The Last Surgeon

Michael Palmer, who established himself as an author of popular medical thrillers like THE FIRST PATIENT and THE SECOND OPINION, tires to expand his fictional base somewhat in his latest novel, THE LAST SURGEON. But medicine and doctors still figure prominently here, and the overall results are a mixed success.

Jillian Coates is not convinced that the recent death of her sister, Belle, a nurse at the Charlotte Medical Center, was a suicide, as evidence at the scene and investigating authorities are convinced. So she undertakes an inquiry herself, which leads her to Dr. Nick Garrity, a former military officer suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Heaven’s Keep

William Kent Krueger’s HEAVEN’S KEEP is an example of the contemporary Western crime novel: filled with evocative descriptions of complicatedly beautiful, but sometimes sparse landscape; hard-edged, self-sufficient men with puppy-dog hearts; and an honest, American Indian spirituality that neither condescends to New Age fripperies nor wallows in a utopian nostalgia for the past. Most of all, it’s a good story.

In his ninth series appearance, Cork O’Connor is devastated to learn that his wife’s plane has apparently gone down over a remote area of wilderness. A blizzard is hampering search efforts, and the outlook is grim. The first part of the book flows like a TV episode of WITHOUT A TRACE, with the hours gone missing rising quickly, and the searchers’ emotions roller-coasting between hope and despair.

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TRAILER PARK >> A Dark Matter

Horror master Peter Straub returns Feb. 9 with A DARK MATTER, about a secret ritual among collegians in the 1960s that turns out to haunt its attendants to the present day, finding themselves face to face with the evil they unleashed.

Want to win a signed first edition of the novel? Enter Straub’s Facebook contest.

Buy it at Amazon.

TRAILER PARK >> ThrillerFest 2009

Miss ThrillerFest 2009? The next best thing to having been there is catching up on this batch of videos, in which authors like James Rollins, Andrew Gross and Steve Martini discuss gruesome death scenes, favorite bad guys, Hannibal Lecter and more:

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Doors Open

DOORS OPEN is something altogether different from Ian Rankin, the celebrated Scottish crime fiction author. Different than the dark, probing obsessions of his renowned — and recently retired — John Rebus series. Different too from the far-flung espionage of the early novels he wrote under his pen name, John Harvey. It’s the story of a heist where some successful, everyday citizens dip their inexperienced fingers in crime and live through the highs and lows that happen as a result.

Mike Mackenzie is a wealthy bachelor who made his fortune early in life as a software mogul. Now he’s retired, and dreadfully bored. His friend Allan Cruickshank is also bored, both with his banking career and his long, drawn-out divorce. What they share along with their boredom is a love of fine art, and one afternoon, they meet at an auction in their Edinburgh hometown and connect with their mutual friend, art professor Robert Gissing.

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BOOKS 2 FILM >> Surrogates

books to filmIn the future, you can out your life via a replica while you lie in comfort, manipulating it via mere thought — seeing what it sees, feeling what it feels. Yes, that’s James Cameron’s AVATAR. But it’s also Jonathan Mostow’s SURROGATES, a Bruce Willis vehicle that’s better than its tepid box office last fall would suggest.

Based on the excellent graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, SURROGATES imagines that mass-produced robot stand-ins have caught on so well, violent crime has plunged 99 percent. That 1 percent takes a terrifying turn when two surrogates are murdered in an act that also offs their owners, reclining supposedly safely at home.

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The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives

For anyone who eagerly awaits the next installment of a thriller series immediately after finishing the latest one, I recommend THE LINEUP: THE WORLD’S GREATEST CRIME WRITERS TELL THE INSIDE STORY OF THEIR GREATEST DETECTIVES.

Otto Penzler’s collection is unique, and not only because it genesis lay in a fundraising project for his Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. It offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creation of 21 series characters, in the words of those who brought them into this world. Whether you’re someone who leans toward Harry Bosch, John Rebus or Bob Lee Swagger, there’s something here for you.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Super Duper Spies

bullets broads blackmail and bombsIt’s another collection of some of my favorite brainless reading. If there were ever books I knew going in that not only would deliver in mindless fun, but also be read in no time, it’s definitely the three paperbacks below. Let that soak in before the super-duper spy surprise at the end. Here’s a hint: Sam Jackson is a much better choice than David Hasselhoff.

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. #7: THE RADIOACTIVE CAMEL AFFAIR by Peter Leslie — I think this might be the last MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. book I own, since my source for these closed a few years ago. That’s kinda sad, because these tie-ins come off as bigger-budget versions of the TV series.

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Vincent Price Presents: Volume 1

I’m a big fan of Vincent Price, but not of the comic book series that bares his name, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS. The horror anthology from Bluewater Comics has collected its first four issues in a trade paperback that’s bound to attract the curious, and disappoint just as many.

The late actor appears on most of the covers, and in villainous character for the first two stories, yet there’s no real reason for him to be here, other than a selling point. In the first piece, he’s a father of a young boy to whom he gives an order — one involving their, um, robotic dog. In the second, he’s an advertising exec whose vehicle bumps another car. Instead of stopping, he flees the scene, which will have cosmic repercussions, of course.

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The Nuclear Suitcase

The best way to describe Joel Jenkins’ off-the-wall THE NUCLEAR SUITCASE would be to imagine the Osmond Brothers as cold-blooded killers. That’s how this off-the-wall novel reads.

We are to believe the members of a popular sibling rock group are not only brothers, but trained spies and mercenary types. They’re not the only musicians who can handle guns and have nerves of steel, however. We are also treated to a female pop musician who can handle an SIG Sauer like a microphone. (Yeah, that’s who we want handling guns: Miley Cyrus.)

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