Klingborg’s twisty, tense police procedural seems poised to kick off a series.

THIEF OF SOULS

A maverick Chinese police detective hunts a twisted serial killer.

In the Raven Valley Township of northern China, Inspector Lu Fei is drinking himself into his customary oblivion at the Red Lotus bar when he’s called to a brutal murder scene. The young victim, Yang Fenfang, has been “hollowed out like a birchbark canoe.” Suspicion immediately falls on her boyfriend, Zhang Zhaoxing, who works as a butcher. Once he’s arrested, Lu’s bosses at the Public Security Bureau are content to end the investigation and incarcerate Zhang. Klingborg takes the time to lay out the structure and conventions of law enforcement in China, a welcome aid for Western readers. Lu finds a kindred spirit in sarcastic medical examiner Dr. Ma Xiulan, who takes his rejection of her sexual advances in stride. No forensic evidence implicates Zhang. Though Lu thinks the young man is innocent, he’s overruled by his superiors, who order that Zhang be kept in custody until more conclusive evidence against him can be found. A wave of protests has little effect on this decision. But the discovery of two similar murders in nearby Harbin gives the investigation new life. Terse dialogue dominates this series debut, which wraps its depiction of contemporary Chinese society in the tropes of police novels. Even when the righteous Lu goes too far in interrogating a suspect, he keeps on going.

Klingborg’s twisty, tense police procedural seems poised to kick off a series.  

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2507-7905-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Not the best of Connelly’s procedurals, but nobody else does them better than his second-best.

DESERT STAR

A snap of the yo-yo string yanks Harry Bosch out of retirement yet again.

Los Angeles Councilman Jake Pearlman has resurrected the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit in order to reopen the case of his kid sister, Sarah, whose 1994 murder was instantly eclipsed in the press by the O.J. Simpson case when it broke a day later. Since not even a councilor can reconstitute a police unit for a single favored case, Det. Renée Ballard and her mostly volunteer (read: unpaid) crew are expected to reopen some other cold cases as well, giving Bosch a fresh opportunity to gather evidence against Finbar McShane, the crooked manager he’s convinced executed industrial contractor Stephen Gallagher, his wife, and their two children in 2013 and buried them in a single desert grave. The case has haunted Bosch more than any other he failed to close, and he’s fine to work the Pearlman homicide if it’ll give him another crack at McShane. As it turns out, the Pearlman case is considerably more interesting—partly because the break that leads the unit to a surprising new suspect turns out to be both fraught and misleading, partly because identifying the killer is only the beginning of Bosch’s problems. The windup of the Gallagher murders, a testament to sweating every detail and following every lead wherever it goes, is more heartfelt but less wily and dramatic. Fans of the aging detective who fear that he might be mellowing will be happy to hear that “putting him on a team did not make him a team player.”

Not the best of Connelly’s procedurals, but nobody else does them better than his second-best.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-48565-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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Fascinating main characters and a clever plot add up to an exciting read.

LONG SHADOWS

A thriller with bloody murders and plenty of suspects and featuring an unlikely partnership between two FBI investigators.

FBI consultant Amos Decker has a lot on his mind. The huge fellow once played for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL until he received a catastrophic brain injury, leaving him with synesthesia; he sees death as electric blue. More pertinent to the plot, he also has hyperthymesia, or spontaneous and highly accurate recall. On the one hand, his memories can be horrible. He’d once come home to find his wife and daughter murdered, dead in pools of blood. Later, he listens helplessly on the telephone while his ex-partner shoots herself in the mouth. On the other hand, his memory helps him solve every case he's given. Now he's sent to Florida with a brand-new partner, Special Agent Frederica White, to investigate the murder of a federal judge. Both partners are pissed at their last-minute pairing, and they immediately see themselves as a bad fit. White is a diminutive Black single mother of two who has a double black belt in karate “because I hate getting my ass kicked.” (The author doesn't mention Decker's race, but since he's being contrasted with his new partner in every way, perhaps readers are expected to see him as White. Clarity would be nice.) Their case is strange: Judge Julia Cummins was stabbed 10 times and her face covered with a mask, while her bodyguard was shot to death. Decker and White puzzle over the “very contrarian crime scene” where two murders seem to have been committed by two different people in the same place. The plot gets complex, with suspects galore. But the interpersonal dynamic between Decker and White is just as interesting as the solution to the murders, which doesn't come easily. At first, they’d like to be done with each other and go their separate ways. But as they work together, their mutual respect rises and—alas—the tension between them fades almost completely. The pair will make a great series duo, especially if a bit of that initial tension between them returns. And Baldacci shouldn’t give Decker a pass on his tortured memories, because readers enjoy suffering heroes. It's not enough that his near-perfect recall helps him in his job.

Fascinating main characters and a clever plot add up to an exciting read.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1982-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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