Fiction Review

Starting August with a Bang

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Four days in August; seven terrific virtual events. Just look at the schedule that kicks off the month. You can watch all these virtual events on The Poisoned Pen’s Facebook page. Plan for it now, and order copies of the authors’ books through the Web Store. They go fast. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Here are the authors that kick off the month.

Billingham / Slaughter
Taylor Moore/Don Bentley
Martin Walker
Glen Erik Hamilton
Megan Abbott
Johanna Mo
Karen Rose

Glen Erik Hamilton, Back to Seattle

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Seattle is home to Glen Erik Hamilton’s Van Shaw, “a semi-reformed professional thief”, and lead character in his award-winning crime novels, including the latest, Island of Thieves. Hamilton recently moved back to Seattle, after an absence of over fifteen years. He discusses the city in a recent article for http://CrimeReads.com. The article is called, “Rain City Rediscovered: Why Crime Novelists Are Drawn to Seattle”. You can find it here, https://bit.ly/3j0zFAz.

Hamilton is guest author for a Poisoned Pen virtual event on Tuesday, August 3 at 6 PM PDT, 9 PM EDT. You can watch it on Poisoned Pen’s Facebook page. You can also order a signed copy of Island of Thieves, and copies of Hamilton’s other books, through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2Tt8Afd

Here’s the summary of Island of Thieves.

“Hamilton has never been better.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

When a new security gig turns into a setup, expert thief Van Shaw finds himself the prey in a cross-country pursuit—in this electrifying sixth novel in Glen Erik Hamilton’s pulse-pounding and emotionally resonant thriller series.

Van Shaw is hired to evaluate the safeguards for the art collection of eccentric business magnate Sebastien Rohner. Then Rohner reveals to Van the real reason he’s been recruited: to prevent another professional burglar from stealing the art. Rohner wants to set a thief to catch a thief.

While questioning the bizarre nature of the job, Van accepts the lucrative offer and arrives at the island estate during an international summit that Rohner is hosting. Shortly after beginning his surveillance of Rohner’s highly secure gallery wing, Van stumbles across the murdered body of one of the honored guests along the rocky shore. Wary of Rohner’s true intentions, Van knows the homicide detectives on the case—and perhaps Rohner as well—believe he’s the prime suspect and will turn his life upside down in their search for proof.

Van begins to hunt for the murderer himself, but scrutiny only digs his hole deeper, as one of Rohner’s own executives is also killed and the Seattle police find concrete evidence placing Van at the scene. With no other options, he goes on the run, alone and unaided. He’s hunted by the cops, the enraged Rohner, and by a pair of psychopathic hitmen who chase Van from one coast to the next. To clear his name, Van Shaw will have to uncover the hidden motive of corporate espionage at a global level, even with a band of killers on his tail, determined to add Van to their growing list of victims.


A native of Seattle, GLEN ERIK HAMILTON was raised aboard a sailboat and grew up around the marinas and commercial docks and islands of the Pacific Northwest. His novels have won the Anthony, Macavity, and Strand Critics awards, and have been nominated for the Edgar, Barry, and Nero awards. After living for many years in Southern California, he and his family have recently returned to the Emerald City and its beautiful overcast skies.

Chet and Bernie, the PI Duo

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Peter Abrahams, aka Spencer Quinn, is the author of eleven Chet and Bernie PI novels. Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, hosted him for a discussion of his latest book, Tender is the Bite. Abrahams discusses that partnership, that Bernie is the PI, and, as in other partnerships, the sidekick is the narrator. If you’re not familiar with the series, Chet is the narrator, but he’s not a talking dog. You’ll want to watch the video to hear the author talk about Chet. Signed copies of Tender is the Bite are available through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3rEKdJm

Here is the description of Tender is the Bite.

THE INSTANT USA TODAY BESTSELLER

Spencer Quinn’s Tender Is the Bite is a brand new adventure in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling series that Stephen King calls “without a doubt the most original mystery series currently available.”

Chet and Bernie are contacted by a terribly scared young woman who seems to want their help. Before she can even tell them her name, she flees in panic. But in that brief meeting Chet sniffs out an important secret about her, a secret at the heart of the mystery he and Bernie set out to solve.

It’s a case with no client and no crime and yet great danger, with the duo facing a powerful politician who has a lot to lose. Their only hope lies with a ferret named Griffie who adores Bernie. Is there room for a ferret in the Chet and Bernie relationship? That’s the challenge Chet faces, the biggest of his career. Hanging in the balance are the lives of two mistreated young women and the future of the whole state.


Spencer Quinn is the pen name for Peter Abrahams, the Edgar-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling Bowser and Birdie series for middle-grade readers. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife Diana and dog Pearl.


Here’s the conversation about the Chet and Bernie books.

“Of Mice and Men with Vampires”

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That phrase is Richard Lange’s elevator pitch for his latest novel, Rovers. Maybe you missed yesterday’s virtual event with Lange. You can still find out about his book in his article for CrimeReads, “How a Crime Writer Found the Inspiration to Write a Vampire Revenge Thriller Set in the 1970s Southwest.” You can find the article here, https://bit.ly/3l3oM3y. You can find signed copies of Rovers in the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3f2Ysmp

Here’s a description that’s a little more in-depth than the elevator pitch.

Two immortal brothers crisscross the American Southwest to elude a murderous biker gang and protect a young woman in this “utter triumph and delight” from award-winning author Richard Lange (Jonathan Ames, author of A Man Named Doll)

Summer, 1976. Jesse and his brother, Edgar, are on the road in search of victims. They’re rovers, nearly indestructible nocturnal beings who must consume human blood in order to survive. For seventy years they’ve lurked on the fringes of society, roaming from town to town, dingy motel to dingy motel, stalking the transients, addicts, and prostitutes they feed on.

This hard-boiled supernatural hell ride kicks off when the brothers encounter a young woman who disrupts their grim routine, forcing Jesse to confront his past and plunging his present into deadly chaos as he finds himself scrambling to save her life. The story plays out through the eyes of the brothers, a grieving father searching for his son’s murderer, and a violent gang of rover bikers, coming to a shattering conclusion in Las Vegas on the eve of America’s Bicentennial.

Gripping, relentless, and ferocious, Rovers demonstrates once again why Richard Lange has been hailed as an “expert writer, his prose exact, his narrative tightly controlled” (Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times).


Richard Lange is the author of the story collections Dead Boys and Sweet Nothing and the novels This Wicked World, Angel Baby, and The Smack. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the International Association of Crime Writers’ Hammett Prize, a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Award, and the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Los Angeles.

Book Launch for Brad Thor’s Black Ice

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The Poisoned Pen hosted Brad Thor for the book launch of his twentieth Scot Harvath thriller, Black Ice. I can’t promise there are still signed copies available, but you can order books through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3ha63On

Here’s the description of Black Ice.

Black Ice is another instant classic from Brad Thor, who continues to push the envelope in ways that few before him have ever dared.” —The Real Book Spy

The new Cold War is about to go hot.

#1 New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Brad Thor is back with his most intense thriller yet.

Scot Harvath is having his best summer ever. With a cottage on the fjord, a boat, and his beautiful girlfriend Sølvi, he’s got everything he could possibly want. But out of vacation days and long overdue back home, America’s top spy has a decision to make—return, or submit his resignation.

When his deadly past comes calling, though, he’ll be left with no choice at all.

Leaving his favorite Oslo café, Harvath watches as a ghost climbs out of a taxi—a man he killed years ago, halfway around the world. How is he still alive? And what is he doing in Norway?

In a race against time that will take him high above the Arctic Circle, Harvath is tested in ways he has never imagined and pushed to a limit few human beings could ever endure.

If he succeeds, he’ll walk away with everything. If he fails, the United States and its allies will be at the mercy of one of the world’s most dangerous actors.


Brad Thor is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one thrillers, including Near Dark (one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Books of the Year), Backlash (nominated for the Barry Award for Best Thriller of the Year), Spymaster (“One of the all-time best thriller novels” —The Washington Times), The Last Patriot (nominated Best Thriller of the Year by the International Thriller Writers association), and Blowback (one of the “Top 100 Killer Thrillers of All Time” —NPR). Visit his website at BradThor.com and follow him on Facebook at Facebook.com/BradThorOfficial and on Twitter @BradThor.


Enjoy the book launch with Brad Thor and Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen.

Owen Matthews in Conversation

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For a recent virtual event, Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, introduced Owen Matthews, author of Red Traitor. Alma Katsu, author of Red Widow, was the guest host for the event. Books by both authors can be found in the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Here’s the description of Red Traitor, the sequel to Black Sun.

An electrifying new thriller set during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, seen from a bone-chilling vantage point: somewhere off the Florida coastline, trapped aboard the claustrophobic confines of an isolated Soviet submarine with open orders to fire its nuclear payload.

The year is 1962, and KGB Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vasin is chasing a white elephant: the long-rumored existence of an American spy embedded at the highest echelon of Soviet power. In a wild-goose chase that has Vasin engaged in high-stakes espionage against a rival State agency, he first hears whispers of an ominous top-secret undertaking: Operation Anadyr.

As tensions flare between Nikita Khrushchev and President Kennedy over Russian missiles hidden in Cuba, four Soviet submarines are ordered to make a covert run at the American blockade in the Caribbean–each sub carrying tactical ballistic missiles armed with thermonuclear warheads.

Critically acclaimed novelist Owen Matthews has crafted an incredibly taut thriller around one of the most treacherous moments in modern history, where the fate of the world rested on the itchy trigger finger of one lone Soviet naval officer, 100-meters under the sea, out of all contact with his commanders.


OWEN MATTHEWS reported on conflicts in Bosnia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, and Ukraine, and was Newsweek‘s bureau chief in Moscow. He is the author of Black Sun (2019), the first book in the series of political thrillers featuring KGB major Alexander Vasin, and is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Stalin’s ChildrenGlorious Misadventures, and An Impeccable Sky.


Enjoy the conversation.

Meet Debut Author Connor Sullivan

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Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen recently hosted debut author Connor Sullivan for a discussion of his thriller Sleeping Bear. It’s also a fascinating conversation of how he came to writing. Sullivan’s father, author Mark Sullivan, joins the conversation to discuss the book and more. You can order signed copies of Sleeping Bear through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3x0JOSP

Here’s the summary of Sleeping Bear.

Sleeping Bear is one of the very best thrillers you’ll read this year. It’s one of those rare novels that keeps getting better and better and better. Remember the author’s name—Connor Sullivan.” —James Patterson

Perfect for fans of Brad Thor and Vince Flynn, this white-knuckled debut thriller follows a former Army veteran seeking solitude in the Alaskan wilderness after her husband’s death—only to find herself a pawn in a deadly game with Russia.

After her young husband’s untimely death, Army veteran Cassie Gale decides to take a few days of solitude in the Alaska wilderness before she starts her new job. But when she fails to show up on her first day and her dog is discovered injured at her wrecked campsite, her father knows that this is much more than a camping trip gone awry.

As it turns out, Cassie’s not the first person to disappear without a trace in Alaska’s northern interior. Bears. Wolves. Avalanches. Frostbite. Starvation. There are many ways to die in here. But not all disappearances can be explained. Cassie’s is one of them, along with a number of other outdoor enthusiasts who have vanished in recent years.

Regaining consciousness in a Russian prison, Cassie finds herself trapped in a system designed to ensure that no one ever escapes alive. It will require all her grit and skills to survive. Meanwhile, her father rushes to outrun the clock, scouring thousands of acres, only to realize she’s been taken by a far more nefarious adversary—one with the power of the Eastern Bloc behind it. Ties to his past life, one full of secrets, threaten to surface. He knows there’s a price to be paid, but he’s determined it won’t be his daughter.


Connor Sullivan attended the University of Southern California, where he was the recipient of the Edward W. Moses Award for Creative Writing. During college, he worked for Warner Brothers reading screenplays before relocating with his family to the Gallatin Valley in Montana. His first novel is Sleeping Bear. Visit his website at ConnorSullivanAuthor.com. 


Meet the debut author, Connor Sullivan.

A Front Porch Chat from Oxford, Mississippi

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While Patrick Millikin was still at The Poisoned Pen in Arizona, he took viewers to Oxford, Mississippi to visit with authors Ace Atkins and Chris Offutt.They spent time talking about the town and other resident authors, so it seemed appropriate to talk about the location. Atkins’ latest book, The Heathens, is available through the Web Store, along with signed copies of Offutt’s The Killing Hills. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Here’s the description of The Heathens.

Sheriff Quinn Colson and his former deputy Lillie Virgil find themselves on opposite sides of a case for the first time after a woman is found dead and three delinquent teens go on the run.

Before he was an Army Ranger who came home to become Tibbehah County Sheriff and take down a corrupt system, Quinn Colson was a kid who got into trouble–a lot of it. So when juvenile delinquent TJ Byrd insists that she doesn’t know who killed her mother—an unreliable addict who has disappeared—Quinn’s inclined to believe her. But no one else does–not the town, not the sheriff in a neighboring county, not her mother’s older boyfriend, and certainly not Quinn’s friend and former deputy, U.S. Marshal Lillie Virgil.

The Byrd family has always been trouble, and sixteen-year-old TJ is known for petty theft, fighting, and general hellraising. She’s also no fool, and when she senses she’s about to take the fall for her mother’s murder, TJ, her boyfriend, her best friend, and her nine-year-old brother go on the run. As Lillie Virgil tracks the kids across a trail of burglaries, stolen cars and even a kidnapping, intent on bringing TJ to justice, Quinn sets out to find the truth back in Tibbehah. Someone has gone to a lot of violent trouble to make TJ and her friends the logical target of the investigation. It’s easy, and who cares about a bunch of lawless kids?

As the bloody evidence against TJ piles up, Quinn knows someone truly evil is at work here–and that puts TJ and her friends in more danger than they can imagine.


Ace Atkins is the author of twenty-eight books, including eleven Quinn Colson novels, the first two of which, The Ranger and The Lost Ones, were nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (he has a third Edgar nomination for his short story “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”). He is the author of nine New York Times-bestselling novels in the continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Before turning to fiction, he was a correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times and a crime reporter for the Tampa Tribune, and he played defensive end for Auburn University football.


The Killing Hills is summarized here.

A literary master across genres, award-winning author Chris Offutt’s latest novel,The Killing Hills, is a compelling, propulsive thriller in which a suspicious death exposes the loyalties and rivalries of a deep-rooted and fiercely private community in the Kentucky backwoods.

Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, is home on a leave that is almost done. His wife is about to give birth, but they aren’t getting along. His sister, newly risen to sheriff, has just landed her first murder case, and local politicians are pushing for city police or the FBI to take the case. Are they convinced she can’t handle it, or is there something else at work? She calls on Mick who, with his homicide investigation experience and familiarity with the terrain, is well-suited to staying under the radar. As he delves into the investigation, he dodges his commanding officer’s increasingly urgent calls while attempting to head off further murders. And he needs to talk to his wife.

The Killing Hills is a novel of betrayal—sexual, personal, within and between the clans that populate the hollers—and the way it so often shades into violence. Chris Offutt has delivered a dark, witty, and absolutely compelling novel of murder and honor, with an investigator-hero unlike any in fiction.


CHRIS OFFUTT is also the author of novelsCountry Dark andThe Good Brother, the short-story collectionsKentucky Straight andOut of the Woods, and three memoirs:The Same River Twice,No Heroes, andMy Father, the Pornographer. His work has appeared inBest American Short Stories andBest American Essays, among many other places. He has written screenplays forWeeds,True Blood, andTreme, and has received fellowships from the Lannan and Guggenheim foundations. He lives in rural Lafayette County near Oxford, Mississippi.


Enjoy this front porch conversation.

Trust & Suspense with Liv Constantine & Kate White

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Liv Constantine and Kate White shared a virtual event at The Poisoned Pen, hosted by Barbara Peters, the owner of the bookstore. Sisters Valerie and Lynne Constantine write under the name Liv Constantine. Their latest book is The Stranger in the Mirror. Kate White’s latest book is The Fiancee. There are issues of trust in both suspense novels. You can find copies of both books in the Web Store. https://store.poisonedpen.com/

Here is the summary of The Stranger in the Mirror.

A diabolically twisty, psychologically unsettling novel about a woman with no recollection of her past from the authors of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick The Last Mrs. Parrish and The Wife Stalker.

“Jaw-dropping twists with an unsettling edge that you’ll need a few days at the beach to recover.” —Reese’s Book Club

Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she? 

As these two lives intersect, The Stranger in the Mirror hooks readers with riveting drama, told with Liv Constantine’s hallmark blend of glamour, tense psychological thrills, and jaw-dropping twists.


Liv Constantine is the pen name of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Together, they are the bestselling author of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick The Last Mrs. Parrish, The Last Time I Saw You, The Wife Stalker, and The Stranger in the Mirror. Their books have been praised by USA Today, The Sunday Times, People Magazine, and Good Morning America, among many others. Lynne and Valerie are national and international bestselling authors and their books have been translated into 27 languages, are available in 32 countries and are in development for television and film.  Lynne lives in Milford, Connecticut; Valerie in Annapolis, Maryland.


Here’s the description of The Fiancee.

“A tense, simmering, fast-paced mystery.”—Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest and The Girl from Widow Hills

The New York Times bestselling author returns with an unsettling but riveting psychological thriller about a captivating woman who joins a family and threatens to upend their picture-perfect lives. 

They had everything they needed for a perfect family vacation: close-knit relatives, a bucolic setting . . . and a murderer in their midst?

Summer’s looking forward to a break from hustling for acting work in Manhattan when she, her husband Gabe, and Gabe’s nine-year-old son arrive at the annual family get-together at her in-laws’ sprawling estate. On the agenda are leisurely gourmet meals, tennis matches, and plenty of relaxation by the pool.

But this year, Gabe’s brother Nick has invited his new flame Hannah, whom Summer immediately recognizes from a few years before. Oddly, her brother-in-law’s girlfriend claims not to know her. Yet she charms the other family members, and after Nick announces that he’s proposed to Hannah, Summer doesn’t have much choice but to grin and bear it.

Then the reunion is rocked by tragedy when a family member is found dead. Though the doctors attribute the loss to natural causes, a grieving Summer fears that the too-good-to-be-true Hannah is involved, even as Gabe dismisses her suspicions.

How far will Summer go to expose the truth? As she investigates just what Nick’s fiancée might have done to keep her perfect image intact, she begins to fear that the first death might only be the beginning . . .


Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of eight standalone psychological thrillers, including Have You Seen Me? (2020) and the upcoming The Fiancée (June 2021), as well as eight Bailey Weggins mysteries, including Such a Perfect Wife, which was nominated for an International Thriller Writers Award. Kate, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, is also the author of several popular career books for women, including I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve and Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead, as well the editor of the Anthony and Agatha Award-nominated The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. 


Enjoy the conversation about these books.

Hot Book of the Week – S.A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears

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S.A. Cosby, author of The Poisoned Pen’s current Hot Book of the Week, Razorblade Tears, is the guest author on Thursday, July 22. He’ll be appearing for a virtual event at 6 PM MDT, 9 PM EDT. Check the bookstore’s Facebook page for the event. https://www.facebook.com/thepoisonedpenbookstore Cosby’s previous novel, Blacktop Wasteland, just won the Thriller Award for Best Novel from the International Thriller Writers. You can order copies of both books, including a signed copy of Razorblade Tears, through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/3isoNLv

Here’s the summary of Razorblade Tears.

*INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER*

“Provocative, violent — beautiful and moving, too.” —Washington Post

“Superb…Cuts right to the heart of the most important questions of our times.” —Michael Connelly

“A tour de force – poignant, action-packed, and profound.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed of his father’s criminal record. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

“A visceral full-body experience, a sharp jolt to the heart, and a treat for the senses…Cosby’s moody southern thriller marries the skillful action and plotting of Lee Child with the atmosphere and insight of Attica Locke.” —NPR


S. A. Cosby is an Anthony Award-winning writer from southeastern Virginia. His the bestselling author of Blacktop Wasteland, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist, as well as Brotherhood of the Blade and My Darkest Prayer. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.