Although spring is being shy about showing its colors in some parts of the United States, trust that the season is finally upon us. With any luck, we should soon be able to sit out on our front porches, a cool drink in one hand and a new novel in the other.
The following seven works of mystery and thriller fiction, all to be released between now and the end of May, would be fine accompaniments to that pastime. They’re distracting enough to provide you relief from quotidian pressures, but not so enthralling that you’ll miss any interesting developments in the streetscape.
Read the Rap Sheet’s interview with Lyndsay Faye, author of ‘The Gods of Gotham.’
Prague Fatale, by Philip Kerr (April)
One of the finest entries yet in Kerr’s series of Bernie Gunther historical thrillers, Prague Fatale begins with his ever-cynical protagonist back in harness as a Berlin police detective, investigating the 1941 stabbing death of a Dutch worker. The case acquaints him with a fetching good-time girl, Arianne Tauber, but brings few other satisfactions, so he only mildly resists being called away to Prague by his old boss, Reinhard Heydrich, the new Nazi Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia.
Heydrich fears he’ll be killed by one of the colleagues he’s gathered in a country house to celebrate his promotion. Instead, one of his aides is found shot dead in a locked room, Agatha Christie-style. To solve this crime—and also, in the course of it, the Dutch worker’s demise—Gunther must defy his Nazi superiors and endanger Arianne, knowing all along that the murderer’s rank may protect him from prosecution.
The Fallen, by Jassy Mackenzie (April)
South African author Mackenzie demonstrated enviable skill at character and plot construction in Stolen Lives, her previous novel starring Johannesburg private eye Jade de Jong. She’s looking to demonstrate those strengths in this new tale, which finds de Jong and police superintendent David Patel interrupting a romantic scuba holiday to solve the brutal stabbing of Amanda Bolton, an air traffic controller turned dive instructor. A mysterious postcard found in the deceased’s room, asking Amanda how she’s coping “after 813 and The Fallen,” is one of many puzzles convincing the P.I. and Patel to set aside their personal differences and cooperate on this frustrating and dangerous task.
House of the Hunted, by Mark Mills (April)
Stuffed full of double-dealing—always an attractive element of espionage yarns—Mills’ latest book brings us Tom Nash, an intelligence officer who’s moved to the French Riviera in the run-up to the Second World War, hoping to find peace as a travel writer as well as an escape from memories of his executed Russian lover. However, an assassin’s attempt on his life shows Nash that he hasn’t covered his tracks nearly so well as he’d hoped. To survive, he must rely on his spy training, doubt even his friends’ loyalties and figure out who wants him dead before they can make him so. Mills’ mix of intrigue and the Côte d’Azur high life is most seductive.
Kings of Midnight, by Wallace Stroby (April)
Coolly professional thief Crissa Stone (from 2011’s Cold Shot to the Heart) has been lying low ever since a plot targeting automated teller machines went disastrously amiss. All she wants is one last hefty score to set herself up for life and win her lover’s parole. So when aging, retired gangster Benny Roth requests her aid in recovering millions of untraceable dollars hidden away ever since the 1978 Lufthansa heist at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport—at that time, the biggest cash robbery in American history—Crissa figures it’s her chance for success. She hasn’t reckoned, though, on going head to head with a mob chieftain who’s determined to take out any competition standing in the way of his grabbing those riches for himself. Stroby’s a lean prose stylist with gift for creating tense and twisted thrillers.
Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby, by Ace Atkins (May)
Just over two years after Parker’s passing at age 77, Mississippi novelist Ace Atkins is bringing back his renowned Boston gumshoe, Spenser, for a 41st book-length escapade—the opening installment of a new series. Lullaby’s plot sounds like vintage Parker: Spenser is asked by a street-savvy 14-year-old, Mattie Sullivan, to look into the murder of her mother, Julie. She’s convinced the man imprisoned for that crime is innocent, and responsibility for Julie’s fatal stabbing lies instead with a couple of Southie drug dealers. Guys she saw wrestle her mother into a car. Guys she couldn’t get the cops to pursue. Even now the Boston Police aren’t interested in the case. But as Spenser digs into it, with help from his smart-mouthed sidekick, Hawk, he realizes Mattie may be right.
Hawkwood, by James McGee (May)
Originally published in Britain in 2006 as Ratcatcher, this swashbuckling, thoroughly absorbing adventure introduces Matthew Hawkwood, a soldier turned Bow Street Runner (one of a real-life, elite band of thief-takers) in early 19th-century London. Here he’s assigned to what sounds like a task beneath his talents: hunting down highwaymen. Yet it provides him entry into an extensive conspiracy with international import, a case that will propel him into squalid alleyways and rococo mansions, ultimately leading him to a stolen military pouch and a French plot to undermine his country’s dominance of the seas. Let’s hope publisher Pegasus will eventually bring all four of McGee’s Hawkwood novels to U.S. readers. They’re corkers!
The Yard, by Alex Grecian (May)
Following Jack the Ripper’s 1888 reign of terror through London’s Whitechapel district, and with the city seeming to grow more dangerous by the day, Scotland Yard creates the Murder Squad, a 12-man unit designed to investigate killings of every sort, and—if all goes well—restore public faith in the Metropolitan Police. When one of those dozen detectives is himself killed, though, it falls to newly hired Murder Squad member Walter Day to bring the perpetrator to justice and, with assistance from the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley, prevent the slaying of any more of Day’s colleagues. The Yard is chock-a-block with dramatic turns and dingy Victorian atmospherics.
Also worth a look: Blood on the Mink, by Robert Silverberg (April); One Red Bastard, by Ed Lin (April); Dorchester Terrace, by Anne Perry (April); Don’t Cry Thai Lake, by Qiu Xiaolong (April); The Reckoning, by Jane Casey (April); Gold Mountain, by Vicki Delany (April); The Inquisitor, by Mark Allen Smith (April); Interlock, by Gary Alexander (April); Lady, Go Die, by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane (May); Lehrter Station, by David Downing (May); The Stonecutter, by Camilla Läckberg (May); As the Crow Flies, by Craig Johnson (May); The Lola Quartet, by Emily St. John Mandel (May); and Getaway, by Lisa Brackmann (May).