Three must-read thrillers for spring

Three fictional releases this spring take a thrilling look at historical stories.

Story highlights

  • Historical thrillers abound this spring, from Manhattan in 1845 to France in 1935
  • First-time author Charlotte Rogan delivers a "Lord of the Flies"-type tale set in a lifeboat
  • Manhattan's violent past is explored in Lyndsay Faye's "The Gods of Gotham"
  • "House of the Hunted" by Mark Mills is a spy novel that echoes the greats

Bookshelves are bursting with a bevy of great new titles this spring but we wanted to highlight a trio of new thrillers that truly bring history to life.

'The Lifeboat' by Charlotte Rogan

"The Lifeboat," by first-time author Charlotte Rogan, is a harrowing story of survival that reads like a cross between "Titanic" and "Lord of the Flies." Set in 1914, Grace Winter and her new husband sail from London to New York aboard a luxury liner. Somewhere in the Atlantic their ship sinks under mysterious circumstances.

In the chaos, Grace flees the ship aboard one of the few lifeboats, while her husband goes missing. But her struggle is just beginning. The lifeboat is dangerously over capacity, there is little food and water, dangerous storms on the horizon and a desperate power struggle brewing among the survivors. Grace is forced to choose sides as passengers plot and scheme to stay alive long enough to be rescued.

Charlotte Rogan's first release is a cross between "Titanic" and "Lord of the Flies."

I'm not revealing too much by telling you not everyone in the novel will make it to dry land. The story behind "The Lifeboat" is compelling in itself. It is inspired in part by a real-life case from 1841, when the captain of a ship tossed 12 people overboard to save the rest of the passengers from sinking, only to be found guilty of murder later.

The novel marks Rogan's publishing debut. A wife and mother of now-grown triplets, she spent more than a decade working on her story off and on, and signed her first book contract shortly after her 57th birthday. The book is winning rave reviews from critics and some respected writers, as well as generating some serious buzz among booksellers.

Read an excerpt from "The Lifeboat."

'The Gods of Gotham' Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye gives readers a glimpse into New York's turbulent past in her thrilling new novel, "The Gods of Gotham." It's 1845 in Manhattan, a time of violent growing pains for a metropolis awash in immigrants and a dangerous vigilante spirit. Two history-shaping events collide to set the story in motion: the founding of New York's police force and the great influx of Irish-Catholics fleeing the potato famine.

Lyndsay  aye's "The Gods of Gotham" explores Manhattan's violent past.

The novel's central character is Timothy Wilde, an ex-bartender who has lost everything -- and nearly his life -- in a devastating fire. He's conscripted by his older brother into the fledgling police force, called "copper stars." Wilde patrols one of New York's worst wards, what would eventually become Hell's Kitchen. He's not long on the beat before he literally stumbles across a child prostitute covered in blood, which leads to the discovery of a string of horrific murders. All the victims are immigrant children.

Wilde, a whip-smart and appealing hero, sets out to catch the killer and protect those closest to him. Wilde must crack the case without the help of modern inventions as fingerprints and forensics. He's left to rely on little more than his wits and a police whistle.

Faye has meticulously researched her novel, filling page after page with period detail and compelling characters but the story remains engaging and fast paced. Much of the dialogue is written in the authentic slang of the day, called "flash." It's the historical jargon of the streets and lends an authentic voice to the book. While "The Gods of Gotham" is set more than 150 years in the past, its imagined world of poverty, crime, sex, drugs and violence feels timeless.

Lyndsay Faye talks about writing "The Gods of Gotham."

'House of the Hunted' by Mark Mills

Mark Mills' latest, "House of the Hunted" takes place nearly 100 years later and half a world away in Côte d'Azur, France, 1935. Europe may be moving toward war but travel writer Tom Nash is enjoying an idyllic life on the French Riviera. He lives in a seaside villa, enjoys sailing the Mediterranean and hosting dinner parties for his friends, a community of ex-pats and artists.

Mark Mills' novel reveals that all is not what it seems in an idyllic setting.

His peaceful routine is shattered when an assassin tries to kill him in the dead of night. It quickly comes to light that Tom's secret history as a British intelligence agent has caught up to him. Now he must confront the violent deeds of his past, an undercover mission in Russia gone wrong and the memories of a long-lost love.

Someone knows Tom's secrets and is back for revenge. Now Tom must rely on his old instincts and once again become the dangerous man he used to be. Mills' story is suspenseful and romantic, vividly drawn and engaging, reminiscent of some of the best spy novels of the past. Readers will recognize echoes of Eric Ambler, Graham Greene and Alan Furst but "House of the Hunted" stands on its own and won't leave espionage fans disappointed.

Read an excerpt from "House of the Hunted."

      Catching up with authors

    • 'Better Nate Than Ever'

      Author Tim Federle has just wrapped a long day at the Atlanta Junior Theater festival, working with several thousand boys and girls who dream of stardom on the Broadway stage. Count these kids as lucky; they've found the perfect mentor.
    • Novelist loses dog, finds heroine

      There's good and bad news regarding Robert Crais' new novel, "Suspect." First, the bad: There's no sign of uber-popular, crime-fighting duo, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Now the good: There is a dog.
    • Robert Butler, author of "The Hot Country."

      'The Hot Country' is a cool trip

      In "The Hot Country," U.S. troops invade a foreign country where oil interests are at stake, a rising foreign power is looking to derail U.S. forces using cloak and dagger tactics, and there's a gunfight in the desert against insurgent enemies.
    • Think like Sherlock Holmes'

      This week super fans from around the world are gathering in New York to celebrate the 159th birthday of the legendary consulting detective Sherlock Holmes.
    • The two Mikes of mystery

      Fans of crime fiction know the names Connelly and Koryta well. Two Mikes. Two generations. Two masters of their craft.
    • Crime classic Parker is back in black

      Crime fiction fans know the name Parker, a single-named anti-hero of the 1960s. As a character, he's a career criminal, hired gun and professional thief, a pulp-fiction prince of America's seedy underworld.
    • 'Talulla Rising' a howling good read

      Werewolves are usually the stuff of B-movies and bad novels, but last year British author Glen Duncan did the unthinkable in literary circles, crafting a howling good tale out of the weary werewolf myth.
    • Thriller fans enlist for 'Mission to Paris'

      Best-selling author Alan Furst has made a career of capturing the classic cloak-and-dagger days leading up to World War II, bringing the era to life like a literary version of "Casablanca."
    • Rich Roll: From fat dad to ultra-fit father

      The night before he turned 40, Rich Roll had what he calls a "moment of clarity." Overweight and out of shape, Roll had to stop to catch his breath while walking up the stairs of his Southern California home. Roll, now a father of four, feared he was close to a heart attack.
    • 'Longmire' gallops from page to screen

      Craig Johnson looks like he could have stepped out of the pages of one of his own best-selling Western novels. With the late-day sun behind him, he could even pass for his fictional hero, Sheriff Walt Longmire.
    • "The Ball" details how a simple invention has come through time to stake an unrivaled claim on our passions.

      Behind 'The Ball': Why we play

      It's one of our simplest yet most enduring inventions. While the games have evolved, the ball in all its various forms continues to play a key role in different cultures around the world.
    • Marcia Clark, former O.J. Simpson case prosecutor, has become a crime novelist.

      Clark trades courtroom for crime fiction

      Former O.J. Simpson trial prosecturo Marcia Clark became a household name as the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Clark is still mining her past, only now as a successful crime novelist.
    • New fiction releases promise to be thrilling this spring.

      Three must-read thrillers for spring

      Bookshelves are bursting with a bevy of great new titles this spring but we wanted to highlight a trio of new thrillers that truly bring history to life.
    • James Patterson co-wrote his latest, "Guilty Wives," with David Ellis.

      The world's busiest best-seller

      James Patterson may be the top-selling writer in the world; he might very well be the busiest, too. Patterson has three books near the top of the bestseller lists right now.
    • Olen Steinhauer's latest spy thriller involves popular character CIA agent Milo Weaver.

      Author uncovers 'An American Spy'

      Muffled gun shots and squealing tires. A secret midnight meeting in a dark alley. Everyone recognizes the classic elements of a good cloak and dagger story.
    • New releases for the month of March shine a spotlight on history.

      Must-reads for March

      History, from ancient Greece to hopscotching across time, plays a prominent role in March's best books.
    • Esi Edugyan's novel "Half-Blood Blues" is a portrayal of black jazz musicians in Nazi Germany.

      Author plays the 'Half-Blood Blues'

      Imagine a smoke-filled jazz club, dark and crowded. The sounds of a trumpet solo echo on stage, while a piano, bass and drums pound out a finger-snapping groove.
    • Robert Crais gives private detectives Elvis Cole and Joe Pike a new kind of crime to solve in "Taken."

      Crais fans 'Taken' on thrilling ride

      We should all be so lucky to have friends like Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. Private detectives in modern-day Los Angeles, they're the stars of best-selling author Robert Crais' award-winning series of crime novels.
    • Author Elmore Leomard returns to one of his favorite characters in "Raylan."

      Elmore Leonard returns to "Raylan"

      Elmore Leonard is something of a living legend among lovers of crime fiction. A favorite of millions of readers, a hero to scores of writers, he's been called "America's greatest crime writer."