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Book Buzz
By Lucie Smoker

Suspense slow-burns your brain, activates your survival instincts and sends your pulse racing, your mind grasping for answers. Celebrate Hitchcock’s birthday on August 13 with the smokin’ charcoal of summer fiction. You won’t be able to stop reading.

Romantic suspense: Vanished by Kendra Elliott

Tense, every moment counts when an 11-year-old girl, Henley, disappears on the way to school. The FBI embeds Special Agent Ava McLane into the Portland family home where local detective Mason Callahan has a personal connection: the mom is his ex. With the clock ticking, both of them devote every breath to finding Henley with a full FBI task force, local connections and a falling-apart family.

If you like a basic thriller laden with sex, this is not it. If you want gut-wrenching, emotional suspense with a dangerous undertow of true passion, dive into Vanished.

Christian thriller: Hacker by Ted Dekker

In a book that pushes you to the edge of your seat—and your faith—17-year-old Nyah is a computer hacker whose mother had a terrible accident. She needs a $250,000 brain surgery. Nyah tries to earn the money through corporate security hacking but when that doesn’t work, she applies her skills to hacking the human mind.

What I find most grasping in this book is the underlying theme of surrender. Where do you draw the line between control and giving in to your faith? How hard is it for a hacker, an outlaw by nature, to truly grasp letting go?

This book brings surreal science fiction home with that universal need to help someone you love. A whole generation of caregivers might find its concepts enlightening—but perhaps not everyone. Dekker’s work is deeply Christian in its viewpoint, but in a way that even many Believers will find a challenge. Try it.

An all-star RedHawks reader recommendation:

Right-handed pitcher, Jason Stoffel from Tarzana California, enjoys the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child. In the latest, Personal, (due out September 2) Jack Reacher goes after an assassin on a vendetta against the French president. Once before Reacher captured the expert sniper, but now he’ll have to chase him from England to France and put him away for good.

25-year-old Stoffel says of the Reacher books, “They have good character development, an entertaining plot, and are generally fun to read.”

Oklahoma YA Thriller: After Me by Joyce Scarbrough

Trapped in a Ferrari with a man she was teasing online, Jada Celeste Gayle makes one more bad decision and ends up getting killed—except she wasn’t supposed to die that way or right now. Instead she’s sent to the Afterlife Detention Office where she’s given an assignment: go back among the living as a Transdead and stop the child predator who killed her. She can’t go to Heaven until she completes her mission so she complies.

This is one of the more interesting paranormal concepts I’ve seen in a while. The book reads like a thriller, fast and suspenseful, but with YA angst. Recommended.

Gripping psychological mystery: Phantom Limb by Dennis Palumbo

Distant, egotistical former Playmate, Lisa Harland, gives celebrity psychologist, Daniel Rinaldi, fifty minutes to stop her suicide—then she’s abducted from the steps outside his office. Her kidnapping launches a slow unraveling of dirty, Harland-family secrets and a media silence that only old money can secure.

Privilege and power collide with sex-trafficking and solid investigative work in this traditional mystery from real-life Hollywood psychologist and screenwriter, Dennis Palumbo. I loved the Harland ego, the loyalties and betrayals—and the juxtaposition of insular Philadelphia with more wide-open locations like Hollywood and Kanduhar, Afghanistan.

Most of all what makes a Rinaldi mystery unique is the psych element being so real, straight from Hollywood confessions on-the-couch. The dialog and situations feel real making the characters ring true. A former Welcome Back Potter writer, Palumbo has a talent for working humor through the intrigue. Highest recommendation.

Lucie Smoker is a freelance writer and author of Kindle top-selling murder mystery, Distortion. More at

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