The Banker's Wife
We lived for a while in Luxembourg. Right before moving back to New York City, we spent a week skiing in the French Alps followed by a couple of nights in cold, gray, boring Geneva. What a cure for wanting to live in Europe! But Cristina Alger uses the staid bankery city to launch a terrifically twisty financial thriller with a hugely compelling set of perils, plus the sort of expert character development and finely honed prose that you don’t always find in fast-paced thrillers.
The Flight Attendant
Dubai, Rome, New York. It’s already interesting, isn’t it? Things go incredibly wrong for a lush of a flight attendant, a woman who knows full and well that she’s guilty of plenty of minor infractions as a matter of everyday lifestyle. But can she possibly be a murderer? Even she can’t say definitively that she’s not. Readers know a bit more than the protagonist, and this book offers that special type of squirming fun to watch her race to catch up.
Dancing with the Tiger
My childhood included some pretty unusual features, one of which was that my family spent all summer every summer of the 1970s driving around Latin America; in sum I’ve spent nearly two years of my life in Mexico. This probably makes me hyper-critical of most American writing about the country, which I think often falls into one of two predictable camps: violent drug cartels on the one hand, or naivete on the other. But Lili Wright manages to plant her authorship flag squarely between the two, at times swaying toward one direction or the other, but never veering uncomfortably far either way. It’s a wonderful book about a wonderful place that isn’t, of course, always at its most wonderful.
The Fear Index
Geneva again! I bet you didn’t see that coming. I guess it turns out that Geneva isn’t as boring as I thought. (Come to think of it, I myself set a scene in Geneva.) This financial thriller is not only fast-paced and gripping but is absolutely packed with interesting (and relevant) facts about financial markets, and hedge-funding, and technology. This is one of those novels that teaches a useful thing or two about the real world while also scaring the bejesus out of you. Nothing is more terrifying than the potential realities that we face, and The Fear Index offers a particularly plausible sort of nightmare.
Not only does this novel trot the globe effortlessly, it does a terrific job of hopping back and forth between split timelines—Cold War Europe and modern-day America—to interweave two different sorts of crime stories that both share themes of work versus love, loyalty and betrayal, professionalism and ethics, mothers and daughters. A high-wire act of authorial dexterity, filled with richly developed characters, sparkling dialogue, and the sort of moral conflicts that are the reason we love spy fiction.
The Paris Diversion
“Thriller writing at its absolute best. With echoes of Graham Greene and John le Carré, Pavone’s novel accomplishes that rare feat of being both a nonstop adventure ride and a smart, stylish, and compelling meditation on family, courage, responsibilities, and the relationships we create, for good and bad, throughout our lives. The Paris Diversion does far more than divert; it grips us from the very beginning and doesn’t let go.” —Jeffery Deaver
For me there’s nothing more exciting than suspense novels whose protagonists find themselves in trouble abroad—the dislocation, the unfamiliar language and customs and landscape, the shades of James Bond and Jason Bourne, all contribute to an extra air of tension and peril. Or at least that’s what I’m trying to accomplish in my own books. So I read plenty of other people’s international thrillers, and here are some of the most exciting I’ve come across in the past few years.
Featured image: @jpi213 via Twenty20