Coben (The Stranger, 2015, etc.) hits the bull’s eye again with this taut tale of a disgraced combat veteran whose homefront life is turned upside down by an image captured by her nanny cam.
Recent widows can’t be too careful, and the day she buries the husband who was shot by a pair of muggers in Central Park, Maya Burkett installs a concealed camera in her home to keep an eye on Lily, her 2-year-old daughter, and her nanny, Isabella Mendez , while she’s out at her job as a flight instructor. She’s shocked beyond belief when she checks the footage and sees images of her murdered husband returned from the grave to her den. Confronted with the video, Isabella claims she doesn’t see anything that looks like Joe Burkett, then blasts Maya with pepper spray and takes off with the memory card. Should Maya go to the police? They were no help when her sister, Claire, was killed in a home invasion while she was deployed in the Middle East, and she doesn’t trust Roger Kierce, the NYPD homicide detective heading the investigation of Joe’s murder. Besides, Maya’s already juggling a heavy load of baggage. Whistle-blower Corey Rudzinski ended her military career when he posted footage of her ordering a defensive airstrike that killed five civilians, and she’s just waiting for him to release the audio feed that would damage her reputation even more. So after Kierce drops a bombshell—the same gun was used to shoot both Joe and Claire—Maya launches her own investigation, little knowing that it will link both murders to the death more than 10 years ago of Joe’s brother Andrew and the secrets the wealthy and powerful Burkett family has been hiding ever since.
Once again, Coben marries his two greatest strengths—masterfully paced plotting that leads to a climactic string of fireworks and the ability to root all the revelations in deeply felt emotions—in a tale guaranteed to fool even the craftiest readers a lot more than once.
Terrorists, libertarians, and wild cards duke it out in game warden Joe Pickett’s Wyoming.
Nate Romanowski, who doesn’t like being called a homicidal libertarian folk hero even though the shoe fits like a glove, has been minding his own business, miles from civilization, when a phone call between his lover, Olivia Brannan, and her mother, who’s dying in Louisiana, reveals his whereabouts to a pair of clean-cut sharpies calling themselves Brian Tyrell and Keith Volk. Unless Nate wants to stand trial along with Olivia for a gaggle of felonies he’s accumulated over previous installments (Endangered, 2015, etc.), they tell him, he’d better sign on with the Wolverines, a group of disaffected government freelancers sick of federal rules and regulations, to make contact with a terrorist who’s landed in the Red Desert. They hope the target, Muhammad Ibraaheem, will open up to Nate, who shares his anti-government idealism and his love of falconry. No sooner has Nate taken off to track down Ibby than outgoing Wyoming Gov. Spencer Rulon, apprised of his disappearance, persuades Nate’s old friend, game warden Joe Pickett, to go hunting for him. Despite the obstacles, ranging from a highly irritated grizzly bear to the obligatory involvement of Joe’s family—this time his daughter Sheridan, a college senior who decides to go camping at the worst possible time and place—Nate soon locates and befriends Ibby, and Joe eventually finds Nate. Nothing else goes according to plan, mainly because Ibby’s plans are more apocalyptic than Nate can imagine, and other parties turn out to be interested in the high-octane proceedings.
Even though you just know Box isn’t going to put an end to his highly successful franchise by blowing his lead characters to kingdom come, you can’t help turning the pages and holding your breath until you find out where this scary, all-too-plausible caravan is heading.
Thirteen years later, a young woman who survived the slaughter of her family returns to the scene of the crime.
Her name was Esme, and she was nearly 14. She had a mum and a dad, 8-year-old twin sisters, and a big brother named Joe—until the night she went down from her bedroom and found them all shot with a rifle. Now her name is Alison. She works in accounting at a publishing house in London and has no family at all, except a father in an institution—a vegetable after the botched suicide attempt that followed the murders. Kent's (The Killing Room, 2015, etc.) latest psychological thriller opens as Alison's boyfriend, Paul, invites her to attend a wedding in her old hometown of Saltleigh. " 'The wedding's on Saturday but I thought we'd go a few days ahead of time. Tuesday,' said Paul, his voice warm now, reassured. 'Make a, you know, a little holiday of it.' " It won't be much of a holiday, actually, as the many dark secrets of this "poxy little dump" of a village spill out and new crimes begin to pile up as soon as they arrive. Alison's tragedy was one of many: there was a baby who died in an electrical fire, a boy killed in a hit-and-run, a girl with leukemia, a pedophile, an assortment of drunks and suicides. As soon as Alison gets to town and her cover begins to crumble, she runs into her old best friend, the detective who investigated the case, and other townspeople who pop in to offer clues and accusations. Just about everyone knows things about Alison's family that she does not. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has a disturbingly close friendship with the bride-to-be.
Bleak, suspenseful writing keeps the momentum high despite a surfeit of characters and contrivances.
A moody murder mystery infused with love and grief—and a fascination with Emily Dickinson.
"Because I am a student of literature, I will start my story on the day Charlie died. In other words, I'm beginning in the middle." This is Brett Mercier, named by her English-professor parents after Hemingway's Lady Brett Ashley and herself a scholar of American Renaissance poetry. She meets her future husband at college in Colorado through his brother Eli, a pre-med student, her good friend. After one unforgettable night of love and cross-country skiing, Charlie disappears. The next year, she loses Eli too, when he's sucked under by schizophrenia. By the time the brothers reappear in her life, Brett is in grad school, engaged to someone else. De Gramont’s (Gossip of the Starlings, 2008, etc.) latest boasts lovely, understated writing, sharply drawn settings—Boulder, Amherst, and Cape Cod—and, once again, characters who are irresistibly attractive, flawed, and dangerous. "This wasn't a murder mystery," Brett announces to the reader late in the novel. It is a murder mystery, actually, as is any book that starts with a homicide and ends by revealing the culprit. But it is also an emotionally intense study of how a transcendent love becomes a fraying marriage, buckling under the weight of financial troubles, early parenthood, Brett's frustration at having no time to work on her research, and Charlie...just being Charlie. By the time crazy ol' Eli shows up for an unwanted visit, setting in motion the events of the horrible day, the couple and their baby are living in a ramshackle beach house borrowed from the brothers' dad. Eli is in the yard freaking out when Brett arrives and finds the body, then he runs. He must have done it, right?
A fine literary whodunit from an accomplished storyteller.
A suspenseful thriller about mysterious music and a violinist's fear of her child.
Julia Ansdell is a violinist with a 3-year-old daughter, Lily. While in Italy, Julia buys an old piece of sheet music titled Incendio by an L. Todesco, whom she’s never heard of. When she plays the composition at home in the U.S., Lily appears to go crazy, killing their cat, stabbing Julia in the leg with a shard of glass, and causing her to fall down a flight of stairs. Does the music possess an evil quality? Or does the problem lie within Julia herself, as her husband, Rob, thinks? “I know how absurd I sound,” she says, “claiming that a 3-year-old plotted to kill me.” Afraid Rob wants her committed, she flies to Italy to try to learn more about the music’s origin. In a parallel story, Lorenzo Todesco is a young violinist in 1940s Italy. He practices for a duet competition with 17-year-old cellist Laura Balboni. They play beautifully together and know they will win—perhaps they’ll even marry one day. But this is Mussolini’s Italy, and a brutal war is on. As the plotlines converge, people die, and Julia places herself and others in mortal danger. In fact, the stakes are even higher than she knows. A friend tells Julia, “The seasons don’t care how many corpses lie rotting in the fields; the flowers will still bloom.” This stand-alone novel has no bearing on the author’s Rizzoli & Isles series, but the crafting is equally masterful. For example, the musical descriptions are perfect: “The melody twists and turns, jarred by accidentals.…I feel as if my bow takes off on its own, that it’s moving as if bewitched and I’m just struggling to hang on to it.”
Clear your schedule for this one—you won’t want to put it down until you’re finished.
Flanagan’s ironically titled debut, set in 1957, pits a Cape Cod cop against a murderous child molester, a murderous gambling ring, and the scarcely less murderous Massachusetts State Police.
Lt. Bill Warren, acting chief of the Barnstable Police Department, is horrified by the sex killings of two local boys, especially since his alcoholic wife Ava’s departure has left him the sole support of a vulnerable son, Little Mike, who has the mental faculties of a 3-year-old. Warren is infuriated when hotshot state trooper Capt. Dale Stasiak grabs the case from the local police, and he’s even more angry when the cooperation Cape Cod DA Elliott Yost promised between the two law enforcement agencies turns out to consist entirely of Stasiak grabbing Detective Phil Dunleavy from Warren’s department to run his errands. But then it gets worse, and not just because more little boys are found dead. Someone in the know tips off loan shark George McCarthy to clean evidence of his gambling operation out of a local bar, the Bent Elbow, minutes before Warren raids the place. And when Warren tries to question a selectman’s son about the robbery of an antiques shop owned by a gay couple, he runs into an eminently predictable brick wall. Meanwhile, troubled Father Terrence Boyle keeps taking boys from Nazareth Hall, a school for intellectually disabled children, on unauthorized trips into the deep woods. How long will it be before his eye turns to Little Mike?
Enough skullduggery for a TV series; you have to wonder what Flanagan is saving for the sequel. But the author creates a truly hopeless sense of menace, even if the most menacing figures are with the state police.
You get in your car, drive to work, park, and go inside. An ordinary day—except, back at home, someone is chopping your wife to bits, the opening gambit in Brundage’s (A Stranger Like You, 2010, etc.) smart, atmospheric thriller.
Here’s the thing about creepy old farmhouses: they’re full of ghosts, and ax murderers lurk in the tree line. Art history professor George Clare is a rational fellow, but when he moves into the country to teach at a small-town college, he finds his colleagues making odd assumptions: since he knows a thing or two about Swedenborg, then he must be game for a séance. Catherine, his young wife, whose “beauty did not go unnoticed” even out among the yokels, has long since sunk into a quiet depression. They have problems. She doesn’t live long enough to grow to hate the country, though she senses early on that the place they’ve bought from a foreclosed-on local family is fraught with supernatural danger: “Until this house,” she thinks, “she’d never thought seriously of ghosts, at all. Yet, as the days passed, their existence wasn’t even a question anymore—she just knew.” Yup. Question is, who would do her in, leaving a single grim witness, the terrified daughter? There’s no shortage of suspects on the mortal plane, to say nothing of the supernatural. Part procedural, part horror story, part character study, Brundage’s literate yarn is full of telling moments: George is like a “tedious splinter” in Catherine’s mind, while George dismisses her concerns that maybe they shouldn’t be living in a place where horrible things have happened with, “As usual, you’re overreacting.” But more, and better, Brundage carries the arc of her story into the future, where the children of the nightmare, scarred by poverty, worry, meth, Iraq, are bound up in its consequences, the weight of all those ghosts, whether real or imagined, upon them forever.
With a storyline that tightens like a constrictor, this is a book that you won’t want to read alone late at night.