International Thriller Writers Debut Authors Breakfast: 21 Thrillers To Shiver Your Bones

Andrews, Brian. The Calypso Directive. Arcade: Skyhorse. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781611454949. $24.95. THRILLER
Though Andrews is a U.S. Navy veteran who served as an officer aboard a 688 class nuclear submarine, he opted to launch his writing career with a medical thriller involving genetic mutation. His protagonist finds himself pursued by Big Pharma after breaking out of a medical facility where he had volunteered as a test subject. A few critical huffs but strong reader response; see the free novella, Ring of Flowers, which gives historical backstory.

Bates, Jeremy. White Lies. Oceanview. 2012. 280p. ISBN 9781608090433. $25.95. THRILLER
On her way to a new teaching job, Katrina Burton rids herself of an obnoxious hitchhiker with a white lie, which leads to another and then another, until finally she finds herself in the midst of a grisly murder. The author’s degrees in literature and philosophy undoubtedly helped shape the narrative. The Mystery Gazette called this work an exhilarating, taut tale.

Bilyeau, Nancy. The Crown. Touchstone: S. & S. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9781451626858. $24.99. THRILLER
To save both her father and the Catholic faith in which she believes, a half-English, half-Spanish novice in Henry VIII’s England must hunt for a relic‚ the crown worn by the Saxon King Athelstan during the battle that united England. A compelling plot, said LJ, sometimes weighed down by multiple, concurrent subplots. But note that this debut was shortlisted for CWA’s Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award.

Brandon, Chase. The Cryptos Conundrum. Forge: Tor. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780765318770. $25.99. THRILLER
Having worked for 35 years in the CIA’s Clandestine Service, 25 of them undercover, Brandon surely deserves to have retired to enjoy the writing life. In this thriller/sf/fantasy blend, Dr. Jonathan Chalmers is saved by an apparition during a World War I poison gas attack and spends the rest of the century chasing down conspiracy and uncovering historical secrets in a grand master plan. The connections and theories are sure to fascinate many readers, said PW. Brandon’s advice: Don’t just focus on lines; take time to read between them.

Burns, Jeremy. From the Ashes. Fiction Studio. 2012. 394p. ISBN 9781936558322. pap. $16.95. THRILLER
Research can be dangerous; it got Jonathan Rickner’s brother Michael killed. Following Michael’s trail, Jonathan uncovers a Depression-era conspiracy connecting the Hoover administration, the Rockefellers, and Nazi Germany. Nice blurbs, e.g., from Ethan Cross: a conspiracy that is frightening in both its implications and plausibility. Jeremy Burns is an author to watch.”

Franze, Anthony J. The Last Justice. Sterling & Ross. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780982139189. $24.95. THRILLER
Franze is a lawyer‚ there were lots of them at the conference‚ so it’s pretty nervy of him to open his debut thriller with the assassination of six justices of the Supreme Court. The solicitor general finds himself tasked with tracking down the killer‚ and then finds that he’s the main suspect. Philip Margolin, another lawyer/author at the conference, called this a fast-moving thriller‚Ķ with a surprise ending I did not see coming.

Friedman, Daniel. Don’t Ever Get Old. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780312606930. $24.99. THRILLER
At 87, retired Memphis cop Baruch (Buck) Schatz is not too old to hunt down a fugitive Nazi officer. The result? Starred Library Journal, Publishers’ Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist reviews, plus foreign and movie-rights sales. A sequel is coming.

Gainey, Robin F. Jack of Hearts. Untreed Reads. 2012. 274p. ebook. $4.99. THRILLER
More cozy than thriller, as the author says, this book stars an aristocratic dog detective named Shimoni, who investigates when he finds out that his master (a Roman count) is having an affair that could undermine Shimoni’s happy state of affairs. The author’s hope: Your heart will beat a little faster, but your palms will remain dry. Since she joined with Julia Child and others founded the Santa Barbara chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food, it’s no surprise that readers are promised luscious wining and dining scenes.

Galanti, Donna. A Human Element. Echelon. 2012. 310p. ISBN 9781590808764. pap. $15.99. THRILLER
Laura Amstrong’s loved ones are being picked off one by one, and Laura can do nothing to stop it. She finally discovers that her destiny is linked to that of the killer, whom she must destroy or redeem. The author herself described this as a genre-bending thriller and concedes that she writes from a very dark place.

Gapper, John. A Fatal Debt. Ballantine. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780345527899. $26. THRILLER An award-winning Financial Times columnist, Gapper is well placed to deliver a financial thriller. After psychiatrist Ben Cowper reluctantly releases the fallen Wall Street giant he’s been treating, there’s a murder at the man’s Hamptons mansion. Gapper wanted a psychiatrist as protagonist so that he could explore emotions but later realized that his protagonist couldn’t say or do anything because of his profession. You’ll have to read the book to discover how he solved this problem.

Heaberlin, Julia. Playing Dead. Ballantine. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780345527011. pap. $15. THRILLER
Not long ago, a stranger wrote Heaberlin a letter because she wondered whether Heaberlin might be her daughter, who had been kidnapped as a child. Heaberlin wasn’t, but the experience inspired this book. When Tommie McCloud receives a letter from a stranger claiming that Tommie had been kidnapped as a child, she’s dumbfounded. With her father dead and her mother lost to Alzheimer’s, she’s got to get answers on her own. A little bit of chick-lit, a whopping amount of suspense, said the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Leigh, Melinda. She Can Run. Montlake Romance. 2011. 327p. ISBN 9781612181516. pap. $13.95. THRILLER
Young widow Elizabeth Baker marries a dazzling congressional candidate, then learns a secret about him that sends her and her children on the run. Romantic suspense here; hiding out as caretaker on an isolated estate, Beth can’t help but be attracted to the genial ex-cop who just inherited the digs from his uncle. An ITW finalist for Best First Book.

Peikoff, Kira. Living Proof. Tor. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780765329301. $24.99. THRILLER
In the near-future, destroying a human embryo is tantamount to murder, which complicates the life of Dr. Arianna Drake, who runs a fertility clinic. The agent out to get her instead falls in love and is caught in an ethical bind. A timely first thriller from an experienced journalist; you might have caught her impassioned presentation at PLA in March.

Price, Eyre. Blues Highway Blues. Thomas & Mercer. 2012. 412p. ISBN 9781612183534. pap. $14.95. THRILLER
Road trip! Music mogul Daniel Erickson is traveling down that highway (the one where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson reputedly traded his soul for mastery of the guitar), tracking the cool $1 million he owes a Russian mobster even as he runs from the killers on his trail. Price said that like his hero, he loves music and has been on a great journey: the surreal adventure of actually publishing a novel.

Price, Lissa. Starters. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780385742375. $17.99. THRILLER
Dystopian sci-fi at its best, said the Los Angeles Times, and dystopian it is. In the future, after genocidal spores wipe out all but the very young and very old, the young can rent their bodies to elderly folks who want to kick up their heels. Except that the guy who hopes to rent teenage Callie’s body wants to use it to commit murder. Price was booked into Comic Con for the weekend but insisted that she fulfill her dream of sitting on the ITW Debut Authors dais. (She was rescheduled for an earlier Comic Con day.) A YALSA nominee.

Rogers, Amy. Petroplague. AuthorHouse. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9781467038270. pap. $17.95. THRILLER
Rogers studied biochemistry at Harvard and earned her Ph.D. in immunology, so it’s no surprise that her first thriller is science-based. Here she envisions oil-munching bacteria that are turning L.A.’s gasoline supply into vinegar. (Rogers brought molecular models showing the difference.) Now it’s up to Christina González, who helped create the critters, to stop them. Check out Rogers’s site for more on this kind of read.

Shane, Trevor. Children of Paranoia. Dutton. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780525952374. $25.95. THRILLER
In Shane’s particular dystopia, war has been raging forever, but there are no battlefields; assassins who seem like just folks roam the world, assigned to kill quietly for reasons they don’t understand. This will appear shortly in paperback, and Shane has a second novel out in February 2013. Some foreign rights sales; a German reviewer wanted to give it ten stars out of five.

Sherwood-Fabre, Liese. Saving Hope. Musa. 2012. ebook. $4.99. THRILLER
Deep in Siberia, unemployed microbiologist Alexandra Pavlova gets involved in the Russian underground to save her daughter’s life. The author has firsthand experience of Russia through her work with the U.S. government, so expect authentic detail. And bundle up while reading; Siberia is cold in the winter.

Tabor, James M. The Deep Zone. Ballantine. Apr. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780345530615. $26. THRILLER
With a terrifying pandemic threatening, scientist Hallie Leonard is sent into the world’s deepest cave to find an organism that promises a cure. Unfortunately, the cave is located in a violence-torn part of Mexico, and someone on Hallie’s team has ulterior motives. A former contributing editor to Outside and SKI magazines, writer and host of PBS’s The Great Outdoors, an award-winning nonfiction author, and a former cop, Tabor has fitting background. Kirkus called this work a smart, informative debut thriller.

Wilson, Carter. Final Crossing: A Novel of Suspense. Vantage Point. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781936467334. pap. $14.95. THRILLER
Victimized as a child by the Preacherman, Rudiger keeps committing atrocities for reasons he doesn’t understand‚ except that each drop of blood gets him one step closer to Salvation. Okay, good and creepy. Lots of enthusiasm on NetGalley Reviews; the author went far afield by delivering his one-minute presentation as a poem.

Wilson, Jeffrey. The Traiteur’s Ring. JournalStone. 2011. 340p. ISBN 9781936564187. $31.95. THRILLER
Wilson has crafted a supernatural thriller set in Africa, as a Navy SEAL hunting terrorists draws on his Cajun roots to master powers passed on by a village elder. Reminds me of old-school King and Koontz, you know, that classic supernatural thriller style that is character driven, said Swamp Dweller Dark Fiction Book Reviews. Whoa!

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Lissa Price says:

    I actually made my Comic-Con Hungry for Dystopia panel (with moderator Anna North (America Pacifica), Neal Shusterman (Unwind trilogy), Lissa Price (Starters), Paolo Bacigalupi (The Drowned Cities), Michael Grant (BZRK), Daniel H. Wilson (Amped), Gennifer Albin (Crewel), and Marie Lu (Legend trilogy).

    Our speeches were timed, so I didn’t explain how my panel ended up being on Thursday, and I chose to leave the amazement of Comic-Con, fly coast-to-coast, to be at the Thrillerfest debut panel a wee bit jet lagged. I wouldn’t have missed getting to meet my fellow debuts.

    Thank you for the great recap!

  2. jeremy bates says:

    yes, wanted to second lissa’s comment about great meeting the debuts and thanks for the great recaps…………… having flown from the philippines, i think my jetlag trumped hers ;)

  3. Lissa Price says:

    You absolutely win the mileage contest, Jeremy! So great to meet you and laugh at the debut dinner.