Hereafter by Kate Brian
Official Summary: “Rory Miller thought her life was over when a serial killer set his sights on her and forced her into witness protection. But a fresh start on Juniper Landing Island was exactly what she and her family needed. For the first time in years she and her sister hang out at the beach, gossip about boys, and party together. She’s also made friends with a local clique-including a magnetic and mysterious boy named Tristan.
But Rory’s world is about to change again. Picturesque Juniper Landing isn’t what it seems. The truth about the swirling fog that rolls in each morning, the bridge that leads to nowhere, and those beautiful locals who seem to watch Rory’s every move is more terrifying than being hunted by Steven Nell. And all Rory ever wanted was the truth. Even if it means learning that she can never go home again.”
***SPOILERS FOR SHADOWLANDS BY KATE BRIAN***
Hereafter by Kate Brian picks up right where Shadowlands, the first book in the series, left off. Rory has just discovered that not only is she in the afterlife, but she has also been selected as one of the group of people responsible for helping people to transition from Juniper Landing to their permanent afterlife destination. Just as she is starting to deal with this information, everything on the island begins to change and new mysteries emerge that not even those who are long term residents of the town can explain. Rory must figure out what all of these changes mean to save the souls of those who stop at Juniper Landing and to save herself.
While this book doesn’t offer quite the same degree of edge-of-your-seat suspense and creepiness that the first book in the series did, it nevertheless offers suspense and questions that will keep you guessing until the very end. Within its first few pages, the book resolves many of the questions that were left open at the end of Shadowlands, but then opens up whole new mysteries that take the series in a new direction and expand the world beyond what was described in the first book. The characters that were introduced in Shadowlands come back in this story in ways that build on their characterizations from the first book and will help readers to make sense of some of the seemingly inexplicable portions of the first book.
This book introduces new elements to the world Brian has created and once again ends on a cliffhanger, which may not work for some readers. But, for those who enjoy suspense series and the tension of unresolved plots, this is a good follow up to Shadowlands and an entertaining thriller.
Check it Out: Hereafter will be released on October 1st.
Readalike: If you haven’t already read the first book in the series, Shadowlands, I would recommend starting with that one. If you are looking for another young adult thriller series after this one, try What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
The Healer by Antti Tuomainen
Official Summary: “One man’s search for his missing wife in a dystopian futuristic Helsinki that is struggling with ruthless climate change.
It’s two days before Christmas and Helsinki is battling a ruthless climate catastrophe: subway tunnels are flooded; abandoned vehicles are left burning in the streets; the authorities have issued warnings about malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola, and the plague. People are fleeing to the far north of Finland and Norway where conditions are still tolerable. Social order is crumbling and private security firms have undermined the police force. Tapani Lehtinen, a struggling poet, is among the few still able and willing to live in the city.
When Tapani’s beloved wife, Johanna, a newspaper journalist, goes missing, he embarks on a frantic hunt for her. Johanna’s disappearance seems to be connected to a story she was researching about a politically motivated serial killer known as “The Healer.” Desperate to find Johanna, Tapani’s search leads him to uncover secrets from her past. Secrets that connect her to the very murders she was investigating…
The Healer is set in desperate times, forcing Tapani to take desperate measures in order to find his true love. Written in an engrossingly dense but minimal language, The Healer is a story of survival, loyalty, and determination. Even when the world is coming to an end, love and hope endure.”
The Healer by Antti Tuomainen takes place in Helsinki some time in the future. Environmental degradation has led to unpredictable weather, widespread disease and economic upheaval. While this might seem as though it would be the focus of the story, in reality, the plot centers around a poet named Tapani whose wife has disappeared. The police are completely overwhelmed by the sudden increase in crime and the general upheaval of society. Her editor at the newspaper that she wrote for is too concerned with keeping the paper open to care too much if a couple of employees disappear. But Tapani loves his wife and can’t turn away as easily as everyone else does. So, he ventures out into the dangerous and unsettled city to try to trace her, and at the same time, the serial killer she was researching for a story. What he discovers will change how he looks at virtually everyone close to him.
This book seems at first as though it will be a standard thriller, but by opting to set the book in a future version of Helsinki that is plagued by so many social and environmental problems, Tuomainen manages to make his book unlike others of this genre. The setting becomes almost as important as the characters, both driving the plot and serving as the motivation for many of the characters’ actions. The mystery itself relies so heavily on elements of this setting that it is difficult to separate the two from one another. This makes for a dark, moody and unique read that will offer something for fans of thrillers who feel that they have seen it all before. This is a relatively quick read given the focused way that it is written and is well worth it for those looking for something that is not the standard Scandinavian thriller.
Check it Out: The Healer is currently available.
Readalike: For another, albeit very different, thriller that considers the impact of human activity on the world and the horrors it can bring, try Feed by Mira Grant.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker
Official Summary: “In the tradition of Scott Turow, William Landay, and Nelson DeMille, Crime of Privilege is a stunning thriller about power, corruption, and the law in America—and the dangerous ways they come together.
A murder on Cape Cod. A rape in Palm Beach.
All they have in common is the presence of one of America’s most beloved and influential families. But nobody is asking questions. Not the police. Not the prosecutors. And certainly not George Becket, a young lawyer toiling away in the basement of the Cape & Islands district attorney’s office. George has always lived at the edge of power. He wasn’t born to privilege, but he understands how it works and has benefitted from it in ways he doesn’t like to admit. Now, an investigation brings him deep inside the world of the truly wealthy—and shows him what a perilous place it is.
Years have passed since a young woman was found brutally slain at an exclusive Cape Cod golf club, and no one has ever been charged. Cornered by the victim’s father, George can’t explain why certain leads were never explored—leads that point in the direction of a single family—and he agrees to look into it.
What begins as a search through the highly stratified layers of Cape Cod society, soon has George racing from Idaho to Hawaii, Costa Rica to France to New York City. But everywhere he goes he discovers people like himself: people with more secrets than answers, people haunted by a decision years past to trade silence for protection from life’s sharp edges. George finds his friends are not necessarily still friends and a spouse can be unfaithful in more ways than one. And despite threats at every turn, he is driven to reconstruct the victim’s last hours while searching not only for a killer but for his own redemption.”
Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker is a legal thriller that traces the ramifications of one man’s decision to help cover up a crime for a prominent family during his youth. When George Becket finds himself at a party at the Palm Beach home of one of America’s most beloved political dynasties, he hardly knows what to think. This is hardly the crowd that he normally spends time with and he is predictably impressed with all of the trappings of their wealth and power. But when he witnesses a horrible crime at this party, he must decide whether to give in to pressure to ignore what he saw and help the family to sweep it under the rug or follow his conscience.
But, once he has made the difficult decision to go against his moral compass on behalf of the family, he discovers that they are not the only powerful people in the picture and there are those who want to see that this one fateful decision follows him for the rest of his life. Torn between two powerful groups of people, George will find himself embroiled in another controversy nine years later that echoes that horrible night in Palm Beach and will once again test his morality.
In many ways, Crime of Privilege is a fairly standard legal thriller. It takes place in a world of power, privilege and wealth, where the rich and the politically connected play by totally different rules than the rest of the world. Primarily centered around a murder that occurred on Cape Cod, the book spans the globe as George tries to sift through all of the lies and subterfuge to find the underlying truth. Manipulated from all sides, George starts out as a fairly naive young man who becomes increasingly paranoid as he realizes the degree to which outside forces control his destiny. The book draws the reader in by alternating between time periods and locations to slowly reveal important details. But, while it will keep you guessing for quite some time, I found that certain minor plot points were telegraphed from early on. The book also felt as though it went on for a bit too long, adding a few too many plot twists and events that added to the George’s (and the reader’s) sense of confusion, but didn’t ultimately add all that much to the story. None of the characters in this book were entirely innocent and the villains of the piece are in some cases a bit one dimensional, but Walker does a good job of making George’s decisions somewhat understandable if not admirable. Readers might not agree with his choices, but they will want to find out what happens next.
If you enjoy legal thrillers, particularly those with a political conspiracy angle, you will enjoy this very readable entry in the genre. Overall it is a fast read that will make a good choice for your vacation this summer.
Check it Out: Crime of Privilege will be released on June 18th.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
How To Lead A Life Of Crime by Kirsten Miller
Official Summary: “A Meth Dealer. A Prostitute. A Serial Killer.
Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.
Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?”
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller was definitely not what I was expecting. Flick, the narrator of the book, is a teenager who spent his entire life being abused by his father, a powerful business man who attributes his success to his time at the mysterious Mandel Academy. This school scoops up children who have nothing going for them - mostly orphans and those that have already committed horrible crimes - and turns them into rich businesspeople and powerful politicians. By the time the book opens, Flick has escaped from his father and arrived in New York. When he meets a representative of the Academy, he initially has no interest in attending. But, when he is offered the information necessary to destroy his father in return for his attendance, it proves to be an offer he can’t refuse. Once he is enrolled in the school though, he discovers that he has underestimated the situation. The school is so much more than he ever could have anticipated and he may not be as in control as he believes he is.
Miller successfully creates a world that draws readers in even as it seems to be over-the-top. The students and staff that Flick encounters at Mandel are almost universally extreme in some way, but readers will still find themselves surprisingly invested in their fates. Flick manages to walk a fine line between being a jaded, cynical and bitter person and still believing in the best in at least some individuals and the potential for good in the world, even if he doesn’t believe that he does. As the truth of the Mandel Academy is slowly revealed, the book takes a bit of a turn, but Miller never loses her story and keeps the suspense up throughout the entire book including multiple unexpected plot twists.
How to Lead a Life of Crime is a very dark and violent book that is definitely not for those looking for a light read. It is a book that is perfect for a very specific reader, but may not appeal to everyone. However, if you are open to a dark page turner, this book will keep you engaged and on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
Check it Out: How to Lead a Life of Crime will be released on February 21st and is currently available for pre-order.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Shadowlands by Kate Brian
Official Summary: “Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived … and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a goodbye.
Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?”
Shadowlands by Kate Brian will keep you on the edge your seat from the very first page until its shocking conclusion. As the book opens, you are immediately into a violent attack, even before any of the characters are introduced and this heart-pounding pace never lets up throughout the entire book. After these initial tense chapters, readers are introduced to Rory Miller. A smart studious girl who has dreams of being a cancer specialist, Rory is completely taken by surprise when her math teacher, a man she considers a mentor, attacks her in the woods one day. Little did she know that he was secretly a serial killer who has been on the run from the FBI for over a decade. Though she manages to escape, her relief is short-lived when the FBI agent in charge of the investigation explains that this particular killer never stops once he has chosen a victim. She and her family are forced to enter the witness protection program in a bid to escape from this monster. Relocated to an isolated island, they quickly adjust to the pace of their new life, but Rory is still on edge convinced that she is being watched and having a hard time knowing what is real and what isn’t.
Shadowlands is a creepy and totally engaging thriller. It will keep you guessing, and turning pages, until the very end. The book opens from the point of view of Rory’s attacker, which immediately gives the reader a sense of his obsession and makes the threat seem more immediate. The second chapter then retells the same attack, this time from Rory’s point of view to give the reader a more complete sense of the experience. Even when you are reading through the attack for the second time, Brian manages to keep the experience engaging and to continue to build tension. After this, throughout the book, she periodically returns to the serial killer’s point of view, which adds an element of suspense to the book since the reader has access to more information than Rory does.
While the book initially seems like a standard story of a serial killer and his prey, something that has become somewhat of a mini-trend in YA publishing these days, this book goes far beyond this genre. Once Rory is “safely” hidden on the island, the suspense continues to build as weird behavior from the locals and strange disappearances make her question her sanity and struggle to connect to those around her. Throughout this, Brian does an excellent job of keeping her readers on the edge of their seats and magnifying the creepiness of the setting. I found that this was one book I couldn’t put down. My only two minor complaints were that I felt that there was a minor plot hole near the beginning of the book that made me question some of what came later and the ending was a bit abrupt (probably to leave readers eager for the next book in this new series). But even these minor issues couldn’t keep me from enjoying the book.
This is the perfect read for those who love creepy settings and edge-of-your-seat action. It will keep you guessing throughout and will leave you anxiously waiting for the next book in the series.
Check it Out: Shadowlands was released today.
Readalike: If you are intrigued by this book, you might want to read Kate Brian’s other books, such as the Private series. For other thrillers with serial killers, try Paper Valentine or take a look at the list compiled on Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
The Hollow City by Dan Wells
Official Summary: “Dan Wells won instant acclaim for his three-novel debut about the adventures of John Wayne Cleaver, a heroic young man who is a potential serial killer. All who read the trilogy were struck by the distinctive and believable voice Wells created for John.
Now he returns with another innovative thriller told in a very different, equally unique voice. A voice that comes to us from the realm of madness.
Michael Shipman is paranoid schizophrenic; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex fantasies of persecution and horror. That’s bad enough. But what can he do if some of the monsters he sees turn out to be real?
Who can you trust if you can’t even trust yourself? The Hollow City is a mesmerizing journey into madness, where the greatest enemy of all is your own mind.”
Dan Wells is well known for his trilogy about John Wayne Cleaver, a teenager with many of the tendencies found in serial killers. But in The Hollow City, he tackles the equally difficult topic of a protagonist suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Michael Shipman has long suffered from anxiety and depression, but recently, his mental problems have increased. He believes that he is being watched by Faceless Men who are trying to control him through electronics. Even worse, he doesn’t remember anything from the last two weeks of his life, which coincides uncomfortably closely with the period during which the Red Line serial killer has murdered a number of people.
As the book opens, Michael is in the hospital having been picked up by the cops. After an examination, the doctors determine that his psychiatric condition has declined and his diagnosis is revised to include schizophrenia. At first Michael is in denial over this diagnosis, but over time, it leads him to question everything around him. What is a hallucination and what is real? Could he actually be a killer? Or, perhaps even worse, what if he is right?
In The Hollow City, Wells definitely succeeds in creating a disturbing portrait of the uncertainty that comes from schizophrenia. While many thrillers present protagonists who are pursued by a threatening conspiracy, in this case the biggest question is whether any of the conspiracy actually exists and this ultimately makes the book even more unsettling. In large part, this is because Wells does such a good job of portraying Michael in a way that seems to be believable. At first, he believes that the doctors are wrong about him and is completely resistant to treatment, but he slowly comes to question himself in a way that feels believable for someone dealing with this sort of mental health issue.
The Hollow City will keep you guessing until the very end. Wells has crafted a believable portrait of the uncertainty of mental illness that he then uses as the basis of an utterly unique thriller.
Check it Out: The Hollow City is currently available.
Readalike: Those who find this complicated protagonist compelling will also want to read Wells’ John Wayne Cleaver trilogy starting with I Am Not A Serial Killer. Those looking for a similarly tense psychological thriller, should try The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler.
Note: This review is based on a review copy of the novel from the publisher.
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson
Official Summary: “Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. The New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse creates a stunning, near-future world where technology and humanity clash in surprising ways. The result? The perfect summer blockbuster.
As he did in Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson masterfully envisions a frightening near-future world. In Amped, people are implanted with a device that makes them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities—and rights—of “amplified” humans. On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, twenty-nine-year-old Owen Gray joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as “amps.” Owen is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumored, a group of the most enhanced amps may be about to change the world—or destroy it.
Once again, Daniel H. Wilson’s background as a scientist serves him well in this technologically savvy thriller that delivers first-rate entertainment, as Wilson takes the “what if” question in entirely unexpected directions. Fans of Robopocalypse are sure to be delighted, and legions of new fans will want to get “amped” this summer.”
Amped by Daniel H. Wilson is a near-future thriller about the consequences of medical advances that allow scientists to implant technology into patients to cure a wide range of diseases. Initially, this has the most noble of intentions. The technology is used to cure epilepsy, repair brain damage and help people with other major health problems. But, over time, the uses expand to include more elective uses by those who simply want to improve themselves for one reason or another. Slowly, those with implants begin to surpass those without in terms of both intelligence and physical ability. As this happens, those without implants begin to fear that they will be left behind, leading first to a legal battle which finds the implanted individuals to be declared not to be human and then with escalating tensions and even battles between the two groups.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up Amped. I hadn’t read his other book, Robopocalypse and, while I was definitely intrigued by the idea of a conflict between those with physical modifications and those without, I had no idea how Wilson would handle this idea. While on balance I was looking forward to the book, I concerned at the same time that it wouldn’t be able to meet my high expectations. I definitely shouldn’t have worried. Amped is an extremely enjoyable and powerful book that combines thought-provoking statements about technology, human nature and humanity with an action-packed plot that feels like it could be the basis of a summer blockbuster movie. Wilson has structured the story so that the tension continues to build over the course of the entire, densely-packed novel with increasing speed so that by the end the reader is left reading as fast as possible to determine the resolution. And, he breaks up the narrative with fictional primary sources that include news reports, courts cases and congressional testimony which adds to the sense of realism in the book and makes it clear that the events are occurring in a world not much different than our own as opposed to a completely alien society.
For fans of action and suspense, Amped is a perfect summer read. It is tautly plotted making for a relatively quick read that nevertheless stays with you after you are done. The action scenes are written in an immersive way that makes for a gripping read while the human emotion never recedes too far from the forefront. If you enjoy near-future science fiction or stories of the future of medical technology, I would highly recommend checking out Amped as soon as it is released.
Read Alike: If you just can’t wait until June 5th, try Wilson’s Robopocalypse or, for another book about people “improving themselves”, try Machine Man by Max Barry or the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.
Getaway by Lisa Brackmann
Official Summary: “Michelle Mason tells herself she’s on vacation. A brief stay in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a chance to figure out her next move after the unexpected death of her banker husband, who’s left behind a scandal and a pile of debt. The trip was already paid for, and it beats crashing in her sister’s spare room. When a good-looking man named Daniel approaches her on the beach, the margaritas have kicked in and she decides: why not?
But the date doesn’t go as either of them planned. An assault on Daniel in her hotel room, switched cell phones and an encounter with a “friend” of Daniel’s named Gary gets Michelle enmeshed in a covert operation involving drug runners, goons, and venture capitalists. Michelle already knows she’s caught in a dangerous trap. But she quickly finds that running is not an option. If she’s not careful, she’ll end up buried in the town dump, with the rest of the trash. Now she needs to fight smart if she wants to survive her vacation.”
Getaway tells the story of an American woman whose trip to Mexico quickly veers off from her relaxing plans. While Michelle comes to Mexico to escape the stresses of the life that she left behind in L.A. where she is dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s death, she rapidly comes to realize that those problems are small compared to the ones that she finds on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. After an initial encounter with a man she meets on the beach ends in a violent robbery, Michelle quickly becomes tangled in a network of criminals and conspiracies that she never fully understands.
This book impressed me with the way that it managed to maintain intensity throughout. While the first couple of pages may make this seem like a book about a relaxing beach vacation, this proves to be deceptive almost immediately. Michelle is caught up in a web of mysterious expats and locals by the end of the first chapter and the book just keeps delivering more twists and turns to the very end, which even leaves the reader guessing. While many books are structured so that the reader knows more than the protagonist, in this case part of the impact of the story comes from the fact that the reader shares in Michelle’s confusion and therefore never knows what to expect next. While I ultimately felt that the plot may have left me uncertain about a few too many of its twists and turns, fans of thrillers that merge action and suspense will likely appreciate this book’s relentless pace and intriguing characters.
Check it out: Getaway will be available May 1st. If you can’t wait until then, you can check out the first chapter and more about the book on Lisa Brackmann’s website.
Read Alikes: If this sounds interesting, you might want to check out Lisa Brackmann’s first book, Rock Paper Tiger. For books by other authors, try Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger or The Expats by Chris Pavone.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.