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A Quick Snapshot

There are a number of outstanding, highly original thriller novels that simply can’t be shoehorned into any sub-genre, that I call “Wild Card Thrillers.”

One standout in this category is C. J. Box’s part-thriller/part-western series featuring game warden Joe Pickett, which compulsively unfolds in the wilds of Wyoming.

Others are the incomparable thriller novels of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, which combine breathtaking suspense with history, science, archaeology, anthropology, sci fi, and more. I highly recommend both their fabled co-authored Agent Pendergast series, as well as solo efforts by Preston (BLASPHEMY, IMPACT, THE CODEX, etc.) and by Child (THE THIRD GATE, LETHAL VELOCITY, DEATH MATCH, and others).

ANGELS & DEMONS by Dan Brown

When Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is asked to examine an enigmatic symbol found seared into the chest of a physicist who’s been murdered, he discovers evidence that an ancient secret sect, the Illuminati, has resurfaced. And it appears they’re plannning to carry out the final phase of their legendary vendetta against the Catholic Church.

On the eve of the Vatican’s holy conclave, a messenger of the Illuminati reveals that they’ve planted a time bomb somewhere in the heart of Vatican City. Now with the timer ticking down toward detonation, Langdon and mysterious Italian scientist Vittoria Vetra must follow a 400-year-old trail that snakes through the eerie catacombs and haunting cathedrals of Rome, praying they’ll be smart enough and fast enough to save the holy city from destruction.


When the curator of the Louvre is found murdered inside the renowned museum, cryptic symbols covering his body, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is called in.

Langdon teams up with French cryptologist Sophie Neveu, and together they unscramble strange riddles and follow a trail of enigmatic clues concealed in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. Which leads to the startling discovery that the murdered curator was involved in a secret society whose members included Victor Hugo, Sir Isaac Newton, and Da Vinci – and was guarding an ancient secret that could rock the world.

But as Langdon and Neveu make their way through an ingenious labyrinthine puzzle, trying to discover that secret, a faceless adversary is shadowing their every move. And he’ll do absolutely anything to stop them…

MANTIS by Richard La Plante

Book #1 of the Fogarty-Tanaka series.

When three young women are brutally murdered in Philadelphia, even time-hardened cop Lt. William Fogarty is stunned by the savagery of the crimes.

According to medical examiner Josef Tanaka, who is Japanese-American and a skilled martial arts practitioner, the cause of death is a karate strike called “nukite” or spear hand. Fogarty, with little to go on, is grateful for the lead.

Brought together by circumstance, but neither really trusting the other, Fogarty and Tanaka form an uneasy alliance that thrusts them into the dark underbelly of the martial arts world.

As they pursue the Mantis, who engages in macabre self-purification rituals and turns the traditional arts of self-defense into killing arts, they’re forced to put everything on the line. Their worst fears and weaknesses. And the lives of everyone they hold dear.


Book #1 of the Joe Pickett series.

When game warden Joe Pickett finds a local hunting outfitter dead on the woodpile behind his state-provided residence in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming, he takes it personally. There was bad blood between the two of them from past run-ins, and Joe figures there had to be a reason the guy chose his woodpile to die on.

Two more outfitters are found murdered, and although local police believe they’ve solved the crimes, Joe feels uneasy about their conclusions and continues his own investigation.

As Joe digs deeper, he realizes the first outfitter brought more than death. He also brought Joe an endangered species, thought to be extinct, which is now living in his woodpile. But if anyone finds out about the existence of the endangered species, it will destroy multinational natural gas giant InterWest’s plan to build an oil pipeline through Twelve Sleep that would bring the company billions of dollars.

Game warden Pickett’s not going to quit until he finds out the truth. But it looks like somebody may have just declared open season on him.

RELIC by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Book #1 of the Agent Pendergast series. A #1 New York Times bestseller with more than one million copies sold, and a major motion picture.

Just days before a highly touted exhibition opens at New York’s popular Museum of Natural History, people are being brutally murdered in the building’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Results from the autopsies indicate that the killer is not human.

In spite of the murders, the museum’s directors are planning to go ahead with a big bash that’s been planned to celebrate the opening of the new exhibition.

Now museum researcher Margo Green must find out who — or what — is responsible for the horrifying killings. And she’s determined to stop the killer before there’s an all-out massacre.

RELIQUARY by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Book #2 of the Agent Pendergast series.

Far beneath Manhattan, for the most part unthought of by those who walk the streets above, lies a complex warren of tunnels, sewers, and galleries. A place where secrets abide…

When two grotesquely deformed skeletons are found buried in the mud off the Manhattan shoreline, museum curator Margo Green is asked to help in the investigation, teaming up with police lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta and brilliant but eccentric FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast.

Soon the trail leads them deep underground, where they will face the awakening of something terrible from its sleep…

THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Book #3 of the Agent Pendergast series.

In an ancient tunnel beneath New York City, a charnel house containing 36 bodies is discovered. Horrifyingly, the bodies all show evidence of murder and mutilation, and it appears the crimes took place more than a century ago.

But while FBI agent Pendergast investigates the old crimes, a new series of “copycat” killings begins to terrorize the city.

The dreadful nightmare has begun…

BLASPHEMY by Douglas Preston

Book #2 of the Wyman Ford series.

Envisioned by Nobel Laureate William North Hazelius, the Torus is the world’s biggest supercollider, run by the most powerful supercomputer on earth. Its purpose: to reveal the secrets of the Universe’s moment of creation, the Big Bang.

But some question whether it will fulfill that noble purpose – or, as some predict, suck the Earth into a mini black hole. Or is the Torus, as one televangelist rants, a Satan-spawned attempt to challenge God on his throne in Heaven?

When a dozen scientists under Hazelius’ leadership are sent to a remote Arizona mountain location to turn the Torus on, what they discover must be kept from the world at all costs. But former monk and CIA operative Wyman Ford is tasked with discovering their secret.

A secret that will destroy the world… or save it.

IMPACT by Douglas Preston

Book #3 of the Wyman Ford series.

Disturbing, unforeseen events are occurring.

A brilliant meteor streaks through the sky above the Maine coast, and two young women set out for a remote island to find the impact crater.

Strangely beautiful gemstones that appear not to be of this world are discovered, and Wyman Ford is sent on a clandestine expedition to Cambodia to identify their source.

At the National Propulsion Facility, a scientist who comes upon an inexplicable source of gamma rays in the outer Solar System is found decapitated, his data missing.

High-resolution NASA images of a crater on Mars reveal an unnatural feature that appears to have been activated.

Sixty hours and counting…

THE CODEX by Douglas Preston

A notorious treasure hunter and tomb robber, Maxwell Broadbent amassed more than half a billion dollars worth of priceless art, gems, and artifacts before mysteriously disappearing – along with his entire collection – from his New Mexico mansion.

The video he left behind reveals that, as a final challenge to his three sons, Broadbent has secreted himself with his treasure somewhere in the world, hidden away like an ancient Egyptian pharaoh with his grave goods. If his sons want to claim their inheritance, they’ll have to locate their father’s ingeniously concealed tomb.

Now the race is on, but the three brothers aren’t the only ones competing for the treasure. With half a billion dollars worth of goods at stake, including an ancient Mayan codex that may contain a cure for cancer and other fatal diseases, the hunt is on. And all bets are off…

THE THIRD GATE by Lincoln Child

Book #3 of the Jeremy Logan series.

In a nearly impassable swamp south of the Egyptian border, an archaeological team is searching for the burial chamber of the fabled pharaoh King Narmer. It’s rumored that Narmer’s crown – the elusive “double” crown of the two Egypts – is buried with him.

But as they search through the nightmarish, disorienting tangle of rotting vegetation and mud, disturbing things start to occur. Could an ancient curse be at work?

History professor and expert in bizarre and inexplicable enigmas Jeremy Logan is brought onto the project to investigate. But what he discovers only raises fresh questions. And panic…

LETHAL VELOCITY by Lincoln Child

Previously published as “UTOPIA.”

Teeming with cutting-edge robotic and holographic technology, Utopia is the end-all, be-all of theme parks – an astonishing collection of worlds so authentic they take the average visitor’s breath away.

Having captured the nation’s imagination, it’s become a popular tourist destination. But it also has caught the attention of a gang of ruthless criminals.

After infiltrating the park and its computer systems, the gang leader, who calls himself John Doe, lays down shocking demands. If those demands are met, none of the park visitors will be harmed; if not, then all hell will rain down.

Now Dr. Andrew Warne, the brilliant engineer who designed much of the park’s robotics, finds himself in a role he never could have anticipated. The only one who can save the lives of thousands of innocent people, one of whom happens to be his daughter.

DEATH MATCH by Lincoln Child

Based in Manhattan, Eden Incorporated is a high-tech matchmaking company whose spectacular success has inspired awe around the world. But they’re also known for their well-guarded secrecy.

When Lewis and Lindsay Thorpe, one of Eden’s success stories, are found dead in their tasteful Flagstaff home after having committed double suicide, alarm bells go off. Not only did they appear to be the quintessential happy couple, they were Eden’s first perfect match.

Soon afterward former FBI forensic psychologist Christopher Lash receives an urgent request from Eden to handle a quick, confidential investigation into the deaths. Performing a psychological autopsy, he finds nothing suspicious, but it dredges up memories of a devastating personal tragedy he’s kept at bay for years.

Then a second Eden couple is found dead – by all appearances, another double suicide. And now Richard Silver, the company’s briliiant, reclusive founder feels he has no choice but to grant Lash unprecedented access to Eden’s most closely guarded secrets.

The hidden world Lash discovers is an astonishing labyrinth of creative genius, artificial intelligence, and an eclectic melding of technologies. But far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined…



See other types of thrillers

Please feel free to share your comments or questions below. I’m always happy to hear from you!

Thrillingly yours,

Kristy Dark


Hey, check out this wild card thriller I wrote…

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