For the next several weeks, Friday posts will be guest blogs: Five Random Questions with author pals who have books coming out that deserve your attention. At some point I may resume the Friday reading lists, but in the meantime, here are five books I've finished since the beginning of the month. (I took a few days off over Labor Day weekend, and spent most of that time reading.)
Victor Gischler, VAMPIRE A GO-GO. A vampire novel for people who don't like vampire novels -- the vampires here are just an excuse for a smart, funny spoof of academic adventure fiction. The ghost of a drunken alchemist narrates this story of Allen, a hapless graduate student who winds up in Prague, doing the bidding of vampires and werewolves and some seriously kickass Jesuits. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see this become required reading on certain Jesuit college campuses.
Gregg Hurwitz, TELL NO ONE. An exercise in nonstop action, from the time a SWAT team rousts Nick Horrigan out of bed until the last shocking twist. Nick's been on the run, more or less, since he was 17, when his stepfather, a Secret Service agent, was killed. The man Nick's stepfather protected is now a candidate for President, and whatever secret everyone is hiding must have something to do with him...
Kate Wilhelm, THE CLEWISTON TEST. Kate Wilhelm has written dozens of novels and short stories in the crime and science fiction genres, but I'd never read anything of hers before I picked up this medical thriller. Written in the mid-1970s, it feels almost self-conscious in its modernity and feminism; the title character is Dr. Anne Clewiston, a top-level researcher whose work is jeopardized by her own injury in a car accident and some disturbing test results in animals. This is very much a novel of ideas, as Anne and her colleagues (including her husband) struggle with conflicting motives and hide their deepest secrets from each other.
Chris Mooney, THE DEAD ROOM. Mooney's third Darby McCormick thriller -- currently available only in the U.K. -- is his best work since the Edgar-nominated REMEMBERING SARAH, an overwhelming story of betrayal and treachery at the very highest levels. McCormick, an expert crime scene technician, is called to the scene of a brutal murder: a young mother taped to a chair and nearly beheaded after being tortured. Her son is alive but terrified; Darby's interview with him touches off a chain of events that ends in unimaginable violence and the revelation of a generation's worth of crimes. Shocking, powerful, not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.
Katy Munger, LEGWORK. Katy Munger is another prolific author whose works I somehow missed; she's just launched a new series under the pen name Chaz McGee. This book, first published in 1997, is the first in her Casey Jones series. Casey is an unlicensed PI (and ex-con) who works for a morbidly obese PI/bail bondsman in Raleigh, NC, and is working as a bodyguard for gubernatorial candidate Mary Lee Masters. When a dead body shows up in Mary Lee's car, the candidate asks Casey to conduct her own investigation. Casey is a heroine to root for, and the setting made me homesick.