LJ Best Books 2017

It's time again for LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry and literature, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles.   SEE WHO MADE THE LIST

Troubled Vets | Fiction Reviews

redstarChild, Lee. The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel. Delacorte. Nov. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780399593482. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780399593499. F

In Child’s latest Jack Reacher book (after Night School), his protagonist rambles into a Wisconsin pawnshop and notices a woman’s 2005 West Point graduation ring. Knowing the effort a female cadet needed to earn the ring, he wonders: What motivated her to sell it? Reacher buys the ring, and after reading the initials inscribed inside, sets out to find his fellow alum. He quickly learns her name, Rose Sanderson; however, understanding her accomplishments requires more time. Along the way to the Wyoming wilderness and with the assistance of a former FBI agent and Rose’s sister, he encounters musclemen, swindlers, bikers, and crooked cops who control a vast, illegal drug enterprise protecting opioid dealers and abusers as well as vets. Reacher also learns about the pains, sorrows, and fears Sanderson internalized while on duty in Iran and Afghanistan—and the residual effects she manages back home. Child places the present opioid crisis in context, which may help readers better understand drug use, especially among vets. VERDICT Child does a stellar job this time by not following his customary formula; his usually stoic hero who rarely displays softness and compassion is hit hard emotionally by this case. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/17.]—Jerry P. Miller. Cambridge, MA

Graham, Heather & Chad Michael Murray. American Drifter. Forge. Nov. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780765374875. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466843455. F

Suffering from nightmares induced by post-traumatic stress disorder, army veteran River Roulet flees the States and escapes to Brazil, where he lives on very little, makes some good friends, and meets a mysterious woman named Natal. She’s adventurous and beautiful, and River quickly becomes obsessed. He doesn’t care where she’s from or who she really is; being together is all that matters, and he’s determined to overcome the many obstacles, including the drug lord who is Natal’s lover, to make that happen. Best-selling author Graham and TV star Murray (making his fiction debut) have teamed up to pen a haunting page-turning tale about a broken man. Readers will need to savor slowly to absorb every clue as the dreamlike, slightly disjointed plotline leads to a doozy “aha” that makes the journey worthwhile. The likable, eclectic characters are well drawn; the authors also succeed in capturing the vibrant landscape and culture of Brazil. But it’s the tragedy of PTSD that dominates the narrative. VERDICT This thriller will appeal to readers who love complex story lines, untidy, gritty psychological mysteries, and clever, complicated protagonists. Members of Murray’s fan club will also definitely be curious.— Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City–Cty. Lib. Dist., St Peters, MO

Petrie, Nick. Light It Up. Putnam. Jan. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780399575631. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399575648. F

Peter Ash, an ex-Marine battling PTSD claustrophobia, responds to a friend’s request for short-term help in Denver’s booming marijuana business. As part of a four-man security team transporting cash to a secret storage site, he ends up killing four people and being the sole survivor of a hijacking gone badly awry. Soon he is the target of the mysterious Big Dog and a conspiracy involving a ruthless billionaire who hires others to get his way—including murder. Coming to help are Ash’s girlfriend June and gangster friend Louis. After June is kidnapped and Louis is shot, Ash heads to a confrontation in a blizzard, in which he has only himself to rely on. Like Robert Parker’s Spenser, Ash is a self-contained, unstoppable force with very useful friends. Vividly troubled yet likable, he intrigues the reader even while managing to save a little part of his world—again. VERDICT The action in this third outing (after Burning Bright) is nonstop; the drug scene is timely; the characters, including the villains, are deftly drawn, and the tension keeps rising. [See Prepub Alert, 7/24/17.]—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

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