New Fiction: The Force – Don Winslow

We’re always fans of the pithy soundbite in this business and Stephen King’s is memorable: “Think The Godfather, only with cops.”

Winslow already had a career-defining bestseller with his last book, The Cartel, and I think this new one is more than a case of lightning striking twice: I think we’re looking at a writer arriving at full mastery of his craft. The plotting, the finely developed characters, and the moral ambiguity felt on level with the epic TV crime drama, The Wire. Both feel like plot-driven narrative sociologies in steroids. In the case of The Force, to say that the reader comes away with a more nuanced, conflicted sense of good and bad, heroes and villains, is an understatement.

Major media agrees: It’s been covered in a number of summer previews and we already have national review commitments and interviews scheduled in Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, Rolling Stone, the NYTBR, Washington Post, Time and WSJ, with much more to come. It also received two starred advance reviews and is an Indie Next pick.

Janet Maslin weighed in this week in the NYT calling The Force “a shattering New York cop epic about an elite task force leader who’s a hero until he’s not… [A] boisterous, profane book… [that] recalls Sidney Lumet’s great New York police films (Serpico, Prince of the City) and makes their agonies almost quaint by comparison….”

Edgar-finalist Winslow peers into the soul of modern America through the eyes of a supremely skilled and corrupt police officer, in this epic novel of devastating moral complexity. Dennis Malone, a veteran NYPD detective sergeant, leads the Manhattan North Special Task Force, an elite unit established to combat drugs, gangs, and guns. Keeping the citizens safe is often messy work and sometimes requires unorthodox methods to get results. Gradually, however, Malone and his crew have slipped over the edge, stealing millions…. As the reader discovers, Malone’s corruption is but a tiny part of a much larger system that extends into the highest reaches of New York’s power structure, where the real business is done, and everyone on the chain takes a cut. Fans of modern masters such as Don DeLillo, Richard Price, and George Pelecanos will be richly rewarded.”
—  Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“By turns grim and giddy, this is a good read in the service of dark cops.
—  Kirkus Reviews

“Winslow has created what will likely become our quintessential cop novel, looking both at what cops do right and wrong with clear-eyed realism and passionate humanity.”
Booklist (starred review)

The Force (9780062664419) by Don Winslow. $27.99 hardcover. 6/20/17 one day laydown.

 

Fiction Short Take: The Himalyan Codex – Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch

If Crichton whets your appetite for science-based speculative fiction steeped in history, you can always turn to James Rollins. For readers who have worked through Rollins, Steve Berry, Preston Child and other established heirs to Crichton, you might want to try this new series from writing partners Schutt and Finch. This is their second book and both have been praised for offering the perfect blend of science, history and suspense rolled out at a page-turning pace.

Kirkus gave their first book, Hell’s Gate, a starred review saying, “[T]hink Indiana Jones. For that matter, this yarn evokes more than a few reminders of Stephen King, Joseph Conrad, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Fast-moving fun for thriller readers who enjoy a bit of horror and seeing bad guys get what’s coming to them.”

PW also gave the first book a starred review, highlighting the balance of science and suspense noting that “Michael Crichton fans will be pleased.”

“[in The Himalayan Codex] Schutt and Finch provide a textbook example of how to make the fantastic easy to buy into with their superior second Crichton-esque thriller…. In 1946, Maj. Pat Hendry visits [zoologist R.J. MacCready] at his offices in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Natural History and shows him jawbones from a dwarf mammoth that suggest the creature had two trunks. Hendry reveals that the bones came from a remote part of Tibet known as the Labyrinth, which may also be the site of an even more amazing discovery—an incomplete codex believed to have been written by Pliny the Elder…that could be ‘the key to shaping life itself.’ … An extended author’s note at the end explains that such speculation is grounded in science.”
—  Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Himalayan Codex (9780062412553) by Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch. $26.99 hardcover. 6/6/17 on sale.

 

New Fiction: Since We Fell – Dennis Lehane

After focusing much of his attention in recent years on two books that constituted an epic American crime saga, Lehane is back to the cat-and-mouse psychological suspense that brings his fans out in droves. And rightly so—he’s a master. So says another master of the genre, Gillian Flynn:

Lehane has written two books—one, an insightful examination of the search for identity and belonging, and two, a thriller that constantly leaves you guessing-and then smashed them together into one terrific read. Lehane is the master of complex human characters thrust into suspenseful, page-turning situations. I’ll read anything he writes.”

The plot this time involves a former TV journalist reduced to living as a shut-in after an on-air meltdown suffered while covering the devastation in Haiti. This claustrophobic background serves as the stage where Rachel Childs’ anxieties play out as her marriage to the perfect husband unravels into deception, violence, and possibly madness.

Advance reviews are terrific and the book will be covered widely at on sale, starting with a first serial in Playboy, features in New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly and NPR’s Morning Edition. Review coverage starts with The Washington Post, The New York Post and O, the Oprah Magazine. As you might expect, it’s both an Indie Next and LibraryReads pick.

Set in contemporary Boston, this expertly wrought character study masquerading as a thriller from Edgar-winner Lehane features his first-ever female protagonist. Once a star journalist… Rachel Childs now barely leaves her house. Lehane portrays the frantic hamster wheel of waxing and waning anxiety with unnerving clarity. A lifetime of tension, much of it spawning from her now-deceased mother’s refusal to disclose the identity of Rachel’s father, weighs on Rachel. The quest to put a name to half her DNA is what first sets Rachel on a collision course with Brian Delacroix…. Their eventual marriage is romantic and life-affirming, as Brian coaxes Rachel through the swamp of her psyche, until it’s suddenly not. The book’s conspiracy plot doesn’t cut the deepest; it’s Lehane’s intensely intimate portrayal of a woman tormented by her own mind.”
—  Publishers Weekly

“[T]his narrative vehicle never veers out of control, and when Lehane hits the afterburners in the last 50 pages, he produces one of crime fiction’s most exciting and well-orchestrated finales-rife with dramatic tension and buttressed by rich psychological interplay between the characters. Don’t be surprised if Since We Fell makes readers forget about that other psychological thriller featuring an unstable heroine named Rachel.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A crafty, ingenious tale of murder and deception-and a deeply resonant account of one woman’s effort to heal deep wounds that don’t easily show.”
Kirkus

Since We Fell (9780062129383) by Dennis Lehane. $27.99 hardcover. 5/9/17 one day laydown.

Fiction Short Take: Mississippi Burning – Greg Iles

This conclusion to Iles’ three-part thriller on race and the American South is such a slam dunk to be yet another bestseller that I almost skipped mentioning it. But watching my wife immerse herself in all three books over the last couple weeks reminded me what a completely compelling experience this story is.

With three stared advance reviews, Mississippi Blood does right be the fans–and there are still plenty of new fans to be found. I recommend displaying it along with the first two books in the series—Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree.

Iles’s terrific conclusion to his Natchez Burning trilogy is a sweeping story that remains intimate. The Double Eagles, a savage KKK splinter group, have declared a personal war on Penn Cage, a former prosecutor who’s now the mayor of Natchez, Miss., necessitating 24-hour security protection for him and his family. The toxic bigotry escalates as Penn’s father, Tom, once a respected physician, goes on trial for the murder of his former nurse and one-time lover, Viola Turner, an African-American who was suffering from terminal cancer…. [R]elentless pacing keeps the story churning, with unexpected brutality erupting on nearly every page. The trial scenes are among the most exciting ever written in the genre.”
Publishers Weekly (boxed starred review)

“Faulkner meets John D. MacDonald, and that’s all to the good. A boisterous, spills-and-chills entertainment from start to finish.”
Kirkus Reviews

“From his opening line, Iles draws you back into Penn Cage’s deep South in this phenomenal trilogy’s final novel…. [A] heart-racing, enthralling thriller.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“This trilogy is destined to become a classic of literary crime fiction.”
Booklist (starred review)

Mississippi Blood (9780062311153) by Greg Iles. $28.99 hardcover. 3/21/17 one day laydown.

Fiction Short Take: The Seventh Plague – James Rollins

There are some novelists who hit the bestseller list so consistently it’s easy to start to take them for granted. So as a corrective, let me note that Rollins’ latest novel will not no doubt land on the bestseller list–it gets a boxed, starred review in PW and a starred Booklist review. These are brainy, action-filled adventures by a master.

Bestseller Rollins’s epic 12th Sigma Force adventure features exotic locales, heroic quests, quixotic villains, action galore, and enough science and scientific curiosities to titillate even casual readers…Rollins’s characters are as large as his landscape in this vast and vastly entertaining thriller saga.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The vanished leader of a British archaeological expedition appears and then dies before he can reveal where he has been and what has happened. The evidence from the professor’s autopsy shows that he was mummified while still alive….The professor, we learn, had been researching the biblical 10 plagues of Egypt….The intensity never lets up for a second as the narrative unfurls. When it comes to the blending of action, adventure, history, and science, there is no other author who does it better than Rollins. Fans of Clive Cussler, Steve Berry, and Michael Crichton should already have Rollins on their mandatory reading list.”
Booklist (starred review)

The Seventh Plague: A Sigma Force Novel (9780062381682) by James Rollins. $27.99 hardcover. 12/13/16 one day laydown.

 

 

Fiction Short Take: Girls on Fire – Robin Wasserman

Wasserman is a well-known YA author making her adult suspense debut with this tale of two teens negotiating the treacherous territory between girlhood and adulthood in the early 1990s. With two love triangles gone violently wrong, Kirkus calls this a story of “[g]irls behaving very, very badly.”

“The story unfolds as a maddening tease, with shocking events waiting around every corner-and an ending that will leave readers stunned.”
Booklist

Girls on Fire will utterly terrify you — in the best way possible…. A dark, chilling story of secrets, violence, and female friendship, Girls on Fire will burn in the mind long after you finish reading.”
BuzzFeed

 A book so wonderful, so terrible, so nightmarishly compelling that I hardly knew what to say when I finished reading it. Wasserman has wrapped up a love story inside a murder mystery, a promise and a testament inside a confession—and has a title ever been truer? The reader comes away singed.”
— Kelly Link

“A chilling mix-tape of love, girl crushes, secrets, and revenge… Read it on vacation; read it on the train; read it at the beach; read it at a campfire just about to burn out—but don’t miss it.”
Ploughshares

“This book would not let me go. Wasserman crafts a love so sharp and utterly insatiable that the edges separating one body from another blur. This is the story of Hannah and Lacey, whose need for one another is nothing short of parasitic. Girls on Fire is neither a testament to the power of female friendship nor is it a story of first loves. It is a foray into the realm of propulsive desire, and an unsettling answer to the question, ‘who am I without you?’”
— Tara Bagnola, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Girls on Fire (9780062415486) by Robin Wasserman. $25.99 hardcover. 5/17/16 on sale.

Fiction Short Take: The Stopped Heart – Julie Myerson

What to call a delightfully scary entertainment like this? That it’s a ghost story seems a bit tame for the roller coaster ride the plot offers. Horror always brings to mind more contemporary slasher genre stuff. Our marketing team suggests maybe “highbrow horror” is the right term for this deft. emotionally complex take on two families marked by tragedy through time and haunted by the same mysterious…something.”

Releasing in the US and UK at the same time, this is getting great reviews on both sides of the ocean.

“Myerson twines a delightfully twisted tale, exposing the dark underbelly of love and the gaping, raw wounds of grief… By turns terrifying and heartbreaking; an enthralling spine-chiller.”
— Kirkus Reviews

On the first page, it’s clear that something indescribably horrific has happened…. [Myerson] has…vividly limned the pain felt by so many of her well-drawn characters. Despite its length, this novel is impossible to put down; it will be read compulsively to learn the what of what has happened, if not the why. A stunner.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“Beautifully written and cleverly told…. An extraordinarily potent experience and not for the faint-hearted.”
— The Guardian

“In this hair-raiser, Mary Coles moves to a country cottage that seems too good to be true…and it turns out, she’s right. Goose-bumps ensue.”
— Cosmopolitan

“The story is heart wrenching, unremittingly grisly…. A thriller and…a page-turner…. The Stopped Heart exposes the flesh of the lives cut in half, the pain and loves of the past, and why they are no less real than the present.”
— Independent (UK)

The Stopped Heart (9780062409324) by Julie Myerson. $15.99 trade paper original. 3/19/16 on sale.