Fiction Previews, Feb. 2013, Pt. 1: 18 Thrillers from Berenson, Block, Kellerman, Talty, & More

Alpert, Mark. Extinction: A Thriller. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250021342. $24.99. THRILLER
When a Chinese assassin shows up at his lab, looking for the hacker daughter from whom he’s been estranged after she rejected his military past, Jim Pierce knows he has to find her first. The Chinese have implemented a new antiterrorism program using stunning artificial intelligence, and they frantically want to keep it secret—even as the AI starts ignoring their commands. A contributing editor to Scientific American, Alpert will get the science right, and he seems to be upping the thrills quotient in his science thrillers since debuting with Final Theory in 2008.

Berenson, Alex. The Night Ranger. Putnam. Feb. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9780399159725. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
If this month’s thrillers are any indication, Africa is the new theme (see also Paul Garrison’s Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Option, below, and Guy Saville’s The Afrika Reich in Picks).Here, four recent college grads working at a Somali refugee camp in Kenya take off in a Land Cruiser for some adventure and are promptly taken hostage by Somali bandits. How long can they last, hooded in the East African heat, without food or water? And will Washington really be compelled to invade Somalia? On his seventh outing, CIA agent John Wells is charged with finding the missing do-gooders, but things are of course not as they appear. Maybe another No. 1 New York Times best seller for Berenson.

Block, Lawrence. Hit Me. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780316127356. $26.99. THRILLER
At the end of 2008’s Hit and Run, modest, agreeable, and wildly successful hit man Keller seems to have settled down, with a charming home in New Orleans, a new job rehabbing houses (it’s post-Katrina), and a family. But can he really stay out of the business? No! Block, a multiple Edgar and Shamus award winner and Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, sends Keller on assignment to Dallas (can murder resolve a domestic spat?), Florida (why mingle with government witnesses aboard a cruise?), Wyoming (what about that house that burned down?), and his old stomping ground, New York (might he be recognized?)—all at the behest of discreet handler Dot. Multiples for this one.

Dobyns, Stephen. The Burn Palace. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2013.  480p. ISBN 9780399160875. $26.95. THRILLER
Award-winning poet Dobyns has published collections with titles like Common Carnage, Cemetery Nights, and Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides, which suggests a certain darkness of mind appropriate to the writing of crime fiction. In fact, he also writes the Charlie Bradshaw mystery series and has turned out other novels like the horror-tinged best seller The Church of Dead Girls, which seems to have a real underground following. This new work starts edgily enough, with a nurse returning from a tryst with a doctor to find not the baby she was supposed to be tending but a rather large, red-and-black snake. More spooky things happen in this sleepy Rhode Island community, confounding the sheriff and reminding us that small towns are where the really scary stuff happens. A literary chiller.

Dorsey, Tim. The Riptide Ultra-Glide. Morrow. Feb. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780062092786. $25.99. lrg. prnt. THRILLER
Recently unemployed Wisconsinites Pat and Barb McDougal are hoping for a modest pick-me-up vacation in Florida at what turns out to be a subpar motel when someone comes along and takes their money—and their identification, so they can’t even board the plane home. With the police less than helpful, they must turn to someone outside the usual channels, someone with an imaginative approach to trouble. That would be Serge Storms. Now the McDougals’ vacation really starts. The 75,000-copy first printing and ten-city tour to Birmingham, Kansas City, Miami, Nashville, Orlando, Phoenix, St. Louis, Tampa, Tucson, and Wichita should persuade any skeptics.

Flynn, Vince & Brian Haig. Untitled. Atria: S. & S. Feb. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781451608335. $27.99. CD: S. & S. Audio. THRILLER
Flynn is the New York Times best-selling author of political thrillers starring CIA counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp. Haig is the New York Times best-selling author of military thrillers starring U.S. Army lawyer Sean Drummond. They’re joining forces to launch a new series that will clearly have a certain current-events edge. More I cannot tell you; no plot details yet. But you’ll need to buy.

Gardner, Lisa. Touch & Go. Dutton. Feb. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780525953074. $26.95. THRILLER
Justin and Libby Denbe, a happily married couple with a gorgeous daughter and a gorgeous home  in Boston’s Back Bay, must have some dark secret. Else why would they have been abducted without a trace, without an apparent motive, and without a ransom note? That’s what investigator Tessa Leone thinks as she sizes up the case. Gardner should enliven this setup considerably.

Garrison, Paul. Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Option. Grand Central. Feb. 2013. 450p. ISBN 9780446564489. $27.99. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Even as he joins with champion sharpshooter Jessica Kincaid to help burned-out agents find new lives, Paul Janson does international crisis management for a fee, as long as the cause is good. Now he’s agreed to rescue an oil executive’s wife from Somali pirates, in part because he sees it as leverage to keep a huge multinational from subverting the rights of sovereign nations in East Africa. Of course things get more complicated. Second in a series begun in February 2012 with The Janson Command, which now has more than 1.5 million copies in print.

Kellerman, Jonathan. Guilt: An Alex Delaware Novel. Ballantine. Feb. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780345505736; eISBN 9780345538819. lrg. prnt. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. THRILLER
A young couple joyously fixing up a crumbling Tudor mansion in Westside L.A. discovers a strongbox in the greenhouse that contains two doctor’s bags in turn containing two infant’s skulls. You’d go to the police, too, in this case LAPD’s Lt. Milo Sturgis, who of course turns to buddy Alex Delaware for help. This being Kellerman, more infant skeletons turn up, the house yields its awful secrets, and thrills can be expected all ’round.

Mann, Don with Ralph Pezzullo. Hunt the Scorpion: A SEAL Team Six Novel. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Feb. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780316209601. $25.99. CD: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Originally set for December, this book has been pushed back a few months. In this second in the series from former navy SEAL Mann, who’s getting help from award-winning novelist/playwright/journalist Pezzullo, terrorists have gotten hold of a nuclear device, and it’s up to Thomas Crocker and his antiterrorist force, navy SEAL Team Six, to save the day.

Masello, Robert. The Romanov Cross. Bantam. Feb. 2013. 512p. ISBN 9780553807806. $26; eISBN 9780345533593. THRILLER
Thrills. History. And a touch of the paranormal. That’s what the latest from Masello (Vigil) promises. As the melting permafrost on an Alaskan island reveals the graveyard of an old Russian colony, epidemiologist Frank Slater is sent to contain what could be a catastrophe; the victims all succumbed to the virulent Spanish influenza. But he and his team also find evidence that could explain what happened to history’s most mysterious Russian—yes, Anastasia, Tsar Nicholas II’s daughter and grand duchess of Russia, last seen in Yekaterinburg and presumably slaughtered there with her entire family. Let’s see how Masello angles this story.

Mina, Denise. Gods and Beasts. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Feb. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780316188524. $25.99. THRILLER
When a gunman toting an AK-47 storms into a Glasgow post office shortly before Christmas, an elderly gent waiting on line hands off his grandson to a stranger, silently helps the gunman fill several bags with money, then bows his head as the gunman slaughters him. The victim was a spotlessly respectable campaigner for social justice, and none of the post office employees can be tied to the gunman, so Detective Inspector Alex Morrow is mightily puzzled. Then a murky political network comes into view. The last Alex Morrow book, The End of the Wasp Season, was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Book Prize and shortlisted for the CWA Golden Dagger Award, so expect good things.

Morgan Jones, Chris. The Jackal’s Share. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781594205354. $25.95. THRILLER
Having done nicely with his first thriller, The Silent Oligarch, Morgan Jones—who once worked at the world’s largest business intelligence agency—brings back corporate investigator Benjamin Webster for another go-round. The London-based, rich-beyond-words financier/philanthropist Darius Qazai has an unusual request. With some dark whispers about his business dealings and a London art dealer and friend murdered in Tehran, Qazai wants to have himself investigated, and he wants Webster’s firm to do it. Alas, as he looks into Qazai’s past, Webster starts to wonder whether Qazai is truly a good guy, or an art smuggler and arms dealer, or maybe both. Moral quandary and a twisted-alley Middle East setting; cool.

Patterson, James. Alex Cross, Run. Little, Brown. Feb. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780316097512. $28.99. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Originally scheduled for October, this book is now appearing in February—and Private Berlin, set for February, has jumped up a month. Here, hotshot plastic surgeon Elijah Creem, whom Cross arrested for sleeping with underage girls, is out of prison and hiding behind a new face. Meanwhile, a young woman is found hanging, the baby she just birthed is missing, and, with more bodies piling up, it looks as if several killers might be on the loose.

Patterson, James & Mark Sullivan. Private Berlin. Little, Brown. Jan. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780316211178. $27.99. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Private, a sophisticated and powerful investigation firm, has branches in cities worldwide, including Berlin. Now Berlin is in trouble, because top agent Chris Schneider has disappeared, Investigations lead to a former Nazi slaughterhouse—while revealing something deeply unsettling about Schneider. Fourth in Patterson’s newest series.

Robb, J.D. Calculated in Death. Putnam. Feb. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780399158827. $27.95. THRILLER
Lt. Eve Dallas is back, convinced that the woman lying dead at the bottom of the stairs and relieved of her valuables was not the victim of a mugging. Telltale bloodstains in her home suggest that Marta Dickenson, a respected businesswoman and devoted wife and mother, was murdered—but why? When files start disappearing from Marta’s office, Dallas takes advantage of billionaire husband Roarke’s connections and gets better acquainted with the business world. An inevitable purchase.

Savage, Michael. A Time for War: A Thriller. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780312651626. $26.99.  CD: Macmillan Audio. THRILLER
A Chinook helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, an FBI agent’s car slams to a halt in San Francisco, a Chinese agent shows up in San Francisco Bay, and TV host Jack Hatfield—forced from the media by left-wing doubters—knows that a conspiracy is afoot. With the help of a young staffer at the Office of Naval Intelligence, he tracks down a billionaire American electronics entrepreneur who’s betrayed his own country and uncovers a plan that will cripple the U.S. military while releasing deadly toxins aimed at killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. New York Times bestselling author and popular conservative talk-show host Savage gives his audience exactly what it wants.

Talty, Stephen. Black Irish: A Novel. Ballantine. Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780345538062. $26; eISBN 9780345538871. CD: Random AudioTHRILLER
Talty, already the best-selling nonfiction author of Empire of Blue Water (about a 17th-century pirate), as well as the splendid The Illustrious Dead (about the decimation of Napoleon’s army by typhus), is clearly attracted to trouble, so it’s no surprise that his first novel is a thriller. Set in his hometown, South Buffalo, called Ireland’s 27th county by its residents, it features Absalom Kearney, who has returned home to care for her father. Naturally, she follows in his footsteps, joining the police force. Naturally, she’s confronted by a twisted serial killer. And, naturally, the rest of the force seems to be conspiring to keep her from nailing this case. Meanwhile, Abby discovers a secret Gaelic organization called the Clan na Gael that’s somehow linked to the action. Given Talty’s rep and the Irish theme, this could go far.







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. Dennis R. says:

    Tim Dorsey’s recurring character is named “Serge Storms” not “Storm Serge.”