Kroll’s hard-boiled prose feels satisfyingly retro. The final volume in his trilogy wraps up loose ends without pulling...

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FIRE TRAP

A Halifax ex-cop enters the twisted world of the dark web in search of a missing journalist and his own estranged daughter.

T.J. Peterson (The Hell of It All, 2017, etc.) and his girlfriend, Patty, have hit a bad patch. Even worse, he has minimal contact with his runaway daughter, Katy, just occasional taunting photos of the ratholes she calls temporary homes. Their estrangement has been a major factor contributing to his recent breakdown; he’s also been booted from the police force. But his detective instincts come alive again when street preacher Ziggy sells him the cellphone of journalist Britney Comer, who’d recently called Peterson with news of Katy. As teenagers, Britney and Katy had lived on the edge: sex and drugs and staying out all night. Britney cleaned up her act; Katy, not so much. Then Jeremy Mains, Britney’s live-in boyfriend, reports that she hasn’t been home in two days. Could Katy have been the focus of a story Britney was working on about prostitutes? The search for Britney becomes inextricably entangled with Peterson’s urgent quest to find and save his daughter. Flashbacks fill in details of his sad childhood, his time on the force, and his wife’s death in a car accident. With help from former colleague Detective Grace “Bernie” Bernard, Peterson begins tracking down leads. His many interviews become a painful reminder of all his past mistakes, goading him to make amends. The trail leads through a plethora of sleazy characters involved in online porn and “gore sites.”

Kroll’s hard-boiled prose feels satisfyingly retro. The final volume in his trilogy wraps up loose ends without pulling punches.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77041-489-1

Page Count: 296

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Like her cast, James gets in a little more drama for a lively continuation of her series.

CARELESS WHISKERS

An impossible actor’s career ends when he dies midperformance, leaving a cast and crew who would have been all too willing to have done the deed.

Charlie Harris and his feline sidekicks, Maine coon Diesel and kitten Ramses, are all excited that Charlie’s daughter, Laura, and her husband, Frank, will be headlining Athena College’s spring production as lead actress and director in a homegrown new play, Careless Whispers. Laura was excited too until the male lead, who had to bail suddenly, is replaced by someone she knows all too well: Luke Lombardi. Laura’s had run-ins with Luke in the past and knows that he’s a drama queen in all the wrong ways. When Luke shows up in Mississippi, Charlie and his partner, Helen Louise Brady, are suitably unimpressed with his imperious attitude and clueless mini-entourage, but both figure there’s little to worry about until a string of pranks seems to escalate to Luke’s onstage murder. Though Charlie is concerned that Laura’s dislike of Luke might point to her as a suspect, c’mon! Chief Deputy Kanesha Berry, whom Charlie’s earlier investigations (The Pawful Truth, 2019, etc.) have made something of a family friend, doesn’t think Laura is guilty either, though she does have to follow procedure and question anyone with means and motive. While there aren’t many folks in the means category, Luke’s volatile and narcissistic manner has heaped the motive category with suspects—and can anyone blame them? It may all come down to unraveling the mystery behind the identity of the playwright, Finnegan Zwake, a pseudonym no one had thought to question until Charlie decides he can’t help but, once again, get involved.

Like her cast, James gets in a little more drama for a lively continuation of her series.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-49115-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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