Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Short Story Wednesday Review: THRILLER 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down Editor Clive Cussler (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

From the massively magnificent archive…




     Reviewed by Barry Ergang


Edited by Clive Cussler, who supplies an introduction and a preface to each of the twenty-three stories in this collection, Thriller 2 is the sequel to a previous volume of short stories by members of International Thriller Writers, Inc.


Jeffery Deaver: When U.S. intelligence agencies learn about “The Weapon,” they also learn they have only four days to identify exactly what it is, where it will be deployed, and by whom. Will they be able to do so in time to stop it?    


Blake Crouch: Keeping the young boy and his father under surveillance, what exactly is Mitchell’s motive, and what kind of “Remaking” does he hope to accomplish?


Harry Hunsicker: In “Iced,” murder comes easy to Tom, a formerly respectable banker and family man, as long as he has Chrissie and the drugs and the prospect of living large in Costa Rica.


Mariah Stewart: Because of Deanna’s cowardice, her friend Jessie is assaulted, and thus severely traumatized, by a gang of punks. Determined to see “Justice Served,” Deanna sets out to avenge Jessie—with nightmarish unintended consequences.


David Hewson: Melanie, a temporary employee at the Palace of Westminster, has traveled “The Circle,” the London subway system, since she was a little girl. Today’s trip and arrival will be considerably different ones.


R.L. Stine: Wayne swears that he’s innocent and has a “Roomful of Witnesses” to prove it after his coworker Leon pays a price for abusive behavior at The Haven, a facility for elderly residents.


Readers won’t soon forget either the witnesses or the abused residents in this jewel by an author best known for his books for children.


Phillip Margolin: From the time her mother brought her as a child to it, Monica Esteban dreamed of living like a princess in “The House on Pine Terrace.” Opportunity presents itself when she meets Dan Emery and they fall in love. But when do things ever go that smoothly in crime fiction? 


Marcus Sakey: His army service earned Nick post-traumatic stress disorder and Cooper’s  friendship. Now the two live in Las Vegas and Cooper needs Nick’s help, as he did after an incident in Iraq. For Nick, “The Desert Here and the Desert Far Away” mix unpleasant memories from the past with danger in the present in a story persuasively told in the second-person.


Carla Neggers: Ill-prepared for the weather conditions and the terrain but “On the Run,” the fugitive has kidnapped Gus Winters and demanded that Winters lead him to a specific location high up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Whether one or the other or both will die of hypothermia eventually becomes the question, provided the fugitive doesn’t use his gun first.


Robert Ferrigno: The accountant’s hands are bound behind his back as he leads Briggs and Sean through swampy ground to retrieve the ledger they want before they kill him. It’s amusing up to that point, but once he asks, “Can You Help Me Out Here?” it becomes even funnier. Carl Hiaasen fans—and I’m one of them—will likely love this one.


Joe Hartlaub: When in “Crossed Double,” C.T.’s son Andy gets himself into trouble with loan shark Kozee, Dad—with growing annoyance and as matters become more complex—has to bail him out. 


Lawrence Light: “When the man he’d killed a year ago walked into the bar, Joe Dogan was surprised. So surprised that he fell off his stool.” So begins a wry story about life and politics in the environs of southern New Jersey as they relate to “The Lamented” Brad Acton, his friends, associates, and enemies.


Lisa Jackson: Private detective Lucas Parker has been hired by his former brother-in-law to provide security for a formal gathering at the D’Amato Winery in a powerful tale of personal angst, a dysfunctional family’s secrets, a lust for revenge, and “Vintage Murder.”


Tim Maleeny: Author Jim Masterson is no longer merely a writer; he’s become a brand whose name on a book cover means sales in the tens of millions—even if the book was “co-written” by someone whose name appears in smaller type. When his editor shows up and says that if he  doesn’t finish his latest manuscript in forty-four minutes, Jim’s wife Emily will be killed, Jim isn’t sure if the situation requires a “Suspension of Disbelief.”


I have to add here that I find it ironically amusing that Thriller 2 was edited by Clive Cussler, and that its predecessor—which I haven’t read—was edited by James Patterson, both of whom are “brands” whose names appear in large type on the covers of a multitude of novels “co-authored” by lesser-known writers who, I suspect but cannot prove, did most (possibly all) of the actual work.


Sean Chercover: Tom Bailey runs a charter boat and isn’t particular about most of his clientele. But the man who calls himself Diego proves to be a different story entirely, “A Calculated Risk” whose motives are suspect and upon whom Bailey’s life hinges.


Javier Sierra: Professors in America, Madrid, and Mexico are being murdered in a ritualistic manner. Solar storms and eruptions threaten the Earth. Is one of them the Big One that a dead scientist was investigating? What events might lead to “The Fifth World”?


Gary Braver: Former best-selling author Geoffrey Dane hasn’t been able to sell anything for quite awhile, and is currently teaching a writing course at a local college to make ends meet—barely. Lauren Grant asks him to be her “Ghost Writer” for a book idea she has. But who—and what—is she, and is that all she really wants from him?


Kathleen Antrim: “It’s time to kill my husband, Izaan Bekkar. The forty-eighth president of the United States.” So opens Sylvia’s story—Sylvia, who knows what the public does not, and who experiences it “Through a Veil Darkly.”


David J. Montgomery: Li Jinping is officially the Cultural Attaché of the People’s Republic of China. In his unofficial capacity he’s a spy. A very inept one, as well as a horndog with two mistresses in the D.C. area and a predilection for hookers. Hitman Jason Ryder has been hired to make it a permanent “Bedtime for Mr. Li,” the more embarrassingly the better.


Simon Wood: Nick is more than a little smitten with Melanie. Unfortunately for him, her brother Jamie disapproves and warns him off as though he’s “Protecting the Innocent.” When Nick digs into Melanie’s past, it seems obvious than Jamie has been unduly overprotective—and deadly. 


Joan Johnston: Before leaving for his tour of duty in Iraq, Carter Benedict asked his brother Nash to “Watch Out for My Girl.” Nash has complied—to the point of falling in love with firefighter Morgan Hunter. The morning after he impetuously kissed her, she’s gone missing. While trying to resolve her own feelings, Morgan drives into murderous trouble she might not survive unless she gets some help—and soon.


Jon Land: Fallon, a skilled professional killer who likes his work, is a man in hiding, posing as an English teacher at the Hampton Lake Middle School. He’s ill-prepared for that position, but no longer just “Killing Time” until he can leave the country when his pursuers, who want him dead after he botched a job, track him to the school and imperil the student body and staff.  


Ridley Pearson: “Boldt’s Broken Angel” is the final and longest story in the book, a police procedural that emphasizes forensics. Amateur jazz pianist and police detective Lou Boldt, aided by partner John LaMoia and Daphne Matthews,  investigates a missing persons case that leads to a particularly deranged serial killer.


Whereas most such collections contain some stories that are stronger and more engrossing than others, Thriller 2 is an exception. I found every story totally engaging. Moreover, none is like another.  Plot, tone and style vary widely, providing the reader with different takes on what constitutes a thriller. The only caveats are raw language and some scenes which, while not flagrantly explicit, might just be graphic enough to repel some readers. Those who find these elements offensive are advised to stay away. Those who don’t will find this a very entertaining read.




Barry Ergang © 2015, 2023 

Among his other works, Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s locked-room novelette, The Play of Light and Shadow, can be found in eBook formats at and

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