An unconventional, absorbing legal thriller with elements of fantasy and the supernatural.

ALMOST DAMNED

In this thriller sequel, a criminal defense lawyer’s newest case involves fallen angels and their human/demon offspring.

Virginia attorney Samson Young’s life has gotten more complicated lately. A woman connected to a case he defended and an anonymous call to his office both mention a ski trip that Sam knows nothing about. This ties to his subsequent summons to appear on Mount Hermon at the Israel-Syria border. His apparent clients in a lawsuit are Azazel and the fallen angels, who, having served a sentence of 70 generations in fire, wish to return to heaven. Sam will also make an appeal for these angels’ immortal hybrid children to become full, mortal humans. Meanwhile, he and his law partner, Amelia Griffin, continue working on cases in Bennet County. They defend a man accused of killing his wife who supposedly confessed his crime to a cellmate. Unexpectedly, Sam realizes this client and others are somehow connected to the Mount Hermon trial. Specifics on this case or those named in the summons aren’t easy to come by, as Sam’s questions generate cryptic responses. Still, it’s clear that some don’t want this particular dispute resolved; unknown individuals threaten or attack the attorney and his friends. Sam may also have a personal link to the fallen angels’ lineage. He has a telepathic ability that he uses in moderation, and his somewhat obscure family history features a relative who seems to have survived death. Soon, the protagonist will appear in front of a panel of archangel judges, with reputedly untrustworthy Samael as his opponent.

Leibig’s cross-genre novel, like the preceding installment, is first and foremost a legal thriller. For example, the counselors’ arguments propel the supernatural trial despite the presence of angels and discussions of immortality. This lawsuit teems with familiar courtroom sights, such as the calling and examining of witnesses, attorney objections, and closing statements. In the same vein, the author grounds the fantasy side of the story by often citing religious texts, including the Bible and the book of Enoch. Leibig deftly weaves religious references into the defense of the hybrids (seemingly punished for their fathers’ deeds) and the fallen angels’ backstory. The engrossing novel retains mystery as well. Sam (and readers) may surmise his connection to the angels and the hybrids, but he doesn’t get clarification until later. The author handles this with tongue-in-cheek observations, frequently noting characters’ intentional vagueness: When a member of Sam’s family “did answer, her words were often a response not to the question someone had asked, but rather to the question they should have asked.” Humor also comes in the form of snappy one-liners by Sam or legal investigator Nguyen Jones: “You’re always stitching up their softballs”; “You thought Paulo was fixin’ to trim our hedges.” While Nguyen serves as comic relief, Amelia proves herself a competent lawyer who is just as capable as Sam. The strong cast also includes characters whose dubiousness makes them unnerving, particularly as Sam believes someone is responsible for more than one recent death. There’s resolution by the end and a good chance Sam’s bizarre adventures are far from over.

An unconventional, absorbing legal thriller with elements of fantasy and the supernatural.

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64663-295-4

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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