Dark, darker, and then some. But readers who can take it are in for quite a ride.

CRIMSON LAKE ROAD

The last case between a federal prosecutor and the retirement she craves will take her to some truly harrowing places.

Four weeks after Kathy Pharr was sexually assaulted and beaten to death, police called to another house on Crimson Lake Road made a gruesome discovery with a surprise ending: Though, like Kathy, she’s draped in the trappings of one of 1960s Kenyan painter Sarpong’s four indelible pictures of death, yoga teacher Angela River isn’t quite dead herself. Even so, Cason Baldwin, of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, homicide detective Lucas Garrett of the Las Vegas Sheriff’s Office, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Yardley of the Special Victims Unit all treat Angela as a second victim of the monster that freelance reporter Jude Chance has dubbed the Crimson Lake Executioner. Since Kathy’s 14-year-old daughter, Harmony, went missing shortly after her mother was killed, the obvious suspect is Kathy’s husband, Tucker, who’s already served time for kidnapping Sue Ellen Jones 18 years ago. But Yardley’s growing friendship with Angela soon diverts her attention from Tucker Pharr to Angela’s live-in lover, ER physician Michael Zachary, and the evidence the police find in Zachary’s garage is as damning as the tone of Angela’s voice when she tells Yardley she never wants to see her again. Confronted in court by the unexpectedly resourceful Dylan Aster, who talks Zachary into accepting his representation and then sets himself resolutely against the presiding judge, Yardley’s forced to consult the expert on painting and serial murder she’d sworn never to see again: her ex-husband, Eddie Cal, who’s been imprisoned ever since sending 12 victims to their graves in A Killer’s Wife (2020).

Dark, darker, and then some. But readers who can take it are in for quite a ride.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2094-7

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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