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June 8, 2023

3 Thrillers for Your Summer Reading

by MK French

Any time of year is a great time to read thrillers, but summer is the perfect time because you can stay up late turning the pages as fast as you can read them. If you are looking for a thriller to stay up late reading, check out my recommendations.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

My Daddy, the Serial Killer by Cindy Kovacik

book cover of thriller My Daddy the Serial Killer by Cindy Kovacik
October 2022; TouchPoint Press; 978-1956851564
ebook, print (259 pages); thriller

Katelyn Deason didn't realize how different her father was until she went down into the basement and saw the horror for herself.

This novella follows a serial killer's daughter but still references abuse, murder, and all kinds of violence. As a result, before we even get into the story itself, we have the trigger warnings and contact information for national hotlines. We see Katelyn's father in action from the start, but at six years old she doesn't understand what's going on. She thinks the woman is being punished, and she was already afraid of times when her father was mean. The reader will understand what's going on more than Katelyn does, so of course she won't be able to explain it to her peers or her teacher. Instead, she does whatever she can with her limited power to escape.

It's sad to see what Katelyn goes through over the course of the story. Of course, her father puts on a good face and lies to authorities so one suspects what he's really like. Her life is full of painful, torturous moments, and it's only desperation that makes her act. The transition to the ending is a little abrupt, and while it made sense I felt unsatisfied by it. I don't know if Katelyn is going to be able to return to the life she had built at the end of it. She's stronger than she thinks she is but reacts out of fear and anger at the very end. I do hope things turn out better for her, because she knows her sense of right and wrong was warped throughout her childhood, but was unable to fight back or get the appropriate help to escape sooner.

Retribution by Robert McCaw

book cover of thriller Retribution by Robert McCaw
June 2023; Oceanview Publishing; 978-1608095568
ebook, print (336 pages); thriller

Hilo Chief Detective Koa Kane investigates a young man's murder at a bar, and the weapon recovered has fingerprints that are a perfect match for Koa's younger brother Ikaika. As he tries to prove Ikaika's innocence, a sniper tries to take out Makanui, Koa's colleague. Is Koa the real target? If so, this is a ruthless adversary and he must risk everything to survive.

This is the fifth Koa Kane mystery, and I had previously reviewed Fire and Vengeance, Death of a Messenger, and Treachery Times Two. We know he committed a crime as a teen, and carried that guilt with him to become a police officer intent on doing right. He doesn't want his brother to be the bad guy, not when his mother only recently got him back, and when he was nowhere near the location. Koa is on a tight deadline, and willing to bend over backward for his family. That makes this novel work at a breakneck pace, so that the sniper attack just ramps up the tension even further. Now the clock is ticking for both of them, and he's also looking into a possible corruption angle; Koa pissed off very powerful people in prior books, and they have the money to make it a real possibility. He and Makanui aren't passive participants in the railroading, and it's great fun watching them flex their skills to get to the bottom of it all.

The investigation is fascinating, and seeing the threads come together is lots of fun for us the reader. Not so much for the characters involved, because they're pressed to give up information leading to the mastermind behind it all. We get a look at the way police work behind the scenes, how the DA's office will and won't work with them, and the politics at play as well. When everything falls together, it's a quick and rapid conclusion. Vengeance is had, but overall threats still remain for the future novels in this series.

Buy Retribution at Amazon

The Puzzle Master By Danielle Trussoni

book cover of thriller The Puzzle Master by Danielle Trussoni
June 2023; Random House; 978-0593595299
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); thriller

Mike Brink went from a football star to a puzzle constructor via a traumatic brain injury, but he feels isolated from other people. Jess Price is serving thirty years in prison for murder and hasn’t spoken since her arrest five years before. She draws a puzzle her psychiatrist thinks will explain her crime, so Brink is asked to solve it. This develops into an obsession with Price and the meaning of her silence. At the heart of it all is the God Puzzle, a cryptic ancient prayer circle created by the thirteenth-century Jewish mystic Abraham Abulafia. There may be more powerful forces at work than Brink realizes.

The reader is drawn into the mystery of it all just as Mike is. Jess drew him in with an incomplete cipher and a message that her former therapist was killed for what he knew. Then we see her diary from before the killing, and its layers of mysterious events and the creeping sense of something sinister; it doesn't help that there really is a group keeping watch over Jess in the prison besides the guards. Because she reached out for help, Mike's caught up in the mess. He is chased from the prison to locations nearby, and it comes down to the Puzzle Jess had seen at the house years ago.

The information in the book is fascinating. Mike sees symbols, numbers, and ciphers in a different way, which allows him to build the puzzles in the New York Times or in books. We get glimpses of the ciphers and mathematics from his point of view. We also learn about porcelain, golems, and dollmaking in the 1600s as well as Jewish mysticism. It's a religious conundrum at the heart of the prayer circle, a means of understanding the True Name and meaning of God, which can unlock the power of life and death. Add in the financial backing of secret groups, and it's a conspiracy sitting out in the open just waiting for a puzzle master with synaesthesia to help solve it. I love the layers within the story, how we find the physical mystery as well as the metaphysical, and it all comes together at the end. A fantastic and thinky book to curl up with in the evening. 

Buy The Puzzle Master 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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