Summer reading

Move over, Nora Roberts! From the chilling story of a vacation gone dreadfully wrong to a "Wire"-esque crime novel, we've got the smartest breezy reads to beat the heat.

Published June 19, 2006 12:02PM (EDT)

We know what you want, because we want it, too: something fun to read this summer. So why is the right book so hard to find? Summer reading lists tend to fall into one of two categories of "Oh, please!": Either the recommender suggests that you try to make it through an eight-hour flight with only some taxing literary tome like "The Man Without Qualities" to amuse you (as critic Walter Kirn so memorably put it, "If he has no qualities, why would I want to read a book about him?") or you get a list of novels featuring hard-bitten ex-military men who talk entirely in clichés and leave a pile of dead bodies in their wake as they save the world. Some thrillers feature serial killings so elaborately sadistic, you spend most of your time trying to figure out how to never be in the same state as the person who wrote them. Others are just plain cheesy. (We once tried to read an Iris Johansen novel featuring a fabulously valuable sculpture shaped like a unicorn -- a unicorn!)

Where are the page-turners that don't make you feel like you're pouring Karo syrup directly over your brain? Well, here are reviews of six of them. We've scoured publishers' lists for suspenseful, surprising, entertaining and intelligent new novels that are decently, gracefully, even beautifully written. We're willing to swear that if you pack any one of these titles in your carry-on bag or beach tote, you won't wind up regretting it and rifling through the hotel's depressing collection of old, beat-up Nora Roberts paperbacks. Happy traveling!

Our first pick: A lazy Mexican vacation turns sinister -- and grisly -- when a group of middle-class tourists become trapped at an archaeological site

By Laura Miller

Laura Miller is the author of "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia."

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Books Summer Reading Thrillers