The Cold Kiss by John Rector. When a young couple decide to pick up a stranded motorist in Nebraska just ahead of white-out conditions, it's only the first of a series of increasingly dire life-altering decisions they'll be making under considerable duress over the course of the next few days. When they pull into the nearest motel and find their passenger has expired while in possession of a large amount of cash, things quickly spiral out of control (which is an illusion best shed anyway).
Lake Country by Sean Doolittle. Yeah, this could've been a list full of Doolittle titles, but as it's his latest that spawned the list... When a young woman disappears from a small Minnesota community, three locals have some inkling of the perp's identity and, each has their own reason for not immediately alerting the authorities. One is a C-list celebrity bounty hunter with reality show in need of a season finale, another is a bookie who needs to collect what he's owed by the deadbeat before possibly collecting reward money for turning him in. Last is the closest thing the man has to a friend in the world - a fellow Iraq veteran whose life he once saved in combat. Things will not go well.
Rough Riders by Charlie Stella. The title is a reference to Mt. Rushmore's only mustache-wearer Theodore Roosevelt's San Juan Hill charging soldiers, and the South Dakota monument is (relatively) close to a fair amount of the action in this ten-years-later sequel to Eddie's World (though it reads like a stand-alone - don't worry if you haven't read the first book). This one's an ode to dis-function in the system. When violent criminals, who receive protection for turning on their partners, go on with their lives it's not exactly My Blue Heaven. In this case, it's closer to the Whitey Bulger debacle - with crimes continuing (only this time, under protected colors, and with tracks covered by the law). The true pleasure of Stella's writing is in the moments of interaction between his characters - whether cops, crooks or creeps they bring their world-views to their work and half-to-overbaked philosophies to every idle moment in between. You like Elmore Leonard and George V. Higgins? You'll dig Stella. Lots.
Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera. The end approaches for this phenomenal nearly six-year graphic novel series, and I can't wait to be blown away. Prodigal Dashiell Bad Horse returned to the Rez with mysterious motives and set about unraveling the power structure and undermining the establishment, on a suicide salvation mission, and has hurt everyone he's tried to help along the way. The scope and sweep of this saga are truly epic, reaching deep into the past and telling the story of three generations of Oglala Lakota people struggling under a legacy of poverty, violence and corruption, to make a new place in the world. Everything that is worthwhile about crime fiction - from a serious adrenaline kick to refracted history and social commentary is contained in Scalped. Dig it world.
Simple Plan by Scott Smith. "The Terrible Things Good People Will Do Under the Right/Wrong Circumstances" and "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Hank" were titles (no one) considered for this one. Thankfully they were abandoned for the simpler name it's now known by. The plot is standard - three friends stumble upon a bunch of money of dubious origin and decide to keep it - and cranks it up to eleven. Ouch.
Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith. Billy Lafitte is a semi-disgraced Mississippi cop in the middle of blowing his last chance at respectability in Minnesota when he inadvertently runs afoul of some very nasty terrorists. He may be an self-centered, drug-peddling, vengeance-taking, authority-abusing opportunist, but he's no mass murderer (like those Homeland Security types seem to believe). A bad man pitted against the truly evil - penned by a writer who refuses to play safe with his characters' lives or audience's expectations - is a set-up too enticing to pass up. Also, newly available for your NOOK.
Each of these books is placed in pretty specific geography that enhances and permeates the mood of the book. Is it any coincidence that these tend to be somber titles? Is that just my taste or is that the natural tone for a story set in the region? Do you want to tack New England, upstate New York and Maine to this list? - Here are a few that jumped to my mind, but turned out not to be a geographical fit for this list:
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