I've been reading since birth. I love mysteries, thrillers, police procedurals, and anything dark, gritty, and disturbing. If you give me any YA novel, I will read it.
My favorite books are Birdman by Mo Hayder, The Black Echo by Michael Connelly, Come Closer by Sara Gran, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, The Killing Floor by Lee Child, and Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane.
The fifth in a series that never disappoints, this latest has P.I. Rick Cahill investigating threats to sexy nighttime radio personality, Naomi Hendrix. The investigation leads to a deranged stalker who calls himself Pluto. As the threats escalate, Rick knows it’s time to go to the cops but Naomi insists on protecting her shadowy past. When a young woman disappears, all clues point to Pluto and Rick feels responsible. Meanwhile, Russian mobsters call in a favor and Rick finds himself tailing a nemesis from his past. The tension builds as Rick juggles the two cases and the bodies pile up. Is his dogged pursuit of the truth worth the cost? A fast-paced thrill ride with plenty of action and well-drawn characters. Fans of hard-boiled P.I. novels will find much to love with Wrong Light and should check out the entire series, if they haven’t already.
This is the fourth in the Rick Cahill P.I. series and, for me, the most emotionally-charged. Rick investigates two cases, both involving loved ones, so already, you know there’s a lot at stake. One case involves Kim, his ex-girlfriend, who hires Rick to confirm her suspicions that her husband is having an affair. The other dredges up Rick’s long-suppressed shame of his deceased father, a disgraced cop, when a safe is discovered in his childhood home. The two storylines weave together flawlessly. Kim’s case takes Rick into shady real estate deals and, eventually, murder. His personal crusade to uncover the truth about his father leads to a 20-year-old cold case. Rick struggles between his need to see justice served and the fear of what he’ll discover about his own flesh and blood. Coyle skillfully breaks up the thrilling action with more introspective moments, resulting in a topnotch read.
A top-notch hard-boiled crime novel set in the wealthy enclaves of La Jolla, Del Mar, and Coronado where greed and desperation lurk just underneath the jeweled surfaces. This is the third installment of the P.I. Rick Cahill series as he takes on Brianne Colton’s case despite his misgivings about it. Brianne is convinced her police officer husband, Jim Colton, didn’t kill himself but was murdered. The case pits Rick against a familiar enemy, La Jolla Police Chief Tony Moretti, who is convinced Rick is involved in a missing persons case. The P.I. knows it’s only a matter of time before Moretti shows up at his door with an arrest warrant. As Cahill digs further into Colton’s suicide, he comes up against FBI agents, ex-SEALs, and a sleazy criminal lawyer from his past. The story carries the reader along at breakneck speed, yet still manages to take a few breaths for softer moments.
BEST BET 2013 PICK
A smart and gritty debut of a flawed ex-cop turned restaurateur who becomes entangled with the wrong people, people who want to keep their dirty secrets buried, which is something this ex-cop is all too familiar with.
This is the fifth in the Ellie Stone mystery series and I know I say this every time, but I think it’s my favorite. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic 1960s Hollywood setting or maybe it’s the skill in which Ziskin addresses homophobia and racism during that era. Ellie is assigned to write a story about Tony Eberle, a New Holland native, who lands a starring role in a Hollywood movie. The only problem is when she arrives on the Paramount lot, he’s missing. Ellie is determined to follow through with her story and vows to locate Tony Eberle despite the film’s producer turning up dead and a shrewd studio executive always staying one step ahead of her. The investigation takes Ellie into a more sinister Hollywood and she quickly realizes she’s out of her depth. Perhaps what I appreciate most is the realistic way in which Ellie, a modern young woman for her time, acknowledges her conflicting feelings about homosexuality and alternative lifestyles. Another standout from Ziskin.
Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin
The fourth installment to this mystery series featuring investigative reporter Ellie Stone may be my favorite yet. Set in 1961 Adirondacks, it opens with the chief of police, Tiny Terwilliger, asking Ellie to take photos of two men who have plummeted to their deaths off Baxter Rock. Their deaths are deemed accidental. Meanwhile, Ellie runs into childhood friends at nearby Arcadia Lodge and is drawn to their nights of wine and music, although she’s drawn to charming Isaac the most. The more she learns about this group of left-wing Jewish intellectuals, the more suspicious she becomes, especially when she discovers one of the dead bodies is a former friend of theirs. Ellie tries not to let her feelings for Isaac cloud her judgment as she wades through long-buried secrets, religious fanatics, and Cold War ideology. This whirlwind romance brings out a softer side to the typically tough protagonist which I found endearing and real.
Ziskin’s Ellie Stone investigative reporter series just keeps getting better and better with each book. The third title, Stone Cold Dead, once again showcases Ziskin’s mastery of language. Ellie is my kind of gal—she’s witty, relentless, and doesn’t apologize for throwing back a whiskey after a rough day. But underneath that tough exterior is a young lady who’s haunted by her past and still aches for her late father’s acceptance. This shared vulnerability and sense of loss is what connects Ellie to Darleen Hicks, a local fifteen-year-old girl who turns up missing. Ellie’s investigation takes her on an emotional rollercoaster ride of her own as she peels back the layers of a young teenage girl’s tragic journey. This smart eloquent thriller with its nostalgic 1960s upstate New York setting will make every reader an Ellie Stone fan if they’re not already.
This is the second in the Ellie Stone series and it’s just as engrossing as the first. It’s a smart fresh take on the female investigative reporter in that Ellie is only twenty-four-years-old and the setting is 1960s’ New York. Clearly, she has her work cut out for her as she must be twice as clever as her male colleagues and equally brazen. In Ziskin’s latest, Ellie is the first reporter on the scene when a young woman’s body is discovered in the woods of upstate New York. She uncovers small-town scandals and shocking secrets as she navigates through the tight-lipped worlds of academia and high society in her quest to find the killer. Exquisite prose paired with a quick-witted introspective heroine makes this a series you don’t want to miss.
The saga of Ollie and Moritz continues in this sequel to the highly-praised debut novel from Leah Thomas, Because You’ll Never Meet Me. I didn’t think BYNMM needed a sequel so I went into this with some trepidation because the world of Ollie and Moritz was already so special and important. But I can say that Nowhere Near You is just as special and important, maybe even more so. If you haven’t read BYNMM, I don’t think it’s necessary but it does help create an immediate sense of story. Ollie enthusiastically embarks on a road trip to find other kids like him and Moritz, the “Blunderkids.” These are kids with unique characteristics, such as Ollie’s allergy to electricity and Moritz’s eyelessness. Meanwhile, Moritz attends an exclusive school despite his antisocial tendencies. The journey for both boys is heart-breaking, hilarious, and shocking. Nowhere Near You is a quirky contemporary science fiction take on the importance of friendship and identity. Another standout from Thomas.
This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read—in a good way. The entire story is a series of letters written by Ollie and Moritz, two teenage boys who are both isolated from society yet different in every other regard. Ollie, a carefree boy who wears his heart on his sleeve, is allergic to electricity and must live out in the boondocks of rural Michigan. Moritz, a blunt German who doesn’t mince words, has no eyes and a weak heart. He has a pacemaker which means that he and Ollie will never meet because remember, Ollie is allergic to electricity. Moritz can “see” by clicking his tongue, a practice called echolocation. What’s so beautiful about this borderline science fiction story is how these two journey from total strangers to lifelong friends. Thomas’s YA debut of friendship and destiny is stunning and unforgettable.
Attica Locke’s books are rich in atmosphere and slow-drip tension. Her latest title, Bluebird, Bluebird, is no exception and right from the beginning, readers are immersed in a small town of tin-roof joints, sultry blues, and an unmistakable racial divide. Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger who’s grappling with his own personal issues, is called on to investigate a double murder in the rural East Texas town of Lark. It’s no ordinary double murder either: a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman are both found dead in the bayou, days apart from one another. Darren is plunged into a world where family secrets and long-simmering resentment threaten to destroy the tight-lipped community and anyone who dares to seek the truth. This is Attica Locke at the top of her game — a powerful and timely novel about race, justice, and true love.
I’d been wishing for a sequel to Black Water Rising and when I finally got my hands on Pleasantville, I was giddy with excitement. The story takes place in 1996, fifteen years later, and attorney Jay Porter is back, but he’s not doing as well as I’d hoped. He’s struggling to raise his two children alone after the death of his wife, and he has yet to see any money after winning a big case. When Neal Hathorne, the nephew of a prominent mayoral candidate, is arrested for the murder of a local girl, Jay begrudgingly agrees to represent him as a favor to the powerful family. As a result, he becomes entangled in a web of political corruption and dark family secrets that puts a target on his back. Locke knows how to tell a story with incisive thoughtful prose while keeping the reader guessing until the very last page.
Hamilton’s debut novel, Past Crimes, was one of my favorites last year, and the second in the Van Shaw series, Hard Cold Winter, has impressed me even more. Van, former Army ranger and ex-thief, is summoned by a friend of his late grandfather to check on the whereabouts of his niece, Elana. The search leads Van to a cabin in the Olympic Mountains where he stumbles upon a brutal double murder scene. The investigation takes Van into the world of vicious Russian gangsters as well as a corrupt billionaire. Brief scenes of Van’s criminal past with Elana are deftly interspersed with the suspenseful murder investigation. It all culminates into an explosive ending, confirming this is another powerful installment in an addictive and compelling series.
The story opens with Army Ranger Van Shaw arriving at his grandfather’s home in Seattle, a home he left ten years ago and not on the best of terms. It’s not exactly a welcoming homecoming either as Van stumbles upon his grandfather lying on the floor, left for dead. This is all in the first chapter and the action doesn’t let up from there. Van is Seattle PD’s number one suspect, of course, and it’s up to Van to track down the killer. The only way to do that is to go back into the criminal underworld his grandfather inhabited, a world Van swore off forever. The deeper he digs, the more shocking secrets he uncovers about his grandfather; not to mention his own demons he’d rather leave buried. I wanted to tear through the book to find out what happens next, but the rich atmospheric details had me savoring it instead.
Joe Ide’s debut novel, IQ, was one of my favorite books of 2016. The concept was cool and unique: an edgy Sherlock Holmes with a hip hop flavor. Righteous is no different and picks up right where we left off. Isaiah Quintabe or IQ receives a cry for help from his brother’s former girlfriend, Sarita: find her younger sister, Janine. What follows is a sometimes comical high stakes journey to the neon lights of Las Vegas where Isaiah finds himself pitted against a psychotic loan shark and a Chinese triad. Meanwhile, he continues to obsess over the hit and run that killed his older brother, Marcus, eight years ago. The two storylines intertwine together seamlessly, revealing IQ’s intelligence, wit, and buried pain. I love the way Ide guides us down one path only to bring us to a conclusion that is surprising yet so inevitable, we wonder how we missed it. Another standout from Ide and the IQ series.
Imagine a United States of America where no Civil War occurred and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before his inauguration. Four states, the Hard Four, still practice slavery. Victor is first introduced as Jim Dirkson, a former slave appealing to a pastor to find his wife who is enslaved in a mine in the Carolinas. We discover this is a ruse: Victor is a government agent who works with the U.S. Marshals to hunt down escaped slaves. His current mission is to infiltrate the Underground Airlines, a system that helps escaped slaves flee to Canada, and locate a slave named Jackdaw. Victor realizes those in command aren’t telling him the whole truth and he must find Jackdaw for his own reasons. A fast-paced compelling read that paints a grim and chilling picture of what could have been, with observations and experiences that remain timely in today’s world.
This gritty debut took me on an adrenaline-fueled journey through the dark alleys of East Los Angeles to the dive bars of the South Bay. Greg Salem is a Virgil Heights cop who is still recognized by punk rock fans as Fred Despair, the lead singer of Bad Citizen Corporation. He still plays the occasional gig but his punk rock days are far behind him. At least that’s what he thought. After his guitarist/best friend is murdered, Salem vows to bring the killer to justice despite his recent suspension from the department. With the help of his drummer/friend Marco, Salem dives right back into the underworld of his hometown filled with greedy land developers, drug dealers, and old flings. BCC is hard core, in-your-face, blast-the-roof-off storytelling, and as a longtime Hermosa Beach resident, it’s about damn time a novel pays proper homage to the birthplace of Pennywise and Black Flag.