What We Are Reading

January 1, 2016

Mycroft HolmesKareem Abdul-Jabbar & Anna Waterhouse
Mycroft Holmes (Titan Books 2015) introduces 23-year-old Mycroft Holmes, working for the Secretary of State for War in 1870 London. Engaged to Georgiana Sutton, a sugar plantation heiress from Port of Spain, Trinidad, Holmes is saving his wages in anticipation of their marriage in 18 months. His best friend is Cyrus Douglas, a 40-ish man of African descent from Trinidad who imports the cigars Mycroft is partial to. Douglas shares troubling news from home: about 50 adults have disappeared and three children have been found dead, drained of blood, with the backward facing footprints of the legendary douen next to their dead bodies on the beach. Holmes promises to check with his contacts at work, and asks Georgiana if she has received messages from home about the dead children. Georgiana is horrified by the news and determines to set off immediately for Trinidad. After bidding farewell to his younger brother Sherlock, an indifferent and anti-social student at the Royal College of St. Peter, Holmes suggests to his boss that there could be a potential revolt looming in Trinidad and is soon off to Trinidad in pursuit of Georgiana, with Douglas posing as his black servant. Aboard ship they are attacked by thugs, leaving Holmes wounded and bedridden with severe sea sicknesses. In Trinidad, Holmes and Douglas are again set upon, escaping with the help of the local Chinese community, which provides safe lodging while Holmes uses his powers of observation and diplomatic skills to figure out what secrets are being protected with the blood of innocent children. This debut mystery imagining the events that began to transform the young Mycroft into the hidden power behind the British government is hopefully the first in a series.

HadesCandice Fox
Hades (Kensington 2015, Australia 2014) begins when Hades Archer, a “fixer” in Sydney, Australia, takes the job of disposing of two bodies in the Utulla dump he manages. Hades will do just about anything for money, but he is disgusted by his client who brings him the results of a botched kidnapping, and plans to dispose of his client along with the evidence of his crime. Then the toes clench on the tiny foot emerging from the bundle, and Hades realizes that at least one of the children is still alive. He raises the brother and sister as his own, soon realizing that being part of the violent death of their parents has influenced their personalities: Eric grows up to be wild and vicious, Eden intuitive and dangerous. Hoping to prevent them from arrest for their increasingly violent acts, Hades enrolls them in online courses in forensic investigation, ballistics, sociology, and psychology, enabling them to become police homicide detectives. Frank Bennett is Eden’s new partner after the death of her former partner. Frank is immediately attracted to Eden, and a bit frightened by her brother Eric. They are assigned to investigate a serial killer who harvests body parts to sell to rich patients waiting for transplants. This gripping and violent debut police procedural won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel.

/collector of SecretsRichard Goodfellow
Collector of Secrets (Polis Books 2015) is the story of Max Travers, a young American teaching English in Yoko Murayama’s exclusive private school in Tokyo, Japan. For the past nine months, Max has also visited Yoko’s father in his office above the school for a private weekly English lesson. At first reluctant, Mr. Murayama now looks forward to his weekly conversation with the curious young American, whose interest in Japanese history allows him to revisit memories of the past. One Thursday, Mr. Murayama shows Max a puzzle box from his secret collection of war mementoes, containing watches given to him as gifts when he served in the Philippines in World War Two. Mr. Murayama is sure the watches were confiscated from prisoners, and asks Max to help him return them to the families they were stolen from. Max likes and respects Mr. Murayama, but has decided to resign from his position at Yoko’s school, convinced that she is swindling the parents of her students. Unfortunately Yoko is holding Max’s passport and refuses to return it. Late one night Max breaks into the office to retrieve his passport, stumbling into a burglary in progress. Spotting Yakuza tattoos on one of the burglars, Max flees, grabbing a satchel on his way out. Inside the satchel is the secret diary of Prince Takeda, Emperor Hirohito’s first cousin, detailing decades of Imperial Japan’s plunder of treasure in Southeast Asia. Prince Takeda was in charge of hiding hordes of valuables in the Philippines during WWII, along with the bodies of the captive Filipinos who constructed the hidden caches. Max’s blond hair is spotted as he flees the scene, and he is pursued by the Japanese police, the Yakuza, and a mysterious and very dangerous American. With the help of a Shinto priest he meets on the subway, Max tries to unravel the secrets of the diary in order to trade them for his freedom. This debut thriller is captivating.

The ScribeMatthew Guinn
The Scribe (W.W. Norton & Company 2015) is set in 1881 Atlanta, Georgia. Thomas Canby, a former Atlanta police detective who left in disgrace three years earlier after a charge of bribery, is called back to investigate a series of murders targeting prosperous African Americans. The Atlanta “Ring,” a powerful group of white Atlanta businessmen responsible for Canby’s exile, are concerned that news of the murders will keep visitors away from Atlanta, just as the International Cotton Exposition celebrating the city’s revival after Reconstruction, is about to open. So far the Ring has managed to keep news of the gruesome murders out of the papers, and they hope pairing Canby with Cyrus Underwood, Atlanta’s first African-American police officer, will bring a quick resolution to the crimes. Each body has been mutilated in some way, and then marked with a letter carved into the forehead. Canby, the son of an immigrant Irish minister who was killed during the Battle of Atlanta, was raised without racism, but their joint investigation is constantly impeded by rules against Underwood’s presence in hotels, restaurants, and carriages. Underwood, the first to discover the first two victims, is himself a suspect, and Canby is not sure how far he can trust his new partner. Canby alters the letter on the forehead of the third victim, hoping to bring the killer out into the open, but his interference points suspicion toward an innocent man. This intense historical thriller hints at the possibility of a sequel.

Codename XenophonLeo Kanaris
Codename Xenophon (Dedalus Limited 2015) introduces George Zafiris, a private investigator barely making ends meet in 2010 Athens. Ever since his wife left him for another man, the two live mostly apart and Zafiris is often lonely and depressed. The current financial crisis doesn’t help, and he is continually aware of the contrast between Greece’s noble past and the government corruption that has created an obstructive bureaucracy and dysfunctional society. Zafiris is hired by the powerful Constantine Petrakis to investigate the murder of his brother John, a classical scholar, on the island of Aegina. John was about to give a lecture on the darkness behind the light of Classical Greek culture, including the topics of slavery, prostitution, pedophilia, and human sacrifice. Constantine is sure the murder has something to do with John’s research, especially since he was killed on Greek National Independence Day. Madame Corneille, the woman John was staying with, discovered his murdered body sprawled in the shower, killed by a single shot to the head. Constantine insists that the local police aren’t doing anything to investigate the crime, so Zafiris begins by interviewing Madame Corneille’s neighbor Colonel Varzalis, a former sharpshooter now in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The Colonel shares the handwritten records of his shooting club, which has declined over the last few years, but he no longer remembers which man is matched with the codenames he used when listing their guns. The local police impede Zafiris’s investigation in every way possible, but he can’t figure out if their disinterest in identifying the murder is a cover-up or simply their normal incompetent operating procedure. This impressive debut novel is the first in a planned quartet.

Freedom’s ChildJax Miller
Freedom’s Child (Crown 2015) is the story of Freedom Oliver, a bartender at a biker bar in the small town of Painter, Oregon. Freedom keeps to herself except when she drinks too much, which is nearly every night. Officer James Mattely picks Freedom up for public drunkenness several nights a week, and drives her home, listening to her drunken ramblings about the two children she lost and her desperate fear of being raped. Twenty years earlier Freedom was arrested for killing her abusive policeman husband, spending two years in prison before new evidence caused the case against her to be dismissed with prejudice. While in prison she put her young son and newborn daughter up for adoption to keep them out of the hands of her husband’s vengeful and sadistic family. Upon her release she was relocated under the witness protection program, obligated to check in with her FBI handlers every month. Informed that she had signed her rights to her children away, and convinced that they were adopted into a loving family, Freedom contents herself with writing letters to them in Goshem, Kentucky, which she never mails, except the one to her daughter that slipped by mistake into a pile of outgoing bills. Each chapter narrated by Freedom begins, "My name is Freedom and…" plunging the reader directly into the anguish of the past that permeates her present. Instead of taking the prescribed medications to silence the voices in her head, Freedom stockpiles them, planning to commit suicide when her storage jar is full. When the FBI tells her that Matthew Delaney, her husband’s brother who was convicted of his murder, has been released, Freedom is shocked out of her routine by the fear that he will begin hunting for her and her children. When her daughter is reported missing, Freedom throws caution to the wind and sets out for Kentucky to rescue the daughter she never knew. This intense debut thriller is a harrowing portrayal of the power of vengeance and love.

The Nightmare PlaceSteve Mosby
The Nightmare Place (Pegasus 2015, UK 2014) find Detective Inspector Zoe Dolan and her partner DI Chris Sands searching for a man known as the Creeper, a serial rapist who breaks into the homes of young single women and attacks them during the dead of night. Zoe is haunted by a recurring nightmare where she is terrorized by a threatening figure in the crumbling ruins of an old factory near her childhood school. She empathizes with the growing fear of women who don’t feel safe in their own beds. The police can’t figure out how the Creeper gets into the houses of the women, whose doors and windows are always locked, or identify any connection between the targeted women. The escalation of violence adds an additional weight to the search; the Creeper is edging closer to murder with each attack. Then Jane Webster, a volunteer for a phone helpline called Mayday, receives a call from a man who tells her he has raped and beaten women, breaking down into tears during the call. Jane’s boss reminds her that Mayday is a confidential service, and that she cannot tell anyone about the call. After the second call, when the man confesses to killing his latest victim, Jane can’t help herself and goes to the police with her story. Zoe assumes that the caller is just another crackpot compelled to confess to crimes reported in the paper until Jane shares a detail that the police kept hidden. Occasional chapters from the perspective of the Creeper add an extra element of foreboding to this very effective psychological thriller.

The Do-RightLisa Sandlin
The Do-Right (Cinco Puntos Press 2015) is set in 1973 Beaumont, Texas, a Cajun-infused blue collar bayou town. Delpha Wade has just been released Gatesville Women’s Prison (known locally as the Do-Right) after serving 14 years for voluntary manslaughter for killing one of the two men who violently raped her. Delpha earned a secretarial certificate in prison, but no one wants to hire a parolee until her parole officer convinces his old friend Tom Phelan to give her a chance. Phelan has quit his job as a roughneck on an oil rig after losing a finger, and opened a private detective agency with his workers’ comp settlement. Within an hour Delpha helps Phelan land his first client, a woman whose teenage son Ricky has disappeared, and coaxes details out of the wealthy Mrs. Lloyd Elliot who wants them to follow her husband, the attorney for a small petrochemical company. Phelan tracks down Ricky, rescuing him from what appears to be the lair of a possible serial killer targeting young boys, and photographs Lloyd Elliot meeting another woman at a motel. Delpha gradually becomes used to life outside prison, reveling in moments of peace all alone in her tiny room at a cheap hotel where the elderly residents follow every minute of the Watergate hearings. Phelan finds himself valuing her ability to organize his office, the research skills gained while working in the prison library, and her insight into human motivation honed by 14 years of closely observing her fellow prisoners. The two work together on a variety of cases, including retrieving a man’s prosthetic leg from his older siblings and staking out a possible dog poisoner, while trying to turn Phelan’s dream of running his own private investigation agency into a reality. This excellent mystery is the debut novel by an accomplished short story writer.

The BlondesEmily Schultz
The Blondes (Thomas Dunne Books 2015) begins when Hazel Hayes, a PhD candidate doing research in New York City on the influence of advertising images on women, discovers she is pregnant from an affair with her married thesis advisor back in Toronto. On the way home from her doctor appointment, Hazel is waiting for a subway train when a blonde woman wearing a red business suit attacks a teenager and pushes her onto the tracks, both women crushed by the oncoming train. Shocked by the deaths and consumed with anxiety about her pregnancy, Hazel stays in her room for a few days, missing the news of five more attacks by blonde women in New York City and six in Los Angeles. Hazel tried to catch a flight from JFK back to Canada to share the news of her pregnancy with the father of her baby, but seven blonde flight attendants wreak havoc in the airport and all flights are cancelled. Blonde women everywhere (natural or died) are advised by perky formerly blonde TV commentators to follow their example and dye their hair dark to reduce the chance of catching the rabies-like plague that so far has only infected blonde women and girls. Hazel is a red-head, but her fair skin causes suspicious looks on the street and blonde women begin to shave their heads in a desperate attempt to escape the disease that is transforming beautiful women into rabid killers. Desperate to return home, Hazel tries to drive across the border, and is sent to an detention camp where all blonde-ish women are shaved and quarantined for the eight weeks it takes the disease to manifest. This satirical science fiction thriller is both funny and terrifying.

ChrushPhoef Sutton
Crush (Prospect Park Books 2015) introduces Caleb Rush (AKA Crush) a bodyguard and bouncer at a Hollywood nightclub. When Crush effortlessly ejects some roughhousing clients from the club, Amelia Trask, the spoiled 18-year-old daughter of billionaire Stanley Trask, watches admiringly. Two thugs try to kidnap Amelia in the parking lot, and when Crush rescues her she hires him as her bodyguard on the spot. Crush learns that Amelia already has a bodyguard hired by her father: Victoria Donleavy, who used to be Crush’s boss when he worked security. Amelia explains that ever since she found the body of her uncle Walter drowned in the swimming pool, things have been strange at home. Walter was her father’s partner in GlobalInterLink, the world’s largest communications company, and Amelia suspects that the company is bankrupt, and her father is in debt to the Russian Mafiya. Victoria agrees that additional security for Amelia is a good idea, and convinces Trask to hire Crush to keep an eye on Amelia while Victoria and her team concentrate on protecting Trask. Things get confusing and dangerous very quickly as Crush tries to guard Amelia against exploding cars and kidnapping, assisted by his friend Catherine Gail, a bartender and tae kwon do master, and K.C. Zerbe, Crush’s sort of brother and computer expert currently confined to his home with an ankle monitor. Witty narration and vivid action scenes propel this first in a new series starring the smart and formidable Crush.

February 1, 2016

The Long and Faraway GoneLou Berney
The Long and Faraway Gone (William Morrow 2015) begins when Las Vegas private investigator Wyatt is asked to help out a friend’s niece who is being harassed after inheriting a club. Wyatt agrees before he learns that Candace’s new club is in Oklahoma City, a city Wyatt would prefer never to visit again. Twenty-six years earlier two tragedies occurred in Oklahoma City: six employees at a movie theater were shot and killed in an armed robbery, and a 17-year-old girl vanished at the annual State Fair. Julianna, 12 when her sister Genevieve left her at the food court and never returned, is as haunted by the unsolved crime as Wyatt is by the theater killings. While Wyatt searches for a motive for the club vandalism, Juliana pursues every slight clue from that long and faraway gone summer, hoping to discover what happened to Genevieve. Julianna and Wyatt’s stories proceed in parallel, overlapping with only fleeting contact between the two. Wyatt deals with the constant question of why he alone was spared by the killers with wise cracking banter. Juliana finds it difficult to concentrate on work while obsessed by any remote connection with her sister. Nomiated for both the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Paperback and Lefty Award for Best World Mystery, this affecting thriller explores the long reaching effects of trauma on the survivors and the difficulty of leaving the past behind.

The CrossingMichael Connelly
The Crossing (Little, Brown and Company 2015) finds LAPD Detective Harry Bosch finally retired. Bosch tries to pretend that his project restoring a classic 1950 Harley motorcycle is enough to keep him occupied, but he misses the mental stimulation of murder investigations. Defense attorney Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half-brother, asks him to help investigate the brutal murder of a woman in her own bed. Haller is convinced that his client Da’Quan Foster, a former gang member who has turned his life around, is being framed for the murder. Bosch hates the thought of crossing the aisle to work with the defense, knowing he will be shunned by his former police colleagues. A look through the murder book hooks him — there are numerous holes in the evidence and dangling threads that weren’t fully investigated. Haller is focused on finding anything he can use to create a reasonable doubt that his client is a murderer, but Bosch is determined to track down the real killer, no matter what the cost. Bosch has always chaffed against the rules binding police investigations, and discovers that working as a private investigator suits his lone-wolf personality far better than he expected. Unfortunately, the resources open to the police are now out of reach, unless he can convince former colleagues to share information. This masterful 20th in the series, a finalist for the 2016 Lefty Award for Best Regional Mystery, opens the door to a new career for the talented Harry Bosch.

Is Fat bob Dead Yet?Stephen Dobyns
Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? (Blue Rider Press 2015) begins when a man riding a Fat Bob Harley is cut in half by a reversing dump truck in New London, Connecticut. Connor Raposo, whose Mini Cooper was trapped in the accident, strikes up a conversation with Sal Nicoletti, the driver of the car parked in front of Connor’s. The name isn’t familiar, but Conner is sure he knows Nicoletti’s face from his days working in a Detroit casino. Conner is new in town, working for his uncle Didi Lobato at Bounty, Inc., housed in an illegally parked Winnebago Journey. Vaughn, a math whiz and computer hacker whose voice sounds just like the late singer Vaughn Monroe, and Eartha, who can purr like Eartha Kitt, make targeted phone calls from bogus charitable organizations like “Prom Queens Anonymous” and “Orphans from Outer Space.” Armed with a list of local middle-aged beagle owners, their new London calls are going out to raise money for “Free Beagles from Nicotine Addiction.” Angelina Rossi, the ex-wife of a man known as Fat Bob for his collection of Harleys, is on the list, and unfortunately also the Pumpkin Queen of 1985. Conner’s job is to make home collections from those who want to donate in person. When he shows up at Angelina’s house twice, she realizes something is fishy. Detectives Manny Streeter, who is obsessed with karaoke, and Benny Vikström, who suffers from acrophobia, investigate the accident, learning that the man on the motorcycle was not Fat Bob, but a friend test driving the Harley. Each character has a unique eccentricity. Vaughn’s mangled speech pattern is the most endearing. When threatened he shouts: “I’m having a nervous shakedown! I need medical resistance!” This darkly comic suspense novel is masterful.

Web of DeceitKatherine Howell
Web of Deceit (Minotaur 2015, Australia 2013) is the sixth in the series featuring Detective Ella Marconi and the ambulance paramedics of Sydney, Australia. Paramedics Jane Koutoufides and Alex Churchill are called to an accident where witnesses state the driver deliberately crashed his car into a tree. The terrified man at first refuses to leave the car, insisting that he is in danger, but Jane coaxes him to the ambulance and then the hospital. Marko Meixner refuses to identify the man he claims is after him, stating that his rescuers would be in danger if he did. The overworked ER unit leaves Marko in the waiting room awaiting a psych evaluation, and he leaves. Later that same night Ella and her partner Murray Shakespeare are called to a death at the Town Hall train station, where a man has just been crushed by a train. It is unclear if the victim jumped, fell, or was pushed. One witness claims the dead man was being chased by another man, but no one else saw anything suspicious. The paramedics identify the dead man as Marko Meixner, sharing their experience with him earlier that evening. Ella’s budget-obsessed boss would like the case quickly closed as an accident, but the discovery that Marko’s testimony as a witness in a murder case put recently released Paul Canning in prison 17 years earlier gives Ella a motive she can’t ignore. The two police detectives and the two paramedics all try to balance personal problems with the pressures of their professions, adding depth to this excellent police procedural, a finalist for the 2013 Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction, and the first in the series to be released in the US.

Taking PityDavid Mark
Taking Pity (Blue Rider Press 2015) begins three months after the explosion that destroyed Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy’s home in Hull, England, and sent his wife Roisin and baby daughter into hiding under police protection. McAvoy has nearly recovered from his physical wounds, but Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh worries about his mental health, and gives him a cold case to investigate part-time in order to ease him back into the job. Fifty years earlier a family of four was murdered at St. Germain’s Church. Peter Coles, a mentally slow young man found at the scene covered with blood, was arrested, locked up under the Mental Health Act, but never tried for the crime. After a long campaign by his mother to the home secretary, Peter’s doctors have decided he is sane enough to stand trial, and the police need to determine if there is enough evidence to bring a case against him. McAvoy would prefer to keep working against the Headhunters, an outside gang trying to wrest control of the local scene from 81-year-old crime boss Francis Noke, hoping to bring about a resolution that will allow Roisin to come home. But money is short, and McAvoy begins to sift through the 50-year-old evidence, soon discovering discrepancies that cause him to doubt that Peter Coles actually committed the murders. In fact, reinterviewing the surviving witnesses brings to light a connection to Francis Noke back when he was just beginning to establish his power base. This excellent police procedural is the 4th in the series.

Where They Found HerKimberly McCreight
Where They Found Her (Harper 2015) begins when freelance journalist Molly Sanderson, a new town resident, is sent to cover the discovery of a body by the Essex Bridge in Ridgedale, New Jersey. Molly hasn’t done any crime reporting yet, but the Ridgedale Reader is short staffed and she agrees to head out in the cold winter morning to observe the scene. When she discovers the body is a newborn baby, Molly isn’t sure she can continue, having recently emerged from a year-long depression after giving birth to a stillborn daughter. Molly’s husband Justin, a college professor, advises her to give up the story, but once Molly recovers from the initial shock she is eager to cover the story, hoping to bring her own mourning to final closure. When Molly posts her news updates online, speculation about who the baby might belong to swirls through the town. The wooded property near Essex Bridge, owned by Ridgedale University, was the site of the accidental death of a senior at a graduation party 20 years earlier. Molly decides to focus on the connection with the school while the police work on identifing the baby. Meanwhile, Sandy, a 15-year-old dropout, wakes up to discover that her unreliable mother Jenna didn’t come home the night before. Missing along with Jenna is the cash Sandy has been hoarding for an emergency, like the eviction notice that just appeared on their front door. Sandy sets out in search of Jenna, but no one has seen her since she left her job as a bar waitress the evening before. Excerpts from Jenna’s diary written 21 years earlier fill in the back story of the connections between Molly’s new friends, Justin’s colleagues at the university, and the chief of police. Interspersed recordings of Molly’s psychiatric sessions and entries from her therapy journal add dimension to Molly’s struggle to overcome depression, which is perhaps threatened by the dark secrets her investigation uncovers.

Angels BurningTawni O’Dell
Angels Burning (Gallery Books 2016) is the story of Dove Carnahan, police chief in the small town of Buchanan, Pennsylvania. Named after her mother’s favorite soap, Dove has lived in Campbell’s Run for the entire 50 years of her life. Each of the three children in her family were fathered by a different man, and it wasn’t until Dove was in her teens that her mother finally married, trading a hand-to-mouth existence for the comfort and security of life with one of the town’s wealthiest men. Dove has just returned to her office after pulling the partially burned body of a teenaged girl from a pit, when Lucky, the man convicted of murdering her mother 35 years earlier appears, declaring his innocence of the crime and demanding to know why Dove and her younger sister Neely lied and sent him to prison. Dove identifies the dead girl as Camio Truly, part of a notorious family of lawbreakers and rednecks. Camio’s younger brother Tug works for Neely, helping take care of the dogs she trains for search and rescue. Camio’s home life reminds Dove all too much of her own early years, and she throws herself into the investigation, only the 4th murder in her 27 years in law enforcement. The Trulys are distrustful of the police, and Dove is sure that most of them are lying nearly all of the time, but she hammers away at their apathy and anger until cracks appear in the shield they have constructed between their clan and the outside world. Meanwhile, Dove’s younger brother Champ reappears after an absence of twenty-five years with a young son she and Neeley knew nothing about, causing similar ripples of agitation in her own family. This emotionally powerful novel explores the anguish of family connections with an engaging protagonist who manages to bring out the best in those around her.

HostageKristina Ohlsson
Hostage (Emily Bestler Books 2015, Sweden 2012) is set in 2011 Stockholm. Four bomb threats are reported at various locations around the city, bringing together Fredrika Bergman, an investigative analyst on temporary assignment for the Justice Department, Detective Inspector Alex Recht, now with the National Bureau of Investigation, and Eden Lundell, head of Säpo’s counterterrorism unit. No bombs explode by the deadline. Instead, shortly after a Boeing 747 departs Stockholm for New York, a flight attendant finds a bomb threat taped to the door of the first class lavatory. The note demands that the USA shut down Tennyson Cottage, a top-secret American detention facility in Afghanistan, and that the Swedish government revoke its decision to deport Zakaria Khelifi, a suspected terrorist threatened with an honor killing if he returns to his native Algeria. The plane is instructed to fly until it runs out of fuel, in about 13 hours, at which time the bomb will be detonated unless the demands are met. Karim Sassi, the pilot, and Alex Recht’s son Erik, the co-pilot, argue about making an emergency landing. Erik believes it is the only solution since neither government will agree to negotiate with terrorists, but Karim insists they follow the bomb threat directions. On the ground, Frederika is assigned as liaison between the government and the police, and begins researching the evidence against Zakaria Khelifi. The Americans search for a connection between their secret detention center and Zakaria Khelifi, determined to prevent another 9/11 incident at all costs. This intense and nearly bloodless thriller, 4th in the series, explores the disturbing motivations for actions of terrorism and counterterrorism policies.

When the Devil’s IdleLeta Serafim
When the Devil’s Idle (Coffeetown Press 2015) finds Yiannis Patronas, the chief police officer on the island of Chios, Greece, called to the island of Patmos when Walter Bechtel, an elderly German tourist, is found murdered in the garden of a luxurious rented estate. Murder is an unusual crime in Greece, and Patronas now has a reputation as a murder specialist after solving exactly one murder case. Patronas takes his top detective Giorgos Tembelos, and his friend and rabid murder mystery fan Papa Michalis, a retired priest, to assist with the investigation. The murder took place inside the high walls of the isolated estate, making the six people at the house the prime suspects: the victim’s son, his wife, their two children, the housekeeper, and the gardener. None of the six appear to have a motive for the murder, and the swastika carved into Bechtel’s forehead points toward a connection with the past. When Papa Michalis discovers that the housekeeper is from Aghios Sefanos, he reminds Patronas of the Nazi massacre in the northern village where over 100 non-combatants were killed. Patronas, recently freed from a stifling marriage, has taken on Papa Michalis as a roommate, discovering that his enormous appetite for seafood is taking a toll on his reduced finances due to the financial crisis cutbacks to police salaries. The two form an endearing investigative team in this very enjoyable second in the Greek Island mysteries.

The Constable’s TaleDonald Smith
The Constable’s Tale (Pegasus 2015) is set in 1759 colonial America. Harry Woodyard, a small plantation owner, is the volunteer constable of Craven County in North Carolina. A traveling peddler discovers the bodies of a small boy and his parents on their plantation. The bodies are posed, as Indians often left their victims, but the baby left alive in the crib makes Harry suspect that a non-Indian murderer is trying to shift the blame. Comet Elijah, an elderly Tuscarora Indian who mentored Harry as a youth, is arrested for the crime, and the judge isn’t interested in searching for another suspect. Harry is sure that the map of Pamlico Sound and a medallion bearing a Masonic crest found under the crib were left behind by the real killer. Harry sets off without permission in search for information about the Masonic medallion, first to Virginia, then Boston, and finally Quebec where the French and Indian War is raging. Quotes from “Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation” introduce each chapter, and Henry often muses about the proper behavior when introduced to gentlemen like George Washington. Harry, who is handy with a tomahawk as well as a gun, is well-equipped to take care of himself along the journey, though he begins to suspect that the various attacks he undergoes are not random attempted robberies but a coordinated effort to halt his investigation. This engaging debut historical mystery is hopefully the first in a series.

March 1, 2016

A Woman UnknownFrances Brody
A Woman Unknown (Minotaur 2015, UK 2012) rejoins Kate Shackleton in 1923, expanding the private investigation business built on her expertise in finding missing persons, honed during the search for news of her husband Gerald, missing and presumed dead in WWI. Cyril Fitzpatrick asks Kate and her assistant Mr. Sykes, to discover where his much younger wife Deirdre disappears to on a semi-regular basis. Sykes had previous experience with Deirdre while on store detective duty when she was caught tucking a bottle of expensive perfume into her handbag. Deirdre claims to be taking care of her sick mother, but Mr. Fitzpatrick has doubts. Soon after Kate takes the case, Everett Runcie, a banker married to an American heiress who wants to divorce him, is found dead in a hotel room. An unknown woman was seen by the chambermaid in the room, but she disappears before the police arrive. Kate suspects that the unknown woman is Deirdre, perhaps supplementing the meager allowance her husband gives her by serving as a co-respondent in divorce cases under the new Matrimonial Causes Act, which allows women uncontested divorces on the grounds of adultery. The question is — who could have killed Runcie and why? This engaging fourth in the series is a finalist for the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award.

StayVictor Gischler
Stay (Thomas Dunne Books 2015) features David Sparrow, a stay-at-home dad on leave from the military. While David takes care of their 4-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, his wife Amy commutes to New York City, where she has just been promoted to Assistant District Attorney. Amy’s new case is the prosecution of Dante Payne, a controlling crime lord. The Sparrow house is burglarized one night, and David surprises the thief riffling through Amy’s desk. David’s secret background as a solo operative in the military helps him subdue the thief, repossessing a flash drive dropped in the scuffle. The police think they have arrested a habitual petty thief, but David is convinced the man had special training in hand-to-hand combat. He takes the man’s fingerprints to Charlie Findler, David’s first handler while running Solo Ops, who believes the thief’s record is manufactured. There isn’t much hard evidence against Payne, so the police bring the one witness willing to testify into protective custody. During the transfer, the witness is killed and Amy’s boss is wounded and hospitalized, leaving her in full command of the prosecution. Two days later the police guard on the Findler house suddenly departs, and David barely manages to get his family away safely from the armed attack that follows. Sending the children away with Amy’s sister, David and Amy go to ground, struggling to evade Payne’s hired guns while Charlie tries to break through the security on the flashdrive. This high-intensity thriller’s non-stop action is leavened with flashes of humor.

Luckiest Girl AliveJessica Knoll
Luckiest Girl Alive (Simon & Schuster 2015) is the story of TifAni FaNelli, expelled from her all-girls Catholic school in suburban Philadelphia at the end of 8th grade. Determined to give her daughter the connections needed to succeed socially, TifAni’s mother enrolls her in the prestigious Bradley School. On the first day TifAni is befriended by young Honors English teacher Mr. Larson, brilliant overweight Arthur, who invites her to eat at his lunch table, and fellow newcomer Liam. Arthur points out the popular girls, Hilary and Olivia, who seem willing to give the desperate TifAni and handsome Liam a chance to swirl at the outskirts of the “in” group. Years later, Ani has dropped the Tif from her first name, reinventing herself as an elegant New Yorker with a prestigious magazine editing job, an ultra-fashionable wardrobe, and a rich fiancé. Ani should be the luckiest girl alive, but a request to be interviewed for a documentary revisiting the Bradley School shooting causes her to question her perfect life. While starving herself into a size 0 for her upcoming wedding, a chance encounter with former teacher Andrew Larson precipitates the reemergence of suppressed memories of the physical and psychological damage Ani endured during her Freshman year. This intense suspense novel is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

What She KnewGilly Macmillan
What She Knew (William Morrow 2015, APA: Burnt Paper Sky) is the story of Rachel Jenner, whose 8-year-old son Ben disappears while they are walking in a Bristol park on a Sunday afternoon. Ben pleaded to be allowed to run ahead to his favorite rope swing with his little dog, and Rachel agreed after checking that he could find the trail by himself. When Rachel arrived at the swing a few minutes later, Ben had vanished without a trace. Already insecure after her recent divorce from Ben’s father John, Rachel falls apart and goes off script at the news interview, threatening the kidnapper instead of encouraging him to return Ben to his loving family. Public opinion turns against Rachel, wondering how a mother could let a young child roam alone in the woods and speculating that she must have something to do with his disappearance. As the days tick by, Rachel finds it hard to trust anyone who had even the briefest contact with Ben, including John’s new wife and the staff at Ben’s school, wondering if there was some small clue she missed. Alternating chapters from the perspective of Rachel and Jim Clemo, the lead detective, along with transcripts from Jim’s psychotherapy sessions to determine if his panic attacks and insomnia are under control, chronicle the devastating effects of the disappearance of a child. This intense debut psychological thriller is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Paperback.

Woman With a Blue PencilGordon McAlpine
Woman with a Blue Pencil (Seventh Street Books 2015) begins in late 1941 Los Angeles. Takumi Sato, a young American-born Japanese debut author is working on a detective novel featuring Sam Sumida, a former college professor turned amateur detective after the murder of his wife Kyoko. Maxine Wakefield, Takumi’s New York editor, is enthusiastic about his book proposal and opening chapters, especially his groundbreaking premise of featuring an Oriental protagonist, instead of deferential characters like Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto. But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, Maxine cancels the contract and directs Takumi to return his advance, offering the alternative of rewriting the chapters to remove the Caucasian villain and change the protagonist’s race to Korean or Chinese. Interwoven chapters from The Revised begin with Sam Sumida watching “The Maltese Falcon” in order to pick up some detecting tips on the evening of December 6th. The film breaks, and when the film resumes, it is January 22nd and none of Sam’s friends and acquaintances remember him. Erased by Maxine’s blue editing pencil, Sam continues his hunt to identify his wife’s killer in a world where he no longer belongs. Meanwhile, Jimmy Park, the all-American Korean protagonist in Takumi’s revised book The Orchid and the Secret Agent, is on the trail of Jap agents in his role of consultant to the FBI. Letters from Maxine cajoling Tamiko into continuing the revised novel as he and his family lose everything and are shipped off to the Manzanar War Location Center are interwoven with the two parallel narratives. This powerful exploration of the “blue pencil erasure” of Japanese-Americans during World War II is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

Little Pretty ThingsLori Rader-Day
Little Pretty Things (Seventh Street Books 2015) begins when Juliet Townsend, still living with her mother at the age of 28 and working as a maid in the seedy Mid-Night Inn, is surprised by the appearance of Maddy Bell at the check-in counter. Juliet and Maddy were best friends and rivals on the track team in high school, when Juliet always came in a close second to Maddy’s first place, but have been out of touch since a fight before graduation. Juliet’s dreams of college evaporated when second place wasn’t enough to earn a sports scholarship along with of the death of her beloved father. Maddy, elegantly dressed and wearing a huge diamond engagement ring, is everything Juliet is not. The two have a brief conversation, and Maddy expresses a hope that they can get to know each other again. But the next morning Juliet discovers Maddy’s body hanging from the Mid-Night Inn balcony rail. Realizing she is a suspect in a possible murder, Juliet decides to investigate Maddy’s death, which forces her to confront conflicted emotions about the disintegration of their friendship as high school seniors. With the Mid-Night Inn closed as a crime scene, Juliet gratefully accepts a substitute position for the track coach who is grieving Maddy’s death, getting to know the current crop of “little pretty things” on the girls’ track team, and searching for a copy of the senior yearbook Maddy convinced her not to read or buy. Juliet’s habit of pocketing small attractive objects she encounters leads her to remove several objects from the hotel room as well as Maddy’s old bedroom, perhaps important clues that could identify Maddy’s killer. This absorbing thriller is a finalist for the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award.

UnbecomingRebecca Scherm
Unbecoming (Viking 2015) finds 23-year-old Grace living in a shabby room on the outskirts of Paris, restoring antiques for Zanuso et Filles. Grace tells her fellow workers that she is Julie from California, though she is really Grace from Garland, Tennessee. She obsessively checks the online version of the Garland paper, searching for news of Riley Graham and Alls Hughes, who have just been parolled after serving three years in prison for stealing antiques from Wynne House, Garland’s display mansion. Grace was the mastermind behind the robbery, but Riley and Alls have kept her involvement secret, despite the fact that she fled to Europe and never contacted them after the arrest. Grace and the privileged Riley became best friends as children, and lovers as teenagers, though Grace was never sure if she loved Riley’s mother, who treated Grace as the daughter she never had, more than Riley himself. Riley’s best friend Alls shared Grace’s background of poverty and neglect, which may have fanned the flames of the star-crossed desire that grew between them. After one semester as an art history major at New York University and a gallery job that taught her to appraise antiques, Grace dropped out and returned to Garland, where the lax security at Wynne House grew into an irresistible temptation. Now that Riley and Alls have been parolled, Grace is consumed with fear that one or both will track her down through the trail of name changes she left in her wake as she fled. Grace’s obsession with the precious objects she evaluates and repairs helps to explain her transformation in this engaging caper novel, a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

CanaryDuane Swierczynski
Canary (Mulholland Books 2015) begins when when 17-year-old honors student Sarie Holland agrees to give a fellow student she calles “D.” a ride home from a party. D. asks Sarie to stop off in North Philly to pick up a book at his friend Chuckie’s place. Sarie suspects it’s really a stop to buy some weed, but can’t figure out how to say no. D. emerges with a backpack and then offers to buy Sarie a cheesesteak in thanks. Sarie is vegetarian, but takes him to the restaurant. Ben Wildey, a narcotics officer, has been watching Chuckie Morphine’s place, and follows Sarie’s car to the restaurant. While D. is inside buying food and Sarie is circling the block, Wildey pulls her over, and discovers a bag of pills inside the windbreaker D. left on the back seat. Her fake ID gives her age as 21, and Wildey takes her in, threatening to arrest her unless she becomes a confidential informant and turns in her boyfriend and his drug supplier. Sarie becomes CI #137, but is determined not give up D. to the police, instead trying to come up with evidence against Chuckie, who is pressuring D. to deliver the money from selling the pills or suffer the consequences. When other CIs are found dead, Wildey suspects that there is an informant inside the police selling information to the drug lords and Sarie isn’t sure whom she can trust. Narrated partly through diary entries to her recently dead mother, this thriller featuring a clever and committed “Honors Girl” is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Night LifeDavid C. Taylor
Night Life (Forge 2015) introduces Michael Cassidy, an NYPD cop in New York City. On New Year’s Eve 1953, Cassidy chases a man who just robbed a pharmacy, catching him by a double parked Cadillac limousine containing a group of men and a heavy-set woman in a red dress. One of the men orders Cassidy away from the car, but he is intent on taking down the robber and refuses to give way, even after the man announces he is Roy Cohn, Senator Joe McCarthy’s lawyer on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations. Cassidy’s partner Orso warns him he’s made a powerful enemy, but Cassidy can’t imagine how Cohn can harm an honest police officer. Cassidy and Orso are assigned the murder of Alexander Ingram, a chorus dancer who was tortured and killed in his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Ingram was in the cast of Cassidy’s father’s new Broadway show, and worked part time as a room service waiter at the Waldorf. When a second dancer is murdered, Cassidy realizes that both the FBI and the newly-formed CIA are very interested in the murders, and everyone is searching for something dangerous they won’t identify. When Cassidy’s father, a refugee from Eastern Europe, is brought before the Subcommittee and accused of being a Communist, Cassidy goes to his godfather Frank Costello, a Mafia boss, and is offered a trade of his father’s freedom for whatever everyone is desperate to find. This cinemagraphic debut novel starring a talented police officer driven by his strong sense of justice, is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Mystery.

Stone Cold DeadJames W. Ziskin
Stone Cold Dead (Seventh Street Books 2015) begins when Irene Metzger appears at Ellie Stone’s door in New Holland, New York, on New Year’s Eve 1960. Mrs. Metzger tells Ellie that her 15-year-old daughter Darleen Hicks vanished on her way home from school ten days earlier. Insisting that the police won’t help because they believe Darleen ran away, Mrs. Metzger pleads with Ellie to take the case, sure that Ellie’s success in finding the truth about Jordan Shaw’s murder a few months earlier qualifies her to locate the missing girl. Ellie isn’t convinced there is a chance of finding Darleen alive after ten days, but she is soon hooked on the story. Though constantly fielding derisive comments about her status as the paper’s only “girl reporter,” Ellie re-interviews everyone involved in Darleen’s life, discovering clues the police missed or didn’t follow up on. Ellie soon has plenty of suspects: Darleen’s boyfriend, currently serving time in a juvenile facility he can easily escape, her scary stepfather, a strange farmer living next door, and a teacher who seems to have too much of an interest in his missing student. This third in the series featuring the smart and funny journalist is a finalist for the 2016 Lefty Award for Best World Mystery.

April 1, 2016

The Masque of a MurdererSusanna Calkins
The Masque of a Murderer (Minotaur 2015) rejoins Lucy Campion, a former chambermaid now working for a printer, in March 1667 London. Sarah, the daughter of Lucy’s former employer Magistrate Hargrave, asks Lucy to join her family for dinner. Sarah’s father is deeply disappointed in her decision to join the Quakers, and Sarah hopes Lucy’s presence will ease the tension. After dinner a Quaker acquaintance appears at the door, calling Sarah to the deathbed of an old friend who is asking to see her. The magistrate is unwilling to allow Sarah to go alone, so Lucy accompanies her to the bedside of Jacob Whitby, who was trampled by a horse and cart the evening before. While Sarah is offering support to Jacob’s wife Esther, Lucy busies herself recording Jacob’s last words, knowing there is a market for deathbed testimony. Jacob tells Lucy that he was pushed into the path of the horse to keep him from meeting his sister, who was prepared to reveal that one of the Quakers in the group is an imposter. He begs Lucy to help protect his wife and dies before he can say more. Fearing that Sarah may be keeping company with a murderer, Lucy begins working to uncover the imposter with the help of Constable Duncan and Sarah’s brother Adam, when he is not occupied taking testimony about injustices during the Great Fire of London at the Fire Court. The dubious status of the Quakers, who could be prosecuted for violating the Conventicle Act prohibiting any religious gathering of more than five outside the auspices of the Church of England, provides a compelling background for this engaging third in the series, a finalist for the Agatha, Lefty, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards.

Jane SteeleLyndsay Faye
Jane Steele (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2016) is the story of a girl orphaned in 1837 at the age of nine. Jane and her beautiful French mother lived in a cottage on the grounds of Highgate Hall, occupied by her stern Aunt Patience and despised 13-year-old cousin Edwin. When Jane’s mother dies of a laudanum overdose, Aunt Patience decides to send her away to boarding school. Jane protests and darts out of the room, followed by Edwin who declares he will prevent her banishment, and then tries to rape her. Jane fights back, and pushes Edwin to his death into the ravine. Constable Quillfellow notices the bruises on Jane’s arms, but accepts her version of the accident, and she is soon off to Lowan Bridge School under the governance of the tyranical Vesalius Munt. Jane’s favorite book is Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and she comforts herself with the knowledge that Jane Eyre survived her torments at home and at school, though the other Jane was not a murderer. Jane bonds with Rebecca Clarke, a six-year-old academic and musical prodigy. They survive seven difficult years at Lowan Bridge before necessity requires another murder, investigated by now Inspector Quillfellow, while Jane and Clarke escape to London. Eventually Jane ends up back at Highgate House, as governess to Sahjara Kaur, the nine-year-old ward of new owner Charles Thornfield. Mr. Thornfield is willing to ignore Jane’s lack of references since she is amenable to living in a house full of Sikh servants, though he warns her to stay out of the basement, which is undergoing repairs. This satirical gothic suspense novel is highly recommended.

Riot Most UncouthDaniel Friedman
Riot Most Uncouth (Minotaur 2015) introduces 19-year-old Lord Byron at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1807 England. Byron doesn’t attend lectures, is routinely drunk or hungover, is overwhelmed by debt, and shares his rooms with a bear he calls the Professor. When Miss Felicity Whippleby is murdered in her boarding house, Byron decides that the keen eye for details and innuendo that makes him the (self-defined) greatest poet who ever lived also qualifies him to become the world’s greatest criminal investigator. Discovering that the body has been drained of blood is an added attraction; Byron has been fascinated by vampire lore since his father’s stories of eternal life. Known as Mad Jack, Byron’s father was mortified by his son’s club foot and resentful of the wife he married for money, deserting Byron and his mother when Byron was a small child. Secretly hoping his father will one day return and be proud of his talents, Byron has preserved his father’s library of books about vampires. Sir Archibald Knifing and Fielding Dingle, two professional “thief takers” claiming to have been hired by Felicity’s family, arrive to assist Constable Angus, who grudgingly allows Lord Byron to tag along. The thuggish Dingle doesn’t seem to have any talents other than intimidation, but even the self-absorbed Byron realizes that Knifing is an extremely talented investigator, though perhaps more focused on earning his fee than in justice for the dead girl. Byron is egotistic, vain, smug, and delusional, but somehow manages to demonstrate fleeting empathy for others and stumble over a few truths in this darkly amusing first in a series.

The Killing KindChris Holm
The Killing Kind (Mulholland Books 2015) features Michael Hendricks, a former covert operative for the US military. The training to become a killer changed Hendricks to the extent that he doubted his ability to return to his old life and to his beloved fiancée Evie. When a failed mission leaves Hendricks presumed dead, he takes the opportunity to vanish. Drawing on his expertise as a killer, Hendricks establishes a new career as a hit man. With the help of Lester, the only other survivor of the failed mission and a talented hacker, Hendricks infiltrates the mob’s communication system. Whenever they learn of a mob hit scheduled for a victim Hendricks doesn’t believe deserves death, he contacts the target and offers to eliminate the hitman. FBI Special Agent Charlotte Thompson has been tracking the murders of hitmen, and is convinced that the same person, nicknamed “The Ghost” is responsible for all of them. Alexander Englemann, a sadistic killer who kills for the thrill of it, is hired by the mob to track down and eliminate the mysterious killer who is wiping out their hired guns and leaving their targets untouched. Hendricks, Thompson, and Englemann are all flawed characters, yet the way each character deals with their own psychological damage is unique. This compelling and inventive thriller is a finalist for the 2016 Lefty and Barry Awards.

Where All Light Tends To GoDavid Joy
Where All Light Tends To Go (G.P. Putnam 2015) is the story of Jacob McNeely, who dropped out of high school as soon as he turned 16 to work full-time for his father’s meth ring in Cashiers, North Carolina. Jacob’s mother is a crank addict, cast out of the house for stealing product when Jacob was very young. Jacob has been in love with Maggie Jennings since they were children, but broke off their relationship when he realized that she had the potential to escape their poverty-stricken small town. Jacob has given up on his own future, but he is determined to help Maggie break away. On the night of high school graduation Jacob can’t stop himself from visiting the party to congratulate Maggie, and he finds her about to snort his father’s product at the urging of her boyfriend. When Jacob learns that Maggie’s plans for college are on hold since her mother forgot to submit the scholarship forms and her father already spent the little money saved in her college fund, he decides to collect the back wages his father has been banking for him since he stated work at the age of nine. His father’s refusal to turn over the money prompts Jacob to consider stealing what is rightfully his and perhaps make his own escape along with Maggie. This powerful coming-of-age noir is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

The Lady from ZagrebPhilip Kerr
The Lady from Zagreb (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2015) finds Berlin ex-cop Bernie Gunther dragooned by General Arthur Nebe into making the opening speech at the 1942 International Criminal Police Commission meeting and showing the town to Swiss Captain Paul Meyer-Schwertenbach, who writes detective novels under a pseudonym. Attorney Heinrich Heckholz asks Bernie to keep his ears open at the conference for evidence that the Stifung Nordhav charitable foundation set up by General Reinhard Heydrich is involved with fraud. Heckholz is killed with a bust of Hitler soon afterwards, but Bernie can’t identify the murderer. A year later, Bernie is on a special assignment for Josef Goebbels, head of the Ministry of Truth and Propaganda. Goebbels is having trouble with Dalia Dresner, a beautiful Croatian actress from Zagreb billed as the German Greta Garbo. Dalia’s mother has recently died, and she refuses to start work on the next propaganda film until she reconnects with the father she hasn’t seen for many years, now living in a monastery in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Goebbels sends Bernie off to Yugoslavia in search of Dalia’s father, journeying through horrific scenes of brutality between the Serbs and Croats. Traveling on to Rapperswil on Lake Zurich, Bernie hasn’t much patience for Meyer-Schwertenbach’s obsession with the mystery of a murdered woman found in the lake. Murder is rare in Switzerland, but Bernie has seen far too many bodies to take much interest in a cold case until he begins to see faint connections between the separate investigations. This excellent 10th in the series is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Mystery.

The Unquiet DeadAusma Zehanat Khan
The Unquiet Dead (Minotaur 2015) introduces Esa Khattak, a second-generation Canadian Muslim heading the Community Policing Section, and detective sergeant Rachel Getty, in Toronto. Neither Khattak nor Rachel understand why they have been asked by the Canadian Department of Justice to investigate the death of Christopher Drayton, who seems to have accidentally fallen from a cliff near his home, until they learn that Drayton was living under an assumed name, and was possibly a war criminal. If Drayton was Drazen Krstic, he oversaw the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. First person flashbacks from various perspectives to the days leading up to the massacre bring individual pain and suffering to vivid life, not only of those who died but also those who were spared and lived to remember. While Rachel has only vague memories of Srebrenica, Khattak has a personal connection to the tragedy, which Rachel fears may cloud his judgment and prevent him from treating all suspects equally. A finalist for the 2016 Barry Award for Best First Novel, this beautifully written debut mystery is a powerful exploration of the long-reaching effects of loss and the craving for retribution.

The Child GardenCatriona McPherson
The Child Garden (Midnight Ink 2015) is the story of Gloria Harkness, who lives next door to the care home where her son Nicky, who suffers from a neurodegeneration disorder that requires sedation, resides. Gloria can only afford to pay for the constant care because Miss Drumm, who also lives in the care home, invited her to stay rent free in her simple house in exchange for caring for her elderly dog and two cats, and rocking the ancient standing stone Miss Drumm believes keeps the devil away. One rainy night Gloria is returning home from her nightly visit to read Nicky poems from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, when she nearly collides with another car. The driver is Stig Tarrant, an old friend from primary school she hasn’t seen for 28 years. Stig’s father opened an alternative boarding school called Eden, and the first class consisted of 12-year-old Stig and a small group of students taught by a single teacher. The school closed in disgrace after less than a year when a student drowned, a presumed suicide. Stig has only hazy memories of that night, and can’t even remember the real names of the other students, who all went by nicknames, but insists he heard the sound of a car on the school grounds. None of the other students would admit to hearing a car, but recently April Cowan tracked down Stig online and messaged that she heard the car too, and asking him to meet her at the site of the suicide, now the grounds of the care home. Desperately lonely, Gloria offers to go with Stig to the midnight meeting, and is soon caught up in a frightening web of deceit and illusion. This mesmerizing psychological thriller is a finalist for the Agatha and Mary Higgins Clark Awards.

Life or DeathMichael Robotham
Life or Death (Mulholland Books 2015, UK 2014) begins when Audie Palmer escapes from a Texas prison the day before he is due to be released after serving a ten-year sentence for a robbery in which four people died and seven million dollars vanished. FBI Special Agent Desiree Furness suspects that Audie may have pled guilty to protect someone, but the escape makes no sense to her. Audie barely survived his time in prison, continually fighting off attacks and threats from inmates and guards willing to do just about anything to figure out where the money went. Deliberately precipitating a new prison sentence the day before his release is inexplicable, and Audie’s prison roommate Moss can’t understand why Audie didn’t escape years earlier. Flashbacks fill in Audie’s childhood, his relationship with his criminal older brother, his job as a driver for Urban Covic, a Southern California gangster, and his love for Belita, Urban’s illegal young mistress from El Salvador. Audie dreamed of starting a new life with Belita and her young son, but she was too terrified to leave Urban. Moss is suddenly released by the prison guards, tasked with tracking down Audie at any cost, joining the FBI, the local sheriff, and gangsters in the hunt for a man who has escaped from prison on a hunt of his own. This thriller featuring an endearing criminal won the 2015 Gold Dagger Award and is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar and Barry Awards for Best Mystery.

Let Me Die in His FootstepsLori Roy
Let Me Die in His Footsteps (Dutton 2015) tells the tale of two generations of the Holleran family in rural Hayden County, Kentucky. Late one night in the summer of 1952, Annie sneaks out of the house on the half-birthday midway between her fifteenth and sixteenth year. According to local lore, if Annie looks down into a well at midnight, she will see the face of the man she is to marry. Folks are a bit skittish around Annie since she has the know-how, the ability to sense the future, like her grandma and her Aunt Juna before her. Annie knows she is really Aunt Juna’s daughter, since she has the same startling deep black eyes everyone remembers about Juna, and suspects that Joseph Carl Blaine, whose body is buried beneath the crossroads, was her father. Annie fears that Aunt Juna, who disappeared when Annie was just a baby, will come back now that Annie is rising into womanhood, bringing back all the bad luck she took with her. Alternating sections set in 1936 focus on sisters Sarah and Juna, back when the family farm grew tobacco rather than lavender and Juna was approaching her own half birthday. While Juna and her little brother Dale were picking tobacco worms one hot afternoon, Dale disappeared. Juna claimed that Joseph Carl, one of the seven brothers living on the neighboring farm was responsible, but Sarah is sure Juna is telling tales to cover up some misbehavior of her own. Inspired by the last legal public hanging in 1936 Owensboro, Kentucky, this suspenseful coming-of-age story of superstition, prejudice, and the power of family ties is a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Mystery.

May 1, 2016

Death of a Dishonorable GentlemanTessa Arlen
Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman (Minotaur 2015) is set in 1913 England, where Lord and Lady Clementine Montfort are preparing for the annual summer costume ball at Iyntwood, their country estate. Home from Oxford to join the house party are their son Harry and their difficult nephew Teddy Mallory, who has just been suspended for cheating at cards. Lady Montfort is disturbed to observe Harry and Teddy involved in a violent quarrel by the boathouse, but decides not to intervene in what seems to be a continuation of their occasional boyish squabbles. With the help of the efficient staff managed by butler George Hollyoak and housekeeper Mrs. Jackson, the ball is a splendid success, lasting into the wee hours of the morning when the ball guests finally depart. The discovery the next morning of the body of Teddy hanging from a gibbet in the woods traps the house guests at Iyntwood, and Lady Montfort fears that suspicion may fall upon Harry because of the altercation the previous day. When everyone is gathered to hear the news, it becomes apparent that Lucinda Lambert-Lambert and her motorcar are missing. Later that day, Mrs. Jackson realizes that Violet, the newest housemaid has also vanished. Hoping to prove her son’s innocence and also locate the two missing young women, Lady Montfort persuades Mrs. Jackson to question the servants while she focuses on the guests. The combination of Lady Montfort’s intuitive leaps of imagination and Mrs. Jackson’s level-headed practicality make the two a formidable team. This engaging debut traditional mystery was a finalist for the 2015 Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

Broken PromiseLinwood Barclay
Broken Promise (NAL 2015) begins when reporter David Harwood returns to his hometown of Promise Falls, New York, to take a job with the local newspaper. David has been raising his nine-year-old son Ethan by himself in Boston since his wife died four years earlier, but the hours of his job at the Boston Globe didn’t allow him much time with Ethan. Hoping that the small town newspaper hours will be more reasonable, David moves back in with his parents temporarily. Unfortunately the Standard closes down David’s first day on the job, and he finds himself at loose ends. His mother asks him to deliver a casserole to his cousin Marla, who has been severely depressed since the death of her baby girl in childbirth ten months earlier. David is surprised to find Marla caring for a baby, which she swears was delivered by an angel the day before. David finds the name Rosemary Gaynor and an address on a flyer in the stroller and takes Marla and baby Michael along to gather information. At the house he meets Bill Gaynor, who has just arrived home from a business trip, worried that his wife hasn’t answered his phone calls. The two discover Rose’s dead body in a pool of blood. Bill frantically calls Michael’s name and can’t understand why his baby is in the car with a stranger. Sarita, the nanny, is missing, but Bill doesn’t know her last name, just that she is probably illegal and was paid in cash. Marla, who has prosopagnosia and is unable to recognize faces, can’t give any details about the woman who left Michael with her and is soon the prime suspect in the murder. David is determined to clear Marla’s name, but each piece of evidence he uncovers only adds to the confusion. This twisty thriller is the first in the Promise Falls series.

Little Black LiesSandra Block
Little Black Lies (Grand Central Publishing 2015) introduces Zoe Goldman, a hospital psychiatry resident in Buffalo, New York. Since returning to Buffalo for her residency, the nightmare that woke her every night as a child has returned. In the dream, Zoe is hiding in terror, clutching her stuffed bear with bleeding hands. When she hears a voice calling her name she wakes herself by screaming for her mother. Zoe believes that the dream is a fragment of a memory of the fire that killed her mother twenty years earlier when she was four. She suspects that the fear of losing her adoptive mother, who suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, has reactivated the nightmare. Zoe’s newest patient is Sofia Vallano, a woman in her mid-40s who has been institutionalized since she murdered her mother at the age of 14. Zoe’s supervisor is willing to consider releasing Sofia, who was an exemplary patient at her previous hospital. Zoe’s job is to persuade Sofia to talk about the murder in order to determine if she is a sociopath or simply an extreme narcissist. Sofia refuses to talk about the past, but Zoe’s attempts to start the conversation cause her to wonder why she doesn’t know more about her own birth mother, realizing that her chance to learn anything from her adoptive mother is shrinking every day. Zoe is an intriguing character, struggling to control her ADHD with Adderall and Xanax, and willing to undergo hypnosis in order to explore the terrifying dream that has haunted her nights as long as she can remember. This intense psychological thriller is a finalist for the 2016 Thriller Award for Best First Novel.

Plantation ShuddersEllen Byron
Plantation Shudders (Crooked Lane Books 2015) introduces Maggie Crozat, an aspiring artist returning home to her family’s plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast, in Pelican, Louisiana, after the relationship with her New York boyfriend fell apart. Maggie’s mother Ninette, whose Hodgkin’s lymphoma is in remission, and her father Tug do most of the work, while her grand-mere entertains the guests with local legends. Maggie helps out and also works as a tour guide at nearby Doucet Plantation to help pay the bills. All the rooms at Crozat Plantation are full the last week of August: Hal and Beverly Clabber, elderly honeymooners; Emily and Shane Butler, a hipster couple from New York; four middle-aged women who call themselves the Cajun Cuties; three Georgia frat boys; a family of four from Australia; and Kyle Bruner, a handsome single man from Texas. Hal Clabber complains about everything from the moment they arrive, but the other guests seem pleasant enough. The first night a storm takes the power out, and when the lights come back on Hal Clabber suffers a stroke and dies, as does his wife after taking a dose of her heart medication. The autopsies reveal that Hal died of natural causes, but Beverly was poisoned by arsenic, an old variety no longer available. A tin of arsenic formerly on a dusty shelf of the Crozat Plantation Store museum is missing, and Chief of Police Rufus Durand is more than willing to pin the murder on one of the Crozats or their guests as payback for the mid-1800s curse a Crozat put on the Durand family. When a new detective appears, Maggie hopes an outsider will be more open-minded, but Bo Durand is a first-cousin. Luckily Bo isn’t any fonder of Rufus than Maggie is, and the two form an uneasy alliance. This humorous debut cozy mystery was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery.

White LeopardLaurent Guillaume
White Leopard (Le French Book 2015) introduces Souleymane “Solo” Camara, a former French policeman escaping a violent past to return home to Bamako, Mali. Solo, whose mother was a white Parisian, isn’t completely trusted by either culture, and superstitiously refuses to launder the tagelmust cloth stained with the blood of his dead wife. Solo lives in his deceased father’s house, looked after by his father’s elderly servant Drissa, and makes a meager living as a private investigator. Farah Tebessi, a Parisian lawyer, hires Solo to look into the arrest of her sister Bahia, who has been arrested as a drug trafficker after 13 kilos of cocaine, which she thought was gold, were discovered hidden in her luggage. Farah hopes that Solo can use his connections and her money to bribe the examining magistrate into releasing her sister. Solo is successful, but Bahia is murdered soon after her release, and Solo realizes that she may not have been an innocent dupe after all. Farah pleads with Solo to find the killers and administer justice, and he is soon involved in a violent jumble of greed and corruption. This gritty hard-boiled detective thriller is based on true events that occurred while Laurent Guillaume was working as a police advisor in Mali, specializing in fighting drug trafficking.

GumshoeRob Leininger
Gumshoe (Oceanview Publishing 2015) introduces Mortimer Angel, an ex-IRS investigator who has just quit his boring job for the excitement of becoming a private eye at Carson & Rudd Investigative Services, his nephew’s fledgling detective agency in Reno, Nevada. On the eve of his new career, Mort arrives home more than a little tipsy to find a beautiful naked blond he has never seen before asleep in his bed. A note “Tired. Explain later. K.” doesn’t help much but since Mort can’t wake her up he takes the couch for the night. The depleted supply of valerian root explains the sound sleep, but nothing else, and K is still snoring when Mort heads off for his first day as a gumshoe, satisfied that his new job is living up to its reputation already. His first assignment isn’t as exciting as he had hoped, but Mort dutifully heads off to work undercover in the accounting department at Skulstad Meats, in search of an embezzling employee. His ex-wife Dallas calls asking for help changing a flat tire, and Mort can’t turn her down. Mort is still in love with Dallas, plus her new boyfriend, Mayor Jonnie Sjorgen, has been missing for nine days. In the trunk of her Mercedes, they discover evidence of Jonnie’s murder. Dallas decides to hire Carson & Rudd to figure out who killed Jonnie, and Mort is soon assisting Jeri DiFrazzia, a petite woman who actually knows how to conduct an investigation and can also easily trounce Mort in hand-to-hand combat. This series opener is a deft mix of humorous first-person narration and hard-boiled detective thriller.

Head of StateAndrew Marr
Head of State (The Overlook Press 2015; UK 2014) is set in September 2017, the week before a UK referendum to decide if the country will remain in the European Union. Bill Stevenson, the Prime Minister, leads the campaign to stay in the EU, and Olivia Kite, former home secretary, heads the opposition, promising citizens the “gift of freedom.” Lord Trevor Briskett and his research assistant Ned Parminter, have been given full access to each camp, collecting minute-to-minute data for a book about the crucial vote. Ken Cooper, editor of the National Courier, is frustrated since journalist Lucien McBryde isn’t answering his phone. Alois Haydn, wealthy mover-and-shaker, is closely examining the situation through the lens of maximizing his own net worth. Professional Logistical Services, a secret group with connections to powerful people, is pulling strings behind the curtains. Three days before the referendum, two bodies arrive at the morgue, one an apparent suicide, and the other a headless corpse without hands. A dark cover-up conspiracy threatens to drastically influence the vote if the secret is revealed. This satirical political thriller is the fiction debut of a former BBC political editor.

Time of DepartureDouglas Schofield
Time of Departure (Minotaur 2015) begins when Florida state prosecutor Claire Talbot is moving into the new corner office that comes with her promotion to Felony Division Chief. Only 31, Claire is considered by many of her colleagues to be too young for the job, but her boss believes in her abilities. When a highway project construction crew uncovers two skeletons in a common grave, Claire reopens the investigation into the disappearance of eight young women who vanished without a trace the year before Claire was born. Marc Hastings, a retired cop who worked on the case three decades earlier, tracks Claire down and offers the support Claire is not getting from the police, who seem resentful of Claire’s youth and gender. Marc has kept his own copies of the police files, and asks Claire to point the police toward the dental records that might help identify the victims. Marc is convinced that only Claire can solve the mystery of the missing women, but his uncanny knowledge of her favorite drinks and other preferences make her wary of his help. Claire knows she shouldn’t be attracted to a man 30 years her senior, but the more time they spend together searching through the old files, the stronger the sexual tension grows, despite the mounting conviction that Marc is hiding something from her. This compelling thriller with a time travel twist is mesmerizing.

The DaughterJane Shemilt
The Daughter (William Morrow 2015, UK 2014) is the story of Dr. Jenny Malcolm, a busy and successful family doctor, her husband Ted, a renowned neurosurgeon, and their three teenagers. Jenny occasionally worries that she and Ted, who is home even less than she is, have left their children on their own too often, but 17-year old twins Ed and Theo and 15-year-old Naomi seem to have grown into confident and independent young adults. It’s possible that they are more silent and withdrawn than when they were younger, but nothing outside the norm for teenagers. Naomi does seem tired lately, but she has frequent evening rehearsals for the school performance of West Side Story. Jenny herself is stretched a bit thin, having misinterpreted bruises on a child’s body as child abuse rather than leukemia, and needs to retreat to her painting studio more frequently to balance the stress of work. When Naomi doesn’t come home after a post-performance party, Jenny doesn’t realize until 2:00 AM, having fallen asleep on the couch. But there wasn’t a cast party, and no one has seen Naomi since the end of the play hours earlier. In the days, weeks, and months that follow Jenny is forced to confront the secrets each person in their seemingly happy family. Looking back, Jenny can see random bits of information that her tidy mind discarded since they didn’t fit with the picture she had built of each family member, allowing lies and deceptions to pile one atop the other until the whole facade finally crumbles. This haunting debut psychological thriller was a finalist for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

Trouble Is a Friend of MineStephanie Tromly
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine (Kathy Dawson Books 2015) is narrated by Zoe Webster, a 16-year-old high school junior who is not happy with the move from Brooklyn to upstate New York after her parents’ divorce. When Philip Digby rings her front doorbell, his black suit make her suspect he is a Jehovah’s Witness, except for the sneakers and the shaggy hair. Philip demands the pictures Zoe takes of herself in the mirror each morning, hoping to catch a glimpse into the strange cult who live in the house next door. Despite her fear of committing social suicide at her new high school, Zoe can’t resist Digby’s insistance that she help him figure out what happened to Marina Miller, a rich teenager who disappeared from a summer slumber party. Motivated by the discovery that Philip’s own little sister was kidnapped several years earlier, plus the fact that she is lonely and bored, Zoe joins Digby’s investigation. With the help of a handsome Greek boy whose family took Digby in after his own family collapsed, the three are soon breaking into the office of a local gynecologist and attempting to buy drugs in the hopes of following up on Digby’s interpretation of various clues. Zoe’s snide narration balances Digby’s Sherlock Holmes methods, in this very enjoyable young-adult mystery debut, a nominee for the Arthur Ellis Best Young Adult Crime Book.

June 1, 2016

Recipes for Love and MurderSally Andrew
Recipes for Love and Murder (Ecco 2015) introduces Tannie (Auntie in Afrikaans) Maria, a middle-aged widow whose mother was Afrikaans and father was English. Tannie Maria does not miss her abusive husband, and lives happily with five chickens on a small property in the Klein Karoo in South Africa. She loves to cook and eat, and enjoys writing a weekly recipe column in the Klein Karoo Gazette, run by her friend Hattie Christie. When the head office decides the paper must feature an advice column rather than recipes, Tannie Maria offers to combine the two into “Tannie Maria’s Love Advice and Recipe Column.” One of her first letters is from a woman whose domineering husband has just shot the ducks she received as a present from a woman friend because the curry she served him was too tough. Tannie Maria sends a mutton curry recipe along with advice about leaving the husband, receiving a thank you letter in return that mentions a plan for escaping the marriage. A few weeks later she receives a letter from a woman saying her friend’s arm was just broken by her jealous husband, and expressing concern that his next attack might be fatal. Then Jessie Mostert, the ambitious young investigative journalist for the Gazette, shows Tannie Maria pictures of a crime scene with the body of Martine van Schalkwyk, a murdered woman with her arm in a cast. They are sure that Martine is the duck lady with the abusive husband, and set out to find the truth. Detective Lt. Henk Kannemeyer values Tannie Maria’s insights but tries to convince her to concentrate on her cooking, a much safer obsession. This humorous debut traditional mystery featuring time-honored Afrikaans recipes is a winner.

Born in a Burial GownMike Craven
Born in a Burial Gown (Caffeine Nights 2015) finds Detective Inspector Avison Fluke just back to work at Cumbria’s FMIT (Force Major Incident Team) after an aggressive cancer treatment for Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Fluke is assigned the case of an unidentified woman who has been shot in the back of the head, concealed in a golf travel bag, and buried in a hospital construction site. The autopsy reveals that the woman had facial plastic surgery, but to make her less attractive rather than more, leading Fluke to believe she was in hiding. Fluke assembles his usual team of misfits, talented police officers who don’t fit the norm. Sergeant Matt Towler is an unpredictable and violent ex-Royal Marine, DC Jo Skelton is a middle-aged mother of two with phenomenal organizational skills, DC Vaughn has a phobia about being touched and reliable insights about people, and Jiao-long Zhang is a talented IT officer on secondment from Beijing with an obsession with Beatrix Potter. Following his practice of solving the crime by getting to know the victim, Fluke and his team begin the painstaking task of learning about a secretive woman who did all she could to stay off the grid. The only solid clue is a strange series of numbers recovered from a notepad concealed in the golf bag. The investigation ranges through poverty-stricken estates to picturesque Lake District villages as the team follows up each tentative lead. Shortlisted for the 2013 Debut Dagger for Best Unpublished Manuscript, this well-plotted debut police procedural featuring a cast of uniquely talented police officers is the first in a planned series.

MemoRandomAnders de la Motte
MemoRandom (Atria 2015, Sweden 2014) begins when David Sarac, a confidential informer handler at the Intelligence Unit of the Stockholm Police Force, barely survives a crash following a high speed car crash. When Sarac wakes up in the hospital two weeks after the crash, he learns he suffered a stroke during the crash and has undergone brain surgery to remove blood clots. His doctor explains that he may have some short-term memory problems for a while, but Sarac is missing most of his memories from the past two years. He finds notes warning him not to trust anyone, and sneaks out of the hospital despite his raging headache and debilitating physical problems. Everyone is trying to learn the real identity of Janus, Sarac’s top-secret informant with a connection to organized crime, but Sarac can’t remember anything about him. Peter Molnar, Sarac’s best friend and fellow police officer, tells Sarac that all of the files are missing from his office and the envelope in the safe, which should have contained Sarac’s confidential informant information, is empty. Meanwhile, Atif Mohammed Kassab, an Iraqi military policeman, returns to Sweden for the funeral of his younger brother, killed during a robbery attempt. Natalie Aden, a small-time con artist, is blackmailed by someone she believes is a policeman into applying for the position of Sarac’s home health-aide. As Sarac struggles to regain his memory of the last two years, the hunt for Janus by the police and organized crime intensifies. This intricate thriller is the first in a trilogy.

Crucifixion CreekBarry Maitland
Crucifixion Creek (Minotaur 2015, Australia 2014) introduces Harry Belltree, a homicide detective in Sydney, Australia. Harry, recently returned from a grueling tour in Afghanistan, is obsessed with locating the driver of a white truck that he believes caused the accident that killed his parents and left his wife Jenny blind from a traumatic brain injury. His new partner Deb Velasco, is curious when Harry removes a picture of a white truck from the wall of a meth addict in Crucifixion Creek who just shot and killed his girlfriend, but gets distracted when she realizes Harry is the son of the first Aboriginal judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court. Harry’s brother-in-law Greg March is found stabbed to death near Crucifixion Creek the next day, and Harry works the case until his relationship with the victim is brought to light. As executor of Greg’s estate, Harry learns that what seemed to be a successful building business was actually drowning in debt. Meanwhile, journalist Kelly Pool covers the joint suicide of two elderly residents of Crucifixion Creek. While Kelly is trying to weasel information out of Harry, they realize that all four victims had ties to the same man — corrupt financier Alexander Kristich. Desperate to save her sister’s home, Jenny uses an adaptive computer to reactivate her research skills, and works with Harry and Kelly to find a weak spot in Kristich’s network of friends on both sides of the law. This first in a trilogy was a finalist for the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel.

The Lake HouseKate Morton
The Lake House (Atria 2015) begins on Midsummer’s Eve 1933 at Loeanneth, the lakeside estate of the Edevane family in Cornwall, England. Sixteen-year-old Alice Edevane, the middle sister, is working on her first novel, a mystery, and head-over-heels in love with one of the gardeners. The annual Midsummer party takes up all of Eleanor Edevane’s attention, and it isn’t until late the next day that she realizes eleven-month-old Theo is missing, and not with his twelve-year-old sister Clementine as everyone thought. A search is mounted, but Theo has disappeared without a trace. Seventy years later Sadie Sparrow, a disgraced young detective in the London police force, is exiled to her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. Out running with the dogs, she stumbles across the old estate, crumbling and covered with vines. Peering through the windows she notices that the rooms are still furnished, though covered with a thick layer of dust, as if the inhabitants left unexpectedly and never returned. Eager to distract herself from her current boredom, Sadie researches the estate and learns of the disappearance of Theo. She begins writing letters to Alice, now a very successful mystery author living in London, asking for an interview and permission to enter the old house. Hoping to finally set her suspicions to rest as to the culprit, Alice agrees. The narration moves seamlessly back and forth in time, bringing all the characters of Alice’s childhood to vivid life, in this thoroughly satisfying gothic thriller.

Pretending To Be EricaMichelle Painchaud
Pretending To Be Erica (Viking Books for Young Readers 2015) is the story of Violet , the adopted daughter of Sal, the best con man in Las Vegas. Violet’s whole life has been focused on transforming herself into Erica Silverman, an heiress who was kidnapped 13 years earlier at the age of five. Sal met Erica’s kidnapper in jail, who told Sal privately that Erica was killed shortly after her kidnapping. After his release from prison, Sal searched for an adoptable child of about the right age, coloring, and blood type to substitute for Erica. For the past 12 years, Violet has been trained to impersonate Erica, undergoing numerous cosmetic surgeries to increase her resemblance to the missing girl. Sal doesn’t expect Violet’s deception to last forever — just long enough to steal the Silverman painting, an Old Master worth sixty million dollars. Violet’s story is that she was kidnapped by a childless couple who raised her as their own. Mrs. Silverman, who has already been through two other impersonators, believes that Violet is really Erica, convinced by her uncanny resemblance to Mrs. Silverman herself. Mr. Silverman has been in a mental hospital for the last seven years, unable to deal with the uncertainly of Erica’s fate and his dashed hopes after two failed impersonators. Violet, who has been home-schooled her whole life, connects with two of Erica’s childhood friends when she is enrolled in an exclusive private high school, and forms her first romantic relationship with a fellow student. Unfortunately, another student seems convinced that Violet is a fake, and the private investigator who exposed the previous two fake Ericas has her under constant surveillance. This engaging debut thriller is a nominee for the 2016 Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel.

Bull MountainBrian Panowich
Bull Mountain (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2015) is the story of Clayton Burroughs, a sheriff in a small community in northern Georgia. Clayton comes from a notorious clan of outlaws who live on the family acres on Bull Mountain, a beautiful and remote wilderness area. The product the Burroughs sell has changed over the years — moonshine, marijuana, and now methamphetamine — but their ability to hide the family criminal industry on Bull Mountain persists. Clayton chose a career in law enforcement to distance himself from his family, now run by his older brother Halford, with whom he retains only a tenuous relationship. Special Agent Simon Holly, a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, appears in Clayton’s office with a plan to shut down the Burroughs family meth operation, now spanning six state lines. He offers immunity for the Burroughs family if they will agree to cease operations and provide evidence against Wilcombe Exports, a Florida group who runs an even bigger drug operation and supplies the Burroughs clan with guns. Clayton loves the idea of persuading this family to retire from the drug trade, but is doubtful that he can convince Halford to give up a business arrangement their father established in 1973. In fact, he is unsure he can even approach his brother without getting shot. Beginning in 1949, interspersed chapters reveal the history of generations of Burroughs intent on doing whatever it takes to keep the family intact on their land on Bull Mountain. This fast-paced debut thriller is a finalist for the 2016 Anthony, Barry, and Thriller Awards for Best First Novel.

Hostage TakerStefanie Pintoff
Hostage Taker (Bantam 2015) introduces Eve Rossi, a hostage negotiator for the FBI in New York City. Eve is on bereavement leave after the death of stepfather Zev Berger, a CIA operative, and the only father she has ever known, when she gets a call informing her a hostage taker has asked for her by name. It’s a Gridlock Alert Day due to the evening Tree Lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, and the news teams are already assembling. A young woman holding a “HELP ME” sign is killed on the steps of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by a sharpshooter in the scaffolding, and no one knows how many hostages are being held behind the impenetrable bronze doors. Eve agrees to return to work only if she can reassemble the VIDOCQ unit, named after a notorious French criminal who was convinced to use his talents on behalf of the Sûreté in the late 18th century. The FBI’s VIDOCQ unit, composed of criminals released on condition of helping the FBI in the case of an emergency consists of embezzler Eli Cohen, smuggler Julius Mason, hacker Corey Haddox, and ex-Ranger Frank Garcia. The hostage taker demands that five witnesses be brought to the cathedral within five hours. Eve’s team begins frantically searching for the five people, and seeking some sort of connection between them and the unidentified hostage taker. This high intensity thriller featuring a talented and dangerous team of misfits who refuse to play by the rules is a finalist for the 2016 Barry Award for Best Thriller.

What You SeeHank Phillippi Ryan
What You See (Forge Books 2015) finds Boston investigative reporter Jane Ryland applying for a position at Channel 2 News after quitting her job at the Register for ethical reasons. During the interview the news director gets a call about stabbing that just occurred outside historic Faneuil Hall, hands Jane a Quik-Shot video camera, and sends her off to do a freelance assignment while considering the job offer. Detective Jake Brogan is already on the scene, observed from the City Hall traffic surveillance room by college student Tenley Siskel. Consumed by survivor guilt, Tenley obsessively scans crowds since the death of her sister Lanna, who died in what the police decided was an accident. While Jane is capturing video for TV, Jake is trying to figure out how to obtain the cell phone pictures snapped by the large crowd of tourists, hoping someone caught the murder in action. Then Jane gets a frantic call from her younger sister Melissa, in town to marry Daniel Fasullo. Gracie, Daniel’s young daughter, has vanished along with her step-father Lewis Wilhoite. Robyn, Gracie’s mother, is vacillating between panic and hope that Gracie and Lewis are simply off for one last adventure together before the wedding. Jane reluctantly tells Channel 2 news that a family emergency prevents her from continuing to cover the murder story. This intense fourth in the series is a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and the Anthony Award for Best Mystery.

The VerdictNick Stone
The Verdict (Pegasus 2015) features Terry Flynt, a 38-year-old legal clerk at Kopf-Randall-Purdom in London. Terry hoped to be a lawyer, but left Cambridge after an allegation of theft compounded with alcohol problems. Now married with two kids, Terry hopes to be promoted to paralegal, but he doesn’t have much hope of winning the company’s annual prize of law school fees until he is randomly assigned to a huge case. Vernon “VJ” James, a wealthy financier just named Ethical Person of the Year, is accused of murdering a woman in his hotel room. Vernon swears he is innocent, but all the physical evidence is against him. The real problem for Terry is that VJ was Terry’s best friend growing up, until he ruined Terry’s prospects by falsely accusing him of theft in college. Terry conceals their shared past so he won’t be taken off the case, and begins chasing down leads with the firm’s unscrupulous recovering alcoholic private investigator. Despite his secret hope that VJ will take a fall, Terry begins to believe that his wild story of being set up just might be true. Rounding out the defense team is firm partner Janet Randall and barrister Christine Devereaux, who is dying of cancer. This intense legal thriller balances courtroom theatrics in the Old Bailey with street-wise investigations of VJ’s past and present.

July 1, 2016

Concrete AngelPatricia Abbott
Concrete Angel (Polis Books 2015) begins when Eve Moran shoots and kills Jerry Santini, a soda-pop salesman who caught her removing money from his wallet the morning after their one brief night together. Eve beguiles her 12-year-old daughter Christine into confessing to the killing, and Christine concocts a story of rescuing her mother from a brutal attack. As expected, Christine gets off with counseling, which Eve scripts before each session, depriving her daughter of any chance of benefiting from help dealing with the trauma of the murder. Christine basks in Eve’s undivided attention during her manic phases, blind to the mental illness Eve hides behind a beautiful facade. Eve is a narcissistic hoarder, obsessed with collecting and storing shiny pretty things, and has the seductive power to charm Christine into supporting and covering up her excesses. Christine’s narration reveals an eighteen year progression of minor shoplifting to elaborate swindles, documented by her mother’s keyring loaded with keys to storage sheds crammed full of “precious” items collected over the years. The bond between mother and daughter is so intense that Christine isn’t really conscious of the damage Eve is doing until Christine’s baby brother becomes part of the latest scheme. This haunting debut thriller is a finalist for the Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best First Mystery.

DodgersBill Beverly
Dodgers (Crown 2016) is the story of East, a 15-year-old street kid from The Boxes, a Los Angeles inner-city neighborhood full of abandoned houses. Small and unremarkable, East has been working for his uncle Fin since he was 10, first as a street watcher and now the yard boss at one of Fin’s meth houses. East visits his alcoholic mother and gives her money, but feels more secure sleeping in a large cardboard box hidden in a basement crawl space. A house fire distracts the street watchers one afternoon, the police raid the meth house before East has time to clear the yard, and a curious young girl visiting a neighbor is killed. Fin closes the meth houses temporarily, and sends East, his wild gun-obsessed 13-year-old half-brother Ty, 20-year-old crew leader Michael, and 17-year-old overweight computer enthusiast Walter, on a road trip to Wisconsin to take out a man ready to testify against Fin’s son Marcus. Posing as cousins heading for a family reunion, the four are provided with fake IDs, clothed in Dodgers shirts and hats as camouflage, and given the contact info for a gun dealer close to their target. None of the four have ever been out of greater Los Angeles, but loaded with cash for gas and food, they set out across the country in a battered blue mini-van. Each boy reacts differently to the challenges of the trip, and East has to delve deep into himself to find the strength to keep them on track. Haunted by visions of the young girl who died before his eyes, East tries to control Ty’s violent nature and Michael’s bad judgement as they travel through an alien landscape none are prepared to deal with. This dark coming-of-age debut thriller is exceptional.

Night TremorsMatt Coyle
Night Tremors (Oceanview Publishing 2015) finds ex-cop Rick Cahill, still tormented by memories of his murdered wife and haunted by the memory of the man he killed, working as a private investigator for an old friend of his father’s in La Jolla, California. He isn’t thrilled with his assignments following and photographing adulterers, but the generous salary allows him to make mortgage payments on a house big enough to include the wife he lost and the child they never had. Unfortunately Rick is very good at the clandestine picture business, and his boss insists that he continue to do what he does best, despite Rick’s pleas for more interesting work. Timothy Buckley, a defense attorney, approaches Rick with an offer of work on the investigation for a possible new trial for Randall Eddington, convicted at the age of 18 for murdering his parents and younger sister. Buckley has news of an overheard confession in a biker bar, and the family hopes that Rick can find enough evidence to cast doubt on the earlier conviction. Rick is hesitant to take on outside work for a lawyer he dislikes but the specter of wrongful conviction resonates with Rick, still shrouded with clouds of suspicion implicating involvement with his own wife’s murder. Rick reads through the masses of trial paperwork, and suspects that one piece of evidence may have been planted by the police, desperate to convict Randall without compelling proof. Accepting the job, Randall is soon caught between angry police who can’t believe he is working to secure the release of a man they are convinced is a psychopath, and a vicious biker gang willing to do just about anything to protect their own. This intense noir thriller is a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Mystery, the Lefty Award for Best Regional Mystery, and the Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel.

Black-Eyed SusansJulia Heaberlin
Black-Eyed Susans (Ballantine Books 2015) is the story of Tessa Cartwright, kidnapped at the age of 16 while out running near her Texas home, and later dumped in a field of Black-Eyed Susan wildflowers. At first believed dead, Tessa was found with a freshly-dead girl and the long-dead remains of two others, who became known collectively as the Black-Eyed Susans. Nearly 20 years later Terrell Darcy Goodwin, the man convicted of the murders, is on Death Row, weeks away from execution. Tessa, now an artist with a 14-year old daughter of her own, has come to believe that Terrell might not be guilty, mainly because of the patches of Black-Eyed Susans that have been mysteriously planted outside the windows of every place she has lived. Terrell’s lawyer is working on getting Terrell a new hearing with the help of a forensic scientist using new DNA procedures to try to identify the two unknown Susans through bone analysis. Tessa has heard the voices of the other Susans in her head ever since they spent time in the field of wildflowers together, but has only flashes of memory of her abduction, her kidnapper, or the time she was missing. Fearing false memories, Tessa refused to undergo hypnosis during her therapy years ago, but is now edging toward anything that might answer the question of Terrell’s guilt or innocence. This harrowing psychological thriller is narrated in alternating chapters from viewpoints of the traumatized Tessie of 1995, preparing to testify against the accused serial killer, and the current day Tessa, who is full of doubts and consumed with fear that her abductor may still be stalking her.

Collecting the DeadSpencer Kope
Collecting the Dead (Minotaur 2016) introduces Magnus “Steps” Craig, who has been able to see the distinct “shine” people leave behind ever since a near-death experience at the age of ten. Now the “Human Bloodhound” for the FBI’s three-person Special Tracking Unit, Steps pretends to be able to read minisule clues as he searches for traces of “shine” at crime scenes. Only his father (who discovered that lead crystal glasses protected his son from sensory overload), his partner Jimmy Donovan, and FBI Director Robert Carlson know the truth about his secret talent. Steps is obsessed with a serial killer he calls Leonardo because of the way he moves his victim’s arms and legs to resemble the artist’s famous sketch illustrating the proportions of the human body. The Special Tracking Unit is called to investigate the discovery of the decomposed body of a woman found in the woods of Northern California, and Steps is sure that he has encountered the amaranth and rust shine left by the murderer at some point in the past. The design the killer traced on the window of the woman’s car with his finger, which no one else can see, also seems familiar, and Steps makes a connection with the murder of a physically similar woman two years earlier and 200 miles away, dumped next to rocks arranged in the shape of a stylized sad face. A search through the national databases uncovers other missing women who fit the same physical profile. Steps is sure that the latest abducted woman is still alive, and the hunt to find the Sad Face Killer before he murders again is on. This intense thriller featuring a uniquely talented and sympathetic investigator is the first in a planned series.

Time’s UpJaney Mack
Time’s Up (Kensington 2015) introduces Maisie McGrane, who always wanted to be a Chicago police officer like her father and three of her older brothers. Masie is on track to be Top Cadet at the police academy, when she is terminated after failing the psychological review for being too thin-skinned to deal with the daily barrage of public hostility that comes with being a cop. Maisie’s defense attorney mother tries to convince her to enter law school and join her other two brothers in the law firm, but Maisie is determined to prove she has the guts to be a cop. Deciding that a year working as a Traffic Enforcement agent will prove that she can take anything the public dishes out, Masie begins working for the privately owned Traffic Enforcement Bureau, donning the neon phlegm-colored vest and beginning her training week with Leticia Jackson, who is less than thrilled to be working with a know-nothing trainee. Obi-Wan Peter Luke Olson, the helpful nerd working dispatch from a tricked-out Star Wars wheelchair, helps Maisie practice installing the Wolverine, a 35-pound bright orange spiked boot. In a parked car, Maisie discovers a body that turns out to be a union activist, and then begins a feud with the mayor’s driver who insists on parking illegally. When she’s not issuing tickets and booting cars, Maisie helps her older brothers search for connections between two seemingly unrelated murders and finally gets a date with Hank Bannon, a shadowy ex-Army Ranger she has been stalking at the gym. This funny debut mystery is the first in a series starring the irrepressible Maisie McGrane, whose experience growing up with five older brothers has prepared her to fight hard for what she believes in.

EileenOttessa Moshfegh
Eileen (Penguin Press 2015) is the story of Eileen Dunlop, a 24-year old secretary at a private juvenile correctional facility for teenage boys outside Boston in the early 1960s. After Eileen’s mother died, she became the caretaker for her cruel alcoholic father, making daily runs to the liquor store, boiling a few eggs to eat with bread, and letting the house fall into squalor. Full of self-loathing, Eileen dresses in her mother’s old clothes, eats so little that her “womanly shape” doesn’t develop, keeps a secret cache of vermouth and breath mints in her locker at work, and plots her escape from the town she hates. Eileen lusts after one of the prison guards, surreptitiously watching him while overseeing the seven-minute visitation allowed each parent, but her secret passion doesn’t translate into an improvement in her person hygiene. When the beautiful Rebecca Saint John arrives just before Christmas as the new educational specialist, Eileen is smitten by her cheerful and friendly nature. Thrilled to imagine having her first true friend, Eileen is drawn into Rebecca’s plan to save one of the young offenders with disastrous consequences. Despite her flaws, which include a talent for shoplifting, Eileen is an unexpectedly sympathetic character in this dark and claustrophobic thriller.

The Good LiarNicholas Searle
The Good Liar (Harper 2016, UK 2015) is the story of veteran con artist Roy Courtnay, now in his 80s though he can easily pass for 70, or even 60 on a good day. Roy’s target is Betty McLeish, a 70-ish wealthy widow he met online. Betty’s grandson Stephen keeps an eye on her, but in no time at all Roy has moved in to Betty’s spare room and the two are planning a European trip together. Roy makes a case for Rome, but Betty settles on Berlin and the two are soon sharing drinks on an Alexanderplatz restaurant terrace in the April sun. Roy decides this is the perfect moment to bring up his friend Vincent, who would be more than willing to take a look at Betty’s financial holdings and provide advice about investing her portfolio. Flashbacks reveal Roy’s life in reverse, from 1998, 1973, 1963, 1957, 1946, to 1938, disclosing an entire existence built on lies and deceit. Betty’s own past remains shrouded in mystery, though she is the one who often talks of her career, marriage, children, and grandchildren. This deliberately paced debut psychological thriller is itself an elaborate long con that keeps its cards hidden until the final act.

The DogsAllan Stratton
The Dogs (Sourcebooks Fire 2015) is the story of Cameron Weaver, whose mother left his father when he was eight. After a few supervised visits, his mother moved them again, worried that Cameron’s father was dangerous. Five moves later, Cameron and his mother arrive at a decrepit farm house in rural Wolf Hollow. Cameron’s mother is terrified of his father, but Cameron doesn’t quite remember what his dad did that scares her so much. When Cameron starts school the next week, he learns that the old Sinclair place they have just moved in to is considered to be haunted, which makes him nervous. Cody, the school bully, asks Cameron if he hears the dogs at night, ratcheting his fear up a couple of notches more. When Cameron sees a shadowy figure near the barn he worries that his father may have tracked them down already, but realizes it is a boy wearing a Davy Crockett raccoon tail hat. While helping Mr. Sinclair clean out the basement, Cameron finds an envelope of disturbing drawings of a boy and his family, ending with very frightening images of dogs. Jacky, the boy in the hat, begins talking to Cameron, and he decides that the only way to save his sanity is to figure out what happened to the boy and his family. Parallels between Cameron and Jacky add to the suspense in this chilling psychological thriller, a finalist for the 2016 Arthur Ellis and Thriller Awards for best Young Adult book.

The Jazz FilesFiona Veitch Smith
The Jazz Files (Lion Fiction 2015) introduces Poppy Denby, a 22-year-old aspiring journalist who moves from Northumberland to London in 1920 to live with her wheel-chair bound Aunt Dot, a former actress injured in the 1910 Suffragette protest at Parliament Square. Poppy applies for the job of editorial assistant at the Daily Globe, and finds herself a glorified maid responsible for sorting through the immense piles of files in editor Rollo Rolandson’s office. Asked to take notes at the morning meeting, Poppy volunteers to cover the new production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, since her aunt has just introduced her to the young actress playing Cobweb. Midway through the day, the political editor Bert Isaacs, falls to his death from the third floor. When Rollo learns that her aunt is the infamous Suffragette, he sends Poppy out to finish Bert’s story along with photographer Daniel Rokeby, who met Rollo during the war. Bert was prepared to interview Lord Melvyn Dorchester, a Tory peer who strongly opposed the women’s suffrage movement before the war. Lord Dorchester has just been awarded a contract to supply London’s hospitals with X-ray machines in partnership with the Radium Institute in Paris, an odd pairing since Madame Curie is an outspoken feminist. At the interview, Lord Dorchester is reluctant to believe that Poppy is a reporter since she is a mere girl, addressing his comments to Daniel instead, leading Poppy to agree with her aunt that his support of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act is a ploy to further his business interests. Poppy discovers that Bert had received a note from Lord Dorchester’s daughter Elizabeth, who has been held in a mental institution for the past seven years, ever since her release from Holloway Prison after her arrest during the Suffragette protests. Poppy and Daniel suspect that Bert’s death may not have been an accident, and suspect Lord Dorchester is responsible. This first in the series starring the young reporter is infused with the hope of new possibilities of the 1920s, after the war to end all wars.

August 1, 2016

The WidowFiona Barton
The Widow (NAL 2016) begins when Jean Taylor’s husband Glen is killed by a bus outside Sainsbury’s in London. The house seems empty without Glen, but Jean is relieved to be done with her husband and his nonsense. The two married when Jean was 19, and though she continued to work as a hairdresser, Jean didn’t have much life outside the marriage with her controlling husband. Kate Waters, a tabloid reporter, manages to insert herself into Jean’s house the week after Glen’s death, hoping to finally get Jean to talk about the disappearance of two-year-old Bella Elliott four years earlier. Bella’s young mother Dawn, who states she only left Bella unattended in their front garden for a brief time, insists that Bella is still alive, making a murder charge difficult. Glen became the prime suspect, but the police were not able to gather sufficient evidence to even convict him of kidnapping. Throughout the year-long investigation Glen never wavered from his declaration of innocence, and Jean refused to speak to the press and had little to say to the police. Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes, the lead investigator, is still haunted by the cold case, worried that he may have bungled the investigation. Alternate chapters told from the perspectives of The Widow and The Detective heighten the suspense in this haunting debut thriller.

After the CrashMichel Bussi
After the Crash (Hachette Books 2016; France 2012) begins when an Airbus 5403 plummets into the Swiss Alps on route from Istanbul to Paris on the night of December 23, 1980. All but one of the 169 passengers perished, and the lone surviver is a three-month-old baby. Two infants were aboard the plane: Lyse-Rose, the granddaughter of the oil-rich and powerful Léonce and Mathilde de Carville; and Emilie, the granddaughter of Pierre and Nicole Vitral, sellers of fries and sausages from a refurbished Citroën van. The parents of both girls died in the crash, leaving only siblings 2-year old Marc Vitral and 6-year-old Malvina de Carville, who were not on the flight. Both babies share the same blood type, and the baby pictures were consumed in the fire following the crash. Malvina insists that the baby is her sister, but the baby shares the blue eyes of the Vitrals. The press coins the name Lylie, a combination of both names, during the six months the judge has to make a determination. The judge seems inclined toward the wealthy de Carvilles until Léonce makes the mistake of trying to bribe the Vitrals, turning public opinion the other direction. Eighteen years later, Emilie (Lylie) Vitral is still uncertain of her heritage. Crédule Grand-Duc, the private detective hired by Mathilde de Carville, has spent the last few weeks writing a summary for Lylie of his 18-year investigation, conceding defeat. As he finishes the final page, he suddenly discovers a clue in plain sight on the old newspaper recording the crash, but is found dead the next day. Lylie passes the notebook on to Mark before disappearing. Fearing that Lylie is about to commit suicide, Mark begins a frantic search for both her and the truth. Interspersed chapters from Grand-Duc’s notebook reveal secrets about members of both families in this debut thriller exploring the importance of blood connections and knowing one’s place in a family.

Ruins of WarJohn A. Connell
Ruins of War (Berkley 2015) introduces Mason Collins, a disgraced Chicago homicide detective now serving as a US Army criminal investigator in the American Zone of Occupation of 1945 Munich, seven months after the Nazi defeat. A mutilated body is discovered in the rubble of a factory, the head and torso lashed to a column, the detached arms and legs arranged nearby in the shape of an X on a crude cross made of four wooden stakes. Following the footsteps in the dust, Mason’s arm is slashed by a booby trapped scalpel near a Bible verse scrawled in German. Mason’s superiors believe the murder is part of a black-market rivalry and aren’t inclined to allocate too much manpower on a German killing of another German, instead offering the support of Herr Oberinspektor Becker of the Munich Kriminalpolizei and his men. Mason feels the killing is too perfect to be a first attempt and fears there is a serial killer at work. The medical examiner confirms Mason’s suspicion that the dismemberment was done by someone with a thorough understanding of human anatomy, and Mason begins to search for information about the Nazi doctors doing medical research in the camps, discovering that prisoners with medical training were often forced to assist in the experiments. Fighting his own demons resulting from his capture at the Battle of the Bulge and time in Buchenwald concentration camp before entering a POW camp, Mason is compelled to seek justice for the mutilated victims as the city crumbles around him and starving residents and displaced persons roam the streets. This powerful debut historical mystery is a finalist 2016 Barry Award for Best First Novel.

A Gilded GraveShelley Freydont
A Gilded Grave (Berkley 2015) introduces Deanna Randolph, an 18-year-old debutante in 1895 Newport, Rhode Island. Deanna feels smothered by the restrictions of becoming a society lady, and is angry with Joseph Ballard, a friend since childhood who refused to go along with the marriage arranged by their families, instead preferring to work on his inventions. Their fathers are in the sugar business, along with the father of Deanna’s best friend Cassie Woodruff. Restricted to the company of the other women from the ultra-rich families with summer “cottages” on Newport, Deanna is required to change dresses six to eight times a day while following a regimented daily schedule of morning visits, afternoon teas, and evening soirees. Deanna secretly reads dime detective novels with her maid Elspeth, and longs for her childhood freedom. When her mother takes her older sister to Boston in search of a cure for her debilitating migraines, Deanna goes to stay with Cassie’s family, who are also hosting Lord David Manchester, a handsome young sugar magnate from Barbados and his fascinating sister Madeline. During an evening ball at Seacrest, the Woodruff cottage, the body of a maid is found at the foot of the cliffs. Elspeth’s brother Orrin, who was engaged to the dead girl, is arrested. Inspired by fictional detective Kate Goelet, Deanna and Elspeth set out to clear Orrin’s name. This enjoyable series debut starring a talented pair of amateur sleuths is a finalist for the 2016 Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery.

tom & Lucky and George & Cokey FloC. Joseph Greaves
Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo (Bloomsbury 2015) is the story of the 1936 trial of powerful gangster Charles “Lucky” Luciano, charged with profitting from prostitution, perhaps the only crime of which he was not guilty. The prosecutor is Thomas E. Dewey, an ambitious young lawyer who has his eye on the New York governor’s mansion. Defending is respected Long Island attorney George Morton Levy, whose key witness is “Cokey Flo” Brown, a heroin addict, brothel madam, and sometimes prostitute. Separate narratives, beginning in 1914, follow the four main characters through the events that shaped them into the personalities that captured the attention of the nation. Infamous characters like Al Capone, Dutch Schultz, Meyer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel move through the narrative, balanced by unscrupulous members of the corrupt criminal justice system that allowed the mobs to flourish. Based on Levy’s case files, including correspondence, trial notes, annotated motions, and briefs, this fictionalized true story includes verbatim quotes from the official court records. This deft transformation of a historical trial into a fascinating courtroom drama is a finalist for the 2016 Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery.

The Hemingway ThiefShaun Harris
The Hemingway Thief (Seventh Street Books 2016) is the story of Henry “Coop” Cooper, who writes the successful Alasdair MacMerkin romance series, featuring a Scottish vampire detective, under the Toulouse Velour pseudonym. Coop is tired of explaining that Toulouse is a man’s name to the adoring fans who love her books, and is contemplating killing the pseudonym off once and for all. While in search of inspiration for a new book under his real name, Coop has been staying at a run-down Baja beach hotel and drinking rum with bartender and Baja 500 fanatic Grady Doyle, who recently bought the hotel from a man anxious to escape the cartel wars in Tijuana. The only other hotel guest is a young man who signed in as Richard Kimble, and proceeded to drink himself into oblivion at a corner table. Two armed thugs beat up Kimble and try to kidnap him, but Grady takes one out with a broken bottle and Coop accidentally shoots the other one in the foot. While waiting for the kid to recover, Grady searches his room and discovers a handwritten manuscript that appears to be a first draft of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Kimble admits his real name is Ebenezer Milch, the sole surviver of a long line of con men, in Mexico searching for the suitcase, containing every word the unpublished Hemingway had written up to that time, stolen from Hadley Hemingway while she waited for a train in 1922 Paris. Coop isn’t exactly sure why he agrees to help Grady (a drinking buddy for only a month) support Milch (who is totally untrustworthy), but he is caught up in the story of the missing suitcase, hoping it may lead to a book that will allow him to escape Toulouse Velour. With the help of a former hit-man, who has a price on his own head, they head across Mexico in search of the suitcase, pursued by a well-connected book collector and his hired assassins. Though totally unprepared for his new tough-guy role, Coop manages to hold his own against the bad guys in this darkly funny debut caper novel.

Breaking WildDiane Les Becquets
Breaking Wild (Berkley 2016) is set in the wilds of Northwestern Colorado. Amy Raye Latour is elk hunting with two friends in early November. Kenny and Aaron are both rifle hunting and brought down elk. Amy Raye hunts with a bow, and sets out alone early one morning to try and fill her own elk tag. When she doesn’t return to camp, her friends report her missing, and ranger Pru Hathaway along with her search and rescue dog Kona respond to the missing person’s call. An early snowstorm covers Amy Raye’s tracks, and death from hypothermia is the obvious hypothesis, though an animal attack can’t be ruled out. After four days of severe winter weather, the search is called off. Learning that Amy Raye is an experienced outdoors-woman, Pru isn’t convinced that she is dead. Meanwhile, Amy Raye’s extramarital affairs cause the sheriff to suspect that her husband or one of her hunting buddies may have a motive for murder. Pru is raising a teenaged son by herself, and feels an affinity for Amy Raye, a mother of two who clearly shares her passion for the wilderness. Parallel narrations follow the paths of two strong women with a talent for taking care of themselves in a harsh yet beautiful environment in this effective debut thriller.

BaggageS.G. Redling
Baggage (Thomas & Mercer 2016) is the story of Anna Ray, a student advocate at Eastern Allegheny College in Gilead, West Virginia. Anna likes her job, her boss Meredith Michener, and the stunning scenery in her new home, but finds herself drinking far too much wine again as the calendar crawls toward February 17th. A year ago her husband committed suicide on the same date as a childhood trauma Anna refuses to let herself think about. In her closet she builds a wall of boxes full of unopened letters from her mother, serving a life sentence in Jefferson City Correctional Center. Ellis Trachtenberg, a very attractive professor, is interested in dating Anna, but she is not ready to consider a new emotional relationship since she hasn’t recovered from the last one. Professor Jeannie Fitzhugh-Conroy, Anna’s older cousin who left Eastern Allegheny College for Penn State, returns to help Anna through the difficult anniversary. When Trachtenberg is murdered on February 17th, the police can’t decide if Anna is a suspect or the next target. When the police describe the mutilated body, Anna’s submerged childhood memories break loose, sending her into a downward spiral of drinking to excess and waking up in the bathtub each morning that even Jeannie can’t fix. This intense psychological thriller gradually reveals the past torments that permeate Anna’s present.

All Is Not ForgottenWendy Walker
All Is Not Forgotten (St. Martin’s Press 2016) begins with the brutal rape of 15-year old Jenny Kramer in affluent Fairview, Connecticut. Upset when her date deserts her for the charms of an older girl, Jenny drinks far too much vodka, throws up, and then flees to the woods outside the party house to cry in peace. Instead she suffers through an hour-long rape by a man wearing a ski mask. Her parents agree to the administration of a new drug to erase the memory of the violent assault, leaving the police with little help for their investigation since no physical evidence is found on Jenny or at the scene of the rape. In the months that follow, Jenny’s parents hope the effects of the rape have dissipated when her physical injuries heal, but Jenny is haunted by the emotional memory that has no factual connection, and turns toward suicide plans to silence her internal demons. Her mother Charlotte, hiding her own secrets, hopes that the incident will not harm the family’s social standing, while her father Tom becomes obsessed with the thought that his daughter’s rapist is still at large and dreams of vengeance. Alan Forrester, a psychiatrist working to restore the memory of an Iraq vet given the same memory-suppression drug, believes that connecting his patient’s anger to the real events will allow him to heal. Forrester, who narrates the book, becomes the Kramer family psychiatrist, working to help Jenny remember the rape so that she can reattach her emotional memory to the physical trauma and then begin to move past it. This stunning debut psychological thriller lingers long after the final page.

Detective FictionWilliam Wells
Detective Fiction (Permanent Press 2016) introduces Jack Starkey, a retired Chicago homicide detective now living with a cat named Joe on the Phoenix, a houseboat permanently docked in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and running a bar called the Drunken Parrot. The co-owner of the bar is Bill Stevens, a Chicago reporter who writes detective fiction starring Jack Stoney, a younger, taller, more decorated Chicago homicide detective whose adventures are based on Starkey’s real cases. Jack has given up the drinking that cost him a marriage, drives a red 1963 Corvette Stingray convertible, and has a new relationship with real estate agent Marisa Fernandez de Lopez. Cubby Cullen, the Fort Myers Beach police chief asks Jack if he is willing to consult with the Naples police department about a possible murder. Jack is happy for the first time in many years, but misses the stimulation of being a cop and leaps at the chance. Naples is home to the top 1% ultra-rich retired seniors, and hasn’t had a homicide in 15 years until two recent suspicious deaths: an apparent heart attack while swimming and a fatal fall down a staircase in the middle of the night. The swimmer was a former Olympic medalist in excellent health and the man who fell never went further than the bathroom during the night, leading Jack to agree that both deaths were possibly murders. Marisa suggests that Jack do a Jay Gatsby number in order to persuade the Naples elite residents to speak to him as an equal. Concerned about a possible negative effect on property values, the mayor of Naples arranges for Jack to go undercover as the nephew of a rich widow, whose dead husband left an extensive wardrobe in Jack’s size. Despite his cynical blue-collar background and ignorance about which fork to use, Jack charms his way into Naples society. He discovers that both victims were investors in Count Vasily Petrovich’s Atocha hedge fund, and wonders if there might be a fatal penalty for early withdrawal. This funny first in the series starring the affable Jack Starkey includes excerpts from Jack Stoney’s latest book, where the good guys always win.

September 1, 2016

Rivers of LondonBen Aaronovitch
Rivers of London (Gollancz 2011, APA: Midnight Riot) introduces Peter Grant, a mixed-race Metropolitan Police constable in London. At the end of his probationary period, Peter and his best friend Leslie May are guarding a body at Covent Garden. While interviewing witnesses, Peter is surprised when Nicholas Wallpenny admits he has been dead for 120 years. Though suspecting he may have gone mad, Peter’s training enables him to complete the interview, though he is then unsure exactly what to do with the unusual witness statement. The following night he returns to try and catch another sight of the ghost, admitting to a well-dressed stranger that he is ghost-hunting. The stranger turns out to be Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who saves Peter from an assignment to the dead-end Case Progression Unit, writing an endless series of reports for police who have more important things to do. Instead, Peter becomes the only assistant to Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England, learning basic magic skills and helping negotiate a truce between the prickly spirits who control the rivers of London. Leslie is assigned to the Murder Team, and the two find themselves working on the same case, a series of violent murders that seem to have no connection to each other except the extreme facial damage to the victim of each crime. This witty debut paranormal police procedural, the first in a series that now numbers six, is great fun.

The Decagon House MurdersYukito Ayatsuji
The Decagon House Murders (Locked Room International 2015, Japan 1987) takes place on Tsunojima, a small abandoned island accessible only by boat. Seven members of the Kyoto University Mystery Club arrive to camp out for a week in a decagonal-shaped house without power. The young club members refer to each other by their aliases, taken from famous Golden Age mystery authors: Ellery, Van Dine, Agatha, Poe, Orczy, Carr, and Leroux. Van Dine’s father recently bought the island, the site of four deaths and a fire that destroyed the Blue Mansion, designed and painted completely blue (including furniture) by eccentric architect Nakamura Seiji. The body of Nakamura’s wife, missing one hand, and the bodies of their two servants were discovered on the island, along with the burnt remains of another body presumed to be Nakamura. The gardener was never found, leading to the assumption that he killed the other four inhabitants for some inexplicable reason. The students are attracted to the island because of the rumors of ghosts, and plan to spend their week of vacation writing their next set of stories, fair-play puzzle mysteries in the Golden Age tradition. Only Orczy realizes that the island was the home of the parents of Nakamura Chiori, a member of the Mystery Club who died of alcohol poisoning after a Mystery Club party a few months before the island murders. After the group departs for the Decagon House, an ex-member of the group and Nakamura’s brother both receive letters stating “My daughter Chiori was murdered by all of you,” raising the suspicion that the burnt body found on the island was not that of Nakamura Seiji after all. As the mainland group tries to determine how many letters were sent, the island group awakens to find a series of plates labeled The First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Last Victim as well as plates labeled The Detective and The Murderer. Hoping it is only an elaborate joke, the students try to figure out how the plates appeared out of thin air before the inevitable first murder. This impeccably plotted fair-play murder mystery is masterful.

The Shut EyeBelinda Bauer
The Shut Eye (Grove Press 2016, UK 2015) is the story of Anna Buck, whose 4-year-old son Daniel disappeared four months earlier. Every day, rain or shine, Anna cleans and polishes five little footprints in the forecourt of the garage next door, the last trace Daniel left the morning he vanished in the wet cement. Though she has tried, Anna can’t forgive her husband James for leaving the door open when he left for work, and finds it impossible to stop mourning the loss of her son and continue with her daily life. A leaflet pushed through her letterbox one morning, advertising private consultations with the dead, propels her out of the house for the first time in weeks. The woman seated next to her in the audience explains that Richard Latham is a proper “shut eye” with the power to speak to the dead and see the missing, requiring only a donation to the fund to repair the church roof in exchange. Anna requests a private consultation, but Latham refuses to help, declaring he doesn’t do missing persons any more. DCI John Marvel is haunted by a case he never solved, the disappearance of Edie Evans, a 12-year-old who headed off on her bike to school and never arrived. Psychic Richard Latham was consulted, and had visions which never panned out. After visiting Latham, Anna begins to have visions of her own along with a desperate thirst. Though she seems crazy, Anna’s descriptions remind Marvel of Latham’s own ramblings during the search for Edie, and he begins to take her visions seriously. This effective psychological thriller was a finalist for the 2015 Gold Dagger Award.

The DefenseSteve Cavanagh
The Defense (Flatiron Books 2016, UK 2015) introduces Eddie Flynn, a New York City defense attorney who lost his marriage and his law practice to alcoholism after the fallout of a case a year earlier. Eddie’s only joy is his 10-year-old daughter Amy, whose nightly phone calls helped him get through rehab. Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again, but Olek Volchek, the head of the Russian mob on trial for murder, changes his mind by kidnapping Amy. Arturas, Olek’s second in command, surprises Eddie in the bathroom of his favorite diner and helps him into the coat he left at his table, now wired with a bomb. The plan is that Eddie, a favorite with the courthouse guards, will charm his way through security wearing the bomb, and then blow up the only witness for the prosecution, who has been held in protective custody since the murder he says Volchek ordered by signing his name to a torn half of a one ruble note. Raised by his con man father in the tricks of the trade from boyhood, Eddie lifts one of the Russian’s wallets without thinking while being bundled into the limo. Knowing he only has forty-eight hours to double-cross the Russians and get Amy back, Eddie begins working to gain Volchek’s trust, the first step in feeling his way toward a plan to save Amy and hopefully himself as well. Eddie’s ability to read people and manipulate their feelings, intensified by his years as a con man, makes him a talented trial attorney, capable of controlling witnesses and the perception of their testimony by the jury. This intense debut courtroom thriller presents a uniquely flawed and multi-talented protagonist due to return in a sequel.

NEEDJoelle Charbonneau
Need (HMH Books for Young Readers 2015) is the story of Kaylee Dunham, a junior at Nottawa High School in Wisconsin. Kaylee’s younger brother DJ will die if a match isn’t found for a kidney transplant, but neither Kaylee nor her mother are a match, and Kaylee’s father disappeared several years ago. Kaylee has alienated her classmates by pressuring them to get tested as potential donors, faking illness in order to get access to the school medical records. Her only friend from school is Nate, an academically talented student living in the shadow of his star athlete older brother Jack, who has just discovered a new social networking site called NEED. After submitting the emails of five fellow students to NEED, Jack received a new iPhone. Nate decides to ask the site for an A in Physics, but Kaylee finds herself transfixed by the site’s definitions of “want” vs. “need” and asks for a new kidney for her brother. Nate is required to submit the emails of six students, while Kaylee gets a message stating that NEED will try to see that her need is met. Interspersed chapters from the perspectives of other students reveal requests for concert tickets, an extra week of Christmas break, a later curfew on New Year’s Eve, and silence from the constantly barking dogs next door. The request for contact emails increases and then changes to assignments, like anonymously delivering a note or a box of cookies, that are at first innocuous and gradually more harmful. This intense thriller exploring the dangers of anonymous online interactions is a finalist for the Agatha and Anthony Awards for Best Young Adult Novel.

Dreaming SpiesLaurie R. King
Dreaming Spies (Bantam 2015) is set in the spring of 1924, as Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes set off after a lengthy case in India for a visit to Japan on their way to California. Unable to find a quicker ship, they board the cruising tourist steamer Thomas Carlyle in Bombay, bound for Kobe. Russell is looking forward to an actual enforced vacation rather than the intensity of another case, but Holmes immediately recognizes the Earl of Darley, whom he has long suspected supplements his income with blackmail. Haruki Sato, a young Japanese woman returning home from college in America, tells Russell she is from a long line of acrobats, now retired, and peppers her conversation with frequent quotes from Matsuo Bashõ, a 17th-century itinerant poet, perhaps the most famous composer of haiku. Since neither Russell nor Holmes are familiar with Japan, Haruki agrees to tutor them in the Japanese language and customs, and Russell is thrilled to finally be learning with Holmes as an equal rather than trying to absorb knowledge he acquired decades earlier. A missing young woman, who either didn’t board in Bombay or vanished the first evening, plus a poltergeist who steals tennis racquets and other odd items, keep Holmes from succumbing to the boredom of the 23-day ocean voyage. This 14th in the series starring the irrepressible Mary Russell and her famous husband won the Agatha for Best Historical Mystery and is a finalist for the Lefty and Macavity Historical Mystery Awards.

Gun Street GirlAdrian McKinty
Gun Street Girl (2015) rejoins Detective Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary during the “Troubles” of 1985 Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. While not on riot duty, Duffy is investigating the double murder by 22-year-old Michael Kelly of his parents, after which he jumped to his death from a cliff. Despite the suicide note, Duffy suspects foul play, especially after discovering that Kelly was part of a wild Oxford party where the daughter of a cabinet minister died of a heroin overdose. His suspect pool quickly expands to include gun runners, arms dealers, stolen missile systems, and a shady American agent with a fake identity. To add to the confusion, agents from MI5 mount a campaign to recruit Duffy. Through it all Duffy maintains his composure, checking routinely under his car for a mercury tilt switch bomb every morning, and only losing his temper when someone lets the air out of his back tires. An assassination attempt he can understand, but letting down a man’s tires — that’s just mean. This 4th in the excellent historical series featuring the sardonic Sean Duffy is a finalist for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel and the Anthony and Edgar Awards for Best Paperback Original.

A Song for the BrokenheartedWilliam Shaw
A Song for the Brokenhearted (Mulholland Books 2016, APA: A Book of Scars, UK 2015) rejoins Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen in 1969, recuperating from his wounds on the Devon family farm of his former partner Helen Tozer. While Helen deals with the non-stop daily work of maintaining an ailing herd of dairy cows, Breen works to regain his strength. He finds country life impossibly boring so Helen arranges access to the open case file of the murder of her younger sister Alex four years earlier. Barely 16, Alex disappeared one day, and her body was discovered near the family farm the following day. Neither Helen nor her parents were informed at the time that Alex had been tortured for at least 12 hours before she died. While looking through the case files, Breen discovers that one of the numbered suspect folders is missing. Sergeant Sharman reveals that the missing folder was the interview with James Fletchet, Lord Goodstone, who had a solid alibi and was a close friend of Sergeant Milkwood, lead investigator. Fletchet and Milkwood met in Kenya, where Fletchet was in charge of his family’s huge farm and Milkwood served in the Kenyan police. When the Mau Mau Emergency began, they worked together at a British screening station in Nyeri, determining who was Mau Mau and who was not. Breen and Tozer are warned off investigating a lord, but a new murder with similar torture patterns keeps leading them back to the Mau Mau connection. The deepening relationship between the conventional Breen and nonconformist Tozer provides a welcome contrast to the gruesome murders in this third entry in an excellent series, a finalist for the 2016 Historical Dagger Award.

BrutalityIngrid Thoft
Brutality (2015) finds Fina Ludlow working on an independent case rather than as a private investigator for Ludlow and Associates, her family’s personal injury law firm in Boston. Bobbi Barone, whose 38-year old daughter Liz was attacked in her own Hyde Park home, wants Fina to figure out who put Liz in the hospital with a major head injury. At first it appears that Liz, married with two children, was a victim of a random attack. Bobbi explains that Liz, once a college soccer star at New England University, was in the process of suing NEU for injuries sustained during games and practices since her coaches encouraged agressive play. Liz had developed Mild Cognitive Impairment, an often devastating result of sports-related concussions. The possibility of getting a piece of a lucrative class action suit convinces Fina’s father Carl to support Fina’s investigation despite his tendency to quell her independence. Liz worked as a researcher at NEU, and Fina quickly adds her toxic boss to the list of suspects, along with Liz’s former coaches, the president of the NEU athletic booster club, and the head of the NEU development office who keeps sending Liz requests for donations. The odd duck in her family of lawyers, Fina is tolerated rather than supported by her ambitious father. When Bobbi gives her a warm hug after being questioned, Fina is startled to experience more maternal affection than she has received from her own mother for the past decade. This third in the series starring the relentless, wisecracking, and big-hearted Fina is a finalist for the 2016 Shamus Award for Best Novel.

Watching EdieCamilla Way
Watching Edie (NAL 2016) is the story of Edie, who moved to Fremton, England, as a teenager. On the first day at her new school, Edie (beautiful, artistic, and wild) meets Heather (plain, plump, studious, and friendless). The two become unlikely best friends — Edie recognizing Heather’s kindness, and Heather infatuated with Edie from the start. Edie hopes to go to art school in London, and Heather’s parents are determined that she go to medical school. The two lonely girls provide each other with much needed emotional support. Edie’s mother is recovering from a car accident and gives Edie little attention. Heather’s controlling mother has been cold and distant since the death of her little sister years earlier, and her father devotes himself to his clock collection and the Bible. When Edie becomes involved with the disreputable 20-year-old Connor, Heather is determined to save Edie from the destructive relationship. Seventeen years later Edie is living alone in a poky flat in London, pregnant and barely making ends meet by working as a waitress. She feels nervous and uncomfortable, sure that she is being watched, when Heather suddenly appears at her door, the first time they’ve seen each other since their school days in Fremton. Sections narrated by Heather (Before) and by Edie (After) fill in the details of their shared past and their new present, as Heather inserts herself back into Edie’s life. This intense psychological thriller explores the vulnerability of those desperate to be loved.

October 1, 2016

Blood DefenseMarcia Clark
Blood Defense (Thomas & Mercer 2016) introduces Samantha Brinkman, an ambitious criminal defense lawyer, in Los Angeles, California, who lands a career-making case, defending the “Canyon Killer” accused of murdering TV star Chloe Monahan and her roommate Paige Avner. The two girls were stabbed to death with a carving knife from the butcher’s block in the kitchen of their apartment, leading police to suspect a random burglary gone wrong. Neighbors reported hearing Dale Pearson arguing with Chloe the night she was killed, a veteran LAPD Homicide detective who met Chloe when her apartment was burglarized two months earlier and ten grand of diamond jewelry stolen. The two began a relationship that foundered when Chloe relapsed into heroin use, causing the fight overheard the night she died. Paige was out when Dale came by that evening, on a date a man the two girls referred to only as “Mr. Perfect.” Samantha isn’t fond of the police and is unconvinced by Dale’s insistence he is innocent, but she has overdue bills and can’t resist the lure of a media-intense case. Supported by Michelle, her office manager and closest friend, and Alex Medrano, a former client with impressive hacking skills working as her investigator, Samantha searches for anything that might cast doubt upon Dale’s guilt, unleashing a series of events that threatens everything she holds dear. This intense legal thriller is the first in a new series.

Fool Me OnceHarlan Coben
Fool Me Once (Dutton 2016) is the story of Captain Maya Stern Burkett, a former special-ops helicopter pilot suffering from PTSD, whose husband Joe was shot and killed in an attempted robbery two weeks earlier. Struggling to deal with the debilitating nightmares caused by her combat experiences, Maya has trouble holding it together as a single mother. After the funeral Maya’s friend Eileen gives her a nanny cam disguised as a digital picture frame, warning Maya that she can never be too careful about her two-year-old daughter Lily’s safety. Lily’s nanny Isabella is the daughter of the woman who took care of Joe when he was young, so Maya isn’t worried, but she sets the nanny cam up just in case. A few days later Maya remembers to check the recording and is shocked to see a man wearing a familiar green shirt scoop Lily up in his arms and settle onto the couch. The man is indisputably her dead husband. Both Isabelle and the recording vanish before Maya can show anyone else. Maya is called to the police station to try and identify two suspects in her husband’s murder, and learns that he was shot with the same gun that killed her sister Claire four months earlier during a home invasion while Maya was stationed in Kuwait. Unable to make sense of the connection, Maya begins to search for a link between her sister and her husband that would have threatened both their lives. Maya’s career ended when Corey Rudzinski, a professional whistle-blower, exposed civilian deaths caused by her actions in Iraq. Maya can’t stand the man, but Rudzinski tells Maya that Claire was helping him uncover a scandal at Burkett Enterprises, and she reluctantly accepts his help. This standalone thriller featuring an emotionally damaged protagonist and a very twisty plot is mesmerizing.

Where it HurtsReed Farrel Coleman
Where It Hurts (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2016) introduces Gus Murphy, a retired cop consumed by grief and making a living by driving a courtesy van for the run-down Paragon Hotel in Suffolk County, New York. Gus had a happy family life until the sudden death of his 20-year-old son John Jr., who collapsed and died on a basketball court from an undiagnosed heart ailment, blew the family apart. Two years later Gus and his wife Annie are divorced, and their daughter Kristen is in a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol. Gus lives in a room at the Paragon, working security when not making runs to the Long Island airport. Tommy Delcamino, a small-time hood Gus arrested several times, appears at the hotel asking Gus for help finding whoever tortured and murdered his son TJ four months earlier. Assuming that Tommy D is trying to take advantage of their shared connection of losing a son, Gus throws him out of the hotel. After calming down, Gus visits the spot where TJ was killed and asks a few questions of his former partner on the force. Gus discovers that Tommy D was right, the cops haven’t spent much effort trying to solve TJ’s murder, assuming it was a natural consequence of being involved in the drug trade. When Gus is warned off pursuing the investigation by several former colleagues, he realizes that he actually cares about something for the first time since John Jr.’s death. The investigation places Gus and everyone he knows in danger as he uncovers secrets that threaten someone who is willing to kill. This intense thriller featuring a protagonist emerging from the depths of mourning is the first in a new series.

The LightkeepersAbby Geni
The Lightkeepers (Counterpoint 2016) is the story of Miranda, a 30-ish nature photographer who travels to the desolate Farallon Islands, a dangerous archipelago off the coast of California, for a one-year residency. Arriving after a rough six-hour journey in a small ferry, Miranda and her six cameras are hoisted from the boat in a rusty mesh cage up the cliffs. None of the scientists in residence take time to welcome her; it’s Shark Season and everyone is off to watch a feeding frenzy. Galen and Forest are the shark specialists, Andrew and Lucy observe birds, Mick is the whale expert, and Charlene is an intern who helps whichever scientists are most overloaded. Life on the island is primitive at best. The ferry visits weekly if the weather is good, delivering supplies and mail. Because of the harsh climate, several weeks often go by without any communication with the outside world. The island is damp, smells strongly of bird guano, and is overrun with mice. The wind howls non-stop and waves crash against the cliff walls. Galen has lived in the primitive cabin on the island for a decade, the others for a year or two, and no one expects Miranda to last more than a few weeks. But Miranda, who has been a loner since her mother died in an accident when she was 14, soon adapts to the long hours alone, examining her surroundings through the viewfinder of her camera. When one of the scientists falls from a cliff and drowns shortly after the beginning of Whale Season, it’s unclear if the head wound on the body was caused by the fall. The islanders watch each other a bit more closely through Seal Season and Bird Season, forced to rely on each other to survive in the dangerous environment despite suspicions. This haunting debut novel combines elements of the traditional mystery with vivid observations of the natural world.

Last WordsMichael Koryta
Last Words (Little, Brown and Company 2015) introduces Markus Novak, a private investigator working for Innocence Incorporated, a pro bono Florida law firm that specializes in exonerating death row inmates. Ever since Mark’s wife Lauren, an attorney for the firm, was shot and killed on her way to interview a witness, Mark has been barely keeping it together. His attempts to learn the truth about her death through dubious channels have caused the firm to consider firing him. Te get him away from the office, his boss sends him to Garrison, Indiana, to investigate the murder of Sarah Martin, a teenager murdered deep within the Trapdoor Cave ten years earlier. Ridley Barnes, a peculiar loner who was mapping the cave system, brought Sarah’s handcuffed body out days after she disappeared, claiming to remember nothing about how and where he found her. There wasn’t enough physical evidence to charge Ridley, but the whole town is convinced he is guilty. It was Ridley himself who contacted Innocence Incorporated, hoping to learn the truth of what happened in the depths of Trapdoor Cave. After interviewing Ridley, Mark receives a surprise visit from Sarah’s mother Diane, who encourages Mark to reopen the investigation, hoping to finally learn who killed her daughter. A reporter anxious to learn who Mark is working for manages to elicit the information that both the suspected killer and the dead girl’s mother are supportive of a new investigation. Unfortunately Diane committed suicide years earlier, leaving Mark’s reputation as an investigator in even more doubt than ever. Claustrophobic scenes inside the maze-like passages of the massive cave add an additional element of terror to this effective thriller, the first in a series starring the grief-stricken Markus Novak.

The Quality of SilenceRosamund Lupton
The Quality of Silence (Crown 2016, UK 2015) is the story of Ruby Alfredson, a precocious deaf 10-year-old, and her mother Yasmin, a beautiful astrophysicist, who travel from London to Alaska to join Matt Alfredson for Christmas. A wildlife photographer, Matt has been working out of the remote Inuit village of Anaktue near Prudhoe Bay. When Ruby and Yasmin land in Fairbanks, Matt isn’t there to greet them as expected. Instead, Lieutenant Reeve tells Yasmin that her husband died in a fire that killed all 23 residents of Anaktue, plus one additional body. Matt’s wedding ring and parts of his snowmobile were found in the rubble of the village. Yasmin insists that Matt is still alive, citing the fact that Matt told her he had to remove his ring to work in the bitter cold. Lieutenant Reeve insists that the police searched for hours from the air for any possible survivors without finding any trace of life. Unable to accept that Matt is gone, Yasmin convinces a trucker to take her and Ruby north. Though dressed in the Arctic gear Matt provided, the bitter cold and inhospitable landscape threatens their survival throughout the perilous 500 mile journey through winter storms, as much as the mysterious driver of a tanker that hovers just out of sight in the rear view mirror. Yasmin constantly encourages Ruby to “USE YOUR WORDS,” not understanding that making sounds she cannot hear is not Ruby’s voice. Instead, Ruby communicates through sign language, an automated voice on her computer, a blog she began with her father about the Alaska trip, and her tweets describing the emotions written words give her. When Ruby receives a picture of a dead musk ox through email, she is convinced her father is still alive, but Yasmin is sure that Matt would never send them such a disturbing picture. This beautifully written and heart-wrenching thriller is a testament to the power of language and the desperate lengths people will go to survive.

Ways to DisappearIdra Novey
Ways To Disappear (Little, Brown and Company 2016) begins when Brazilian novelist Beatriz Yagoda climbs into an almond tree in Copacabana with her suitcase, lights up a cigar, and begins to read a book. An elderly domino player asks if she needs assistance, is assured she does not, and the novelist then vanishes without a trace. Emma Neufeld, Beatriz’s American translator, is worried because Beatriz has not answered her email messages for weeks. She receives an email from Flamenguinho, who claims to be a friend and relays the news of Beatriz’s disappearance. Emma immediately flies from Pittsburgh to Brazil, leaving behind the boyfriend who is pressuring her to marry him. Flamenguinho meets her in Rio, and demands the $600,000 Beatriz owes him in gambling debts, assuming that the American editions of her books are worth a lot of money. Emma promises to get him the money he is owed, and doesn’t reveal that Beatriz is only paid $500 for each American edition. Beatriz’s daughter Raquel reluctantly accepts Emma’s offer to help find her mother while her brother Marcus is more interested in seduction. Neither Raquel nor Marcus have ever finished reading any of their mother’s works, and Emma is convinced that her intimate knowledge of Beatriz’s enigmatic prose will help reveal where the author is hiding. Interspersed translation notes reveal the excitement and tension of moving between languages, paralleling Emma’s own struggle to truly understand the reality of Brazil. This debut literary mystery is a clever exploration of the power of literature to both expose and camouflage the truth.

The Accidental AlchemistGigi Pandian
The Accidental Alchemist (Midnight Ink 2015) introduces Zoe Faust, an herbalist and reformed alchemist born in 1676 Salem, Massachusetts. The only sign of Zoe’s great age is the snow white hair everyone assumes is dyed, and the occasional error talking about the past in the present tense. After years in Paris, Zoe has relocated to Portland, Oregon, purchasing a decrepit house with the reputation for being haunted. Zoe plans start an herb garden and to remodel the house to resume her study of alchemy. While in the basement unpacking her crates shipped from Paris, Zoe is startled to find a living, breathing three-foot tall gargoyle, who introduces himself as Dorian Robert-Houdin, accidentally brought to life by his “father” Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, a famous stage magician who lived in 1800s Paris. Dorian has been working as a chef for the blind since his father’s death, but is finding it increasingly difficult to transform back and forth from stone to life. Dorian shows Zoe the ancient alchemy manuscript his father used to bring him to life, and Zoe studies the book while Dorian whips up a vegan gourmet meal. On her way home from the store the next morning Zoe discovers the dead body of Charles Macraith, the contractor she hired to fix the most urgent house repairs, on her front porch. Zoe surprises Detective Max Lui by declaring the man had been poisoned, especially after the autopsy reveals Macraith has been stabbed. Detective Max Lui tells Zoe that her house has been robbed, and she discovers that the book needed to halt Dorian’s transformation back into stone has been stolen along with the antiques (former possessions purchased over centuries) she sells online. Zoe, who is alert only during daylight hours; Dorian, who can see in the dark; and Brixton, a 14-year-old juvenile offender who spotted Dorian by accident, combine their skills to track down the murderer and recover the book that can save Dorian. Awarded the 2016 Lefty for Best Regional Mystery, this amusing paranormal mystery includes a selection of Dorian’s gourmet vegan recipes.

That Bright LandTerry Roberts
That Bright Land (Turner Publishing 2016) is set in the summer of 1866. North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance, who served in the Confederate Army, sends for his nephew Jacob Ballard, a 24-year-old Union veteran and retired Pinkerton detective now working for the War Department in Washington City. Jacob wants to be done with death, but Vance is concerned about the murders of men from their family home place in the isolated mountains of western North Carolina who fought for the North during the Civil War. Jacob’s mother took him north after his father died when he was a child, and he doesn’t feel any attachment to his childhood home until returns, posing as a government agent checking on the legitimacy of Union army veterans’ disability benefit claims. Jacob discovers that the names of all the murdered men are on his disability list, and is certain the murders have something to do with the 1863 Shelton Laurel Massacre of thirteen men and boys suspected of being Union sympathizers. While living in the mountains of Madison Country and interviewing the veterans, Jacob finds himself empathizing with the local people more every day, despite frequent threats from those who supported the Confederacy. A chance meeting with Sarah Freeman, a local war widow, and her young son Sammy, who rescue Jacob after he is set upon and robbed by three men who take offense when Jacob mentions that the war is over, gives Jacob an entrée into the starving mountain community, whose fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons served on both sides of the war. Jacob’s search for his own place in the world mirrors the struggle of the mountain residents to make sense of their new reality in this powerful historical mystery based on true events.

The Boy in the ShadowsCarl-Johan Vallgren
The Boy in the Shadows (Quercus 2016, Sweden 2013) begins in 1970 in a crowded Stockholm subway station. Jan Klingberg and his two sons are late for the train, but Kristoffer (7) refuses to take the elevator with his baby brother Joel howling in his baby carriage. A grandmotherly woman offers to walk the older boy up the stairs and wait with him for the elevator. But when the elevator arrives, Kristoffer and the woman are nowhere to be found. Forty-two years later Joel Klingberg’s wife Angela asks Danny Katz for help finding her husband, who has disappeared. Katz met Joel in the army, when both went through a special training program for those with a talent for language acquisition, but hasn’t seen him for years. A few months before his disappearance, Joel mentioned Katz to Angela for the first time, declaring he was the only person he’d ever trusted. The police believe the wealthy man left voluntarily, but Angela is sure her husband was kidnapped. A recovering heroin addict, Katz uses his computer programming talents to investigate Joel’s life, and discovers that he isn’t the only one searching for the missing man. Menace seems to hover around the powerful Klingberg family, whose fortune was founded in the Dominican Republic, beginning with sugar and bauxite and transforming into Klingberg Aluminum. Katz has the uneasy feeling that someone has been in his apartment, though nothing is taken, and acts of violence echo a disturbing incident from his teenaged years, when he was charged with an violent attack while on heroin that he doesn’t remember committing. This intricately plotted psychological thriller is the first in a series.

November 1, 2016

The Big FearAndrew Case
The Big Fear (Thomas & Mercer 2016) is set in New York City. It’s August and the city is sweltering and odorous piles of garbage from the strike line the streets. A series of little disasters, each one worse than the one before, has hit the city: hundreds of rats in the kitchen of a four-star restaurant, a collapsed crane, a capsized water taxi drowning 12 passengers, a leaking chemical plant sickening an entire block. New Yorkers are infected with The Big Fear: a huge disaster on the scale of a falling high-rise building or collapsing bridge is lurking. Veteran NYPD detective Ralph Mulino is called out in the middle of the night to meet the Harbor Patrol and investigate a problem on a ship. Harbor Patrol Sergeant Sparks refuses to go faster than the regulation 22 knots and then suggests calling in for an update before boarding the ship, but Mulino is ready to do what needs to be done and scrambles up the thin ladder bolted to the side of the ship. On board his flashlight reveals a dead body sprawled on the deck and he hears the squeak of shoes. Mulino identifies himself as NYPD and catches a glimpse of a shadow darting through the darkness, the gleam of a weapon in his raised hand. Mulino fires first and hits his target. Discovering a NYPD detective’s badge around the neck of the dying man, Mulino realizes his long night has only begun. Leonard Mitchell, the new civilian head of the Department to Investigate Misconduct and Corruption, interviews Mulino after the mandatory 48-hour waiting period. He tends to believe Mulino’s story until the evidence report arrives and reveals that no weapon was found on the deck by Brian Rowson’s body. Mulino knows it must be a corrupt cop who arranged for Rowson’s gun to vanish, and sets out to clear his name. Christine Davenport, Mitchell’s boss who just left for the lure of high salary as a law firm investigator, has discovered a string of coded email messages at EHA Investments that indicate someone at the firm is illegally profiting by anticipating company failures. When Davenport’s car, the only clunker in a block of luxury automobiles, is set on fire in a presumed failed robbery, she realizes her discovery has threatened someone who knows where she lives. This excellent debut police procedural includes authentic details from the author’s years serving as investigator, spokesman, and policy director at the Civilian Complaint Review Board, investigating allegations of misconduct against New York City Police Department officers.

Real TigersMick Herron
Real Tigers (Soho 2016) rejoins the failed operatives at MI5’s Slough House, condemned to a career of paper pushing as punishment for not resigning after spectacular failures. Catherine Standish, who finally has her alcoholism under control, is kidnapped on the streets of London. Because of the lack of routine at Slough House, Jackson Lamb and his agents don’t realize she is missing until the kidnappers make contact, demanding information stored on a secret MI5 computer at headquarters in Regent’s Park as ransom. Peter Judd, the new Home Secretary, has challenged Intelligence Service chief Ingrid Tearney by activating a “tiger team” to test MI5’s defenses, providing Diana Taverner with a weapon in her attempt to replace Tearney. Unsure who the kidnappers are, River Cartwright uses a tenuous connection to Taverner to penetrate MI5 areas the Slough House agents are banned from, searching for the file demanded as ransom. When Judd decides to close down Slough House, Lamb is finally prodded into action, uncovering a group of dangerous private mercenaries as well as a conspiracy that threatens to destroy MI5. This third in the deviously clever Slough House series was a finalist for the 2016 Gold and Steel Dagger Awards.

Death Wore WhiteJim Kelly
Death Wore White (Minotaur 2009) introduces rookie Detective Inspector Peter Shaw, the youngest DI on the force, assigned to work with his father’s old partner Detective Sergeant George Valentine in Norfolk, England. During a mishandled investigation into the murder of a child, the judge implied that Shaw and Valentine faked evidence against the suspect, Bobby Mosse. Peter’s father left the force, and Valentine was never promoted. Shaw isn’t sure if he can trust Valentine, who still insists that Mosse was guilty. While checking out a report of drums of caustic chemicals on the beach, Shaw and Valentine discover the body of a man on an inflatable raft, a human bite deep in his arm. Without phone reception, they load the body into their car and head back to town, joining a line of eight vehicles stranded in the blizzard. In the truck at the head of the line, blocked by a fallen tree, they find the body of Harvel Ellis, killed by a chisel through the eye. No footprints are found in the snow near the car and the drivers of the cars behind swear that no one left the truck. The elderly man driving one of the cars has suffered a heart attack, a well-dressed woman is frantic that she hasn’t been able to fetch her child from school, and the young man at the end of the line abandons his car and flees through the snow into the woods. As Shaw and Valentine check out the witness statements they discover that each of the drivers has lied about something, adding an extra layer of confusion to the investigation. The new partners grudgingly establish a rapport as they work to solve two baffling crimes: Valentine accepting that his inexperienced young superior is blessed with flashes of insight and Shaw coming to realize that Valentine’s years of experience have molded him into a solid and trustworthy police officer. This suspenseful mystery is the first in a series that now numbers six.

The Dead Don’t BleedDavid Krugler
The Dead Don’t Bleed (Pegasus Books 2016) is the story of Lieutenant Ellis Voight of the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1946 Washington DC. Voight and his partner are called to the back alley scene of the murder of Lieutenant Logan Skerrill, Voight’s nemesis from the Funhouse, the Navy’s training program for undercover work at Coney Island. Skerrill was an egotistical natural spy, outshining all the other recruits with his lock-picking skills and ability to seamlessly assume another persona. Commander Burton Paslett, Voight’s boss at the Sabatoge, Espionage, and Countersubversion section, is sure that Skerrill’s murder has something to do with communist infiltration, and sends Voight undercover to work at H&H Clipping Service, a suspected Communist front Skerrill visited before his death. Assuming the identity of Theodore Barston, the recently deceased son of a union organizer dishonorably discharged from the Navy for selling drugs, Voight convinces owner Henry Himmel to give him a job delivering clippings to customers and sweet talks the secretary into going out for drinks and airing her grievances against everyone in the office. Himmel tells Voight that an occasional customer will give him an envelope to bring back to the office, and Voight receives a postcard from New Mexico with a coded message he believes is the amount of money spent on a secret project. Unfortunately the FBI is also watching H&H Clipping Service and Voight has to use all his tradecraft skills to protect his cover. Voight’s tenuous romance with Liv Burling, a free-spirited typist at the Office of War Information he met at the library, also threatens his cover, since he can’t seem to stop himself from spending time with her. This mesmerizing historical thriller is the fiction debut of a history professor specializing in Cold War propaganda, nuclear warfare, and racial conflict in the United States.

The Perfect GirlGilly Macmillan
The Perfect Girl (William Morrow 2016) is the story of Zoe, a 17-year-old piano prodigy whose recital with her step-brother Lucas is interrupted by a man shouting about disrespect just as they begin their first piece. Zoe recognizes the grief-stricken man as Thomas Barlow, the father of one of the three teenagers who died while Zoe was driving under the influence of alcohol three years earlier. Bullying girls spiked Zoe’s drinks at a party and she didn’t realize she was drunk, but the judge wasn’t swayed by her defense and sentenced her to detention at the Secure Unit for juveniles. When Zoe was released, her mother Maria moved them from Devon to Bristol, hoping for what Zoe calls a Second Chance Life. In Bristol, Maria conceals their past, and meets Chris while his son Lucas and Zoe are playing at a competition. Now married with a beautiful Second Chance Baby named Grace, everything seems perfect until Thomas Barlow reveals that Maria and Zoe have been lying about their past. By the end of the evening of the piano recital Maria is dead. Parallel narrations by Zoe, her former solicitor Sam, her aunt Tessa, Tessa’s alcoholic husband Richard, and a screenplay written by Lucas gradually reveal the hidden truths everyone has been concealing. This cleverly plotted psychological thriller is riveting.

ArrowoodLaura McHugh
Arrowood (Spiegel & Grau 2016) is the story of Arden Arrowood, who inherits Arrowood, her family’s historical mansion in Keokuk, Iowa, after the death of her father. Arden’s two-year-old twin sisters vanished from the shade of the Arrowood mimosa tree 17 years earlier, while eight-year-old Arden was gathering flowers for them, and their Valium-addicted mother was drowsing the day away inside. Arden returned to the front yard with an armful of blossoms to find the lawn empty and a gold car speeding away with a flash of blond hair in the back seat. The house has been empty since Arden and her parents moved away after no trace was found of the twins. Arden’s father tried to make a living running pyramid schemes and gambling, and her parents divorced. Arden’s mother, who continued to try and escape reality for years with drugs and alcohol, is now remarried and born-again. Arden is now 25, but she can’t seem to finish her master’s thesis — “The Effects of Nostalgia on Historical Narratives” — and hasn’t quite recovered from a disastrous relationship with one of her professors. She jumps at the chance to return to Arrowood, the house she has always considered home. Shut up for 17 years, Arrowood is exactly as the family left it, furniture draped with sheets and crumpled blankets in the twin’s cribs. Though under the care of a caretaker who claims to have dated her mother, Arden discovers that the old house is not in the best of shape. She hears water running at strange times, and sounds that could be footsteps, or perhaps just the creaking of age. Josh Kyle, a true crime author who is researching the Arrowood twins disappearance, contacts Arden claiming to have new evidence casting doubt on the guilt of Harold Singer, the owner of a gold car who was suspected of the kidnapping, hounded by the police, but never charged. Unsettled by the memories caused by returning to Arrowood, Arden agrees to meet with Josh and confront the possibility that her childhood memory of that fateful day might not be completely accurate. This atmospheric novel of psychological suspense with echoes of a gothic thriller is spellbinding.

CheatgrassBart Paul
Cheatgrass (Arcade Publishing 2016) begins when Tommy Smith, a former cowboy, wilderness guide, and Iraq war vet who re-upped for a tour in Afghanistan, gets a plea for help from his ex-girlfriend Sarah. Dave Cathhart, Sarah’s father and an old friend of Tommy’s, has disappeared from his ranch in the eastern Sierra Mountains on the border between California and Nevada. Sarah is now married to Kip Isringhausen, a smooth-talking entrepreneur who was helping Dave put on rodeo training clinics. There is no sign of violence in Dave’s house, and the police believe he may have just wandered off, but Sarah is sure he has been taken for some reason. Tommy realizes that the country he grew up in is changing rapidly. Stockmen are selling off their water rights to a mysterious corporation, and those refusing to sell are being pressured. Kip had been pushing Dave to do the same, trying to convince him that the money from the water rights would be a much better inheritance for Sarah than a hard-scrabble working ranch. Sarah confesses that the conflicting stories Kip told her worried her enough to move out of their trailer and back home with her father. Tommy begins to investigate Kip’s background fearing that Sarah’s suspicions are right, and the two are soon fleeing though the high country, hoping their wilderness skills and Tommy’s expertise as a sniper can save them from whoever is out to kill them both. This second in the series set in the Sierra Nevada wilderness is a deft mix of contemporary western and thriller.

Marked for LifeEmelie Schepp
Marked for Life (MIRA 2016, Sweden 2013) begins when Hans Juhlén, the head of asylum issues at the Swedish immigration board, is found shot dead in his home in Norrköpping. The only evidence is a child-sized hand print on the open window, but the Juhlén’s have no children, and Kerstin Juhlén can’t remember the last time a child visited their home. Jana Berzelius, a brilliant young public prosecutor, is assigned to the case. Though talented, Jana doesn’t have any close friends; her colleagues find her overly reserved and emotionally cold. The pathologist explains that the angle of the first bullet indicate that the shooter was kneeling down, or extremely short. A few days later the gun that killed Juhlén is discovered next to the body of a murdered young boy. The pathologist discovers signs of heroin use, frequent beatings, and the letters THANATOS crudely carved into the back of the boy’s neck. Jana manges to conceal her shock at the autopsy, since she bears a similar carving on the back of her own neck: the letters KER. Adopted by her parents at the age of nine, Jana has no memory of her life before she was found with a severe concussion. She suffers through debilitating nightmares, which she has recorded for years in a series of notebooks, one notebook a year for 26 years. The psychologist she saw as a child advised her adoptive parents that the nightmares would gradually disappear. When they persisted, her father agreed to sleeping pills. The drugs made Jana unable to concentrate during the day, and she hated the drowsy fog so much she claimed the nightmares stopped. The carving on the neck of the dead boy gives Jana hope she may finally be able to understand her own past, and she dives back into her dream notebooks, concealing evidence from the police, and hoping to find the truth before her connection to the crime is exposed. This intense debut thriller is the first in a series.

London RainNicola Upson
London Rain (Harper 2016, UK 2015) finds amateur sleuth Josephine Tey back in London for the 1937 coronation of King George. Her play, Queen of Scots, is being performed as a BBC radio adaptation, and Josephine has been invited to sit in on rehearsals and offer advice. On her first visit, Josephine is welcomed by Vivienne Beresford, acting editor for Radio Times, who requests a piece for the magazine while escorting her to the rehearsal hall. They arrive just in time to hear the photographer coax star Millicent Gray into looking more queenly by mentioning her affair with Britain’s most popular newsman, Vivienne’s husband Anthony. Josephine helps smooth over Vivienne’s humiliation, and the two women form an uneasy friendship. Days later, at the deafening climax of the coronation ceremony, Beresford is shot and killed in his broadcasting booth. Vivienne quickly admits to killing him and the public outcry against her is extreme. Fearing that Vivienne will not get a fair trial, and suspecting that someone has carefully constructed a series of events to incite Vivienne’s jealousy, Josephine sets out to unravel the web of secrets surrounding Anthony Beresford. Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose is at first convinced of Vivienne’s guilt, but the discovery of a second body causes him to take Josephine’s suspicions seriously. Joesphine’s own secret affair with actress Marta Hallard adds an additional level of empathy in this excellent traditional mystery, the sixth in the series.

SecurityGina Wohlsdorf
Security (Algonquin Books 2016) takes place the weekend before the grand opening of Manderley Resort, an opulent new twenty-story hotel on the California coast near Santa Barbara. Charles Destin, owner of the Destin Management Group, is the son of diplomat who died in a hotel in Sierra Leone when a waiter was bribed to deliver a room service tray containing a cheap bomb. Determined to create an environment where the rich and famous can relax in secure privacy, Destin’s new hotel advertisements promise a level of luxury, discretion, and state-of-the-art security unequalled anywhere else in the world. Tessa, the young property manager, is arranging the final details, finalizing the place settings for the opening gala featuring a pyramid of a thousand champagne flutes. The chef is finalizing the flavor of cherry coulis, the housekeeper is cleaning a small crimson stain from the white carpet, the gardener is pruning the red roses in the middle of the twenty-five hundred square yard hedge maze, and the electricians are finishing the final wiring in the luxury suites to be used for the gala. When Tessa’s foster brother Brian Domini suddenly appears she has far too many items left on her checklists to listen to the reasons for his 11-year absence and puts him to work fixing the dishwasher that has suddenly died. Brian is unsettled by the lack of security guards in the isolated resort, but Tessa explains that security is run from the locked 20th floor, and that “The best security is invisible security.” Meanwhile, The Killer is stalking the halls searching for his next victim. Split-screen narratives follow the hotel workers as they move from one security camera to the next, creating a terrifying montage of gruesome images. This high-intensity debut thriller pays homage to Daphne du Maurier and Alfred Hitchcock.

December 1, 2016

You Will Know MeMegan Abbott
You Will Know Me (Little, Brown and Company 2016) is the story of the Knox family: parents Katie and Eric, gymnastics prodigy daughter Devon, and sweet-natured younger brother Drew. At the age of three, Devon stumbled into a lawn mower her father left running, losing two toes. The doctor suggested physical activity to help restore balance — soccer or ice skating or tumbling — and within a year, Devon was the star of the gym, outshining girls far older. Just after Devon turned ten, renowned gymnastics coach Teddy Belfour asked Katie and Eric what they were willing to sacrifice to set a goal of Olympic competition for Devon. That night Eric began researching second mortgages and Katie started doing freelance design work on her laptop in the BelStars gym, while little Drew played quietly with his toys, and Devon practiced and practiced and practiced. Twenty-five thousand dollars of credit card debt later, Devon has just turned 15, and is ready for her final qualification matches. Still less than five feet tall, Devon is the perfect gymnast: hip-less and breast-less, with muscular thighs, shoulders, and biceps. Consumed by the need to succeed, she has little energy to spare for friends, socializing with the other gymnasts who are her competitors. Katie and Eric, who run the BelStars boosters club, rarely emerge from the insular gymnastics community. The sudden death by a hit-and-run accident of Ryan, a charismatic young man who worked for BelStars and dated Hailey, the coach’s niece, shocks everyone, especially after Hailey becomes a suspect and Coach Belfour deserts the club to support her. While Eric tries to keep the BelStars Boosters from leaving the gym, Katie tries to support her children, but finds herself becoming obsessed with the crime, realizing how little she really knows about her own daughter. This intense thriller examines the dangerous physical repercussions of intense gymnastics training, the culture of competitive gymnastics that pushes participants to achieve perfection at all cost, and the often unconscious pressure parents put on their children under the guise of helping them achieve their goals.

The DollhouseFiona Davis
The Dollhouse (Dutton 2016) is set in the Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York City. In 1952, Darby McLaughlin, arrives from Ohio to attend secretarial school at Katherine Gibbs. All the rooms on the floors with the other Gibbs girls are full, so Darby is given a room on the floor with the models who work for Eileen Ford. Darby is plain, self-conscious, and already feeling out of place in the big city. Among the tall, beautiful models, Darby feels like a squat panda in a room full of gazelles. One of the models is kind to Darby, but the rest are indifferent and spiteful. Esme, a young Puerto Rican maid, befriends Darby, and takes her out to jazz club where she works as a hat check girl. Darby is entranced by the bebop music, charmed by the son of the owner, and oblivious to the under-the-table sales of heroin. In 2016 Rose Lewin moves into her boyfriend Griff’s condo at the remodeled Barbizon. A former television reporter, Rose now writes for the blog WordMerge. Rose is fascinated by the elderly residents of the Barbizon who were given small rent-controlled apartments on the 4th floor when the building was transformed into condos. Rose convinces her editor to let her write a story about the Barbizon girls of the 1950s, using the hook of Miss McLaughlin, a veiled woman scarred by a knife cut who hasn’t revealed her face for over 50 years. She makes friends with Stella Conover, one of the former models who is caring for Miss McLaughlin’s dog Bird while she is travelling. Stella is taken to the hospital after a heart attack, and asks Rose to take care of Bird. When Griff suddenly decides to return to his ex-wife and daughters and asks Rose to move out, she temporarily takes refuge in Miss McLaughlin’s apartment, sleeping on the couch and becoming obsessed with mementos from her life that reveal hints of the tragic accident half a century earlier. Alternate chapters set in 1952 and 2016 tell the story of two independent women searching for their place in eras featuring unique restrictions set against tantalizing hopes of achieving self-sufficiency and happiness. This debut novel of suspense is a deft mix of mystery, obsession, and the power of love.

ExposureHelen Dunmore
Exposure (Atlantic Monthly Press 2016) is set in 1960 London at the height of the Cold War. Giles Holloway has a senior position at the Admiralty, and takes the odd Top Secret file home to peruse and photograph with his trusty Minox in the privacy of his secret attic study. Late one night he trips and falls coming down the attic stairs, fracturing his leg. He manages to close and lock the hidden door before passing out, but can’t get back up the stairs to retrieve the file he planned to return to Julian Clowde’s desk first thing in the morning. When he awakens in a hospital bed, Giles first phones his contact to remove the camera, and then Simon Callington, his colleague and friend since university, to fetch the file. Simon is shocked to discover the words TOP SECRET stamped across the file, panics, and hides it in his hall closet behind the coats and boots instad of smuggling it back into the Admiralty as requested. Simon’s wife Lily, who fled Germany with her mother as a child, discovers the file while vacuuming, and buries it in the garden shortly before Simon is arrested for espionage. While Simon is awaiting trial Lily flees to rural Kent with their three children, frightened by the accusing questions in German, a language she has almost forgotten, and the increasing suspicion of their neighbors and former friends. This compelling domestic spy thriller highlights the terrifying speed at which the Callington’s happy family life crumbles under the weight of Cold War mistrust and accusation.

Fields Where They LayTimothy Hallinan
Fields Where They Lay (Soho Crime 2016) finds Junior Bender, a high-end burglar who moonlights as a private eye for crooks, stuck in the decaying Edgerton Mall three days before Christmas, a holiday he would prefer to avoid. Trey Annunziato, head of a brutal San Fernando Valley crime family who feels Junior owes her a favor, has offered his services to Tip Poindexter, the American name of the dangerous Russian mobster who owns the mall and is angry about the increase in shoplifting. Junior consults with mall head of security Wally Durskee, who proudly displays his banks of security cameras but has no insights into the shoplifting surges. Junior is a highly skilled burglar, but has no aptitude for shoplifting and is caught trying to remove a cigar-smoking bulldog statuette from Bonnie’s Bric-a-Brac. After checking Junior’s credentials with Wally, Bonnie presents him with the ugly object and explains the system of alarms and cameras from the merchant point of view. Junior likes Bonnie, and is saddened by her news that she is closing her shop after Christmas, unable to pay the rent with decreasing sales in the dying mall. Shlomo Stemple, one of the mall Santas, asks Junior for help with another mystery, the disappearance of a set of dog tags that belonged to his father, with no value except sentimental. The dog tags were part of a Christmas miracle long ago, explains Shlomo, and shares the story in episodes during lunch breaks. Junior can’t catch a break in the shoplifting case, and the repeating loop of Christmas music is driving him crazy, but Poindexter threatens the safety of his ex-wife and daughter, leaving Junior no choice but to figure out how the shoplifters are evading the mall cameras and alarms while frantically trying to figure out a way to protect his family before the Christmas deadline. This funny and heartfelt sixth in the series is masterful.

John Hart
Redemption Road (Thomas Dunne Books 2016) begins when 14-year-old Gideon Strange takes the gun from his alcoholic father’s dresser drawer and heads out to shoot Adrian Wall, the cop convicted of killing his mother and leaving her washed body on the altar of a North Carolina church 13 years earlier. Detective Elizabeth Black is trying to comfort 18-year-old Channing, recently rescued from the men who kidnapped and brutalized her for two days. The press isn’t sure if Elizabeth should be called Hero Cop or Angel of Death, since the two men who held Channing captive were shot 18 times. After 13 years in prison, Adrian is covered with scars and emotionally damaged, but Elizabeth still believes he is innocent of the murder, despite the DNA evidence that convicted him. When Elizabeth was a depressed teenager, rookie patrolman Adrian appeared at the precise moment she was about to commit suicide, and influenced her decision to join the police force. After Adrian’s conviction, Elizabeth befriended Gideon, checking to make sure he was fed and clothed as his father crumbled into depression. The murder of another woman also left on the altar of the now abandoned church raises suspicion that Adrian has killed again, and the police as well as the prison warden and his guards harass and torment him. Though Adrian appears to be the most damaged, Gideon, Channing, and Elizabeth also wrestle with their own demons, struggling to choose between vengeance and the redemption of starting anew. This emotionally charged thriller explores themes of betrayal, abandonment, and resilience.

Wages of DesireStephen Kelly
The Wages of Desire (Pegasus Books 2016) is set in the summer of 1941 in Hampshire, England. Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Lamb is called to the village of Winstead, where the body of a young woman is found shot to death in the church cemetery. Supported by Detective Inspector Rivers and young Sergeant Wallace, Lamb identifies the woman as Ruth Aisquith, a former conscientious objector working as a Land Army girl assigned to group of conscripted workers building a prisoner-of-war camp for Italians on an abandoned farm near the village. Ruth has supposedly been visiting the grave of her grandmother, but that doesn’t feel right to Lamb, and he gets an uneasy feeling about both Reverend Gerald Wimberly, who discovered the body, and his wife who heard the shot. The looming shadow of the war overshadows everyone’s daily life. Lamb’s daughter Vera is temporarily assigned as his driver while he recovers from a sprained ankle, a job he hopes will keep her from being conscripted, though she is considering training to be a combat nurse. Wallace, who is exempt from service as a policeman, feels guilty for not serving overseas, especially after the death of his cousin at Dunkirk. Lilly Martin, a lonely crime fiction obsessed 12-year-old whose mother is working a night shift fashioning screwdriver handles to make ends meet while her husband is fighting in North Africa, roams the village at night. She spies on Lawrence Tigue, a wealthy landowner and printer whose wife supposedly left the village to stay with her sister but made no farewells. Flora Wheatley, an eccentric nuthatch protector, raids Tigue’s henhouse in the dead of night, suspecting that he supplements his sale of chicken eggs to the prison crew with nuthatch eggs. The discovery of the skeletons of two young children buried in the foundations of the old farmhouse, formerly owned by the Tigue family, and the body of a tramp who had been living wild in the woods near the church muddle the investigation even further. This well-plotted historical police procedural is the second in the series featuring the affable Thomas Lamb and his team.

I let You GoClare Mackintosh
I Let You Go (Berkley 2016, UK 2014) begins as a mother and her five-year-old son walk home after school on a dark and rainy afternoon. Jacob races across the final street to be the first home, and is struck by a speeding car. As the mother covers the dying boy with her coat, the car makes four attempts to reverse in the narrow street and then speeds away. Detective Inspector Ray Stevens and his young partner Detective Constable Kate Evans are assigned the case, sickened by the callousness of the driver who sped away without offering assistance, and quickly frustrated by the mother’s inability to recall any details about the car and the lack of other witnesses. Consumed with guilt over letting go of her son’s hand, the mother leaves home without a trace and every slight lead the police follow leads nowhere. Jenna Gray boards a bus north and ends up in a tiny cottage in Pehfach on the remote coast of Wales, haunted by Jacob’s death and desperate to escape the memory of the accident that plays over and over in her head. One morning she writes her name in the sand on the beach and is struck by the way the light catches the pattern of the letters. She takes a series of photographs, and is soon writing names from her past in the sand every morning. As the weeks and months slip by with no progress, the police team is assigned to other cases, but Kate can’t let it go, lobbying for one last news appeal on the year anniversary of the hit-and-run, hoping for one final chance of a witness. This intricately plotted debut novel of suspense is stunning.

A Quiet PlaceSeicho Matsumoto
A Quiet Place (Bitter Lemon Press 2016, Japan 1975) is the story of Tsuneo Asai, a dedicated section chief in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. While on a business trip to Kobe with his boss, he is notified that his young wife, Eiko, had died suddenly of a heart attack in Tokyo. Eiko has a heart condition, but was very careful not to become overexcited, and her death is a shock to Asai. After the funeral, Asai visits the cosmetic shop where Eiko died, and learns from the owner, Chiyoko Takahashi, that his wife suffered the attack in the street and could not speak after stumbling into the store. Asai can’t figure out why Eiko was in that neighborhood, and wanders up the street, discovering several "couples" hotels. Fearing that Eiko may have been having an affair, he questions the staff at the hotels, but no one recognizes her picture as a guest, though one maid remembers seeing Eiko on the street several weekes before her death. Months later, Eiko’s haiku teacher delivers a collection of Eiko’s poems, and Asai is struck by two poems with references to unfamiliar objects: a Yamaga lantern and a Somin Shorai amulet. Wondering what inspired the poems, he returns to the the street where Eiko died and discovers that the small cosmetic shop and the house next door are gone, replaced by a three-story luxury hotel called Chiyo. Struck by the similarity of the name to the owner of the cosmetic shop, Asai hires a private detective to investigate both Chiyoko Takahashi and the owner of the demolished house. This first English translation of the 1975 psychological thriller by Japan’s most successful mystery writer, reveals the complex bureaucrat and social conventions that bind the lives of couples like Eiko and Asai.

Missing, PresumedSusie Steiner
Missing, Presumed (Random House 2016) introduces Manon Bradshaw, a talented Detective Sergeant for the Cambridgeshire police force who is feeling the chance for a family of her own slip away as she approaches her 40th birthday. One disastrous Internet date after another hasn’t improved her prospects, and the call to the scene of a possible missing person is a welcome distraction. Will Carter returned from a short trip to find the front door ajar, a few drops of blood on the floor, and no sign of his girlfriend Edith Hind, a graduate student at Cambridge University. Her car, keys, phone, coat, and shoes are all accounted for, and none of her friends has seen Edith since midnight the night before. The police question the usual suspects: the boyfriend, her girlfriend Helena who brought her home after too much to drink, and parents Sir Ian and Lady Miriam Hind. The fact that the Hinds were at the theater with the Home Secretary and his wife, and that Sir Ian is the physician for the Royal Family quickly escalate the case into the full media spotlight. Manon and her partner DC Davy Walker investigate Edith’s convoluted love life and inconsistent actions before her disappearance, trying to keep the rampant speculation of the press under control as the days and weeks tick by. Alternate chapters from the perspective of Manon, Davy, Helena, and Miriam highlight the different pressures the drawn out investigation places on the police as compared to the family and friends of the missing person. The snarky yet vulnerable Manon is a sympathetic lead with enough quirks and foibles to carry a series.

Underground AirlinesBen H. Winters
Underground Airlines (Mulholland Books 2016) is set in an alternate American present where the Civil War never occurred. When Present-elect Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the states were shocked into crafting an agreement ensuring legal slavery and prohibiting amendments to abolish slavery in the future. Slavery continues in the Hard Four — Alabama, Carolina, Louisiana, Mississipi — and the rest of the states are required by the Fugitive Persons Act to return runaway slaves, known as Persons Bound for Labor (PBs), to their owners. The US Marshall Service is responsible for enforcing the Act, but the Moore amendment in 1970 allows African-American law enforcement officers to claim non-participation, forcing the US Marshall Service to find other means of recruiting black men to infiltrate the Underground Airlines, an abolitionist organization dedicated to helping PBs escape to Canada. Victor, a young black man who escaped from a plantation as a teenager, is a highly-trained undercover operative, carrying a GPS chip embedded in his spine that allows the Marshalls to track his every move. Haunted by the childhood memories he tries to suppress, Victor is forced to use his skills to return slaves to the very life he fled from. His current case is to track down an escaped PB known as Jackdaw. Unsettled by the unusual lack of detail in the Jackdaw’s file, Victor questions Mr. Bridge, his handler from the Marshalls who calls him every evening at precisely 9:50. Victor knows Bridge only as an expressionless voice on the phone, and is surprised to hear a hint of emotion for the first time, suggesting that the Jackdaw case is something unusual. A chance encounter with a desperate white woman and her young biracial son endangers Victor’s undercover role, but he can’t stop himself from befriending them.This disturbing alternate history thriller examines an America with unsettling echoes of our own present.


Disclosure: Some of these books were received free from publishers, some were discovered in Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon Book Bags, and many were checked out from our local public library. Our thanks to all who support our passion for reading!

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