Steamy Southwest Florida provides the backdrop for more dangerous dealings.
Harry Brock is a private investigator and game warden rolled into one. When wealthy Gregory Breckenridge arrives at Harry’s home on Bartram’s Hammock looking for help in finding his missing wife, Afton, it doesn’t sound like a difficult job. Breckenridge, preoccupied with fears that his wife’s disappearance will upset the investors in his hedge fund, neglects to mention his involvement with another woman and the fact that his wife has money in her own right and a dual passport. Agreeing to take the case, Harry hires skip tracer Caedmon Rivers to hunt down hidden information about Afton. But the information that pops up isn’t at all what he’s looking for. A letter arrives from Afton saying that if she’s missing, her husband has killed her. The news that Afton or someone else is cleaning out her bank accounts and erasing every trace of her life clearly gives greater urgency to the search. Harry, whose checkered past with women (Death’s Long Shadow, 2011, etc.) doesn’t keep him from falling for the stunning Caedmon, is traumatized when she’s beaten, raped and left to die on the side of the road. He hopes the peace and beauty of the Hammock will ease her recovery. But when Afton turns up alive with a story about why she went missing, the pair must come up with a way to disentangle themselves from the case before they’re killed.
Harry’s adventures continue to provide physical dangers, Florida lore and an endless supply of women for him to fall in love with. This installment, more thriller than mystery, grips you from beginning to end.
A brutal killing in Tibet draws a veteran investigator out of the safety of his new bureaucratic job and into a complicated tangle of political interests and deadly alliances.
Shan Tao Yun's journey to an abandoned convent, one supposedly filled with ghosts, infects him with memories of his many encounters with death, as well as imaginative nightmares that blur the line with the flesh-and-blood present. Shan has recently secured a safe, boring position as an inspector of irrigation and needs to keep a low profile if he wants to hold onto it. At the convent are a litter of corpses, including that of his friend Jamyang, who figures prominently in his nightmares. He retreats to a mountain perch from which he watches police swarm the site. The curiosity of the veteran investigator (The Lord of Death, 2009, etc.) is acutely piqued. He locates his philosophical old friend Lokesh, an official in the Dalai Lama's government before the Chinese invasion, who has also appeared in Shan's nightmares as a sage. Shan finds Lokesh nursing a frail, elderly lama. This man, who somehow knows about the killings at the convent, suggests that Jamyang was protecting something. Once Shan finds a list of Tibetan towns in Jamyang's pocket, he is pulled irresistibly into another intricate puzzle. Shan's probe requires him to reconstruct Jamyang's life, encounter bizarre characters like Genghis (who lives up to his famous namesake), and with Lokesh as Watson to his Holmes, walk a politically sensitive path.
Casual readers be warned: Pattison's seventh Inspector Shan thriller is another hypnotic immersion in a fascinating culture.
Once more to Moscow and the Russian tundra on a supersecret mission goes a solitary hero in a thriller that makes the familiar seem fresh.
There’s little in this book that thriller aficionados haven’t encountered—agents who may be double agents, an attractive woman who holds vital information, and sources trustworthy and treacherous. From all this, author Haas (Dark Men, 2011, etc.) has crafted a lean and mean tale laced with wit, mordant insight and, at perfectly judged moments, flashes of sharp prose. The “right hand” of the title is Austin Clay, who carries out “covert missions so black no one in the American government, and almost no one in intelligence” is aware of his exploits. Shrewd perceptions and nearly superhuman agility and shooting skills keep Clay atop his game as he plays “dirty street chess, the kind played in Washington Square Park in New York…where half the game is guff, intimidation and smack.” For the mission at hand, Clay’s handler packs him off to Russia to learn what has happened to missing agent Blake Nelson, who may have become a double agent or may have been murdered. Once in Moscow, sources lead Clay to believe Marika Csontos, a missing 18-year-old nanny, may have been passing Nelson information about clandestine dealings between Iran and Russia. Deftly dispatching pursuing Russian agents, Clay heads to Vladivostok where he finds Marika, who of course, is attractive. The two head back to Russia—with more Soviet agents in pursuit—to search for Nelson. Screenwriter Haas (3:10 to Yuma) paces his tale with crack action scenes that, however well they read on the page, may soon have film directors calling “Action!” These high-octane scenes, however, never detract from Haas’ canny plotting, which is capped by a final, unexpected twist and a poignant fade-out.
It’s not the game, but how well you play it, and Haas plays it very well indeed in what clearly seems a series launch.
A Cornish cliff walk involves some impromptu investigators in a life-and-death situation.
Aunt Nell (née Eleanor Trewynn), her dog Teazle, her niece DS Megan Pencarrow and their artist friend Nick Gresham have taken advantage of a lovely day to walk near a rocky beach when they spot a body floating in the water. Nell goes for help while Megan and Nick struggle to get the barely living man out of the water. Unexpected help arrives in the form of young hikers Chaz and Julia. The half-drowned Indian just manages to tell Megan that his family is trapped in a cave before he passes out and is sent off to the hospital. Nell, who lived in many remote areas before retiring, guesses that the family must be refugees from East Africa. Most Indians who lived there are being turfed out in an Africanization plan. Despite carrying British passports, they’ve been refused entry to Britain. A desperate search is launched to discover which of the many caves in the area is hiding the family, who seem to have been smuggled in and then left to die. Aunt Nell’s charity work in the area gives her an in with so many locals that she manages to learn about several possibilities, and Megan’s boss, DI Scumble, is so determined to catch the smugglers that he grudgingly accepts Nell’s help. As it turns out, the things they learn put them in danger that they can’t foresee.
Dunn’s third Cornish adventure (Manna From Hades, 2009, etc.) offers strong female characters, a double helping of tension and the revival of some largely forgotten history.
A convict’s death triggers an ever-expanding investigation for DI Andy Horton (A Killing Coast, 2012, etc.) of the Portsmouth CID.
If she had her way, sour, temperamental DCI Bliss would tie up every minute of Horton’s time looking for the thieves who’ve been swiping metal plaques and fittings from all along the harbor. But DS Uckfield of the Major Crime Team outranks Bliss, and he wants Horton to help find whoever assaulted Daryl Woodley just months after his release from Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. Or, who drove him out to the marshes after he checked out of the hospital three days later, leaving him to die there. Woodley is just a lowlife who’d spent his life in petty crime. But, he was in Parkhurst after attacking a fellow inmate in Swansea Prison, and Marty Stapleton is a big enough player to attract the attention of both British Intelligence and Interpol. They send, respectively, DCS Sawyer and a Dutch agent named Eames. Sawyer’s a pain, but Eames, a crack investigator, is a sexy British expat who makes Horton’s heart skip a beat. She helps with the house to house, accompanies Horton to Swansea and tracks down the mourners at Woodley’s funeral, as well as at old Amelia Willard’s, the same day. But one mourner—who shows up in photos in chic outfit and large-brimmed hat—is nowhere to be found until her body shows up on a salvage wreck in Tipner Quay. Eames is just as game as Horton at pressing the tough waterfront types for answers, even when a second body turns up lodged under the wreck. How to make the pieces scattered along the Solent—dead ex-con, missing mourners, elderly widow, ancient corpse—into a watertight case is a challenge for the new team.
Horton’s 10th is a treat for fans of the puzzle-box mystery.
Having survived brushes with ruthless killers, human monsters and treacherous colleagues of every stripe (Red Mist, 2011, etc.), forensic pathologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta limps into her 20th case to encounter more of the same.
Scarpetta’s latest casts her as Zeno trying to overtake the tortoise. Before she can track the provenance of the video that’s been emailed to her—a video apparently featuring footage of missing University of Alberta paleontologist Emma Shubert’s severed ear—she has to testify, however unwillingly, for the defense in Channing Lott’s trial for the murder of his vanished wife. Before she can leave for court, she has to examine the mummified remains of an unidentified woman who’s been spotted in Boston Harbor—an examination that has to begin instantly, before the deterioration delayed by the corpse’s long period of climate-controlled storage resumes at top speed. But before Scarpetta can get the corpse on a slab, it’ll have to be gently cut loose from the leatherback turtle who’s gotten tangled up with it, an animal whose endangered species status gives it priority over a mere human cadaver. The first half of this sprawling, ambitious tale may make the reader feel like Zeno as well, constantly struggling to catch up to what Scarpetta already knows about the latest round of traumas posed by her husband, Benton Wesley, her niece, Lucy Farinelli, and her investigator, Pete Marino. It’s not till the second half, when Cornwell hunkers down to tie all these cases together, that excitement rises even as disbelief creeps in.
An ingenious murder method, more hours in the mortuary and forensics lab than usual, an uncharacteristically muffled killer, and all the trademark battles among the regulars and every potential ally who gets in their way.
More hangs in the balance than he imagines when a private eye signs on to help a police friend solve her latest case.
New Orleans cop-turned-shamus Cliff St. James has been lying low since a routine mixed martial arts fight in his dojo ended with the accidental death of Bobby Perdue, his opponent. When asked by closest friend (and maybe more) Detective Honey Baybee to help out as an unpaid consultant to a hot case she’s working on, St. James can’t say no even though he’d rather be holed up at home. Mainly, he can’t believe that Chief Pointer would give him any power in the department after their long history together. Honey’s case involves the murder of two employees of local NASA federal offshoot Michoud. Because of all the government clearances involved, it’s hard to find out exactly what they did. What follows is a frequently murky but always compelling investigation into the world of a high-end “Buyers Club” of black projects goods that mixes a healthy dose of government agents with rogues from around the world. Kovacs (Storm Damage, 2011, etc.) lovingly paints a portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans as St. James tries to flush the perps out of wherever they might be hiding. His targets include people like Decon, who’s been implicated by some higher-ups and spends his nights sleeping in a graveyard crypt. By the time St. James is ready to solve the case, he’s bruised, battered and well aware that he may be a pawn in a game much bigger than he realized.
With so many twists and turns, even the most devoted noir fans may wish they had a map. But it’s well worth trying to find the way.
A Florentine lawyer must solve a murder to keep his city from imploding.
After spending two years in France on a diplomatic mission at the behest of his friend and the city’s leader, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his nephew Amerigo return in 1480 to find Italy split into many warring factions and Florence under an interdict of the pope, who wants to see Lorenzo ousted. As they arrive home, stories of a beautiful young woman abducted and either murdered or sold into slavery by marauding Turks are sweeping the city. At Guid’Antonio’s parish church, a painting of the Virgin is weeping tears, a sign to the populace that God is angry with them for defying the pope. Guid’Antonio is doubtful of the stories about the missing girl, a married woman with a much older husband. When her horse appears, its saddle covered in fresh blood, he scours the city for the slave and maid who had accompanied her on a trip to a spa in a nearby town. All the while, Guid’Antonio is plagued by nightmares about the violent murder of his dear friend, Lorenzo’s brother. The missing girl’s husband is murdered, and the slave found hidden in a fireplace. But he still will say nothing about what happened to his mistress. Guid’Antonio and Amerigo wander the byways of Florence, visiting churches, taverns and the workshops of Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli in search of a missing monk who may hold the answers to the mysteries.
One hopes that White’s clever tale, meticulously researched and pleasingly written, is the first in a series that will bring Florence and its many famous denizens to life.
When three people die in a tragic fire, is it an accident or murder? That’s a question for DI Alex Randall and coroner Martha Gunn.
Beautiful old Melverley Grange has been severely damaged by fire, and Christie Barton, her daughter Adelaide, and her father-in-law, William, have all died from smoke inhalation. Only her son Jude, who escaped via a rope ladder, is saved by a policeman with a taste for heroics. Jude, who had attempted to get back into the house, survives with his hands and arms burned. Randall learns that William Barton was suffering from dementia and had started a fire in the house once before. But would he have used petrol to soak the floors and locked the women in their rooms? Although her job as coroner does not involve detection, Martha, a widow with two teenage children, has a gift for nosing out facts that Randall respects and uses (Frozen Charlotte, 2011, etc.). The two are attracted to each other, but Randall is unhappily married and never discusses his wife. When a nurse who called the tip hotline loses her house to the same sort of blaze as Melverley, Randall’s team starts looking for a connection and finds it in a 40-year-old fire. The nurse worked at a mental institution where many inmates died in a fire, and William Barton was a fire officer on the scene. Because no body was found in the house, a massive search is launched for the nurse, who may have the answers to many questions.
A tasty combination of police procedural and forensics, with a touch of romance.
Forget what you had planned for today; the new Harvey comes first.
What possible connection could the teen’s body found on Hampstead Heath have with the woman’s remains splattered over the Finsbury Park subway tracks? As DCI Karen Shields soon learns, the 17-year-old, a native of the Republic of Moldova, had been romancing a girl whose father, a career criminal, disapproved. DI Trevor Cordon, plodding along down in Cornwall, finds himself personally involved in the tube tragedy when it turns out that the dead woman had asked his help in locating her vanished daughter and, when he demurred, went up to London to find her herself. With an assist from private eye Jack Kiley, Cordon locates the missing Letitia and her son and resolves to protect them from a cadre of Ukrainian brothers, the worst of them, Anton Kosach, involved with drugs, prostitution, slave trafficking, gunrunning and more—a laundry list of felonies clearly familiar to whoever killed the Hampstead Heath victim. Shields, a black woman constantly confronting sexism and racism in the force, and Cordon, a divorced loner yearning for a relationship with Letitia, never actually meet, but their cases collide in the halls of power where heavyweights from the Metropolitan Police, the Serious Organized Crime Agency and the Secret Intelligence Service are planning to take down a consortium of Eastern Europeans brutalizing Great Britain. Justice triumphs, but for Harvey, this hardly constitutes a happy ending for all.
The remarkable output of Harvey, whose 100-plus titles (Far Cry, 2010, etc.) have earned him the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, represents the best of British crime writing.
This is Taylor’s third Pike Logan thriller, and it’s a good one.
The United States government has secretly brokered a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, and terrorist forces plan to subvert it. Logan heads a clandestine Taskforce team that’s determined to identify and root out the threat while there is still time. Logan’s team must prevent an assassination in Qatar, facing down two adversaries. One is an Arab known as the Ghost, and the other is an American named Lucas Kane, who would murder his own mother for the right price. Logan knows him only too well, while Kane sees both men as killers at heart. Is Kane right, or does Logan have a moral core that sets him apart? He certainly gains the reader’s sympathy as he struggles to balance being a rule-bending badass with being a human who has emotions extending beyond rage. In the past, Logan suffered a horrible personal loss that bears directly on his motivation, yet surprisingly, his climactic action hinges more on what happens to a colleague. The story moves along at a rapid clip, using short chapters and at least four points of view to grab and hold the reader’s attention. The terrorists are smart, capable enemies, very much an even match for Logan’s team.
An ice-in-his-veins fixer trawls Atlantic City for a missing bundle of cash in this watertight debut thriller.
Jack Delton, the hero of this novel—and, presumably, more to come—is a “ghostman," an expert at disappearing and helping others disappear. He’s a free agent with a full armory of skills that help him kill a man, cross borders, take on entirely new personalities and be smugly unimpressed with criminal overlords. But his botch of a big-money bank heist in Kuala Lumpur five years ago means he owes a favor to one of those honchos, Marcus, who’s looking for a bag of cash that disappeared with a gunman when a casino robbery went sour. The clock’s ticking: The bundle is a “federal payload” containing a packet of indelible ink set to explode in 48 hours. Jack is a superb sleuth and an entertaining explainer of the variety of ways one can torment or kill somebody (a jar of nutmeg can be terrifyingly deadly, it turns out), and Hobbs ensures he’s in a heap of trouble fast: Marcus is watching closely, and Jack is also in the cross hairs of an FBI agent and a rival criminal, the Wolf, who's guarded by Aryan Brotherhood thugs. Straight out of the gate, Hobbs has mastered the essentials of a contemporary thriller: a noirlike tone, no-nonsense prose and a hero with just enough personality to ensure he doesn’t come off as an amoral death machine. Jack loves Ovid, hates heroin and cripples his pursuers—but not so badly that they won’t have a chance to come back in a future installment. The federal payload deadline gives the plot its essential urgency, but Hobbs is even better in the Kuala Lumpur interludes—heart-stopping scenes that illustrate how small mistakes can turn catastrophic.
A smart entry into the modern thriller pantheon, at once slick and gritty.
Australia’s answer to Lord Peter Wimsey takes on white slavers and the Catholic Church.
The Honorable Phryne Fisher and a friend are on their way to the Adventuresses Club when they see a lone woman about to be attacked by several thugs. After the minions of Phryne’s lover, Lin Chung, chase them off, Phryne finds she that she’s rescued an ambitious, rather ungrateful young reporter named Polly Kettle who’s investigating the disappearance of three women, pregnant and unmarried, who’d been working in the Magdalen Laundry at the Abbotsford convent. Late in their pregnancies, they were to be sent to a nursing home where the babies would be delivered and immediately taken away. According to Polly, the police have no interest in the case. When no bodies turn up, Phryne embarks on what will be a dangerous quest to learn the women’s whereabouts. Although she’s certain that the local brothels wouldn’t be interested in such pregnant females, she discovers that an employment agency seems to be collecting very young women and shipping them overseas, never to be seen again. The police, in the person of Phryne’s friend Jack Robinson, are forced to investigate when Polly is kidnapped. After calling on the laundry, whose working conditions are much less pleasant than those in the brothels she’s visited, Phryne, who cannot abide injustice and cruelty, goes up against some well-armored antagonists in an attempt to find Polly and the other missing girls.
Among Phryne's pleasantly dashing adventures (Dead Man's Chest, 2010, etc.), this one stands out for its emphasis on sexual orientation and institutional coverups.
The triumvirate writing as Miles Arceneaux (aka Texas authors Brent Douglass, John T. Davis and James R. Dennis) debuts with a hurricane-ravaged thriller in the atmosphere-and-action mode of Sue Grafton’s Santa Teresa and James Lee Burke’s Cajun country.
Charlie Sweetwater, vagabond owner of a small Mexican diving resort, picks up the phone and hears his brother say “drive up here….I want you to meet somebody.” Brother Johnny runs the family’s fishing fleet, having remained on the Texas Gulf after their father’s death. Charlie arrives, but Johnny is missing at sea. Thus begins an adventure among shrimpers, fisherman and edge-of-law folks sailing around the fertile bay waters near Port Aransas, and it all plays out before, during and after a devastating hurricane called Lana. It’s 1979, and trawlers harvesting the Texas Gulf Coast’s bounty are largely crewed by ambitious and hardworking Vietnamese refugees. That’s good. What’s bad is the market’s controlled by Sea-Tex, a shadowy corporation owned by “Colonel” Nguyen Ngoc Bao, a man who has “the sort of attitude for his adopted home that a crocodile reserves for a poodle.” The storm, plus gunrunning, drug smuggling and the hardy denizens of the Shady Boat and Leisure Club, give the novel a hold-onto-your-seat cinematic narrative. Add film-ready characterizations like Llewellyn “Pinky” Cudihay (cast John Goodman, certainly), who is a corrupt state senator, and O. B. Hadnott (give Tommy Lee Jones a Stetson), a West Texas Ranger assigned to investigate the shooting of the senator’s aide, and it’s a page turner. The authors also do a commendable job with Hispanic and Vietnamese characters. There’s menacing Miguel Negron, former gangbanger, prisoner and now cook/bartender, and Marisol Cavasos, Miguel’s childhood friend and current parole officer. Then there’s beautiful Trinh An Phu, once a Saigon bar girl, who captures the taciturn Ranger’s heart. And that's not counting young Raul, who attaches himself to Tío Carlito. Fights, stabbings and gunplay carry the narrative until the good guys win out and get the girls.