Five Favorite Books is a special feature at the LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share and discuss their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, author Morgan St. James shares her 5 favorite Suspense/Thriller books. One of the busiest writers I know, Morgan has two examiner.com columns and is co-author of award-winning Silver Sisters Mysteries series with her sister Phyllice Bradner. Her latest books, written as Arliss Adams, the Twist of Fate series includes Devil’s Dance and The Devil’s Due. To learn more about this phenomenal writer, visit her website. Also, check out LA Books Examiner’s interview with Morgan earlier this year.
Five Favorite Suspense/Thriller Books by Morgan St. James
While I read books in many genres, and my favorites are subject to change, I must say they usually are suspense or thrillers with a tad of humor. Another compelling thing for me in choosing favorites is the excellent description of locations, neighborhoods, etc. as well as fully rounded characters. Just enough detail to make you feel the author knows the locations in the book and characters who feel real. The books below all have some or all of these elements and I enjoyed them thoroughly. I used the criteria of whether I would read the book more than once. For the books listed, yes I have or would.
1. The Monkey’s Raincoat, Robert Crais (First Release March, 1992)
This is the first Elvis Cole book, and I have no idea why I’d never seen it before. I’ve read many Robert Crais novels. The audio book jumped off a library shelf as I passed by. Well, not really, but as a Robert Crais fan the title intrigued me. I had no idea it was the first in the series nor that he’d been writing the series so long.
When Ellen Lang’s best friend Janet Simon brings her to Elvis for help she is a beaten-down, timid person. Her husband, who spent years breaking her spirit, and her young son have disappeared and she’s frightened to death. As Janet helps Ellen through talking about the problem, intimidating her as well, a Jiminy Cricket clock ticks away in Cole’s office. This sets the tone for the tale and we are gradually introduced to the Elvis Cole brand of humor, sarcasm and action.
As his investigation takes him through a sleazier part of the Hollywood dream, Elvis discovers Ellen’s husband wasn’t going to win a badge of honor anytime soon—in fact, never, if he turns up dead. The cast of characters is fully drawn and the story moves along at a comfortable pace making it a page turner from the get-go, unless you’re listening to the audio book. Then you drive around the block so you can hear more.
2. The Last Detective, Robert Crais (March 30, 2004)
This Robert Crais novel was released twelve years later, and Cole is still a wisecracking delight rivaling old timers like Sam Spade while he keeps you on the edge of your chair anticipating the next moves. This time he is babysitting ten year old Ben, while his girlfriend lawyer Lucy Chenier is on a case. Cole lives up in a Hollywood Hills canyon that I happen to be quite familiar with. One moment Ben is on his deck, the next he is gone and Cole and his partner Joe Pike have to find him.
Ben has been kidnapped and Cole receives a call saying it’s payback for what he did. He has no idea what the kidnapper is talking about but the clock is ticking and Ben’s time could run out. Crais skillfully mixes points of view and also uses flashbacks to Cole’s Vietnam days to craft a rounded story that you can’t put down. The eyelids began to droop, but that didn’t stop me from reading right through the night.
Read Frank Mundo’s, LA Books Examiner’s, interview with Morgan St. James.
Read more Five Favorite Books
Frank Mundo is the author of The Brubury Tales (foreword by bestselling author Carolyn See).
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