My Suspense Fiction Recommendations
The Collectors by David Baldacci
This thriller opens with a bang — quite literally. The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is murdered by a sniper’s bullet. Days later the director of the Library of Congress rare books room dies under suspicious circumstances in one of that agency’s vaults. Enter the Camel Club, a ragtag group whose sole mission is to keep the nation’s government accountable for its policies and actions. Their investigation soon points to a connection between these two high-profile deaths and garners the malicious attention of a group of conspirators who are selling government secrets to buyers in the Middle East. With the cat-and-mouse game growing ever more dangerous, the club teams up with a beautiful con artist who has been running a high-stakes scam against a casino mogul who was responsible for her mother’s death years before. She is also the ex-wife of the deceased Library of Congress rare-book director and shares the club’s passion for exposing the spy ring and bringing her ex’s killers to justice.
The author has created a hodgepodge of richly drawn characters:
Leader of the Camel Club Oliver Stone, a man with a mysterious past and the well-honed training and skills of a government-agency operative. He is a seemingly innocuous cemetery caretaker who lives in a tent in Lafayette Park across from the White House. His past connections within the halls of power give him a unique ability to ferret out malfeasance and expose it to the light of day.
The remaining three members of the club: Caleb Shaw, who works at the Library of Congress and is the person who discovers the director’s body; Reuben Rhodes, a Vietnam-era veteran whom Oliver lifted out of a haze of drugs and impotent anger into a productive life; and Milton Farb, a genius whose mental illness has been overcome and who now works as a website designer for large corporations.
Annabelle Conroy is a gifted con artist who runs her own gang of thieves but has a heart attuned to injustice and a sense of integrity that belies her profession.
The villains are presented in a way that allows us to understand their evil motivations and root for their unmasking and downfall. One, however, is allowed to remain at large, no doubt providing a seed for the author’s next book.
Washington D.C. has become a favorite setting for recent thrillers, sometimes to the point of overkill. This author, however, delves beneath the obvious in unique ways that allow insight into some of the more arcane arenas within the capital city. He has created two compelling story lines that drive the suspense until they join in a very satisfying climax and denouement. I highly recommend this book as well as the many others created by this author.
Fatal Tide by Iris Johansen
Marinth, an ancient island city buried beneath the sea by a colossal wave centuries ago — is it legend or a mecca of lost riches? This is the magnet around which the characters in this book cluster.
Melis Nemid is a troubled marine researcher who works with two extraordinary dolphins on a private island in the Lesser Antilles. She and her oceanographer foster father believe they have found the key to locating Marinth. Others are hot on the trail. Jed Kelby, an enigmatic former Navy SEAL turned underwater explorer, seeks the fame and wealth Marinth could bestow. Arms runner Hugh Archer believes Marinth holds the secret to a new sonic weapon that could revolutionize the world’s power structure. It is only a matter of time before the search turns ugly.
Melis sees her foster father die in a suspicious marine explosion. Her psychiatrist and best friend is found murdered. She begins receiving terrifying phone calls from Hugh Archer, who plans to use a traumatic secret from her past to destroy her and steal the secrets of Marinth. For her own protection, she enters into an uneasy alliance with Jed Kelby. Yet doubts persist. Is he merely a profiteer who will stop at nothing to get what he wants? Or will her safety trump his self-interest. Sexual tension erupts into fiery passion even as Archer closes his trap. The only way to stop him is for the two lovers to work in tandem. Will trust and love win the day? This is the question that drives both the suspense and the romantic aspects of the story, making it a perfect example of the romantic suspense novel.
There are some interesting scenes involving the two dolphins, who become characters in their own right and have significant impact on the story. Much has been written about these amazing creatures, but whether or not real-life dolphins would be capable of the feats depicted in this book is not for me to judge.
Killing Me Softly by Nicci French
Alice Loudon leads a normal, predictable life until she falls under the spell of the handsome, charismatic Adam Tallis, a taciturn mountain climber whose aura of danger and mystery only deepens her attraction to him. She abandons her current lover, her friends, and her family in order to marry him. Her mindless devotion never waivers despite the increasingly bizarre, even violent nature of their intimate moments. Puzzling incidents from outside their insulated existence, however, do pique her curiosity. Why is the couple receiving strange phone calls and cryptic notes? What is the truth behind Adam’s role in the previous spring’s ill-fated Himalayan climbing expedition? Alice conducts her own clandestine inquiries and comes to realize she may be married to a murderer. Still, she is powerless to extricate herself from Adam’s grip. Only when she discovers her own life is in jeopardy does she find the strength to expose the truth and fight for her survival.
This book was published in 1999, but I chose it because it differs from the typical woman-in-jeopardy novel in three ways. First, it is told in the first person, so all of the action unfolds from that one perspective. Thus we are not privy to the direct thoughts and plans of the book’s villain. Second, love is the enemy rather than the redemptive power in this story. Most unique of all, our heroine’s problems do not bring out her core of inner strength. Rather, she is complicit in her own victimhood. By the time she finally grows a spine and emerges from her “feverish dream” (page 311), we can be excused for feeling exasperated by her persistent weakness. We want her to survive, and we’re interested in knowing how she will pull it off, but we have little respect for her inability to shake off her obsession, which persists to the very end.
A final note of interest: Nicci French is a British writing duo of husband and wife. They currently have thirteen published novels to their credit.
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