaney’s 6th novel, Gunmetal Gray.

After five years on the run Court Gentry is back on the inside at the CIA. An old friend is being held hostage by the Chinese who want him dead to make sure he doesn’t find a former member of an ultra-secret computer warfare unit. Court needs to both save his friend and find this Chinese computer operator before they find him.

This is a great series, and as always, I recommend you start with the first book, aptly titled, The Gray Man.

I’m happy to see Evan Smoak return in Nowhere Man, the 2nd installment of the new series from Gregg Hurwitz. You may recall his debut novel, Orphan X, which I told you about last April.

Evan Smoak, aka Orphan X, is a former member of an elite warrior group, created and trained in the shadows with complete deniability and absolute secrecy. He’s now retired and serving as a Good Samaritan, passing along his secret phone number to struggling victims who he’s determined to help.

When they call, he answers with this simple question:

“Do you need my help?”

Warner Bros. is negotiating to buy the movie rights to Orphan X to be played by Bradley Cooper.

I also like Hurwitz’s now abandoned series about Tim Rackley, the Deputy U.S Marshall and elite manhunter. He’s reportedly working with TNT to develop a TV series based on the Rackley books, but nothing is out yet. If you want to try the Tim Rackley series, which I highly recommend, start with Kill Clause, the first book in the 4 book series.

One of my favorite ass-kickers is back. Pike Logan, along with Jennifer Cahill, his “climbs-like-a-monkey” partner return in Ring of Fire, the 11th book by Brad Taylor in this series.

Logan and Cahill own Grolier Recovery Services, an “off-the-books” member of the Taskforce. They get to fly around in a customized Gulfstream that’s camouflaged to serve as an archeological research company if you’re not looking closely.

In Ring of Fire, they collide with a terrorist plot born from 9/11 that not only threatens the U.S. with a “ring of fire” but threatens the very existence of the Taskforce. Great fun with a team of former Delta operatives, fearless and taking no prisoners.

Field of Fire by Marc Cameron is the 7th novel in the Jericho Quinn series.

This time, Quinn, an Alaska-born OSI Agent, is back with his girlfriend, FBI agent extraordinaire, Veronia “Ronnie” Garcia and his running buddy, the oversized Cajun, Jacques Thibodaux, devoutly married with 7 sons.

When a deadly nerve gas called New Archangel is unleashed upon the City of Angels, Quinn is enlisted to hunt down the man who created the bioweapon—a brilliant Russian scientist who is trying to defect and is hiding in the Alaskan wilderness. I like Quinn, who’s a take-no-prisoners type with a soft spot for his pals but a fearless relentlessness against any foe.

Cameron is a good storyteller, and as always, I recommend starting with book #1, National Security.

I finally got past the 2 great novels by Simon Gervais and turned to an oldie but goody.

Sean Dillon, the irrepressible character featured in the 22nd novel from Jack Higgins, The Midnight Bell, is a true force of nature. A former IRA hitman now working for the good guys in the “Prime Minister’s private army” in England, Dillon has incredibly avoided the inside of a prison cell despite his dark past. An actor at the age of 19, adept with several languages, he’s a lovable rogue whose antics are always a delight.

Higgins has been heralded by many as the “architect of the modern thriller” and I’ve read every one of the stories about Sean Dillon since his appearance in The Eye of the Storm, the first novel published in 1992. You may remember The Eagle Has Landed, which turned Higgins into an international bestselling author, with over 250 million copies sold and with translations into fifty-five languages.

Easy reading, great capers and a timeless character makes this a fun series.

This is the last week I’ll talk about the discovery of a new author, Simon Gervais. I’ve now finished his latest novel, A Red Dotted Line, only his second book featuring Mike Walton, an experienced terrorism expert.

One reason Gervais’ novels are so realistic is that he’s served in Canada as a federal agent … a drug investigator … an anti-terrorism officer … a close-protection specialist for world leaders like Queen Elizabeth and President Obama … and as a counter-surveillance expert.

These are fast-paced novels, with action around every corner. If you’re looking for a great escapist read, start with his first novel, The Thin Black Line.

Last week, I talked about the discovery of a new author, Simon Gervais, who wrote The Thin Black Line featuring Mike Walton, an experienced terrorism expert.

He’s also written a novella, A Long Gray Line and a 2nd novel, A Red Dotted Line. I’m tackling the novella now, and A Red Dotted Line next.

These days, it’s pretty rare to get the chance to “binge read” unless it’s a newly discovered series, but that’s the best way to understand the characters as well as the progression of the author. I’m also finding that I prefer TV in the same way these days.

How about you?

It’s been a long time since I’ve found a new author I had never read or heard of … until Simon Gervais came along with The Thin Black Line. It features Mike Walton, an experienced terrorism expert who suffers “devastating physical injury and unthinkable personal loss”. He rejects the choice to give up and takes on a global crisis to seek justice … and if that doesn’t work, revenge.

Nelson DeMille recommended this book and it is a very worthy suggestion. I’ve known DeMille a long time and have read every novel he’s written … and there are over 30 of them. I love his character, John Corey and he’s a terrific novelist you also shouldn’t miss.

Gervais is a much younger author than so many I follow, so it will be a pleasure to watch his progress and success.

This is a terrific novel that will grab you from the first page and won’t let go!

I love Walter Mosley, and I’m thrilled that my favorite character he writes about, Easy Rawlins, is back in Charcoal Joe.

Picking up where his last adventures in Rose Gold left off in L.A. in the late 1960s, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins finds his life in transition. And what a transition it is. He plans to get married and opens a new detective agency. But, when his violent boyhood friend, Mouse, asks him to assist a young black man, with a PhD. in physics, who was arrested standing over 2 dead white men, his plans begin to unravel.

Walter Mosley took a break from this great character following Blonde Faith in 2007, suggesting that the series had ended. So, when Little Green appeared in 2013, I was thrilled to follow Easy Rawlins on his next adventure. You can learn more about the path of this great character on the Thrilling Detective web site.

Mosley is extraordinarily deft in describing the black experience in Los Angeles in the 1960s. He pulls no punches, develops fascinating characters and takes the reader into the hardscrabble neighborhoods where life is a struggle in every moment.

I love this series.

David Baldacci has just published the 4th book in the John Puller series, No Man’s Land. Puller is a combat veteran and the best military investigator in the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CID).

In this novel, Puller is pulled into an investigation of his mother’s disappearance over 30 years ago while his 3 Star General father was stationed at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Running in parallel storylines, is a scarred, mean and incredibly fit character just released from prison after 10 years. Now that he’s out, he’s on a cross-country journey to exact revenge where his troubles began: Fort Monroe, Virginia.

I love the Puller character and he’s crossing paths with one of the most lethal villains Baldacci has created. Good stuff, but as always, I recommend starting with the first John Puller book, Zero Day.

Night School by Lee Child is Number #21 in the Jack Reacher series.

I spent some time with Lee Child several years ago. A very nice man who was formerly a TV script writer … who writes about a not so gentle giant by the name of Jack Reacher. The “Reacher” name came to Child when his wife asked him to “reach up” to the top shelf when they were grocery shopping in the late 1990s.

Since then, Reacher has become an iconic loner. He owns nothing although in the later books, he finally gets a cell phone and credit card, but that’s it. No home, no car, no clothes except those on his back. When he needs new ones, he goes shopping at a discount store, wears what he buys out of the store and throws the rest away.

He’s a classic badass and loads of fun ever since I read The Killing Floor, the first book released in 1997 before anyone I knew ever heard of Lee Child. Since then, he’s sold more than 70 million books in the Jack Reacher series, the only books he writes.

To be fair, this book is not my favorite. In this prequel, Reacher is 35 years old and still in the Army. He’s won a medal only to discover he’s being sent back to “school” in what one might call a “cooperative” competition between branches to catch a thief and spy. Reacher is a loner, and this is really the first time he’s been part of an ensemble cast. As a result, some of the characteristics he’s known for get submerged in a broad cast of principals.

Nonetheless, he’s quite the stud and you’ll love getting to know him starting with The Killing Floor.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye is Michael Connelly’s 23rd book in the Harry Bosch series. Harry is now a PI, having retired from the LAPD. When he finds himself across the desk from one of the richest men in the country, he takes an assignment that’s both difficult and dangerous as he tries to track down an unknown heir to a multibillion dollar fortune.

Bosch is now a Netflix series with two seasons under its belt and a third one being filmed. Michael Connelly recently answered questions about season 2 in a Q & A on his web site. You can also watch the season 2 trailer on YouTube.

Harry Bosch is a determined, troubled and relentless detective whose exploits I have followed since the beginning. If you haven’t read the books, I always recommend starting with Book #1, The Black Echo.

Last week, I mentioned The Whistler, the latest novel by John Grisham. Not edgy enough, I said.

Not so, Livia Lone, the latest novel from the pen of Barry Eisler. Livia and her younger sister were sold into slavery by their Thai parents and Livia ultimately becomes a Seattle PD sex-crimes detective. She has never stopped looking for her sister … and she copes with her failure to protect her sister by doing everything she can to put predators in prison … or, when that fails, by putting them in the ground. One tough cookie.

This is a plenty edgy story and Eisler pulls no punches in describing some of the scenes. I loved the story and the character, but be prepared for some raw language and emotion.

BTW, I also highly recommend the 8 novels in Eisler’s John Rain series, starting with the first one, A Clean Kill in Tokyo. John Rain is an accomplished assassin. He’s half American, half Japanese, with a reputation for completing his assignments so the victims look like they died naturally.

Barry Eisler is only getting better. You can’t go wrong wherever you start.

John Grisham certainly needs no introduction. He’s written a book every year since 1988 and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently more than 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, in 40 languages. Nine of them have become movies.

His latest is The Whistler, a story that unfolds when a corrupt judge is targeted by a whistle-blower seeking to collect millions under Florida law. He files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct … and the ensuing investigation follows an increasingly dangerous path.

There is also a short story prequel, Witness to a Trial which describes a judge’s first trial. It’s role in The Whistler becomes apparent as the book unfolds.

I enjoy Grisham’s books, but in this book, I didn’t find the same level of tension or suspense … and few surprises. I guess it’s becoming clearer that I’m leaning toward edgier

Finally we arrive at the conclusion of The Clifton Chronicles, the 7 book series started by world-class storyteller, Jeffrey Archer. Last week, Cometh the Hour was released as the final book in the epic journey spanning 100 years of the life of Henry Clifton and family.

It was fascinating to learn that the series began when Archer turned 70. Don’t miss his interesting explanation of what prompted him to start an entirely new series.

While I already own all 7 books, I stopped reading at #2 ONLY because I couldn’t remember enough about #1 to follow the continuity required of a series like this. Go figure.

So, now the journey begins. I intend to re-read Book #1, Only Time Will Tell (which I’ve only done once before for any book), and then read the entire series through to the end. Not sure when I’ll start since there are quite a few good ones ahead, but I’ll keep you posted.

If you haven’t read any books by Jeffrey Archer, you’re in for a treat. His first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less was published in 1975. Like his countryman, Ken Follett, he is a fabulous story teller.

As I’ve said before when speaking of Fool Me Once, Harlan Coben is one of the few authors who doesn’t always write about a series character. But his new novel, Home, reprises Myron Bolitar, who along with his erstwhile friend, Win, discovers one of two boys who were kidnapped 10 years ago with no trace until now.

Where has the boy been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken … and what ever happened to his friend who disappeared with him?

This is Coben’s 11th Bolitar book, who is a “hotheaded, tenderhearted sports agent”. It’s a great story you don’t want to miss with a strange amalgam of characters starting with Fat Gandhi, who runs every kind of illegal scam from a misappropriated but impregnable arcade in the seedier parts of London.

When I know a new book featuring “that effin Flowers” is on my list, I know there’s a real treat on the horizon.

Virgil Flowers, a detective working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is a real piece of work and is regularly referred to as “that effin Flowers”.

In Escape Clause, Novel #9 in the Virgil Flowers series from John Sandford, two large, and very rare, Amur tigers have vanished from their cage, and authorities are worried sick that they’ve been stolen for their body parts by some very violent people. Couple this with the sister of Virgil’s girlfriend moving in, with one eye on Virgil and the other on exposing the underbelly of migrant worker activities, and storm clouds are everywhere.

John Sandford is probably best known for his Prey series There are now 27 books in that great series about Lucas Davenport. You can find the latest, Extreme Prey, if you scroll down this page.

As always, I’d suggest starting with Virgil Flowers Book #1, Dark of the Moon.

newsletter_brad_taylor_ghosts_of_warIn the summer of terrorist ass-kickers, Pike Logan continues the trend with Brad Taylor’s Ghosts of War, #10 in the series.

Logan is the long arm of the Taskforce, an off-the-books extension of the President of United States, sanctioned to undertake assignments outside the law. The Taskforce is currently on stand-down because of the actions of a rogue operator, so Pike and his girlfriend/sidekick, Jennifer Cahill, help out two old friends formerly of Israel’s Mossad. What they uncover is an underworld plot to overthrow the Russian government led by Vladimir Putin. It could lead to another World War unless the mystery is unraveled in time.

If you don’t want a lot of hand-holding and kumbaya, Pike Logan is your man. As always, I recommend starting with the first book in the series, One Rough Man.

newsletter-friendly-fireIt’s been a great summer with some of the biggest ass-kickers around filling the shelves … and none tougher than Jonathan Grave, the leading man in Friendly Fire, the 7th book in John Gilstrap’s series.

I like Grave because he’s not an assassin or undercover operative per se … but a hostage rescue specialist known as Scorpion. His missions invariably start with someone to be rescued under the most difficult of circumstances and Scorpion pulls out the stops and takes no prisoners.

This time out, it’s even more complicated because Grave is trying to uncover the identify of a man who escaped a hostage rescue mission that saved the life of Ethan Falk, 11 years old then and now, 11 years later, a coffee barista. We care because Falk recognized that man from 11 ago when he came into the coffee shop. He’s is now accused of murder, but there is no existing record of his abduction or his rescue that might exonerate him.

Gilstrap only gets better each time out, and it’s a great series. As always, i recommend you start at the beginning of the series, No Mercy.

newsletter_first_strike_ben_coesThe latest Dewey Andreas novel, First Strike, is #6 in this great series from Ben Coes. He is one writer I can absolutely say only gets better each time out.

What I like about this series are the many unconventional assignments, not all of which are just taking down the terrorists. Each of them has a different wrinkle. Dewey’s background is different from many special operatives, but he’s a formidable adversary if you cross his path.

In First Strike, Dewey discovers that billions of dollars of weaponry available to ISIS has been financed by the U.S. government. A fateful plan to prop up an enemy of ISIS backfires, and it’s ISIS itself that’s being armed to take their battle to a global level and bring it to U.S. soil.

This is a great series that only gets better. As always, I suggest you start with the first book in the series, Power Down.

newsletter_brad_thor_foreign_agentOk, so I cheated again. I previously told you I was going to power through Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy. I did finish Mr. Mercedes and had #2, Finders Keepers in my sights, but I decided to turn to the Jack McClure/Alli Carson series from Eric Van Lustbader, who I really like. But I just couldn’t get into Last Snow, #2 in the series. Too much inner speak, something ….

It may have also been because I knew there was a slew of great thrillers coming up, featuring some of my favorite characters, and I was chomping at the bit to get there.

So …. while I’ve been at poolside, I finished Brad Thor’s Foreign Agent, #15 in the great series featuring Scot Harvath, a former Navy SEAL and Secret Service agent. He’s now a black ops specialist serving the President, engaged to tackle issues where complete deniability is the rule of the day.

In Foreign Agent, Harvath tracks down a legendary Russian terrorist … only to discover an even more diabolical player determined to bring the terrorist war to the steps of the White House. Across European capitals like Vienna, Brussels and Berlin and throughout the Middle East, Harvath confronts the devil himself. A great series … and if you’re just discovering it, a great binge-read opportunity.

last-snowSo, following last week’s debut of Eric Van Lustbader’s Jack McClure/Alli Carson series, I moved on to #2, Last Snow. In this novel, street-smart ATF agent Jack McClure teams up with the President’s daughter, Alli Carson, to investigate an overseas death of a U.S. Senator. McClure is dyslexic and while he struggles to read easily, worsened when he’s under stress, he is also gifted with an unusually quick mind that can assemble information faster than anyone else.  

While I would start with the Ninja series if you’re experimenting with Van Lustbader, this series offers a rare and unique combination of protagonists. You won’t be disappointed either way. 

lustbader-first-daughter-200pxSomehow, I lost track of Eric Van Lustbader … until now. I loved his Nicholas Linnear series, starting with The Ninja, a NY Times bestseller for 24 weeks in 1980. (There are 8 in the series and I think I may have missed the last two … but not for long.)

I also missed the Jack McClure/Alli Carson novels, of which there are now 5, starting with First Daughter about the kidnapping of the President-elect’s daughter and the involvement of Jack McClure, an ATF agent with some unusual capabilities. A lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to hitting the rest of them … next. 

Ironically, Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity also debuted on the bestseller list in 1980, a series to which Lustbader has successfully contributed. He picked up the mantle from Ludlum and following the enormous success of the Jason Bourne movies (the first 2 of which grossed over $500M), he wrote The Bourne Legacy, the 4th Bourne book which has since sold more than 300K copies. 

A terrific writer and a lot of fun, mayhem and mischief assured. 

newsletter_house_revengeOk, so I cheated a little. I told you I was going to power through Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy. I did finish Mr. Mercedes and had #2, Finders Keepers in my sights, but I decided to turn left to a familiar series. 

The Joe DeMarco series from Mike Lawson is one I really enjoy, in part because DeMarco may be the only hero who doesn’t carry a gun. I guess Jack Reacher doesn’t carry one either, but he sure knows how to use one. DeMarco, not so much. 

In House Revenge, the 10th novel in the series, DeMarco heads to Boston to help an elderly woman who is fighting a prominent developer determined to tear down her building and build a massive new development. DeMarco is a “fixer” for Congressman John Mahoney, former Speaker of the House, and currently the House Minority Leader. Mahoney’s a legendary figure who only wants the publicity for helping the woman … until the developer, a former contributor, disrespects him. He dispatches DeMarco, who’s only deployed when Mahoney operates outside the lines (which is often) … and then the fun begins. 

This is a terrific, but unique series, more cerebral activity than gun play. As always, I suggest starting with the first book in the series, The Inside Ring

newsletter_mr mercedesMr. Mercedes is Book #1 in the Bill Hodges Trilogy, the first hard-boiled detective novel by the ridiculously prolific Stephen King. While I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s writing, he usually writes in a genre I don’t prefer. In this case, I waited for th e last book in the trilogy before tackling this series.

Mr. Mercedes won the Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year from the Mystery Writers of America. In this novel, a stolen Mercedes plows through a crowd of men and women on line for a job fair in a distressed American city. Then the lone driver backs up, charges again, and speeds off, leaving eight dead and more wounded. The case goes unsolved and ex-cop Bill Hodges is out of hope when he gets a letter from a man who loved the feel of death under the Mercedes’s wheels …

King can dish it out as raw as it comes. This is the beginning of a great story in the hands of a supremely accomplished author.

newsletter_the forsakenAce Atkins is a New York Times best-selling novelist with 19 novels to his credit. Ace has been nominated for every major award in crime fiction, including the Edgar three times and twice for novels about former U.S. Army Ranger Quinn Colson. Ace lives in Oxford, Mississippi, the home of countless authors including Nobel Laureate William Faulkner and John Grisham.

The Forsaken is the 4th book in the Quinn Colson series. In this case, Sheriff Colson tackles a lynching from 36 years ago and discovers there are still a bunch of folks around who know how to play dirty. I lost track of this series after the first 3 books I read, but now I’m back and ready to finish the 6 books in this terrific series.

As always, I recommend starting the series with the first book, The Ranger.

newsletter_house of secretsIt’s a difficult challenge for novelists in the Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre to walk the line between keeping things vague enough to sustain the mystery … while not so vague that the reader is mystified by what’s going on.

I’m usually a big fan of Brad Meltzer … ever since his debut novel, The Tenth Justice in 1997, but his most recent novel, House of Secrets featuring a new protagonist, Hazel Nash, was a tough book to get through.

It’s rare when I put down a book I’ve started — advice contrary to what I recommend you do so you don’t waste your time with a novel you don’t enjoy — but in this case I soldiered on. It’s a very complicated plot, amplified because Hazel Nash’s brain was scrambled in a car crash. If you love Brad Meltzer, it may be worth a try, but for this novel, the line between mysterious and mystifying isn’t very clear.

extreme preyThere aren’t many series characters that have been around for 25+ books, but Lucas Davenport is still kickin’ ass and takin’ names in Extreme Prey … and I’ve read one each year since 1990.

John Sandford, the pseudonym for Pulitzer Prize winning John Roswell Camp, has now written #26 in the Davenport series, all of which contain the word Prey in the title, thus the term, the Prey Series.

Lucas started out as a Minneapolis cop in 1990 and over time, worked as a Special Investigator for Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, then the Governor and now for a Presidential candidate who he learns has a few people who would like to violently disrupt her campaign.

Lucas is rich, a software pioneer in his early years, always drove a Porsche (until now?) and dresses right out of GQ. But, you don’t want to mess with him and he always get his man or woman … almost.

As always, if you want many hours of escapist reading and watch the evolution of Lucas Davenport in the Prey Series, start with Book #1,Rules of Prey, in this great series.

Have you read any of the books or authors on the 9 Must-Read Thrillers Written by Women?

I think I have read a book or two from Tana French, but I’ve never heard of these other authors. That’s not to say, however, there aren’t many women authors and characters I’ve enjoyed.

I tried to read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, a long-standing New York Times bestseller, but I thought it was slow, repetitive and boring and I didn’t finish it. Taylor Stevens is one of my current favorites. Her first book was The Informationist. I have read all five of her books and I know you will LOVE the lead character. She is badass all the way.

In the past I have enjoyed books by other women, like Gillian Flynn‘s best-selling novel, Gone Girl. I also really like the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.

I have also read most, but not all, of the novels by Gayle Lynds, a thriller writer; medical thrillers by Tess Gerritsen; and legal thrillers by Lisa Scottaline.

You can also add to that list, Patricia Cornwell’s Kate Scarpetta series and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series with a female protagonist written by Steig Larsson.

newsletter_The_Last_Mile_by_David_BaldacciDavid Baldacci has written 32 novels, translated into more than 45 languages, sold in over 80 counties … and with over 110 million copies in print worldwide.

So, unless you don’t read fiction at all, you’ve probably read at least one of his books. His just published The Last Mile, #2 in the Amos Decker series. It’s a tightly-drawn mystery that will challenge all of your sleuthing skills. I love Amos Decker, a hulking but exceptional character, who as a result of a brain injury, has one very special talent: He can’t forget anything.

In The Last Mile, Amos learns of a man on death row with a history remarkably similar to his own. When he joins an elite FBI team, he convinces them to pursue the case of Melvin Mars, who Decker is convinced is innocent despite his impending execution. What unravels is an incredible conspiracy that reaches deep into Southern mores and the pinnacles of Washington power.

This is another great series from David Baldacci, and as always, I suggest starting with Book #1 in this series, Memory Man.

newsletter_redemption_roadThe Edgar Allen Poe Awards, known as the Edgars, is one of the most prestigious awards in the Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre, and are presented by the Mystery Writers of America.

John Hart earned history’s only consecutive Edgar Awards for Best Novel with Down River and The Last Child. Among others, Hart has also won the Barry Award and the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award.

His novels do not include a series character so you can read them in any order. After you get drawn into his most recent novel, Redemption Road, you’ll soon start looking for his previous 4 novels. I’ve read them all and you won’t go wrong with any of them.

This is a terrific author — at his peak — and a great story to bring along on your summer vacation.

newsletter_the-bone-tree5/25  Whew! I finally polished off the 800 pages of Natchez Burning, the 5th book in Greg Isles Penn Cage series, and the first book in his Natchez Trilogy. Now, onto Penn Cage #5, The Bone Tree. It’s the last one for now, since the final leg of the trilogy, “Unwritten Laws” is not yet released.

Like all of the Penn Cage books, it’s a captivating story, rich with Southern traditions and chock-full with menace, suspense and close calls. The Natchez Burning Trilogy is being turned into an Amazon TV series starring Toby McGuire.

Summer’s just around the corner, so if you’re looking for a great series, and you’re hankering for something to read, even a bit down the road in that special vacation you’re planning, don’t overlook this great series.

If you’re going to tackle it, be sure to start with the first book in this series, The Quiet Game.

newsletter_Natchez_Burning_by_Greg_Isles5/4 As I have reported, I am attacking the Penn Cage series by Greg Isles. I’m now on to Natchez Burning, the 4th book in this series.

This novel is the first of what is known as the Natchez Burning Trilogy which is being turned into an Amazon TV series starring Toby McGuire. In this book, Penn Cage, a lawyer turned novelist turned Mayor, deals with a murder charge leveled against his father, a beloved local doctor for over 40 years, who is accused of killing the African American nurse with whom he worked in the 1960s. 

But his father invokes doctor-patient privilege and refuses to speak in his own defense. The quest for the truth unravels sexually-charged secrets, vestiges of the KKK and some of the most powerful men in Mississippi. 

As I have said, this is one of the best series I’ve read in a long time, so if you’re hankering for something to read, even a bit down the road in that welcome summer vacation you’re planning, don’t overlook this great series. 

As I’ve said, when I discover a new series, I follow my own recommendation to start from the beginning. So, start with first book in this series, The Quiet Game.

newsletter_devils_punchbowl4/27 As I have reported, I am attacking the Penn Cage series by Greg Isles. I’m now on to The Devil’s Punchbowl, the 3rd book in this series.

Penn is determined to restore his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi to its former glory and stop the flight of young people deserting it. As a gamblers’ paradise begins to fuel the town’s growth, a more violent byproduct draws the rich and famous to Natchez, and when a childhood friend of Penn’s is brutally murdered after bringing him evidence of these crimes, Cage bears the full weight of the pain in the community over which he now presides as its Mayor.

This is one of the best series I’ve read in a long time and the rich southern atmosphere and layered surprises and suspense are worth your time when you’re looking for the next great read.

As I’ve said, when I discover a new series, I follow my own recommendation to start from the beginning. So, start with first book in this series, The Quiet Game.

nessletter_Turning_Angel_book_cover4/20 Last week, I started the Penn Cage series from Greg Isles, and the first book in that series, The Quiet Game, is even better than I initially described. The skins of the onion keep coming off as he unravels a very complex conspiracy.

As I’ve said, when I discover a new series, I follow my own recommendation to start from the beginning. So, it’s on to Penn Cage #2, Turning Angel. Cage remains in Natchez, Mississippi and promises to help his childhood friend, a prominent physician who saved his life when they were young, when he is accused of the murder of a high school student. Once again, the rich characters and layered plot will draw you in to his world.

the quiet gameEvery once in awhile, I dig back into a new series … usually when there is a lull in the various series I’m tracking.

I’ve read a few of Greg Iles‘ stand alone novels in the past, so I thought I’d check out his Penn Cage Series. Penn Cage is a lawyer – turned – novelist. In the The Quiet Game, the first of the 5-book series (a 6th one is on the way), Cage takes his young daughter back to the Natchez, Mississippi following the death of his young wife. Cage had sent 16 men to death row as a District attorney and killed one by his own hand.

The 4th book in the series, Natchez Burning is the first of what known as the Natchez Burning Trilogy which is being turned into an Amazon TV series starring Toby McGuire

newsletter_orphan xGregg Hurwitz is back with a new series, featuring Evan Smoak, aka Orphan X, the name of his new book. He’s a former member of an elite warrior group, created and trained in the shadows with complete deniability and absolute secrecy.

He’s retired from his official duties, but is serving as a Good Samaritan, passing along his secret phone number to struggling victims who he’s determined to help. When they call, he answers with this line and then responds with cold, calculated fury:

“Do you need my help?”

For the record, I’m still a little irritated with Hurwitz who seems to have abandoned an earlier protagonist, Tim Rackley, the Deputy U.S Marshall and elite manhunter, but I still enjoy his work. Supposedly, he’s working with TNT to develop a TV series based on the Rackley books, but nothing is out yet. The good news is that Warner Bros. is negotiating to buy the movie rights to Orphan X to be played by Bradley Cooper.

If you want to try the Tim Rackley series, which I highly recommend, start with Kill Clause, the first book in the 4 book series.

newsletter_fool me onceFool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben has written 8 consecutive New York Times bestsellers and is one of the few authors who doesn’t write about a series character. Since virtually all of the fiction I read in this genre has a prominent series character, I’ve made this exception because of his mastery of the suspense and thriller novel.

The premise for Fool Me Once book is simple. Checking the nanny cam from work Maya, an ex-special ops pilot, sees her daughter playing with her husband–a man who was supposedly murdered two weeks prior.

Then the fun begins.

newsletter_fiction_backblastBack Blast by Mark Gearney (Gray Man #5)

Let me summarize the skills of Court Gentry, the black ops assassin otherwise known as the Gray Man, from Back Blast, the latest novel by Mark Gearney:

“He can fly planes, scuba, rappel, fast rope, and free climb. He’s a master in the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, and he’s the best close-quarters battle tactician to ever serve in SAD. He’s been to jump school, sniper school, advanced surveillance school, explosive breaching school, SERE school.”

Since he’s been on the run for the past 5 years, banished by an infectious cabal in the highest reaches of the US government, Gentry decides to return to America to find out who’s behind it. When they learn he’s back in DC, everyone sleeps with one eye open.

This is a great series. As always, I suggest starting with the first book in the series, The Gray Man.

newsletter_The First Order by Jeff AbbottIn The First Order by Jeff Abbott, his protagonist, Sam Capra, a retired CIA agent is in hot pursuit … of his brother who he discovers wasn’t murdered as everyone believed. Instead, he’s been recruited for an assassination, on American soil, of one of the world leaders coming to the U.S. for an important summit meeting.

Sam is part of the Round Table that owns 30 bars across the world, but of course, the Round Table is a little more than you might suspect. This is Abbott’s 5th book in the Sam Capra series.

As always, I suggest starting with the first book in the series, [Adrenaline]

newsletter_brute force book coverBrute Force by Marc Cameron is the 6th book in the Jericho Quinn series.

Jericho is an adventure motorcyclist, champion boxer, Air Force Academy grad, a Fulbright Fellow, father … and an extremely talented killer.

Cameron calls him “America’s blunt instrument against the War on Terror”

He’s also got a few badass friends, including Miyagi, a woman who is smooth as silk and deadly as a cobra.

Fun reading when you need a break from the grind!

House of the Rising Sun by James Lee Burke

newsletter_feb24_House of the Rising SunJames Lee Burke is one of my all-time favorite authors. His ability to viscerally capture the sights, sounds and smells of every place his characters inhabit is extraordinary.

While he is probably best known for the 20 books in his Dave Robicheaux series, centered around Louisiana’s Iberia Parish near New Orleans, the Holland Family series displays those same qualities. It’s a wild and colorful group and Burke is at his best in the House of the Rising Sun, #10 in the Holland saga in exploring the anguish and travails of this family of former soldiers and Texas Rangers.

I treasure every book that Burke writes, but he’s now in his 70s and I fear there will be far fewer going forward despite the awesome bibliography he’s also provided.

You can look forward to 20 books in the Dave Robicheaux series starting with Neon Rain and 10 more in the Holland Family series. The first Hackberry Holland book is Lay Down My Sword and Shield.

 When you’re ready to thank me for this gift, I’ll give you the address where you can send the lavish gifts. I only wish I was just getting started and had these 30+ books to look forward to.

newsletter feb17The_Guilty

The Guilty by David Baldacci is the 4th book in his Will Robie series. I was skeptical at first because this undercover assassin (are there assassins who aren’t undercover?) was not on a normal mission. He was returning home to Mississippi to learn why his estranged father and sitting judge was accused of murder. Don’t worry. His badass friend, Jessica Reel, doesn’t miss all the fun.

This is one of Baldacci’s best and certainly the best of the Will Robies series. It’s quite a tangled web he weaves as he works so hard to deceive.

As always, I recommend starting at the beginning of any series. Will Robie #1 is The Innocent.

The Forgotten SoldierI just finished The Forgotten Soldier, Book #9 in the Pike Logan series by Brad Taylor.

Pike is the leader of the Task Force, a small, off-the-books team of top special forces operatives under the direct control of the President. They represent the tip of the spear, dispatched only in the most challenging situations where deadly force and absolute discretion is required.

Brad Taylor is a retired special forces leader and writes with a crisp, action-oriented style.

The Crossing, #22 in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly.

Michael Connelly is a long time, NY Times best-selling author, known for his Harry Bosch series. The Crossing is the 22nd installment of the series. Harry is now a retired LAPD detective who joins forces with his half-brother, Mickey Haller, who also appears in a separate series of books by Michael Connelly. You may recognize that name from the role played by Matthew McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer, a big screen movie from several years ago.

The Harry Bosch character also recently became a TV series, entitled Bosch, an Amazon Prime series available for free for Amazon Prime members. Titus Welliver plays the character role. (The first season was a success; the second season begins in less than 40 days.)

Harry Bosch is a great character. I always suggest that you start at the beginning of the series so you can appreciate the evolution of the character as Harry fights every day to deliver on his core belief: “Everybody matters or nobody matters.”

The Promise Robert Crais (Elvis Cole & Joe Pike, #16)

newsletter Feb 10 the promiseThere probably aren’t many investigators like Elvis Cole.. He has a Mickey Mouse phone and a Pinocchio wall clock in his LA office. He drinks coffee out of a Spider-Man mug, quotes Jiminy Cricket and drives a bright yellow 1966 Corvette. Of course, and if you ask him, he’s the “World’s Greatest Detective.”

His partner, Joe Pike, is an ex marine, a part-time mercenary and gun shop owner. He is the elusive but deadly shadow you know is nearby whenever a dose of mayhem is required. He’s a man of very few words and deadly action.

The first book in the series, The Monkey’s Raincoat, won every fiction award possible, including the Shamus, Edgar, McAvity and Anthony awards. The author, Robert Crais, also received the Ross Macdonald Literary Award in 2006 and was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

The most recent book, The Promise, is #16 in this great series.