Now that we’ve survived yet another predicted end of the world, and are finally winding down the holiday season in a polychromatic flurry of wrapping paper and New Year’s party hats, it’s time to look forward to what works of crime, mystery and thriller fiction 2013 will offer. Or at least what you’ll see in stores over the next three months.
Many of the best-known contributors to this field, from both sides of the Atlantic, have new books scheduled for release between January 1 and the end of March. Those include Robert Crais (Suspect) and Charles Todd (Proof of Guilt), Sue Grafton (Kinsey and Me: Stories), John Connolly (The Wrath of Angels) and Andrew Taylor (The Scent of Death).
Below, though, are the half-dozen works I most look forward to cracking open as winter gradually abandons the stage in favor of spring.
Ratlines, by Stuart Neville (January, U.S.):
It’s 1963, almost two decades after World War II’s end, and Ireland struggles with its choice to grant former Nazis asylum. After a German national is shot to death in a coastal guesthouse—the third such slaying in a fortnight—Lt. Albert Ryan of the Directorate of Intelligence is ordered to investigate. Quietly, of course, for the government wants no scandals preceding U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s imminent visit to Ireland. But when Ryan—who’d fought with the British Army (much to his hometown’s consternation)—discovers that a treacherous SS colonel, now a “gentleman farmer” in County Kildare, is running a network that helps war criminals escape Europe, he’s torn between his duty to protect those refugees and his deeply instilled hatred of them. This promises to be Neville’s finest novel since The Ghosts of Belfast.
Capital Punishment, by Robert Wilson (January, UK):
Wilson is best known for penning A Small Death in Lisbon and four novels about Spanish inspector Javier Falcón (beginning with The Blind Man of Seville). Here, though, he offers a new protagonist, Charles Boxer, a British ex-homicide cop turned “freelance kidnap consultant.” Alyshia D’Cruz, the daughter of shady Indian magnate Frank D’Cruz, has disappeared in London after a night on the town, and Boxer—with backing from his erstwhile lover, detective Mercy Danquah—seeks to return her unharmed. As the action moves from London to Lisbon and Mumbai, though, and Boxer mixes with religious zealots and prospective terrorists, it becomes clear that Alyshia’s abductors don’t want money; they want power and secrets, and will do pretty much anything to obtain them. An American edition of Capital Punishment is due out in March.
Hit Me, by Lawrence Block (February, U.S.):
Born in Playboy in the 1990s, antihero John P. Keller (last seen in Hit and Run) is a contract assassin of uncommon caliber, with steady nerves, an easy-going manner and, in Hit Me, what he hopes is a new life with his small family in New Orleans, where he renovates houses. However, the Great Recession inspires Keller’s return to his lucrative old practices. So off he goes to New York City, where he’s supposed to put an end to an abbot; from there to a cruise through the West Indies with an elusive government witness; and ultimately to Cheyenne, Wyo., where his long interest in philately proves useful in dealing with a widow determined to unload her own hubby’s postage stamp collection. Block’s series is cleverly plotted and oft-ironic in tone—a real treat.
Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman (February, UK):
Brigid Quinn is a 59-year-old former FBI agent, well-experienced in hunting down sexual predators. Perhaps too well-experienced, for one of her last and unsolved cases—involving a protégée, Jessica, who vanished, presumably murdered—left her with memories she’s tried hard to shed. Quinn now resides in Tucson, Ariz., with her husband and their dogs. Her fragile peace is shattered, though, by Floyd Lynch, who knows things about Jessica’s case that were never made public, and offers to lead authorities to her corpse. Quinn wants to believe her nightmare is over, but as she learns more about Lynch, she questions his guilt and finds herself determined to catch the real perpetrator, no matter the costs involved. The U.S. release of Masterman’s debut novel is scheduled for mid-March.
A Treacherous Likeness, by Lynn Shepherd (February, UK):
In her follow-up to last year’s The Solitary House, Shepherd draws us back to the mid-19th century and into the company of private sleuth Charles Maddox. After accepting an assignment from the surviving, disagreeable son of British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, Mary (the author of Frankenstein), Maddox finds himself caught up in a vicious fight over the long-dead poet’s legacy. His search through hidden papers also raises doubts about the demise of Shelley’s original spouse, Harriet, whom the writer abandoned two years before her corpse was found in London’s Hyde Park. Might Harriet’s “suicide” have been something more sinister? And could Maddox’s great-uncle have conspired to cover up the circumstances? Shepherd knows how to blend facts and informed supposition into an atmospherically rich whole.
Criminal Enterprise, by Owen Laukkanen (March, U.S.):
I was impressed with Laukkanen’s first thriller, 2012’s The Professionals, even though I (like many other readers, I suspect) had hoped its story would resolve differently. Therefore, I’m looking forward to this new yarn, which finds FBI agent Carla Windermere partnering again with Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens to bring down an ordinary man turned holdup artist. After losing his professional position and his ability to provide for his family, St. Paul resident Carter Tomlin decides to rob a bank, only to find that he’s good at it and wants to rob more. Pretty soon he takes on accomplices and plays for higher stakes. But as his comfort with violence grows, the chances of his ever reaching old age shrink exponentially.
Also worth a look: Gun Machine, by Warren Ellis (January, U.S.); The Hard Bounce, by Todd Robinson (January, U.S.); Speaking from Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley (January, U.S.); The Third Bullet, by Stephen Hunter (January, U.S.); Close to the Bone, by Stuart MacBride (January, UK); Dead Water, by Ann Cleeves (January, UK); The Missing Italian Girl, by Barbara Corrado Pope (February, U.S.): Seduction of the Innocent, by Max Allan Collins (February, U.S.); Dead People, by Ewart Hutton (February, UK); The Boyfriend, by Thomas Perry (March, U.S.); Helsinki Blood, by James Thompson (March, U.S.); The Asylum, by Johan Theorin (March, UK); and The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, by Fred Vargas (March, UK).