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May 25, 2020

4 Thrillers for Summer Chills

by MK French

Thrillers come in all different styles but they all have one goal - to make your pulse race. On this list of thrillers, there are a couple of ghost thrillers that would be great for a summer camp out read. The other two, a domestic thriller and a romantic thriller, will be a great addition to your beach bag.

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House of the Shrieking Woman by Steven Ramirez

House of the Shrieking Woman
February 2020; Glass Highway; 978-1949108064
ebook, print (384 pages); ghost thriller
Sarah Greene agrees to investigate disturbing incidents at a women’s shelter that begin after a young Guatemalan woman with a history of domestic abuse arrives. The incidents seem to suggest a demonic force that Sarah suspects is connected to The Darkness, a powerful evil infesting Dos Santos.

House of the Shrieking Woman takes place three months after the first novel, so Sarah is traumatized and dealing with the physical and psychological effects of what had happened. If you haven’t read the first novel, it’s alluded to in the sense that Sarah can see spirits, almost died, and was seriously injured. Others were involved, as well as a hidden room and a cursed object, and all of them are dealing with the trauma in their own way. Some of it is outlined, enough that you can hit the ground running with this one. I like that the trauma is realistically dealt with, that Sarah is in therapy, and is dealing with the fallout. A lot of series have the main character bounce from one event to the other as if nothing happened, and charge right in when something weird and creepy happens. Here, Sarah is cautious and knows that there is danger. It makes her more realistic to me.

Much like in the first book, we have an investigation into the past to explain what might be happening in the present. Charlie and a nun explore Guatemala to figure out what happened to Ana before she emigrated to the United States, and Sarah tries to explore the possible explanations for the dark spirits and self-mutilation in the shelter. As the novel progresses, the mystery deepens and we find out more details that point to demonic possession and malevolent spirits. There is a quiet menace, which becomes more and more creepy over time. It reminds me of movies that involve demonic possession and exorcisms, with the rising tension as everyone gets drawn into it and you fear for who is going to be next. This is especially true in the final third of the book, when things progress rapidly.

The book doesn’t end quite cleanly, in the sense that there are still unanswered questions at the end of it. There’s hope for Sarah and Carter, but far too many questions about The Darkness, the other spirits encountered over the course of the book, and what the overarching plotline is going to be with the series. Hopefully for the reader, future novels will answer them.

Buy House of the Shrieking Woman at Amazon

Her Last Secret by P. L. Kane

Her Last Secret
March 2020; HQ Digital; 978-0008372224
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); domestic thriller
After Jordan's murder, her estranged father Jake returns to their hometown. He meets with his ex-wife Jules, his high school friend Matt and the other denizens of the town as he tries to piece together her life prior to the murder. As he does, he finds out more about Jordan's life and uncovers secrets he never thought he would find.

The book progresses slowly as Jake meets with Jules, her new husband, Matt, Jordan's friends, etc. He's reckless and sometimes seems to have no sense of danger as he moves through the book, picking fights and ignoring warnings that he's given. I understand that he's grieving, and following Jake around town sometimes feels like watching a car wreck. I can't stop reading even though I know things can't end well for him, mostly because I felt sorry for him. He'd lost so much, and the memories of his early days with his daughter have such a poignant note to them. There are actually multiple reveals over the second half of the novel, until we get to the final one. I really enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first, especially when the pace picked up.

Buy Her Last Secret at Amazon

The Final Deception by Heather Graham

The Final Deception
March 2020; MIRA; 978-0778309437
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); romantic thriller
Criminal psychologist Kieran Finnegan was relieved when she no longer had to evaluate the brutal serial killer known as The Fireman. Her FBI agent boyfriend Craig is called to a gruesome crime scene that matches The Fireman’s MO soon after, then it's apparent that he escaped. Kieran and Craig need to find him, and the search takes them too close to home.

The Final Deception is book five of the New York Confidential series, but each volume is pretty much standalone. There isn't any need to have read the prior novels in this series, since it explains the role Kieran, her family members and Craig plays in the beginning. The Fireman is of a religious bent, sure that his work was holy because he was killing witches, not people. As a forensic psychologist, Kieran has to determine his state of mind at the time of the killings, because of course his lawyer wants him in a locked forensic psychiatric unit for the criminally insane. It doesn't matter, because he escaped from Riker's Island the next day and there was another body to investigate.

I really enjoy the relationships between the Finnegan siblings, as well as the romantic relationship between Kieran and Craig. They have solid partnerships with their colleagues as well, so that they can seamlessly discuss each new piece of evidence as it's found, including a dog that had been at the scene of the last murder. The investigation progresses throughout the rest of the novel, and Kieran is in the middle of it far more than the average forensic psychologist would be. Part of that is because the killer thinks she's a good person, partly because she has an idea of how he thinks. There are certainly red herrings along the way to keep you guessing until the end, just like all of Heather Graham's other romantic thrillers. This is another great entry in her bibliography.

Buy The Final Deception at Amazon

Eden by Tim Lebbon

April 2020; Titan Books; 978-1789092936
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); ghost thriller
With ecological damage to the Earth and considerable damage to multiple species of life, thirteen zones were set aside as off-limits to people so that nature could recover. Dylan and his daughter Jenn are leading a team of adventure seekers into Eden, the oldest of the zones. Jenn's mother had snuck in earlier, and Jenn hopes to find her. But nature has truly taken over Eden, and it's not necessarily friendly to humanity any longer.

Dylan and Jenn are part of a team of seven adventure runners, people that deliberately traverse difficult terrain in the fastest amount of time possible. There's a whole community that does this, as well as the fixers that get them to the virgin zones where nature was left untouched for decades. Eden is a wild place, where even the team's fixer is frightened of it and has nightmares from the one trip she made into it. It makes sense that there would be people who do this for fun because it's the temptation of something unknown and the bragging rights of being the first to cross it.

It's rough for the team to cross into Eden, but that's the least of their problems. There's an overwhelming creepy air in Eden, and there are signs of prior violence in the area that hadn't been erased. While fifty years is a long time for nature to overrun human imprints on the land, there is the sense of Other with every step they take further into the zone. It's a tension that keeps ramping up with every page, especially when bodies are found in impossible conditions, animals don't behave normally, and there are chapters with an alien consciousness hunting the people. The tension keeps ratcheting up, with more and more happening in the final third of the novel. It's a vague supernatural element, with the pacing of a thriller or horror novel. It's an emotional crash with the very end, but one that is satisfying and cathartic at once.

Buy Eden at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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