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Three must-read thrillers for spring

By Christian DuChateau, CNN
updated 7:34 AM EDT, Fri April 13, 2012
Three fictional releases this spring take a thrilling look at historical stories.
Three fictional releases this spring take a thrilling look at historical stories.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Historical thrillers abound this spring, from Manhattan in 1845 to France in 1935
  • First-time author Charlotte Rogan delivers a "Lord of the Flies"-type tale set in a lifeboat
  • Manhattan's violent past is explored in Lyndsay Faye's "The Gods of Gotham"
  • "House of the Hunted" by Mark Mills is a spy novel that echoes the greats

(CNN) -- Bookshelves are bursting with a bevy of great new titles this spring but we wanted to highlight a trio of new thrillers that truly bring history to life.

'The Lifeboat' by Charlotte Rogan

"The Lifeboat," by first-time author Charlotte Rogan, is a harrowing story of survival that reads like a cross between "Titanic" and "Lord of the Flies." Set in 1914, Grace Winter and her new husband sail from London to New York aboard a luxury liner. Somewhere in the Atlantic their ship sinks under mysterious circumstances.

Charlotte Rogan\'s first release is a cross between \
Charlotte Rogan's first release is a cross between "Titanic" and "Lord of the Flies."

In the chaos, Grace flees the ship aboard one of the few lifeboats, while her husband goes missing. But her struggle is just beginning. The lifeboat is dangerously over capacity, there is little food and water, dangerous storms on the horizon and a desperate power struggle brewing among the survivors. Grace is forced to choose sides as passengers plot and scheme to stay alive long enough to be rescued.

I'm not revealing too much by telling you not everyone in the novel will make it to dry land. The story behind "The Lifeboat" is compelling in itself. It is inspired in part by a real-life case from 1841, when the captain of a ship tossed 12 people overboard to save the rest of the passengers from sinking, only to be found guilty of murder later.

The novel marks Rogan's publishing debut. A wife and mother of now-grown triplets, she spent more than a decade working on her story off and on, and signed her first book contract shortly after her 57th birthday. The book is winning rave reviews from critics and some respected writers, as well as generating some serious buzz among booksellers.

Read an excerpt from "The Lifeboat."

'The Gods of Gotham' Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay aye\'s \
Lyndsay aye's "The Gods of Gotham" explores Manhattan's violent past.

Lyndsay Faye gives readers a glimpse into New York's turbulent past in her thrilling new novel, "The Gods of Gotham." It's 1845 in Manhattan, a time of violent growing pains for a metropolis awash in immigrants and a dangerous vigilante spirit. Two history-shaping events collide to set the story in motion: the founding of New York's police force and the great influx of Irish-Catholics fleeing the potato famine.

The novel's central character is Timothy Wilde, an ex-bartender who has lost everything -- and nearly his life -- in a devastating fire. He's conscripted by his older brother into the fledgling police force, called "copper stars." Wilde patrols one of New York's worst wards, what would eventually become Hell's Kitchen. He's not long on the beat before he literally stumbles across a child prostitute covered in blood, which leads to the discovery of a string of horrific murders. All the victims are immigrant children.

Wilde, a whip-smart and appealing hero, sets out to catch the killer and protect those closest to him. Wilde must crack the case without the help of modern inventions as fingerprints and forensics. He's left to rely on little more than his wits and a police whistle.

Faye has meticulously researched her novel, filling page after page with period detail and compelling characters but the story remains engaging and fast paced. Much of the dialogue is written in the authentic slang of the day, called "flash." It's the historical jargon of the streets and lends an authentic voice to the book. While "The Gods of Gotham" is set more than 150 years in the past, its imagined world of poverty, crime, sex, drugs and violence feels timeless.

Lyndsay Faye talks about writing "The Gods of Gotham."

'House of the Hunted' by Mark Mills

Mark Mills\' novel reveals that all is not what it seems in an idyllic setting.
Mark Mills' novel reveals that all is not what it seems in an idyllic setting.

Mark Mills' latest, "House of the Hunted" takes place nearly 100 years later and half a world away in Côte d'Azur, France, 1935. Europe may be moving toward war but travel writer Tom Nash is enjoying an idyllic life on the French Riviera. He lives in a seaside villa, enjoys sailing the Mediterranean and hosting dinner parties for his friends, a community of ex-pats and artists.

His peaceful routine is shattered when an assassin tries to kill him in the dead of night. It quickly comes to light that Tom's secret history as a British intelligence agent has caught up to him. Now he must confront the violent deeds of his past, an undercover mission in Russia gone wrong and the memories of a long-lost love.

Someone knows Tom's secrets and is back for revenge. Now Tom must rely on his old instincts and once again become the dangerous man he used to be. Mills' story is suspenseful and romantic, vividly drawn and engaging, reminiscent of some of the best spy novels of the past. Readers will recognize echoes of Eric Ambler, Graham Greene and Alan Furst but "House of the Hunted" stands on its own and won't leave espionage fans disappointed.

Read an excerpt from "House of the Hunted."

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