Modern-day sorcerers fight a war of words in this intensely analytical yet bombastic thriller.
Barry (Machine Man, 2011, etc.) is usually trying to be the funny guy in the world of postmodern satire, with arrows keenly aimed at corporate greed and how to make it in advertising. Apparently, our Australian comrade has changed his mind, racing up alongside the likes of Neal Stephenson with this smart, compelling, action-packed thriller about the power of words. In a deft narrative move, Barry parallels two distinct storylines before bringing them together with jaw-dropping surprises. In the first, a carpenter named Wil is jumped in an airport bathroom by a pair of brutal agents who kill his girlfriend and kidnap him for reasons unknown. In a storyline a few years back, we meet a smart, homeless grifter named Emily Ruff on the streets of San Francisco. After a run-in with a mark, Emily is invited to train under the auspices of a mysterious international syndicate known as “The Poets.” The shady peddlers of influence and power force Emily to study words as if they were a source of incredible power—and in the hands of gifted prodigies like Emily, they are. What could have been a sly attempt to satirize postmodern marketing and social media becomes something of a dark fantasy as couplets intended merely to influence become spell-like incantations with the power to kill. Back in America with Wil and his new captor, Elliot, we learn that Wil is the sole survivor of a terminal event in rural Australia and is being relentlessly pursued by Woolf, the perpetrator of the attack in Oz. In the background, the cult’s mysterious leader, Yeats, pulls strings that put everyone at risk, and no one turns out to be who we imagined.
An up-all-night thriller for freaks and geeks who want to see their wizards all grown up in the real world and armed to the teeth in a bloody story.
Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett, who attracts trouble the way carcasses attract maggots (Force of Nature, 2012, etc.), gets in the line of fire between an old friend and the Feds.
When two EPA agents, sent all the way from Denver to take contractor Butch Roberson into custody. are shot to death, Butch himself is the obvious suspect. But Joe, who saw Butch only hours before he disappeared, can’t help wondering why the EPA was so interested in Butch, whose attempt to build a new house for his family in Aspen Highlands blew up in his face, and why the new, race-baiting EPA regional director Juan Julio Batista has taken such a personal interest in the case. Joe has no time for any speculations, though, before he’s pressed into service to lead an ill-equipped EPA party searching for Butch up the mountain where he was last seen. Little does Joe know that he’s not the only one on the hunt. His old nemesis, ex-Sheriff Kyle McLanahan, has heard the rumor of a big reward for bringing in Butch and has gotten Dave Farkus, a clueless employee Butch fired, to lead him and Jimmy Sollis, the no-account brother of slain deputy Trent Sollis, to Butch first. Box doles out complications and misfortunes with masterly control; each time you’re convinced things can’t get any worse for Butch or Joe, they do, usually in unexpected ways. And every twist tightens the analogy between the shiftless vigilantes after Butch and the Feds determined to capture or kill him, two parties that are not only equally villainous, but villainous in exactly the same way.
Its basis in a real-life conflict makes Joe’s 13th case one of his most tendentious, but it’s Box who makes it one of his most exciting.
Dave Robicheaux’s latest Montana vacation is beset by demons old and new.
It’s a long way from New Iberia, La., to Big Sky country, but some things never change, like the constant threat of violence from unknown quarters. Or not so unknown, since Dave’s adopted daughter, Alafair, is sure that psycho rodeo cowboy Wyatt Dixon (In the Moon of Red Ponies, 2004, etc.) is the man who shot an arrow at her head. But Dave’s not so sure: A growing pile of evidence suggests that the archer was Asa Surrette, the mass murderer Alafair interviewed years ago in a Kansas prison for a true-crime book she gave up writing in horrified disgust. Surrette, reported dead in a flaming car crash, gives every indication of being alive, active and as malevolent as ever. That spells major trouble for Dave, who’s staying with novelist/teacher Albert Hollister; his old buddy Clete Purcel, who’s falling for Felicity Louviere, the unhappy wife of Caspian Younger, whose fabulously wealthy daddy, Love, has a summer place nearby; Gretchen Horowitz, the contract killer last seen executing her gangster father in Creole Belle (2012); and of course Alafair, the ultimate target of Surrette’s sadistic wrath. Series regulars will find no immunity from physical or spiritual maiming at the hands of Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Pepper, his replacement, Jack Boyd, or younger hireling Kyle Schumacher. Instead of simply absorbing threats and punishment, however, the good guys dish them out with a single-minded intensity that comes back to haunt them during the many reflective moments when they wonder what really separates them from the bad guys after all.
Pruning away the florid subplots that often clutter his heaven-storming blood baths, Burke produces his most sharply focused, and perhaps his most harrowing, study of human evil, refracted through the conventions of the crime novel.
Jack Reacher pokes a head into his old D.C. office, and things promptly go ballistic.
Reacher wants to get a gander at Maj. Susan Turner, his successor as head of the 100th Military Police Special Unit. But she’s been sent to Afghanistan, he’s told, and he’ll have to deal with her temporary replacement, Lt. Col. Morgan. Morgan’s idea of dealing with Reacher is to accuse him of beating Juan Rodriguez to death 16 years ago and shortly afterward fathering Samantha, a 14-year-old whose mother, Candice Dayton, is now looking for child support. To make sure Reacher doesn’t run off, as he’s certainly wont to do (A Wanted Man, 2012, etc.), Morgan recalls him to active Army service and restricts him to a five-mile radius surrounding the building. Naturally, things promptly get worse. A pair of thugs offer to beat Reacher to a pulp if he doesn’t go AWOL. Maj. Turner turns out to be in jail, not Afghanistan. And when her lawyer, Col. Moorcroft, is beaten into a coma a few hours after one of Reacher’s own lawyers—Capt. Helen Sullivan, the one handling the Rodriguez charge—witnesses Reacher’s fraught meeting with Moorcroft, Reacher is escorted to an adjoining cell in the same building. But Reacher, never one to let temporary reversals get him down, escapes from jail, taking Turner with him, and sets out to escape the District, rustle up some cash and some wheels, elude the two thugs (now four) who remain in hot pursuit, and hightail it to LA to satisfy himself as to whether Samantha Dayton really is his daughter. Any questions?
For the pure pleasure of uncomplicated, nonstop action, no one touches Reacher, who accurately observes that “I trained myself...to turn fear into aggression.”
Remember Merrily We Roll Along, the Sondheim musical out of Kaufman and Hart that began with its climactic scene and worked backward to the beginning? Deaver’s borrowed the same concept and juiced it with assorted felonies, nonstop suspense and his trademark braininess.
The opening scene seems both to begin and to end in media res. Gabriela McKenzie, whose 6-year-old daughter Sarah has been kidnapped by Joseph Astor, waits with insurance executive Sam Easton for the return of his boss, Andrew Faraday, and venture capitalist Daniel Reardon. The two men have gone to deliver the item Joseph demanded: the October List, a document containing contact information for the secret clients of Gabriela’s boss, wealthy investment counselor Charles Prescott. But the scene ends with the threatening entrance of Joseph, not Andrew and Daniel. From that moment on, Deaver (The Kill Room, 2013, etc.) sucks you into a whirlwind reverse-chronology tour of Gabriela’s nightmare weekend: her tense interviews with a pair of New York cops, her ransacking of Prescott’s office to find the October List, the encounter in which Joseph tells her that he’s got Sarah, the news that Prescott has vanished with his firm’s money, her meet-cute with Daniel, all punctuated by the sudden, shocking crimes Gabriela and others commit in the pursuit of the elusive list. The conceit of a tale unrolling backward in time initially seems daunting, but it’s not so different from the way lots of detective stories—or for that matter lots of Ibsen plays—unfold, and Deaver dispenses expository bits and cliffhangers with a mastery that’ll make you smile even more broadly after you realize how thoroughly you’ve been hoodwinked.
Perhaps the cleverest of all Deaver’s exceptionally clever thrillers. If you’ve ever wished you could take the film Memento to the beach, here’s your chance.
A World War II naval thriller in the tradition of Edward L. Beach's Run Silent, Run Deep, pitting an American submarine against daunting odds.
In 1944, the U.S. is pushing the Japanese empire back to its home turf, one bloody island at a time. In this struggle, Cmdr. Gar Hammond has two special missions. The first is to captain his submarine through Bungo Suido, the narrow strait connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Japanese Inland Sea, and torpedo Japan’s massive new aircraft carrier. Five other subs have tried it and are now “on eternal patrol” at the bottom of the ocean. Yet his even more crucial mission is to bring a man named Hashimoto safely back to his home soil. Hammond initially objects to a “Jap” on his sub, and his superiors refuse to tell him why. Even readers who might guess the reason will be swept up in the action-filled plot as Hammond’s Dragonfish tries to survive the Bungo Suido minefields. Like any good hero, Hammond has his flaws. While obeying orders, he sometimes goes beyond them. And when he absolutely must keep his mouth shut, he talks. Will these traits get him killed? Does his behavior at one point amount to treason? The story is full of surprising twists and spectacular explosions, with many of the best scenes taking place outside his Dragonfish. The pace occasionally slows to allow the reader to stop for a breath in Hawaii. There, far from the fighting, admirals plan strategies while a woman adds a layer of humanity to Hammond’s life. But just when it seems that Hammond is out of the picture, he comes back again to witness some of the worst horrors mankind can inflict.
A first-rate yarn of war and the sea that will keep the reader on edge right to the end.
A pair of court employees can hold onto their jobs for another year—if only they can hide the news of their boss’s death for 24 hours.
Even though money is tight, employees in the chambers of the New York County Courthouse are still guaranteed their paychecks till the end of the year if the judge they work for dies. When Judge Alvin Canter succumbs to a heart attack on the morning of New Year’s Eve, the timing couldn’t be worse for his secretary, Carol Scilingo, or his law clerk, Tom Carroway, for whom money is especially tight. But if only Judge Canter died on New Year’s Day instead, they’d both be taken care of for another crucial year—time to dig out of their financial holes and maybe come together for keeps as a couple. So Tom’s idea of concealing the judge’s death till the next day seems perfectly logical and even—considering how deserted the courthouse is on the last day of the year—plausible. As soon as you stop to think more than Tom and Carol allow themselves to do, however, you realize what a harebrained scheme it is, full of holes and dependent on good timing, good luck and the good will of a motley cast—from floating court officer Foxx, Carol’s ex-boyfriend, to Court Officers Union president, Bobby Werkman, to collection agent Dominic McGlinchy, an ex-pug who works for the gambler Tom owes eight large—not likely to be brimming with goodwill even during the holiday season. Slowly, methodically, excruciatingly, Egan shows his heroes’ plan spinning out of control in a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences.
A crystalline noir nightmare built on the premise that yes, things can always, always, always get worse.
Murderous muggles are up to no good, and it’s up to a seemingly unlikely hero to set things right.
The big news surrounding this pleasing procedural is that Galbraith, reputed former military policeman and security expert, is none other than J.K. Rowling, who presumably has no experience on the Afghan front or at Scotland Yard. Why the pseudonymous subterfuge? We may never know. What’s clear, and what matters, is that Galbraith/Rowling’s yarn is an expertly written exercise in both crime and social criticism of a piece with Rowling’s grown-up novel The Casual Vacancy (2012), even if her hero, private detective Cormoran Strike, bears a name that wouldn’t be out of place in her Harry Potter series. Strike is a hard-drinking, hard-bitten, lonely mess of a man, for reasons that Rowling reveals bit by bit, carefully revealing the secrets he keeps about his parentage, his time in battle and his bad luck. Strike is no Sherlock Holmes, but he’s a dogged pursuer of The Truth, in this instance the identity of the person who may or may not have relieved a supermodel of her existence most unpleasantly: “Her head had bled a little into the snow. The face was crushed and swollen, one eye reduced to a pucker, the other showing as a sliver of dull white between distended lids.” It’s an icky image, but no ickier than Rowling’s roundup of sinister, self-serving, sycophantic characters who inhabit the world of high fashion, among the most suspicious of them a fellow who’s—well, changed his name to pull something over on his audience (“It’s a long fucking way from Hackney, I can tell you...”). Helping Strike along as he turns over stones in the yards of the rich and famous is the eminently helpful Robin Ellacott, newcomer to London and determined to do better than work as a mere temp, which is what lands her at Strike’s door. The trope of rumpled detective and resourceful girl Friday is an old one, of course, but Rowling dusts it off and makes it new even as she turns London into a setting for her tale of mayhem as memorable as what Dashiell Hammett did with San Francisco in The Maltese Falcon.
A quick, fun read. Rowling delivers a set of characters every bit as durable as her Potter people and a story that, though no more complex than an Inspector Lewis episode, works well on every level.
Gardiner’s latest stand-alone revisits the story of Thelma and Louise, with Thelma played by a professional skip tracer and Louise by a refugee from kindergarten.
As she escaped a burning building five years ago, Sarah Keller promised her dying sister, Bethany, that she’d protect Bethany’s daughter Zoe from the monstrous Worthes, the polygamous family of self-anointed prophets—“white trash mafia who got a bad dose of God”—into which Bethany had unwisely married. With the unexpected help of Deputy Marshal Michael Lawless, Sarah succeeded in going off the grid in Oklahoma City and raising the little girl as her own. When a series of freak accidents outs Sarah and Zoe and makes national headlines, imprisoned patriarch Eldrick Worthe, whose desire to recover Zoe for their family is intensified by darker motives, sends Grissom Briggs, the Worthes’ “Shattering Angel,” after Sarah, together with two of Eldrick’s granddaughters, Fell and Reavy, to serve as his “wives of the wind” and well-armed wingmen. Sarah, whose experience as a skip tracer has taught her a bit about vanishing without a trace, grabs Zoe, phones Lawless and heads to Roswell, N.M., where he’s arranged a more secure hideout for her. But “more secure” is only a relative term when you’re pursued by avenging angels with shotguns, and Sarah’s flight leaves a blood-soaked trail behind her. Realizing eventually that she can’t remain on the run indefinitely, Sarah hatches a scheme to turn the Worthes against each other. A series of expertly planned surprises awaits both the pursuers and their prey.
If you can accept the preposterous setup, the ruthlessly two-dimensional villains and the world’s most uncomplaining 5-year-old, Gardiner (Ransom River, 2012, etc.) will keep you up half the night with nonstop action and nary a pause for breath.
A wonderfully suspenseful novel in which de Giovanni restores life to the cliché of the world-weary detective.
Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono has been tainted with rumors that he informed on the Mafia, so he’s transferred from Sicily to Naples to work a desk job, which for him consists of playing online poker. But a methodical serial killer is on the loose, and Lojacono’s bumbling colleagues have no idea how to solve the case, so they have no choice but to turn to him for help. Particularly eager to help solve the mystery behind the murders is the attractive, no-nonsense Assistant District Attorney Laura Piras. She slowly develops confidence that Lojacono is the only one who’ll be able to catch the murderer, dubbed “The Crocodile” by the media because he seems a ruthless killing machine. Three murders have recently been committed, each of the victims an only child of a single parent, and that seems to Lojacono to be a significant clue. His colleagues on the police force seem to think the Mafia-like Camorra might be responsible, though Lojacono knows the M.O. of the Camorristas and doesn’t see a connection. The psychologically shrewd inspector eventually concludes that the children murdered are perhaps not the “real” victims but that the killer is trying to get revenge on the parents in a twisted and horrifying way. Although estranged from his adolescent daughter, Lojacono has a father’s sense that the worst possible pain that can be inflicted on a parent is the death of a child, so he methodically starts to look for connections among the parents of the three victims, and eventually, he uncovers a bond...but he also finds another potential victim: a 6-month-old infant.
In this crisply translated novel, de Giovanni explores Lojacono’s loneliness and vulnerability while simultaneously revealing his brilliance as a detective.
A nasty murder pits the local police against the state police.
Historian Lottie Albright’s stress level keeps rising as she juggles her research for the historical society, her work as an undersheriff, and the needs of her rancher husband and his children from a former marriage, some close to her own age. When Victor Diaz turns up in the manure pit at a local feedlot, Sheriff Sam Abbot immediately recognizes his death as murder and calls on the state police for forensic help. But Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent Frank Dimon has his own agenda: He’s trying to set up a regional police force to replace a group of local sheriffs who often lack the resources to investigate major crimes. As they squabble, Victor’s reclusive great-grandmother Dona Francisca Diaz invites Lottie to her ranch and asks her help in solving the murder. Even though the enormous Diaz ranch is an oasis of green, with ample water in the midst of an area of Western Kansas burning up under drought conditions, not one acre has been plowed for farming. Francisca is a curandera who shares her knowledge of medicinal and magic herbs with Lottie, along with historical information about her famed family, whose Spanish roots go far back in American history. Could the Diaz family’s long-simmering lawsuit against the government that claims a vast area of land as their own be a motive for murder? Lottie must use all her many skills to solve a case that has far-reaching ramifications.
This third case for Lottie (Lethal Lineage, 2011, etc.) is filled with surprising historical information, social commentary, romance and a strong mystery.
Everyone who thinks Ian Rankin doesn’t write fast enough should give newcomer Hutton a try.
Relegated to the Welsh boondocks after his misstep causes a death in Cardiff, DS Glyn Capaldi, never one to follow orders anyway, persists in asking where Boon, a young black man, and a female hitchhiker have gone after five local lads say they left following a night of high-spirited debauchery. According to them, Boon planned to take the girl to the ferry to Dublin to meet up with her boyfriend and then return to his military posting. But their story is a little too pat, and when it crumbles, their revision sounds rehearsed and preplanned. Glyn, whose interrogation technique is part punch-up, part blackmail and total intimidation, singles out Trevor as the group’s weakest link. After two prostitutes alibi the lads and Glyn gets treated to a tormented sexual confession, Trevor’s dead body is found hanging from a barn rafter. No longer welcomed in the pub by xenophobic countrymen, and told by his superiors to leave off harassing the boys, Glyn can find solace only in his encounter with Sally, Boon’s adopted mother, whose travails include an ex who absconded with a student and subtle bits of racism aimed at her son. But shortly after Sally and Glyn tentatively reach out for one another, the current husband of Glyn’s ex-wife descends asking for a bit of advice, and investigation shows that more girls than the misplaced hitchhiker have vanished from the village in the past. Convinced that Boon and probably several of the females are dead and possibly buried in the countryside, Glyn makes several incorrect assumptions that lead to a final revenge scenario upending his notions of what good people can be driven to while their friends turn a blind eye.
The sexual peccadilloes are not for the squeamish, but the plot twists are cunning, and Glyn Capaldi is the most appealing antihero this side of John Rebus.
The day before Christmas finds Sheriff Walt Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyo., at loose ends, until a ghost from the past brings back long-forgotten memories. Johnson's Walt Longmire mysteries are the basis for an A&E drama series.
When a young woman walks into Walt’s office and asks about his predecessor, Walt can’t recall meeting her. But he’s willing to take her out to the assisted living facility where irascible former sheriff Lucian Connally is well into a bottle of bourbon. Lucian claims not to remember her either until she says “Steamboat,” a word that instantly transports them all back to the same day in 1988. A bad accident has left only one badly burned survivor, a young girl who will surely die unless she can be transported to Denver. A Life Flight helicopter has picked her up, but a vicious storm forces it to land at the local airport, where everyone says there are no planes that can make it to Denver in such a storm. Walt has a different idea. He drags Lucian away from a poker game and out to the airport, where he’s introduced to Steamboat, a rickety World War II bomber named after a famous bucking horse, very similar to the bomber Lucian flew over Japan. Neither the EMT nor the helicopter pilot will risk their lives. So Lucian, Walt, the local doctor, a female pilot with very little experience on large aircraft, the child, Amaterasu, and her grandmother take off on a flight that has little chance of success.
Unlike Walt’s usual adventures (A Serpent’s Tooth, 2013, etc.), this novella shuns mystery for a wild and dangerous adventure that will leave you both touched and breathless.
Cambridgeshire reporter Philip Dryden (The Skeleton Man, 2008, etc.) returns to solve the mystery of his father’s death—an especially challenging case, considering that the old man apparently died twice.
Jack Dryden was swept away while making a gallant, futile attempt to protect the city of Ely from the calamitous floods of 1977. So how is it that his body’s just been discovered burned to death in a car accident? The corpse’s fiery fate would make exact identification difficult even for people who’d seen Jack in the past 30 years. But the general description and the dental work both confirm what his identification papers assert: He’s Jack Dryden. His son, consumed with skepticism and curiosity, would love to devote every waking moment to solving the mystery. But his attention is claimed by two other problems: the death of Fen Rivers Water Authority bailiff Rory Setchey, who seems to have been hung from a gantry, already dead, and then shot several times, and the West Fen District Council’s refusal to release the body of Aque, the infant daughter of David and Gillian Yoruba, to her heartbroken parents. Since David is facing deportation to Niger and Dryden has just become a father himself, he feels especially close to the grieving parents. He can’t imagine that his three cases will turn out to be connected by a long-standing conspiracy as simple and clever as it is monstrous.
Even if they never came up with such a diabolical plot, long-winded colleagues could well take example from the generosity and economy with which Kelly (Death’s Door, 2012, etc.) spins his web.
Great. First we have to be afraid of clowns. Now it’s the guy who runs the Ferris wheel.
Yes, clowns are scary, and so are carnies—and if you didn’t have this red light in your mind already, it’s never a good idea to climb (or ride) to great heights during a lightning storm. King (Doctor Sleep, 2013, etc.) turns in a sturdy noir, with just a little of The Shining flickering at the edges, that’s set not in the familiar confines of Maine (though his protagonist is from there) but down along the gloomy coastline of North Carolina, with places bearing such fitting names as Cape Fear and the Graveyard of the Atlantic. His heart newly broken, Devin (Dev, to pals) Jones has taken a summer job at a carnival called Joyland, run by an impossibly old man and haunted by more than a few ghosts. Dev takes a room with crusty Emmalina Shoplaw, “tall, fiftyish, flat-chested, and as pale as a frosted windowpane,” who knows a few secrets. Hell, everyone except Dev knows a few secrets, though no one’s quite put a finger on why so many young women have gone missing around Joyland. Leave it to Dev, an accidental detective, urged along by an eager Lois Lane—well, Erin Cook, anyway. As ever, King writes a lean sentence and a textured story, joining mystery to horror, always with an indignant sense of just how depraved people can be. The story is all the scarier, toward the end, not by the revelation of the bad guy but by his perfectly ordinary desires, even though Joyland is anything but an ordinary place. Even to the last page, though, the body count mounts.
A satisfyingly warped yarn, kissing cousins of Blue Velvet. Readers may be inclined to stay off the Tilt-a-Whirl for a while after diving into these pages.
A mystery a young woman finds in her childhood home leads her to revelations about her clouded past.
Opal Jones left home at 12 to escape her alcoholic mother’s promiscuous lifestyle. Following her mum’s death, she returns to Leeds and moves into the family home. The neighbors are much as she remembers, but all is oddly changed by the disappearance of Dennis and Margaret’s grandson Craig, whose mother, Karen, no longer speaks to them. The police looked closely at everyone on Mote Street—including Opal’s mum, whose boyfriend at the time was Karen’s husband—but Craig was never found. Across the street from Opal live nosy Mrs. Pickess, obsessed with cleanliness; Opal’s beloved old music teacher Fishbo Gordon and his fellow band member Pep Kendal; and the Joshis family, who run a taxi service. They all seem to be hiding secrets. Opal often hears her next-door neighbor, the only new arrival on Mote Street, sobbing through their adjoining wall. After she finds an odd message written inside an article of furniture, Opal resolves to track down related messages. Her quest takes her to the wealthy Fossett family, whose senile daughter, Norah, is the only occupant of a huge house. As Opal tries to discover what happened to Craig and searches Norah’s house for more clues, repressed memories of her own past float up, threatening her and all her old neighbors.
The creator of Dandy Gilver (Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder, 2012, etc.) has produced a stand-alone that is worlds apart, a fascinating, mysterious ramble you can’t put down.
Animals don’t have rights, and they don’t torture beings for fun. So why do we call people civilized?
Nile Nightingale is off the sauce, off the chemicals and eluding an APB that would send him to jail for DWI, assault and battery, and for kidnapping his daughter Brooklyn while his ex–gal pal tries to wrest his fortune from him. Actually, he only took Brook to the zoo, and she skedaddled home, but try convincing a vengeful mother that she’s wrong. Nile winds up in the hinterlands of Montreal at the abandoned Church of St. Davnet-des-Monts just as a lumpy parcel is tossed from a truck. The package turns out to cloak the knife-split form of 14-year-old Céleste Jonquères, whom Nile takes back to his rented cabin and sutures up. While she heals, the pair verbally spar over who they really are, what they’ve been doing and whether they can trust each other. Nile, who supports their isolated lifestyle by motoring to redneck stores, where he drops $20 bills for provisions, rifling his neighbor’s deserted home and helping himself to his forest ranger ID, gear and weaponry, soon wrests Céleste’s tale from her: She’s an orphan home-schooled by a grand-maman who trained her to defy Laurentian poachers and loathe the historical marauders who tortured black bears and caused the extinction of sea cows, great auks, Eskimo curlews and Eastern cougars. It’s moot whether the poachers killed grand-maman or whether Céleste helped the cancer-riddled woman to her exit, but whatever the reason, the anti-animal brigade is after Céleste and the man sheltering her, resulting in a skating-pond confrontation that will leave readers swiping at tears.
Nile and Céleste’s relationship—at times bantering, at times lovingly hectoring—will give enthralled readers the stamina to deal with the stomach-turning descriptions Moore (The Memory Artists, 2004, etc.) provides of past and present animal cruelty.
Dirty political tricksters give Lucas Davenport his most satisfying case in years.
Even though he’s a conservative Republican, Sen. Porter Smalls is widely known to be a lot more liberal in his sexual ethics. But not so liberal that you’d expect child pornography to pop up on his personal office computer. The horrified staffer who accidentally finds it there calls her father, and he calls 911. Minnesota governor Elmer Henderson, a Democrat, is no friend of Smalls, but he’s impressed by his claims of innocence, and he doesn’t want any blowback if the kiddie porn turns out to have been planted. So he calls Lucas Davenport, asking him to investigate but keep everything confidential. The hush-hush first phase of the case ends when Lucas finds evidence linking the porn stash to Bob Tubbs, a political jack-of-all-trades who’s disappeared and hasn’t used his credit cards for days. Given the cover of a homicide investigation, Lucas’ Bureau of Criminal Apprehension takes the case public, solving one problem—how can Lucas talk to anybody if he’s sworn to secrecy?—but raising another. For the trail leads to some very awkward spots: the Minneapolis Police Department, from which it’s pretty clear the damning pictures came, and the campaign of Taryn Grant, the wealthy, well-connected heiress who wants Smalls' Senate seat. With the election less than a week away, Lucas is under intense pressure to get results without stepping on the feet of Grant, who Sandford (Stolen Prey, 2012, etc.) indicates early on is indeed in this mess up to her eyeballs. Meanwhile, another Sandford veteran to whom Lucas turns for help hatches a plot to steal Grant’s jewels from the safe in her home. Complications ensue.
Sandford keeps every stage of the investigation clear, compelling and suspenseful while peeling back layer after layer of a world in which “everybody was hot, everybody was rich."
A detective in Victorian England takes a case involving several renowned and infamous literary figures.
Charles Maddox has taken over the detective agency once run by his famous great-uncle, who now suffers from age-related mental illnesses. Charles is hired by the son of the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to find and acquire some family papers they believe to be in the possession of Claire Clairmont, stepsister to Mary Godwin Shelley. To his surprise, Charles discovers that his great-uncle had once worked for the Shelley family, though the usual meticulous notes he took are nowhere to be found. Charles finds a way to get into Claire’s house, but when she catches him reading her papers, she tells a totally different story than the one he had from Percy, his wife and Mary Shelley. Like his great-uncle before him, Charles becomes ensnared in the family’s horrifying story. But finding the truth proves to be elusive. Did Shelley cause the death of his first wife and some of his children, or was it Mary? Both she and Claire, who was also mistress to Lord Byron, were madly in love with the poet, and it seems that Mary would do almost anything to keep him by her side. When Charles does find his uncle’s papers, they provide answers and raise even more questions about the tragic history of the haunted poet.
Lynn (The Solitary House, 2012, etc.) takes the familiar story of the Shelley family and fills in the holes in the historical record by turning it into a clever, imaginative and literate mystery.
A newly minted attorney investigating his brother’s shooting ends up learning more about the victim than he’d ever wanted to know.
Hours after being sworn as a member of the California bar, Leo Maxwell is having lunch with his lawyer-brother Teddy when a stranger walks into the restaurant, fires a bullet into Teddy’s face and leaves. As Teddy hovers in a coma, Detective Anderson, who has no love for the man he tells Leo was as dirty as a lawyer can be in San Francisco, plans to arrest Ricky Santorez, Teddy’s most famous client, for the crime. Ricky has a grade-A alibi, since he’s spent the past several years in San Quentin after killing two cops who burst into his place by mistake and caught him with a highly illegal weapon, but Anderson says that a snitch fingered him for hiring the job. Since the snitch is Lawrence Maxwell, Teddy and Leo’s father, who’s been locked up for a dozen years for killing his wife, Caroline, Leo takes an even more personal interest in the case. His search for other suspects leads him to the family of Keith Locke, a client Teddy was defending against the charge of murdering thrill-seeking sociologist professor Sam Marovich, whose corpse he was found trying to push through a window of the sex club where Keith worked. The suspects are familiar types—Keith’s imperious father, Gerald, his fiercely protective mother, Greta, his sexually alluring sister Christine—but newcomer Smith juggles them with supernal dexterity, and the final showdown is hair-raising.
Sensitive, ingenious and suspenseful. A series is promised and very welcome indeed.
In Smith’s latest Arkady Renko novel, the Russian investigator seeks the truth about a young reporter’s apparent suicide.
Tatiana Petrovna is one of the last occupants of a Kaliningrad apartment building that developers want to raze. When she falls six stories to her death, authorities are quick to rule the tragedy as a suicide. Renko suspects otherwise and gets his boss’ permission to look into it. The young woman had been a troublemaker, with a nose for rooting out the corruption widely known to be rampant in Russia, so few people seem to miss her. Renko can’t view the body, because police say they are unable to produce it. This certainly won’t stop him, though. Fans of his earlier adventures (Gorky Park, 1981; Red Square, 1992) know he’s not a flashy fellow, perhaps in part because he walks around with a bullet lodged in his skull. But he is an honorable man, persistent in asking questions, raising doubts and following leads. At the center of the plot is a notebook that appears to be filled with symbols looking like gibberish. Can Renko find someone to decipher it? Sitting on the Baltic seacoast, Kaliningrad is portrayed as a bleak industrial city that’s probably on no one’s vacation itinerary. The novel suggests a deep cynicism pervading Russian society, where officials and businessmen are expected to bribe and steal. For example, submarines costing hundreds of millions of dollars may sink into the ocean and never resurface since half the money goes to graft instead of craft. Smith is a master storyteller, delivering sharp dialogue, a tight plot, memorable descriptions and an understated hero in Arkady Renko.
Anyone who enjoys crime novels but hasn’t read Smith is in for a treat. Read this book, then look for other Arkady Renko adventures.