Hannu Rajaniemi's Summerland: a midcentury spy thriller, with the afterlife

Hannu Rajaniemi is the Finnish-Scottish mathematician and science fiction writer whose debut, 2012's Quantum Thief was widely celebrated; now, in Summerland, Rajaniemi delivers new kind of supernatural historical spy procedural, set in a 1938 where the afterlife has been discovered, colonized and militarized. Read the rest

Would you kill to stop an asteroid panic? I asked the creators of Salvation

In six months, a large asteroid is going to hit Earth. It's likely that everyone is going to die. Only a few people know about it, and they are desperately trying to stop it from slamming into the planet. That's the premise of Salvation, a new suspense thriller TV series premiering on CBS this Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Carla and I got an early look at the first episode, and we both loved it for the premise, sense of urgency, moral issues explored, and hints that more is unfolding than meets the eye. Our friends Elizabeth Kruger and Craig Shapiro created the show, so I grabbed them for a quick interview to ask them about what went into making a series that deals with people secretly trying to save humankind.

Mark: What's the conflict in Salvation?

Liz: An asteroid is going to collide with Earth in 186 days, and if our government and/or others don't come up with new technology to solve the problem, we're going to go the way of the dinosaurs. Adding to that conflict is other countries that are also looking into how to solve the problem, and what do you do if the world itself cannot agree on how to solve a problem? And if you solve it on one side of the world what problems does it create for the other side of the world?

Mark: So if the different countries' solutions don't necessarily work in harmony with each other, they could actually conflict with each other. Read the rest

Which Shakespeare character is Hillary Clinton and should we be worried?

William Lashner's The Four-Night Run is available from Amazon.

To her opponents Hillary Clinton is Lady Macbeth, raging within the corridors of the power, hoarding wealth, punishing her enemies, ever plotting to gain the throne, crying “Out, damned spot!” as she futilely tries to wipe the blood of Vince Foster from her wretched hands.

To her supporters she is Portia, plying her legal skills and declaiming about the “quality of mercy,” even as she mercilessly skewers the Wall Street money lender out to take his pound of flesh from the common man.

But the detail about Hillary Clinton that would surely have attracted Shakespeare’s attention is the sheer gob-smacking length of time she has been seeking the presidency. At least one college classmate predicted she would be the first female president, and it is as if she has spent the subsequent 47 years preparing herself for the role. Shakespeare might have thought Hamlet would make the ideal king if not for the unfortunate ending of that play, but before he wrote Hamlet he spent two plays detailing the preparations of a young price for his kingship, and they have much to say about the education of the presumptive Democratic nominee.

In the two parts of King Henry IV, Shakespeare details the education of the young Prince Harry, who would eventually become the revered Henry V. Prince Harry has two role models influencing his development. His father, King Henry IV, talks of duty and honor, even though he is really all about gaining and maintaining power, having usurped his throne by killing Richard II and then spending his entire reign fighting to maintain it, most notably at the battle of Shrewsbury. Read the rest

Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Doubt Factory"

From one of science fiction's most versatile writers comes a caper novel about corporate sleaze and net-savvy guerrilla activists that is as thrilling as it is trenchant. Cory Doctorow reviews Paolo Bacigalupi's The Doubt Factory.

Hysteria - new psychological thriller from Shaun Cassidy starring Mena Suvari

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.

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The Woman Who Stopped Traffic: a good Silicon Valley thriller

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. Read the rest

The Secret Lives of Married Women, by Elissa Wald [exclusive excerpt]

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 $(removed) on Amazon.

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.

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The Wicked Girls - a riveting and intelligent psychological thriller

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. Read the rest

Interview with Mark H. Kruger, author of young adult thriller, Overpowered

Despite appearances to the contrary, sinister things are happening behind the squeaky-clean facade of Barrington, Colorado.

Weaponized, thriller about a Snowden-type character on the lam [excerpt]

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.

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Helen MacInnes' classic 1941 thriller, Above Suspicion, reissued (excerpt)

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.


The Visit

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. Read the rest

Gweek 073: Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn

Interview with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.