A killer’s release from prison complicates life for retired actress Rina Martin (The Power of One, 2009, etc.) on the eve of her return to television.
Everyone knows that once out of jail, convicted hit man Stan Holden will inevitably make his way back to Peverill Lodge. Frantham’s DI Sebastian MacGregor actually looks forward to Stan’s return, knowing that Rina and her brood of quirky lodgers offer his greatest chance of rehabilitation. Mac’s counterpart in Exeter, DI Dave Kendall, is more skeptical. His stint on the organized crime squad tells him that where Holden goes, baddies like Haines and Vashinsky are sure to follow. And sure enough, Santos and Mason, two of Haines’ thugs, beat Stan senseless the minute he arrives in town. But their goal isn’t to kill Stan. It’s to recruit him to take out an even deadlier threat: ex-Vashinsky associate Karen Parker, who’s in town briefly to set up a trust for her teenage brother, George, before she drops out of sight for good. Since dealing with the squabbling mobsters is a full-time job for Mac and his sergeant, Frank Baker, they leave the task of investigating the appearance of a modern-day bone at an archaeological dig in the hands of PC Andy Nevins, who just finished his probationary year. Will Andy discover the origins of the mysterious femur before full-scale mob warfare disrupts the quiet seaside village—and before Rina leaves for London to start filming the revival of Lydia Marchant Investigates?
A promisingly tangled skein of mysteries unravels abruptly in MacGregor’s sixth case.
You can run, but you can’t hide, reporter AnnaLise Griggs discovers when her ex-lover shows up in her North Carolina hometown just in time to see his wife murdered.
AnnaLise came back to sleepy Sutherton to help her mom, Daisy, cope with random bouts of memory loss (Running on Empty, 2011). Putting miles between herself and her blown-over affair with Urban County, Wis., District Attorney Ben Rosewood was just a little bonus. So the crime reporter is less than pleased when Ben shows up at Mama Philomena’s on Main Street just as Daisy’s taping up the day’s lunch specials next to a flyer for next month’s Woolly Worm Festival in nearby Banner Elk. He swears he’s there only to drop off his daughter, Suzanne, at nearby University of the Mountain. And sure enough, he’s got Suzanne in tow, followed by his wife, Tanja, in her bright yellow Porsche—the same yellow Porsche Police Chief Chuck Greystone spots at the bottom of the gorge below the Sutherton Bridge while he’s rescuing AnnaLise from the effects of following Daisy’s not-quite-legal shortcut to Ida Mae Babb’s mountaintop chalet. Ben takes Tanja’s death hard, accusing everyone in sight of complicity: Joy Tamarack, owner of the spa where Tanja enjoyed a glass of wine shortly before her plunge from the bridge; Josh Eames, the handyman dating Suzanne who rushed to the scene of AnnaLise’s wipeout; even AnnaLise herself. But when mechanic Earl Lawling finds a bullet in the Porsche’s wheel well, it’s clear to Chuck that he’s looking for a coldblooded killer.
Balzo’s cases for AnnaLise pack the punch that her Maggy Thorsen tales lack, swapping a tepid cup of coffee for a bracing belt of chardonnay.
Disgraced former Chief Constable Bob Watts has never given up his hope of solving the 1934 Brighton Trunk Murder. Upon the death of his father, well-known author and former police constable Victor Tempest, Watts finds a treasure trove of new information in his papers. Back in the present, DS Sarah Gilchrist, who’s still living down the trouble she’s been in over the Milldean Massacre that brought Watts down, finds herself in even hotter water for giving an illegal weapon to her friend, reporter Kate Simpson, who uses it to a kill a rapist. And Jimmy Tingley, ex-SAS and friend of Watts, is in Europe on the trail of the Balkan gangsters who’ve been trying to take over the Brighton crime scene (The Last King of Brighton, 2011, etc). The information his father left Watts, which reaches all the way back to his grandfather’s World War I experiences and death, details Tempest’s life as a police constable, a member of Oswald Mosley’s fascist organization, and a friend of both Ian Fleming and a long string of lawbreakers. It’s no secret to Watts that the lives of the constabulary and the criminals of Brighton have long been deeply intertwined, but as he continues to investigate, the information becomes steadily more shocking.
Guttridge’s third Brighton thriller is so well-written that it would be well worth your time even if it were not such a darkly brilliant mystery.
A young Latina finds herself out of her job and attempting to clear her friend and co-worker in the murder of their employer.
Life for Connie Suarez isn’t easy, and it’s about to get even more complicated. When she arrives at her cleaning job, her co-worker Maria is already there, and Mr. Withers, the owner of the house, has been murdered. Knowing that Maria is in the country illegally, Connie tries to cover, but Maria becomes the prime suspect. It quickly becomes clear that Maria has been keeping many secrets, including a personal relationship with Mr. Withers. His son and daughter-in-law are determined to see Maria in jail and any promises made to her in his will overturned. Connie, who had hidden her experience as a legal secretary (she was laid off) in order to get work, begins her own investigation and discovers Maria was not the only one keeping secrets. This title is from Rapid Reads, a line of shorter books targeted to adult learners, reluctant readers and others seeking high-interest reading material. With a fast-paced plot and simple narrative, this story fits the bill. Connie is a likable and smart protagonist who uses her abilities in unusual ways. It also includes a rather nuanced look at the challenges faced by Latinas, whether they are in the country legally or illegally.
Weighing in at just over 100 pages, this solid mystery is good for both the series’ target audience and readers who don’t want a long-term commitment.
The 29th appearance of Harpur and Iles, Britain’s most irresistible duo since crumpets were first paired with tea.
Tom Parry isn’t really Tom Parry, thug, lowlife and drug-lord wannabe. Tom Parry is actually Tom Mallen, happily married father of two, a police sergeant doing undercover work to ferret out bad guys. His infiltration into Leo Percival Young’s gang seems to be going well. Leo trusts him enough to send him along with three others to kill Justin Scray, #3 man in the gang hierarchy, who’s been pilfering drugs, clients and funds for his own use. But when Tom, not Scray, winds up dead, the Home Office decides not only that Tom was set up to die, but that his assassin was someone from his precinct. Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur and his boss, Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles, are called in to investigate. As they study witness interviews, a gang member’s taped confession, surveillance footage and autopsy notes, Harpur doggedly keeps at it while trying to ignore the slurs heaped on him by Iles, who will never forgive him for sleeping with his wife. It turns out that Tom’s against-regulations birthday visit to his son, as well as the uncooperativeness of various enforcement agencies, all contributed to his downfall. These revelations cause Harpur to consider the investigation a failure and Iles, typically, to accept kudos for the completion of it.
Nobody demonstrates the similarity between criminal reasoning and cop reasoning better than James (Vacuum, 2011, etc.).
Christopher Marlowe, scholar, spy and aspiring playwright, adds sleuthing to his resume.
Kit Marlowe, who accidentally destroyed his first draft of Dido, Queen of Carthage, is chagrined to learn that Ned Alleyn, a thespian performing as part of Lord Strange’s traveling players, has not only absconded with the only other version of this drama, but is claiming to have written it. Hoping to track down Alleyn, Kit tags along with the troupe, but his plan hits a few roadblocks. First, Joyce Clopton, accompanying the troupe for safety after her father has been ruined and his assets confiscated by Sir Edward Greville, asks him to assassinate Greville. Next, Ned Sledd, the troupe’s manager, is found dead with a dagger in his throat. Then, Cawdray, a widower, and Hayward, a well-to-do theater junkie, decide to ride along with the troupe as it heads for Stratford, where Shaxsper, a young glove maker with writing aspirations, becomes an apprentice. Meanwhile, Greville’s men are dogging the troupe. A rampage ensues, and there’s quite a hullabaloo at a field of magical stones where witches cavort during their Lammastide celebration. Undaunted, Kit not only perseveres in his quest to find Alleyn but succeeds in deducing who murdered Stedd. All will be revealed as the troupe heads for its upcoming debut at Oxford.
Marlowe (Silent Court, 2012, etc.) makes an agreeable guide to Elizabethan life, and it’s fun reading quips between him and Shaxsper that will later appear in plays.
Even the most upper crust of quiet English villages has its buried corpses.
The Colonel has settled into village life at Frog End. He works in his garden, listens to Gilbert and Sullivan and solves the occasional mystery. A cry of distress from his dead wife’s friend sends him to the Wiltshire village of King’s Mowbray, where Cornelia Heathcote, whose wealthy husband is overseas on business, has been inconvenienced by the discovery of a body buried under the floor of her barn. The Colonel displays both his steel—insisting that she inform the police immediately—and his soft side—staying around to help her deal with the consequences. DCI Rodgers, who’s hovering on the brink of retirement, holds little hope of solving the case when all that remains are dry bones. But the ever-curious Colonel, remaining alert to village gossip, helps to identify the victim as Gunilla Bjork, a Swedish beauty who worked at the local pub and tormented many of the men and women in town. Most of them now disclaim any interest in Gunilla, but given the long list of people who may have wished the lady dead, the Colonel has much to ponder as he quietly goes about his sleuthing.
The latest sedate adventure for the Colonel (Three Silent Things, 2008, etc.) is a pleasant albeit unexciting stroll through village life, perhaps best suited for determined anglophiles.
When DI Oskar Rheinhardt investigates the suspicious death of an opera diva in early-20th-century Vienna, he finds a nest of vipers and a closet full of skeletons.
Tensions simmer at an elegant gathering that includes the Emperor Franz Josef, Prince Rudolph Liechtenstein, Mayor Lueger and members of the Court Opera, led by Gustav Mahler. The soprano Arianne Amsel attracts many admirers, and the mayor's apparent health is a disappointment to the emperor and his retinue. Not long after, a famed soprano, not Amsel, is found dead under suspicious circumstances. The victim, Ida Rosenkrantz, who recently supplanted a bitter Amsel as the opera's foremost soprano, ingested a deadly quantity of laudanum, leading to a possible verdict of suicide. But she also has a cracked rib and, outside of some recent idiosyncratic behavior, no apparent reason to kill herself. Rheinhardt consults his friend, the progressive Viennese psychoanalyst and Freud-protégé Max Liebermann, and even takes him along when he questions witnesses. When not working the case, the duo enjoys making music together. Mahler confirms the jealousy of other singers at Rosenkrantz's success, which becomes a motif of the investigation, confirmed by her dresser, Felix, and by Amsel herself. A gardener links the victim to the mayor, and the reader is privy to connections with the prince and the emperor as well. But the biggest early development is the discovery that Rosenkrantz may have secretly had an abortion.
Liebermann and Rheinhardt's sixth collaboration (Vienna Twilight, 2011, etc.) again paints an intricately detailed portrait of the city in its time as well as a satisfyingly layered murder puzzle.
Joe Gunther and his crack team of Vermont sleuths crack a case in Massachusetts.
One ill-fated night, sweet, elderly Billie Hawthorn inadvertently interrupts a robbery in her Beacon Hill house and pays dearly for it. Violence aside, the Boston police wonder why the thief passed over some highly valuable targets of opportunity—laptops, flat screens, stereo equipment—to purloin the silverware instead. Meanwhile, Lt. Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team have been puzzling over a series of similarly offbeat break-ins. Suddenly, all crooked roads seem to be leading to Northampton, where a new superfence—mysterious, shrewd and deadly—has become a player. Invited to join a task force, Gunther takes his best cop with him: that astringent observer of the human condition, irascible Willy Kunkle, whose grasp of social skills continues to be marginal, mostly because he wants it that way. Specifically uninvited to join is Mina Carson, Billie’s niece. Bereft, enraged by the gratuitous violence inflicted on her aunt and hungry for revenge, she crashes the party anyway, becoming for Gunther an entirely unexpected complication.
Understated, occasionally very funny (see Kunkle) and very intelligent. In his 23rd appearance (Tag Man, 2011, etc.), the Sage of Brattleboro remains as appealing as ever.
Virgil Flowers and the forces of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension battle trigger-happy Bare County Sheriff Lewis Duke in pursuit of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.
Tom McCall and Becky Welsh think that Jimmy Sharp has led them to Dr. John O’Leary’s home to relieve Marsha O’Leary of a diamond necklace she recently showed off around town. No sooner have they broken in, however, than Jimmy shoots the O’Learys’ oldest daughter, Agatha Murphy, without getting the necklace. In their haste to exit, Jimmy shoots Emmett Williams for his brother-in-law’s Dodge Charger, and their murder spree has begun. First they clear the decks by killing Jimmy’s father and Becky’s parents; then they murder a McDonald’s owner and his wife for some traveling money; then, when a bank robbery goes bad, they kill a Bare County deputy. Called in to the first murder scene, Virgil alertly realizes that Jimmy aimed for the one and only O’Leary window he could easily get through and wonders if Agatha’s murder was something other than a panicky reaction—something like a murder-for-hire arranged by Agatha’s estranged husband, smarmy insurance salesman Dick Murphy. As Virgil, who wants to talk the killers in, tilts with Duke, who wants to shoot them down on sight, Sandford explores the unstable dynamics among the three fugitives and raises questions about how any of the easily identified culprits can ever be brought to justice.
None of these minor complications, though, are enough to raise Virgil’s sixth (Shock Wave, 2011, etc.) much above the level of a highly competent but routine manhunt.
This debut by a New York schoolteacher endows a New York schoolteacher with the power to crack a case the police can’t be bothered to solve.
You’d never know it was five years since Raymond Donne quit the NYPD. The leg injury that sidelined him reminds him so often of his departure that it might as well have been last week. Although Ray’s job teaching middle school wouldn’t seem to require his making personal calls on his students, he’s so concerned when promising pitcher Frankie Rivas, 14, misses over a week of class that he hikes out to Roberto Clemente Plaza, where Frankie lives with his sister, Milagros, 8, and their grandmother, Matilda Santos. And when he makes a second stop to see Francisco Rivas Sr., who has official custody of his son, and finds that he’s too late to speak to him alive, Detective Royce, finding him on the scene, assumes that Ray’s trying to talk himself back into another case. Royce has a point. After all, Ray is the one a neighbor calls after someone breaks into Ms. Santos’ apartment. It’s Ray, not Royce, who drives upstate to question Frankie’s cousin, Anita, and her husband, John Roberts, whose travel agency employed Francisco, and Ray who returns to the city with an important clue the cops would never have found. Ray, whose uncle and namesake is a high-ranking officer, left the force on purpose, and he keeps telling himself he wants no part of it now. But everything he does to find Frankie and his sister and make sure they get home, even after he’s been kidnapped by some serious criminals himself, says differently.
Though Ray can be a mite sententious, he’s also appealingly fallible and sensitive in this promising series kickoff.
Priestly duties fall by the wayside when Max Tudor must investigate what appears to be a murder in an upper-crust family living in a local castle.
Traveling back to his home in Nether Monkslip, Anglican priest Max Tudor finds himself stuck in a train compartment with Lady Baynard of Chedrow Castle and having rather unpriestly thoughts of annoyance and impatience. Unfortunately, Max is soon summoned to Chedrow Castle by DCI Cotton, of the Monkslip-super-Mare police, who eagerly seeks Max’s MI5 experience to investigate at the castle when Lady Baynard’s brother and titleholder, Lord Footrustle, is murdered. It being the holidays, the castle is brimming with familial suspects whose loss will doubtless also be their pecuniary gain. Soon after his arrival, Lady Baynard’s body is found. Now, the pressure is on Max to determine who most profited from the deaths of the brother and sister. Some relatives, including Lord Footrustle’s daughter, Jocasta, and his former wife, Gwynyth, seem too out of touch with reality to be complicit in the deaths. By contrast, adopted granddaughter Lamorna’s quiet snooping and religious moralizing send her to the top of Max’s suspect list. DCI Cotton implores Max to find the murderer lest any other lives be lost. Max, however, is distracted by thoughts of his dear friend Awena Owen, whose assistance he can’t help but desire, though he’s becoming aware that his thoughts about her amount to more than just thoughts.
The handsome priest-turned-detective hero who debuted in Wicked Autumn (2011) nearly meets his match in a suspect list that rivals the telephone directory.
A small-town Tennessee sheriff has his hands full with murder, arson and his mother’s ramp festival.
Park County sheriff Tony Abernathy and his wife, Theo, are coping with newborn twin daughters, Theo’s quilt store and now the Ramp Festival, which will attract a large crowd, including all the local troublemakers. Despite the overwhelming smell of ramps, the festival seems to be a huge success. The participants are enjoying watching working recreations of ancient weapons like the trebuchet, until a potato hits and apparently kills much-hated local game warden Harrison Ragsdale. A quick look from a doctor, however, establishes that the cause of death is not the potato. Ragsdale had a wooden stake in his neck and evidence of a severe allergic reaction. Because Ragsdale was widely considered guilty of killing several people’s pets, there is a plethora of suspects. In addition, an arsonist has burned down the home of a local couple, and a body found in the garage turns out to be that of one of the Farquhar brothers, who are responsible for much of the area’s criminal activity. Theo, who picks up loads of gossip at her store, is always eager to help Tony solve his cases. This one promises to be more difficult than most.
Like Tony’s earlier cases (Murder By Music, 2011, etc.), this one is more interesting for its eclectic characters than its meandering plot. Quilt fans will welcome the included pattern for a mystery quilt.
A young freelance writer who specializes in history must solve both a very old puzzle and a brand new murder.
Annie Young arrives in Geneva to find her friend Mireille pregnant by Dr. Urs Stoller, her brilliant but much disliked thesis advisor. No one is terribly upset when Stoller’s body washes up on the lakeshore. His wife, a chemist, is more concerned about problems with the blood thinner she’s working on and the fact that her lover is moving his family from England. Stoller, who was not above stealing work from his graduate students, has even given Mireille false information about some old drawings she’d asked him to appraise. Annie’s in town to work on a catalog for a big sale a local auction house is hosting, but she gladly takes on the task of tracking down the artist who executed Mireille’s drawings, a woman struggling to express herself in the restrictive Calvinist society of 16th-century Geneva. Annie’s fiancé, Roger Perret, a French police chief on an exchange program in Geneva, is at odds with the local police, who arrest Stoller’s wife for his murder. Also in Geneva are Annie’s American parents, who have taken in Stoller’s teenage son, a longtime pal of Annie’s, while their determined daughter works to help find a killer and uncover the fate of the talented young woman whose story so fascinates her.
Multicultural Annie’s third (Murder in Argeles, 2011, etc.) presents a pretty puzzle on two levels, past and present.
When love dies, which is the better option, divorce or murder?
Rona Parish has a solid marriage, a thriving career as a biographer and a reputation for solving murders that she’d rather downplay (Unfinished Portrait, 2010, etc.). Her twin, Lindsey, has a messy love life, a job that may be terminated if she resumes her dalliance with a co-worker and a mystery she’d like her sister to look into for a member of her book club: Who is the person that’s been viciously obliterated in a school photograph of Springfield Lodge that was taken back in July 1951? Rona would rather not get involved, but she’s bored with her research on artist Elspeth Wilding; she’s upset with her mother’s decision to sell the family home now that she’s remarrying; and she’s concerned about her pal Magda’s nightmares, which began after being called onstage at a hypnotist’s performance. Coincidences spur Rona on. Her dad’s new love knows someone who knows someone who was at Springfield at the time. Someone else knows someone else, who might know something. Before Rona can firmly decline to investigate, she’s tracking down clues to that mutilated identity. She’s also trying to explain why Magda’s night terrors include images of a family she doesn’t know and why she insists that she’s telepathically connected to the husband who murdered his wife and disappeared. The school figure, who kills herself after being dumped by her great love in Moscow, is more easily resolved than Magda’s turmoil, which sends her and Rona off to confront that murderous husband and disengage her from the man’s psyche.
A plot overburdened with coincidences. And surely most readers will find telepathy as a plot device problematic.
The vicar of Thornford Regis finds his parish riddled with gossip and crimes, past and present.
The Reverend Tom Christmas and his daughter, Miranda, settled in Thornford Regis after the murder of his wife devastated his family. Although he doesn’t care for bagpipes and loathes haggis, Tom finds himself attending the annual Burns supper at a local hotel currently closed for renovation. The owner, Australian Will Moir, seems a bit distracted. Tom has no chance to learn why, for Will’s body is shortly found in the tower at Thorn Court Country Hotel during a massive snowstorm. Police investigators learn that he was poisoned with yew seeds. When Judith Ingley, a retired nurse who years before lived at Thorn Court, shows up at the closed hotel, Tom takes her in. Many villagers think vicarage housekeeper Madrun Prowse, who provided the yew berry tarts for the dinner, simply made a deadly mistake. The police, however, have plenty of suspects who may have wanted Will dead. A family who lost their son to suicide after Will verbally attacked him is the most likely. But as Tom begins to learn some long-hidden secrets, he realizes that the killer is far from obvious. A second murder redoubles his efforts to find the truth.
Tom’s second (Twelve Drummers Drumming, 2011) is a must-read for lovers of classic English mysteries, chock-full of suspects, red herrings and details of village life.
A mercantile rivalry turns murderous for Canadian expat Penny Brannigan.
Penny and her partner Victoria, who own a popular spa, are a bit nervous when a chain of nail and tan salons extends its reach to Llanelen, the Welsh town where they’ve long been settled. Mai Grimstead, an English-born ethnic Vietnamese married to an Englishman, is the chain owner who has recently leased, with the option to buy, Ty Brith Hall, a large estate outside town. Mai’s Birmingham-raised daughter Ashlee, 19, and her younger brother Tyler are not happy with moving so far from a proper city. Penny and a friend are out on a sketching trip when Penny’s dog finds Ashlee’s viciously beaten body. Although Mai claims that Ashlee had no boyfriends, she was pregnant. Her murder poses a difficult problem for Penny’s boyfriend, DI Gareth Davies. Penny, eager to help him, asks Victoria to pose as a housecleaner and go undercover at Ty Brith to see what she can find out. In the meantime, someone has been stealing small dogs. Penny is furious when her friend’s little terrier goes missing and adds dognapping to her investigative list. She does not realize that she is putting herself in mortal danger when what seems like a simple case of murder takes some unexpected turns.
Although its mystery isn’t the best among Duncan’s Welsh cozies (A Killer’s Christmas in Wales, 2011, etc.), this latest entry provides flashes of local color and the usual likable characters.
Isaac Sidel, commissioner of police turned New York City mayor, adds a new title to his résumé: vice president-elect of the United States.
Added to the Democratic ticket in 1988 to juice the appeal of J. Michael Storm, a baseball czar with feet of clay (Citizen Sidel, 1999), Isaac swiftly becomes the main story. Crowds and Republicans adore him, ignoring the presidential candidate who took 47 states. Even J. Michael’s 12-year-old daughter, Marianna, takes up a staunch position at “Uncle Isaac’s” side, prompting fearful echoes of Lolita. Amid all the hoopla, however, deeper currents swirl. A Korean War vet aiming at Isaac during a trip to San Antonio shoots his Secret Service bodyguard instead. Isaac finds David Pearl, the banker who was the longtime silent partner to Isaac’s glover father, holed up in Manhattan’s Ansonia Hotel brewing heaven knows what dastardly schemes. Isaac falls hard for David’s inamorata, Inez, nee Trudy Winckleman, but knows their relationship can’t possibly end well. Instead of readying himself for the vice presidency, the Big Man prefers to play out his last days as the mayoral savior of the five boroughs. All around him, meanwhile, career politicians, campaign consultants, political strategists, psychiatrists and astrologers do what they do best: discern conspiracies, take fright and counter them with their own megalomaniac fantasies. All of this uproar in the national hall of mirrors, in which friends are really enemies and enemies are really nuts, perfectly suits Charyn’s tropism for antic mythologizing. The new threats arriving on every page are often extended, inflated and dispatched in time for the next paragraph break.
The result is a political cocktail almost as fizzy and inventive as The Onion or The Wall Street Journal in which every development is dark, urgent and apocalyptic, and none of it matters a bit.
Doss, who died this past spring, parts company with Charlie Moon (Coffin Man, 2011, etc.) in this 17th and final go-round.
It’s an ignominious ending for purse snatcher LeRoy Hooten, who enters the hereafter when Granite City chief of police Scott Parris beans him with a can of black-eyed peas while his pal Charlie Moon, part-time deputy, former Ute tribal investigator, inveterate gambler and laconic rancher, looks on. Hooten’s mom, Francine, who takes offense at the lucky pitch that caused her son’s demise, calls on the notorious “cowboy assassin” to take out Parris and Moon, thus setting in motion an all-consuming debacle that strews bodies and witticisms from Illinois to Colorado, with stopovers along the way for spirit sightings, pitukupf visitations, double dates, engagements and disengagements, grumblings from Moon’s irascible old auntie Daisy Perkia, and deep sighs and despair from lovesick Ute-Papago orphan Sarah Frank. Of course there are a few detours to allow a retired Texas Ranger, his private-eye-wannabe granddaughter and a luscious FBI agent to have their say and slay while still leaving room for red herrings that jack up the suspense. In all, five will expire, assumed identities will crumble and not a single reader will get through a page without a guffaw or two.
The puckish Doss, who combined charm, mayhem and deviously clever clues, will be much missed.
Two protagonists from Johansen’s earlier thrillers go rogue (Close Your Eyes, 2012, etc.).
Sigmund Freud would have had a field day studying Eve Duncan, a perennial leading lady in Johansen’s literary world. The long-suffering forensic sculptor not only comes from a dysfunctional family, she talks to the ghost of her dead daughter and has nightmares about people she doesn’t know. But you can be sure that she’ll be meeting the subjects of her dreams soon in the prolific author’s latest offering, which centers around a murder attempt and the disappearance of Beth Avery from a California mental facility. Beth, it seems, is Sandra Duncan’s oldest daughter, which makes her Eve’s half sister, a complication that’s par for the course in Johansen’s complicated world. Beth’s dad is the son of the politically prominent Avery family, and Sandra was forced to give up her parental rights at Beth’s birth. Beth was hidden in boarding schools until she suffered a mysterious head injury and was institutionalized, and Sandra’s tried to keep tabs on her through a private investigator. After she learns of Beth’s disappearance, Sandra turns to Eve and Atlanta PD detective Joe Quinn for help. They drop everything and head to Santa Barbara, where Eve convinces Dr. Kendra Michaels, a music therapist who possesses heightened senses, to assist them. The two women gain entry into the hospital and enlist the help of Kendra’s friend, a computer hacker so brilliant that the Pentagon used him in some unknown capacity to foil the Chinese. Gaining access to private files, Eve, Joe and a helpful intern who’s been planted in the hospital by his uncle, the PI, discover all sorts of sinister details about Beth’s treatment, the employees at the hospital, the Avery family’s dark past and Drogan, the man who’s been hired to kill Beth. And as Eve gets to know her naïve sister and does her best to protect her, she becomes Drogan’s primary target.
Johansen throws in enough crooked characters to house an entire prison in a plot that starts out with promise but ends up being a snoozer.
Prolific thriller author DeMille (Night Fall, 2004, etc.) sends his NYPD detective John Corey into Yemen in pursuit of Bulus ibn al-Darwish, an Al-Qaida operative known as al-Numair, the Panther.
The Panther, a first-generation Yemeni immigrant from Perth Amboy gone bad, was in on the USS Cole attack while the ship refueled in Aden’s harbor. Now, the Panther lurks in Yemen’s unstable tribal lands. Corey and FBI agent wife Kate Mayfield serve in New York City on the Anti-Terrorist Task Force. The FBI wants the couple in Yemen to hunt the Panther. Corey and Mayfield are reluctant, especially because Corey was there earlier investigating the Cole bombing, and he knows that Yemen is a near-anarchic hotbed of terror and tribal wars exacerbated by the brutal Yemeni Political Security Organization and corrupt National Security Bureau. He also suspects they’re bait, primarily because Corey killed the Lion, a Libyan terrorist, and earned a slot on Al-Qaida’s kill list. And Corey is suspicious of any CIA involvement. Kate once killed a rogue CIA agent and “inadvertently messed up a CIA plan to turn most of the Mideast into a nuclear wasteland.” Corey thinks a mission called Operation Clean Sweep could disguise CIA revenge as friendly casualties. While it takes DeMille 600-plus pages to unreel the complex, double-dealing, fog-of-war tale, his narrative moves rapidly and sparkles with interesting historical tidbits about Yemen, Noah’s Ark and Arsh Bilqis, the throne of Sheba. DeMille’s CIA agents are old-school William Buckley-types; the patrician Buckminster Harris and the crazy patrician scion Chet Morgan. Paul Brenner, embassy DSS chief and two-tour Vietnam veteran, is a competent third wheel, and PSO Col. Hakim proves a useful foil.
Quintessential DeMille: action-adventure flavored with double-dealing and covert conspiracy.
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.
Fury (Black Site, 2012, etc.) again enlists gung-ho Delta Force Maj. Kolt “Racer” Raynor for anti-terrorist action, and this time the threat involves missiles and airliners rather than forted-up bad guys on the ground.
With the once-cashiered Racer cautioned about the maverick decisions that got him canned, the major and team are HALO-dropped into India, where an airliner has been hijacked. Forced to land on the 767 as it moves onto the runway, the four harpoon their way into the cabin and dispose of the bad guys. Team member Stitch has a finger shot off in the melee. That leaves Racer, Digger and Slapshot to detour to chaotic Libya and extract a U.N. investigator who has uncovered post-revolution looting of Igla-S shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Curtis, CIA on station, doesn’t like Racer's rough-and-tumble solution. No problem, since the U.N. geek is safe. Racer’s team is then sent to Cairo because a former agent from Libya’s nefarious Jamahiriya Security Organization, Aref Saleh, has gone rogue and is distributing the airplane-killers to bad guys. In Cairo, Racer’s team liaisons with a resentful Curtis, and things go south because of lackadaisical CIA Operations Security. Enter David Wade Doyle, aka Daoud al-Amriki, California boy turned jihadist. Racer and al-Amriki met in Pakistan during the mission that earned Racer’s return to Delta. Now, al-Amriki is in Yemen training English-speaking jihadists to infiltrate the U.S. and bring down airliners with the Igla-S missiles. There’s more scoop about Delta Team operations in this Fury effort and a separate narrative about female members joining the Joint Special Operations Command, with Cindy Bird, code name Hawk, sent on the Egyptian reconnoiter. The bad guys get missiles into Mexico but are stymied at Nuevo Laredo in a messy Racer-led firefight. All but al-Amriki are KIA. Posse Comitatus keeps Delta from in-country operation, but Racer and recuperating fellow officer TJ, another Delta who hates al-Amriki, take leave to D.C. and tie up a perfect-coincidence termination.
Action-adventure from an author who’s been at the sharp end of the spear.
Serviceable historical thriller from publishing veteran Rosenheim.
Junior FBI agent Jimmy Nessheim has a thorny problem on his hands: There are 40 million Americans of German descent, a great many of whom sympathize with the Nazis or at least want neutrality, and here the much-reviled Franklin Roosevelt is making noises that the U.S. might just have to go to war to contain Herr Hitler. Nessheim—and Roosevelt, for that matter—have reason to worry, for the German-American Bund, among other homegrown organizations, is chock-full of Nazi operatives, some of whom speak in sneers worthy of a Maj. Strasser (“Now tell me, Herr Werner, did you bring the weapon we sent you?”). Buried deep inside some nice leafy American suburb is a nasty Nazi Manchurian candidate called Dreiländer—“he of three countries,” that is—who’s ready to pop up and work some mischief, and so Nessheim and his fellow G-men are, naturally, up against the clock. Can they defeat the Gestapo when there are so many suspects to interrogate? (“I’ve got an uncle named Maier. He’s married to my mother’s sister.”) Maybe, and maybe not: Things could work out in a Philip Roth tangle. But Rosenheim’s more conventional than all that, and if he includes the nice touch of putting the oft-neglected jurist Felix Frankfurter on stage—and Frankfurter just doesn’t get to star in enough Bogart-worthy thrillers—then he’s also not shy of layering in clichés and genre conventions to do his work for him: “...his immersion in the water had left him looking entirely peaceful. And dead, thought Nessheim with a jolt.” Why a jolt, one wonders? Did it only lately occur to Nessheim that the corpse was in fact dead?
A rich premise, with a readable if sometimes predictable and heavy-handed delivery.