Two recent releases offer great escapism - they're ideal books for summertime beach reading.
"The Heist" by best-selling authors Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Bantam, $28) is the first in a new series featuring FBI Special Agent Kate O'Hare and notorious, handsome, international con artist Nick Fox.
It's an interesting combination that works out well and is liable to please the legion of fans that have enjoyed Evanovich's long-running Stephanie Plum, Bounty Hunter series.
Some readers may not be that familiar with award-winning author Lee Goldberg, who's written many novels based on the quirky "Monk" television series.
This is an action-packed tale that puts unlikely protagonists on the same team. They're working together to catch Derek Griffin, an even bigger con artist who's hiding away on his own private island in Indonesia.
O'Hare and Fox create a devious plan and select a motley crew of associates to get to Griffin. The crew includes a frustrated actor and experienced Wilma Owens, who "could drive, steer or pilot anything that moved people from one place to another..."
There are many other interesting characters and peculiar situations with lots of laugh-out loud scenes.
This is the first in a proposed series starring O'Hare and Fox; don't be surprised if it's made into a TV show or movie.
"Joyland" (Hard Case Crime, $14.95) by world-reknowned author Stephen King combines a variety of genres in his latest highly entertaining novel.
This oversized trade paperback is a strikingly memorable, bittersweet coming-of-age tale. It focuses on young college student Devin Jones and his unusual experiences during the summer of 1973.
Jones gets a job at Joyland, a North Carolina amusement park; he's trying to get over an emotional romantic breakup.
It's told from a viewpoint of Jones 40 years later, similiar to Neil Gaiman's main character in his recent release, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane".
There's a psychic with strange visions, an unsolved murder, a spooky carnival ride and a variety of unexpected complications and confrontations.
"Joyland" is a carefully crafted, highly enjoyable tale, full of well-developed characters in a rich, atmospheric setting.
It provides solid escapism to a world that no longer exists - except in the minds of those who survived the experiences.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987. He grew up near Detroit's Edgewater Amusement Park.
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This review was published by the Lansing State Journal on August 4, 2013.