Blogs: Thriller/Suspense

Nightfall cover image“I can’t tell you for certain. What I do know is that we do these things - and we have remained safe - so we keep doing them.”

As the sun fades away for its fourteen year hiatus, the residents of Bliss are frantic. Preparing their homes before leaving their island is an elaborate process guided by fear and myth. Houses are to be left “without stain”, all locks are removed from doors, and strict decor must be observed. The why behind such frenzy is unknown and not questioned.

  • Marin is a young girl who has only known Bliss as her home. She has many questions, but gets few answers. Her secret puts everyone at risk.
  • Kana is her twin brother. He's blind, but his vision improves as the darkness falls. As permanent night arrives his dreams have turned into horrific night terrors.
  • Line, an orphan, is preoccupied with the care of his young brother. He has a lot on his mind as they prepare, including Marin.

As the boats arrive and night overtakes the island, someone goes missing. The ships are leaving in four hours. The choice between safety from the unknown and friendship has never been more difficult or life changing under the looming threat of what lies in the darkness.

What happens next? Check out Nightfall!

Artist's drawing of D.B. Cooper.It was a hot day in Central Library. The air conditioner was busted, the doors were propped wide open, and, thanks to the latest forest fire out on the eastside, the air was about as smoky as the Virginia Cafe circa 1975. I thought about lighting up myself since it couldn’t make things much worse in here, but then I remembered that I quit smoking 20 years ago. Something bad was going to happen, I could feel it.

Mercifully, this is not the actual condition in the library at the moment! Everything is just fine. But if this scene appeals to you for some reason, maybe you should be reading more Portland crime fiction.

Did I leave something important off this list? Let me know!

I'm a sucker for stories that feature librarians. When I was a little kid, I turned my bookshelves into a library and made my sister and my stuffed animals check out books.The Book of Speculation bookjacket

Right now, I'm in the middle of Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation. The narrator, Simon Watson, is a librarian living alone in his deteriorating family house on a cliff on the Long Island Sound. One day, a mysterious book is delivered to his doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller. The ancient tome is a log written by the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700’s. Oddly enough, Simon’s grandmother’s name is written in it but more disturbingly, Simon learns that the women in his family tend to drown young on the same date in July. As he has a younger sister who might be in danger of succumbing to the same drowning fate, Simon needs to use his librarianly research skills to figure out what the story is before that July date rolls around again.

The narrative switches between the present and the past. In the present, Simon deals with the messiness and drama of his life and works towards solving the mysteries of his family's past. In the past, the mysterious book reveals its secrets.

Oh, and there are circus mermaids too.

His readers know suspense writer Andrew J. Rush as a successful mild-mannered author of high profile suspense mysteries and thrillers. His publisher is happy because Andrew’s books sell thousands of copies and he is in high demand as a speaker in bookstores across the U.S.  He has a beautiful house, a lovely submissive wife and is able to send his children to the best and most exclusive schools.  Enthusiastic reviewers hint that he may be compared to Stephen King, although Andrew himself can’t see it.  

But Andrew holds his cards close to his chest because on the side where it is dark and unkempt and cold, is the Jack of Spades.  The  books written by the Jack of Spades are cruel and twisted and violent.  They are so secret that even Andrew’s publisher doesn’t know his real name; he has a locked room in the basement where he writes his Jack of Spades books.

The manuscripts are unsigned and all the profits  go to a private bank account.  His family live in complete ignorance of these secrets.

Then two things happen:

First a woman accuses him of breaking into her house and stealing her ‘words’- ideas, sentences and whole paragraphs that appear in his published titles.

Second- his daughter accidently picks up and reads one of the books written by the Jack of Spades.  She is disgusted and horrified to find some events described there are taken from her own family.

As Andrew desperately tries to hang on to his ‘normal’ life he begins to hear a black, ugly voice buzzing in the back of his mind. ‘Do it, Do it Do it’.                                                                          Wondering who ends up holding all the aces? Read Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates



Her bookjacketThe 2015 books are starting to arrive and I zipped through my first psychological thriller of the new year. Harriet Lane’s Her sucked me right in with a deceptively ordinary story of two mothers (though if you prefer to read about parents who dote on their children, you'd best skip this book). What a fabulously entertaining, suspenseful, well-written book. The story centers on the build-up of revenge plotted by one of the characters towards the completely oblivious other.

Told in alternating chapters by the two main characters, the interplay of reality and perception is pretty chilling. It’s sort of The Bad Seed with middle aged women. Her is a story that builds from the misunderstandings and disappointments in our lives and the twist lies in the overlooking of those matters.

I’m ready to be pulled into more psychological suspense novels in the coming year; here are a few that I'm eagerly anticipating. I hope they turn out to be as unpredictable and surprising as Her.

string diaries coverEver wish you could be someone else?

Racing through a dark and stormy night with her daughter and bloodied husband, Hannah Wilde has strong opinions on that question. Their neverending search for refuge is fueled by more than the will to survive. Armed with a stack of diaries passed down through four generations and a few questionable allies, she must put an end to a century long pursuit or forever rest in peace.

The String Diaries is a  page turning, horror tinged thriller. It’s the intriguing tale of one man’s unsettling obsession with the unattainable. 

Check it out!



Whiskey Tango Foxtrot cover

Is that electrical tape on your webcam or are you happy to see me?

One of the more anticipated the books from my stackWhiskey Tango Foxtrotcenters around a too close for comfort techno-conspiracy. Strangers, drawn together by creative happenstance, are forced to make a choice with global implications. The future of information is in their hands.


Not into techno-thrillers? Me either, but think again. Shafer’s book is addictive for the plot curious and its ensemble of characters. They find themselves at unique, yet relatable, crossroads of their own making. Then again, maybe someone, something else is calling the shots. As the suspense builds and time to act disappears, there’s no going back .


Out of sight bookjacketParaphrasing the FantasticFiction website: "lovers of mayhem, suspense, and just plain wonderful writing" ...should hustle over to the Elmore Leonard shelf, grab anything and enjoy your waning vacation time. 

It's like that feeling you have when you're hungry but don't know what you want (it's always chicken). You want a good book but don't have a clue? Get Elmore. Check out his page on the FantasticFiction website for his oeuvre. The films adapted from his books indicate the range of his audience: Mr. Majestyk (with Charles Bronson); Out of Sight (George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez); and Killshot (Diane Lane,Mickey Rourke). From old guys to new girls, take your pick.
Be Cool book jacket
Leonard is the dean of dialogue, terse and tasty. So sit yourself down, put your feet up and immerse yourself in another world. Return to that place when time and forever were the same word. Try to remember when multitasking wasn't in the language. Then, Be Cool.


Cop Town cover"The good-ol-boy system was great so long as you were one of the boys." Karin Slaughter's Cop Town, my latest read, not only held my attention with its action-packed suspense, but also made me think about what it means to be a woman in today's society. 

If you've been following me since the inception of the My Librarian program, then you know that I love to read thrillers, mysteries, and police procedurals, the darker the better. Karin Slaughter has always been one of my go-to authors. Her Will Trent series is one of my favorites, and Beyond​ Reach, from her Grant County series, featuring doctor Sara Linton, contains one of the best, didn't-see-it-coming twists of an ending that I have ever read. Slaughter's latest has all of the elements of her previous books, a killer, a setting in deep south Georgia, quite a bit of violence (not for the faint of heart!), but it also speaks to the strides that women have made in the last 40 years in America.

Maggie Lawson and Kate Murphy are police officers in the almost all white, male-dominated Atlanta police force of 1974. They encounter resistance at every turn, from lewd remarks, to groping, to physical beatings in Maggie's case, all from their male colleagues (who are often drinking on the job). What makes their struggle even more poignant for me are their journeys outside of work, most notably Maggie's. She struggles to break free from her cop-infested, somewhat abusive family, but, as a woman in the south in 1974, she is unable to open a bank account, secure a car loan, or rent an apartment without her 'nearest living male's information'. When that nearest living male is her reviled uncle, and fellow officer, Maggie is seemingly out of luck.

In Cop Town, the struggle for women's rights is just as strong of a plot point as the search for the killer. Yes, this is a work of fiction, so some of the details may be exaggerated, but I can easily believe that life was like this for women in the south in 1974. Make no mistake - many of the characters in this book are appalling in their prejudice, even the females. But I highly recommend this book to you. It will not only take you on a suspenseful ride, but may just leave you appreciating what you have.



ThrillersA dark and stormy night. A toppled lamp with an outstretched hand lying on the floor by its base. A knock on the door when you are least expecting it. All of these elements can add to a great thriller. I have been reading thrillers for more years than I care to count. I devour them. I do branch out and read other types of books, but I am always drawn back to the thriller. As it says in my My Librarian profile, I like it when bad things happen, but I prefer them to stay on the page. Sometimes I wonder, why is that?

Perhaps spending my childhood reading through every Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden mystery sparked my interest. Aside from a brief foray into science fiction and vampire lit (a requirement for every teen, I've come to believe), I stuck with suspense. As I got older, the books only got darker, more intriguing, and, yes, sometimes a bit violent. I'm a pretty perky person by nature, and sometimes folks are surprised to hear that I most enjoy reading about terrible things happening to people. I just figure that I get to relieve all of my dark tendencies on the pages of my books, and that leaves room in my heart and my head to enjoy the life that surrounds me!

If you've never given thrillers a chance, might I be tempted to persuade you? If you like to become attached to a character, you are not alone. Series thrillers are abundant, and allow you, dear reader, to become involved with the often colorful cast of characters. Seeing as it is summertime, why not start a new series, preferably read by flashlight in your backyard tent late at night.



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