Some of TG's readers are not writers, which means they can afford to take summer vacations. TG assumes they spend their time lolling on the beach, soaking up the sea, sand, and sun and reading. While the term “summer reading” usually canotes books that are trashy, TG offers three thrillers that are excellent, suitable for any time of year.
Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich
Reich's latest, Rules of Betrayal, follows the first two of this series: Rules of Deception, and Rules of Vengeance. One could start anywhere in this series, but TG suggests that thriller readers begin with Deception and work their way through the trio. Reich's hero, Jonathan Ransom, is a Doctors Without Borders physician whose wife, Emma, is killed in a skiing accident. While looking into this accident, Jonathan finds that his wife has a deep, dark past and was, in fact, a secret agent with the mysterious organization known simply as, Division. Soon enough, as in each of the series, Jonathan is on the run and finds himself utilizing instincts and skills that he was not aware he possessed.
The general organization of these books hew to the standard Thriller template (this is a good thing), his writing is perfectly fine, (TG himself delights when reviewers describe his own writing as “workmanlike”) and Reich is well grounded in the genre. In a small essay on Amazon, Reich lists his five favorite books: The Day of the Jackal, Eye of the Needle, The Bourne Identity, Noble House, and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. TG suggests that any writer who wants to work the genre would do well to read and study all five of these books as they are excellent examples of what can be done and should be done. Many new thriller writers these days, particularly those from Europe, show a distinct lack of knowledge of the canon. There is a certain arrogance that comes across as, “We don't need no stinkin' American rules, we do what we want.” Unfortunately, many of these books suck because of this attitude.
The Reich books are particularly good because of Jonathan's wife, the mysterious Emma. She is sui generis in thrillerdom and each new entry in the series shows a side of her that leaves the reader gasping and wondering what the hell this amazing character is going to do next. And in fact, she goes so far at the end of Deception even TG was left shaking his head in admiration.
They're Watching by Gregg Hurwitz
TG has reviewed a number of thrillers by Hurwitz. He's an old pro who can always be counted on for a decent read, but in this year's entry he's upped the ante on sheer creepiness. Disgraced screenwriter Patrick Davis is in trouble professionally and personally. One morning he picks up the paper from the front porch and finds a mysterious CD inside. He plays it and finds silent footage of himself, shot from the outside through the window, entering his bathroom and using the facilities. Other DVDs follow, each more disturbing than the last, intil he receives a phone call that asks him, “So, are you ready to get started?” It's a clever, compelling premis that is followed by plenty of twists that at times left TG, a veteran, in the dust. The shoot-em-up ending was a little disappointing in light of the sheer originality of the rest of the book, but didn't really put a damper on what was a nail-biter of a read.
The Extinction Event by David Black
Black is a well known screenwriter, Broadway play and film producer and novelist. He knows how to create interesting characters and keep the suspense pot boiling. Mycenea, New York, lawyer Jack Slidel gets a call one night ordering him to go pick up his boss at a no-tell motel. There, Jack finds, you guessed it, his boss dead, and an unconscious prostitute laying on the floor with a fair amount of crack cocaine scattered around. Jack takes three beatings in quick order and finds himself being chased by a malevolent figure known only as The Cowboy. Jack's attempt to clear his name (he's a suspect in the murder, natch) is long and complicated but always interesting. This all leads to an ending that comes so far out of left field that it will leave some readers delighted and other's cursing the David Black name. TG still isn't sure how he feels about it and would be interested in someone else's opinion. TG will send the book to the first commenter who promises to write back and give an opinion on the ending.
So that's it, folks. TG encourages you to buy one of these or any other novel at your favorite local bookstore and drag it with you when you head out to the beach. TG will be at home, scribbling away, trying to patch together some sort of a living.