September always seems to throw open a floodgate of fresh fiction in the United States and Britain, with publishers trying to circulate as many books as they can before people start making holiday gift lists.
This year is no different. Between now and the end of 2012, crime-fiction lovers will find it difficult to carve out time enough to enjoy forthcoming works by Deon Meyer (Seven Days), Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnette Friis (Invisible Murder), Dennis Lehane (Live by Night), Laurie R. King (Garment of Shadows), Arnaldur Indridason (Outrage), Frances Fyfield (Gold Digger), Michael Connelly (The Black Box), Russell D. McLean (Father Confessor), Johnny Shaw (Big Maria), Leighton Gage (Perfect Hatred) and…well, perhaps I’d better stop there, before my readers become so overwhelmed with expectation, they retreat beneath their beds in anxious sweats.
Read the Rap Sheet’s interview with Ariel S. Winter, author of ‘The Twenty-Year Death.’
Below are 10 soon-to-be-published mysteries and thrillers—from both sides of the Atlantic—that I particularly look forward to exploring over these next four cooler months.
Trust Your Eyes, by Linwood Barclay (September, U.S.):
With paranoid conspiracy theories abundant in America’s current presidential contest, it’s an ideal time for the release of this top-drawer yarn about a house-bound, paranoid and schizophrenic conspiracy believer named Thomas Kilbride, who’s obsessed with a program that (à la Google Street View) offers computer users panoramic outlooks from all over the world. Thomas is convinced his armchair surveillance can help the CIA. His elder brother, caricaturist Ray, into whose care Thomas has fallen since their father’s death, knows that’s a crock. However, when Thomas shows him what looks like the image of a woman being slain in a New York City apartment, Ray’s skepticism falters. The siblings soon stumble into a honest-to-badness political conspiracy that threatens to add them to a growing contingent of casualties. This updating of Rear Window can only enhance Toronto author Barclay’s rep for concocting propulsive yet thoughtful thrillers.
The Cocktail Waitress, by James M. Cain (September, U.S.):
It’s easy to fall for a previously unpublished work by Cain, whose oeuvre includes The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) and Double Indemnity (1943). Fortunately, The Cocktail Waitress—which the author sought to complete before perishing in 1977—serves up ample delights (and a few familiar themes). It tells of Joan Medford, a captivating young mother whose abusive hubby has died under odd circumstances, and who then takes a job waiting tables in a dodgy cocktail lounge. There she meets a loaded elderly gent with a bum ticker, Earl K. White III, as well as the grabby, calculating Tom Barclay. She weds White out of pragmatism, rather than passion; but tensions in the continuing relationships between these three players guarantee trouble. We witness the unfolding drama through Joan’s eyes, while wondering what she’s withholding.
Salvation of a Saint, by Keigo Higashino (October, U.S.):
From the Japanese author of The Devotion of Suspect X comes another intricately plotted murder mystery featuring physics professor Manabu Yukawa, aka Detective Galileo. The victim this time is Yoshitaka Mashiba, who—upset by the fact that his wife, Ayane, has failed to become pregnant—tells her he wants a divorce. When, a few days later, Yoshitaka’s mistress finds him dead, Ayane becomes the prime suspect. Except that she was far away from the scene at the time of the crime, and the Tokyo police detective leading this case has fallen under Ayane’s spell and can’t accept her guilt. Dr. Yukawa must eventually be summoned to make sense of this “impossible murder.” A most satisfying read, despite some paper-thin characters. (Translated by Alexander O. Smith.)
Blood Lance, by Jeri Westerson (October, U.S.):
It hardly seemed inevitable that a disgraced ex-knight in 14th-century England would become a popular series sleuth. However, Crispin Guest has shown great proficiency as a tracker of criminals. In this fifth adventure (after Troubled Bones) he’s winding home one night when he sees a man—an armorer, it turns out—plummet to his death from the lofty heights of London Bridge. A suicide? Crispin has his doubts, which are only exacerbated when he hears that the armorer may have been in possession of the Spear of Longinus, a weapon that allegedly pierced Christ’s side on the cross and is now said to bring its owner invincibility. With the aid of his friend Geoffrey Chaucer (yes, that Geoffrey Chaucer), Crispin hunts for the spear, trying all the while to avoid becoming embroiled in poisonous rivalries within King Richard’s court.
Dominion, by C.J. Sansom (October, UK):
In another detour—like the melancholy Winter in Madrid—from his Matthew Shardlake Tudor detective series, Sansom presents here a quite remarkable what-if spy adventure set in 1952. It’s been a dozen years since the UK surrendered to Nazi Germany, and Britons are chafing under authoritarian regulation and worried by reports of atrocious acts committed in their midst. Winston Churchill’s Resistance movement is expanding, though, and it may have discovered a way to tip the balance of power in its favor. But much depends on the efforts of a civil servant-cum-Resistance spy, David Fitzgerald, who’s assigned to help a scientist, trapped in a Birmingham mental hospital, flee the country. Fitzgerald soon finds himself hiding out in London during a deadly air-pollution event, while his wife faces terrors of her own and one of the Gestapo’s most notorious manhunters dogs their heels.
Standing in Another Man’s Grave, by Ian Rankin (November, UK):
Years after we waved him off to retirement, in Exit Music, congenitally rebellious Edinburgh police detective John Rebus returns, hoping to close the book on a succession of seemingly unrelated disappearances that trace back as far as the millennium. Nobody still on the force, though, relishes joining Rebus in another pursuit of hunches, including his ex-partner, Siobhan Clarke, whose career he threatens to disrupt. Furthermore, his antics have sparked unwelcome attention not only from mob boss Big Ger Cafferty, but also from Rankin’s present series sleuth, Internal Affairs investigator Malcolm Fox (The Impossible Dead). In the end, Rebus must go it alone—no matter the price to be paid. Standing in Another Man’s Grave isn’t due out in the States till January 2013.
Young Philby, by Robert Littell (November, U.S.):
Harold “Kim” Philby was a respected member of British intelligence during the mid-20th century—until it was discovered he was a double agent supplying confidential information to the Kremlin. Forced to resign from MI6, he later worked as a journalist before winning asylum in the Soviet Union in 1963. Littell, the author of such espionage-fiction classics as The Defection of A.J. Lewinter (1973) and The Company (2002), brings his formidable talents to the task of worming inside Philby’s head to discern why he set himself on such a cunning course. He also re-creates this infamous figure’s introduction to the spy game through the eyes of friends, lovers and handlers. Young Philby is at once a tense thriller and a primer on an era when, at least in the international intelligence realm, nobody could really be trusted.
City of Saints, by Andrew Hunt (November, U.S.):
The winner of the 2011 Tony Hillerman Prize, this first novel was inspired by the real-life, unsolved slaying in 1930 of a deep-pocketed Utah doctor’s wife. It introduces us to Art Oveson, the youngest in a family of Mormon lawmen, who—with his more rough-mannered partner, Roscoe Lund—takes on the murder of Helen Kent Pfalzgraf, a socialite with high-toned connections. It’s an explosive case for Depression-era Salt Lake City, so Oveson’s boss—who’s engaged in a “dirty” race to retain his job—wants the young deputy to keep an eye out for political mischief. As Oveson and Lund chase after Pfalzgraf’s killers, though, they encounter much worse than that: more homicides, rumors of extramarital dalliances and a depth of corruption that Oveson didn’t know existed in his supposedly righteous burg.
Target Lancer, by Max Allan Collins (November, U.S.):
Following up on last year’s Bye Bye, Baby, Collins tosses his series “P.I. to the Stars,” Nate Heller, into the tumult of another historical crime, this time the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Only Collins goes at it sideways, writing not about Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963, but about Chicago—Heller’s home turf—which Democrat Kennedy (code name: Lancer) was preparing to visit earlier that month. Target Lancer brings us a different, fact-based assassination scenario, eerily paralleling the Dealey Plaza nightmare and replete with Secret Service investigators, mob connections, Cuban hit men, right-wing antagonists and an ex-Marine with a visceral hatred of the 35th president. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Jack Ruby and burlesque dancer Sally Rand all figure into this rapid-fire tale.
The Child’s Child, by Barbara Vine (December, U.S.):
Delving further into her familiar themes of social disconnection and mental disturbance, Vine—a pseudonym used by Ruth Rendell (The St. Zita Society)—throws us into company with Grace and Andrew Easton, siblings who’ve inherited and chosen to share their grandmother’s book-filled London abode. However, when Andrew suddenly fetches home a new boyfriend, handsome but judgmental author James Derain, this tidy living arrangement suffers serious disruption. The killing of a friend incites Derain’s breakdown, while Grace’s discovery of an unpublished manuscript—telling the story of a gay brother and his pregnant sister in post-World War I London, practically mirror images of the Eastons—leads them (and us) deeper into a well of psychological suspense infested with violence and sex and of course duplicity in generous measure.