Kill the Next One by Federico Axat; translated by David FryePsychological Suspense. Boston businessman Ted McKay is terminally ill, and has decided to commit suicide to get it over with. But right at the critical moment, the doorbell rings. At the door is a stranger with a deal to offer: in return for killing two men "deserving" of death, someone will kill him, sparing his family the shame of his suicide. So far, so Strangers on a Train-ish. But then comes the twist: there are strange connections between McKay's life and those of his victims, and when he ends up in a hospital for the insane, he truly can't tell if he's a killer or the victim of a conspiracy. With an unreliable narrator in McKay, this English-language debut is complex and intriguing.
Bronx Requiem by John ClarksonCrime Fiction. During his stint in prison, James Beck was befriended by a fellow inmate named Packy Johnson, to whom he owes a debt of loyalty. So when Packy is murdered just hours after being released from the prison where he'd spent so much of his life, Beck resolves to find out who did it, and why. In the process, he and his team of ex-cons also run up against organized crime, a vicious pimp, and an ambitious and none-too-clean cop. Gritty and violent, this 2nd in the James Beck series (after Among Thieves) offers strong storytelling and complex characters.
Dying for Christmas by Tamar CohenPsychological Suspense. Bored by her relationship with her boyfriend, Jessica Gould is charmed enough by the good-looking stranger she meets while shopping on Christmas Eve to accept his offer of a drink at his place. Unfortunately, what he has in mind for her involves torture, starvation, and psychological mind games. Jessica -- whose family belatedly reports her missing -- is sure she's going to die, and her awful experience unfolds alongside that of the police investigator looking for her. While there are some plot similarities to Pierre Lemaitre's Alex, this twisty, disturbing read has surprises all its own.
Onslaught: The War with China: The Opening Battle by David PoyerMilitary Thriller. In this 16th in the Tales of the Modern Navy series (and 2nd in the War with China story arc), U.S. Naval Captain Dan Lenson is tasked with the seemingly impossible: prevent China from starting World War III while also appearing politically neutral. And there's trouble brewing in the tight quarters on board, too. If you're new to the series but eager for well-depicted military action, you might want to start with the book immediately previous to this one (Tipping Point) to get your sea legs (and an understanding of the situation).
Nitro Mountain by Lee Clay JohnsonRural Noir. In Virginia's isolated mining communities, life is hard. The most common distractions are heavy drinking, violence, and bluegrass. It's no different for Leon, a broken-armed bass player who can't keep a job or his girl, Jennifer. And it's no different on Nitro Mountain, where Jennifer hooks up with a truly bad man she's desperate to escape. With no good options, these characters make exceptionally bad choices, and the consequences are deadly. Don't go looking for a happy ending here, but as bleak as Nitro Mountain is, it's still "relentlessly compelling" (Publishers Weekly).
The Girl Before by Rena OlsenPsychological Suspense. Clara Lawson is brushing young Daisy's hair in the kitchen when gunfire and screaming interrupt the peaceful scene. Her husband warns her to say nothing when he sees her with the people who have invaded their home -- people who insist on calling her Diana. They also insist that her husband is a criminal involved in despicable acts. Jumping between her present (institutionalized by those who took her while she refuses to say anything at all) and a past filled with trauma, Clara gradually faces a truth she has trained hard to ignore. For fans of psychological suspense, this debut is creepy, unsettling, and totally absorbing from the very first page.
Try Not to Breathe: A Novel by Holly SeddonPsychological Suspense. Amy Stevenson has been in a coma for 15 years, ever since she was beaten and left for dead by an unknown assailant. Alex Dale is an alcoholic who has lost both her journalism career and her marriage, and, like the equally desperate protagonist in The Girl on the Train, feels that solving this tragic case will allow her to reclaim her life. Told from multiple perspectives in both 2010 and in the days leading up to Amy's attack in 1995, Try Not to Breathe is both a grim portrait of a failing, fragile alcoholic and a suspenseful search for justice.
Cambodia Noir: A Novel by Nicholas SeeleyNoir Fiction. Will Keller was once a great war photographer, but by 2003 he's working at a nondescript paper in Phnom Penh to support his drug habit. He's also pretty good at finding people lost in Cambodia's criminal underworld, which is how he gets involved in the search for a young Japanese-American woman. Clues in her diary -- which depicts a descent into darkness -- suggest that her disappearance isn't an accident. With an eye for seedy detail and an impressive array of corrupt politicos, alcoholic ex-pats, and other ne'er-do-wells, this vivid debut is memorable: "the plotting is wily and entertaining, the take on Cambodia, trenchant and disturbing" (Kirkus Reviews).
Only Daughter by Anna SnoekstraPsychological Suspense. In 2003, 16-year-old Rebecca Winter disappeared from her Canberra suburb. Eleven years later, she's reunited with her family -- except she isn't actually the real Bec, she's an imposter taking advantage of their physical similarities. While trying to avoid slipping up and getting caught, the fake Bec realizes that she hasn't fooled everyone -- and that she might be in danger from whoever took Bec. The stories of both Becs alternate, and with two unreliable narrators and a handful of red herrings, the suspense only intensifies.
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