book reviews

More Thrillers from Great Authors

This is a great collection of thrillers I received from the wonderful folks at NetGalley. I loved all of them:

  1. Murder at Black Oaks–an innocent man is on death row for 30 years and the prosecutor wants him freed
  2. The Last Orphan–one more person to help, but I’m not convinced it’s the last!
  3. The 6:20 Man–not to be confused with Girl on a Train
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5
–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review

Murder at Black Oaks

by Philip Margolin

Philip Margolin does an exquisite job with legal thrillers. He has several character series I’ve read; Defense Attorney Robin Lockwood is one of my favorites. She a former MMA champion and a brilliant legal mind. In all the books of this series, she comes up with clever solutions for her clients even Perry Mason wouldn’t think of. In Murder at Black Oaks (Minotaur Books 2022), Book 6 in the Robin Lockwood series, she is asked by the DA who put an innocent man in prison thirty years ago to free him. There are extenuating circumstances why the DA couldn’t reveal the man’s innocence long ago, all of which complicate Robin’s job. Robin performs her legal magic, manages to free the man, but for some unknown reason, the DA is murdered. Now, Robin and her investigator end up involved in solving that mystery along with the police.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite the occasional labored writing such as:

“Mrs. Raskin had stopped in the hallway when Robin was showing the tapestry to Jose. When Robin turned away from the tapestry, Mrs. Raskin continued down the corridor. Robin, Ken, and Jose caught up with Mrs. Raskin when she stopped in front of the staircase and the elevator. Mrs. Raskin went into the elevator, and Ken followed her. Jose started to follow Ken, but Robin stopped him. “

“Melville’s wheelchair was motorized, and he maneuvered away from the table and toward the hall. The other guests started walking toward the stairs to the upper floors. Frank had just entered the corridor outside the dining hall when the door from the kitchen opened and the caterers, a man and a woman in their late twenties, and the two waiters, walked into the corridor.”

Because I’ve read so many of Margolin’s excellent legal thrillers, I almost think this sort of monotonous description is purposeful, maybe the voice Margolin wishes to create.

If I could change one thing about the book, it would be the ending. A reason I love reading mysteries and thrillers is to collect the clues sprinkled throughout the book and connect the dots before the lawyers and police do. Occasionally, and this is one of those, I spend an entire 350-ish pages doing that only to have the author throw a gazillion new clues in the last five pages that change everything. So while I thought I knew stuff, I didn’t know squat.

But that didn’t change my 5/5 rating.

The 6:20 Man

by David Baldacci

In David Baldacci’s The 6:20 Man (Grand Central Publishing 2022), we meet Travis Devine, a standout West Point graduate, extraordinarily talented Army Ranger who quits the Army for some reason he says has to do with ‘paying his debts’. Every day, Devine takes the 6:20 train to a Wall Street firm where he works as an analyst in a tiny cubicle, his personal punishment for mistakes he made while serving. There is no reward or satisfaction for him or hope for a future. It’s just work. The train takes him past the mansion of the owner of his firm which often features a beautiful woman sitting out by the pool. He and every male on the train can’t help but ogle her, and then the train continues on its way downtown. When a former girlfriend commits suicide, Travis is compelled to find out why and reawakens his considerable intellectual skills in an effort to untangle the mystery. But things get a lot more complicated when the suicide becomes murder. Travis is a suspect and to keep himself a free man, agrees to help the Feds find out what dark secrets his current employer hides. The two plots merge and Devine finds himself involved in something a lot more complicated than he’d ever intended.

When I started reading, the book was reminiscent of Girl on a Train. Travis takes the 6:20 to work every day, passes a house with a woman who always seems to be where the train sees her and Devine begins to imagine a storyline of her life, but it isn’t long before it becomes clear that this plot is immensely different.

I don’t always like Baldacci books, but this one is excellent with a satisfying ending. Recommended to those who love good thrillers that never slow down.

The Last Orphan

by Gregg Hurwitz

Greg Hurwitz’s The Last Orphan (Minotaur Books 2023), Book 8 of the Orphan series, is an excellent read, a great story from Page 1 to the last line. Evan Smoak, aka Orphan X, aka Nowhere Man, was raised from boyhood to be a highly-skilled government assassin. By his 30’s (I think), he got tired of killing people because someone said they were bad and retired, choosing from then on to devote his prodigious talents to helping those in need. Evan is clever, moral, brilliant, flawed, and deeply damaged, but he’s a dog with a bone when he makes a decision. Changing his future is one of those decisions, and helping the needy is another. Once he commits, he never quits. Don’t waste your time trying to change his mind. You won’t. In this story, Smoak breaks the deal he made with the government–the one that kept him out of jail for some of the stuff he did following his new directive. To make amends for that, he agrees to do a job that no one but he can do. If he fails, it will hurt the USA immensely. Which isn’t why he takes the job, because he knows he won’t fail.

The fun of any Orphan X book is seeing how Hurwitz weaves the plot together from impossible beginning to satisfying ending. If you like high action, intelligent problem solving and a calm (albeit frenetic) approach to saving the world, this may be the book for you, but I’m considering whether I’ll read another. Why? I mean. I did give it 5/5. The reason is the same one I’ve given for several of my favorite thrillers (Daniel Silva comes to mind–I am so sad to say goodbye to that magnificent storyteller). Anyone who reads my reviews knows I push back against certain attitudes and behaviors. It’s not about left or right. It’s about core principles. I don’t want those incendiary discussions in my fiction. This book thankfully avoided the emotional lecturing, but normalized it as part of the daily life of some characters. Not all characters, but enough to make me notice, and get annoyed. If you are on that side of things (I am being purposefully vague), you will agree with my perfect rating and probably scratch your head over what annoyed me. Me. it scares me.

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Man vs. Nature saga, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the acclaimed Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Summer 2022

63 thoughts on “More Thrillers from Great Authors

  1. Hi Jacqui – oh my heart wants to read, read, read … yet if I do I feel I’m missing out on so much – these sound interesting reads – cheers Hilary

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  2. I love that example of ‘labored writing” but agree that good authors can expertly create atmospheres and tones from book to book that vary and immerse. It says a lot that you still gave five stars despite a few qualms. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The 6:30 Man and the Last Orphan sound really good. And a book that starts on a train is always a plus.I should read or listen to more thrillers (I really need to limit my listening of books to enjoyable ones).

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  4. Thanks for the recommendations, Jacqui. I haven’t read a good legal thriller in a long time, so Margolin appealed to me, but I’m not sure I’d like all the clues landing at the end. I might pick up Baldacci for a coming road trip. It sounds like a good one. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I usually love your reviews, but looking at the titles and covers I know I would want to read them and I have a teetering TBR pile as it is. I think the Hub will shoot me if I buy another book, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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