Category Archives: Suspense/Thriller

Robin Weaver. Blue Ridge Fear. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Sienna Saunders forfeited her condo in Atlanta to a relocate to a ramshackle cabin in the woods with her self-absorbed cousin, Bethany Larkin. As one character puts it, Bethany is something of a “Blue Ridge Barbie,” always busy twisting two or three different guys around her pinky.  Moving wasn’t so much a choice as the only option left for Sienna though. After her relationship with her boss fizzled out and she lost her graphic design job, Sienna decided to start up her own company. Unfortunately for Sienna, her former boss was not pleased by her new venture or by the fact that Sienna managed to steal a few clients away. So he slapped Sienna with a lawsuit.

Broke, jobless, and soon to be homeless, when Sienna heard about her inheritance from her uncle, a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, she jumped at the opportunity. Even though that opportunity means living with Bethany for a year. According to the terms of the will, Bethany and Sienna must live together in the cabin for a full year. If either one moves then neither can claim their inheritance. Sienna and Bethany have never gotten along, and Sienna speculates that the pairing is one last attempt from her uncle to force them to bond. She doesn’t hold out much hope for the relationship. But she does need a place to stay.

On an ill-advised hiking trip, Bethany drops her purse into a river. Sienna nimbly climbs over the slippery river rocks to retrieve the bag. Before she reaches dry land, Bethany’s scream (an animal frightened her) surprises Sienna, and she slips and twists her ankle. While Bethany sets out for help, Sienna waits alone in the woods, with dripping wet clothes and a pounding ankle. A mysterious stranger appears and helps Sienna with her injury. She doesn’t trust him, yet she doesn’t have any alternatives with a useless ankle. He warns Sienna about a killer on the loose and the three women who have been found murdered around the area in the last three months. When Bethany returns with two park rangers, named Lars and Anton, the mysterious stranger disappears.

Once she is safely returned to the cabin, Sienna feels befuddled. Part of her longs to bump into the mysterious stranger again. She scolds herself for feeling so entranced by a complete stranger. After all, he might just be the killer. Soon after her accident however, he materializes. Sienna learns that the stranger’s name is Carson Addison, but that is just about the only information she can seem to weasel out of him. He advises her to return to Atlanta for her safety. Apparently, the killer targets blonde, blue-eyed women – women exactly like Sienna. Sienna wonders if Carson is toying with her, if she can trust him, and, most importantly whether she should leave now, before she becomes victim number four.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller, Weaver, Robin

Rebecca Lee Smith. A Dance to Die For. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Annabel Maitland is a dedicated ballet dancer. So dedicated that she chokes down handfuls of ibuprofen to numb her pounding hip for practices and performances.  Since Annabel is older than most of the other ballerinas (she’s 34), she strives to work twice as hard to compensate for her age. When the novel begins, she is dancing in an off-Broadway production called Moondance.  During one of the performances, Annabel and her friend, Quinn Wolcott, break into a stash of pain relievers to heavily medicate their aches and pains before the show. As Annabel waits for the ballet to begin, her head is spinning and she feels unsteady on her feet; she’s woozy rather than relaxed.

Despite concerned comments from the stage manager and her dance partner Byron, Annabel insists she is well enough to dance. Not long after the performance begins, Quinn experiences anaphylactic shock. The other dancers continue the piece, ignoring Quinn as she gasps for air. Annabel, the only dancer not callously concerned with maintaining a professional veneer, breaks formation and grabs Quinn just before she topples off the stage. Quinn falls on top of Annabel, seriously injuring Annabel’s weak hip. Quinn’s dying words are a cryptic jumble of names and a request to find her killer.

Two months later, Annabel departs New York and journeys to Asheville under the pretense of establishing and managing a dinner theater at the Sheffield Inn. Her dancing career is finished. Annabel’s age was enough of a detriment, but her wounded hip guarantees that she is permanently out of commission. She can teach for the Sheffield Inn, but it’s doubtful if she can dance for a professional company again. The worn-out mountain inn, a little ways outside of town, is in Annabel’s words, “a rundown, miniature version of Tara.” Annabel sought out the position to fulfill her promise to Quinn to investigate her murder. Quinn lived in nearby Black Mountain, but she was romantically linked to the owners of the inn, brothers Trent and Gil Sheffield. Gil was Quinn’s fiancé and Trent was Quinn’s former boyfriend.

Gil welcomes Annabel warmly and shows her around the inn. He sets her to work immediately on preparing the space with two carpenters. Midway through hanging lights, Trent interrupts the crew. Evidently he was out of town and not privy to Gil’s dinner theater plans. Trent fires Annabel on the spot. The brothers already have invested in repairs to restore the building so they, according to Trent, shouldn’t throw extra money toward a harebrained non-necessity that Gil cooked up. Trent is stable and orderly while Gil is impractical and affable. After some finagling, Gil and Annabel persuade Trent the dinner theater is a lucrative opportunity.

Trent is not convinced that he can trust Annabel and her connections to Quinn. But the show goes on and Annabel’s investigation continues. She doesn’t have to snoop around for long before she discovers that Quinn had plenty of enemies who are much happier now that she’s dead. Yet regardless of Quinn’s negative reputation, as the evidence stacks up Annabel starts to wonder if Quinn’s death was a mistake and if she was the original target all along. If her suspicions are right, then Annabel might be searching for her own killer.

Novelist Rebecca Lee Smith’s case is hard to crack until the final twist is revealed. Smith provides intrigue through the romance triangle backstory between Trent, Gil and Quinn. Her portrayal of the competitive New York dancing world feels believable in its heartlessness. A Dance to Die For is a mystery readers could easily lose themselves in for a few hours.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Mountains, Romance/Relationship, Smith, Rebecca Lee, Suspense/Thriller

Glen Hirshberg. Motherless Child. Northborough, MA: Earthling Publications, 2012.

Friends and recent mothers, Natalie and Sophie are enjoying a night out in Charlotte, drinking, listening to music, and meeting men. Natalie and Sophie seem like a typical pairing of opposites: where Natalie is coolly observant, Sophie is fun and free-spirited. At a bar, they meet a bizarre performer called the Whistler. The Whistler is fixated on Natalie. He first saw her, secretly, the night before working a shift at a Waffle House. After that brief encounter, the Whistler decided that Natalie is his “Destiny,” that she is bound to be his companion for eternity. So later that night, he turns both women into vampires. The next morning Natalie and Sophie awake in Natalie’s car, disoriented and not fully certain of the last night’s events. However, their ripped clothing and dried blood give them a good idea that things are not totally right.

Soon, Natalie and Sophie begin their inevitable transformation. Natalie recognizes the threat of the Whistler and his current companion, Mother. She asks her mother, Jess, to take her and Sophie’s children and to disappear. Natalie plans to go into hiding with Sophie. Sophie, though, is not keen on the idea of being separated from her child and she fights Natalie most of the way. But in short order Jess and the children and Natalie and Sophie flee their trailer park, Honeycomb Corner, heading in opposite directions with the Whistler and Mother at their heels. The Whistler is bent first on finding Natalie, and then, on finding the children to threaten Natalie into submission. Mother, meanwhile, is just bent on destruction.

Natalie and Sophie try to suppress the new hunger they feel growing inside of them that compels them to complete their transition. As they head further South, toward the alligator-filled swamps of Florida, both women long to reunite with their babies and return to their homes, ignoring their intuition that neither of them can go back to normal. Paths cross and characters collide in a thrilling final show down.

Motherless Child was published in limited release by Earthling Publications to celebrate Halloween. But the novel isn’t your standard vampire story. Hirshberg’s tale is an unusual amalgamation of one part buddy road-trip, one part action-fueled chase, and one part supernatural horror. In fact, the word “vampire” is hardly, if ever, uttered between the pages. Hirshberg taps into a few traditions, yet for the most part these are vampires quite unlike the broodier stock of recent pop culture. They use Twitter and they don’t have fangs–but they do delight in violence. These are vampires of a much more wicked constitution — one that would pale lovers of Twilight and related vampire romance.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Hirshberg, Glen, Horror, Mecklenburg, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller

F. C. Etier. The Tourist Killer. Hideaway, TX: Venture Galleries, 2012.

The Tourist KillerNow that she’s approaching retirement, Claudia Barry is reconsidering her career path. Even in her early sixties, Claudia remains in sharp shape, both of body and mind. A profession like Claudia’s demands that she stays ahead of all possible curves. Mistakes are not permissible. Morals need to be set aside. And a social life isn’t an option; the hours are long and the role requires a discreet personality. But the job pays well. The life of a professional assassin isn’t easy, that’s for sure.

This last kill is routine for Claudia. But she wonders if her professional legacy, 37 – going on 38 – kills, was worth the cost. Without her work, her self-styled isolation leaves her disconnected from the rest of the world. She wears and sheds different identities at the drop of a hat, but her own identity is stunted. She has no attachments, save two equally enigmatic men who drift in and out her life; one is a mysterious mentor of sorts and the other is a former FBI agent. Her sudden self-reflection forces Claudia to confront uncomfortable questions with unclear answers. When, or if, Claudia leaves her job, what is there for her to return home to after all these years?

First-time novelist F.C. Etier cultivates an intriguing character in Claudia. The book opens with a memorable and unusual scene: a female assassin observing her assigned prey, a female serial killer. Etier writes from a removed third-person perspective, zoomed out to capture a host of distinctive characters. Although his writing is thick with authenticating details, the story is told at a fast pace. This is an action-driven work with brisk chapters that never slow down. Interspersed between the chapters are seven brief non-sequential flashbacks that provide insight into Claudia’s past and explain the choices that led her into her line of work. These flashbacks emphasize Claudia’s irresolution as she approaches her final assignment.

Her target is Brian Farrell, the CEO of the ITTA Corporation, an amoebic conglomerate headquartered in London. Farrell is a quintessential power-hungry bad guy. Like many of Claudia’s targets, it isn’t difficult to want Farrell dead. Anyone that did take Farrell out would probably not suffer from a guilty conscience for long.  Meanwhile, Farrell, in his quest for expansion, is eager to eliminate his major opponent, Julian Thibaut. Thibaut is a self-made billionaire and charming Southern gentleman with a knack for sales and financial investments. Etier develops a subplot with Thibaut driven by conspiracies and social-political commentary on the One Percent.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Etier, F. C., Mountains, Suspense/Thriller

George Foster Leal. The Lost Colony of Roanoke. Saratoga Village, CA: Bedside Books, 2012.

As a young man, Don Robeson lived a life of action and danger.  For six years he was a Navy Seal and he honed his skills on some very dark missions during the Iraq War.  But in many ways Don’s character was set during his college years, when Professor Archibald Caulder turned him on to archaeology, and his roommate Johnny showed him how much he didn’t know about women.  Now, at thirty-five, Don is a professor at UNC, lecturing, writing papers, and looking forward to summers when he can be out in the field on a dig.

As this novel opens, Don has just received a phone call from Professor Caulder.  His mentor has been working at a dig site in Manteo, North Carolina.  Caulder has unearthed an old journal–so old that it may be from the Lost Colony.  Now that’s the kind of news that get Don in his car fastOver cognac, Don and Caulder examine the book. Could it be that this is really Ananias Dare’s journal? Caulder has not shown it to anyone working at his dig.  Instead he intrust the book to Don, asking him to get it authenticated–and to get away from Manteo.

Driving back to his beach house in Swan Quarter, Don wonders what to make of his old teacher–Is the book for real?  Is Caulder unnecessarily paranoid about the other researchers at the dig site?  Before the dawn breaks, both questions are answered.  As Don reads the journal, he sees the names one expects and observations and situations that ring true.  He falls asleep thinking about the year 1587, but he is abruptly awakened by a phone call from highway patrol telling him that Caulder has died in a house fire.  Before Don can process the news, two strange cars pull in and block his driveway. Don’s Seal training saves his life, as he slips out the backdoor before his house goes up in flames.

So begins this adventure tale.  Don Robeson will be on the run, barely one step of well-funded killers who want the journal.  He is aided in his adventure Caulder’s beautiful daughter, by his college buddy Johnny, and by a backwoods woman named Ginny Dare.  Not everyone is what they appear to be in a story that has several twist and turns.  History buff will enjoy the excerpts from the journal which reveal the challenges that the colonist faced–and their eventual fate.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Dare, Historical, Hyde, Leal, George Foster, Suspense/Thriller

Roland Smith. Kitty Hawk. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2012.

I, Q: Kitty Hawk*This blog post highlights the third book in an on-going series. Some of the information provided for context might contain spoilers for events that occurred in the previous two books.*

Quest “Q” Munoz and Angela Tucker are just your normal, everyday teenagers – with rock star parents and inside connections to Secret Service operations, of course. This is the third book in Smith’s action-packed I, Q series. The first two books, I, Q: Independence Hall and I, Q: The White House, were set in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. respectively. For this next installment, Smith selected the smaller, but still historic, town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. His series is aimed toward younger readers, but people of any age could find interest in Smith’s colorful cast of characters.

At the start of the series, Q’s mom, Blaze Munoz, married Angela’s dad, Roger Tucker. Angela’s mother, Malak Turner, a former Secret Service agent, is dead, and Q’s father, Peter “Speed” Paulsen, is a limelight-loving rock star. The happy couple formed a new band called Match and released a hit single, which prompted a nation-wide tour. Step-siblings Q and Angela are along for the ride, which has proven much bumpier and more suspenseful than expected. In the first book, they meet Tyrone Boone and his huge, slobbery dog, Croc. Boone, a roadie, is charged with looking after Q and Angela. But Boone is more than an old roadie; he’s a retired CIA agent with his an independent team of agents called SOS, or Some Old Spooks. And Boone has plenty of suspicions surrounding Angela’s mother’s death. Or supposed death…

By the third book, Q, Angela, Blaze, Roger, and the SOS group are in Washington, D.C. for a special concert at the White House. But a terrorist ghost cell has kidnapped President J.R. Culpepper’s daughter, Bethany; they plan to use her in a hostage video against the U.S. government. So Q, Angela, and the SOS team chase the terrorists down I-95 to rescue the president’s daughter. Unfortunately, there is a brutal hurricane headed right in their direction. SOS has help from a few other sources luckily, including Angela’s very alive mom, Malak, who is working to infiltrate the terrorist group. Yet Boone and Croc have some eerie talents and are pretty capable of taking care of themselves.

Smith sets a fast pace to the story. The book spans a single day with chapters segmented roughly into hour or two-hour blocks to keep the sense of urgency high. However, Smith cuts the tension with moments of humor, especially when Q’s father Speed shows up and almost derails the whole chase. With distractions like ostentatious rockers and violent hurricanes, Smith leaves his audience on the edge of their seats, turning page after page. Will Q, Angela, and the SOS team save Bethany in time? Or will the ghost cell succeed in their scheme?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Novels in Series, Smith, Roland, Suspense/Thriller

Sallie Bissell. Music of Ghosts. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2013.

Music of GhostsSallie Bissell has returned with another Mary Crow thriller. In this installment, Lisa Wilson, the college-aged daughter of a previous North Carolina governor is mutilated and murdered after she and a group of summer interns venture into the woods to spend the night in the fabled Fiddlesticks cabin. The cabin is known throughout Pisgah County for its grisly past. Fiddlesticks murdered his wife and the man he found her with and then played his fiddle over their bodies. Before her death, Lisa is lured by the sound of fiddle music.

Once news of the murder spreads, Sheriff Jerry Cochran puts his plans to propose to his girlfriend, reporter Ginger Malloy, on hold. Cochran tries to keep the sordid details hushed, yet predictably photos are leaked. The media, including his girlfriend Ginger, places Cochran in a difficult position. If that isn’t enough, the victim’s father, former Governor Wilson journeys to Pisgah County to bully Cochran personally into hunting down the killer–and fast.

Fingers point quickly to Nick Stratton, Lisa Wilson’s boss. He asks Mary to take his case, despite all the incriminating evidence against him. But Mary is torn. Since her boyfriend Jonathan Walkingstick’s daughter Lily has returned from a court-ordered visit with her maternal grandparents, she has seemed distrustful and confused. Then Jonathan receives notice that Lily’s maternal grandparents intend to fight him for custody. Amidst the murder, the media frenzy, and a custody battle about to gear up, Mary is overwhelmed. Although Jonathan has requested that Mary not take on any criminal cases, she wants to help Stratton.

Will she take the case? Is Stratton guilty, or is there still a killer roaming free in the forest? Bissell has crafted a story full of surprise twists and plenty of tension that will leave readers on baited breath.  Given the plot, readers will not be surprised that the novel contains scenes of violence and gore, and crude language.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Bissell, Sallie, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Suspense/Thriller

Lee Mims. Hiding Gladys. Woodbury, MN: Midnight Ink, 2013.

Cleo Cooper has just found the mother-load–literally. The largest deposit of granite ever discovered on the eastern seaboard is sitting quietly underneath a farmhouse on the Carolina coast, and Cleo is certain that it will both make her fortune and her reputation as a geologist. The property owner, an elderly woman named Gladys Walton, is thrilled as well, since she’ll be equally as wealthy. Unfortunately, Gladys’ two ne’er-do-well adult children, Robert Earle and Shirley, have their greedy little eyes set on wresting control from their still-capable mother. Tension builds when a body is found in the well on the property and a rival geologist gets wind of Cleo’s find. When Gladys has finally had enough, she goes into hiding, and sometimes not even Cleo can find her.

This might be for the best, as Cleo has enough to deal with– mystery attackers, rattlesnakes appearing mysteriously in her locked car, and two men vying for her attention. Luckily, Cleo can take care of herself, both in the back woods of Onslow County, and in fending off unwanted attention. But what if the real danger is from someone she doesn’t even suspect? This first novel in the Cleo Cooper mysteries is definitely rock solid entertainment.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Mims, Lee, Mystery, Novels in Series, Onslow, Piedmont, Suspense/Thriller, Wake

Donna Ball. Gun Shy. New York: Signet, 2007.

Book three in the Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries has all the elements that made the first two such great reads: murder, mystery, and of course, adorable dogs.

Every fall, the tourists flock to picturesque Hanover County in the mountains of North Carolina. They buy local crafts, hike on the trails, and generally annoy the locals. But one tourist has created more of a calamity than usual: Michelle White is found dead in the cabin she rented with her husband, presumably by her own hand. Her husband is nowhere to be found, and her hysterical dog (who has been trapped for days without food or water) won’t let the sheriff’s department retrieve her body. Luckily, the sheriff’s niece is Raine Stockton, whose whole life is devoted to training and understanding dogs. Raine calms the terrified yellow lab, expecting to find an ordinary family pet, but Hero (as she decides to call him) is something else entirely.

Michelle was partially paralyzed, and Hero was her service dog. Trained by an expert agency, Hero can fetch phones, turn on lights, and open doors. But why would Michelle White kill herself and leave her dog to fend for himself for four days? Most of all, how could she kill herself by holding the gun in her paralyzed right arm? Raine and her energetic golden retriever companion, Cisco, are soon on the trail of a murderer. But distractions get in the way–a bothersome new neighbor, her (sort of) ex-husband Buck, and Cisco himself, who likes nothing more than a bit of mayhem. Raine doesn’t see the danger until it’s right in front of her nose, and by then, it might be too late.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2007, Ball, Donna, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Suspense/Thriller

Donna Ball. Rapid Fire. New York: Signet, 2006.

As we open on the second book in the Raine Stockton dog mysteries, the titular heroine is happy enough– her kennel business is doing well, her dogs are happy, and her part-time job with the Forest Service in small Hansonville, North Carolina provides just enough extra cash to keep life comfortable. Even her relationship with her estranged husband, Deputy Buck Lawson, is going as well as can be expected. That is, until said husband shows up on her doorstep with an agent from the FBI. Since Buck is with the local Sheriff’s Department, the situation isn’t all that strange, but it quickly turns personal: the FBI is looking for Andy Fontana, and they think Raine knows his whereabouts.

Back in their college days, environmentally-conscious Andy used to be Buck’s best friend and Raine’s boyfriend. In fact, she almost married him instead of Buck, until he disappeared under the shadow of a terrible act of eco-terrorism that left several people dead. The FBI were never able to locate him, but now they think he might be returning to Hansonville. Raine never believed that Andy was guilty, but things start looking bad: a local construction worker turns up murdered, some bulldozers are vandalized, and Raine starts receiving what might be messages from her erstwhile beau. When a forest fire breaks out, it’s up to Raine and the one companion who has never abandoned her, the faithful golden retriever Cisco, to join the manhunt and finally find out the truth.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog

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Filed under Ball, Donna, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Suspense/Thriller