There are certainly downsides to the approach of Labor Day and the concurrent conclusion of summer: no more afternoons lost while swinging in hammocks, no more hours spent in sweaty attendance at barbecue grills and no more surreptitious studying of bikini-clad youths on remote beaches. On the other hand, the cooler weather provides more excuses for hunkering down with a cup of joe and a promising book.
Catch up on your mysteries and thrillers with last week’s Rap Sheet.
Myriad new crime and thriller novels will be published on both sides of the Atlantic between now and Christmas. What follows are 10 of the new U.S.-released works I most look forward to enjoying during these coming nippier months.
Trackers, by Deon Meyer (September): Meyer’s sprawling, ambitious new novel follows three characters: South African freelance bodyguard Leemer (Blood Safari), whose role in a rhino-smuggling scheme goes very bad very fast; abused Cape Town wife Milla Strachan, who struggles to start a new life writing intelligence reports for a secretive government agency; and Mat Joubert, an ex-police detective whose first job as a private eye ties these story threads together—even as the whole plot is complicated by gang warfare, retribution and threats of Al Qaeda-provoked violence.
Motor City Shakedown, by D.E. Johnson (September): This sequel to last year’s peddle-to-the-metal historical thriller, The Detroit Electric Scheme, finds Will Anderson—the trouble-attracting (and now morphine-addicted) heir to Detroit’s leading manufacturer of electric automobiles—pursuing revenge in 1911 against the people responsible for a friend’s horrific murder. But his efforts land Anderson in the middle of his city’s first mob war and lead him to seek help from a police detective as well as the young delinquents soon to become infamous as the Purple Gang.
Damage Control, by Denise Hamilton (September): The creator of the Eve Diamond series (Prisoner of Memory) takes a different tack in this suspenseful yarn about an ambitious public relations exec, Maggie Silver, who’s given disaster-control responsibilities after the strangling death of a female aide to U.S. Sen. Henry Paxton of California. With a sexual angle to the case, the threat of a crippling scandal looms. More interesting, though, is how Maggie—whose best friend in high school was Annabelle, the senator’s daughter—copes with re-entering the Paxtons’ sphere of celebrity and with recollections of a tragedy that drove her and Annabelle apart.
Stolen Souls, by Stuart Neville (October): After slaying one of her captors in order to escape the Belfast brothel where she’s been forced into prostitution, young Ukrainian Galya Petrova seeks protection from a man she thought she could trust—but who represents a much greater threat than she realized. Meanwhile, a gang turf war erupts in the wake of Galya’s fleeing, and it’s up to police detective Jack Lennon (Collusion, 2010) to find the girl before local bloodshed escalates beyond control.
Headstone, by Ken Bruen (October): Irish P.I. Jack Taylor (The Devil) is all too well acquainted with the range of evils humans can visit upon one another. However, a contingent of nasties known as Headstone wants to expand that range, targeting Galway’s most vulnerable residents as well as the people closest to our Xanax-gulping hero. Taylor, who was only just beginning to feel a wee bit optimistic about life, thanks to his having fallen in love, isn’t sure he can stop Headstone’s terror campaign, even if he can fathom its goals.
Troubled Bones, by Jeri Westerson (October): Needing some distance from London, disgraced 14th-century knight-turned-sleuth Crispin Guest (The Devil’s Parchment) agrees to take on a job for the Archbishop of Canterbury: figure out who’s behind threats to the displayed bones of saint and martyr Thomas à Becket. But he’s distracted from his investigation by both a visiting group of pilgrims and by an old acquaintance, poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who’s been accused of doing in one of those travelers. This is a witty and well-researched series.
The Boy in the Suitcase, by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis (November). A stunning tale of powerlessness and exploitation—and a finalist for Scandinavia’s Glass Key Award—this novel introduces Nina Borg, a nurse involved with helping illegal refugees. After being instructed by an estranged friend to open a locker at the Copenhagen train station, only to discover a naked 3-year-old boy trapped in luggage, Borg is drawn into a dangerous world as she tries to identify the child and keep him safe from the people who trapped him, and who will now kill to get him back.
The Drop, by Michael Connelly (November): It’s been almost 20 years since Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch’s debut in The Black Echo, but the L.A. cop continues to appeal. The Drop finds him three years shy of retirement, looking back into a 1989 rape and murder case that raises questions about DNA proof used in a variety of investigations. At the same time, Bosch probes the demise of the son of his longtime nemesis, City Councilman Irvin S. Irving. Before it’s all done, our hero will have stumbled upon an unknown serial killer and a conspiracy rooted deep in the LAPD’s past.
The Silence, by J. Sydney Jones (December): In their third outing (after 2010’s Requiem in Vienna), lawyer Karl Werthen and criminologist Hanns Gross investigate the disappearance of wealthy industrialist Karl Wittgenstein’s son, as well as a suicide at Vienna’s city hall in 1900. All of this leads to suspicions of political corruption, a scheme to sell off the city’s beloved woodlands and a deadly plot to unseat the Habsburg dynasty. Jones is second only to Frank Tallis in using mystery fiction to resurrect beautiful, historic Vienna.
Assume Nothing, by Gar Anthony Haywood (December): Since ending his Aaron Gunner P.I. series (All the Lucky Ones Are Dead), Haywood has produced some splendid but underrated standalones, both under his own name (Cemetery Road) and as “Ray Shannon” (Man Eater). This latest one-off is a spectacle of malicious retribution starring L.A. resident Joe Reddick, who’s been threatened along with his wife and son. Having already lost one family to a demented killer, Reddick will stop at almost nothing to eradicate this fresh menace—even if it means erasing his own future.
Does anybody else want to suggest new works from the crime, mystery and thriller categories that we should all keep a watch for over the next four months?