Jar of Hearts isn’t for the faint-hearted

jar of hearts

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur Books, St. Martin’s Press, June 2018) is a cautionary tale about the consequences of lying. Lying to others, and lying to oneself. Sometimes lies will come back to haunt you. Sometimes they bite you in the butt when you least expect it.

Geo calls it Karma.

Georgina Shaw, Kaiser Brody, and Angela Wong are best friends. They’re normal sixteen-year-olds until they encounter Calvin James. Cal’s a 21-year-old bad boy who smokes cigarettes, chews cinnamon hearts, and hangs around local convenience store parking lots to sell drugs. Geo is naturally flattered when Cal pays her more attention than he pays Ang. There’s something about him that’s exciting and compelling.

And definitely dangerous.

She can’t help but fall in love with him. He knows exactly how and where to touch her to turn her on, and he never takes no for an answer. Suddenly, Calvin James is all she can think about.

Geo ignores her friends, ignores her schoolwork, even ignores cheerleading practice. Ang and Kai try to talk sense into her, but she can’t see the forest for he trees. She loves Calvin, and nothing else matters.

Fourteen years later, Kaiser Brody is the detective who arrests Calvin James, the Sweetbay Strangler. Kaiser also arrests Georgina Shaw as an accomplice to the murder and dismemberment of Angela Wong. Geo goes to prison for five years. Calvin goes to prison for life, but he escapes.

That’s just the backstory. The real story begins when Geo pleads guilty and goes to prison.

This story is about love and death and human relationships and compulsion and heartaches and heartbreaks and the mistakes we all make as we live and learn. It’s a hard-hitting look at the raw emotions that drive human behavior. It’s also about survival and what we all do to survive, not all of which is good or pretty. No one remains innocent nor guilt-free forever. Life quickly becomes complicated, and unintended consequences often develop when we’re not paying attention.

Jar of Hearts is a real eye-opener as well as a full-of-twists page-turner. Highly recommend for everyone but the faint of heart.

 

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The Suspense Could Kill You

the crooked staircase

 

The thrill is back as Dean Koontz returns once again to the fast-paced protagonist-on-the-run roots that made his early novels so exciting and appealing. The Jane Hawk novels seamlessly cross genres, effortlessly moving from science fiction territory into that of James Bond’s espionage and modern techno-thrillers, from noir into pure psychological horror.

None of the characters in The Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz (Random House, May 8, 2018) learned to play nice as children, and they certainly make reprehensible adults. Jane’s piano virtuoso father killed her mother and made life hell for the young girl, Booth Hendrickson’s mother made life hell for Booth and his half-brother, and the crooked staircase leads Jane and Booth straight down into a real-life hell from which only one may emerge alive.

Alternating short chapters between Jane Hawk’s POV and other viewpoint characters, including those hunting her, Koontz paints a horrifying picture of the worst abuses of government authority imaginable. Carter Jergen and Dubose are NSA employees who also work for the FBI, CIA, DHS, and IRS. They’re covert agents of the Techno Arcadians, a secret cabal of government and business elite who seek to control the world. They’re already in control of many world leaders, politicians and businessmen, implanted with nanotechnology that turns them into mindless slaves like modern-day Manchurian Candidates.

Dean pays tribute to Robert A. Heinlein, one of his mentors and idols, throughout this novel. Characters become strangers in a strange land, mannequins controlled by puppet-masters, Waldoes manipulated by monsters. Another of his idols, Charles Dickens, receives honorable mentions. And, of course, there’s always a faithful canine companion or two in a Dean Koontz novel.

We first met Jane Hawk in The Silent Corner (Bantam, June 2017) and continued her exciting adventures in The Whispering Room (Bantam, November 2017). In this third novel, The Crooked Staircase, former FBI Special Agent Jane is on the run from the Techno Arcadians while seeking revenge against those who killed her husband Nick. With son Travis safely hidden, Jane pursues Booth Hendrickson even as Hendrickson pursues her.

But bad guys Jergen and Dubose, two of the nastiest villains you never want to meet in a dark alley, are hot on Travis’ trail.

Will Jane survive descending the crooked staircase? Will Jergen and Dubose capture or kill Travis? You need to read the latest installment of the never-ending Jane Hawk saga to learn what happens next.

Or the suspense could kill you.

A Perfect Obsession by Heather Graham

a perfect obsession graham

A Perfect Obsession by Heather Graham (Mira, April 2017) is full of surprises. The first surprise is discovery of supermodel Jeanette Gilbert’s body in a crypt below an old church. The second surprise is Kieran Finnegan’s twin brother Kevin is the “Mystery Man” Jeanette’s been secretly dating. The third is FBI special agent, and Kieran’s boyfriend, Craig Frasier being assigned to the case.

And the surprises just keep on coming as one beautiful corpse after another gets unearthed, proving a serial killer is loose beneath the crowded streets of New York City.

Graham loves to include history and geography lessons in each of her novels, blending fact with fiction whenever she can. But this is first and foremost a murder mystery Kieran and Craig must solve before Kieran becomes a victim herself.

It’s no surprise that A Perfect Obsession is part of a series. Graham has fully developed the Finnegan family, the bar they own, and the regulars who frequent Finnegan’s Irish Pub into something special. Kieran’s day job as a forensic psychologist and her night job as a bar maid, Craig’s job as an FBI agent, Kevin’s roles on Broadway and film, and Danny’s tour guide business are icings on the cake (or, in this case, suds on the Guinness). The pub and the city of New York overshadow everything that happens.

An exciting and fun read by a mistress of suspense.

 

JackHammer is now on sale

Jack Hammer Amazon

 

 

Today, August 1, 2017, is the official release date of JackHammer for Kindle, Nook, and e-book. The trade paperback will appear this fall.

JackHammer is filled with depictions of graphic violence and bodily mutilation. It’s a taut thriller, a realistic police procedural, and a gruesome psychological horror novel all-in-one. I want readers to experience fear. I want to engage your fight, flight, or freeze response and make you shake in your shoes.

But JackHammer is also a love story. And love can conquer fear.

Connie Kelly and Andy Sinnott are two of my favorite characters because they’re madly in love with each other. Both appear in Meat Cleaver and SledgeHammer, and Andy is a major character in Pickaxe and Icepick. Troy and Sally Nolan are back, as are Linda Davis, Rat, and Harvey “George” Fredriks. Their ongoing story arcs constitute the bulk of the Instruments of Death series, of which JackHammer is Book Nine.

Tom Wesley and Danny Norman from Daddy’s Home also play important parts in JackHammer. They, as well as Illinois State Police Lieutenant Dave Mullins, will return in Tire Iron and other novels as the series progresses.

Next up in the series is Box Cutter, followed by Nail Gun.

Once upon a time, I worked for the US Army Construction Engineers, both as a reserve officer and as a DA Civil Service employee. I was a supply man at headquarters S-4 and G-4 shops. I supervised the supply and maintenance of all types of construction equipment. I planned and accounted for the men, money, and materiel allocated in TOEs and TAs. I budgeted for and approved requisitions, arranged transportation of heavy equipment, and visited job sites around the country. I personally transported demolitions and acted as an armed escort on convoys. That was long time ago, but I still have fond memories of seeing sunrises at job sites.

I live in the State of Illinois where politicians are notoriously corrupt. I went to school with, or worked day jobs with, close relatives of prominent organized crime figures. My own neighborhood is currently riddled with daily crime and violence, and I see and hear red and blue flashing lights and sirens throughout the night. Many of my friends and neighbors are thinking of leaving the state, but I’m sticking around. What better environment for a crime writer to have?

You may notice I’ve taken some artistic liberties with campaign finance reporting requirements. These laws have become so complicated not even the politicians know what’s currently required.

JackHammer is a work of fiction, and I am, first and foremost, a fiction writer. None of the events depicted in this novel happened, to the best of my knowledge.

But beware! They could.

As I explained at F. Paul Wilson’s panel on writing horror during Thrillerfest2017, I write cautionary tales that teach you how to survive. Demented serial killers and mass murderers are a reality. Do you know what you would do if you met one? What makes you vulnerable? How would you react if you were choked, bound and gagged, and your body was about to be violated or mutilated? How would you escape? How would you flee? How would you fight?

These are the very real situations confronting characters in JackHammer. How would you react differently if your loved ones were threatened instead of, or as well as, you?

My novels are survival manuals as well as thrillers.

JackHammer is on sale now at https://www.amazon.com/JackHammer-Instruments-Death-Book-9-ebook/dp/B074FDQZB4/ or https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jackhammer-paul-dale-anderson/ or Kobo or i-Books.

Be a victor, not a victim.

 

Scottoline Scores Again

Damaged A Novel by Lisa Scottoline

 

Damaged: A Novel by Lisa Scottoline (A Rosato and DiNunzio novel, St Martin’s, August 2016) is full of surprises. It’s also filled with psychological insights. It’s a murder mystery, a thriller, a romance, and offers real information about dyslexia, bullying, the family court system, and Philadelphia.

I became intrigued with Scottoline’s writing after reading her short story in Matchup, the recently published (and reviewed) International Thriller Writer’s anthology. Although Damaged features an emotional Mary DiNunzio instead of the more hardboiled Bennie Rosato, the latter does make a brief appearance.

Scottoline’s attention to detail is legendary. She alters long narrative passages of highly descriptive prose with realistic dialog. She does include several fast-paced action scenes, though most of the novel deals with the day-to-day actions and emotions of sympathetic characters. Machiavelli, however, is a manipulative monster, and there are a couple of other bad guys lurking in the wings. There’s enough tension throughout to keep one engrossed, and surprises keep turning up every few pages to complicate matters.

Planning your own wedding is complicated enough, but when Mary takes on a ten-year-old boy who’s accused of attacking a teacher with scissors as a client her life is turned upside down. She’s accused of murdering the boy’s grandfather to gain custody, has a falling-out with her husband-to-be, is followed by a mysterious man in a brown Subaru, and is physically and emotionally attacked by Machiavelli.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then Mary’s extended family is the perfect village. After all, they raised her, didn’t they?

A five hanky read for mystery lovers.

4MK is a gruesome thriller

the fouth monkey

 

The four wise monkeys of ancient oriental myth — hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, and do no evil — give the killer in The Fourth Monkey by J. D. Barker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 28, 2017) his name. The 4MK abducts women and sends an ear to the next of kin. Two days later, the victim’s extracted eyeballs arrive in the mail. Then the tongue. Two days after that, 4MK positions the victim’s mutilated body where easily discovered.

Hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil, do no evil. Those are the rules.

Detective Sam Porter, on bereavement leave following his wife’s tragic murder by a convenience store robber, receives a phone call from his partner. The Four Monkeys Killer was accidentally run down this morning  by a Chicago bus on his way to mail an ear of his latest victim to Arthur Talbot, one of the richest men in the city.

Sam’s chased the 4MK for five years. Seven dead girls he couldn’t save. Now it appears Talbot’s illegitimate daughter Emory will be 4MK’s next victim. The clock’s ticking as Sam assembles his task force and tries to find Emory before she dies of dehydration.

The killer’s diary found on the man hit by the bus tells what it’s like to be raised in a family of psychopaths. Barker effectively rotates POV among Porter, Emory, task force members, and the diary. The burning questions become: Is the diary real? Is the dead man the 4MK? Will Emory survive? What did Talbot do to warrant punishment by 4MK? Who killed Heather, Sam’s wife, and what will happen to him?

Set in metropolitan Chicago, the action delves into underground tunnels once used by bootleggers where thousands of rats thrive and Emory may be sequestered. Will she be eaten by rats, die of hydration, or have her eyes and tongue plucked out before 4MK is through with her?

Suspense builds as time runs out. Sam, who was neither able to protect his wife nor the seven previous 4MK victims, is desperate to reach Emory before she perishes.

The Fourth Monkey is as much a great horror novel as a mystery or thriller. Very highly recommended for readers with strong stomachs, insatiable curiosities, and time on their hands because they won’t be able to stop until the very end.

A great collection worth the read

matchup

 

What a wonderful way to discover series characters and their authors. MatchUp, edited by Lee Child (Simon and Schuster, June 13, 2017), is the International Thriller Writer’s sequel to the best-selling FaceOff. Both books team-up award-winning thriller writers and their series characters to solve life-and-death mysteries or bring killers to justice. If you’ve never met these characters before, here’s your chance.

And who better to introduce you to each of them than Lee Child, Mr. Jack Reacher himself.

Contributors include: Lee Coburn and Joe Pickett in “Honor & …” by Sandra Brown and C.J. Box; Tony Hill and Roy Grace in “Footloose” by Val McDermid and Peter James; Temperance Brennan and Jack Reacher in “Faking a Murderer” by Kathy Reichs and Lee Child; Jamie Fraser and Cotton Malone in “Past Prologue” by Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry; Liz Sansborough and Rambo in “Rambo on Their Minds” by Gayle Lynds and David Morrell; Jeffrey Tolliver and Joe Pritchard in “Short Story” by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta; Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck in “Dig Here” by Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross; Regan Pescoli and Lucas Davenport in “Deserves to be Dead” by Lisa Jackson and John Sandford; Lucan Thorne and Lilliane Williams in “Midnight Flame” by Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice; Bennie Rosato and John Corey in “Getaway” by Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille; and Ali Reynolds and Bravo Shaw in “Taking the Veil” by J.A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader.

“Footloose”, although British, is my favorite. It’s filled with tons of wonderful puns, a foot-fetisher’s delight. Should DST Roy Grace, DCI Carol Jordan, and Dr. Tony Hill search for “an evil Elvis impersonator with homicidal tendencies”? Or a podophilic serial killer? Or should they look for both? Ten toes up for this one.

Liz Sansborough and Rambo in “Rambo on Their Minds” by Gayle Lynds and David Morrell is, in my humble opinion, the best-written tale in this collection, a taut thriller with a ticking time-bomb and an impossible task.

But all of the other stories are truly superb and well worth the read.

Several feature their authors’ usual supporting characters (i.e., John Sandford’s Johnson Johnson, Gayle Lynds’ Simon Childs, Lara Adrian’s Gabrielle, Michael Koryta’s Lincoln Perry, J. A. Jance’s Leeland Brooks). If you want a feel for what you’ll get in a Virgil Flowers novel, read “Deserves to be Dead”.

“Past Prologue” by Gabaldon and Berry is a fascinating time-travel story. “Dig Here” and “Midnight Flame” both have supernatural elements. “Short Story” piles complication atop complication. “Faking a Murderer” marries Jack Reacher’s military past with Temperance Brennan’s forensic acumen. “Honor &…” whacks-a-mole. And “Getaway” has a lovable dog that steals the show.

A great collection with new stories from some of the best writers in the business.