One for the Books: Thrill rides on the best-seller list ... By Mary Louise Ruehr

By Mary Louise Ruehr Published:

The best-seller lists are always filled with thrillers. Let's check out a few that have been -- or will be -- among them.

"Two Graves" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is the conclusion of their trilogy featuring FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. The agent had believed that his wife was dead, but has just found out that she is, in fact, alive. But maybe not for long.

Pendergast pulls himself back from the brink of death to take on a compassionless antagonist who can practically make himself invisible. Fortunately, Pendergast seems almost to have superpowers. And he is the only one who could possibly figure out a murder case that was tailor-made for him.

Meanwhile, a woman is trying to figure out why her father was framed for bank robbery, and a doctor tries to finagle his way into a nightmare mansion owned by an aging eccentric. But these story lines have nothing to do with the main story. (I did not read the first two books; maybe they are relevant in them.)

The book starts out with guns blazing and seldom lets up on the action-action-action. There's an exciting chase scene with a plane, a spooky stalking fight-to-the-death in the dark, and several murder scenes in Manhattan hotels that feature a unique, cold-blooded serial killer who seems to want to be caught.

The bizarre plot, like something out of a Batman comic book, moves from New York to Mexico to South America as Pendergast chases the bad guys.

The title comes from an old proverb: "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

The Pendergast trilogy began with "Fever Dream" and continued with "Cold Vengeance." The authors suggest that they "should be read in sequence." I would agree.

"The Fifth Assassin" by Brad Meltzer features archivist Beecher White, hero of Meltzer's previous book, "The Inner Circle."

Beecher comes to a stunning realization that the murders of religious personages in the U.S. capital may be linked to the assassinations of U.S. presidents. He thinks that "two of the world's most ruthlesss hunters were not just organized, not just linked together -- they might've actually been working for the same cause." And perhaps all four assassinations were even linked to each other. Were they one giant conspiracy?

Someone has reenacted the assassinations of presidents Lincoln and Garfield, and Beecher suspects the killer will continue, and that the current president may become the fifth victim. Can he stop the killer in time?

There is a private spy ring started by George Washington, a dead man who isn't dead, old friends from Beecher's hometown in Wisconsin, a patient at a hospital for the criminally insane, secret societies, blackmail, hidden messages and false clues.

Besides recalling U.S. history, Meltzer gives us the history of playing cards, which serve as clues.

Beecher's an interesting protagonist: "I learned that good archivists follow the rules, while great archivists follow their hunch," he says.

"Capital Punishment" by Robert Wilson is the one I liked best.

A woman in London calls her 25-year-old daughter and a man answers the phone. He tells her he has kidnapped her daughter and that "there's a whole process for us to go through before you'll get the chance to speak" to her. Also, he says, "This is not about money."

This is no ordinary kidnapping. The man on the phone knows way too many family details. Who is this guy? What does he want, if not money? Could the kidnappers be gangsters? terrorists?

The kidnapped young woman is Alyshia D'Cruz, the daughter of an Indian billionaire who was once a Bollywood actor. This guy has a slew of enemies as a result of his ruthless business deals.

To find and save Alyshia, her father calls in Charles Boxer, a "freelance kidnap consultant." Boxer is a gambler, an ex-army man now in private security, and he has done some ethically questionable work for his clients -- including things that are bothering his conscience.

The plot is rather deliciously twisted in upon itself with a kind of "who has her now?" storyline that keeps the reader turning the pages.

This is the first in a new series, and Boxer will be an interesting hero/antihero to follow.

"The Andalucian Friend" by Alexander Söderberg is set in Stockholm, but the action also moves to various parts of Europe and South America.

In Stockholm, widowed nurse Sophie Brinkmann becomes interested in one of her patients, a charming man named Hector who is obviously attracted to her.

Sophie is introduced to Hector's family at a party reminiscent of the wedding scene in "The Godfather." And that's a fair comparison, because it turns out that Hector and his father are the leaders of a huge crime family. His family is at war with another multigenerational crime family, one based in Germany and the other in Spain. They're fighting over arms shipments, drugs, money laundering and power in general.

The female Swedish police officer who is heading a group fighting international organized crime wants to recruit Sophie to find evidence to put Hector and his family out of business.

This is the first of a trilogy.

Note: All of these books have violence and adult situations and language.

Copyright © 2013 by Mary Louise Ruehr.

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