Summer Reading Guide: Daring tales of spies, drugs and love

"The Sound of Things Falling"
“The Sound of Things Falling” by Juan Gabriel Vasquez.

Whether you’re spending your August lazing at the beach or, like the rest of us, trying to find the best space on the couch to fully enjoy the air conditioner, a book is the perfect accompaniment. We’ve chosen a few books for the dog days of August – pick one of these to keep you company this month.

For an engaging, daring tale:

Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vasquez delves into his home country’s history in “The Sound of Things Falling,” looking at how the drug trade has affected Colombians. In Bogota, lawyer Antonio Yammara is reading about a hippo that escaped from drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s zoo. He’s transported back to the 1990s, when the Escobar cartel’s violence spilled over into everyday lives throughout the country, including a friend’s assassination that Antonio witnessed. To discover the truth about what happened to his friend, he traces Colombia’s history all the way back to the 1960s, before narco-trafficking gripped the country.

Reminiscent of the Edward Snowden case playing out through the media, “Weaponized” follows Kyle West, who is fleeing an investigation into a national surveillance program in which he was allegedly involved. He is hiding in Cambodia when he meets Julian Robinson, a businessman who offers to swap passports. After they trade identification, Kyle inevitably realizes he should have thought through the decision. The authors, Nicholas Mennuti, a Tisch School grad, and David Guggenheim, who wrote the screenplay for the film “Safe House,” weave in characters from Russian oligarchs to CIA operatives.

“Submergence” begins by plunging readers into a hellish, terrifying darkness — Brit James More has been captured by Al Qa’eda in Somalia. The novel tells of his love story with Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician studying life in the far-flung corners of the world. Scottish writer J.M. Ledgard’s part love story, part spy novel is underscored by his sharp skills as the East Africa correspondent for The Economist.

David Willington, of the “Monster Island” zombie novels, brings readers a scientific thriller in “Chimera.” Afghanistan veteran Jim Chapel is tasked with investigating a small band of fugitives who escaped from a top-secret military facility in upstate New York. He is assigned to track them and find out why they even exist, which opens the door to more mysteries.

“Fiend” has been described as “The Walking Dead” meets “Breaking Bad.” Sure, author Peter Stenson’s debut novel follows a group of tweakers during a zombie apocalypse, but “Fiend” is much more than just a hybrid of pop culture references. Stenson is a true writer and has a gift for capturing the drug-fueled anxiety that comes with meth abuse (he is a former user, now clean.) Couple that with fleeing from mobs of flesh-eating creatures — all while trying to track down their next fix — and you have one heck of a heart-pounding summer read. Dorothy Robinson

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison


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