May’s Top Picks in Thrillers

Spring is finally in the air, and that means your daily commute, wherever it takes you, is going to become even more intolerable as the good weather tempts you into making bad decisions. Instead of leaping off the bus or train to play hooky, however, why not distract yourself with a great book, the sort of thriller that absorbs you completely and makes your trip fly by? Lucky for all of us, May is bringing a fresh crop of thrillers for every possible taste, to help you maintain your sanity before that first cup of coffee, on your lunch break, or any time you need a little escape. Here are eleven new books out this month that will keep your heart pounding (in a good way).

Radiant Angel, by Nelson DeMille
John Corey fans rejoice—the seventh novel in DeMille’s bestselling series is here, and if Corey is no longer part of the Anti-Terrorist Task Force after the events of last year’s The Panther, it doesn’t slow him (or the story) down. Corey is working the supposedly “quiet end” at the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, keeping an eye on the Russian diplomats at the United Nations, and DeMille smartly posits a simple enough premise: what if the Cold War, if it ever really ended in the first place, is back? Mixing intrigue, diplomacy, and the possibility of a nuclear threat—the titular “Radiant Angel”—DeMille has crafted a note-perfect re-imagining of the classic Cold War espionage thriller in a chillingly believable plot that never tips its hand.

14th Deadly Sin, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
The Women’s Murder Club is back, and once again Patterson and Paetro know exactly how to balance their characters against a classic Patterson plot that twists and veers unexpectedly without ever sacrificing fun—or credibility. The story begins with everything settled for our favorite police detective, Lindsay Boxer: new daughter, great marriage, professional success. Then a gruesome series of crimes, marked by the release of a horrifying video that sets the whole city on edge, sets the Club into motion in a desperate and dangerous race to solve the mystery before fear and rage consume everything. Patterson and Paetro have found clever ways to inject their story with more than enough energy to make this an instant Women’s Murder Club classic.

Gathering Prey, by John Sandford
One of the great pleasures of following a character like Lucas Davenport over the course of 25 thrilling novels is not only seeing that character change and evolve over time, but following him as he takes us into subcultures and areas of the world that we would otherwise not be able to—or perhaps even want to—experience. Keeping things fresh, Sandford offers us a story involving Travelers, harmless drifters who go from place to place panhandling for spare change, as well as a sinister Manson-like figure called The Pilot and his followers, who are Juggalos (obsessed fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse). If that sounds like a recipe for a uniquely exciting story, you’re absolutely right. With its glimpse into worlds most of us never take notice of, Sandford once again keeps the pages turning with a story that will have you doing your own research into these fascinating worlds.

Piranha, by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison
Juan Cabrillo, the Oregon, and its crew are some of the most welcome additions to the literary landscape Cussler has ever offered—and that’s saying something, considering how many popular characters he’s already given us. In this tenth novel involving Cabrillo and company, Cussler and Morrison take us a century back in time to 1902. A German scientist on the verge of an incredible breakthrough is killed when a volcano erupts, burying an entire city and the ship he was traveling on. In the present day, Cabrillo and the Oregon think they’ve faked their own sinking, but quickly become the target of a seemingly omniscient enemy who is up on everything they do. The solution to this mystery is one of the more imaginative literary moments of recent years, and guarantees that fans of both Cussler and thrillers in general will love this one.

The Forgotten Room, by Lincoln Child
Who says an effective thriller can’t also be a great mystery novel? Well, no one, probably, but just in case someone has, Child puts the question to rest with this assured, spooky novel, the fourth standalone to feature everyone’s favorite “enigmalogist,” Professor Jeremy Logan. Logan is called in to assist Lux, a respected think tank he was once expelled from due to his unusual methods. One of the organization’s members, overseeing the renovation of an unused wing of the sprawling old house they’re using as a headquarters, seemingly went mad in a matter of moments, attacking an assistant, then committing suicide horrifically. Logan soon discovers a hidden room filled with old scientific equipment, strange music, and ominous clues about a sinister “Project S.” This is one you’ll be recapping over the water cooler after each chapter.

The Enemy Inside, by Steve Martini
Martini returns with defense attorney Paul Madriani for a lucky 13th chapter in this clever story that begins with the death of high-powered lawyer Olinda Serna, a woman who knows all the secrets of her even higher-power clients. Her client list includes politicians and other power brokers who are naturally worried about the security of the dirty laundry Serna was privy to. Madriani is called by his daughter to help the young man charged with vehicular homicide in the case, who claims he is innocent despite the evidence. The accident begins to look staged, and suddenly the people with answers start to die—and Madriani and his partners find themselves almost certainly the next target. The story gets bigger faster than you might expect, which means you’re going to have to hang on by your fingernails.

I, Ripper

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I, Ripper, by Stephen Hunter
Who says all thrillers have to involve lawyers, police, or special agents? Hunter takes us back to the original serial killer, Jack the Ripper, and extrapolates from the infamous details of the case to offer up a chillingly believable alternate take on one of the greatest mysteries of the modern day. Hunter ingeniously mixes three distinct perspectives—an ambitious Irish reporter who matches wits with the Ripper, a prostitute working in the midst of the terror, and extracts from the Ripper’s diary. Best of all, Hunter doesn’t go for safe ambiguity: he names the Ripper and offers explanations for some of the bizarre details of the crimes that puzzle experts to this day, all while keeping up masterful levels of tension and excitement.

The Ice Twins, by S.K. Tremayne
Literally all you need to know about Tremayne’s fabulously entertaining debut novel is the premise: the Moorcroft family—father Angus, mother Sarah, and twin daughters Lydia and Kirstie—endures the death of Lydia, and the parents deal with this shattering loss by taking Kirstie to live on a remote island—where Kirstie announces that they are mistaken, and she is actually Lydia. That sound you hear is reality melting away as the novel grabs you by the hand and drags you down into a rabbit hole of steadily mounting tension as Angus is called away for work, leaving Sarah alone with Kirstie/Lydia as a violent storm moves in. This is that novel everyone will be talking about, like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train before it.

Disclaimer, by Renée Knight
Imagine you have a secret—a dark secret that haunts you—and the only comfort you have is that the only other person who knew the secret is long dead. Now imagine you find a books left for you on your doorstep. It’s intriguing, and as you read you have the growing sense—then the frightening certainty—that the book is about you and your secret. Now imagine someone else has read that book, and sets about to punish you for that secret. That’s the incredibly tense and fascinating premise of Knight’s debut novel, and it’s a story that will keep you awake at night, turning the pages as you race for answers.

Independence Day, by Ben Coes
A lot of writers can come up with a great idea for a thriller, and a lot of those writers can also create a likable character. But only a true master like Ben Coes can create a character like Dewey Andreas (and a long list of supporting characters who are equally unique and compelling) and then come up with a story that not only moves briskly from exciting moment to exciting moment but sets up a mystery that really grabs the reader as well. The fact that Coes then manages to make the resolution of that mystery truly incredible—equal parts believable and mind-blowing—is just icing on the cake. In his fifth outing, Andreas starts the story off as a broken man who later defies orders and “goes rogue,” finding himself the sole survivor of a broken mission, and the reader is expertly carried along with him on an adventure that feels both personal and electric.

Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories, by Mary Higgins Clark
They don’t call Clark the Queen of Suspense for nothing. The short stories in this remarkable collection span the whole of Clark’s celebrated career, including her first-ever published story, “Stowaway,” which appeared in 1956 after she’d racked up forty rejection slips. But the real find here is the titular novella Death Wears a Beauty Mask, begun in 1974 and then put aside so Clark could write her breakthrough novel, Where Are the Children? Clark hasn’t lost a step in the intervening four decades.

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