Katie Grinch

Katie Grinch is an Assistant Director of Publicity at Putnam.  She’s been with the company for 10 years (11 if you count her college internship).  She has a passion for pop culture, world travel and her cat named Wanda.

 

 

 

 

 

thestolenones

The Stolen Ones, by Owen Laukkanen

Owen Laukkanen is an amazing writer who always grabs me with his nuanced ability to take ordinary, everyday people and make them the center of terrifying actions.  This is the fourth thriller starring Kirk Stevens and his partner in the new joint BCA-FBI violent crime task force Carla Windermere.   Together, they find themselves on the trail of a massive international kidnapping and prostitution operation. Before they are done, they will have travelled over half the country, from Montana and Nevada, to New York and New Jersey, and come face to face not only with the most vicious man either of them have ever encountered––but two of the most courageous women that readers will find themselves truly rooting for.

 

girl on the train

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, Rear Window, this is a British gem of a psychological thriller that I want everyone to read, so we can talk about and all the twists and turns at the water cooler.   Told from the point of view of three different characters – Rachel really strikes a note as the unreliable narrator battling her demons.  She becomes entangled in the disappearance of a local woman she observes every day from the train window.  Her interest in the case reaches the point where you question why she’s so invested and if she knows more than meets the eye.  The mystery that unravels kept me reading nonstop.

 

 

strangler

The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter

A brilliant historical thriller set in Calcutta in 1837 written by established historian and biographer MJ Carter. The British East India Company rules India, or most of it. Its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing on an expedition to track down the Thugs, the murderous sect of native Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travelers by the roadside. William Avery, a young soldier joins forces with a secret political agent gone native become and the unlikely duo is drawn deeper into this mystery and the dark heart of colonial India.  Not only a captivating read, but I learned so much about the time, place and the mysterious Thugs.

 

 

forsaken

The Forsaken by Ace Atkins

Atkins demonstrates why his Quinn Colson series has met with such popular and critical success, and why Michael Connelly has called him “one of the best crime writers at work today.”  Since the start, all of Ace Atkins’ novels have had roots in a true story.   The plot has ties to a 1975 cold case in Statesville, North Carolina. Two young girls were abducted, one survived to tell the story and in the wake of the horrific crime, another murder occurred.

 

 

 

lost key

The Lost Key, by Catherine Coulter and JT Ellison

I was so excited when Putnam started doing a second series (A Brit in the FBI) with Catherine Coulter and she has found the perfect partner in crime with JT Ellison.  This is an electrifying an international manhunt that begins when freshly-minted FBI Agent Nicholas Drummond, barely out of his Quantico training, and his partner are investigating a stabbing on Wall Street. Their investigation, however, yields more questions than answers and a plot twist that dates back to WWI.  This series is pure fun and excitement that should draw in fans of Coulter as well as new readers.

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Last week, in celebration of Halloween, Penguin Teen asked the people of twitter to share their own spooky Halloween stories in 140 characters or less, using the hashtag #TwitterGhostStory. The results were spook-tacular and a lot of fun! Check out some of our favorite Twitter Ghost Stories!

Some made us scared to look in the mirror…

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Others made us scared to sleep alone…

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And a few made us not want to go home…

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Some rhymed…

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….and some were just too real.

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Our authors even got into the spirit with a few spooky tales of their own. 

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Some left us wanting more…

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… but then came the scariest of all!

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Happy Halloween!

Share your own Ghost Story below…if you dare.


Staff Picks Pic

Meaghan Wagner is an Assistant Editor and has been with Penguin since 2010. She is definitely the MVP of the Penguin Random House Downtown softball team, despite rumors you might have heard to the contrary.

 

 

 

 

 

wherelight

Where All Light Tends to Go, by David Joy

Admittedly this is more of a story that has crime and thrills in it, rather than your more traditional thriller, but since it is hands down the upcoming title I am most excited to see coming up, I must include it. David Joy so beautifully etches out the internal struggle between family loyalty and the personal hope for something better against the evocatively etched backdrop of the North Carolina meth trade.

 

 

 

 

naked

Naked in Death, by J.D. Robb

So this whole series really could go in here, but I figure it’s best to start at the beginning. This is the first series I obsessively collected – starting with the first 10 at a library book sale in 8th grade. I immediately fell in love with tough-as-nails Eve Dallas (and even contemplated getting a copycat tattoo of her famous rose) and her bad-boy Roarke. Robb (the alias for Nora Roberts) has a way of keeping every case fresh and fun and I look forward to the new book’s release *every* year.

 

 

 

doubleplay

Double Play, by Robert B. Parker

Double Play has everything about a classic Parker- snappy, clever dialogue, great characters, villains you love to hate, intricate mystery – but set around baseball and, of all people, Jackie Robinson.  The plot crackles and seeing Jackie fictionalized is endless fun for a baseball fan like me. With great flashback interludes, it one of the best-written Parker novels I’ve ever read (and that, my friends, is saying something).

 

 

 

 

loyalty

Loyalty, by Ingrid Thoft

This book has a special place in my heart – it was the first one I recommended Putnam acquire that we actually bought. After years mired in submission after submission, getting acquainted with Thoft’s tough-but-tender P.I. Fina Ludlow and her unbelievably dysfunctional family was a breath of fresh air. The second book in the series – Identity- came out this summer and the third will follow in 2015. Keep a lookout for Fina!

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Credit: Gabriel Lehner

Lyndsay Faye

At BEA I sat down with Lyndsay Faye, author Seven for a Secret, newly released in paperback. Voted one of The Wall Street Journal’s Ten Best Mysteries of the Year!

 

How do you get in the writing mood? Do you have a certain place that you go, do you have music that you like to listen to?

That’s a cool question, never been asked that question before. How do I get into the writing mood? I get into the writing mood by reading authors I admire. You know maybe I’m going to be reading it for ten minutes, maybe I’m going to be reading it for twenty minutes, and I am going to be sort of just absorbing awesome styles and brilliant techniques and ridiculously cool characterizations as I read them. And then if I’m lucky I’ll manage to make myself stop and actually sit down and write something. So you know, I’ll pick up – it’s easiest to make yourself stop and do it a little bit more piecemeal with poetry. So you know I’ll read Richard Siken poetry, I’ll read T.S. Elliot for a minute, because I like to use very strong metaphors and I like to use vivid language, and so often reading a couple poems for a few minutes before I start writing is nice, because I can read a phrase that I think has great imagery and I can just sort of get into the feeling that way. So that’s what I often do to get in the writing mood.

 

Would you say poetry is your genre of choice then?

I think any artist who uses poetic language and I mean any medium literally. So for instance like one day I might be listening to The National, uh you know, some song off High Violet, like I’ll listen to Lemon World three times and that is beautiful poetry. You know if you write the lyric ‘lay me on a table, put flowers in my mouth, and we can say that we invented a summer love and torture party’ that is poetry at the same time that I would also like to sit down and read ‘let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table’ from T.S. Elliot. Or I might you know pick up Raymond Chandler and read a few passages from The Big Sleep or something along those lines. So yeah, any medium, any genre, just as long as the language is really rich. I like a big slab of chocolate cake in language form right before I start writing.

 

That is a great image! (laughs) Oh I’m going to steal that one. Don’t worry I’ll always credit you.

No you can take it, you can take it. I always do eat that slice of chocolate cake and you know it could be lyrics it could be poetry it could be prose but, you know just as long as it’s really rich language I always read that first. And sometimes I have it open in tabs on the internet, like I’ll have a poem open in a tab and if I get to a place where I just want to bang my face against the keyboard until my nose goes flat (laughs) then I’ll read the poem for a second and it feels better.

 

What is your most unexpected or strangest hobby or talent?

Wow, um, I am the only person I know who can put vibrato in a kazoo. I am a really amazing kazoo player. I have a pretty strong vibrato anyway and I was trained in musical theater, but I can take a kazoo and I can, you know, actually put that vocal spin in it. And um, if you’d ever like to hear me play Amazing Grace on the kazoo, I can do that for you. I’d be willing to do that but I don’t have my kazoo with me. It’s in my other pants right now. The other thing I could do for you, that’s a strange talent of mine I can demonstrate right now. (Puts tongue all the way in her nose) So if you can get your tongue all the way into your nose that is like, not something everyone can do. I can pick my nose with my tongue and I can put vibrato in a kazoo. Two things, two things that I can do that are not perhaps expected.

 

That was excellent! Thank you for sharing that one. So going back to writing… How did you get started as a writer?

I got started as a writer because I had been an actor for a really long time, and I’d been obsessed with the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries since I was ten. And I was working in a restaurant, as you do when you’re a writer. And I picked up a book that was one of many, many, many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders, there’s countless versions of this. But I picked it up at the Barnes and Noble across the street from the restaurant I was working at, just you know on my lunch break. And I was reading it and I am so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes that every little thing that was wrong with it stood out to me. And you know, it’s actually really well written and I’m not faulting the author at all, the author had clearly done a lot of research etcetera but I’m reading it and I’m like ‘this is just not how I would do it’. There’s a tendency when writing fiction involving Sherlock Holmes particularly, that you’re going to throw in – well and also Jack the Ripper – There’s this tendency to throw in, they’re like ‘And then were going to do also vampires and Satanists, and they live in an interconnected series of underground caves in Transylvania and uh space aliens actually are the ones who infected their minds’ so like they throw everything but the kitchen sink at it. So my problem with that was that what I wanted to be reading was Sherlock Holmes solving the Jack the Ripper murders written by Caleb Carr, essentially. With forensic evidence that was true to the actual events with, you know, a certain amount of historical verisimilitude when it comes to the absolute abject poverty these women were living in in Whitechapel. And I thought it was a little bit of a disservice to the Sherlock Holmes character and to the women who actually were subjected to these horrific crimes that everything but the kitchen sink was being thrown at the narrative. I thought ‘why shouldn’t it be frightening enough that a serial killer is stalking the streets of London and no one knows who this is and at any moment you could be brutally murder and then eviscerated’? I figured that was scary enough, and so I wanted to do one without all the bells and whistles and supernatural etcetera. In an act of enormous hubris I sat down and I actually started writing it which was crazy, I’ve never taken a creative writing class before, I was an English major but it was all analytical type stuff. And then after getting a little ways into it I kind of put it down for a minute because you know you don’t realize that you can actually write a book until you finish writing an entire book, it’s an enormous enterprise. And then the restaurant I was working at was knocked down with bulldozers because they sold it to create an apple store. So then I was on six months of unemployment, and I said ‘you know what you’re probably going to get one shot at finishing this, so just tell yourself six months of unemployment is enough time to write a novel’. And since I’d already done all the research, I’d finished my research into the ripper killings, it was enough time. And I finished it, while I was, you know, out of work. And after that everything got crazy because I didn’t ever think it was ever going anywhere, I thought maybe a Sherlockian small press would maybe, I don’t know, do an e-book of it or something along those lines. I was blown away when I got an agent, and I was even more blown away when I sold it to Simon and Schuster. So that was how I got into and it was all very gratuitous but it was crazy. And I often think to myself ‘why are people letting me do this for a living’ like ‘this is not a regular job’ but that’s how it works.

 

So that was for your first book, and how did you then make the transition to your second?

Yeah that was a can of worms. I have a few lost novels between Dust and Shadow and The Gods of Gotham. And I still work on them and I still love the concepts, but I didn’t know what I was doing, is the problem. Because if you’re writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche you have a lot of template laid out for you. You already have the characters and they’re already beloved characters so there’s a certain shorthand you can enter into. You’re not introducing a new character and trying to involve the reader in their lives and make the reader feel affection for this person, they already feel affections for Sherlock Holmes or they wouldn’t have the damn book in the first place. So additionally with the Ripper murders, what you have is a series of extremely specific crimes that I wanted to represent as accurately as possible. So I essentially had a historical outline written for me. And that was great too, but that doesn’t actually teach you how to write a book. So I wrote a few more books, wrong. And then I decided to become a long-haul truck driver, and my husband said ‘no, you should probably not be a long-haul truck driver’. And I was like ‘what about ice fishing?’ And he was like ‘no, that’s probably not a good idea either’. I just didn’t want to go back – acting had burned me out a little bit and I didn’t want to go back to the restaurant work. And then I sat down and I said OK here’s one more try, one more try, I want to write – and here’s the difference between those books that didn’t work and the one that did – I was trying to write – this is going to sound ridiculous – I was trying to write a literary book. I was trying to write a book that had literary value and artistic merit and had all these sorts of exciting moments and historical significance etcetera. And I wanted to do all of those things, but what I wasn’t sitting down and writing – I wasn’t putting my guts on the page. I was trying to be artistic about it, I was trying to say like you know ‘this is an artful sentence, there you go’. Writing artful sentences is bullshit. What I needed to do was take all of my feelings of you know, like, social injustice and failure, what I myself was doing, and dissatisfaction with the world of politics in general, and all of the things I was actually feeling. And I needed to put my own guts on the page and thats was what I was not doing. Because I was being timid and I thought that professionalism was, you know, being intellectually rigorous, but I was in fact just being cowardly about taking my own feelings and just, you know, like finger painting with them in words. So in The Gods of Gotham I said ‘fuck it’, Timothy Wild has just lost everything. He is a dude who walks around with his heart absolutely on his sleeve. And I know all sorts of men who are very sensitive kittens so that was not a problem to write. And he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back, and he has a terrible relationship with his only sibling. And I just piled things on and on and on because I was very frustrated at the time. And Tim is a ridiculous little angst kitten, but he is way more a reflection of my actual, you know, like, style and self etcetera, and I figured at a certain point I am just going to actually be risky and put myself out there, and see if anybody wants to read that. And bizarrely it turns out they do (laughs). So um, me being artistic is not as effective as me being honest, and I didn’t know that, because no one had ever taught me how to write a book before. So I had to practice.

If you were to, in one sentence, describe why you think reading is important, what would you say?

I think that you should read so – If we don’t read how can we possibly understand each other. And, you know, if that’s the one sentence, great, if we don’t read how could we possibly understand each other. But I would add to that how could we possibly understand ourselves if we’re not reading, because reading is such a touchstone for people. It enlightens us not only in the sense of ‘Oh that’s how that life felt’ that someone else has written. But the perfect metaphor that captures exactly how you were feeling and you didn’t really know, and it was this sort of just amorphous miasma of ‘ughh, I feel like this this, but I don’t know how to say it’. Naming things is very powerful, and I think that putting concrete words onto emotions, onto experiences, onto settings onto times of day, you know, like, nailing those down and saying that – there’s this beautiful sentence at the beginning of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler right, that still boggles my mind. The phrase he inserts into the sentence is ‘with the sun not shining’ and this is in Los Angeles, ‘with the sun not shining’ doesn’t mean the same thing as that it was cloudy, it’s like this haze right, and so you know from reading that, OK it was this sort of day, and I can picture it. And I think you can do the same thing with people’s feelings, people’s, you know, struggles and their inner turmoil if you put the words together in a row the right way and I think that everyone should read because otherwise we’re just going to keep blindly bumping into walls.

And then just to finish up with one fun question, what is your guilty pleasure at the moment? Whether it be movies or books or food.

I don’t have guilty pleasures. I mean I don’t think people should have guilty pleasures, like – that is a fun question – But I think that people should have pleasures, you know, we’re such puritans (laughs) like we’re such puritans, screw that I mean go eat a pickle straight out of the pickle jar, like go read some fan fiction, go, you know, watch Godzilla. Do what you do man (laughs). Go for it, die your hair blue, whatever. I mean the older I get the more I feel like guilty pleasures are standing in the way of forward progress (laughs). If I were to come up with one, I guess, I am obsessed with Star Trek the Next Generation. But it’s not guilty. I just got into that. I watch star trek when I’m sad, and when I’m happy, and when I’m bored, and all the time in between. I don’t know whenever I try to think of something that’s a guilty pleasure, it’s like ‘well yeah I mean yes I really love cheesy 80’s pop music’ but I think everybody does, you know, it’s like guilty pleasures are the same as pleasure pleasures they just mean that you aren’t owning it.

LyndsayFaye_SevenforaSecret

From Edgar-nominated author Lyndsay Faye comes the next book in what Gillian Flynn calls “a brilliant new mystery series.”

 

Start Reading an Excerpt of Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye!


Michael

Michael Barson has worked in the Putnam Publicity department since April 1994, and has worked in book publicity since 1984. He has a PhD in American Culture from BGSU, and now lives in Glen Ridge NJ with his wife, their big dog, and three bedrooms formerly occupied by sons. His hobbies include beer, pickup basketball, old crime movies, and more beer.

 

 

 

 

shots fired

Shots Fired, by C.J. Box

Stories from Joe Pickett Country, by C.J. Box – This new collection of ten crime stories set in the west—mostly in C.J. Box’s native Wyoming—is a real treat for fans of the Joe Pickett series, which Putnam has published from the start (OPEN SEASON came out in 2001). Three of the stories feature Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, one stars Joe’s renegade friend, the very lethal Nate Romanowski, and the othersix feature stand-alone characters and situations. Several of the non-Joe stories are truly excellent, my favorite being “Pronghorns of the Third Reich.” C.J. Box has had seven consecutive national bestsellers, and it would be great if SHOTS FIRED made it eight in a row.

 

robert

Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, by Reed Farrel Coleman

A Jesse Stone Novel, by Reed Farrel Coleman – when Robert B. Parker died in January of 2010, it was a huge loss for the world of crime fiction, and for Putnam books as well, which Parker had called his home since the late ‘80s. Beginning in 2012, Ace Atkins took over the primary Parker series, starring Boston P.I. Spenser, with positive results. But now Reed Coleman has done an equally fine job of making the Jesse Stone character his own in his first turn on that series, BLIND SPOT, which pubs on September 9. In fact, the story is much more detailed and layered than many of Parker’s own Jesse Stone  tales, and I expect the critics to take note of this when the reviews start arriving in September. An impressive debut by Coleman, who has won many mystery awards over the course of his 20-year career.

field of prey

Field of Prey, by John Sandford

Over the course of more than twenty of the hard-boiled PREY thrillers by John Sandford, Minneapolis detective/investigator Lucas Davenport has faced off against every sort of criminal, from an armed robbery team to a female hit-woman. But my favorite villains in the PREY series are the serial killers, and Lucas has matched wits with some doozies. FIELD OF PREY is one of those. Of the earlier books, I remember MIND PREY being especially creepy. Sandford is just a great writer, in addition to being a #1 bestseller for Putnam, where the PREY series began in 1989. But you do have to be able to handle the violence quotient in these—Sandford isn’t kidding around.

 

a man without breath

A Man Without Breath, by Philip Kerr

The Bernie Gunther series, which Putnam publishes in hardcover, has been described as plunking down private eye Philip Marlowe in Nazi Germany instead of 1940s Los Angeles. That does give you the flavor of these extremely well-crafted historical thrillers. Penguin Books has nine of these Philip Kerr titles in their backlist, and they range from really good to unbelievably great. Philip Kerr is simply one of today’s very best crime writers—in the top five, for my money. (Even if I do get these for free.)

 

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


JTM

John Mercun works as the Consumer Engagement Manager for Penguin Random House’s Consumer Marketing Group and is known as “the funniest guy in the office”, mainly because no one else is editing this bio.  In his spare time, John is a police dispatcher, volunteer EMT, fantasy football fanatic and, when time permits, an avid reader.

 

 

 

taken

Taken, by Robert Crais

One of the great pleasures of working in publishing is being able to watch an author get more and more popular every year that they publish.  This is no truer than in the case of Robert Crais, who has made a name for himself as a terrific mystery writer.  Elvis Cole is easily one of my favorite literary characters, mainly because he always has a glib comment in the best or worst of times. Partnered with the strong but silent Joe Pike, together they take on a missing persons case that puts both of them up against more than they bargained for.

 

 

 

Cold Dish

The Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson

If you’ve never seen A&E’s hit show LONGMIRE, you should first pick up The Cold Dish, the first novel in the series. We meet Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire for the first time as he is looking back on twenty-five years as sheriff and hoping to finish his tenure in peace.  When a high school boy is found dead, however, Walt’s hopes for a quiet finish to his career are dashed. Capturing the American West with great feel and authenticity, author Craig Johnson gives readers a mystery that they will keep reading well into the night.

 

 

 

Terminal City

Terminal City, by Linda Fairstein

In the two decades as the chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office of Manhattan, Linda Fairstein spent most of her time solving crimes.  Now she spends most of her time writing about people who solve crimes. Terminal City reunites readers with Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper who find themselves hunting for an elusive killer whose only signature is carving a carefully drawn symbol into his victims’ bodies. This thrill ride takes readers into the darkest heart of one of New York’s most iconic structures – Grand Central Terminal.

 

 

MarcoEffect

The Marco Effect, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I’ve always appreciated the smart and surly police detective who walks to the beat of his own drum while getting the job done.  And no one fits that bill more than Carl Mørck, the deeply flawed head of Copenhagen’s unsolved crime unit known as “Department Q”.  With a few years left until retirement,  Mørck hopes to quietly whittle the time away in the basement of police headquarters. Unfortunately, that plan has yet to work out. This time, he’s chasing down a fifteen year old gypsy boy on the run and a mystery that extends from Denmark to Africa, from embezzlers to child soldiers, from seemingly petty crime rings to the very darkest of cover-ups. Coming this September!

 

 

Missing YouMissing You, by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is no stranger to the mystery and suspense world.  NYPD Detective Kat Donovan has become an old friend to his readers and, with each book, the friendship grows a little deeper.  Against her will, Kat is placed on an online dating site that at first she thinks is a waste of time.  But when she looks at the accompanying photo to one profile, her world comes crashing down.  Staring back her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, who broke her heart over 18 years ago.  Things are not what they seem, however, and when Kat reaches out to him an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light that Kat is forced to confront and stop.

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Jess

Jess Renheim is an Associate Editor at Dutton. She graduated from Middlebury College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, who is patiently trying to teach her Swedish.

 

 

 

 

The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I have a soft spot for Scandinavian crime fiction, and Jussi Adler-Olsen is one of my favorites to emerge from the increasingly popular genre. His first Department Q novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes, has a propulsive, expertly crafted plot involving one of Copenhagen’s coldest cases, but what distinguishes the series for me is Adler-Olsen’s dark humor and memorable cast of characters, particularly Detective Carl Mørck’s assiduous and quirky sidekick Assad.

 

 

 

The Secret Place, by Tana French

The Secret Place by Tana French

The fifth Dublin Murder Squad novel by Tana French certainly doesn’t disappoint. I am continually amazed by French’s ability to deliver an engrossing, clever mystery plot and the kind of nuanced, astonishing characters and powerful relationships in which I can’t help but feel deeply invested. Detective Stephen Moran, last seen in Faithful Place, takes center stage here alongside Det. Antoinette Conway, a pariah in the Murder Squad, as the two attempt to unravel the secrets and relationships amongst two rival groups of teenage girls at a private boarding school.

 

 

Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

It’s easy to see why Lisa Gardner has been called “the master of the psychological thriller” after reading Fear Nothing.  Joining Detective D.D. Warren at the center of this dark, riveting novel are two sisters: Dr. Adeline Glen, a psychiatrist specializing in pain management yet born with a congenital insensitivity to pain; and Shana Day, a notorious murderer who first killed at fourteen and has been incarcerated ever since. Connected by a terrible legacy, Adeline and Shana Day are compelling female characters with emotional resonance, and their shared past hurtles them—and the reader—forward to the novel’s shocking conclusion.

 

 

Lexicon, by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry

I loved this incredibly inventive, mind-bending thriller about a secret society devoted to exploiting the power of words. A shadowy organization known as the Poets trains promising young candidates to control people’s minds and to wield words as weapons. With rich dialogue, sympathetic characters, and sustained suspense, Lexicon is a highly entertaining, fast-paced read.

 

 

 

 

The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

Dark, thought-provoking, and chilling, The Wicked Girls is a psychological suspense thriller that intersperses a contemporary serial-killer storyline with the accounts of two eleven-year old girls—now grown and rehabilitated—who were convicted of murdering a toddler in 1986. Filled with clever plot twists and anchored by two complex, believably drawn female protagonists, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

 

 

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Christopher

Christopher Nelson’s first job out of college was as an assistant in the Putnam and Riverhead Marketing Department, and he’s been there ever since, now serving as Associate Director. He lives with his wife on Long Island in a house that is quickly running out of room for all the books they keep acquiring.  That’s what happens when someone in publishing marries an English teacher. When he doesn’t have his eyes glued to a book or some electronic device to monitor his fantasy sports teams, he tries to find time for marathon baking sessions that produce pounds and pounds of baked good to share with his co-workers (and occasionally his wife.)

Stone Cold, by C.J. Box

Stone Cold by C. J. Box

There are a number of great parts of working in publishing, but two of the most exciting are publishing the first book by a brand new author that I feel is destined for great success and the first time an author hits the New York Times bestseller list. I count myself lucky that I’ve been involved with both of those milestones with C.J. Box, and it’s been a pleasure to work on every one of his Joe Pickett books. He delivers a fast-paced, suspense-filled book with a great plot and unique twist every time, and his latest, Stone Cold, is no exception.

 

 

 

The Devil's Workshop, by Alex Grecian

The Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian

I really thought it was going to be impossible for Alex Grecian to top his first book, The Yard, which was one of my favorite debuts, in any genre, of the last ten years. Fortunately, when I read The Devil’s Workshop, I was happily proven wrong. He once again captures the grittiness of Victorian London, and the members of the Scotland Yard Murder Squad and their associates are a fascinating cast of characters, but this time he dials things up a notch with one of the most notorious villains of all time—Jack the Ripper!

 

 

 

Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be part of the Ludlow family, who are at the center of Thoft’s debut mystery Loyalty (as well as the upcoming Identity), but they definitely make for fun reading. PI Fina Ludlow, the black sheep of the group, isn’t above doing whatever she needs in order to solve a case, and that makes her one of the more interesting characters I’ve come across in quite some time. Thoft does an expert job of building suspense throughout the book and delivers a twist at the end that sets this mystery apart from so many others.

 

 

 

The Professionals, by Owen Laukkanen

The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen

Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens and FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere may be the protagonists of Owen Laukkanen’s well-crafted thrillers, but the real “stars” of each one are the criminals that the duo finds themselves pursuing. Laukkanen does such an incredible job of crafting intriguing villains that I sometimes find myself rooting for them, even when they’re doing wrong. This is certainly the case in his debut thriller, The Professionals, which features four friends who, faced with seemingly no way to make ends meet, turn kidnapping into a lucrative career—until they kidnap the wrong guy and everything starts going quickly downhill.

 

 

Monkeewrench, by P. J. Tracy

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy

I’m a sucker for a cast of quirky characters, so the Monkeewrench crew from mother-daughter writing team P.J. Tracy is right up my alley. A group of eccentric software developers, each with somewhat of a sordid past, finds itself in quite a conundrum when a killer starts mimicking the murders in a game they’ve developed even though it hasn’t been widely released to the public. I find the phrase “page turner” often overused, but that’s exactly what this book is; I found myself racing through it at breakneck speed. Each subsequent book from P.J. Tracy has been great, and it’s always fun to see the Monkeewrench crew in action, but this first book stands out as my favorite of the series.

 

 

The Muse Asylum, by David Czuchlewski

The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski

Maybe it’s because of my job, but I’ve developed an affinity for works of fiction that deal with the powerful draw of writers and books, and it all started with The Muse Asylum. The mystery at the heart of the book is the true identity of a reclusive author and his motives for staying out of the public eye. Watching how the search for the truth affected the lives of the three characters seeking it was a fascinating examination of motivation and consequences, and the book has stuck with me even though it’s been more than a decade since I first read it.

 

 

 

Find more books on the Suspense & Mystery Category Page!


afoot_in_st_croixIt happens on every research trip. By now, you’d think I would have learned.

A seemingly innocuous piece of advice slips into a casual conversation between a departing tourist and a new arrival. After the hi, how are you’s and the obligatory so where are you from’s comes the inevitable transition to the veteran’s activities of the previous week. This is a discussion topic of which every traveler should be wary.

I’m talking about the “can’t miss” recommendation.

I fall for it every time.

What kind of a writer would I be if I didn’t check out this “must see” location? After all, the whole point of my visit is to search out fictional inspiration. This treacherous line of reasoning frequently gets me into trouble.

And so it went on my most recent trip to the Caribbean island of Tortola. The recommendation was for Smuggler’s Cove, an isolated out-of-the way beach with stunning views of neighboring Jost van Dyke. Could this be the site of a critical scene in a future novel? There was only one way to find out.

The next morning I asked for directions from the owner of the inn where I was staying. In typical Caribbean fashion, she provided me with the following route:

“Go past the Bomba Shack…” (In the Caribbean, a rum shack is almost always a navigational compass point) “…turn left at the bottom of the hill across from the public parking lot. There’s a little sign, next to a big boulder. You can’t miss it.” (This is generally an indication that I will, indeed, miss it.) “After that, just follow the road.”

I set off in my put-put rental jeep, which was running on about 1.8 of its 4 cylinders. I would soon realize I needed the brakes as much as the missing horsepower.

I found my way past the rum shack, but predictably got stymied looking for the signed turnoff. After parking in a private parking lot for a large resort, I pulled out a map that had come with the rental. I rotated the sheet several times, trying to reconcile the innkeeper’s instructions with the cartographer’s cartooned island depiction. The only mapped road I could find appeared to run through the resort.

A West Indian man strolled past, apparently on his way to Bomba’s.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m looking for the road to Smuggler’s Cove?”

“Yeah, sure,” he replied. He looked at me as if this was one of the silliest questions he’d ever heard. “It’s right there.” He pointed at a concrete-covered hill I’d wrongly assumed to be someone’s driveway.

“That’s the road?” I asked.

Nodding his head, he made a dramatic gesturing motion with his arms and then continued his trek to the rum shack.

With encouraging words to the gerbils powering the jeep’s engine, I switched to the lowest gear, mashed the accelerator to the floor, and began to slowly inch up the concrete’s near vertical pitch.

The “road” quickly narrowed to the width of the jeep, and the concrete petered out to a dirt path littered with sharp volcanic rocks. After a couple of tight turns, the jungle closed in on either side. I couldn’t see more than ten feet past the front bumper.

God forbid I meet someone coming from the opposite direction, I thought grimly. There was no room to turn around and no way I was backing the jeep down the hill. I felt certain I was about to pop a tire, and, of course, I’d lost all cell phone reception. It was easily the worst incline I’d ever driven – and mind you, I’m from Colorado.

Plodding forward, because there was no other choice, I eventually reached the summit. From there, it became clear that the makeshift road had been designed to skirt around the resort boundaries, presumably due to complaints about people driving through their private grounds. Once I completed the cut-around portion, the going was far easier.

I soon reached my destination, a pristine beach with a jaw-dropping view –packed with about fifty other people who’d all been given the same “must see” advice.

I spent a wonderful afternoon at Smuggler’s Cove. I even met a potential future fictional character in an enterprising Tortolan who ran a full mini-bar out of an ice chest and a fold up table.

When it was time to leave, I took the flat, paved road through the resort, confidently waving at its employees as if I was a paying guest.

At dinner later that night, I struck up a conversation with a lovely couple that had just arrived on the island.

“What do you recommend we do while we’re here?” they asked politely.

“Oh, there’s this beach that you have to visit.” I replied. “Smuggler’s Cove. Take the road down past the Bomba Shack, then turn left at the big boulder…”


afoot_in_st_croixThere’s just something about an island.

A brazen hunk of cured lava or sand-dusted coral emerges from the depths of the sea. Despite the constant threats of weather, wave, quake, and volcanic eruption, the spot is soon inhabited by a colorful cast of independents – brazen souls who dare to tempt the cruel whims of fate.

It makes the perfect setting for a book.

Add to this the vast number and variety of islands spread across the globe and you’ve got enough source material to keep a writer busy for the rest of her life.

Yes, I am intrigued by islands.

Through the ages, islands have stood at the crossroads of history, as essential transportation hubs in the oceans’ liquid deserts, as flashpoints in territorial disputes, and as arenas for epic showdowns between dueling global superpowers.

The geographic construct has posed challenges to both invading pirates and besieged peasants. Depending on the sharpness of its boundaries and the temperament of the surrounding sea, an island can be an open drawbridge, impossible to defend against outside intrusion – or a confining barrier that is impossible to escape.

Practically every race, religion, language, and culture has a representative island. People emanating from the most landlocked countries often have a waterlocked counterpart that reflects their specific nationality.

And while these tiny bits of landmass have borne a disproportionate share of human slavery and trafficking, that dark suffering has spawned some of the world’s most creative folklore. The imaginations of the oppressed have flowered vivid monsters, tragic martyrs, and mythical tales of triumph and defeat.

No matter how narrow its isolating band of water, every island is unique.

An island can be the hub of a massive transportation web, a buzzing transfer station, or the last sleepy stop at the end of nowhere. It can be an elite retreat, a cosmopolitan city, or a near empty preserve.

Islands possess a rare beauty, an unavoidable closeness with nature. Resources are inevitably scarce, creating a heightened environmental awareness. As such, islands have provided refuge for delicate species that never could have existed on our crowded continents, a treasure of wondrous proportions.

Standing at an island’s edge, water lapping at my feet, I’ve puzzled over the mysterious firmness of sand, solid despite its myriad separate members, yet constantly changing shape and shade. I’ve laughed at the comical routine of a hermit crab, struggling to carry an oversized shell up onto a beach, and I’ve marveled at the spectacle of insects, humming, chirping, biting…performing.

For this writer, islandography has become a near obsession, a call to search out and investigate, to learn, experience, and be influenced.

There are thousands of islands waiting to be explored.

And so many stories left to tell.