That's right, we are in MASSACHUSETTS!
I like to read fiction with speedy plotting and cinematic pacing. I suppose it's my love of movies (I studied filmmaking back in school and worked for Warner Bros. until 2015) that pulls me in that direction. But I also read quite a bit of non-fiction and biography, just none of the boring ones! Any nonfiction has got to fit in with my healthy diet of spy thrillers.
Title: Alias Emma
Comments: London has over half-a-million CCTV cameras pointed at its streets. And newbie secret agent Emma has to avoid every single one of them. She only has 12 hours to locate someone before the Russian assassins do, and she’s got to deliver him secretly across town without being spotted. But can they travel out of sight from the Russian assassins who now have gained access to London's entire spy-cam network? Like James Bond playing a deadly game of hide-and-seek, this fast-paced sprint of a novel is great fun for any lover of spy fiction. This is the first in a new series, and I'm totally on board for more international espionage action.
This fast-paced psychological thriller is perfect for summer reading, if you like British mysteries about moving into your dream home and then accidentally digging up a pair of bodies in the garden. Saffron and Tom are busy renovating-while-pregnant, and could really do without an investigation right now in their backyard. But there’s no getting away from where the investigation leads and what’s uncovered about their home’s previous owner. Full of twists all the way through that I didn’t see coming, this surprising novel is great suspenseful fun.
My new spy thriller obsession! As a reader of Lee Child ("Jack Reacher" series), Gregg Hurwitz ("Orphan X" series), Andrew Grant (Lee Child's brother), and Terry Hayes ("I am Pilgrim"), there is nothing better than discovering a new character series by an author who fits right in with the others.
Comments: A good novel is when the cost of the book, the emotions, and the late nights reading it were worth it. Koepp's fantastic characters and skillful plotting make this story--about modern society falling apart after a "black sky" event where all electrical power stops functioning--a real roller coaster! It's gripping and moving and thrilling and just plain fun to read. I wish every novel-reading experience was like Aurora!
Dervla McTiernan has somewhat sneakily become one of my favorite new writers. An Irish author now living in Australia, she brings delightfully twisty international mysteries to U.S. audiences. Her previous detective series was set in County Cork, Ireland; observant readers will recall this bookseller's delight in the damp banks of River Corrib and D.I. Cormac Reilly's investigations in the Galway fog.
Here, McTiernan's psychological suspense unfolds stateside: in Maine. An idealistic law student works to free an innocent man on death row. The complicated case reveals not only truths about herself, but her mother's own story from nearly three decades before. Fans of Tana French and Adrian McKinty will enjoy the dark twists and turns from the First Rule--"Make them like you"--to the last one: the Murder Rule.
This Gilded Age history of inventing might actually make you stay up till 2:00AM (like me) the closer you get to the dramatic finale!
Who invents the world's first motion picture technology & patents it before the likes of Edison and Méliès, and then simply vanishes?? Rather than leaving behind a pioneer's legacy, a name almost nobody has heard of - Louis Le Prince - leaves behind a most fascinating tale that's cut short like length of celluloid that snaps in the projector before the film's conclusion.
But that doesn't mean this book doesn't have answers to the century-old mystery! Wow, what a thrilling read!
Title: The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock
Comments: It's only fitting that this 'Anatomy of the Master of Suspense' is, like Hitchcock's films, a purely captivating and mystifying tale. The 12 chapters are structured so that each is a single lens through which to see the iconic filmmaker, and they fall in- and out-of-tune with one another: "The Boy Who Couldn't Grow Up" in conflict with "The Auteur", "The Womanizer" vs. "The Dandy". But what delightful complexity! What sheer entertainment in trying to understand the true artistic & cultural phenomenon that was Alfred Hitchcock!
Title: The First True Hitchcock
Comments: Someone interested in the whole of film history could really just look at the career of Alfred Hitchcock to get the entire timeline in one long sequence – from the earliest days of silent novelties, to the talkies, and later to Technicolor special effects…all the way up until the new batch of Hollywood youngsters learning Hitchcock’s craft were today’s Spielbergs & Scorseses.
But it was one single silent film, in 1927, that defined who Hitchcock would become. It was called “The Lodger,” and it was a fictionalized version of Jack the Ripper, hunting innocent Londoners in the fog. A very atmospheric idea, one that sounds just so completely “Hitchcockian” in today’s terms. But, at the time, of course, there was no such thing as a Hitchcockian aesthetic...Not yet, anyway.
Henry K. Miller is a critic for Sight and Sound, and reveals fresh archival discoveries to tell an interesting story about this pivotal year in not only the life of a young new director, but in a post-war England, struggling in the marketplace against a new superpower, The United States, whose most popular export - the Hollywood film - dominated local theaters around the world.
Later, Hitchcock would go on to change how films were made, marketed, and shown in the 20th century. But how did Alfred become “Hitchcock”? This is his origin story.
I re-read this book constantly. The sarcasm and the depth of insight into the human condition never ceases to strike me anew each time I pick it up. Besides the cleverly inverted logic--a picture negative off of which your mind strikes a positive purely through inference--my favorite overall fact about The Screwtape Letters is this:
When Lewis wanted to depict a fictionalized arrangement of Hell, he didn't choose fiery pits or underground levels. Instead, in a brilliant commentary on the 20th Century's latest innovation, it is the modern institutionalized bureaucratic structure that houses the devils who constantly confound our human existence.
Title: Dark Horse (Orphan X #7)
Comments: Hurwitz's Orphan X series just keeps getting better and better. This time around Evan has to decide if he should help someone who's arguably not an innocent (or even a "good") person. The setting this episode has the dry, southwestern flavors of the show "Breaking Bad" and plenty of U.S./Mexico Cartel action -- which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Don't drop that bag of oranges! There's as much drama behind the lens as in front of it--everything shy of an actual horse head in a bed. (A first-time producer has to face down real mob bosses to get their blessing to make the film & later finds his car shot full of bullet holes during production.) This is a behind-the-scenes volume for any film-lover and "Family" aficionado.
"There has always been something sinister to me about a supermarket."
When someone slips a note under Lemony Snicket's door that reads: “You had poison for breakfast," he is forced to embark on a dreadful and bewildering investigation. Possibly his last one ever!—a phrase which here means “there is death at the end of this story, but that is true of practically all of Lemony Snicket’s investigations”.
It’s a philosophical but delicious case (for adults, but kids could read it too) of attempted murder, existential ennui, and potentially sinister breakfast items.
I absolutely LOVE all the old espionage thrillers by 1940's author Helen MacInnes, and this one by Rebecca Starford feels delightfully MacInn-ish. Come for the "regular British citizen who is thrust into the stresses of counterintelligence in London at the outbreak of WWII" but stay for the "mysterious encounter with a familiar sinister face in the crowd" and the "top secret spy meetings in cozy cafes."
Whether you wanted more after that ending or hated that ending, read this! Philosophical and poetical enough to match the genius of the series, Seitz and Sepinwall have written the most beautiful essays, episode-by-episode.
They artfully unpeel layers to the storytelling you didn't even know were there.
And the David Chase interviews at the end of the book are worth the cover price alone.
Love her or hate her, there's no denying the history-making and record-breaking musical force.
Arranged very simply, this book is like flipping through a family photo album, while Eilish narrates it with captions in her trademark snark.
(The perfect companion to R.J. Cutler's feature-length documentary "Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry.")
Title: The Survivors
Comments: With writing this good, and a unique story structure that will certainly get its hooks into you, it won't take you long to devour this one. I loved the cinematic sensibility, and the format of alternating timeline directions (à la the film "Memento"). As you read the story in a forward direction (presumably, like a normal time-bound human) revelations and epiphanies unfurl as you then experience some sections in reverse chronological order. What's it all leading to (or following from)? Just stick with it until the very end, and let me know when you finish, so we can talk about it.
Title: When Ghosts Come Home
Comments: This leisurely-paced crime procedural is not out to shock or thrill you, but boy, is it good. The small town setting, in 1984, is such a well-written place filled with true humans. Sheriff Winston is a Walt Longmire/Atticus Finch-type, and someone you can (quietly) root for in this mildly-dark story that packs more heart than your average mystery novel.
(If you liked The Snakes by Sadie Jones, then you will love this one!)
Title: Egg Marks the Spot (Skunk and Badger 2)
Comments: The first "Skunk and Badger" was a fun and quirky introduction to this odd couple series for younger readers (ages 7 to 10). In this adventure they go on a camping trip and even visit a local indie bookstore, all characteristically illustrated by one of my favorites, Jon Klassen!
Comments: I can NOT STOP looking at Hawker's intricate, perfect line art! The message is sweet and profound here, but even that pales in comparison to the impact that these illustrations had on me to communicate deep and touching meaning.
Title: Subpar Parks
Comments: This is hilarious, beautiful, and full of helpful Park Ranger insights and stories. But best of all are the beautifully rendered travel posters quoting real reviews from these places' most surly visitors.
(Check out author/artist Amber Share's Instagram feed @SubparParks: she posts a new beautiful poster of a different dismal review each week!)
Title: The Disappearing Act
Comments: This author’s psychological thrillers must be the perfect beach reads, because her first 2 novels “Something in the Water” and “Mr. Nobody” have been selling out consistently!
This one’s her newest, and is finally a thriller set in the actress-turned-writer’s native world of Hollywood.
Natalie Wood...Marilyn Monroe...Sometimes Hollywood's glittery facade is lifted for a moment and we glimpse a darkness beneath. Mia Eliot is a great British actress. But what if she could be an even bigger star in Los Angeles? Countless up-and-comers have been drawn to that sign and what it symbolizes - those 9 white letters on a California hillside - since the beginning Hollywood. But sometimes there's a price to pay that's higher than the reward could ever be.
Title: The Maidens
Comments: It's another Hitchcockian suspense story with which Michaelides blesses us for his thrilling 2nd novel. While not exactly a sequel to The Silent Patient, this one's definitely more of the same in the best way possible: a contemporary Greek tragedy, a mysterious killer whose true identity is unknown, and a psychotherapist at the middle of it all. (There are even some fun crossover moments between the two books that fans of the first one will notice.) It's a perfect read for your summer psychological thriller needs.
Title: Permanent Record
Comments: Wow. I stayed up late reading this like I do with a good novel. I loved Snowden's easy way of writing, so transparent and honest. Almost exactly the same age as Snowden, I completely identified with him as someone who grew up while the Internet also grew up.
His crisis is immensely relatable, and it's easy to get into his very principled whistleblower mindset: what do you do when it would be a crime to report a worse crime? There's no justification here, only conviction. Already knowing the real world outcome, the thrilling final pages raced at me like the seconds counting down on a bomb's digital clock. (Bonus: the spy community insider tidbits were delicious!)
Tim's Staff Pick:
I typically don't read business books. Or profiles on financial tycoons. Or much literature about the chemical pipeline industry. I'm even gotten a little bored writing these sentences so far... BUT THIS BOOK IS ANYTHING BUT BORING. It's a captivating result of some very clever investigative journalism. Read this if you read "Bad Blood" by Carryrou, or "The Informant" by Eichenwald.
Title: The Rock from the Sky
Comments: There are FIVE EPISODES in this book, and each one is thoughtful and HILARIOUS. Jon Klassen is a master of understatement, and subtlety. You can see it here in characters' eyes. Or how a scene with nothing happening is really a comedic pause or a silent punchline.
I love the art, I love the peculiar family members, I love the rambling old house