The pilot for the new Amazon series Hysteria looks good and creepy. It's about an epidemic that seems to be transmitted via social media.
Hysteria takes viewers to Austin, Texas where social connection has become contagious. In the pilot, members of a girls’ competitive dance team are stricken with a strange, psycho-physiological illness that manifests itself in violent fits and spasms and then begins spreading in the community through technology. Neurologist Logan Harlen (played by Mena Suvari) returns to her hometown to investigate the cause.
Fighting her own demons and the growing manipulation of a brother on death row, Logan develops an uneasy suspicion that the hysteria surrounding the girls might actually be linked to social media and her own tragic past.
Hysteria is written by Shaun Cassidy, who is known for genre thrillers such as Invasion and American Gothic, and directed by Otto Bathurst, who won the BAFTA Award for his work on the critically-acclaimed U.K. mini-series Peaky Blinders.
The show also stars James McDaniel (Orange Is The New Black) as “Carl Sapsi,” Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises) as “Ray Ratajeck,” Adan Canto (X-Men: Days of Future Past) as “Matt Sanchez,” Laura San Giacomo (Saving Grace) as “Grace Pelayo” and T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy) as “Carter Harlen.” The show is written by Cassidy, who is also Executive Producer alongside Adam Schroeder, Sharon Hall, Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Bryan Zuriff, and Bathurst.
The Woman Who Stopped Traffic by Daniel Pembrey is a Silicon Valley thriller about a wildly successful social networking startup that's on track to becoming a publicly-traded company. If the IPO goes through, the young founder (who owns 40% of clamor.us) and its lead investor (very loosely based on Whole Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand) will become multi-billionaires.
The IPO plans are jeopardized when, during a presentation to investors and press, a Clamor.us page that has an ad for child sex trafficking is accidentally displayed on the projection screen, causing alarm among the audience. Clamor.us' official response is that a rogue user created the page. Its executives promise to take steps to put a stop to such illegal content.
Of course, this being a thriller, there's a deeper problem at Clamor.us than evil users selling sex slaves on its site. One of the early investors in Clamor.us, based in Aruba, is suspected of being involved, but no one knows who the investor is. The chief scientist of Clamour.us hires Natalie Chevalier, the ex-head of security at a "large Seattle software company," to get to the bottom of it before the IPO goes bust. Murder, mayhem, and MMORPGing ensue.
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Hard Case Crime publishes hardboiled crime fiction by Stephen King, Donald Westlake, James M. Cain, Michael Crichton, Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins, and other greats. Here's an exclusive excerpt from their new title, The Secret Lives of Married Women, by Elissa Wald. The paperback is only $5.97 on Amazon.
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Two identical twin sisters - one a sexually repressed defense attorney, the other a former libertine now living a respectable life in suburbia - are about to have their darkest secrets revealed, to the men in their lives and to themselves. As one sister prepares for the thorniest trial of her career and the other fends off ominous advances from a construction worker laboring on the house next door, both find themselves pushed to the edge, and confronted by discoveries about themselves and their lovers that shock and disturb them.
Elissa Wald is the author of Meeting the Master (Grove Press) and Holding Fire (Context Books). Her work has also been published in multiple journals and anthologies, including Beacon Best of 2001, Creative Nonfiction, The Barcelona Review, The Mammoth Book of Erotica, Nerve: Literate Smut, The Ex-Files: New Stories about Old Flames, and Brain, Child Magazine. Previously, she worked as a stripper, ran away to join the circus, and spent a summer working on a Native American reservation.
In 1986 two girls, Bel and Jade, achieved international infamy at age eleven for murdering a four-year-old girl. Twenty five years later, the now-grown up and rehabilitated women are back in society, living under new identities given to them by the British government. They haven't seen each other since their trials, and in fact are forbidden from communicating with each other under threat of being locked up again.
The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood (a British journalist writing under a pseudonym), is a riveting psychological thriller that jumps back and forth between the events on the day of the child's death, and the present-day lives of Kirsty and Amber (the new names of Bel and Jade). Amber is a low-level supervisor of a graveyard shift cleaning crew at Funnland, a seedy beachside amusement park in England. Kirsty is a journalist who lives an upper middle class lifestyle with a banker husband and two children. But her husband lost his job some months ago, and their income is now a lot less than their outgo. The alternating chapters are told from each woman's point of view, and the striking differences between their ways of life and even their appearance (Amber looks haggard and ten years older than Kirsty) is a mystery.
Neither woman has told anyone their horrible secret, not even their husbands. They are correct in thinking that no one would forgive them for what they had been accused of doing.
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Despite appearances to the contrary, sinister things are happening behind the squeaky-clean facade of Barrington, Colorado.Read the rest
Here's an excerpt from Weaponized, a new thriller by Nicholas Mennuti and David Guggenheim.
Kyle West is a wanted man. Having fled the country to escape the false charges filed against himself and his former boss, billionaire government contractor Christopher Chandler, Kyle's hiding in Cambodia, living on borrowed time and finding more and more reasons to be paranoid.
When a mysterious stranger named Julian Robinson walks into Kyle's favorite café and offers to swap passports with Kyle, Kyle can't believe his luck. Robinson looks so much like Kyle it's almost unreal, and seems in every way the yin to Kyle's yang -- self-assured, charismatic and wealthy beyond measure. Traveling on business, Robinson needs Kyle's passport to get to Africa, where a lucrative deal awaits. Kyle needs Robinson's passport to safely flee Cambodia. The swap seems almost too good to be true. Unfortunately for Kyle, it is.
This one decision plunges Kyle into a Pandora's Box of intrigue that threatens to swallow him whole. Suddenly he finds himself being pursued by Russian oligarchs, Chinese operatives, the CIA, and a beautiful woman trained to kill; because Robinson certainly isn't who he seemed. And time is running out for Kyle to discover who he is.
Titan Books is reissuing the thrillers of spy novelist Helen MacInnes, starting with Pray for a Brave Heart and Above Suspicion. Below, an excerpt from Above Suspicion, her first novel, which was published in 1941.
Richard and Frances Myles are preparing for their annual European summer vacation in 1939 when they are visited at their Oxford college by old friend Peter Galt, who has a seemingly simple job for them. But in the heightened atmosphere of pre-war Europe, nobody is above suspicion, in fact the husband and wife are being carefully monitored by shadowy figures.
This June day seemed, to Frances Myles, very much like any other summer day in Oxford. She walked slowly along Jowett Walk, watching the gentle five-o’clock sun bring out the bronze in the leaves overhead. This was her favourite part of the road leading to her husband’s college. On her left the grey walls which hid the gardens of the Holywell houses were crowned with rambler roses. To her right were the playing fields with their stretches of soft green grass, and beyond them were the straightness of poplar, the roundness of chestnut and elm. Today there were only a few men practising at the nets: most of them were packing or going to end-of-term parties. Like herself, she thought, and quickened her pace. She was probably late again. She hoped guiltily that Richard would have enough work to occupy him, while he waited for her at College. He generally had… But it was difficult to hurry on a summer day like this: there were so many things to enjoy, like the twenty shades of green all around her, or the patterns of unevenly cut stones in the high walls, or the way in which a young man would catch a cricket ball and lazily throw it back. Little things, but then the last few months had made the little things important.
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My guest this episode is Gillian Flynn, the New York Times Bestselling author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, and Dark Places. I had a terrific time talking to her about why she enjoys writing creepy books with twisted characters. It was interesting to learn that her father is a retired film professor who loves the work of David Lynch, because the teenagers in Dark Places reminded me of the kids in Twin Peaks.
Here's my review of Gone Girl.