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Posted by on 26 Jun, 2023 in Bestseller, British Crime, British Thrillers, Crime, Forecast Friday, Historical Thrillers, Looking Forward Friday, serial killer thriller, Spy Fiction, Thriller | 0 comments



Fans of twisty thrillers with lots of surprises and suspense, will enjoy these new releases by Matthew Richardson, Steve Cavanagh and Riley Sager.

The Scarlet Papers by Matthew Richardson (Michael Joseph, 15 June 2023)

Matthew Richardson’s The Scarlet Papers, (Michael Joseph, 15 June 2023), ranks alongside John Lawton’s Moscow Exile as one of the best spy novels I have read so far this year.

Ranging over seventy years, The Scarlet Papers is an epic espionage thriller that holds your attention from beginning to end. At the core of the novel are the eponymous Scarlet Papers, the recollections of renown British spymaster, and possible Russian double agent, Scarlet King, who is now in her nineties. The papers touch on key points in her career from her recruitment and capture of a brilliant German scientist at the end of World War II, to an assignation in Moscow in 1964, to her role in the analysis of the Mitrokhin Files, and other moments of deception and betrayal. Meanwhile in the present day, British academic Max Archer finds himself in possession of the inflammatory papers and on the run from British Intelligence.

This is a very clever thriller, that impresses with the breadth of its story and the intricacy of its plot. Close reading is rewarded, as the story twists and turns its way through a maze of double dealing and shifting alliances that all seem to reach back to Scarlet’s initial recruitment for British Intelligence of the German scientist Otto Spengler in 1946. The plot is captivating and the historical detail is convincing and neatly woven into the story.

At over 570 pages, it is on the long side, possibly too long, but I was never bored by the story or tempted to skip over pages. The writing is smooth and the frequent twists and surprises continue all the way to the final pages. The modern story provides some good chicanery by British Intelligence, and moments of suspense and action, but it is the historical elements, and references to real life events, that really gripped my attention.

An outstanding achievement!

The Scarlet Papers was released in Australia on 15 June 2023 and in the United Kingdom on 25 May 2023.

Here is a link to my review of Matthew’s previous novel, The Insider, which was also very good, and much shorter:

Kill For Me Kill For You by Steve Cavanagh (Headline, 25 July 2023)

Steve Cavanagh is up there with Harlan Coben and Robert Goddard as a modern day master of the twisty thriller, and his latest book, Kill For Me Kill For You (Headline, 25 July 2023), is another entertaining read full of subtle misdirection and astounding surprises.

The story is yet another variation on the central conceit of Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train, this time involving two women who have been devastated by death. Amanda and Wendy meet at a grief counselling session and over a few drinks realise that they have much in common. They both feel alone. They both drink alone and they both desperately want revenge against the two men who destroyed their families. Together, they concoct the perfect plan: If you kill for me, I’ll kill for you.

Of course nothing is ever that simple in a Steve Cavanagh novel, and things quickly spin out of control and intersect with two other seemingly separate stories involving a woman trying to recover from a brutal attack and a honest New York detective trying to catch a stalker.

The story zips along at a brisk pace and Cavanagh’s short sharp chapters always end in such a way that you have to keep on reading. Some clever misdirection is revealed by Cavanagh at the midpoint of the book, and the tension notches up significantly in the second half. The characters are neatly crafted, especially Amanda who drives much of the book, and she is quite sympathetic, despite some of her actions.

It is difficult to successfully pull off new variation on Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on A Train, but Cavanagh does it with aplomb, and Kill For Me Kill For You is a fine piece of entertainment. A few moments strain credibility, but not enough to dampen enjoyment of the book, and the final pages deliver some good surprises. In all, the perfect weekend read.

Kill For Me Kill For You will be released in Australia on 25 July 2023 and the United Kingdom on 20 July 2023. Release in the United States is not until 2024.

The Only One Left by Riley Sager (Dutton, 20 June 2023)

If you like well plotted thrillers that cross the line between domestic suspense and something a bit darker, then Riley Sager is the author for you. His second novel, The Last Time I Lied (2018), is a favourite of mine, and most of his other books have also been very good.

Sager used to write small town police detective thrillers under his own name of Todd Ritter, but moved into the domestic suspense arena with the Riley Sager pseudonym and his very successful first novel, Final Girls. All of the Sager novels feature engaging first person narrators, who are far from perfect and usually suffering from violent traumatic instances in their past. Although he is a male, Sager seems to perfectly capture the tone and style of his younger female narrators and makes them into credible, well-fleshed out characters.

In The Only One Left, (Dutton, 20 June 2023), Sager introduces another well crafted, fragile character in the form of home-health aide, Kit McDeere. It is 1983 and Kit, despite for money, arrives at the decaying Hope’s End, a dilapidated cliffside mansion on the Maine coast, to care for the notorious Lenora Hope after her previous nurse fled in the middle of the night.

Lenora is infamous as the supposed murderer of her parents and sister back in 1929. The police were never able to prove Lenora’s guilt and she has never spoken publicly about that night, apart from denying that she was responsible. She has not set foot outside Hope’s End since then and is now in her seventies and confined to a wheelchair. Lenora has been rendered mute by a series of strokes and can only communicate with Kit by tapping out sentences on an old typewriter. One night, Lenora uses it to make a tantalizing offer—I want to tell you everything.
As Kit helps Lenora write about the events leading to the Hope family massacre, it becomes clear there’s more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor’s departure come to light, Kit starts to suspect Lenora might not be telling the complete truth, and that the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought.

The Only One Left is an enjoyable mixture of cold case mystery and present day danger. The opening sections are a little slow, but the suspense soon builds and the final chapters deliver plenty of surprises and excitement amidst the collapsing remains of the once grand house. I thought I had elements of the story worked out, but the final revelations certainly caught me off guard.

Sager’s portrayal of Kit is a highlight, and the gloomy presence of Hope’s End adds a good deal of creepy atmosphere to the story. Sager’s novels sometimes skirt the edges of supernatural horror, but this time around the story is more firmly grounded, apart from the occasional ghostly whisper.

As with the Cavanagh book, some suspension of disbelief is required, but I do not think that many readers will mind. Good fun, and a convincing recreation of past times in the 1920s and the early 1980s.

The Only One Left was released in the United States on 20 June 2023 and is due for release in Australia on 11 July 2023.

Thanks to the American publishers and NetGalley for an early copy of the book for review.

So, three really good, and very different, novels for your winter reading.

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