Reviews: Criminal thrillers in visual splendor

Associated Press

“Boar Island”

by Nevada Barr


Nevada Barr’s vivid novels about National Park Service Ranger Anna Pigeon have allowed readers to take visceral tours of more U.S. national parks than most could ever arrange to visit. Anna’s work, which takes her across the country, showcases the beauty and eco-systems of the National Park Service, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

This book cover image of "Boar Island" by Nevada Barr, released by Minotaur shows.

“Boar Island” finds Anna on a 21-day assignment at Maine’s Acadia National Park. A breathtaking look at nature’s beauty and stunning vistas is standard for Barr’s series with its ongoing theme of man’s ruthlessness. “Boar Island” does all that, but the plot unfolds in more inside locations — a crumbling lighthouse, a deteriorating house, a local bar — with just enough jaunts to Maine’s exterior to showcase the state’s beauty.

Anna is accompanied to Maine by her friend Heath Jarrod, Heath’s aunt Gwen Littleton and 16-year-old Elizabeth, who is Heath’s adopted daughter and Anna’s goddaughter. Elizabeth has been the victim of a cyber-stalker back home in Boulder, Colorado, and the family believes a trip to Maine may halt the viciousness. But it appears the stalker has followed the family.

Anna has barely had time to settle into her job when she is pulled into a murder investigation.

Barr excels in producing a nuanced view of the rangers’ lives and the economic hardships the area lobstermen and their families face. The characters are as vivid and sometimes as tough and unforgiving as the Maine environment. Realistic twists enhance the story.

Barr’s affection for the national parks shines in “Boar Island,” making it one of the best in a series known for its gripping, precise plots.

— Oline H. Cogdill

“The Second Life

of Nick Mason”

by Steve Hamilton

(G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Nine months after splitting with his longtime publisher, St. Martin’s Press, in a public dispute over marketing plans, two-time Edgar Award winner Steve Hamilton returns with a new publisher, a new anti-hero and a movie deal with Lionsgate for the new book.

This book cover image of “The Second Life of Nick Mason” by Steve Hamilton, released by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

“The Second Life of Nick Mason” introduces readers to a small-time career criminal who got sucked into a big score that went bad, resulting in the shooting death of a federal officer. When Nick gets arrested and refuses to roll on the rest of his crew, he’s sentenced to 25 years in prison. But he serves only five years before he’s suddenly released and moves into an elegant lakefront Chicago condo with a hot new car in the garage.

For this good fortune, Nick is indebted to Darius Cole, a notorious crime lord who rules the prison. In return, Nick is required, under penalty of death, to do whatever Cole asks, including committing both robbery and murder.

The result is a suspenseful, fast-paced crime novel with the same heart, well-drawn characters and muscular prose that fans of his popular Alex McKnight series and his fine stand-alone novels such as “The Lock Artist” have come to expect.

— Bruce DeSilva


Week ending 5/8/2016.


1. “15th Affair” by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Little, Brown)

2. “The Apartment” by Danielle Steel (Delacorte)

3. “The Last Mile” by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing)

4. “Extreme Prey” by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

5. “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts (Berkley)

6. “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Ecco)

7. “Star Wars: Bloodline” by Claudia Gray (Del Rey)

8. “Everybody’s Fool” by Richard Russo (Knopf)

9. “As Time Goes By” by Mary Higgins Clark (Simon & Schuster)

10. “Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House)


1. “The Rainbow Comes and Goes” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt (Harper)

2. “Grit” by Angela Duckworth (Scribner)

3. “Hamilton: The Revolution” by Miranda/McCarter (Grand Central Publishing)

4. “Unashamed” by Lecrae Moore (B&H)

5. “Becoming Grandma” by Lesley Stahl (Penguin/Blue Rider)

6. “Perfectly Imperfect” by Baron Baptiste (Hay House)

7. “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi (Random House)

8. “Red Platoon” by Clinton Romesha (Dutton)

9. “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight (Scribner)

10. “Cravings” by Chrissy Teigen and Adeena Sussman (Clarkson Potter)

— Publishers Weekly