A lean and enjoyable crime novel set in the sports world.

LAW FIVE

An Italian referee is thrown into the center of a corruption scandal in Disco’s debut thriller.

Milo Sant’Elia is a referee for an Italian professional football—that is, soccer—league. It’s not an easy job: He must stay as fit as the players while also performing under the gaze of the sport’s unforgiving fans: “At the highest level, when a player makes a mistake, the fans forgive them after the next touch of the ball,” explains Milo’s brother, Dino, one of the book’s narrators. “But when a referee makes a mistake, it’s inexcusable—the abuse can follow an official for the rest of their career.” However, Milo is understandably horrified when he receives a package at his home in Palermo containing an amputated human thumb—a clear message of intimidation. Milo suspects it has to do with an upcoming high-stakes match, and he refuses to go to the local police until he identifies the culprits with the help of Dino and their attorney friend, Sansone; the ref specifically fears that the Referees’ Association may have been compromised. He attempts to referee games as usual, but he quickly finds his career, and his life, under threat; a mobster, who’s part-owner of a football team, had a referee killed in a game-fixing scheme—and Milo thinks he’s next. The novel is formatted like an oral history, with multiple characters recounting memories. This epistolary style gives the book a somewhat antiquated feel, but it doesn’t hamper the story’s pacing. Disco’s prose captures a convincing conversational tone, as when Dino and Milo drive to the airport: “Milo’s car was a furnace. The engine rumbled steadily behind us….We drove with the windows down, and I don’t know how, but sitting in that heat gave me chills.” Milo is a particularly intriguing character—an aging referee and bookstore employee who lives by a rigorous code of conduct and also likes to rock out to Austrian heavy metal. The various narrative voices are distinctive, and the transitions between them add a sense of momentum to the narrative. The novel is relatively brief, and the pages mostly fly by, keeping readers pleasantly engrossed.

A lean and enjoyable crime novel set in the sports world.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 219

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

HOUR OF THE WITCH

A Puritan wife shocks her community and risks her life to file for divorce in 1662 Boston.

For more than five years, Mary, age 24, has been married to Thomas, 45, a prosperous miller. Thomas has been physically and sexually abusive, always taking care that there are no witnesses. He castigates Mary’s intelligence, telling her she has “white meat” for brains. The marriage is childless, drawing community suspicion to Mary. When she can’t hide bruises on her face, she lies about their provenance. The behavior, she tells herself, only occurs when Thomas is “drink-drunk.” The coverup continues until, cold sober, Thomas drives a fork into Mary’s hand, breaking bones. She flees to her parents’ home and files for divorce, which is allowed but only if grounds can be proven. Forks are a major motif: Not merely newfangled “cutlery” which Mary’s father, a shipping entrepreneur, hopes to profit from importing, but miniature pitchforks viewed by the Puritans as “Devil’s tines.” The forks, as well as other clues—a mysterious pestle, a pentagram etched on a door frame—are used to counter Mary’s compelling, but unwitnessed, claims of cruelty with insinuations of witchcraft. Divorce denied, Mary must return to the marital home and resort to ever more drastic expedients in her quest for freedom. Mary comes from privilege, and her parents clearly care about her. (Unlike the divorce magistrates, they don’t believe she injured her hand by falling on a tea kettle spout.) That they allow her return to Thomas to avoid witchcraft charges defies plausibility—death at Thomas’ hands seems a more immediate prospect, and her family wealth affords many other options. The charges come anyway—timed for maximum melodrama. The language, salted liberally with thee and thou, feels period-authentic. The colonists’ impact on nearby Native tribes is not Bohjalian’s primary concern here, but the Hobson’s choice facing women in Puritan society is starkly delineated.

Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54243-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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