As in Mulligan’s hard-nosed debut, the real star here is Providence, which the author knows intimately.

CLIFF WALK

Fresh from the Most Corrupt State competition comes a second persuasive entry that links pretty much every citizen of Providence to a child-snuff-porn ring.

Cosmo Scalici, convinced that he deserves more respect as a waste recycler who mainly feeds trash to pigs, is less than happy when one of his hogs beats him out for the child’s hand that he’s just glimpsed. Soon after a post-slaughter autopsy confirms Scalici’s find, along with his dim prospects for respect, someone—State Police Capt. Steve Parisi won’t confirm whether it’s Salvatore Maniella, Rhode Island’s premier pornographer—gets shot to death and takes a thoroughly disfiguring header off Newport’s scenic Cliff Walk. The two incidents are obviously linked, but in order to connect the dots, reporter Liam Mulligan, of the dying Providence Dispatch, will have to wade through a pit of waist-high filth: an online ring of child pornographers, a vigilante who’s riding around town executing same, an interchangeable series of pole dancers coming on to him (who knew prostitution was legal in Rhode Island until 2010?) and bodyguards warning him to quit hassling Sal Maniella’s daughter Vanessa, queen of the city’s strip clubs, and of course Mulligan’s estranged wife, Dorcas, who phones him every time she goes off her meds. The high-casualty plot is a mess. But the epic, warts-and-all portrait of the city is scathing; ulcer-ridden wiseacre Mulligan (Rogue Island, 2010) is never less than compelling company; and the analogies between the newspaper business and the porn business are spot-on.

As in Mulligan’s hard-nosed debut, the real star here is Providence, which the author knows intimately.

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3237-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

One of those rare thrillers whose revelations actually intensify its suspense instead of dissipating it. The final pages are...

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GONE GIRL

A perfect wife’s disappearance plunges her husband into a nightmare as it rips open ugly secrets about his marriage and, just maybe, his culpability in her death.

Even after they lost their jobs as magazine writers and he uprooted her from New York and spirited her off to his childhood home in North Carthage, Mo., where his ailing parents suddenly needed him at their side, Nick Dunne still acted as if everything were fine between him and his wife, Amy. His sister Margo, who’d gone partners with him on a local bar, never suspected that the marriage was fraying, and certainly never knew that Nick, who’d buried his mother and largely ducked his responsibilities to his father, stricken with Alzheimer’s, had taken one of his graduate students as a mistress. That’s because Nick and Amy were both so good at playing Mr. and Ms. Right for their audience. But that all changes the morning of their fifth anniversary when Amy vanishes with every indication of foul play. Partly because the evidence against him looks so bleak, partly because he’s so bad at communicating grief, partly because he doesn’t feel all that grief-stricken to begin with, the tide begins to turn against Nick. Neighbors who’d been eager to join the police in the search for Amy begin to gossip about him. Female talk-show hosts inveigh against him. The questions from Detective Rhonda Boney and Detective Jim Gilpin get sharper and sharper. Even Nick has to acknowledge that he hasn’t come close to being the husband he liked to think he was. But does that mean he deserves to get tagged as his wife’s killer? Interspersing the mystery of Amy’s disappearance with flashbacks from her diary, Flynn (Dark Places, 2009, etc.) shows the marriage lumbering toward collapse—and prepares the first of several foreseeable but highly effective twists.

One of those rare thrillers whose revelations actually intensify its suspense instead of dissipating it. The final pages are chilling.

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-58836-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

A fine thriller that succeeds on every level. How often do you read about a hero who just wants to die in peace?

THE SURVIVOR

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?

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-62551-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

A flawlessly assembled thriller.

THE BROKEN ONES

In the strange, devastating aftermath of Gray Wednesday, when the Earth's poles suddenly switched, the world is in even greater chaos, climatic distress and financial ruin than it is now.

Not only are people struggling for survival, most of them are shadowed by a ghost. In most cases, it's the ghost of a relative or friend, but for tormented Australian cop Oscar Mariani, the specter is an unknown 16-year-old boy. The son of a storied cop, Mariani works for forever dank and gloomy Brisbane's special Nine-Ten unit, which determines whether a homicide suspect was driven to commit the crime by the maddening presence of a ghost. If so, it's a pardonable offense. Oscar has a vested interest in solving the grisly killing of a girl found ripped apart in a sewage plant, a weird religious symbol carved into her stomach. He has never gotten over the guilt of maiming another teenage girl when he swerved to avoid a boy in the road—the boy, as it turns out, who is now haunting him. When Oscar's dirty superiors order him to back off the case, which involves the abduction, torture and murder of disabled girls from a nursing home, he goes rogue, losing his loyal female partner on the force in the process. It's not enough for him to get beat up, shot and hailed on. In a frightening scene, huge, vulturelike creatures maul him. In the striking retro future of this novel, bizarre and familiar comfortably coincide.

A flawlessly assembled thriller.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-53465-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

With dialogue that can go off like gunfire and a streak of nostalgia that feels timeless, this book takes its place among...

ISTANBUL PASSAGE

In 1945 Istanbul, Allied veteran Leon Bauer is running spy missions under the cover of a U.S. tobacco-importing business.

With the war over, U.S. operations are closing up shop in the neutral capital, but Leon has one last big job: to take possession of a Romanian defector in possession of important Russian secrets and get him flown to safety. The rub is the defector, Alexei, was involved in a heinous massacre of Jews four years earlier. Kanon (The Good German, 2001, etc.) extends his mastery of the period novel with this coiled tale of foreign intrigue. Though not much happens, plotwise, in this dialogue-driven book, Leon hardly has a moment to relax, immersed in a world of moral and political upheaval. When he first arrived in Istanbul with his wife Anna, the city was a paradise with its scenic river view, cultural riches and feeling of mystery. Now, badly injured in an accident, Anna lives in a nursing home, awake but uncommunicative, leaving Leon to contend with a circle of friends and associates he can't trust. After shooting rather than getting shot by his duplicitous supervisor in a tense late-night encounter along the river, he can avoid suspicion only so long before the brutal secret police, Emniyet, are onto him and the secretly stashed Alexei. There is little about the novel that is not familiar, but this is comfort fiction of the smartest, most compelling and nonpandering kind. Even as he evokes classics such as Casablanca, The Quiet American and A Perfect Spy, Kanon shows off his gift for morally gripping themes, heart-stopping suspense and compelling characters.

With dialogue that can go off like gunfire and a streak of nostalgia that feels timeless, this book takes its place among espionage novels as an instant classic.

Pub Date: May 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-5641-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

A compulsively readable novel about brothers on opposite sides of life.

THE PROPHET

Friday Night Lights meets In Cold Blood in this powerful tale of distant brothers whose torment over the murder of their sister when they were teens is compounded by the murder of another targeted teenage girl—a killing one of the brothers is determined to avenge even if that means committing murder himself.

Adam Austin, a physically imposing bail bondsman and sometime private investigator in the small town of Chambers, Ohio, has never gotten past the guilt of letting his little sister Marie walk home from a football game alone. He drove off with his new girlfriend, Chelsea, and never saw his sister again. He still talks to Marie in her spotlessly maintained old room but is barely on speaking terms with his religiously rehabilitated younger brother Kent, the venerated coach of the football team they once played on together, who forgave the man who killed Marie. After Adam unknowingly sends a 17-year-old client to her death by telling her where she can find a letter-writing ex-con she thinks is her father, the past eerily collides with the present. Dark, spiraling events unmoor the already unstable Adam and his chances of happiness with Chelsea, who is back in his life with her no-good husband serving a long prison sentence. Kent, who seemed headed to his first state championship before the murder of the teen, his star receiver's girlfriend, turns to his brother when his family is threatened. The question is whether Adam is beyond turning to anyone for help. Koryta, who drew acclaim with his 2011 supernatural thrillers, The Ridge and The Cypress House, returns to crime fiction with a gripping work. This book succeeds on any number of levels. It's a brilliantly paced thriller that keeps its villains at a tantalizing distance, a compelling family portrait, a study in morality that goes beyond the usual black-and-white judgments, and an entertaining spin on classic football fiction. A flawless performance.

A compulsively readable novel about brothers on opposite sides of life.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-12261-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Landay is yet another lawyer-turned-writer, and it’s inevitable that he’ll be compared to Scott Turow, but this novel...

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DEFENDING JACOB

Landay does the seemingly impossible by coming up with a new wrinkle in the crowded subgenre of courtroom thrillers.

Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is called to a gruesome crime scene after Ben Rifkin, a 14-year-old boy, has been brutally stabbed in a city park. One suspect seems likely, a pedophile who lives nearby and is known to frequent the park, but suspicion turns quickly to another, much more unlikely, suspect—Andy’s son Jacob, one of Ben’s classmates. It seems Ben was not the paragon of virtue he was made out to be, for he had a mean streak and had been harassing Jacob...but is this a sufficient motive for a 14-year-old to commit murder? Some of Jacob’s fellow students post messages on Facebook suggesting he’s guilty of the crime, and Jacob also admits to having shown a “cool” knife to his friends. When Andy finds the knife, he quickly disposes of it, but even he’s not sure if he does this because he suspects his son is innocent or because he suspects his son is guilty. Complicating the family dynamic is Laurie, Jacob’s mother, who’s at least half convinced that her son might indeed be capable of such a heinous act—and it turns out Andy has concealed his own past from Laurie because both his father and grandfather have been murderers, and he fears he may have both inherited and passed down to Jacob a gene associated with aggressive behavior in males.

Landay is yet another lawyer-turned-writer, and it’s inevitable that he’ll be compared to Scott Turow, but this novel succeeds on its own merits.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34422-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

Let’s hope Laukkanen writes more thrillers like this one.

THE PROFESSIONALS

A fast-moving debut thriller with enough twists to fill a pretzel bag.

They aren’t bad people. It’s just that times are tough in Michigan, and none of these young friends can find a decent job. So Pender, Sawyer, Mouse and Marie decide that kidnapping a few rich people for quick, modest ransoms would solve their financial woes and let them live out their lives on a beach in the Maldives. No one gets hurt, no one gets greedy and they all stay professional. They just need to grab some rich businessmen, make a few quiet deals and walk away with a $60,000 payoff each time. One victim even complains he’s worth way more, but $60K is enough for them. The plan works beautifully until they mess with the wrong guy and their great retirement plan goes insanely haywire. Meanwhile, state cop Kirk Stevens and FBI agent Carla Windermere team up to investigate the crimes. The characters are as much fun as the plot. Stevens is happily married and faithful, and Windermere has a beau, yet when they work together the sexual tension between them is obvious. They are the real pros in this case as they try to nail the criminals and stop the mayhem that spirals out of control. And for all the danger, Stevens and Windermere tell each other they’re having so much fun they wish the case would go on forever. The kidnappers, however, enjoy themselves somewhat less while they learn that some things may be more important than money—like staying alive, for example.

Let’s hope Laukkanen writes more thrillers like this one.

Pub Date: March 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15789-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

A Cold-War spy novel for the top shelf.

YOUNG PHILBY

A dizzying “what if” take on (in)famous British spy Kim Philby.

In 1963, Kim Philby, a member of British Intelligence, was exposed as a double agent working for Russia. The case continues to provide a mother lode for spy novels, and in this latest, Littell (The Stalin Epigram, 2009, etc.) spins the story even further, building to a finish that suggests the story still offers at least one more stunning “shoe drop.” Littell’s narrative follows the outlines of Philby’s private and public lives, which here are inextricably linked. The story unfolds in a series of first-person accounts from friends, lovers and contacts who knew Philby at key junctures in his career as an agent. There’s Litzi Friedman, who first puts callow but wary Philby in touch with the Russians when he visits Vienna; Guy Burgess, Philby’s flamboyantly gay classmate at Cambridge, whom Philby enlists as a spy for the Soviets; Frances Doble, a film star who romances Philby as he reports on the Spanish Civil War for the London Times; and Philby’s father, Harry St John Bridger Philby, aka “the Hajj.” From these narratives emerges a mural of the history of espionage before, during and after World War II, as well as an in-depth portrait of Philby, who becomes a canny informant despite his fear of the sight of blood. The narrators speak with distinctive voices, yet the chapters are unified by the dark lens of Littell’s mordant take on spies and their craft. As in The Company (2002), Littell shows particular skill at recreating pulse-quickening epic scenes of conflict—the Russian-backed uprising against Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, the war against fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and the horrors of Stalin’s kangaroo courts and of Moscow prisons. Veteran Littell remains unbowed by commercial pressures to speed up the text. Elegantly written paragraphs and speeches running to half pages distinguish his work.

A Cold-War spy novel for the top shelf.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00516-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Where earlier novels provide a better introduction to Hole, this one best takes the full measure of the man.

PHANTOM

The internationally popular detective series by the Norwegian author builds to a blockbuster climax.

The Nesbø phenomenon has transcended “next Stieg Larrson” status. In practically every comparison except books sold (and, with millions to date, Nesbø’s catching up), he’s superior to his late Swedish counterpart: more imaginative, better plotting, richer characters, stronger narrative momentum, more psychological and philosophical depth. No, he doesn’t have an androgynously attractive tattooed girl, but he does have Harry Hole: long an Oslo detective who specialized in (increasingly gruesome) serial killers, now a recovering alcoholic involved in some shadowy pursuits in Hong Kong while trying to reclaim his soul. Only the most powerful lure could bring Harry back to the dangers and temptations he faces back home, and that lure is love. Readers of earlier books (and some back story is necessary to feel the full impact of this one) will remember his doomed relationship with Rakel and the way he briefly served as a surrogate father to her son, Oleg. That innocent boy has now become a junkie and an accused murderer in a seemingly open-and-shut case, with Harry the only hope of unraveling a conspiracy that extends from a “phantom” drug lord through the police force to the government. The drug is a synthetic opiate called “violin,” three times stronger than heroin, controlled by a monopoly consortium. The murder victim (whose dying voice provides narrative counterpoint) was Oleg’s best friend and stash buddy, and his stepsister is the love of Oleg’s life. As Harry belatedly realizes, “Our brains are always willing to let emotions make decisions. Always ready to find the consoling answers our hearts need.” As all sorts of father-son implications manifest themselves, the conclusion to one of the most cleanly plotted novels in the series proves devastating for protagonist and reader alike. Hole will soon achieve an even higher stateside profile through the Martin Scorsese film of Nesbø's novel The Snowman (2011), but those hooked by that novel or earlier ones should make their way here as quickly as they can.

Where earlier novels provide a better introduction to Hole, this one best takes the full measure of the man.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-96047-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Subtle, smart, compelling and blessed with both an intelligent storyline and top-notch writing, this book will grab readers...

SAY YOU'RE SORRY

Australia-based writer Robotham’s insightful psychologist Joe O’Loughlin once again tackles a tough case involving crimes that, at first blush, do not seem related.

Two young girls from a small English village disappear one night after attending a local funfair. Gorgeous, promiscuous Tash and quiet, athletic Piper had little in common, but became fast friends. Tash was brilliant, but underachieving. Her lower-middle-class family was troubled, and she attended a prestigious private school on scholarship, while Piper’s mismatched former-model mother and wealthy banker father lived in the area’s toniest neighborhood. While their disappearance initially sparked teams of searchers and outrage from the local citizenry, it simmered down once the police become convinced the girls were runaways. Three years later, the girls are still missing. In the meantime, O’Loughlin and his teenage daughter are trying to rebuild their fractured relationship, damaged by his estrangement from his wife. While attending a conference, police seek out the savvy profiler and ask for his help in solving a terrible double murder. As investigators wade through the blood bath of a crime scene, they learn that the home is connected to the girls’ disappearances. In fact, while the couple killed was no relation to Tash, the home in which it occurred was where she’d lived before she vanished. While police puzzle through the homicide, another body is found, but this time it’s an unidentified young woman found frozen in the ice of a nearby pond. O’Loughlin wants no part of either case but is soon sucked into helping police while racing against the clock to prevent another tragedy. Robotham’s writing ranges from insightful to superb and he has no qualms about burdening his hero, O’Loughlin, with not only a broken personal life, but also a broken body courtesy of a case of Parkinson’s, making him not only more human, but more likable.

Subtle, smart, compelling and blessed with both an intelligent storyline and top-notch writing, this book will grab readers from page one and not let go until the final sentence.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-22124-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

It’s a grand entertainment to watch Silva putting Gabriel Allon’s skills to work, whether shedding blood or daubing varnish....

THE FALLEN ANGEL

Fast-paced action thriller from old hand Silva (Portrait of a Spy, 2001, etc.), whose hero Gabriel Allon returns in fine form.

As Silva’s legion of fans—including, it seems, every policy wonk inside the Beltway and Acela Corridor—knows, Gabriel is not just your ordinary spy. He’s a capable assassin, for one thing, and a noted art restorer for another, which means that his adventures often find him in the presence of immortal works of art and bad guys who would put them to bad use. This newest whodunit is no exception: Gabriel’s in the Vatican, working away at a Caravaggio, when he gets caught up in an anomalous scene—as a friendly Jesuit puts it with considerable understatement, “We have a problem.” The problem is that another Vatican insider has gone splat on the mosaic floor, having fallen some distance from the dome. Did she jump, or was she pushed? Either way, as the victim’s next of kin puts it, again with considerable understatement, “I’m afraid my sister left quite a mess.” She did indeed, and straightening it up requires Gabriel to grapple with baddies in far-flung places around Europe and the Middle East. It would be spoiling things to go too deep into what he finds, but suffice it to say that things have been going missing from the Vatican’s collections to fund a variety of nefarious activities directly and indirectly, including some ugly terrorism out Jerusalem way. But set Gabriel to scaling flights of Herodian stairs, and the mysteries fall into place—not least of them the location of a certain structure built for a certain deity by a certain biblical fellow. The plot’s a hoot, but a believable one; think a confection by Umberto Eco as starring Jonathan Hemlock, or a Dan Brown yarn intelligently plotted and written, and you’ll have a sense of what Silva is up to here.

It’s a grand entertainment to watch Silva putting Gabriel Allon’s skills to work, whether shedding blood or daubing varnish. A top-notch thriller.

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-207312-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2012

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