The Big Thrill | ITW Thriller Award Nominees 2018

The International Thriller Writers (ITW) have announced the nominees for the 2018 Thriller Awards. The winners will be announced at ThrillerFest XIII on July 14, 2018, at the Grand Hyatt, New York City.

The International Thriller Writers  (ITW) have announced the nominees for the 2018 Thriller Awards. Below are the candidates for Best Hardcover Novel and Best First Novel, with LJ reviews where available. Visit the ITW website for a full list of the nominees. The winners will be announced at ThrillerFest XIII on July 14, 2018, at the Grand Hyatt, New York City.

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL
Chaon, Dan. Ill Will. (Ballantine)
Starred review, LJ 2/1/17
In this intensely readable and shadowy novel by Chaon (Await Your Reply), Dustin Tillman is a 40-year-old psychologist who has recently lost his wife to cancer. Dustin is no stranger to tragedy, having lived through the mysterious murder of his parents and relatives many years ago. Now he learns that his adopted brother, Rusty, found guilty of committing those murders, has been released from prison. A former police officer whom Dustin is counseling has involved him in an amateur investigation of the mysterious deaths of local youths in the area. Meanwhile, Rusty has been contacting Dustin’s son Aaron, who is struggling with a dangerous drug habit and is just now learning of his father’s tragic past. When Dustin loses contact with his son and finds out that he had been in touch with Rusty, he is drawn toward a confrontation that is both horrific and inevitable. VERDICT In this creepy yet fascinating work, with a bleak Ohio wintery landscape as backdrop, Chaon creates a world of tragedy, disease, and drug abuse right out of today’s news and makes it real while keeping readers guessing on many levels. [See Prepub Alert, 10/3/16.]—James Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.

Mina, Denise. The Long Drop. (Little, Brown)
LJ 2/1/17
In Glasgow, December 1957, successful businessman William Watt hires noted defense lawyer Laurence Dowdall to defend him against charges he murdered his wife, sister-in-law, and daughter. The two men meet with recently released criminal Peter Manuel, who claims to have information—the location of the gun used in the killings—that will exonerate Watt. Manuel and Watt spend the evening together drinking and talking, but no gun is produced. Six months later, Manuel is on trial for these and five other killings, and Watt has been called to testify as a witness. The story, narrated in the present tense, alternates chapters between the end of 1957 when these characters first interact and the trial in May 1958, which decides the fate of both Watt and Manuel, effectively portraying a grimy, gritty Glasgow of 60 years ago. VERDICT Award-winning Scottish author Mina’s (Blood, Salt, Water) stand-alone is a disappointment. Unfortunately, there is no sympathetic main character and little fulfillment at the end. Readers will be left wondering at the stylistic devices and wishing for a better resolution. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/16.]—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

Paris, B.A. The Breakdown. (St. Martin’s)
Starred review, LJ 3/15/17
Would you stop to help the driver of a stalled vehicle on an isolated wooded road during a major storm? As the morning news reveals that the stranded driver had been brutally murdered, probably minutes after Cass drove by the night before, this is the question she repeatedly asks herself as she replays those earlier moments. Then she starts receiving silent phone calls. Is the caller the killer? Did he see her? Already worried about early dementia (her deceased mother suffered from this) and racked with guilt, Cass starts to forget things, mix-up dates, and become mired in confusion, fear, and paranoia. Thank goodness she has her loving husband and longtime best friend to support her. It’s unfortunate that the two don’t really get along, but as long as Cass has them to count on, she should be fine. VERDICT In the same vein as the author’s acclaimed debut, Behind Closed Doors, this riveting psychological thriller pulls readers into an engrossing narrative in which every character is suspect. With its well-formed protagonists, snappy, authentic dialog, and clever and twisty plot, this is one not to miss. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/17; “Editors’ Spring Picks,” LJ 2/15/17.]—Marianne Fitzgerald, Severna Park H.S., MD

Phillips, Gin. Fierce Kingdom. (Viking)
LJ 5/15/17
Joan has brought her four-year-old son Lincoln to one of their favorite places, the zoo. Joan doesn’t think too much about the distant popping noises she hears as she wrangles Lincoln and his toys in order to start heading out. As she nears the exit, though, she sees bodies and a man with a gun. Grabbing Lincoln and running in the opposite direction, she heads for a hiding place in the animal exhibits. Faced with multiple agonizing decisions over the next few hours, Joan tries to keep her son quiet and safe. But what about the teenagers they ran by and the baby she keeps hearing cry? Flashing back and forth among Joan, other trapped zoo visitors, and one of the three gunmen, the story sustains its intensity while also exposing the characters’ inner thoughts. Phillips (A Little Bit of Spectacular; The Hidden Summer) skillfully captures the terror of the situation but also the beautiful minutiae of our everyday lives. This literary thriller encompasses three terrifying hours in the lives of some zoo visitors and the gunmen hunting them, movingly conveying much of the action through the viewpoint of a mother and her young son. VERDICT This would be an excellent book club pick. Also recommend to those who enjoy Rosamund Lupton’s suspense novels. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/17; “Editors’ Spring Picks,” LJ 2/15/17.]—Melissa DeWild, BookOps, New York P.L.

Sager, Riley. Final Girls. (Dutton)
Starred review, LJ 6/15/17
As a teenager, Quincy Carpenter endured a terrible event at a cabin in the Pennsylvania woods. As the lone survivor of a massacre (one she does not remember), she was labeled by the press a “Final Girl,” making her one of three such survivors. Ten years later, Quincy has rebuilt her life in New York City, with a lawyer boyfriend and a popular baking blog. The policeman who saved Quincy that fateful night still checks up on her regularly. Lisa and Samantha, the other two Final Girls whose stories are told as the book unfolds, play important roles, especially when Samantha gets in touch with Quincy to help her realize her internal anger. Soon, the suspense ratchets up with a mysterious murder, violent late-night escapades in Central Park, and the appearance of multiple suspects in past and present crimes. The tale builds to a fantastic conclusion that will have readers thinking of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train. VERDICT Sager (a pseudonym for a published author) is a “new” star in the making. This brilliant horror/psychological thriller will fly off the shelves. [See Prepub Alert, 2/1/17.]—Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, W

BEST FIRST NOVEL

Broadribb, Steph. Deep Down Dead. (Orenda)

Cole, Daniel. Ragdoll. (Ecco: HarperCollins)
LJ 3/15/17
Veteran and volatile London police detective William “Wolf” Fawkes has just been reinstated to his post after a suspension for assaulting a suspect. He is called by his former partner to a brutal crime scene where the “corpse” is actually made up of the body parts of six different victims. Wolf and a team of detectives are tasked with identifying the parts of “the Ragdoll,” as the press call the cadaver, as well as finding the people named on a hit list sent by the killer to Wolf’s reporter ex-wife. The final name on the list is Wolf’s, which complicates the investigation. With a third-person omniscient narrator, the briskly paced story line allows readers into the mind-sets of the various characters—from the multiple detectives to potential victims. VERDICT In portraying the real emotions and inner turmoil of its flawed protagonist, Cole’s grim yet humorous first novel offers a fresh take on British detective drama that is bound to attract admirers of Robert Galbraith and Clare Mackintosh. [See Prepub Alert, 10/24/16.]—Natalie Browning, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond, VA

Gragg, Walt. The Red Line. (Berkley)
Starred review, LJ 4/15/17
The Russians launch an attack on Germany, and World War III begins in Gragg’s intense and gripping debut thriller. Assisting Germany is a team of undermanned American troops who truly have no hope of stopping the onslaught. Young soldiers must rise up, take bold risks, and seek allies if the hostilities are to end favorably for everyone. This frightening and realistic scenario will be compared to Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising, as both titles deal with war and the horrors of the battlefield. The characters are more fully developed here, intensifying the emotional repercussions of the fighting. One hopes that World War III will never happen, but if it did then this book could easily become nonfiction. VERDICT Difficult reading, not for the writing, which is stellar, but owing to the story’s timeliness and authenticity. Recommended for fans of military and futuristic thrillers.—Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.

Howe, K.J. The Freedom Broker. (Quercus)

Kamal, Sheena. The Lost Ones. (Morrow)
LJ 6/15/17
DEBUT Nora Watts has a sketchy past. She’s a recovering alcoholic working for a small Vancouver PI shop. When she gets a call from Everett Walsh about his missing daughter, she has no idea that the girl is hers, given up for adoption at birth, after Nora suffered a horrible assault and rape. Hesitant to open old wounds, Nora ultimately agrees to take the case and drops everything to search for her daughter. Aided by her AA sponsor, a former detective, Nora finds her search forces her to relive the hardest parts of her life; in the process, she learns painful lessons about love, trust, and resilience. And although she may not be the most likable central character, her strength and tenacity are truly admirable. VERDICT Offering an intriguing twist on the standard missing-person thriller, Kamal’s debut is raw, violent, and thought provoking. An author to watch! [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/17.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

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