First of all, I don’t want to give the impression I am pitting these authors against each other. Anytime I see “vs.” between two names, I think of an anticipated boxing match. My goal here is to compare, non-violently, these two historical romantic suspense authors and help readers decide if one or both of these authors are for them.
First, Deanna Raybourn, who I have loved since her first book featuring Lady Julia Grey, Silent in the Grave, is an author with an exceedingly light touch. A light touch in writing style…a light touch when it comes to Lady Julia and a light touch when it comes to the story. Nothing ever gets too dark or threatening here. Even when Lady Julia or another character, such as her P.I. husband Nicholas, encounters a dangerous and potentially fatal situation, Raybourn always shines a little air of affability into the mix. Saying that, this does not mean I do not savor everything Lady Julia does. I do and I try my best to wait patiently for her next book. All I’m saying is that there is no sense of continual doom with Raybourn like there are with some suspense writers. She keeps it light…and I keep reading.
Onto Tasha Alexander, who I first discovered at a mystery writer’s conference where I bought a book and had Alexander sign it based on hearing her speak. But, the book sat on my shelves for over a year until Julia Keller, the Chicago Tribune’s Cultural Critic, wrote a piece on Alexander (December 4, 2011, Arts and Entertainment) for Keller’s LitLife column. So, I got the book, A Fatal Waltz, out, dusted it off and began, quite pleased I did. Unlike Raybourn, Alexander’s writing style is a little more refined, a little more literary. I hesitate to say more polished, since I think Raybourn is a good writer, but Alexander’s entire style does enhance the affluent world that her main character, Lady Emily Ashton, lives in. Both Raybourn’s Lady Julia and Alexander’s Lady Emily are wealthy Victorian London crime-solving ladies, but the way Alexander writes her tales includes the required upper-class effect. Does this mean I like Alexander more? No. It means that when I’m looking for something lighter, I will reach for Raybourn and Lady Julia. When I am ready for something more meaty and more challenging, I’ll pull out another Alexander and Lady Emily.
Both writers create fiercely strong ladies who enjoy solving crimes, even though it’s highly unladylike in late 1800s London. Both writers weave compelling stories that hold the reader’s interest from start to finish. Basically, both writers excel in this genre (or is historical romantic suspense a SUBgenre?). Try both and see for yourself.

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This is the one everyone is talking about. I usually stay away from uber-popular titles like the plague, but this was too popular to pass up. And, I believe, it deserves most, if not all, of the hype. But, be warned, it starts slow and ends kind of slow but in-between are some of the most compelling, can’t-put-it-down-in-the-middle-of-the-night fair. Like I said, at the start, I was pretty bored. But, once it kicks in (when you find out the essence of the “thriller” part of the story), I was hooked. The “thriller” part (which takes up most of the book, so don’t worry) involves a disgraced journalist who is asked by the head of a influential Swedish family to write his memoirs and also, in the process, find out what happened to his niece who went missing over 40 years ago. Be warned…this one is pretty dang gory and graphic in parts. Author Stieg Larsson doesn’t hold anything back when he describes a crime scene. And, I like that…it’s honest. Deliberate when it needs to be and riveting always, Larsson (who passed away after he submitted the final book in this trilogy to his publisher) deserves all of the credit he’s getting. Too bad he’s not here to enjoy it!

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A sensational thriller from Oscar-winner Roman Polanski who has filmed one of the best final shots I’ve ever seen on the screen. To me, it’s a simply perfect ending to an already great film. This one leaves you guessing all the way…and even once you think you know what’s going on, you’re usually wrong. Ewan McGregor stars as a ghost writer for a scandal-ridden British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). While writing the PM’s memoirs, the writer gets himself involved with the same political and sexual shenanigans as his subject. The McGregor character is teeming with intensity and confusion. He knows something is going on, but WHAT? Brosnan does a great job of capturing the scorned political figure who might not be guilty of all he is accused of but is guilty of enough. This is a film, especially that fantastic ending, that you will want to watch over and over again to pick up on all of the slight nuances of each of the characters…not to mention the plot twists! The film Polanski has made here competes with Woody Allen’s Match Point as one of the best thrillers of the 21st Century (so far). The Ghost Writer: Rated PG-13, 128 minutes, directed by Roman Polanski, starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, and Kim Cattrall. The Niles Public Library will have copies of this DVD when it is released on August 3.

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A strong thriller that has small-town and strong families ties intricate to the story. Set in rural New York State, the girlfriend of police detective’s son goes missing and the son is a strong suspect. This disappearance also brings to light the decades-old murder of a local girl who was friends with the detective during his high school years. Never having read Unger, I was surprised by how, not only well-written, but how formed the characters were. We really got to know these people and, as a result of that, you felt and cared for all of them. A VERY powerful thriller!

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After 19 people are brutally murdered in a little small-town hamlet in Sweden , a judge who finds out she’s distantly related to one of the victims begins her own investigation. Brigitta, the judge, soon finds out that all of the victims might have had an ancestral connection that was the factor in their murder. The story, which goes from present day Sweden and China to American in the 1800s, is as nail-biting as they come. Mankell, known worldwide mostly for his Wallander mystery series, does a superb job of trying his hand at a standalone thriller.

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An excellent standalone thriller by Rankin, who really, I feel, ranks as one of the top thriller writers, in addition to being a top-notch mystery writer as well, of the Rebus detective series. Taking place mostly in California , but also moves to London and Scotland , the main character, Gordon, here is a former Special Forces soldier who’s brother has committed suicide. Once Gordon arrives in California to take his brother home to the UK , he finds out that, most likely, it was not suicide, but rather murder. Fast-paced and very well-written this one is a must for all thriller lovers and British mystery fans!

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