3 Picks from Chris

It’s Summer! If you live in Texas then you know what that means; brutal heat and praying at the altar of central air conditioning. Summer is also the perfect time to crack into a great book. I’ve got a few suggestions I think will help you forget about the heat…at least for a few hours.

Joyland by Stephen King

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Joyland is Stephen King at his best; fun, exciting, and heartbreaking.

The Eye of God by James Rollins

Have you ever wondered what a mash up of Indiana Jones and James Bond would be like? Well James Rollins has been answering that question over the year with his Sigma Force novels. In The Eye of God Gray Pierce and his team are tasked with recovering an American satellite that crashed in China. The satellite is especially valuable because it contains vital information about the impending doom of the Atlantic coast. Villains, heroes, guns, and a dash of humor make The Eye of God one of the best Summer reads on our shelves.

The Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston

Charlie Huston is one hell of a great crime writer. His books are hilarious, brutal, and endlessly entertaining. MysteryPeople is very excited to be hosting Charlie on July 24th. His new novel, Skinner, goes on sale July 9th but if you can’t wait that long grab a copy of The Shotgun Rule (description below) to whet your whistle.

“Blood spilled on the asphalt of this town long years gone has left a stain, and it’s spreading. Not that a thing like that matters to teenagers like George, Hector, Paul, and Andy. It’s summer 1983 in a northern California suburb, and these working-class kids have been killing time the usual ways: ducking their parents, tinkering with their bikes, and racing around town getting high and boosting their neighbors’ meds. Just another typical summer break in the burbs. Till Andy’s bike is stolen by the town’s legendary petty hoods, the Arroyo brothers. When the boys break into the Arroyos’ place in search of the bike, they stumble across the brothers’ private industry: a crank lab. Being the kind of kids who rarely know better, they do what comes naturally: they take a stash of crank to sell for quick cash. But doing so they unleash hidden rivalries and crimes, and the dark and secret past of their town and their families.”

New Releases in MysteryPeople

The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner

Can a person ever really disappear for good by going off the grid? And what happens when vanishing is no longer an option?

Sarah Keller is a single mother to five-year-old Zoe, living quietly in Oklahoma. She’s also a skip tracer, an expert in tracking people who’ve gone on the lam to avoid arrest, prosecution, or debt—pinpointing their locations to bring them to justice.

When a school bus accident sends Zoe to the ER, their quiet life explodes. Zoe’s medical tests reveal what Sarah has been hiding: Zoe is not her daughter. Zoe’s biological mother—Sarah’s sister, Beth—was murdered shortly after the child’s birth. And Zoe’s father is missing and presumed dead.

With no way to prove her innocence, Sarah must abandon her carefully constructed life and go on the run. Chased by cops, federal agents, and the group responsible for Beth’s murder, Sarah embarks on a desperate journey. Can her knowledge as a skip tracer help her stay off the grid, remain one step ahead of her pursuers, and find a way to save her daughter?

Meg Gardiner is acclaimed for her richly drawn characters, propulsive plotting, relentless suspense, and shocking twists. The Shadow Tracer delivers on those fronts and more.

The Wild Beasts of Wuhan by Ian Hamilton

Meet Ava Lee, alluring but deadly, with a mind like a steel trap, as she chases millions of dollars and dangerous criminals around the globe in this exotic and fast-paced new crime series by Ian Hamilton.

In The Wild Beasts of Wuhan, Wong Changxing, a rich Chinese powerbroker, has just been bilked out of $100 million in an elaborate art forgery con. His one hope of recovering the money, and of saving face, is Ava Lee—a forensic accountant with a talent for tracking down untraceable funds. With the help of her mentor, the Triad-connected Uncle, Ava traces the provenance of the meticulously forged paintings to Denmark, the Faroe Islands, New York, and London. As she infiltrates one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world, she uncovers a massive web of corruption, where high art and high-stakes fraud threaten more than just her client’s business—this is one scam that could get her killed. Ava Lee is one of the most scintillating, unique heroines to come along in years.

The Eye of God by James Rollins

In The Eye of God, a Sigma Force novel, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins delivers an apocalyptic vision of a future predicted by the distant past. In the wilds of Mongolia, a research satellite has crashed, triggering an explosive search for its valuable cargo: a code-black physics project connected to the study of dark energy—and a shocking image of the eastern seaboard of the United States in utter ruin.

At the Vatican, a package arrives containing two strange artifacts: a skull scrawled with ancient Aramaic and a tome bound in human skin. DNA evidence reveals that both came from the same body: the long dead Mongol king Genghis Khan. Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force set out to discover a truth tied to the fall of the Roman Empire, to a mystery going back to the birth of Christianity, and to a weapon hidden for centuries that holds the fate of humanity.

Never Fuck Up by Jens Lapidus

From Sweden’s internationally best-selling crime novelist, the author of Easy Money, comes the riveting second installment of the Stockholm Noir Trilogy. With his trademark live-wire staccato prose and raw energy, Jens Lapidus returns to the streets of Stockholm with an electrifying tale of seedy police officers and vicious underworld criminals.

Mahmud, an iron-pumping gym fiend raised among the city’s many concrete high-rises, is fresh out of jail and heavily indebted to a Turkish drug lord. To get free he accepts a job from the henchman of brutal mob boss Radovan—a job that quickly becomes something Mahmud wishes he’d never agreed to.

Meanwhile, Niklas is living at home with his mother and keeping a low profile after working as a security contractor in Iraq. When a man is found murdered in the laundry room of their building—a startling event that coincides with Niklas’s discovery of a young Arab girl being beaten by her boyfriend—Niklas decides to put his weapons expertise and appetite for violence to use and begins to mete out his own particular brand of justice.

Thomas is the volatile cop called to investigate the murder in Niklas’s building. When his efforts are suspiciously stymied and the evidence tampered with, he goes off the grid in search of answers. As the identity of the murdered man is discovered, the paths of these three men intertwine, and crimes and secrets far greater than a mere murder come to light—raising the stakes of Stockholm’s criminality to staggering new heights.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Meg Gardiner

Meg Gardiner has put her mark on the thriller genre with her characters Evan Delany and Jo Beckett. In her latest, The Shadow Tracer, she introduces us to Sarah Keller, a skip tracer, who is in hiding herself with a girl she has taken to protect from one messed up family. Meg will be at BookPeople to sign and discuss The shadow Tracer at 7PM on tonight, June 26th. She is a great lady with a wonderful sense of humor which can be seen in our recent Q&A.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the idea for The Shadow Tracer come about?

MEG GARDINER: I’m a lawyer who cares about civil liberties, and a mom whose kids’ social lives thrive online. I started thinking about privacy, and how technology enables corporations and governments to keep tabs on us. Also, I had signed up for the UK’s IRIS recognition system, which allows you to skip the passport line at Heathrow airport. My husband was horrified. “You did what? MI5 is probably watching you through the TV right now.” I laughed. Then I read about the vast facility the NSA is building in Utah to store their bajillion-terabytes of information. And I wondered: in today’s hyper-connected world, how do you keep yourself from becoming a fly under glass?

So I thought: What if you needed, absolutely, to run and hide? Could you do it? What if you needed to run… with a little kid? What if the people chasing you had money, resources, and determination? What if they were criminals, and the FBI? From there, the story of Sarah Keller going on the run to protect her daughter Zoe came to life.

I say all this patriotically, in the name of PRISM!

No, don’t write that down.

MP: In the early chapters you get a good sense of how a skip tracer works. What kind of research do you do for your characters’ professions?

MG: I read copiously. Books, articles, interviews – whatever I can get my hands on. And whenever possible I meet people who do the jobs my characters do. That’s the best way to learn what it’s like to be a skip tracer, or a search-and-rescue expert, or a forensic psychiatrist. For the scene in The Shadow Tracer where Sarah Keller serves a subpoena, I talked to my brother, who owns an attorney support service like the one Sarah works for. It was amazing to hear his tales of tracking down sneaks and fraudsters, and to realize how gutsy he has to be to confront them. Of course, my baby brother is now 6’3″.

And I realized how difficult it is to stay under the radar when I ordered a book online, about skip tracing. A dialogue box popped up: “Share that you purchased How To Disappear with all your social networks?”

MP: Sarah is trying to protect a child she has raised from her own biological family. What did you want to explore about motherhood and family in this book?

MG: Sarah has raised five-year-old Zoe virtually since birth. The little girl was handed to Sarah by her dying sister, and Sarah swore to protect Zoe no matter what. The book explores how that promise has become the central purpose of Sarah’s life. She has become a skip tracer to learn how to disappear, because she fears the day that the people who murdered her sister come back for Zoe. At first, Zoe was an unexpected detour in Sarah’s life. But she has become the daughter of Sarah’s heart.

Sarah’s promise to her dying sister is put to the test when the bad guys show up again. Risking herself for Zoe is a choice. When it’s life or death, what will she do?

As for questions about motherhood and family, my son recently texted me: “I just realized that pretty much all your protagonists have kids that aren’t quite theirs. Do we need to have a conversation?”

I assured him that we didn’t… but that I needed to tell him about his evil twin who lives in the attic.

MP: You have a lot of fun with the locations in the book, particularly Roswell, New Mexico. How do you make a setting be more than just a backdrop?

MG: When I was a kid I spent every summer in Roswell. My grandparents lived there. I loved the austere desert landscape. I loved New Mexico — White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns and the Bottomless Lakes and the town of Lincoln, birthplace of Billy the Kid. It was bright and wild and exciting. Now, of course, Roswell has a reputation as UFOville. Which I am not supposed to talk about, okay? Just sayin’.

The southwest is a challenging landscape I have great affection for —  from Oklahoma, where Sarah’s flight begins, through Texas and into New Mexico. I tried to bring my childhood memories to life, and then to add hit men, U.S. Marshals, and car chases.

MP: The action passages in the book are relentless. How do you approach those parts from a craft standpoint?

MG: In a novel, action scenes need to be extremely clear and visual, and even more emotionally powerful than they are on a screen. Readers don’t experience the visceral sensory impact that viewers get from watching action sequences in a movie theater, so I have to make up for it by delivering other kinds of punches. If a chase scene is going to excite readers (not just keep them from becoming bored, but excite them) it has to avoid every cliche and twist that they’ve seen or read before. I have to imagine all the action scenes I’ve seen — or written — and turn them inside out to surprise readers.

Bullitt is iconic. Try to duplicate it, and you’ll just write a cheesy, predictable knock-off.

One other point: explicit violence doesn’t raise the fear factor. What does increase fear and tension is a threat that remains partially veiled in mystery. Readers’ imaginations will create terrors more frightening than I can portray. The theater of the mind is more powerful than a bucket of blood.

MP: As somebody who has two series characters, what does a stand alone do for you as a writer?

MG: Writing stand alones frees me to tell stories that range beyond my series, and to write about characters who, in a series novel, would be secondary. Sarah Keller had to be at the center of The Shadow Tracer. The book is about her world and her life. If the story wasn’t hers, it would have lacked heart and guts. I want readers riding along with her as she makes her desperate run and tries to spirit Zoe to safety.


MysteryPeople welcomes Meg Gardiner to BookPeople tonight, Thursday, July 27 at 7PM, to speak about and sign The Shadow Tracer. If you can’t make it, you can pre-order a signed copy of the book through the store’s website.

SHADOW TRACER: The Summer Action You’ve Been Looking For

If you love Meg Gardiner, you’ll relish her stand alone, The Shadow Tracer. You will want to clear your schedule before sitting down with it, since you won’t want to stop turning the pages. The book shows all of the author’s talents, undistilled.

Gardiner gives us one of her most fascinating heroines in Sarah Keller. In the first chapter, we see her working as a skip tracer in Oklahoma City. We get a a lot of cool details about the approach and philosophy of the job as she grabs someone in hiding. We also soon learn that Sarah is a fugitive herself.

She has been living under a different identity with Zoe, a little girl she took in and and became a mother too. When a bus accident blows their cover, Sarah takes the girl and starts running. She is pursued across the Southwest by the FBI, US Marshals, and the Worthes, the family Zoe is protecting them from.

The Shadow Tracer has the skill and craftsmanship of a well made movie thriller. Each character is clearly defined in his or her purpose. Many of their reasons, like many of the other reveals, are given at the exact right moment for dramatic impact. The pace and action are brilliantly executed with great set pieces, like the final confrontation at an airline graveyard. Gardiner also knows how to weave in humor so you don’t feel pummeled by a story that is so relentless. This could be the only edge of your seat thriller that has an Animal House reference.

This is Meg Gardiner at the top of her game. She gives us an incredibly competent and human heroine in constant danger, peeling the secrets away at a steady pace. DVR your favorite shows and forget about going to the movies. The Shadow Tracer gives us the summer action we crave.


MysteryPeople welcomes Meg Gardiner to speak about & sign The Shadow Tracer here at BookPeople on Thursday, June 27 at 7PM. If you can’t make it, you can order a signed copy via the store’s website.