“Strong At The Break” by Jon Land and “Buried Secrets” by Joseph Finder

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In an interview, Neil Russell, creator of the wonderful grit-lit character Rail Black, author of “Wildcase” and “City of War” tossed out the best definition of grit-lit I’ve ever heard.

The hero has to be someone everyone wants to have in their Rolodex.

Now for you youngsters out there, a Rolodex is a big, round, black metal and paper thing full of … ahh, the heck with it. It’s where people kept addresses and phone numbers back when only Dick Tracy and Maxwell Smart had mobile phones.

Someone got in your Rolodex because they were important. Could be a person you’d to call when things were good or someone you’d call when the manure hit the propeller. The most vital people in your Rolodex were entered in red ink. These were the critical folks you would call if things were good or bad. Men and women who could bring a party to life or protect your back in a fire fight.

Grit-lit characters like Jack Reacher, Travis McGee, Spenser, James Bond, Caitlin Strong and Nick Heller would have all been in my Rolodex in bright red ink.

“Strong At The Break” by Jon Land (Forge, $25.99, 352 pages). www.JonLandbooks.com

Fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in her most personal and desperate adventure yet, one with its roots in an old fashioned gunfight. Caitlin’s father took down the cult-like leader of a separatist church. Two decades later, the son, armed with all the guns and money he needs, is back for more.

From the frozen rivers of Canada to the desert wastelands of Mexico, the stage is set for a battle where the stakes are nothing less than the survival of the USA as we know it.

I love Land’s style.

She watched the giants’ faces explode in bursts of blood, bone, and foamy spray that looked like dark, dewy mist. They keeled over on either side of Maxwell Arno, looking like felled trees bracketing another about to be cut down. But then Caitlin saw the pistol flash in Arno’s hand, sunlight glinting off both it and the smile suddenly filling his face.

“You used all eight, Ranger,” Arno told Jim Strong, who still held his .45 in a single hand before him.

Adjectives that get tossed around too often but are totally appropriate in this case include wonderful, engrossing, engaging…

“Strong” is one of the two best books I’ve read this year. And the other is:

“Buried Secrets” by Joseph Finder (St. Martin’s Press $25.99, 400 pages, hard cover. www.josephfinder.com).

“Private Spy” Nick Heller — a character hailed by ThrillerMaster Lee Child as “a terrific new hero to root for” — returns and the tension ratchets up.

Nick returns to his home town of Boston and sets up shop. A professional kidnapping, leaving no evidence leads to a race against time.

Finder just gets it right. An example:

If this was what a prison was like, Alexa Marcus thought, I could totally live here. Like, forever.

She and Taylor Armstrong, her best friend, were standing in a long line to get into the hottest bar in Boston. The bar was called Slammer, and it was in a luxury hotel that used to be a jail. They’d even kept the bars in the windows and the huge central rotunda ringed with catwalks, that whole cell-block effect.

She was checking out this bunch of guys behind her who looked like MIT frat boys trying too hard to be cool: the untucked shirts, the cheap blazers, all that product in their hair, the toxic fumes of their Axe body spray. They’d stumble home at two in the morning, puking on the bridge to Cambridge, bitching about how all the girls at Slammer were skanks.

And just to be clear, I LOVED IT! Best one yet.

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