September comes as a shocking reminder that you haven’t done half the things you intended to do this year. New Year’s Day, bright and crisp with possibility, is an old yellowed memory, and your resolutions and to-do lists are still full—including your resolution to read more books. Whether your goal was one, ten, or fifty books this year, time is running out to hit those goals. The solution? Some pulse-quickening thrillers, the kind of books that keep you up late and inspire you to seek out inventions allowing you to read in the shower. Thrillers are the performance-enhancing drugs of reading, because you burn through them ferociously. If you need to give your reading pace a boost, here are ten of the most sizzling and tension-filled thrillers coming out in September.
Woman of God, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Patterson and Paetro return to surprise and confound with this unique story about a near-future Catholic Church on the verge of selecting a woman as pope for the first time in history. The woman herself, Brigid Fitzgerald, is a remarkable person who has battled adversity and danger and turned her back on love in order to pursue a better world—but as she stands on the precipice of history, she’s buffeted on all sides by forces determined not simply to prevent her ascension, but to destroy her utterly. Patterson and Paetro don’t shy away from the implications of their premise, and the result is a surprisingly powerful rumination on faith, religion, the modern age, and change—backed by a rock-solid story that delivers thrills and twists in the classic Patterson vein.
Pirate, by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell
The eighth book in the Fargo series has Sam and Remi chasing after perhaps the greatest treasure of their careers, an ancient Cypher Wheel. Naturally, they’re not the only people who want to take possession of the artifact, but not even Sam and Remi are prepared for the opponent they face in this fast-paced, exciting adventure coauthored by former police detective Burcell, author of The Kill Order. The quest takes the Fargos around the world as the danger and tension deepen to nearly intolerable levels, and the story, as always, is peppered with fascinating bits of information and surprising twists and the unexpected flights of fantasy Cussler fans have come to expect.
Darktown, by Thomas Mullen
Hitting the page like the second coming of Ellroy, Mullen delivers a timely and tense story set in Atlanta in the days immediately following World War II. The city’s first-ever black police officers have been hired—but are definitely treated as second class, saddled with humiliating limits and assigned solely to black neighborhoods. Rookie cops Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith begin investigating a pair of crimes in the neighborhood insultingly referred to as Darktown, linked to former cop Brian Underhill—who was released without charges by the white cops who arrived on the scene. Risking their lives and careers, Boggs and Smith pursue the case wherever it goes, and the result is a thoroughly modern, compelling thriller that resonates and crackles with dark energy.
Dear Mr. M, by Herman Koch
Koch’s third novel translated into English takes us into territory that will be familiar to any fan of Highsmith’s Ripley. The titular Mr. M is a fading novelist who has had only one real success in his career: a fictional account of a sensational murder wherein two students killed their teacher after he had an affair with one of them. One of those students, Herman, now lives in the same building as Mr. M, and appears to be all but obsessed with the writer. Mr. M himself is petty and vindictive, and as different characters receive point of view chapters it becomes clear everyone has secrets, motives, and puzzle pieces to contribute. Koch lays out a mystery before you even realize what’s happening, but when it hits you, you’re hooked right up to the final revelations—and entertained all the way through.
Lady Cop Makes Trouble, by Amy Stewart
Stewart returns to the world of the Kopp sisters (based on real events) in this fast-paced, often hilarious novel set in 1915. Constance Kopp is back as the first female deputy sheriff in Bergen County, N.J., still struggling against the attitudes of the time and the criminals in her sights. When a notorious and dangerous criminal, Baron von Matthesius, escapes her custody, Constance is demoted to Jail Matron, and she launches her own private chase of the baron in a bid to restore her own reputation and save the career of the sheriff. The chase brings her to New York City, where things get complicated and a little dangerous—and where Constance’s sisters can offer some reliably wonderful comic relief as the story twists and turns to a satisfying conclusion, further establishing the Kopp Sisters as a series well worth reading.
Infamy, by Robert K. Tanenbaum
Prosecutor Butch Karp and his wife, Marlene Ciampi, are back in the 28th installment of Tanenbaum’s series, and neither has lost a step. Karp prepares to prosecute a veteran for the murder of an army officer and several bystanders, but the accused claims he did so under the influence of mind control experiments, and a high-powered Wall Street lawyer has volunteered to defend him as a “patriotic duty.” When an investigative reporter contacts Karp, informing him that one of her sources in an exposé of high-level government corruption was among the victims, things take a turn for the desperate as Karp and Ciampi realize they are up against perhaps the most dangerous opponent they’ve ever faced—people who would gladly kill them and anyone close to them in order to keep their secrets. No one writes legal thrillers with as much thought and care as Tanenbaum, and this one will have you white-knuckling it to the end.
Red Right Hand, by Chris Holm
Hit man Michale Hendricks is back in a complex new thriller from Holm that combines several irresistible threads into one near-perfect story. A young tourist captures video of a terrorist attack on the Golden Gate Bridge—as well as an old man the FBI thought long dead: Frank Segreti, who gave evidence against the powerful crime syndicate the Council and was supposedly killed for his trouble. FBI agent Charlie Thompson knows that in order to cut through the chaos surrounding a back-from-the-dead asset and a terrorist attack she’ll need help—and Michale Hendricks, seeking revenge against the Council for killing his friend in their attempts to kill him, is more than happy to track down Segreti. Holm does an amazing balancing act, keeping both threads and their many implications humming nicely along.
The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue
After the success of Room and its film adaptation, Donoghue returns to her earlier historical fiction with The Wonder, a story set in mid-19th century Ireland. Lib, a widow and former nurse, is sent to a rural Irish village to look into the curious case of Anna O’Donnell, who claims she has survived comfortably without food or water for four months. Lib expects to quickly determine the trick involved, but is affected by Anna in ways she can’t predict. And as Anna’s health declines suddenly and rapidly, Lib desperately seeks answers—and the answers aren’t easy or neat. Donoghue keeps the story tightly focused; fans of Room will find much to love here while Donoghue takes them in unexpected directions.
End Game, by David Hagberg
The 19th Kirk McGarvey book in Hagberg’s popular series shows no signs of slowing down, and neither does McGarvey himself. The retired CIA assassin finds himself chasing a psychotic serial killer who strikes within the halls of CIA headquarters in Langley itself—and then elsewhere, disfiguring his victims horribly. McGarvey stumbles on a clue: a code carved into the statue sitting outside CIA HQ offers answers on how and why the killer is striking. Something horrible and terrifying was buried in Iraq just before the first Iraq War, and won’t stay buried forever. The tension drips from every page as McGarvey and the reader slowly figure out what’s at stake, and once again Hagberg brings the reader to a thrilling ending that will leave fans old and new craving number 20 in the series.
The Soul of the Matter, by Bruce Buff
Although we’re frequently distracted from them, most of us struggle with the basic questions of existence—the how and the why. Buff pivots from those fundamental questions in his urgent new book, in which a renowned genetic scientist with a dying daughter contacts an old friend, former government cyber-intelligence analyst Dan Lawson, with the remarkable news that he’s discovered something incredible in human DNA—including evidence, he says, of a creator. Lawson, struggling with faith and his fears that his old friend’s worry for his daughter has clouded his judgment, agrees to help, and what he witnesses soon spurs him to seek answers—answers he’s not sure he wants, but can’t turn away from. This is a thriller that will have you thinking and questioning everything long after you read the last page.