A worthwhile investment for those interested in whodunits, social justice, and the work of Giuseppe Verdi.

THE LABYRINTH IN WINTER

The rarified worlds of high finance and grand opera collide in this complex murder mystery.

New York City is in the midst of a cold snap, but things heat up quickly for Devlin Wolfe, a Federal Securities and Exchange Commission investigator, after he happens upon a dead body floating in the Harlem River while rowing one morning. The “distinguished looking” stabbing victim wearing a $2,000 suit is identified as Guillaume Marchand, a financial analyst for Endicott Technologies. Things immediately get more complicated when Marchand’s $7 million estate in Westchester County is burned to the ground and his artist wife goes missing on the eve of an important gallery exhibition. Bixby Endicott, the victim’s former boss, has political ambitions and “the conviction [that] he was set apart by destiny to guide the great American experiment by reason of his ability to amass wealth.” An unexpected subplot provides an intriguing wrinkle in what could have been a cut-and-dried conspiracy thriller; it involves the mounting of a production of the opera Aida with a sensational young French diva who’s giving her debut performance in the United States. Bixby, it turns out, is a late-in-life opera convert who’s transfixed by “the impossible beauty, the unattainable grasped, at the infinite realized.” Blair, the author of Sudden Rivers (2014), writes a novel that exudes a palpable rage against dark money and ruthless puppet masters in pursuit of power. Devlin, his investigator protagonist, is certainly no fan of the rich: “Business was simply the pursuit of profit without the slightest hint of conscience...or any of the qualities that distinguished the civilized from the barbaric.” Over the course of the book, the author also does his best to make financial terms and practices accessible to the lay reader. Thierry Reynard, a police officer, acts as the reader’s surrogate as Devlin explains such concepts as “short selling.” Some of the more florid poetic passages don’t pay off as well, however: “Eidolons travel in the night: they streak above the cirrus clouds between where humans walk and phantoms linger.”

A worthwhile investment for those interested in whodunits, social justice, and the work of Giuseppe Verdi.

Pub Date: March 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9894896-8-3

Page Count: 347

Publisher: Novabook Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Did you like this book?

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more