A scorching, knockout noir from an author to watch.

THE LADY UPSTAIRS

An intricate blackmail scheme goes off the rails in Sutton’s sizzling debut.

When Jo met a woman named Lou three years ago, she was drowning in heartbreak and self-loathing. Her boyfriend (and co-worker) had not only dumped her, but he'd also gotten her fired. Lou showed Jo a way to make him pay and reclaim her life, and Jo has never looked back. Now Jo is running her own jobs for the Lady Upstairs’ Staffing Agency, a front for elaborate sexual blackmail schemes designed to entrap some of the wealthiest, and most morally bankrupt, men in Los Angeles. Only Lou knows who the mysterious Lady Upstairs actually is, but as long as the cash keeps flowing, Jo tries not to sweat the small stuff. When a grift goes wrong, leaving Jo with no incriminating photos or video to force her mark’s hand, she does start sweating it, because she owes money to the Lady Upstairs, and 11 large just went down the drain. To recoup that cash before the Lady resorts to distasteful collection tactics, Jo prepares to run a con on one of the biggest fish in the city. In Sutton’s sweltering LA, where grit and glamour entwine, nothing is free and life is cheap, so a few dirty cops, lots of double dealing, and maybe a little murder are only to be expected. Narrator Jo is a tough cookie, making her flashes of vulnerability, mostly glimpsed in her scenes with Lou, even more poignant. Sutton’s assured and moody prose often channels the best classic LA noir, but this deliciously tawdry and twisty tale is entirely her own. Readers who savor crime stories featuring complex, unapologetic women will be hooked.

A scorching, knockout noir from an author to watch.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-18773-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.

WIN

Memo to fans who’ve longed for Windsor Horne Lockwood III, the moneyed, omnicompetent buddy of sports agent Myron Bolitar, to snag a starring role of his own: Beware what you wish for.

Nothing would connect privileged Win with the murder of the reclusive tenant of an exclusive Upper West Side building if the police hadn’t found a painting inside Ry Strauss’ apartment—a Vermeer belonging to Win’s family that was stolen long ago while on loan to Haverford College—along with a monogrammed suitcase belonging to Win himself. The two discoveries tie Win not only to the murder, but to the Jane Street Six, a group of student activists Strauss led even longer ago. The Six’s most notoriously subversive action, the bombing of an empty building in 1973, left several innocents accidentally dead and the law determined to track down the perps. But except for Vanessa Hogan, whom Billy Rowan tearfully visited soon after the bombing to beg her forgiveness for his role in bringing about the death of her son, no one’s seen hide nor hair of the Six ever since. The roots of the outrage go even deeper for Win, whose uncle, Aldrich Powers Lockwood, was killed and whose cousin, Patricia, to whom he’d given that suitcase, was one of 10 women kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped in an unsolved crime. These meaty complications are duly unfolded, and gobs of cash thrown at them, by the ludicrously preening, self-infatuated Win, who announces, “It’s good to be me,” and “I can be charming when I want to be.” As if.

Densely plotted and replete with incident if you can overlook the insufferable narrator.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4821-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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