It's been a little while since I've made some recommendations on one of my favorite types of reading: the suspense thriller. Many people are drawn to these books in the same way that they're drawn to roller coasters — it's the adrenaline rush.
People sometimes ask about the difference between a thriller and a regular mystery novel. Although the lines often cross, the main premise of a thriller is that it involves the state of waiting for something significant to happen. The protagonist's job is to prevent the speeding bus from exploding — or the aliens from eating the crew — instead of determining how the clues were set up.
The reader experiences a vicarious thrill by identifying with the hero and the danger he faces and becoming a participant in the chase.
So I guess it's that rush that keeps me reading these suspense novels. There are several subgenres of thriller a reader can choose, including legal thriller authors like John Grisham or Lisa Scottoline, espionage novels written by Adrian Magson and Brett Battles or medical thrillers from Kathy Reichs, Jamie Freveletti or Robin Cook.
Maybe in time, I can bring you some of these, but today we're talking about the classic suspense of psychological thrillers.
I recently read a great new book by Becky Masterman, "Rage Against the Dying." Although this is a debut novel, it received glowing accolades from my review sources — as well as blurbs from masters of the genre like Lisa Gardner, Linwood Barclay and Gillian Flynn.
The story revolves around Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent who was decommissioned after shooting an unarmed subject. After relocating to Tucson, Ariz., she decides to try her hand at living a "normal life."
The book starts off with a bang, as Brigid is accosted in an unpopulated area near her home. But the perpetrator obviously doesn't know whom he's up against.
One disturbing event takes place after another until Brigid is so deeply embroiled in an ongoing FBI case that she is ordered to stay away from anyone involved in the case. This is not an easy task.
Without giving too much away, the tale involves a serial killer, perhaps a coverup and a reopening of a longstanding case that Brigid was never able to close. This one moves fast, and Brigid's character is so acutely drawn that we are desperate to know what happens to her next.
For those of you who have enjoyed the Scandinavian thrillers of Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell, you might like "Snow Angels" by American-born author James Thompson, who has lived in Finland for years and uses this cold and beautiful setting for his debut thriller.
Thompson's love of the country is evident in the poetic description of the Arctic Circle's magnificent sunsets, the broad starry skies and the colorful residents of the Lapland area.
Inspector Kari Vaara is haunted by the things he's seen in his past as a big-time cop in Helsinki. He retreated to his small hometown, where he met his American wife, Kate. After a beautiful actress is gruesomely murdered in a resort town, he struggles with bad memories and the need to keep this killing out of the media. There might be some tie-ins with his former life and this new small town crime.
A word of caution on these next two titles: They are well-written and full of edge-of-your-seat suspense, but they have some content that readers with a weak stomach might not like.
In "Birthdays For The Dead" by Stuart MacBride, Scottish detective Ash Henderson is investigating the disappearances of girls — right before their 13th birthdays. The parents only find out the girls are gone after receiving a gory birthday card in the mail. The violence in this one is graphic.
In "Caught Stealing" by Charlie Huston, California native Henry was an all-star baseball player, then he got injured, took a bunch of bad paths and ended up in New York City. And then things got really bad.
This book has a nail-biting storyline — but is chock-full of bad language.
Buckle your seat belts, readers, these novels will take you on the thrill ride of your life.
Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.