The well-wrought plots and densely imagined worlds make this the most distinguished mystery collection so far this year.

LOVE & OTHER CRIMES

Fourteen stories, most dating from 1996 to 2018, about Chicago shamus V.I. Warshawski, her friends and family, and a remarkably diverse group of other people.

Five of the seven stories about Warshawski are first-rate; only “Wildcat,” which takes the young Victoria’s family through the disruption of Martin Luther King’s 1966 visit to Chicago, and “Is It Justice?” a wish-fulfillment sequel to Critical Mass (2013) in which somebody shoots a newly exonerated killer as he descends the courthouse steps, play better as politics than fiction. In the others, V.I. seeks out a student she humiliated at a high school Q&A; finds a contemporary case of plagiarism beneath a decade-old murder; hunts down her client’s father only to be told that he’s not her client’s father; turns down a bodyguard gig on behalf of a wealthy author who begins trash-talking her every chance she gets; and, in the brand-new title story, goes to bat for her dislikable ex-neighbor’s kid brother when he’s arrested for murder. What’s even more impressive is the variety of the other seven stories. Paretsky effortlessly masters Dr. Watson’s voice in an adventure that shows Sherlock Holmes bested by an upstart American and sends Carroll John Daly’s pioneering hard-boiled dick Race Williams to the 1933 Century of Progress Fair. The deftly plotted “Acid Test” shows an apostle of nonviolence arrested for bombing a neighbor’s scientific institute. The charming “Miss Bianca” turns on a 10-year-old girl’s solicitude for a lab mouse. The dystopian fantasy “Safety First” and “Trial by Fire,” a pendant to Bleeding Kansas (2007), show off Paretsky’s willingness to take risks. And “Heartbreak House,” in which a romance writer’s editor recommends that she consult a psychotherapist, who promptly gets killed, ends the collection on a wryly amused note.

The well-wrought plots and densely imagined worlds make this the most distinguished mystery collection so far this year.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291554-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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

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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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