Snappy but routine work from an author who has yet to establish his distinctive voice amid the crowded field of the...

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SPICE TRADE

Having vanquished a killer with a taste for human flesh (Grendel’s Game, 2015), Chief Superintendent Walther Ekman, of the Weltenborg police, takes on a human-trafficking ring with international roots.

Driven beyond endurance by her regimen of forced sex, kidnapped dental hygienist Lynni Dahlin finally squeezes out a tiny window of her improbable downtown-apartment prison and escapes. Her freedom is short-lived, for she immediately plunges from an icy roof to her death as Ekman and his wife, Ingbritt, an author of children’s books, sit in a restaurant across the street. His dinner ruined, Ekman resolves to get to the bottom of a death that can’t easily be labeled accident, suicide, or murder but is certainly suspicious. So suspicious, in fact, that Ekman’s crew promptly links the Keeper, the trafficker who’s been doing a thriving business supplying captive women from abroad for a clientele willing to pay serious money for submissive sex partners who aren’t just pretending to be terrified, to both a vigorous drug-smuggling operation patriarch Fayyad Joumari is running out of Morocco and a battle for power in the boardroom of the Sodra Sverige Bank. Mauritzson handles the procedural details of the investigation, from the grinding forensics to the obligatory power struggles between Ekman and his colleagues, with authority, and the story moves along briskly from the opening scene. Considering the loathsome nature of the crimes, though, there’s a surprisingly short store of either urgency or moral outrage; a copycat killing only muddles the investigation; and a trip to Morocco intended as the tale’s climax spirals into an unpersuasive mixture of quasi-military abduction and sightseeing.

Snappy but routine work from an author who has yet to establish his distinctive voice amid the crowded field of the Scandinavian procedural.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-57962-496-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

A KILLER EDITION

Too much free time leads a New Hampshire bookseller into yet another case of murder.

Now that Tricia Miles has Pixie Poe and Mr. Everett practically running her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, she finds herself at loose ends. Her wealthy sister, Angelica, who in the guise of Nigela Ricita has invested heavily in making Stoneham a bookish tourist attraction, is entering the amateur competition for the Great Booktown Bake-Off. So Tricia, who’s recently taken up baking as a hobby, decides to join her and spends a lot of time looking for the perfect cupcake recipe. A visit to another bookstore leaves Tricia witnessing a nasty argument between owner Joyce Widman and next-door neighbor Vera Olson over the trimming of tree branches that hang over Joyce’s yard—also overheard by new town police officer Cindy Pearson. After Tricia accepts Joyce’s offer of some produce from her garden, they find Vera skewered by a pitchfork, and when Police Chief Grant Baker arrives, Joyce is his obvious suspect. Ever since Tricia moved to Stoneham, the homicide rate has skyrocketed (Poisoned Pages, 2018, etc.), and her history with Baker is fraught. She’s also become suspicious about the activities at Pets-A-Plenty, the animal shelter where Vera was a dedicated volunteer. Tricia’s offered her expertise to the board, but president Toby Kingston has been less than welcoming. With nothing but baking on her calendar, Tricia has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and her vague suspicions about the shelter. Plenty of small-town friendships and rivalries emerge in her quest for the truth.

An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0272-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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