February’s Best New Thrillers

The Chef, by James Patterson and Max DiLallo
James Patterson continues to innovate and push envelopes in terms of marketing and distribution. Case in point: his newest collaboration with DiLallo was first published on Facebook Messenger. Police detective and food truck chef Caleb Rooney serves New Orleans in both capacities, but as Mardi Gras approaches, he finds himself accused of murder. (It probably doesn’t help that his food truck is called the Killer Chef.) Shortly thereafter, Rooney discovers a plot to attack New Orleans being brewed up by home-grown terrorists. Racing against time, Rooney must clear his own name while preventing a slaughter in his beloved city as it gears up for Mardi Gras—the perfect tasty backdrop for a tense thriller.

The Border, by Don Winslow
Don Winslow concludes his bloody, operatic trilogy delving into the chaotic war on drugs with a suitably intense final act. After losing everything but his career in the war against drug kingpin Adán Barrera, Art Keller finds himself at the top of the DEA with Barrera defeated. But the war on drugs has come home in a flood of cheap heroin that’s killing Americans at a record pace. As Keller moves to block this deadly invasion, he finds himself fighting not Mexican drug cartels, but his own bosses in Washington. Politically motivated enemies are one thing, but Keller begins to suspect the unbelievable truth—the incoming administration is actually partnered with the very cartels he’s spent his life fighting.

Never Tell, by Lisa Gardner
Gardner’s 10th D.D. Warren thriller opens with Warren and other police breaking down the door to Evelyn Carter’s house, where they find the pregnant teacher standing over her dead husband, gun in hand. Warren remembers Evelyn from a case 16 years before, in which she accidentally shot and killed her own father, and decides it can’t be a coincidence. But when the killing gets some publicity, trusted informant Flora Dane contacts Warren to tell her that Evelyn’s husband was an associate of her kidnapper. As the investigation pivots into the possible connections between the two men, the complications pile up, as Gardner explores how well we can truly know anyone—even our closest loved ones.

Mission Critical, by Mark Greaney
The Gray Man is back for an eighth adventure from Greaney, with Court Gentry receiving a sudden summons to Langley. He boards a jet in Zurich, which lands in Luxembourg to pick up a hooded prisoner and head on to England, where the CIA intends to deliver the prisoner over to MI6. Upon arrival, however, the teams are attacked by gunman, who leave behind a bloody slaughter as they race off with the prisoner. As the Gray Man pursues in a powered glider, his sometimes-lover Zoya Zakharova of Russian Intelligence barely survive an attack that leaves her handlers dead. As Gentry and Zakharova work both sides of the mystery, it becomes clear that these violent attacks are connected—but the culprits’ careful planning didn’t take the Gray Man’s skills into account.

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
Michaelides delivers an assured, confident debut thriller. Six years ago, artist Alicia Berenson painted a psychologically dense work based on a Greek myth, then allegedly tied her husband Gabriel to a chair and shot him in the face. Alicia hasn’t spoken a word since, spending her time in a drugged daze at the Grove, a secure forensic facility in North London. Theo Faber is the wounded, gifted psychotherapist who convinces Alicia’s doctors to let him try to get her to speak. Theo’s work with the silent patient is interspersed with excerpts Alicia’s diary leading up to the day of Gabriel’s murder. As the clues about what truly happened begin to fall into place, Theo’s personal and professional worlds blur dangerously, leading to an explosive conclusion.

The Hiding Place, by C. J. Tudor
Joseph Thorne returns to his home town of Arnhill with alleged plans to teach at his old school and give back to his community, but the truth is, he’s really back in response to a mysterious email that claims to know what happened to Joe’s sister in her youth, and promises it is happening again. Joe moves into a cottage where a woman recently murdered her young son and committed suicide, and begins to plot revenge on behalf of his sister Annie, who disappeared decades before. Joe deals with ghosts, loan sharks, and unfriendly locals with cynical humor and grim determination, as Annie’s ultimate fate is slowly, painfully exhumed. Tudor’s followup to buzzy thriller The Chalk Man is every bit as tense and satisfying.

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