Suspense is the name of the game in these four books, which include the latest from Harlan Coben and a high-stakes forensic accounting thriller that's a total page turner (yes, really).
★ The Last Tourist
Milo Weaver, the protagonist of Olen Steinhauer’s The Last Tourist, surely must be the standard bearer for disillusioned spies the world over. He is semiretired, now serving the CIA as an information broker after beating a hasty retreat to one of the world’s most remote outposts, the Western Sahara, in hopes of keeping a low profile. But when a somewhat green CIA interrogator comes to question Milo about a series of mysterious deaths in which he peripherally features, he discovers that his life is perhaps even more in peril than it was in the old days when he worked as a field agent. And after the pair is attacked in the supposedly safe Sahara outpost, you will find yourself wondering if they’ll survive the next 48 hours. When the series kicked off with 2009’s The Tourist, the Department of Tourism (Steinhauer’s euphemistically named CIA spy shop) was the bastion of the good guys—or at least that was how it was fashioned. Not so much anymore. It isn’t imperative that you read the three volumes that precede The Last Tourist, but it helps. And in any event, once you read this one, you will want to go back and read the others, so just get them all and block out a long weekend to enjoy some of the finest modern spy thrillers.
The Familiar Dark
Raised by a drug-addicted single mother in an all-but-forgotten Ozark town, Eve Taggert has persevered in the face of adversity, scratching out a meager but respectable living as a waitress. And then Eve’s 12-year-old daughter gets murdered in a neglected playground, along with a school classmate, her best friend. No clues are immediately forthcoming, and the police are inept at best, so if justice, even rough justice, is to be done, it will fall to Eve to dispense it in Amy Engel’s thriller The Familiar Dark. Complicating matters are two family factors. The first is Eve’s brother, who is a police officer connected with the investigation; the second is her mother, who is a meth dealer. Either or both may bear some responsibility—if not for the murders themselves, then at least for the surrounding toxic situation that may have put the girls in the radius of collateral damage. There aren’t many happy endings in towns where meth is the leading industry, but The Familiar Dark certainly has a satisfying ending, and perhaps, as in life, that is the best one can hope for.
Strike Me Down
You wouldn’t think that a book featuring an accountant as the protagonist would make for an edge-of-your-seat read, but you would be wrong. Mindy Mejia’s latest thriller, Strike Me Down, is a page turner of the first order, a brutal mashup of world-class martial arts and high-stakes embezzlement. Twenty million dollars in prize money goes missing shortly before a kickboxing extravaganza. Forensic accountant Nora Trier has been hired by the owners of sporting goods company Strike to investigate the theft and hopefully recover the purloined funds. Nora has personal connections with both co-owners of Strike: Logan Russo, a noted kickboxer, has been Nora’s personal trainer; and Logan’s husband, Gregg Abbott, was Nora’s partner in a one-night stand, perhaps the steamiest of her life. So when conflict erupts between the two owners, Nora finds herself caught uncomfortably in the crossfire as suspicions flare and supporting evidence follows close behind. This is not a book that will make you want to seek out a career in accounting, the way Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer might have inspired a budding generation of legal eagles, but without a doubt it will give you a new appreciation for the field and its practitioners.
The Boy From the Woods
How about this for an offbeat protagonist? A boy, living wild and with no memory of his name or the beginnings of his circumstances, is discovered by a pair of hikers in the wilds of New Jersey. (Yes, New Jersey has wilds.) Now, 30-odd years later, he has become a private investigator, and whether by design or coincidence, he goes by the name of Wilde—no first name, no middle initial. This unlikely premise kicks off Harlan Coben’s intriguing new thriller, The Boy From the Woods, which sees Wilde investigating the disappearance of a bullied teenage girl, Naomi Pine, in the same woods where he was once found. Wilde’s investigation uncovers dirty politics by which even current-day shenanigans pale in comparison, including a figure who makes Donald Trump look like a choirboy, and folks, whichever side of the political divide you may occupy, you gotta admit that ain’t easy! Much in the manner of Ed McBain and Carl Hiaasen, Coben stretches his characters and situations paper-thin, almost to caricature, and then page by page brings the story around to a rousing conclusion.