Now that he’s antagonized every other lawman in the state of Maine (Trespasser, 2011, etc.), game warden Mike Bowditch gets exiled to Washington County, the Down East territory where nothing ever happens. Things happen.
A snowy dinner with Doc Larrabee, the elderly veterinarian who’s one of the few people on speaking terms with Mike, and Doc’s friend, survivalist/professor Kevin Kendrick, ends when Doc, somewhat the worse for liquor, asks Mike to respond with him to his neighbor Ben Sprague’s call for help. Seems that someone has staggered out of the blizzard into the Spragues’ home and told Ben and his wife, Doris, a wild story about a friend he left wandering out in the snow. The someone, Mike realizes on their arrival, is Prester Sewall, brother of local beauty Jamie Sewall, who’s constitutionally drawn to all the wrong men, from her bullying little ex Mitch Munro, father of her son Lucas, to Randall Cates, the drug dealer she’s been seeing most recently. The friend, Mike soon discovers when he and Kevin go looking for him, is Randall Cates. His death, which seems at first like a happy ending for Jamie, looks both backward to the overdose last year of college student Trinity Raye and forward to the consequences of Mike’s fatal attraction to Jamie. The story’s ultimate import becomes clear only after more bad weather, some truly ugly surprises and the obligatory standoffs between Mike and everyone capable of fighting with him.
A high-stakes, high-tension yarn in which you keep wishing everything would turn out fine for the deeply flawed, deeply sympathetic hero even though you know it won't.
The still waters of a quiet Maine town run deep when a local professor is killed and suspects abound.
As she plans her wedding, Liss MacCrimmon thinks the biggest hurdle she has to face will be convincing her mother, Violet, to give up hope that Liss and her fiancé, Dan Ruskin, will celebrate their marriage with a traditional Scottish handfasting ceremony. With just weeks left before the big day, Liss has no time to worry about the hubbub surrounding the legitimacy of the upcoming Medieval Scottish Conclave. So when professors A. Leon Palsgrave and Caroline Halladay ask her to display reproduction weapons meant to promote a battle recreation at the festival, Liss agrees to let the two use the Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium’s front window. Liss is having her bridal gown fitted when she hears the news that a professor at local Anisetab College has been murdered, and she can barely believe it when the deceased turns out to be the controversial Dr. Palsgrave. Even more shocking, however, are the ties that Liss’ family had to the professor, and especially the news that Liss’ father, Mac, may be Detective Franklin’s number one suspect. Though Liss knows better than to get mixed up in another mystery, she also knows that family comes first. If she can discover the truth, she can save her father’s good name in time for him to walk her down the aisle.
The latest from Dunnett (Scotched, 2011, etc.) doesn’t exactly break new ground, but cozy readers may well enjoy a story that meets their expectations.
A prior’s murder takes Quebec’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his sidekick, Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir, inside the walls of the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loupes.
The Gilbertine order, long extinct except for the two dozen brothers who live on an island apart from the rest of the world, enforces silence on its members. In the absence of speech, a raised eyebrow or averted gaze can speak intense hostility. Now someone has found a new way to communicate such hostility: by bashing Frère Mathieu, the monastery’s choirmaster and prior, over the head. Gamache and Beauvoir soon find that the order is devoted heart and soul to Gregorian chant; that its abbot, Dom Philippe, has recruited its members from among the ranks of other orders for their piety, their musical abilities and a necessary range of domestic and maintenance skills; and that an otherworldly recording the brothers had recently made of Gregorian chants has sharply polarized the community between the prior’s men, who want to exploit their unexpected success by making another recording and speaking more widely of their vocation, and the abbot’s men, who greet the prospect of a more open and worldly community with horror. Nor are conflicts limited to the holy suspects. Gamache, Beauvoir and Sûreté Chief Superintendent Sylvain Françoeur, arriving unexpectedly and unwelcome, tangle over the proper way to conduct the investigation, the responsibility for the collateral damage in Gamache’s last case (A Trick of the Light, 2011, etc.), and Beauvoir’s loyalty to his two chiefs and himself in ways quite as violent as any their hosts can provide.
Elliptical and often oracular, but also remarkably penetrating and humane. The most illuminating analogies are not to other contemporary detective fiction but to The Name of the Rose and Murder in the Cathedral.
A rivalry between food trucks becomes a deadly affair.
Clare Cosi (Murder By Mocha, 2011, etc.) has invested a lot of money in the Village Blend’s Muffin Muse coffee truck. So she’s not happy to be harassed by a rival whose Kupcake Kart truck parks in front of Clare’s coffeehouse. Although the rival is run off, the night turns deadly when Clare’s friend Lilly Beth is run down by a van in front of the store. The police call it attempted murder, but although Clare does all she can to solve the crime, it may be the least of her troubles. A recent trip to Brazil has netted her ex-husband Matt, her partner and coffee buyer for the Village Blend, not only some superb new coffee beans, but the enmity of a crack dealer who made Matt an offer he did refuse. Clare and Matt’s visit to the warehouse for more beans leads to the discovery of crack hidden in the shipment and their arrest by DEA agents. Luckily, Clare’s main squeeze, NYPD drug specialist Mike Quinn, has the connections to set them free. Clare gets a full-time bodyguard posing as a waiter, but now she and the police must decide if she was the real target of the hit-and-run, which may have been part of a series. Politics, business rivalries, drugs—with so many possibilities, it won’t be easy to solve this case.
A foodie’s delight, packed with information on coffee and desserts, along with appended recipes and a satisfyingly rich mystery.
A first American appearance for a shrewd, worldly Florentine police inspector with some appealingly unexpected affinities.
Florence, 1963. Maria Dolci is somehow convinced that Signora Rebecca Pedretti-Strassen, to whom Maria acts as full-time companion, doesn’t answer her door because she’s dead inside, murdered. Sure enough, when Inspector Bordelli quietly breaks into the Villa Pedretti-Strassen, he finds its mistress inside, just as dead as her companion feared. Although it’s clear that the signora died of an asthma attack, Bordelli is equally inclined to follow Maria’s lead in considering this a case of murder. The obvious suspects, according to the victim’s brother, antic inventor Dante Pedretti, are her nephews, Anselmo and Giulio Morozzi, who have no idea that their aunt has left her considerable fortune to the Sisters of Monte Frassineto. Both brothers, however, offer an unbreakable alibi: They were out late, dining and drinking with their wives, on the night of their aunt’s death. Relegating the job of building a logical case against them to his new subordinate Piras, a bright young man from Sardinia whose father served with Bordelli during the war, Bordelli focuses instead on what he does best: eating, drinking, showing up his superiors, palling around with the city’s ex-cons and lowlifes, recalling his experiences in the war and the time he lost his virginity, and preparing for a climactic dinner in which his old friend Ennio Bottarini, who happens to be both a burglar and a born cook, prepares a meal for the major suspects and whomever else Bordelli has run into.
Forget the ingenious, disposable mystery. Reading Vichi is like vacationing with friends who’ve lived in Florence all their lives, know how to enjoy all the high and low spots, and solve murders.
A cry of distress from a schoolgirl takes Jane Eyre Rochester far from her sheltered life.
Edward Rochester is still suffering health problems from the fire that destroyed Thornfield Hall. In the meantime, Edward and Jane have married, have recently had a son, and are living in the family hunting lodge until a new home can be built. When a letter arrives from Edward’s ward, Adèle Varens, covertly asking for help, Jane goes to London to see what is amiss at Alderton House, Adèle’s boarding school. During the trip, Jane is attacked and the Rochester diamonds stolen. Once in London, Jane stays with Lucy Brayton, a fashionable family friend who plans to improve Jane’s timid image. Arriving at Adèle’s school, Jane finds that a girl has been murdered, and the hysterical Adèle, who found the body, has been drugged. Mistaken for the new German teacher, Jane decides to stay when Nan Miller, an old friend who teaches at Alderton House and remembers Jane as an orphan waif, asks for her help. The young woman who was murdered was a beauty with a nasty disposition who was cordially disliked by all. In the course of a Bow Street Runner’s investigation, Jane learns that there are connections to royalty that must be suppressed. Although Jane may seem meek, the formidable intelligence behind her demure exterior stands her in good stead as she attempts to uncover a murderer.
In a radical departure from her scrapbooking series (Ready, Scrap, Shoot, 2012, etc.), Slan refashions a beloved heroine as a surprisingly canny detective. Her stylistic imitation of Charlotte Brontë is seasoned with a dash of social commentary and plenty of suspects to mull over.
Detective Sgt. Magnus Jonson, seconded from Boston to Reykjavík, tackles two cases, one with global consequences, the other striking considerably closer to home.
In the wake of the calamitous financial meltdown that’s paralyzed Iceland, Óskar Gunnarsson, ex-chairman of the Ódinsbanki, has taken himself off to London, but that’s not far enough for whomever shoots him to death. The Metropolitan Police are far from certain that his killer was Icelandic, but they send DS Sharon Piper from Kensington to Reykjavík to liaise with local law enforcement just in case. Magnus is only too eager to work the case even before Inspector Baldur Jakobsson, head of the Violent Crimes Unit, hands it to him. He wastes no time in connecting Gunnarsson’s murder to the suspicious suicide several months earlier of Ódinsbanki manager Gabríel Örn Bergsson. And rightly so, since author Ridpath has already shown Bergsson being killed by his subordinate and lover Harpa Einarsdóttir, whose anger that he swindled her and her father out of their life savings and then threw her under the bus was whipped into a fury by an unlikely crew of agitators: aging punk rocker Sindri Pálsson, fisherman Björn Helgason, London School of Economics student Ísak Samúelsson and laid-off chef Frikki Eiríksson. Whoever pulled the trigger on Gunnarsson, Magnus realizes, has more targets in mind. But despite the Boston cop’s instincts, he’s seriously distracted from the case by disturbing new information about a long-simmering family feud that involves his own Icelandic relatives. Which case will claim his deepest loyalty?
As in Where the Shadows Lie (2011), Magnus doesn’t shine as a detective, and his fish-out-of-water act could just as easily have played out back home in Boston. Even so, his second case is bound to hook readers who wonder about either the fictional or the real-life implications of the Icelandic financial crisis.
A deadly long-shot mission gives a disgraced secret agent a chance at redemption.
Isolated pieces—the dissolution, in Tunisia a generation ago, of the marriage of Jean-Marc Daumal and wife Celine over his affair with nanny Amelia Weldon; the present-day murder of elderly Parisians Philippe and Jeannine Malot on a Cairo street; the kidnapping of a target nicknamed HOLST by one Akim Errachidi and his team—precede the introduction of dissolute Thomas Kell, waking up in a hotel room with another hangover eight months after his surgical dismissal, after two decades of service, from Britain's MI6. A call from his old pal, Jimmy Marquand, sobers Kell immediately. The new MI6 chief-designate, Amelia Levine, has gone missing before even assuming the job. Kell knew Amelia well, and he leaps at the chance to be back in the game. He checks files, Amelia's car and her room, noting that the signs indicate abduction. He questions veteran agents Bill and Barbara Knight, pictures of concern and cooperation with Kell...until he leaves, and their manner turns conspiratorial, and they hint at allegiances other than MI6. Using Amelia's Blackberry as a guide, Kell follows her movements over the previous two weeks. Cumming flashes back to Amelia for the same period; when she's found by Kell, it's just the beginning of a complicated cat-and-mouse game stretching back to the trio of prologue events and weaving together personal and political tangles.
Cumming's sixth thriller (The Trinity Six, 2011, etc.) is smart and intricate, with a large cast of cool characters and an authentic feel.
Determined to avenge an attack on her uncle, a photographer turns investigator in this character-rich whodunit and whydunit.
Lilly Hawkins’ job as chief photographer for the Bakersfield KJAY news team lets her listen in on the police frequency. She’s at work with her closest friend, 60-something Leanore Drucker, when she hears an alarming call for an ambulance to go to her boyfriend Rod’s place. When Lilly shows up at the house, she’s relieved to see that Rod is okay but is horrified by the news that her Uncle Bud has been shot. While she’s had her share of ups and downs, Uncle Bud’s been there through them all as Lilly’s reliable surrogate parent, and Lilly knows exactly what she has to do. Ignoring Rod’s insistence that she stay with Bud at the hospital to see what the rounds of emergency surgery bring, Lilly grabs her station news van to investigate. Her first stop is the home of Leland Warner, with whom she’s already had too many run-ins. There, Lilly finds that Leland is convalescing, supervised by his sister, Erabelle, and his son, Junior, a not-so-pleasant chip off the old block. Although the Warners do their best to stop her in her tracks, Lilly’s nose for news tells her there’s something more, and she won’t stop until she finds the truth.
Fans of McFarland’s series (A Bad Day’s Work, 2010, etc.) will be shocked at the involvement of Uncle Bud. It’s hard when a mystery hits so close to home.
A girl with a troubled past takes an undercover assignment that may be the death of her.
Grace Harley is a household name for all the wrong reasons. Implicated in a government scandal, she gave birth to a stillborn baby while she was in prison. Now she earns her living as a party girl in the swinging ’60s. One of her former lovers, newspaper editor Tony Fledgwood, offers her an assignment to go to the mysterious North Country great house of D’Espérance (The House of Doors, 2012, etc.). A former World War II army hospital, the sprawling mansion is now a hippie commune that’s swallowed up one of Tony’s reporters sent to investigate. Taking on the name and character of meek Georgie Hale, Grace is welcomed by the community, run by a former naval officer and the nurse companion known as Mother Mary. She’s taken under the wing of Tom, a young man who hero-worships the charismatic Webb, who is creating a new language. Since her attempts to induce an abortion brought about her baby’s death, Grace has been tormented whenever bells are rung, and the ones tolling at D’Espérance scourge both her spirit and her body, for her wrist keeps opening and bleeding. The house seems intent on magnifying her torment as she fights to discover the truth about the commune and save her sanity.
A page turner full of mystery and horror that’s unfortunately marred by a weak ending.
85 more snapshots of the tenants of 44 Scotland Street and their friends and lovers.
Now that crime kingpin Lard O’Connor has been taken out of the deck (The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, 2010, etc.), life moves on a more even keel for the citizens of Edinburgh. Pregnant ex-schoolteacher Elspeth Harmony and her bridegroom Matthew, owner of the Something Special Gallery, look at a bigger and much more expensive flat in Moray Place. Anthropologist Domenica Macdonald’s friend Antonia Collie invites Domenica and their mutual friend, painter Angus Lordie, to share her villa in the Tuscan hills. Surveyor Bruce Anderson, who’s broken many hearts already, gets engaged to Lizzie Todd, his boss’ daughter, but a scheme Lizzie’s friend Diane concocts to test Bruce’s motives backfires spectacularly. Matthew’s ex-employee and ex-girlfriend, art history student Pat Macgregor, informs him that her part-time replacement, the beautiful Kirsty, is a member of Women’s Revenge—he must fire her but dares not. Most of these plotlines are slender stuff; some are wound up with featherweight insouciance or not at all. By far, the most rewarding pages are devoted to Bertie Pollock, the matter-of-fact 6-year-old who hatches a plan to take his baby brother Ulysses in for show and tell. A pair of climatic voyages yield very different results. Antonia, finally face to face with the treasures of the Uffizi Gallery, comes down with Stendhal Syndrome; Bertie, who yearns in vain to turn 7 and earn some measure of respect, is graced with a magical fishing trip with his put-upon father.
Another charming demonstration that it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive—a motto that might stand for every soap opera ever written.
1868’s War of the Triple Alliance pits little Paraguay against its mighty neighbors Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay—and a freelance killer.
Despite losing almost every battle he’s fought, Paraguay’s delusional dictator Francisco Solano López, egged on by his Parisian mistress Eliza Lynch, continues to wage war. Now he’s reduced to sending young boys, infirm old men and even women to slaughter. Preparing for the inevitable outcome, “La Lynch” commands Ricardo Yotté to take the four trunks full of treasure she’s pillaged from Santa Caterina’s church and hide them for her departure. But someone murders Yotté and leaves him under the church’s belfry for Padre Gregorio to find. Where is the treasure now? And who killed Yotté? The vicious commandante Menenez is ordered from on high to find out. His task sets him against his brother-in-law Salvador, a gentle villager; the padre; and a Brazilian officer hiding in the campos who’s bewitched Salvador’s daughter Xandra. To repopulate the decimated town, the padre has suggested it is the women’s duty to lie with the remaining males. His exhortation, which sets tongues wagging and libidos throbbing, thrusts Xandra into her uncle’s sights and endangers secrets kept by Salvador and Yotté’s two sisters. Fighting off starvation, night-hunting jaguars and the invading Brazilians, an alliance of villagers and determined soldiers win a mostly pyrrhic victory.
Alfieri (City of Silver, 2009) has written an anti-war mystery that compares with the notable fiction of Charles Todd.
A fourth match—a fifth, if you count The Night Season (2011), in which she’s limited to a cameo—between Gretchen Lowell, the Beauty Killer, and Archie Sheridan, the Portland cop who alternates between locking her up and having sex with her.
Gretchen claims over 200 murder victims, but how could she have killed Jake Kelly, the philanthropist who volunteered at the Life Works Center for Young Women? Yet the corpse, bashed, skinned, hanged from a tree on Mount Tabor and decorated with a lily, certainly seems like more of her handiwork. So does the body of PR flak Gabby Meester, taken from her car and set afire at the foot of a Portland landmark with another lily. Of course, it’s no trouble to prove an alibi when you’re drugged to the gills and incarcerated in the Oregon State Mental Hospital. Although he swears that he’s not going to see his murderous ex-lover again, Archie’s lured back into contact with her when Gretchen’s interview with Susan Ward, the newspaper reporter whose life Archie saved, concludes its grueling description of Gretchen’s very first murder, the slaughter 16 years ago of James Beaton, with an urgent plea Susan passes on to Archie: “Children are going to die....You have to find the flash drive.” Could one of those children be Pearl Clinton, who’d been staying at the Life Works Center before she disappeared? How much of what Gretchen says can be trusted? And just how many serial killers are lurking in the hills of Oregon?
Cain’s abiding determination to outdo the suspense, plot twists and gore of each previous outing is both perverse and awe-inspiring.
A tough prosecutor who’s trying to make a difference in the lives of West Virginians suddenly finds her own life in shambles.
Whatever plans Bell Elkins made for herself as a child growing up near the town of Acker’s Gap ended when her older sister killed their father. From that point on, Bell was brought up in various foster homes. After intelligence and determination got her through law school, she and her husband, fellow attorney Sam Elkins, found high-paying jobs in Washington until Bell, tired of their shallow lifestyle, returned with their daughter Carla to West Virginia. When Carla, who’s changed from a delightful little girl to a sulky teen, witnesses the murder of three old men at a local fast-food joint, her love-hate relationship with Bell becomes worse, especially since she recognizes the killer as someone she saw at an alcohol- and drug-laced party she can’t mention to her mother. Bell and her longtime friend Sheriff Nick Fogelsong have been fighting a losing battle against the drug kingpin whose dealers are feasting on the misery of the poor and often-desperate population. So it’s only natural that they suspect these killings are drug-related. In addition, Bell has to decide if she wants to prosecute a mentally challenged young man accused of killing a child he often played with. Even with her own life in danger, Bell won’t back down.
A fictional debut for a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, born and raised in West Virginia, whose love for the state, filled with natural beauty and deep poverty, pervades a mystery that has plenty of twists and turns and a shocking conclusion.
A foiled robbery pits DCI Percy Peach (Merely Players, 2011, etc.) against a wolf in philanthropist’s clothing.
Locals in Brunton regard Oliver Ketley as a benefactor, little suspecting that his generous donations to a host of local charities are funded by a chain of drug and prostitution operations he runs with an iron fist. Eddie Barton feels the weight of that fist when he has the audacity to break into Thorley Grange and make off with a bagful of Mrs. Ketley’s jewelry. Even after Ketley’s bodyguards shoot Barton, leaving him wounded in the road, Barton won’t grass, no matter how hard Peach, eager to get some dirt on Ketley, presses the young thug. Soon enough, though, the Grange opens wide to the local constabulary when Ketley is found in his Bentley, shot through the head. And much as they’d love to pin this one on Ketley’s hit man, George French, Peach soon learns that there are just too many suspects for him to focus only on the most desirable. Ketley’s younger wife, Greta, certainly fits in the frame, as does her lover, Martin Price, a former member of Britain’s secret service. The field is so large that Peach and his bagman, DS Clyde Northcott, simply can’t handle the volume. So against department practice, Peach enlists the aid of his former sergeant and current wife, DS Lucy Peach.
Peach is a formidable opponent whose insight and persistence earn him top honors among British procedurals.
As a series of wildfires swoop ever closer to his Boulder office, psychotherapist Alan Gregory’s life threatens to go up in metaphorical flames even before their arrival.
As part of his deep-laid plan of revenge against Alan and his friend, Detective Sam Purdy, Alan’s incarcerated ex-patient Michael McClelland sicced Currie Brown on the oh-so-susceptible Sam. When he realized that Currie planned to kill his own family and Alan’s, Sam reacted in the way every cop dreams of: by staging a fake suicide that would neutralize Currie's threat for keeps and telling Alan what he’d done. One night the two conspirators, meeting over a comatose accident victim at Community Hospital, review their actions and assure themselves that they’re safe. But that very conversation puts them back in the hot seat when the accident victim, threatened by a variety of police charges himself, makes a complete recovery, checks out of the hospital, comes after Alan with what he’s learned, and vows to bring down Sam in order to keep himself out of jail. Meantime, Alan’s begun to treat Amanda Bobbie, who insists she wants his advice about a friend who’s about to go broke, then reveals that she’s a paid-companion-with-benefits to said friend, who begins to sound an awful lot like somebody Alan knows. The two plot lines take quite a while to get established, but once they do, the pressure on Alan mounts relentlessly until a stunning coincidence sends the unrelated two stories crashing together.
White (Dead Time, 2008, etc.) makes it clear that Alan’s 19th appearance is his penultimate case; the next case will be his swan song. Judging from the risks he takes this time, fans won’t want to miss the sequel.
Honolulu attorney Kevin Corvelli’s latest pair of clients serve up surprise after unhappy surprise.
Kevin has represented career criminal Turi Ahina, who once saved his life, so many times that he should award him frequent-client miles. So nothing could be more routine than the news that the cops have busted Turi in his meth lab. Threatening him with serious time, Assistant U.S. Attorneys William F. Boyd and Audra Levy demand that Turi earn his Get–Out-of-Jail-Free card by infiltrating the inner circle of legendary drug lord Orlando Masonet, whom neither Turi nor anybody else ever seems to have met. Then Turi’s arrested for shooting Detective Kanoa Bristol, and Kevin decides that his best defense is to argue that Bristol and virtually the entire Honolulu PD were on the take. As if all these complications aren’t enough, Kevin’s landed a second assignment that’s anything but routine from the get-go: to make sure that Governor Wade Omphrey never even goes on trial for the strychnine poisoning of Oksana Sutin, his Russian mistress. The governor has a cast-iron alibi for the time of her death, so Kevin’s job is limited to convincing the cops—the same cops he plans to identify as crooks—that Omphrey didn’t hire world-class hit man Lok Sun, recently spotted in the Aloha state, or anyone else to administer the fatal dose and, of course, to manage the press coverage leading up to the election. Keeping both the wisecracks and the satyriasis he showed in Night on Fire (2011, etc.) under relative control, Kevin makes only one new conquest, his opposite number Audra Levy, but still finds plenty to keep him busy inside and outside of the courtroom.
More lawyers, law enforcement types, Class-A felonies and plot twists than you can shake a stick at. Instead of a map, Corleone should have supplied a score card.
Making consistently fabulous pies is the least of a local baker’s problems when a critic who gave her a thumbs-down is murdered.
Now that Hanna Denton has gotten settled running her Grannie’s old pie shop in Crystal Cove, Calif., she’s doubling her duties by pushing her pies at the local Food Fair. It’s a great opportunity to encourage more folks to buy products, like the yummy-sounding butterscotch pecan pie (recipe included). And Hanna enjoys getting to know her fellow local-food purveyors. Bill and Dave claim to have the best sausage in town, cheese vendor Jacques has a personality that sells his wares, and even Nina, Hanna’s old high school chum, has gotten in on the action with a stand selling sweets. When a man comes by offering Hanna a free knife perfect for slicing pies, Hanna is happy to take one off his hands and promises to showcase it as an advertisement for him. In spite of the success of the pies at the Food Fair, critic Heath Barr pans the pies, along with those of several other vendors, in the local paper. The review turns out to be Heath’s last; he’s found stabbed to death by the knife given away at the Food Fair. Not only does that make Hanna a suspect, it raises police chief Sam Genovese’s suspicions about everyone who was given a promotional knife.
Culver’s latest charts new developments in Hanna and Sam’s relationship, though it provokes fewer laughs than A Good Day to Pie (2011).
A desperate plea for help from a schoolboy sucks Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands into a case that could end his career.
Jackie Drummond’s mother had once used Joe in an attempt to conceive, so there’s a chance that young Jackie could be Joe’s son. Because his parents live in colonial India, Jackie attends St. Magnus, a Sussex boarding school. When a schoolmaster who was about to give him a beating is murdered, Jackie runs off to London, where “Uncle Joe” takes him in and prepares to return him, even though all is far from normal back at school. Before they leave, Joe is called into a meeting with high government officials who give him the vague assignment of investigating St. Magnus. Joe takes along Dorcas Joliffe, a tough young family friend whose psychology degree will turn out to be an asset. Over the years, a number of troublesome boys have left St. Magnus school and have never taken up their rightful place in life. The latest goes missing under the noses of Joe, Dorcas and Mr. Gosling, an MI5 agent posing as a teacher. Joe, Dorcas and Gosling end up investigating what turns out to be a troubling case indeed. Too many people connected with the school over the years have had an interest in eugenics and believe only the best and brightest should be allowed to breed. The shadow of Nazi Germany looms large over the case, which becomes more horrific with every new discovery.
As usual, Cleverly (The Blood Royal, 2011, etc.) neatly captures the style and feeling of the period between the world wars and provides plenty of mystery, suspense and danger.
Amazing but true: The Monkeewrench gang, that misfit quartet of lovable cybergeeks who moonlight as the nemesis of Twin Cities serial killers, actually gets upstaged by the Minneapolis Police Department.
Battered, paranoid Monkeewrench founder Grace MacBride’s recuperative sailing trip through the Florida Keys with retired FBI desk-jockey John Smith is rudely interrupted by a pair of killers who climb aboard Smith’s boat and start to cut his throat. Grace handily dispatches them both and rolls the bodies overboard, but she’s seriously rattled to find Smith’s particulars on one of them. Clearly these men weren’t pirates, but assassins who specifically targeted her host. Back in Minneapolis, Ojibwe teen Aimee Sergeant, abducted from Sand Lake Reservation for the sex trade, has her own throat slit when she tries to escape. Ojibwe Officer Bad Heart Bull just happens to be on hand to rescue the four even-younger girls who were snatched with her. In the meantime, even more surprisingly, Joe Hardy, a cancer-ridden Special Ops sharpshooter, executes Aimee’s Somali kidnappers. A sizable stash of weaponry and a remarkably similar murder spree in faraway Culver City confirm Minneapolis PD Detective Leo Magozzi’s hunch that the sale of the kidnapped girls was intended to provide financing for a gang of Somali terrorists who’ve gone after Smith for mysterious reasons that provide the slender mystery’s most pleasing surprise. The rest of the Monkeewrench crew—Annie Belinsky, Harley Davidson and Roadrunner—don’t have much more to do than the abducted Ojibwe girls; for better or worse, this show mostly belongs to Magozzi, his partner, Gino Rolseth, and the imperturbable Smith.
Despite the high body count, Tracy (Shoot to Thrill, 2010, etc.) seems to have taken something off her customary manic formula: The murders are much less florid than usual, and the regulars seem almost subdued.
Dirty doings Down Under as Australian superthief Wyatt (Wyatt, 2011, etc.) returns to steal something he wishes he hadn’t.
He’s endlessly cool, enormously competent, a man who notices everything. But the eternal verities of Wyatt’s larcenous world are shifting. Cops, for instance, can no longer be depended upon to be the honest plods that made them predictable adversaries. Robbers, fences and pretty women are developing unforeseeable vagaries. Most troubling of all, however, is the dereliction of Frank Jardine, Wyatt’s old friend and job-planner. Jardine and Wyatt had had a good thing going, but suddenly Jardine’s not what he once was, and as a result, Wyatt’s life has become less comfortable. Consulting the floor plans Jardine has supplied to a plush Sydney mansion points him unerringly to the safe he intends to loot of $50,000, split down the middle between Jardine and himself. He finds the safe with no problem. It’s what he finds in addition, without any caveat from Jardine, that turns out to be a problem. The diamond-encrusted butterfly is gorgeous, and Wyatt unhesitatingly adds it to his bag of swag. What he doesn’t know, what he feels he should have been warned about, is that the butterfly has already been stolen. And that numerous hard guys will kill to get it back.
To Disher’s usual brisk pacing, add heaps of noir. The result is not for everyone but is a banquet for those who like it uncut and unsparing.
The Grand Canyon provides a stunningly scenic backdrop for murder.
Even though she’s still terrified of water years after her brother drowned, forensic geologist Em Hansen has agreed to accompany her new husband, Fritz Calder, and his son, Brendan, on a raft trip down the Colorado River. Em is gingerly attempting to establish a relationship with 13-year-old Brendan, who’s thrilled by the chance to spend more time with his father. The trip is a wedding present from Fritz’s pal, Tiny, whose accident leaves Fritz as team leader. It’s immediately clear that the 15th member of the party, casually invited at the last minute by Tiny, is going to be trouble. Wink Oberley is an experienced, but much disliked, river runner with his own boat. He claims to be a former Army Ranger who’s currently working on a Ph.D. in geology at Princeton. Despite having a wife and children, he’s also a womanizer and a bully who picks on Brendan. Oberley is earning some extra cash by conducting an educational program for the group right behind them on the river, a religious group that denies geological evidence of how the canyon was created. He ruffles many feathers, but when he vanishes after a night of heavy drinking, Fritz, assuming that he’s drowned, simply reports him missing, and the trip continues. Once Oberley is found murdered, the park rangers who are investigating take Fritz as their prime suspect, forcing Em to use all her skills to find the real killer.
Geologist Andrews enhances Em’s adventures (Dead Dry, 2005, etc.) with expert detail. A challenging mystery with the added fillip of evocative descriptions of the canyon.
Three decades after it began, an unlikely investigator examines the way the Nazi occupation of France turned neighbor against neighbor and led to murder.
In the early 1970s, Louis Morgon is sacked from the CIA without warning. His wife, Sarah, denounces him and moves out with the children. Louis tries teaching and writing and working in the garden but all diffidently. One day, someone suggests France, and Louis settles into the charming village of Saint Léon-sur-Dême. He buys a house and sets about cleaning and repairing it, becoming an object of friendly curiosity. Curiosity turns to concern when Louis finds in a crawl space a collection of handbills and several small pistols wrapped in a cloth, all of which he brings to town. At that point, the story flashes back to 1940 and the beginning of the German occupation. Rifleman Onesime Josquin catches a wagon to the Hôtel de France, where locals gather to strategize and argue. Superficial cooperation with the occupiers is a given, but even this becomes challenging when the German officer in charge, Col. Büchner, demands that local officials keep order...or else. Particularly contentious is the wrangling of the schoolmaster, Bertrand, and the young policeman, Renard, whom Büchner seems to have taken under his wing. Onesime is riding his bicycle home one evening when he sees a body on the side of the road. It's a German soldier, shot in the back of the head. The murder is covered up and remains unsolved until the involvement, 30 years later, of the astute and persuasive Louis Morgon.
Morgon's fourth appearance (The Terrorist, 2010, etc.) is a subtle and complex thriller/whodunit, written with wit, intelligence and luminous precision.
The staff of a supernatural magazine can’t decide if its latest mystery is a case of human trickery or something more.
When Doreene Pinter decides to auction off a portrait of herself painted by her identical twin, Maureene, the news of the sale makes the local press in Port Townsend, Wash. Although Maureene’s art has some fame in its own right, the reason for the notoriety of this particular sale is in the change of the painting over the years. Like Dorian Gray, Doreene hasn’t seemed to age a day since the painting was completed, though the painting, as in Oscar Wilde's, has fared less well. The mystery surrounding this phenomenon brings the staff of Tripping, the magazine for all your supernatural needs, to town to get the story firsthand. Helmed by fearless Scot Angus MacGregor, its editor and cofounder, Tripping also counts among its staff the firm nonbeliever Michael Abernathy and the quirky and eye-catching photographer Suki Oota. Once assembled, the crew is ready to get down to the business of finding the truth, though Angus and Michael wind up bickering about everything from the nature of the supernatural to the use of aphorisms, which Michael dryly describes as “The spray cheese of wisdom.” Fast and furious wit like this helps move the tale along, though Allbritten (Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, 2011, etc.) still insists on saddling the otherwise charming Tripping staff with Doreene’s Chihuahua, Gigi, in an effort to put a Chihuahua in every pot.
Streamlining the complexities of this series by focusing on dialogue and character development rather than elaborating everyone’s connection to Chihuahuas might expand its reach beyond readers infatuated with the breed.
Another hot tip from her best informant, her mother, leads TV reporter Riley Spartz (Killing Kate, 2011, etc.) far from the Twin Cities to a murder among the Amish community in misnamed Harmony, Minn.
There was little enough chance of identifying the dead woman who’d been stripped naked, wrapped in a homemade quilt, and dumped in a sinkhole weeks before Josh Kueppers, 10, falls into the hole with the corpse and blows off her face with his shotgun in a panic. Since there are no photos available of the victim and the whole drama is playing out far from Channel 3’s market audience, Riley’s lecherous new boss, news director Bryce Griffin, isn’t eager to turn her loose on the story. But once the dead woman is identified as Sarah Yoder, 18, Riley persuades Griffin to send her back to Harmony, only to get predictably stiffed by Sarah’s mother, Miriam, Bishop Abram Stoltzfus and the rest of the closemouthed Amish. Only Linda Kloeckner, the Lamplight Inn owner who put up Sarah when she ran away from home shortly after committing her life to the community, and Isaac Hochstetler, who briefly employed her at Everything Amish, are willing to talk to Riley, and their information doesn’t do much to sensitize the reporter who asks her confessor, Father Mountain, whether ritual shunning by the Amish community is “worse than unfriending someone on Facebook.” No wonder a pair of attackers break into Riley’s room at the Lamplight Inn and (gasp!) cut her hair.
Riley’s obtuseness makes her a uniquely incompetent detective, an investigative reporter constantly surprised by developments less likely to ambush seasoned genre fans.
George’s Pittsburgh cops (Hideout, 2011, etc.) investigate a robbery-murder that’s a lot less routine and more sordid than it looks.
Gubernatorial hopeful Michael Connolly can’t keep his hands off Cassie Price, a new paralegal in his father’s law firm. But as he tells Todd Simon, his campaign manager, his need to maintain a squeaky-clean family image means that he can’t acknowledge her either. So Simon takes Cassie out for a margarita to find out how dangerous she is. By next morning, she’s no danger at all, because she’s been killed in the house she’s been fixing up in the low-income neighborhood of Oakland. Witness accounts and other evidence send Detectives Coleson and McGranahan to Cal Hathaway, the son of the Connolly housekeeper. Damaged as a child by a concussion and subject to blackouts, Cal seems tailor-made for the role of Cassie’s killer, and after hours of interrogation, he says he did it, or he didn’t, or he can’t remember. That’s good enough for the cops, who lock him up and get ready to move on. But Cmdr. Richard Christie, dissatisfied with the case against Cal, keeps playing devil’s advocate, urging that Detectives John Potocki and Colleen Greer look at other scenarios and other suspects. As they painstakingly build a second case against an unsurprising suspect, Cal makes friends and enemies in jail, raising the distinct possibility that even if the police arrest someone else, his vindication will be posthumous.
George’s all-too-familiar story is so richly observed, subtly characterized, precisely written—her syncopated paragraphs are a special delight—and successful in its avoidance of genre clichés that you’d swear you were reading the first police procedural ever written.
Journalist Östlundh’s first English-language translation provides sad proof that not every crime novel that takes root under the midnight sun blossoms equally brightly.
Corporate consultant Arvid Traneus has been away from home for 10 years, spending longer and longer periods of time doing what he does best: driving his employer’s closest competitor closer to extinction. Only a few days after he returns to the Swedish island of Gotland, it becomes clear that he didn’t stay away long enough when his housecleaner arrives at work to find two blood-soaked bodies. The woman is obviously Arvid’s wife, Kristina, whom he stole away from his cousin Anders many years ago. But the man has been so savagely attacked by a razor-sharp blade—the pathologist counts 30 wounds, half of them bad enough to have individually been the cause of death—that it’s impossible to identify him. Attempting to figure out whether the corpse is that of Arvid or Anders or someone else, Fredrick Bowman and his colleagues in the Visby Police Department question Anders’ father, ex-wife and daughter, as well as Arvid’s son Rickard, a part-time accountant, and his daughter Elin, a university student in Stockholm. They pick up dark hints about the death of Arvid’s eldest child, Stefania, who died 10 years ago at the age of 19. And in the fullness of time, they discover a third corpse that raises as many questions as it answers.
The ruthless patriarch, the dysfunctional family, the mysterious earlier death and the pattern of domestic abuse all suggest that Östlundh has made a close study of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. But this procedural is altogether slower, less surprising and more routine than its high-flying sinners seem to promise.
In Hiller’s (Sabra Zoo, 2010) second thriller, Michel Khoury is a skilled linguist, a supposed student at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, and a PLO operative controlled by the mysterious Abu Leila.
Khoury is a Lebanese Christian, a survivor of a horrific massacre in a Beirut refugee camp. Discovered by Leila, a PLO mastermind rumored to be connected to Arafat, Michel has been groomed since his orphaned teenage years for a purpose never revealed to him. He’s learned multiple languages and was schooled in spy craft in Gorbachev’s Moscow. Now, Abu Leila has assigned Michel to London, where he runs clandestine errands and acts as Leila’s agent. With no other contact within the PLO, Khoury is confused but loyal when he is tasked to find a site for a meeting between Palestinians and Israelis who are working secretly for a single-state solution to Middle Eastern turmoil, a gathering sure to draw assassins from all quarters. In a life driven by deceit, Khoury’s motives, decisions and reactions can be traced to the massacre that cost him his family. Khoury’s initial human contact is the superbly written Abu Leila, but Hiller opens the narrative by introducing Helen, a beautiful and free-spirited English anthropology doctoral candidate. A romance begins, one filled with the same ambiguity that mirrors Michel’s life as an operative. But then Michel’s world is shattered when Abu is assassinated in Berlin shortly before the clandestine conference. That sends Khoury, accompanied by Helen, into the wilds of Scotland, pursued by Abu’s killers. Moving from Lebanon to Cyprus to Berlin to Moscow and then to London, a city that Hiller knows and makes central to the story, the author writes believably of the world of undercover spies, both about the practicalities—picking locks, coding messages, using false identities—and the atmosphere of constant paranoia, continual double-dealing and amorality.
An entertainingly complex, quick-moving psychological thriller.
The seventh installment of Griffin's Men at War series dramatizes a pivotal moment in the campaign against Hitler, who plans on hitting London with "aerial torpedos" laced with nerve gas—this while the U.S. is still developing the atomic bomb back home.
The book opens in German-occupied Poland in the summer of 1943. Polish guerillas blow up railroad tracks to stop a train carrying scores of Jews to a death camp, only to a derail a private train with one car carrying a top Nazi officer. The incident sets in motion intelligence activities in Germany, Italy and Algeria designed to infiltrate the Nazis, turn some of Hitler's generals against him, and clear the way for the American invasion of Normandy—which Churchill steadfastly opposes, preferring to attack through the Mediterranean. There's also the question of who is selling Manhattan Project secrets to the Soviets. At the heart of the narrative are "Wild Bill" Donovan, headstrong chief of the Office of Strategic Services; his top agent, strapping 26-year-old Dick Canidy; Allen Dulles, head of the OSS in Switzerland; and his sympathetic old friend, German industrialist Wolfgang Kappler, whose son Oskar is a die-hard member of the SS. Hitler's top scientist, Wernher von Braun, plays a significant role in developing the V-2 rocket, years before he was whisked to the U.S. Griffin and Butterworth, his son, are completely at ease mixing fact and fiction, skillfully piecing together pieces of their narrative puzzle. Their writing is straightforward to a fault, sometimes reminding you of a scholastic "You Are There" novel, but the book never sags, and the characters never lose our interest.
A knowing thriller in which the world must be saved on several fronts from the fascist threat.
Hurwitz demonstrates his mastery of the thriller genre.
Nate Overbay stands on an 11th-story building ledge as gunshots erupt inside. Curiosity overcomes his suicide plan as he looks through the bank window and witnesses a robbery in progress. He climbs back inside, shoots five criminals dead and saves the day. Thus, instead of splattering himself on top of a Dumpster, Nate becomes an unwilling hero. He suffers from ALS and simply wants to spare himself the agonizing end that is only months away. The trouble is, now he has angered Pavlo, the Ukrainian mobster who had directed the heist. Pavlo is an unusually sadistic sort who plans to make Nate pay in the worst possible way—through Nate’s daughter. The book opens as dramatically as a reader could hope for and doesn’t relent. That Nate must die is inevitable, given his fatal illness. The question is whether he dies on his own terms. Nate's been a hero once before, but he’s also been weak. Now he must protect and re-bond with his estranged family in the face of vengeful monsters. Hurwitz’s writing is crisp and economical, and he steers clear of hackneyed phrases and one-dimensional characters—Nate’s and Pavlo’s back stories are well-crafted, although the ghost of Nate’s dead friend Charles seems inspired by a James Lee Burke novel.
A fine thriller that succeeds on every level. How often do you read about a hero who just wants to die in peace?