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A Trio of Thrillers
Valerie Geary‘s debut novel is a family drama, coming-of-age, psychological murder mystery that builds to thriller pitch. Two sisters deal with unusual family dynamics, and put themselves at risk to clear their father’s name. It seems fitting that one of the authors who has blurbed the novel is Lisa O’Donnell, who won an Alex Award for The Death of Bees, another story of sisters under duress.
Michael Koryta has been writing consistently excellent crime (and horror) novels for several years, and I’m so happy that he has written a book that we can highlight here. Those Who Wish Me Dead stars a teen boy who sees something he never should have seen, and it puts him at terrible risk from some very ugly people. This is a great readalike for Patrick Lee’s Runner, one of my favorite novels of the first half of 2014.
Ben Mezrich‘s latest is in the Indiana Jones tradition. Jack Grady, our adventure-seeking, anthropologist protagonist is opposed by one in a line of women tasked with keeping ancient secrets hidden throughout the ages. Add in exotic locations (we are talking the Seven Wonders of the World), and you get a thrilling launch to a new series.
After the sudden death of their mother, sisters Sam, 15, and Ollie, 10, have to live with their hermit father in an Oregonian meadow. Bear, their father, has lived off the grid in a teepee for eight years and this new living arrangement has a trial period of six months stipulated by the girls’ maternal grandparents. Things don’t begin well as the stunning opening sentence reveals, “We found the woman floating facedown in an eddy where Crooked River made a slow bend north, just a stone skip away from the best swimming hole this side of anywhere.” Told in alternating chapters between Sam and Ollie, there’s evidence that points to Bear’s guilt. However, Ollie, who hasn’t spoken since her mother’s death, is sure Bear is not the murderer and is able to convince Sam. When Bear is arrested for the murder of the woman the sisters had discovered in the river, Sam decides it is up to her to prove his innocence. So begins a series of highly questionable and risky actions to do just that. She learns that the dead woman, a reporter, was in town to interview a reclusive local artist. Her digging for proof uncovers a connection between the artist and her father which had a devastating effect on both men. This fast-paced debut novel is filled with memorable characters and the plot twists and turns will keep teens engaged all the way to the final explosive scene.—Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA
Those looking for a riveting thriller to keep them awake at night need look no further. Thirteen-year-old Jace goes for a forbidden swim in a quarry and witnesses hit men dropping a body into the water. He must stay hidden to testify at a trial, and a hiking program for troubled teens in Montana seems the perfect place. The leader knows that a boy is being hidden within his group, but goes ahead working with the group on survival skills in the mountains as usual. The teens are portrayed realistically and Jace tries to fit in with the others who are there because of delinquency problems. Teen readers will appreciate his role as the smart hero, and will sympathize with the adult characters, especially as they are being murdered by the men who are searching for Jace. The violence is graphic, but the villains needed to be horrid to make the desperate attempt at escape seem reasonable. Tension builds unceasingly even before a terrible forest fire begins. Koryta is an experienced crime writer with a talent for introducing surprises and portraying a variety of characters. His teen characters are well written, and readers will look forward to finding more of them in his breath-taking fiction.—Karlan Sick, Library Consultant, New York City
Moments before his death by ancient ivory javelin, mathematician Jeremy Grady stuffs a flash drive into a keychain knowing that it will be found by his twin brother, anthropologist Jack Grady. It contains information Jeremy discovered that links the modern wonders of the world with the ancient wonders in a way previously unsuspected. Jack is spurred on to discover the meaning of this revelation and the reason for his brother’s murder. The protagonist and his two graduate students meet up with botanist Sloan Costa and travel the world to hunt down artifacts from each of the seven ancient wonders, certain that if placed together, they will lead them to the center of the beginning of all life. They are not alone, however. Ultra-rich Jendari is one of a special line of women tasked through the millennia to manipulate information surrounding those ancient secrets. She is only steps behind Jack and will stop at nothing to discover the center of this ancient inheritance. Jack Grady, handsome and intelligent, is quintessential adventuring anthropologist who will climb 80 feet towers, dive into dark and mysterious pools, and face down crocodiles. Sloan is an able sidekick who uses her scientific mind to deliberate through complicated puzzles as they race to find each important object. While not as intricate and deep as the books by Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, and Robin Cook, teens who enjoy this genre will enjoy this title and look forward to more adventures of this thrill-seeking anthropologist.—Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA
About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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