2019 Reviews
January 1, 2019

The Night VisitorLucy Atkins
The Night Visitor (Quercus 2018, UK 2017) is the story of Olivia Sweetman, a history professor in London who has entered the world of television to augment the family income. Married with three children, Olivia isn’t comfortable with the onscreen work that is eroding her academic credibility, and is in search of a book topic that would appeal to a wider readership. Olivia owns a farmhouse in Sussex, a gift from her father on the day of her birth. A renowned scientist who studied beetles, Olivia’s father named a fossilized dung beetle he discovered after his daughter. While visiting the farmhouse with her children, a leaflet on her doorstep entices her to the local museum to view a Victorian diary on loan by Lady Catherine Burley of Ileford Manor. Vivian Tester shows her the diary, which contains only eight entries written in 1898 by Lady Annabel Burley, the young second wife of alcoholic Lord Charles Burley. Vivian, who looks after Ileford Manor for Lady Burley, now in a care home with a terminal illness, explains that one of the entries is a murder confession. Olivia is fascinated by the diary and offers to have the diary authenticated at the British Museum. Learning that Annabel went on to become a surgeon after her husband’s death, Olivia is determined to write a biography. Vivian refuses to let Olivia disturb Lady Burley’s last days, and Olivia reluctantly asks the prickly Vivian to serve as her research assistant, sensing that’s the only way she will be given access to the diary. Vivian proves to be an excellent researcher, though often demanding and always difficult. Chapters from Olivia’s present perspective are interwoven with Vivian’s journal entries filling in the past, revealing a complicated relationship that festers and grows toxic in this creepy psychological thriller.

Seances Are for SuckersTamara Berry
Séances Are for Suckers (Kensington 2018) introduces Eleanor Wilde, a pseudo psychic who uses her talent for reading people to rid her clients of resident ghosts and other phantasmagoric plagues. A skeptic herself, Ellie has learned to impress her clients with sudden gusts of wind and sounds, and her ability to tell time by the sun, direction by the stars, and make painkillers out of tree bark. Nicholas Hartford III offers far more than the usual rate she charges for Eleanor’s Cleansing Service to travel to England and purge the ancestral Hartford estate of a ghost named Xavier. Nick is sure someone is taking advantage of his elderly mother Vivian, but can’t identify the culprit himself. Arriving at the eerie and very cold gothic castle, Ellie finds herself lodged in the yellow bedroom, the spot where Xavier manifests most frequently. Also in residence are Nick’s glamorous sister Fern, her crass American boyfriend Cal Whitkin, and Fern’s teenage daughter Rachel. Ellie expects a sumptuous dinner of several courses, but instead the family dines on a watery soup. Thomas, the only servant, explains that Vivian does all the cooking, cultivating eccentricity to compensate for a diminished family fortune and an estate that has been deteriorating for years. Ellie searches every crack and crevice in her yellow bedchamber, but can’t find any evidence of ghost-fakery, not even a secret passage into another room. In the middle of the night she is awakened by thumping and then a bright flash of light, but can’t find any trace of trickery. The next day Ellie installs mini camcorders and other spy gear throughout the castle and then heads to town to research Xavier in the local museum. Xavier himself appears in Ellie’s bedroom that night, but unfortunately all her spy gear has disappeared, leaving her with no clue who is responsible for the ghost. The appearance and disappearance of a dead body raise the stakes in this funny debut mystery and series opener.

Fogland PointDoug Burgess
Fogland Point (Poisoned Pen Press 2018) is set in Little Compton, a tiny isolated spit as far east as you can go in Rhode Island. David Hazzard, just fired from his job as an adjunct history professor at Xavier College after a health screening outs him as transgender, gets a frantic voicemail from his grandmother Maggie about a dead body with blood everywhere. Maggie is in the early stages of dementia, but this is outside the normal range of calls about lost glasses and confusion about what year it is. David tries to reach his grandmother’s best friends: Aunts Emma, Constance, and Irene, but no one picks up so he sets out for Little Compton. His grandmother is fine, though confused about who he is, but Emma is dead on her kitchen floor next door, felled by a cast iron frying pan among the detritus of a collapsed shelf. David isn’t happy with moving back to the town he last visited six years earlier for a disastrous Thanksgiving coming out to his father, but it’s clear his grandmother is no longer capable of living by herself. Over the past year phone scammers have talked her out of over $500,000 of funds belonging to the New England Wrecking and Salvage Company she owns with fellow widows Constance and Irene. Chief of Police Billy Dyer, an old friend of David’s from high school, is convinced Emma’s death was murder, but the state cops decide on a verdict of accidental death. Billy watches the attendees at the funeral carefully, especially Marcus and Alicia Reingold, the extremely wealthy young couple who have just bought the old Armstrong mansion on Fogland Point. At the reading of the will everyone is surprised that Emma leaves her fortune no one knew she had to a daughter no one knew about, along with money for a private detective to track her down. Billy hasn’t forgiven David for not trusting him with the truth about his sexuality when they dated in high school, but enlists his help trying to uncover the truth about Emma’s death. To distract David from his worry about losing his job, the aunts give him a tape recorder to preserve their stories, and Maggie’s erratic memory is stimulated by the telling, producing strange tales mixing past and present and David can’t separate truth from the confusion of dementia. This outstanding debut novel surrounds a compelling mystery with unique and memorable characters.

The FoxFrederick Forsyth
The Fox (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2018) begins when Sir Adrian Weston, the retired chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service gets a call from the Prime Minister: the Pentagon, NSA, and CIA have been hacked by “The Fox,” whose location has been traced to a small English town. Special Forces invade the home in the middle of the night, finding only a family of four: parents Harold and Sue and their two teenage sons. The attic contains a low-end computer that has been extensively modified, the lair of The Fox, a hacker who invades, does no damage, and retreats without a trace. Luke (18) is severely autistic, and goes into shock, speaking only with his mother’s support. Luke’s parents are horrified to hear of their son’s hacking crimes, and Sue insists that subjecting Luke to a trial will be his death sentence. He is only truly comfortable in his attic lair where nothing ever changes. Luke only speaks to ask for his computer back, and then blurts out that the American systems were flawed and he was trying to help by identifying their weaknesses. When the situation is explained, the Americans reluctantly agree not to press charges in exchange for the British proposal: Luke will sign the Official Secrets Act and be kept in a sealed environment, and the Americans will share any intel he gathers under strict supervision. Luke’s attic is recreated down to the smallest detail in a secret location, and Dr. Jeremy Hendricks of the British National Cyber Security Centre becomes part of the family, working with Luke on “projects” created by Sir Adrian: online attacks on the Russians, Iranians, and North Koreans. The targets soon realize that the British are sheltering a human secret weapon, and do everything in their power to take him out. This upbeat spy thriller seamlessly weaves real world events into a believable fiction.

Sweet Little LiesCaz Frear
Sweet Little Lies (Harper 2018) introduces Cat Kinsella, a 26-year-old detective constable with the Metropolitan Police Force in London. Cat has a fragmented relationship with her sister, and almost no contact with her charismatic but unreliable father, who runs a pub and skates the edges of legality. A few weeks earlier Cat rescued a toddler who had been trapped with her murdered mother for days, dissolving into tears at the scene at the sight of the little girl brushing her mother’s hair and singing. Released by the police psychologist to return to work, Cat and her partner are called to Leamington Square gardens the week before Christmas, where the body of housewife Alice Lapaine has been discovered. Cat is uneasy at the scene since it is close to her father’s pub in the neighborhood where she grew up. Cat hasn’t trusted her father since a visit to her grandmother in Mulderrin, Ireland, 18 years earlier, when teenage Maryanne Doyle went missing, and Cat’s father lied about knowing her. Alice’s husband explains that his wife left home two weeks earlier, a not-uncommon getaway to be on her own for a bit when a round of In Vitro Fertilization was unsuccessful. Cat doesn’t believe the husband’s story of a happy marriage and begins the drudgery of trying to trace Alice’s movements until a phone call from Ireland changes everything: the missing person photograph has been identified as Maryanne Doyle. Cat knows she should remove herself from the investigation, but can’t make herself tell the truth about her family’s involvement. Her suspicion that her father may have killed Maryanne years earlier has been proven false, but what if he had something to do with her murder now? Another witness says Alice/Maryanne visited a small coffee shop several times, and was seen ringing the bell at the gated road to Keeper’s Close, an exclusive group of nine extravagant mansions. No one recognizes the picture, and Cat assumes it was a misidentification until they track Alice to an apartment she was sharing with another woman owned by one of the Keeper’s Close families. This intense debut police procedural is the first in a series featuring the psychologically damaged and empathetic young detective.

Poppy Harmon InvestigatesLee Hollis
Poppy Harmon Investigates (Kensington 2018) begins when 62-year-old Poppy receives the news that her recently deceased husband Chester has left her only debts and a heavily mortgaged house. The sudden fall from comfortable retirement to penniless widow stuns Poppy, and she is at her wits end trying to figure out how she will support herself. Poppy dabbled in acting years earlier — her biggest role the part of secretary to a private eye in a series that lasted three seasons. When her best friends Violet and Iris suggest she market that experience, Poppy misinterprets their advice that she get a secretarial job and decides to become a licensed private investigator. She circumvents the requirement for paid practical experience by convincing Sam Emerson, the private eye who produced the TV show based on his real cases, to sign off on her time helping him plot the show as paid investigative work. With Violet and Iris’s help, Poppy opens the Desert Flowers Detective Agency and eagerly awaits her first case. Unfortunately the prospective client is not impressed with three elderly women and refuses to hire them. Watching her daughter Heather’s boyfriend Matt play the role of a detective gives Poppy a brilliant idea: Matt can play the part of Detective Flowers while Poppy investigates the cases. The next client interview is a success, and Poppy is soon making inquiries about the theft of valuable jewelry from Shirley Fox, an aging actress living at the Palm Leaf Retirement Village. A murder ramps up the suspense in this funny series launch.

Death of a RainmakerLaurie Loewenstein
Death of a Rainmaker (Kaylie Jones Books 2018) is set in 1935 Vermillion, Oklahoma, after a 240-day drought has ruined the crops and driven the town to desperate measures, including hiring itinerant rainmaker Roland Coombs to fire TNT into the sky. The next morning the town is disappointed by another dry day. Sheriff Temple Jennings sets off for the distasteful job of keeping the peace at a foreclosure of a farm while Chester Benton opens the Jewel Movie House, hoping to sell enough movie tickets to pay the rent. Unfortunately a dust storm hits right after the newsreel at the midday matinee, taking out the power and trapping everyone inside for a few hours. Digging out the mounds of dust behind the fire door, Chester finds a body, identified as the rainmaker. Sheriff Temple Jennings and his new deputy Ed McCance, fresh out of the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC), try to track Roland’s final hours, but the dust storm has removed all traces in the alley and the streets are deserted. Temple’s wife Etha, still mourning the death of their young son years earlier, takes a home-cooked meal to the hobo camp outside town, full of pity for the starving men and boys. She is especially taken by Carmine DiNapoli, a teenage CCC worker on his way back to Camp Brisco, who reminds her of her son. Jennings identifies the murder weapon as the handle of an army entrenching tool used by the CCC. The town is only too happy to pin the murder on Carmine, and Vince Doll, owner of the county’s grain elevator, running against Jennings for sheriff, spreads rumors of incompetence and pushes for a quick arrest and conviction. But Etha is convinced Carmine is innocent, and sets out to prove it. The compassion Etha and Jennings feel for their neighbors and for the young vagrants pushed out by families unable to feed them permeates this excellent series opener.

The RuinDervla McTiernan
The Ruin (Penguin 2018) begins in 1993 Kilmore, Ireland, when rookie Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a decaying manor house in response to a domestic disturbance. Maude (15) leads him upstairs to the dead body of her mother Hilaria Blake, stinking of alcohol with a smear of blood in the crook of her elbow. The power is off, Maude and her five-year-old brother Jack look half-starved, and Maude pleads with Cormac to take her brother to the hospital in Castlebar. When Jack is undressed, Cormac is horrified by the bruising on his tiny body. Maude excuses herself to find a bathroom, and vanishes. Twenty years later Cormac has recently transferred to Galway from Dublin, assigned to cold cases while his elite Drug Task Force is assembled, and dealing with the resentment of his local colleagues to an outsider. Jack Blake’s body is found in the river Corrib, ruled a suicide based on a phone call by an anonymous witness. Jack’s girlfriend Aisling Conroy, an ER surgical resident, is too grief stricken to think straight, but Jack’s sister Maude, arriving out of the blue from Australia, pressures the Gardaí to investigate. Jack died on St. Patrick’s Day, and Maude can’t believe no one saw him jump from the bridge crowded with revelers. While Maude and Aisling try to figure out what really happened on Jack’s final day, Cormac is assigned the re-investigation of Hilaria Blake’s death. Since she never left the house, how did she get the heroin that caused the fatal overdose? Cormac becomes consumed by another unanswered question: why were the two neglected and abused children left in the care of an obviously unsuitable mother? This powerful debut thriller is the first in a series.

The Man Who DiedAntti Tuomainen
The Man Who Died (US 2018, Finland 2016) begins when Jaakko Kaunismaa, a 37-year-old entrepreneur in Finland, discovers that he is dying of a fatal poison administered over a period of time. Three years earlier Jaakko, a sales officer, and his wife Taina, an institutional caterer, were made redundant. Looking around for new careers, they settled on moving from Helsinki to the small village of Hamina, starting a business exporting matsutake, pine mushrooms gathered in the forest, to the Japanese willing to pay premium prices. Stunned by the news of his imminent death, Jaakko returns home to find Taina having sex with Petri, a young employee. Reeling from his second shock of the day, Jaakko drives back into town, overwhelmed by the suspicion that his wife and her lover have poisoned him. He impulsively drives to the Hamina Mushroom Company, recently started by three dangerous local lawbreakers determined to negotiate a better rate with the Japanese buyers. No one is there, but Jaakko wanders through the open door to find brand new equipment and machinery, more modern that his own. In the staff room he finds a display of Samurai swords, and carefully pulls one from its mount, admiring the keen edge before replacing it. As he is leaving, the three owners drive in, glaring at him suspiciouturtsly. When the sword and one of the owners go missing, Jaakko is the prime suspect, but he is far more interested in proving to himself that Taina and Petri have killed him. This intense and darkly funny book featuring a man investigating his own murder is highly recommended.

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleStuart Turton
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Sourcebooks Landmark 2018) begins when Aiden Bishop wakes up in the woods desperate to save a woman named Anna. Aiden has amnesia, and doesn’t recognize his own hands. Reaching the crumbling mansion of Blackheath, Aiden is greeted as Dr. Sebastian Bell, but the face that looks back at him from the mirror is unfamiliar. Lord Peter and Lady Helena Hardcastle have recreated a party held 19 years earlier, when their youngest son Thomas was murdered. With the pretext of celebrating their daughter Evelyn’s birthday, they have invited the same guest list for a masquerade ball. A mysterious man disguised as a medieval plague doctor in a beaked porcelain mask tells Aiden that Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 PM. Aiden has eight days to identify her murderer, waking up each day in the body of a different guest. Two others are also in search of the killer; the first to solve the crime will be released from Blackheath and the others are willing to commit murder themselves in order to escape the eight day repeating cycle. If no one solves the crime, everyone’s memories will be wiped and the cycle will begin again. Each of Aiden’s hosts has his own talents and challenges: age, intelligence, physical fitness, mobility. As the days pass, Aiden begins to understand events that puzzled him the first few times he lived the day, and plants notes and clues to help his daily host figure out the motives of the different characters before each night brings Evelyn’s death and Aiden’s new day in a new body the next morning. This intense debut literary thriller is a deft mix of time travel within a Golden Age manor house mystery setting.

February 1, 2019

November RoadLou Berney
November Road (William Morrow 2018) is set in November 1963. Frank Guidry, a valued lieutenant to powerful New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, is sent to Houston to dispose of a get-away car with a rifle in the trunk. After reporting that the Eldorado is safely at the bottom of the sea, an out-of-character question about the name of his hotel by Marcello’s assistant Seraphine alerts Guidry to the fact that he may know too much about the assassination of President Kennedy to stay alive. Guidry buys a used car and hits the road, heading for Las Vegas. Meanwhile in the small town of Woodrow, Oklahoma, Charlotte hand-tints photographic portraits and dreams of becoming a real photographer. The news of Kennedy’s assassination shakes her out of her acceptance her boring life, and she leaves her amiable alcoholic husband, heading for Los Angeles with her two young daughters and their epileptic dog. When Charlotte’s car breaks down in New Mexico, she meets Guidry, who offers them a ride west, hoping that traveling as a family man will throw Marcello off his trail. Guidry takes his attraction to the beautiful Charlotte in stride, but is unbalanced by his growing affection for her daughters, beginning to imagine what it might be like to start a new life with a family. Meanwhile Barone, a hitman for Marcello, is tracking Guidry’s progress across the country, eliminating witnesses along the way. This suspenseful thriller featuring two emotionally complex characters is a finalist for the Barry and Lefty Awards for Best Novel.

Four funerals and Maybe a WeddingRhys Bowen
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding (Berkley 2018) begins in the summer of 1935 as Lady Georgiana Rannoch plans her long-anticipated wedding to the Honorable Darcy O’Mara. An act of parliament has approved Georgiana’s renouncement of her place in the line of succession for the English throne, allowing her to marry a Catholic. She and Darcy hope for a quiet wedding, but the Queen declares her intention of attending with the King, and suggests that princesses Elizabeth and Margaret would be delighted to serve as bridesmaids. With the wedding quickly growing out of their control, Darcy and Georgiana begin house-hunting in London, discovering that his meager salary and her lack of fortune qualify them only for dark and uncomfortable flats. A letter from her godfather Sir Hubert Anstruther offering his house in Sussex saves the day. Sir Hubert made Georgiana his heir after his marriage to her mother fell apart, and spends most of his time climbing mountains around the world. Giving her and Darcy one wing of Eynsleigh instead of leaving it empty for months at a time will make his travels less stressful. Darcy disappears on one of his mysterious assignments, so Georgiana heads to Eynsleigh alone, looking forward to seeing the butler and housekeeper she remembers fondly. But Plunkett, the new butler, is not at all happy to see her. He explains the old butler has died and the housekeeper and head gardener have both retired. The new Irish footman and shy kitchen maid are friendly, but the maid is surly, the Spanish cook can’t prepare English food, and the two gardeners don’t seem to be doing any work. Plunkett tries to convince Georgiana to go back to London, but she is determined to get the house ready to be their home. Plunkett refuses to unlock the door into the other wing of the house, and Georgiana is frightened by strange noises in the night. Luckily her mother arrives to stay after Max von Strohheim, a German industrialist, postpones their own marriage. Georgiana is relieved her mother won’t be going to live with the Nazis, and welcomes a confidant in the unwelcoming house. This amusing 12th in the series is a finalist for the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Historical Mystery.

The Momeny Before DyingJames Brydon
The Moment Before Drowning (Akashic Books 2018) is set in 1959 Sainte-Élisabeth in Brittany. Capitaine Jacques le Garrec has just returned home from Algeria in disgrace, accused of committing a brutal crime while interrogating Algerian insurgents for the French army intelligence services. Le Garrec is a former hero of the French Resistance who served as a police detective in Paris. His old friend Erwann Olbydlivier asks le Garrec to look into the death of Anne-Lise Aurigny, one of his high school students whose mutilated body was found displayed on the heathland the previous winter. Anne-Lise was the daughter of a Nazi collaborator brutalized by the town after the Germans left, and Captaine Lafourgue of the local police spent only a few days investigating her murder. Le Garrec agrees to look into the cold case, and begins to trace Anne-Lise’s last months. The mutilation and the way the body was arranged in the open convince le Garrec that she was killed by someone with a personal connection, and his questions reawaken uncomfortable memories of the war. Le Garrec is haunted by the horrors he witnessed in the interrogation chambers at al-Mazra’a, especially the torture of 19-year-old Amira Khadra. Lafourgue’s conviction that police work depends on exercising power and spreading terror echoes the perspective of his commander in Algeria, sending le Garrec deeper into depression as the merciless killings of the two young women intermingle in his mind. This intense debut thriller explores the long-reaching debilitating effects of the atrocities of war.

Broken PlacesTracy Clark
Broken Places (Kensington 2018) introduces Cass Raines, a young African-American Chicago police detective who left the force after the incompetent actions of fellow officer James Farraday forced her to shoot and kill the armed teenager she had nearly taking into lowering his weapon. Two years later Cass is working as a private detective, taking just enough work to pay the bills and enjoying her weekly chess game with Father Ray “Pop” Heaton, who helped her grandparents raise her after her father left the family following her mother’s death. Pop asks Cass to investigate some recent vandalism of the church, telling her he thinks someone is following him. Cass compiles a list of those who are angry with him, but knows it’s not complete since Pop continually challenges neighborhood slumlords, drug dealers, shopkeepers selling alcohol to minors, the custodian at the parish school, and his own parishioners upset about welcoming the homeless. Entering the church the next morning, Cass discovers Pop’s body along with that of Cesar Luna, a young gang member. Cass’s former partner Ben Mickerson is one of the first to arrive, but Farraday is the lead detective, only too willing to quickly close the case with a ruling of accidental shooting of the intruder by Pop followed by suicide. Cass knows Pop would never kill himself or anyone else, and begins the slow process of tracking down the names on her list, investigating alibis and searching for motives for murder. Even more difficult is getting Cesar’s family and fellow gang members to talk to her about why he might have visited the church late at night. This engrossing debut thriller, a finalist for the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery, is the first in a series featuring the dedicated and empathetic Cass fighting for justice in her impoverished Chicago neighborhood.

The Woman in the WindowA.J. Finn
The Woman in the Window (William Morrow 2018) is narrated by Anna Fox, a child psychologist suffering from agoraphobia so extreme she cannot set food outside her house without suffering a debilitating panic attack. Anna lives alone in a multi-story Harlem house, renting the basement flat to a handyman who helps with occasional repairs in the old building. She speaks to her estranged husband and young daughter briefly on the phone each day, and her psychiatrist visits once a week, adjusting her various medications (beta-blockers, anti-depressants, sleeping aids, etc.) while trying to coax her a few steps into the back garden under the protection of an umbrella. None of her medications are to be taken with alcohol, but Anna begins each morning with a glass of Merlot and drinks steadily throughout the day, trying to numb her constant anxiety. She plays online chess, participates in a chat room for agoraphobics, and watches her neighbors through the many windows of her home, zooming in for close up details with her Nikon. A new family moves in next door and Jane researches them online: Alistair and Jane Russell paid $3.4 million and came from Boston. A few days later the teenage son Ethan visits with a gift from his mother and Anna lends him some DVDs of the black and white movies she loves. On Halloween night Anna’s house is egged, propelling her onto her front porch where she collapses. Jane helps her back inside and joins her for a glass of wine. A few days later Anna hears a scream from next door and fears that Ethan is being brutalized by his father, but he insists he is fine. When she sees Jane being stabbed through the window, Anna calls the police, but since she is clearly under the influence of alcohol, the police don’t believe her story. Alistair appears with a woman she has never seen before, insisting she is his wife Jane, and Anna begins to doubt her own sanity. She retreats even further into isolation, hears strange sounds inside the house at night, and begins to consider suicide. This intense debut psychological thriller, a finalist for the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery, has been optioned as a motion picture.

Evil ThingsKatja Ivar
Evil Things (Bitter Lemon Press 2019) is set in 1952 Finland. Hella Mauzer, the first female inspector in the Helsinki Homicide Unit has been reassigned to Lapland after been deemed “too emotional” during an investigation of the brutal murder of a woman and three of her four young children. Before the war women were only allowed to be polissyster, comforting and questioning women and children, and Chief Inspector Eklund of the Ivar police department believes Hella should have stayed in that role while looking for a husband instead of qualifying to be a full police officer. Irja Waltari, the wife of the priest in the remote village of Käärmela near the border with Soviet Russia, writes to the Ivar police department to report the disappearance of Erno Jokinen, who left his young grandson Kalle alone in their isolated cabin. Eklund believes the old man became lost in the forest, but Hella is sure that Jokinen, who was born in the forest, is the victim of a crime. Eklund reluctantly gives Hella permission to use a few days off to investigate. The traumatized Kalle refuses to speak about the day his grandfather left, and is clearly terrified. He eventually admits that his grandfather went into the woods to fight the evil “white things,” instructing Kalle not to follow him. Hella questions Jokinen’s nearest neighbor Jeremias Karppinen, who tried to take possession of Jokinen’s house, but he insists Jokinen had no recent visitors. When the search party discovers an arm, it is assumed to be Jokinen until Hella washes away the mud to discover polished nails on the delicate hand, and insists on anther search, eventually discovering a rib cage and part of the head of a middle aged woman. Hella has already discovered that technical support in Lapland is nearly non-existent,on but carefully preserves the remnants of a glass vial crushed between the woman’s teeth. Eklund orders Hella to give up the investigation and return to Ivar, but Hella is determined to find the truth. This intense debut historical thriller is the first in a planned trilogy.

Island of the MadLaurie R. King
Island of the Mad (Bantam 2018) begins in 1922 when Mary Russell gets a call from Ronnie Fitzwarren, a friend from Oxford whose aunt Vivian Beaconsfield has disappeared. Lady Vivian was granted a week’s leave from Bethlem Royal Hospital, known as Bedlam, in charge of Nurse Trevisan to celebrate her half-brother Edward, Lord Selwick’s 50th birthday. Edward was not Lady Vivian’s favorite person; in fact the handful of violent acts that put her into the mental asylum were directed at him. When Mary visits to inquire about Lady Vivian’s demeanor during the birthday celebration she understands why. Lord Selwick is controlling, has no respect for women, and is an ardent fan of Benito Mussolini. In Lady Vivian’s room Mary discovers a shelf of sketchbooks filled with loving portraits of Ronnie and her father Tommy, who died in the war, along with elegant sketches of her travels in Paris, Florence, and Venice. Lady Vivian’s mother’s jewels are also missing, and their loss seems to concern Lord Selwick far more than what might have happened to Lady Vivian and the nurse. Mary decides to begin her search in Venice, which occupied more sketchbook pages than any other location, and Mycroft asks Sherlock Holmes to tag along and report back on the Fascists. In Venice Mary makes connections with the chic set on the Lido, suspecting Lady Vivian may be of the Sapphic persuasion. Holmes poses as in itinerant violinist and scrapes up an acquaintance with Cole Porter, whose wild parties cater to Venetian aristocrats and Fascist officers. Catching a glimpse of someone who looks a lot like Lord Selwick, Mary fears that he may also be searching for Lady Vivian, though not with kind thoughts in mind. This fascinating 16th in the series is a finalist for the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Historical Mystery.

You’re DeadChris Knopf
You’re Dead (Permanent Press 2018) begins when Dr. Waters returns home to find the severed head of Paresh Rajput in his guest bedroom. The CEO of ExiteAble Technologies, a Connecticut hi-tech aerospace company, Paresh became a close friend after hiring Waters as the company psychologist, responsible for increasing productivity and removing personalities at odds with the company need for teamwork. Diagnosed as autistic as a child, Waters was trained by his older brother to observe and analyze facial and other physical cues in order to respond appropriately and avoid being placed into an institution by their stepfather. He capitalized on his knowledge of human nature by becoming an unbeatable poker player and a psychologist. The police ask Waters for names of possible enemies or anyone with a grudge, but the list is short since the talented Paresh was well-liked and the company relied on his creativity. Arriving at his office the next day, Waters meets with Paresh’s widow Megan to work out a plan of action, vowing to help her keep the company going. When he answers the office phone Waters hears a robotic voice declaring “You’re Dead.” When the police discover a statement from the mortgage company showing that his mortgage was paid in full the day Paresh died, Waters becomes the prime suspect. Determined to protect the company Paresh worked so hard to build, Waters begins closely observing the other employees and investigating a potential buyer pressuring Megan to sell. Learning that someone planted evidence of fraud in one of the company’s government contracts sends Waters deeper into the company history while trying to stay one step ahead of whoever is targeting him as the next victim. This intense psychological thriller is riveting.

Under a Dark SkyLori Rader-Day
Under a Dark Sky (William Morrow 2018) begins a year after Eden Wallace’s husband Bix died in a car accident. Ever since his death, Eden has suffered extreme night terrors, unable to venture outside in the dark and sleeping with the lights blazing all night. While sorting through Bix’s paperwork, Eden finds a reservation for a weekend in a guest house at the Straits Point International Dark Sky Park in Michigan, and impulsively decides to take advantage of his last surprise gift to her for their tenth wedding anniversary. On arrival she discovers that Bix booked the guest house suite in a house. The other three bedrooms are being shared by a group friends who met in college five years earlier: Paris, Dev, Sam, Martha, and Malloy, plus Malloy’s new girlfriend Hillary. Neither Eden nor the group of friends are happy with the shared living situation, but Eden decides to stay the night since she can’t drive home in the dark. Sam has arrived with a case of wine, but no one can locate the wine opener so a large screwdriver is brought into play. Knowing she won’t visit the sky gazing area that night, Eden takes a walk, and is surprised that the friends follow her rather than spending time together catching up. Retreating to her suite, Eden replaces all the lightbulbs in her room with the high wattage ones she brought, and hangs blankets over the windows to prevent light leak. A scream in the middle of the night startles her from the uneasy sleep which is all she can manage. Mallory has been stabbed to death in the kitchen with the screwdriver. When the police arrive Eden is forced to go out into the dark and has a panic attack, ending up in the emergency room. The police suspect everyone in the guest house, including Eden. The friends unite against Eden at first, but their solidarity doesn’t last long and they begin to turn against each other as well. A finalist for the 2019 Edgar and Lefty Awards, this well-plotted thriller featuring the sleep-deprived yet observant Eden is a clever twist on the traditional country house murder.

The Nowhere ChildChristian White
The Nowhere Child (Minotaur Books 2019; Australia 2018) is the story of Kimberly Leamy, a 30-year-old photography teacher in Melbourne, Australia. One day an American stranger appears and shows her a picture of Sammy Went, a toddler who went missing 28 years earlier from her home in Manson, Kentucky, three days after her second birthday. The stranger tells Kim he believes she is Sammy Went. Kim can’t believe that her loving mother Carol, a social worker who died of cancer four years earlier, had kidnapped her, but the lack of baby pictures in the family album plus a picture of herself as a toddler with an eerie resemblance to the picture of Sammy gives her pause. The stranger reveals that he is Stuart Went, Sammy’s older brother, and that he has been searching for her ever since he was old enough to do research on the Internet. Kim impulsively books a flight to Kentucky, wondering if seeing the town will awaken any memories. Interspersed chapters set in 1990 Manson relate the day of the kidnapping and the investigation that followed. Jack Went had been raised in the Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal group of poisonous-snake handlers, but it was his wife Molly, who married into the church, who became a devout worshipper. When Sammy went missing, suspicion fell on Travis Eckles, the younger son of a criminal family, whose untrustworthy explanation of his whereabouts that day concealed a furtive affair with Jack, who is unwilling to reveal his homosexuality. After arriving in Mason, Kim is distressed to realize she does not warm to Molly Went, who only seems to care for the Church of the Light Within, but does have glimmerings of memories long forgotten. This intense debut psychological thriller explores the disturbing effects of being raised in a cult-like religion and what it means to be part of a family.

March 1, 2019

My Sister the Serial KillerOyinkan Braithwaite
My Sister, the Serial Killer (Doubleday 2018) begins in Lagos, Nigeria, when practical plain Korede gets a frantic call from her beautiful younger sister Ayoola: “I killed him.” Femi Durand is Ayoola’s third dead boyfriend in a row, and while scrubbing up the blood Korede finally admits to herself that her sister is a serial killer. Ayoola doesn’t have clear memory of the killing. Was she overcome with rage or defending herself with the decorative knife she appropriated after their father’s death? The two sisters dump the body from the deserted third mainland bridge, and Ayoola pretends to be worried about her missing boyfriend while Korede goes back to her job as a hospital nurse. Korede is attracted to the handsome young Dr. Tade, and he respects her skills and work ethics. During slow times Korede spills out her heart to coma patient Muhtar Yautai, confessing her worry about her sister and her dream that one day Tade will really notice her as a person. Their authoritarian father, who humiliated their mother and disciplined his daughters with his intricately carved cane, died ten years earlier, and the sisters live with their mother, who is unaware of any faults in her indulged younger daughter. Everything changes when Ayoola visits Korede at the hospital and meets Tade, who is smitten with her after just one look. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she can’t think of a way to refuse, but knows that entering into a relationship with her sister may be his death sentence. This dark yet humorous debut thriller is a finalist for the 2019 Barry Award for Best First Novel.

The Spy of VeniceBenet Brandreth
The Spy of Venice (Pegasus Books 2018, UK 2016) features Will Shakespeare, a 20-year-old father of three working in his father’s glove shop in 1585 Stratford, England. Though he loves his wife Anne and their children, Will is restless and unhappy, amusing himself with seductions and looking forward to the occasional traveling band of players. He is thrilled to learn that the players have arrived for the fair, meeting portly Nicholas Oldcastle and dangerous-looking John Hemminges. Will isn’t impressed with the dialog written by Ben Nightingale and offers his own work in order to further an ill-advised liaison with the daughter of a powerful local landowner. Caught out by her father, Will flees to London with the players where they are recruited by Sir Henry Carr as camouflage for his secret mission to Venice to solicit help for England against Spain. Meanwhile Giovanni Prospero, Count of Genoa, is hired as an assassin by the Pope to dispense with Sir Henry and his entourage as well as Vittoria Accoramboni, Duchess of Bracciano, the widow of the Pope’s murdered nephew. Isabella Lisarro, a beautiful and quick-witted courtesan of Venice, tries to convince Vittoria that Prospero is not to be trusted, but Vittoria believes Isabella’s warnings are the ravings of a jilted lover. Once in Venice, circumstances require Nicholas Oldcastle to dress himself as Sir Henry, while Will poses as his steward. Though their jumble of clothing raises some eyebrows, most blame English eccentricity and accept the deception. Isabella suspects that Will is more than a servant, and the two enjoy a bantering exchange of verbal sparring. Oldcastle is uncomfortable in his role and longs to return to England, but Will rises to the challenge of duplicity, determined to wait for the selection of the new Doge so they can deliver the secret documents. This engaging historical thriller is the first novel by a Shakespeare expert, the rhetoric coach to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Big Get-EvenPaul Di Filippo
The Big Get-Even (Blackstone Publishing 2018) is narrated by Glen McClinton, a disbarred Rhode Island lawyer on parole who saves the life of Stan Hasso, a recently released arsonist. Stan took the fall for Barnaby Nancarrow, a real estate shark who used Stan’s services to make properties available for purchase at a rock bottom prices. Learning that a Las Vegas billionaire wants to build a casino somewhere in Rhode Island, Stan comes up with a plan to get even with Nancarrow by tricking him into paying 20 million for Bigelow Junction, a 500+ acre parcel bisected by the freeway. Using the gold Glen has hidden in the basement of his Uncle Ralph’s house, the pair purchase the property in Ralph’s name, and head to Bigelow Junction along with Stan’s girlfriend Sandralene Parmalee, pretending to reopen the Bigelow Junction Motor Lodge next to Nutbush Lake. Varvata Aptekar, whose father was driven to suicide by Nancarrow, and her autistic student Ray Zerkin, a talented hacker and baseball fanatic, join them at the Motor Lodge, which is in far worse shape than expected. To satisfy their parole conditions, Glen and Stan are forced to actively renovate the Motor Lodge under the supervision of parole officer Wilson Schreiber and Sheriff Broadstairs. If the con succeeds, Stan plans to escape with Sandralene to Cape Verde, which has no extradition treaty with the USA, and is thrilled to discover a community of Cape Verdeans in nearby Centerville. He hires young Nélida Firmino to tutor them in kriolu, the Cape Verdean dialect of Portuguese, and she is soon interviewing her relatives and friends for jobs at the soon-to-reopen Motor Lodge plus booking bands for the renovated dining area. This funny caper novel is the first in a series.

The Stranger GamePeter Gadol
The Stranger Game (Hanover Square Press 2018) is the story of Rebecca, a 40-year-old architect whose ex-boyfriend Ezra disappears from his apartment. Rebecca reports him missing, but Detective Martinez warns her that it’s possible he doesn’t want to be found since there is no sign of violence . Rebecca picks up a magazine article from his apartment. The author describes his dissatisfaction with his lonely life as a college literature professor and a strange passion for following random strangers. He developed three rules: choose the subject at random, no contact, and never follow the same stranger twice. The article ends with the conclusion that studying strangers from a safe distance cured his melancholia. Detective Martinez tells Rebecca that in the 18 months since the article was published the Stranger Game has attracted players around the country, though many players change the rules to make the game more stimulating. Wondering if Ezra is playing the game, Rebecca begins following strangers herself, creating scenarios to explain their actions and faithfully following the rules. Ezra has been gone several months when she meets Carey in a bar, drinks too much, and invites him home. Rebecca discovers Carey is playing a different version of the Stranger Game, one that involves extended following and ends with sex. Horrified, Rebecca throws him out but eventually gives in to his apologies and they begin a relationship. Carey introduces her to variations of the game that ramp up the thrills, and the danger. Detective Martinez warns her that an increased number of disappearances around the country are linked to the game. This intense psychological thriller pushes at the narrow line between a game and stalking while examining the lengths people will go to add excitement to their lives.

The CaptivesDebra Jo Immergut
The Captives (Ecco 2018) begins in May 1999 when Frank Lundquist, a disgraced psychologist working at Milford Base Correctional Facility, a New York state prison for women, recognizes the woman who walks into his office in prison orange as Miranda Greene, his high school crush. Miranda has made an appointment to ask for a something to help her sleep, and the bemused Frank writes a prescription for Zoloft. Miranda has served only two years of her 52-year sentence with no parole for second-degree murder. She has made two friends that help her through the days, protecting her from the other inmates, who call her Missy May and Lady Prell, as well as Correctional Officer Beryl Carmona, who disliked Miranda on first sight. Ludmilla Chermayev is married to hitman Visha, and can’t wait for the end of her sentence to rejoin her husband and little Visha. April Nicholson, a former drug addict who befriended Miranda her first day, has no one on the outside. Despite their different backgrounds, April and Miranda have become fast friends, closer than sisters. Miranda dreads the day that April will be released on parole. Miranda learns how to hide her sleeping pills inside a plastic hanger, saving them up until she has enough to overdose. An unexpected late night bed check sends the unconscious Miranda to the emergency room. Frank, who has been mostly resisting the unprofessional attraction to his patient, determines to save Miranda from herself, and comes up with a plan to break her out of prison. Entries from Frank’s journal describing his sessions with Miranda are interspersed with her present day life in prison and memories of the events leading up to her crime. This exceptional debut thriller, a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best First Novel, explores themes of freedom, power, corruption, and redemption.

TangerineChristine Mangan
Tangerine (Ecco 2018) begins in 1956 Tangier, Morocco, where Alice Shipley has been living with her new husband John for nearly a year. John loves the exotic bustle of the city but Alice, overwhelmed by the heat and the crowds, spends most of her time inside their apartment. They have gown apart, though Alice relies on John to handle the details of daily life and John needs the monthly deposit from Alice’s trust. The unexpected arrival of Lucy Mason, the college roommate Alice hasn’t seen in over a year, changes everything. Lucy and Alice bonded as freshmen at Bennington College in Vermont , the discovery that they were both orphans bridging the gap between the scholarship and trust fund girls. They roomed together until an accident in their senior year that split the once inseparable friends apart, Alice retreating to the care of her guardian Aunt Maude, and Lucy disappearing from her life. As soon as Lucy steps off the boat in Tangier she meets Youssef, a pushy local insistent on showing her around the city. Though she shakes him off several times, Lucy finds his services useful and he soon compliments her on becoming a woman of Tangier, a Tangerine. Lucy revels in the excitement of the foreign city, packing away her proper dresses and putting on the capri pants she didn’t have the courage to wear at home. Lucy coaxes Alice out of the apartment and the two begin to explore the city and country together. Alice is at first fascinated by their explorations, but soon feels stifled by Lucy’s controlling nature. John doesn’t trust Lucy, but is willing to put up with her presence since it leaves him free to pursue his own interests. When John disappears, Alice begins to question everything: John’s faithfulness, Lucy’s friendship, and her own sanity. This compelling debut novel of psychological suspense has been optioned as a major motion picture.

BearskinJames A. McLaughlin
Bearskin (Ecco 2018) is the story of a man calling himself Rice Moore, who fled Arizona after his girlfriend Apyrl was killed by a Mexican cartel. Rice is working as the caretaker for a remote forest preserve in the Appalachian wilderness of Virginia, collecting wildlife data and refurbishing a cabin. The work is physically taxing, but Rice enjoys the solitude and spending time alone in the woods. The discovery of a bear carcass with the galls and paws removed jolts him out of his self-imposed reclusive life, and Rice becomes obsessed with catching the poachers who sell the bear parts to the Chinese. Asking questions of the hostile locals who resent the vast Turk Mountain Preserve’s hunting ban creates a conflicts with the Stiller family, small time drug dealers, as well as the local biker gang. Rice can imagine any of those killing the bears and moving the contraband, but can’t identify the ringleader. After locating the bear baiting station, Rice constructs a ghillie camouflage suit and begins a lengthy stakeout. Days living off the land with very little food cause his grasp on reality to weaken, blurring the line between hallucinations and fact. Interspersed sections fill in the backstory of the events that led to Apyrl’s death, his own arrest, and the menacing cartel. This powerful debut thriller featuring a decent man who feels compelled by circumstances to use violence, is a finalist for the 2019 Barry and Edgar Awards for Best First Novel.

Leave No TraceMindy Mejia
Leave No Trace (Atria/Emily Bestler Books 2018) begins when 23-year-old Maya Stark, a newly qualified assistant language therapist at the Congdon Psychiatric Facility in Duluth, Minnesota, visits an 18-year-old arrested for breaking into an outfitter’s store and violently resisting arrest. DNA testing reveals that the strange young man, who speaks not a word, is Lucas Blackthorn, who disappeared with his father ten years earlier into the wilde area called the Boundary Waters, hundreds of milles of glacial lakes and untouched forest in Minnesota. Search teams found their campsite, which appeared to have been ravaged by a bear, but no trace of Lucas and his father, who were presumed dead. Because of his fame as the "lost boy," the uncommunicative Lucas is sent to the psychiatric facility rather than jail. In his week at Congdon Lucas hasn’t responded to anyone. When Maya sets out her flashcards, Lucas attacks her, demands the keys from the guard, and heads down the corridor. Maya tackles him and Lucas is sedated. Dr. Mehta, impressed that Maya somehow precipitated a response, assigns Lucas to her case load, hoping Maya can coax him into revealing his life in the wilderness and the events that led to his arrest. Lucas refuses to answer any questions about his father, but Maya realizes that Lucas is desperate to return to the Boundary Waters, and believes his father may need help. A former psychiatric patient herself, Maya understands what Lucas is going through, and reveals snippets of her own past in order to earn his trust. The growing attraction between the two threatens Maya’s clinical detachment, but she becomes convinced that leaving Lucas in the locked facility is a death sentence for him, and perhaps his father as well. This intense thriller is a finalist for the 2019 Barry Award for Best Novel.

The Perfect NannyLeila Slimani
The Perfect Nanny (Penguin Books 2018, French 2016) begins with an attack on two young children in Paul and Myriam Massé’s small apartment in Paris. Two years earlier Myriam decided to return to work as a lawyer. She had reveled in the time at home with their daughter Mila, immersing herself totally in the child. But Myriam’s contentment with life as a mother changed with the birth of their son Adam when Mila was two. Paul’s parents began to travel rather than help with child care, and Myriam began to feel isolated and trapped, jealous of her husband’s stories of his interesting work in the music industry, and desperate to escape the mind-numbing boredom of full-time motherhood. The couple begin to search for a nanny. After many depressing interviews with women who are undocumented, overweight, or otherwise unsuitable, they finally they hire the perfect nanny: Louise, an unassuming middle-aged French woman who charms everyone. After a few weeks Myriam and Paul wonder how they ever survived without Louise. She arrives early every morning and stays late without objections. They are welcomed home each evening by calm children, clean laundry, a tidy house, and a delicious meal. Louise lives in cheerless one-room apartment and struggles to pay the rent. Estranged from her own daughter, Louise looks forward to cuddling baby Adam, taming wild Mila into an obedient child, luxuriating in long hot showers, cooking in the well-appointed kitchen, and making herself comfortable in the apartment all day. As the months pass, Myriam and Paul and Louise become more dependent, each unable to imagine life without the other. Louise begins to take more freedoms in the apartment, and eventually Paul and Myriam consider severing their relationship, leaving Louise to contemplate losing the comfortable existence she has built for herself in their apartment. This unsettling exploration of power, class, motherhood, and madness is a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossMax Wirestone
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss (Redhook 2015) introduces Dahlia Moss, an unemployed geeky 20-something in St. Louis, Missouri. When Jonah Long offers to pay her to recover the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing, Dahlia assumes the costumed young man is raving until he mentions the Kingdom of Zoth. Dahlia has wasted more than a few hours herself playing the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), and understands the anguish of losing a hard-won trophy. Plus the $1000 he offers will pay the rent. Jonah is sure his ex-roommate Kurt, known as Revenge in Zoth, is the culprit, in retribution for being evicted. Jonah introduces Dahlia to his Zoth guild, and she is soon roaming around within Zoth, asking uncomfortable questions in the guise of a blue-haired elven archer. Kurt explains that as a ninja character he can’t wield a spear, and insists Jonah himself stole the spear from his own guild. When Jonah is murdered IRL (in real life) with a replica of the virtual spear, Dahlia gets entangled in the murder investigation. Emily Swenson, a young lawyer with a death glare, hires Dahlia on behalf of Jonah’s parents to continue the search for the digital spear that appears to have precipitated his murder. Having just been warned off by the police for posing as a private detective, Dahlia tries to refuse, but is persuaded by the size of the check Emily gives her. Pretending to be arranging a funeral for Jonah in Zoth, Dahlia heads back into the virtual world, this time as a delicate fairy with candyfloss hair, a harp-wielding priestess for Usune. Alternating between stealing trash from suspects IRL and evading Zylyphxix, the Spider Queen of Zoth, Dahlia stumbles her way to the truth in both realities. This very funny mystery set in the geek world is the first in a series.

April 1, 2019

The Stranger InsideLaura Benedict
The Stranger Inside (Mulholland Books 2019) begins when Kimber Hannon returns home to St. Louis from a short trip to discover her house keys do not work. Lance Wilson, the strange man living in her house tells the police she leased the house to him, and has a rental agreement to prove it, which Kimber never signed. As she tries to drag the man out of her house he whispers, "I was there. I saw what you did." The police refuse to evict the man, and arrest Kimber when the man charges her with assault. Kimber reluctantly calls her lawyer ex-boyfriend Gabriel, who begins legal proceedings while Kimber goes to stay with a friend. Kimber can’t stand the thought of a stranger rummaging around in her possessions in the Craftsman bungalow recently inherited from her father, but doesn’t tell anyone about the photograph Lance gives her, clearly showing both Kimber and her older sister Michelle the day Michelle fell to her death 20 years earlier while supposedly alone on the cliffs. Flashbacks fill in the backstory of the September Michelle was a junior in high school, frightened by the notes left in her locker accusing her father of cheating on her mother. Kimber, a jealous and manipulative high school freshman, refused to believe her beloved father could do anything wrong. After Michelle’s death, Kimber’s mother fell apart, and her father left the family. Now a complicated adult who continues to make dubious choices, Kimber is sure the stranger has some connection with that autumn, but can’t figure out his motive for taking over her house. Things go from bad to worse when her nosy next door neighbor dies in an accident Kimber is sure is murder, and she is accused of financial mismanagement at work. It’s difficult to empathize with the duplicitous Kimber, but she does display flashes of true compassion and her determination to get to the truth pushes her towards honesty.

Cobra ClutchA.J. Devlin
Cobra Clutch (NeWest Press 2018) introduces “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead, a former pro-wrestler working as a bar bouncer and errand boy for his father’s detective agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Johnny Mamba, a former tag-team partner, pleads with Jed to find his kidnapped pet python, Ginger. An integral part of his act, Johnny needs Ginger for his next wrestling match. Jed explains that he is not a private investigator, but Johnny adores the python and is willing to pay the $10,000 ransom with a recent inheritance from his grandmother. Jed reluctantly agrees to help find Ginger, and heads to the XCCW gym, sure that one of Johnny’s wrestling colleagues is behind the theft. Manager Bert Grasby mistakes Jed for an enforcer for a drug dealer and pulls a gun on him. When Jed explains who he is, Grasby jumps at the chance to sign the former pro-wrestling superstar, whose trademark move was breaking a 2x4 over his own head after pinning an opponent. Learning he is there only to figure out what happened to Johnny’s snake, Grasby throws him out. With the support of a steady supply of Dairy Queen banana milkshakes and his cousin Declan St. James, an Irish immigrant with impressive fighting skills, Jed sets out to find justice for his old friend. Forced to confront the events that caused him to retire from his wrestling career, Jed infiltrates the sleazy world of pro-wrestling and grapples with the dangerous Vancouver underworld in this engaging debut thriller, a finalist for the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.

The TempMichelle Frances
The Temp (Kensington 2019) begins when Carrie, a successful London producer married to screenwriter Adrian Hill, tells her husband that she is pregnant during the after-party celebrating his BAFTA win for episode 1 of his hit show Generation Rebel. When they first started dating Adrian was clear that he had no interest in children, but the unplanned pregnancy at the age of 42 feels like unexpected gift to Carrie. Adrian isn’t very involved with the pregnancy, but Carrie hopes they will both fall in love with the baby when it is born. Emma, a 24-year-old who longs to be a screenwriter, applies for the temporary job of script editor during Carrie’s three months of maternity leave. Emma’s parents would prefer she pursue traditional career, but Emma is determined to follow in the footsteps of her hero Carrie, and make her way in television. After the birth of their son Rory, Carrie struggles to adapt to life as a mother. She doesn’t immediately bond with the baby, worries she will do something wrong, and is exhausted all of the time. Adrian works long hours away from London at their beach house, unable to concentrate when the baby cries. Meanwhile, Emma demonstrates talent and creativity in her new position, working well with Adrian and the rest of the staff who value her contributions. Carrie fears that her temporary replacement will replace her permanently. Adrian finds Emma’s script advice invaluable, but is startled to find her searching through papers in his office shortly after Carrie discovers her snooping in their house. This suspenseful psychological thriller builds to a powerful conclusion.

The Liar’s GirlCatherine Ryan Howard
The Liar’s Girl (Blackstone Publishing 2018) is the story of Alison Smith, thrilled to be accepted to St. John’s College in Dublin along with her best friend Liz. By the end of her first year Alison has fallen in love with fellow student Will Hurley, and is neglecting her studies and Liz to spend as much time with him as possible. One after another, female students were found dead in the canal, but no hint of the killer is discovered until Liz is killed. A trace of her cell phone records reveal a call to Will, who confesses and is convicted. Sentenced to life imprisonment, Will is committed to Dublin’s Central Psychiatric Hospital. Alison drops out of school and moves to the Netherlands, desperate to escape the taint of being the infamous killer’s unsuspecting girlfriend. Ten years later two Irish detectives appear on her doorstop. Another college student’s body has been found in the canal, and the Gardaí suspect a copycat killer. Will says he has something new to confess, but will only talk to Alison. Alison reluctantly returns to Dublin to visit Will for the first time since his arrest. Will declares that he is innocent, that the police badgered him into confessing, and that he is sure the original Canal Killer has resurfaced to murder again. Alison is doubtful and suspicious, but Malone, the younger of the two Gardaí, admits he believes Will may be telling the truth. Sections from “then” explore the romance between Alison and Will and the often contentious friendship between Alison and Liz while the “now” sections follow the current investigation searching for a connection between the victims that wasn’t Will. This intense thriller is a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Mystery.

Depth of WinterCraig Johnson
Depth of Winter (Viking 2018) finds Walt Longmire, veteran sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming, heading into Mexico to rescue his daughter Cady. Tomás Bidarte, the head of a vicious drug cartel, has kidnapped Cady, sending Walt a picture postcard with the single word “Come.” The American government is moving too slowly for Walt, who fears that Cady may be moved or worse before help arrives. The Mexican government is of even less help, but Buck Guzmán, United States Border Patrol, introduces Walt to Isidro, a young Tarahumara sharpshooter with an old rifle who communicates mainly through bird whistles. Isidro is from Estante del Diablo, a small mountain village taken over by the cartel, who cut the tongues of all the children. Walt heads into the blazing heat of the Chihuahua desert in a pink Cadillac convertible with the Seer, a blind elderly man in a wheelchair. When the Mexican police arrive looking for Walt, the Seer comes up with a plan to disguise the tall Anglo with only a few words of Spanish as former Dallas Cowboy Bob Lilly, explaining that to most Mexicans all Anglos look alike. Adan Martínez and his sister Bianca, who live in a village close to Estante del Diablo, join the rescue team, hoping to kill Bidarte before he takes over their village as well. This intense and bloody 17th in the series is a finalist for the 2019 Barry Award for Best Novel.

The PlottersUn-su Kim
The Plotters (Doubleday 2019, Korea 2010) is set in an alternate Seoul, Korea, where rival assassin guilds compete for lucrative contracts. Reseng is an orphan adopted at a the age of four by Old Raccoon, a cantankerous master assassin whose headquarters is The Library, filled with tall shelves of books cared for by a hired librarian. Though never sent to school, Reseng taught himself to read and spent many lonely hours escaping into fictional worlds while soaking up the assassin’s way of life. Unseen organizers known as plotters award the contracts and provide all the information needed to track down and kill a target. Reseng brings the bodies of his victims to Bear’s Pet Crematorium, where Bear incinerates them early in the morning and pulverizes the bones and teeth to prevent identification. Reseng tried to break away and live the life of an ordinary factory worker after the closest he had to a brother was assassinated, but is called home by Old Raccoon. Worn down by the killings, Reseng makes a mistake and doesn’t follow the plot of an assassination, creating conflict with a rival guild. While trying to track down the plotter with a contract on his own life, Reseng falls in with a group of three strange women who are scheming to fight back against the plotters, hoping that by removing the masterminds the entire assassin culture will crumble. The first in English by the award-winning Korean author, this intense thriller creates a richly imagined world full of vivid characters trying to escape the constricting reality of their lives.

The Silent PatientAlex Michaelides
The Silent Patient (Celadon Books 2019) is the story of Alicia Berenson, a famous painter married to Gabriel, a successful fashion photographer. Living in a large home in a desirable London neighborhood, the couple seemed to have the perfect life until the evening Alicia shot and killed her husband and then slit her own wrists. Alicia barely survived, and spoke not a word from that time forward. Her only communication was a painting completed while awaiting trial under the supervision of a psychiatric nurse. Titled “Alcestis,” the self-portrait depicted a naked Alicia confronting a blank canvas while holding a brush dripping blood red drops. During the trial, Alicia’s agent Jean-Felix Martin displayed the painting in his Soho gallery, and the prices of her paintings increased astronomically. Alicia was convicted of murder, and committed to the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Six years later Alicia is still silent when forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber joins the staff of the Grove, convinced that he is uniquely qualified by his own troubled past to help Alicia. Theo believes that Alicia’s silence is connected to the story of Alcestis, the heroine of a Greek myth who dies in her husband’s place and then speaks not a word after she is rescued from the underworld by Heracles. He begins talk therapy with Alicia, who emerges from her torpor long enough to attack him. Encouraged by the uncharacteristic interaction to the world around her, Theo begins seeking out Alicia’s friends and relatives, searching for motivations for the murder and subsequent silence. Interspersed sections from the diary Alicia began years earlier during a bout of depression reveal her fear that she may have inherited her mother’s madness. This intense debut psychological thriller explores the blurring boundaries between patient and therapist as Theo shares his own emotional problems while trying to forge a bond with Alicia, casting doubt on whose mental stability is more solid.

The Frame-UpMeghan Scott Molin
The Frame-Up (47 North 2018) introduces MG Martin, a young purple-haired comics geek working as a story writer for Genius Comics. In the coffee shop line one morning she peers over the shoulder of a handsome guy looking at a picture on his iPad of two guys tied back to back on the docks. It reminds reminds her of a comic book panel, and she mutters something about a golden arrow before dashing off to work. The guy shows up at Genius Comics later that day and hands her his card: LAPD Detective Matteo Kildaire. The police found an arrow drawn on the pier in gold Sharpie, and Matteo wants to know how she knew it would be there. MC shows Matteo a classic Hooded Falcon comic drawn by Edward Casey Senior with a nearly identical scene, including the shadowy outline of a rabbit, indicating Falcon’s arch-nemesis the White Rabbit. Matteo asks MG to help the police as a comics consultant, suggesting they go with her co-workers assumption that he is a new boyfriend since there is a possibility someone at Genius Comics might be involved. Matteo’s partner is dismissive of MG’s expertise, but her predictions about what might happen next prove accurate: someone is replicating The Hooded Falcon’s war against drugs in real life. Matteo is a total Muggle, drives a Prius, and lives in a desert house without wifi, the anthetisis to MG’s colleagues and friends who speak a geek culture language he doesn’t understand. But somehow his naïveté charms everyone during a Star Wars marathon and MC finds herself falling for the detective. Unfortunately, her best friend, a 6-foot drag queen, and her roommate, a video game designer, become suspects, and MG is compelled to keep secrets while trying to do her own undercover investigation. This very funny debut mystery is the first in the Golden Arrow series.

Nine Perfect StrangersLiane Moriarty
Nine Perfect Strangers (Flatiron Books 2018) is set in Tranquillum House, a boutique health and wellness resort in Australia run by charismatic Masha Dmitrichenko. Frances Welty, a former bestselling romance novelist suffering extreme menopause symptoms, crushed by being taken in by an Internet swindler, and suffering from a very painful paper cut, arrives for the exclusive 10-day Mind and Body Total Transformation Retreat on a hot day in January. She meets the other guests: handsome gay divorce lawyer Lars Lee, young lottery winners Ben and Jessica Chandler, overweight Tony Hogburn, recently divorced Carmel Schneider, and grief-stricken Napoleon and Heather Marconi and their daughter Zoe. Frances hands over all her electronic devices and unpacks, horrified to discover that the contraband wine, tea, and chocolates she hid in her suitcase are missing. The gregarious Frances is looking forward to talking with everyone at dinner, and is taken aback by the news that the first five days will be spent in total silence, avoiding eye contact, savoring each bite for 15 seconds, and walking slowly and mindfully. Sure she will go mad without alcomorihol, caffeine, and the Internet, Frances is surprised to find herself relaxing into the slow pace and enjoying the massages and delicious fruit smoothies. Chapters from the perspectives of the distinctive and endearing guests document their internal changes as the days pass while Masha and her two employees watch their every move through hidden cameras. When the silence ends, the guests are gathered into the basement meditation studio, eager to move to the next step in the treatment, unaware that Masha has initiated a new protocol with this 10-day cleanse, one designed to ensure a permanent spiritual transformation in a healthy body. This crafty and funny thriller is vastly entertaining.

Death from a Top HatClayton Rawson
Death from a Top Hat (American Mystery Classics 2018, G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1938) begins one evening when magazine journalist Ross Harte is drawn out of his New York City apartment by a racket in the hallway. Two well-dressed men and a woman are trying to rouse Dr. Cesare Sabbat, who is not answering his door despite his insistance they arrive promptly at 6:30 PM. Madame Rappourt, a psychic, the Great Tarot, a stage magician with a popular radio serial, and Colonel Waltrose, a psychical scientist, try to pick the lock to Sabbat’s door, but the keyhole is stuffed from the inside. As they break the door down, Harte calls the police. Inside the locked apartment, Sabbat’s guests discover his strangled body arranged inside a pentagram. Before the police arrive, the very inebriated Alfred and Zulma LaClaire stumble in. Before everyone can be fingerprinted, Tarot disappears and a card bearing the name of David Duvallo, The Escape King, is discovered under the body. Inspector Gavigan calls on Harte’s friend the Great Merlini, a retired stage magician now running a magic shop in Times Square, to sit in on the interviews. Merlini knows most of the people involved, some by other names in other countries. His intimate knowledge of the misdirection required for illusions helps Merlini identify lies and deceptions, but not in time to prevent a second very similar murder. This classic locked room mystery written by a professional magician, is the first in a series of four starring the talented Merlini.

May 1, 2019

Open CarryMarc Cameron
Open Carry (Kensington 2019) introduces Arliss Cutter, an ex-military Supervisory Deputy US Marshal on the Fugitive Task Force. After the death of his brother, Arliss moved from Florida to Alaska to support his sister-in-law and her three young children. Cutter is a skilled tracker, and carries his grandfather’s Colt Python on his hip, concealing his assigned small Glock as a backup. He is sent to Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska when Millie Burkett, a teenage Tlingit girl, goes missing at the same time an unregistered sexual offender is spotted on the island. The new reality TV show FISHWIVES! has taken over the island, featuring local fishing families and stirring up suspicion, jealousy, and antagonism. An intern with the show, Millie was out with a GoPro video camera filming background scenery when she disappeared. Millie’s mother suspects she has been caught by Kustaka, but the local trooper is sure a shape-shifting Tlingit otter is not the culprit. Manuel Alvarez-Garza isn’t happy that his boss Ernesto Camacho, the leader of the Mexican Los Leónes cartel, decided to take a fishing trip near his money-laundering mine in Alaska. Pictures of Camacho are posted all over the world with the promise of a half-million dollar reward, and Garza would prefer his boss keep a much lower profile. FISHWIVES! producer Carmen Delgado and cinematographer Greg Conner are recording footage of the deserted bay on two cameras when the large yacht moves into view. The men on the boat look back through binoculars and set off in pursuit, tracking Carmen and Gregg to their recording studio to destroy all evidence of Camacho’s presence in the area. Their disappearance ratchets up the tension, and Arliss and his partner Lola Fontaine, an enthusiastic Polynesian woman eager for advancement, have their hands full getting straight answers out of the nervous locals and film crew. This action-packed series launch features partners with complementary skills is set in an environment nearly as dangerous as the villains they pursue.

Need To KnowKaren Cleveland
Need To Know (Ballantine Books 2018) is the story of Vivian Miller, a CIA counterintelligence analyst with four young children, happily married to Matt. The couple struggles to pay the bills and juggle work and childcare. Vivian had hoped to stay home with the children for a few years when the twins were born, but Caleb was born with a heart defect and giving up her health insurance wasn’t an option. Luckily Matt is a very involved father, and Vivian enjoys the challenge of her current project: uncovering a network of Russian sleeper agents by focusing on their handlers. Using an algorithm codenamed Athena, Vivian accesses the computer of Yury Yakov, a suspected spy responsible for five sleepers. In a folder named "Friends" she finds five pictures, four strangers and Matt. When she confronts her husband late that night, Matt admits that he was born in Moscow, orphaned, and trained as a sleeper agent from the age of 15. Sent to the United States to live as the son of other sleeper agents, Matt targeted Vivian in college, two weeks after she was recruited by the CIA. Matt swears he loves Vivian and would do anything to protect their children, and Vivian is almost sure she believes him. Matt offers to turn himself in, but Vivian knows she will be fired, losing the health care Caleb needs to survive. The next day she deletes the Friends folder from Yury’s computer, but then remembers that the CIA records all keystrokes, leaving her vulnerable to discovery and charges of treason. Yury offers Matt a solution, but Vivian knows any further action will leave her open to blackmail for the rest of her career. The only solution is to track down the ringleader who handles the handlers, giving her something to trade the Russians for forgetting her family exists. This intense debut spy thriller is a finalist for the 2019 Barry and Thriller Awards for Best First Novel.

If I Die TonightAlison Gaylin
If I Die Tonight (William Morrow 2018) is set in the small town of Havenkill in the New York Hudson Valley. Jackie Reed is the mother of two sons: unhappy high school senior Wade who has dyed his hair jet black, and seventh grader Connor, who misses the brother who used to be his friend. One stormy night Amy Nathanson, an 80s pop star trying to make a comeback, stumbles into the police station soaking wet, claiming that a teenage boy in a black hoodie stole the Jaguar she calls Baby, and then ran over another boy who tried to stop him. Liam Miller is rushed to the hospital, where he remains in a coma for several days before dying. Handsome Liam was the star player on the football team, and his death is soon transformed into heroism through social media. Wade, the despised outcast rumored to be a Satanist, becomes the suspect, demonized by the same social media posts. Connor doesn’t believe that Wade is guilty, but knows he was out late that night, coming home to hide a wet bag in his brother’s closet. Pearl Maze, the young police officer who drove Amy back to her home that night, isn’t excited about meeting the former star like her colleagues, instead concerned that something about Amy’s account doesn’t ring true. Connor, who disposed of Wade’s bag, is consumed with guilt, and soon ostracized by his peers who refuse to associate with the brother of a suspected killer. Chapters from various perspectives present different viewpoints of the same events, and expose secrets each character would do just about anything to keep hidden. This intense psychological thriller exposing the power of social media to destroy anyone’s reputation won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

InvisibleAndrew Grant
Invisible (Ballantine Books 2019) is the story of Paul McGrath, who defied his pacifist father by joining the Army and excelling in military intelligence. His last assignment ended with the disappearance of an enormous Iranian cash payoff, leaving him facing a desk job for the duration of the investigation. The delivery of a two-year-old letter from his father offering reconciliation convinces Paul to retire and return home to New York. The city has changed in the decades he has been overseas, but his father’s house is unchanged. The housekeeper tells him that his father died of heart failure a few months earlier, right after a loud argument with his business partner Pardew, who had been embezzling from the company. Pardew was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but papers critical to the prosecution went missing, and the judge declared a mistrial. Detective Atkinson suggests that the missing evidence is most likely lost somewhere in the courthouse, maybe by accident but more likely on purpose. Paul fabricates a new identity is hired as a janitor in the courthouse, finding it oddly satisfying to leave clean floors behind him as he searches a different courtroom or office every night in his invisible status of a janitor with a cart. On his first day he meets Bob Mason, a traumatized elderly man who has just learned that the man who attacked his wife and left her in a wheelchair was just released after the chain of custody for the blood covered wrench was broken. Mason is sure that their landlord George Carrik hired Norman Davies to threaten his wife when she organized the tenants of the rent controlled units to protest his lack of maintenance of the building in order to convince them to move. Paul asks Atkinson to look into the Mason case, suspecting that someone is orchestrating the disappearance evidence. When he realizes that Atkinson is not inclined to exert himself on Mason’s behalf, Paul decides that it’s up to him to make things right. The other workers at the courthouse are soon talking about stories in the paper about a man identifying himself as a janitor, rounding up criminals and delivering them to the police. This intriguing thriller leaves open the possibility of a sequel featuring the engaging champion of the defenseless.

A Knife in the FogBradley Harper
A Knife in the Fog (2018) begins in 1888 when Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle receives a letter from former prime minister William Gladstone requesting his services in London as a consultant for a month. Leaving his newly pregnant wife behind in Portsmouth, Doyle is met at Waterloo Station by Mr. Gladstone’s personal secretary Jonathan Wilkins, who informs Doyle that it is not his services as a physician that are required, but instead the analytic skills featured in the recently published “A Study in Scarlett.” The police have not been able to apprehend the Whitechapel murderer, who has killed three streetwalkers in the last month, and Gladstone hopes that Doyle will serve as a consulting detective, reviewing the work of the police and suggesting avenues of investigation they may have missed. Doyle insists that Sherlock Holmes is only a fictional creation, with knowledge and skills his creator does not possess, but Wilkins is insistent. Unwilling to refuse a request from Gladstone, Doyle agrees to help only if Dr. Joseph Bell of Edinburgh, his old professor of surgery that served as the model for Holmes, will join him. Doyle is surprised that Bell answers in the affirmative, and Wilkins provides a letter of introduction to Inspector Abberline who is leading the investigation, and the address of Miss Margaret Harkness, a young woman living in the East End and writing about the lives of the working poor, who has agreed to give them an introductory tour of the dangerous area. Doyle and Bell are charmed by Miss Harkness, who roams the streets disguised as a young man. At first protective of their female companion, her quick wits and hidden Derringer save them from a pair of ruffians. The three dub themselves the Three Musketeers and work as a team to help the police track down the killer soon known as Jack the Ripper. This clever debut novel featuring lively versions of three historical figures was a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

St Nicholas Salvage & WreckingDana Haynes
St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking (Blackstone Publishing 2019) introduces Michael Finnigan, a former US Marshall, and Katalin Fiero Dahar, a half-Muslim Spanish ex-spy, soldier, and assassin. Finnigan came from a New York City family of cops, but quit the force when he realized his father was bent. He met Fiero while working an international drug operation in the Crimea, both disillusioned by the incompetence of the bureaucracy. Finnigan firmly believes the bad guys need to be arrested and charged while Fiero knows there are time it’s best to just kill them before they buy their way out of jail. Determined to use their talents to make a difference, they create St. Nicholas Salvage & Wrecking, an illegal international bounty hunting business based in Cyprus, agreeing to break rules and laws to bring criminals to justice, drawing the line only at assassination. International Criminal Court Judge Hélene Betancourt hires them to find evidence to charge Lazar Aleksic with sex trafficking of minors. The son of powerful Miloš Aleksic, director of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the indulged Lazar never leaves Belgrade, Serbia, guarded by a personal army led by Driton Basha. Meanwhile, Jane (Jinan) Koury, a young journalist, flies from London to do a story focusing on the child refugees fleeing Syria for Europe. Wearing a hijab for the first time in many years, she joins a family with two children, burying her passport in the bottom of her backpack in order to pose as another refugee. Finnigan and Fiero learn that Lazar has a fleet of trucks based in Serbia, taking advantage of the Sechengen Agreement permitting registered companies to cross international borders without inspection. Positive that Lazar is targeting refugee children who won’t be missed if they vanish, Finnigan and Fiero begin searching for a way to connect Lazar and his victims. Assembling a team of mercenaries and professional thieves, the two set out to battle the rouge military force in this high-adrenaline series opener.

What Doesn’t Kill YouAimee Hix
What Doesn’t Kill You (Midnight Ink 2018) introduces Willa Pennington, a young mixed-race ex-cop in Washington DC. After her best friend Michael died in Afganistan, Willa didn’t have the emotional energy to continue in the police force, instead working under her private investigator father’s supervision as an apprentice PI. While her parents are on a cruise, Willa is taking care of her high school brother Ben when their neighbors David and Susan Horowitz ask her to help their granddaughter Violet move out of her abusive boyfriend’s house. No one answers her knock at Joe Reagan’s rundown home, and Willa spots his dead body through the kitchen window. After calling 911, Willa takes a picture of a boot print in the mud and notices there is no sign of forced entry. Willa tells the grandparents that Joe is dead and Violet needs to get in touch with the police. They want to hire her to investigate the murder, but she explains that even if she had completed the process of becoming a licensed private investigator, PIs are prohibited from investigating murders. Michael’s older brother Seth gets back in touch, inviting her to visit one of their old hangouts and reawakening the sexual attraction between them. Willa discovers Seth searching through her father’s office and suspects the invitation right after Violet’s disappearance was not a coincidence. Searching Seth’s apartment in exchange, Willa discovers weapons and downloads his computer with a hack Ben provides. This finalist for the Agatha and Lefty Awards for Best Debut Novel is the first in a series.

Save Me from Dangerous MenS.A. Lelchuk
Save Me from Dangerous Men (Flatiron Books 2019) introduces Nikki Griffin, a bookstore owner and private investigator in Berkeley, California. Pieces of Nikki’s past emerge from her weekly court-ordered anger-management therapy sessions, filling in the back story of a woman compelled to protect others, especially battered women threatened by dangerous men. Escaping into books saved Nikki’s sanity as an adolescent, and the bookstore is her sanctuary. Nikki refuses to carry a cellphone but does use an iPad to monitor her high-tech trackers and has no aversion to weapons. Gregg Gunn, the owner of Care4, a Silicon Valley startup that makes baby monitors, hires Nikki to follow Karen Li, an employee he believes is stealing and selling firm secrets. Astride her red Aprilia motorcycle, Nikki follows Karen to a meeting with two men, noticing that Karen doesn’t appear to be selling anything, but instead is clearly terrified of the threatening pair. An IT security expert at Care4 shows Nikki proof that Gunn is taking secret trups to Saudi Arabia and Russia, and warns her away from the investigation. The group of elderly mystery readers at her bookstore call Nikki “Lisbeth” in recognition of her single-minded dedication to use any means necessary to reach her goal, and she can’t let go of the case, even when those closest to her are threatened. This intense debut thriller features a deeply-flawed protagonist as intelligent and compassionate as she is dangerous.

Hunting GameHelene Tursten
Hunting Game (Soho Crime 2019, Sweden 2014) features 28-year-old Embla Nyström, a detective inspector with the Västra Götaland County Bureau of Investigation’s mobile police unit based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Embla looks forward to heading to rural Dalsland each year for the annual moose hunt with her Uncle Nisse, some cousins, and the neighbors who share the hunting quota. This year there is a new member who causes some discord. Peter Hansson, an attractive young IT security specialist, has inherited his father’s land and decided to exploit his hunting rights, reducing the quota for the rest of the group. Sixten Svensson, the long-time hunt leader, isn’t thrilled to have a dilettante in the group and is suspicious of the advanced security in his renovated house, but Embla is willing to give him a chance. The group of 13 shares the hunting land with Anders von Beehn from nearby Dalsnäs Manor, who has assembled a group of wealthy friends. Anders and his long-time friend Jan-Eric Cahneborg are mourning the year’s anniversary of the death of Ola Forsnaess, the third member of their friendship group who died in a car accident a year earlier. Both Anders and Jan-Eric have received disturbing packages within the last week, a bandanna and a BMW key ring with a note reading “I remember. M.” Embla’s group is plagued by bad luck — a poisonous viper in the outhouse and an illegal foot-hold trap on the trail — and Embla sees the ghostly white figure of a woman late one night. The two hunting groups don’t see much of each other until the night two men from Dalsnäs Manor disappear. Embla takes charge of the search, and soon discovers the murdered body of one of the men, calling in local reinforcements as well as the rest of her mobile team. The investigation awakens guilty memories from Embla’s teenage years, causing her recurring nightmares to intensify. A prize-winning Nordic welterweight and skilled hunter, Embla is perfectly suited to lead the hunt for a killer in this first-rate series opener.

Under My HillLisa Unger
Under My Skin (Park Row 2018) begins a year after photographer Poppy Lang’s husband Jack was brutally beaten to death during his morning run through Riverside Park in Manhattan. Consumed by grief after Jack’s death, Poppy vanished for a few days before reappearing in the lobby of her best friend Layla’s building, wearing a bright red dress and with no memory of the missing days. Poppy is seeing a therapist who is trying to wean her off the sleeping pills she depends on to escape her nightmares, washed down with forbidden wine. Haunted by the missing days and the unsolved murder, Poppy begins taking anti-depressants supplied by Layla to make it through the days. She notices a man wearing a black hoodie following her, and reports the stalker to Detective Grayson, who investigated the murder. Poppy begins having blackouts during the day, periods of time when she is not aware of her surroundings, as well as vivid experiences that seem real but aren’t. Her therapist speculates that the hallucinations are traumatic memories resurfacing, and Poppy can’t decide if she should smother them with more pills and alcohol or re-experience the pain hoping for a clue to Jack’s murder. Layla convinces her to join an online dating site to help put the past behind, which Detective Grayson views as self-destructive and dangerous behavior. For the first time in a year, Poppy begins taking photographs again, determined to separate reality from illusion. This intense psychological thriller is a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Paperback and the Hammett Prize.

June 1, 2019

A Friend Is a Gift You Give YourselfWilliam Boyle
A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself (Pegasus Books 2019) begins when Rena Ruggiero, the widow of of Brooklyn mob boss Gentle Vic, hits her 80-year-old neighbor Enzio over the head with a heavy glass ashtray after he pops a Viagra and tries to touch her. Sure that she has killed him, Rena takes off in Enzio’s 1962 Impala for the Bronx to the home of her estranged daughter Adrienne and 15-year-old granddaughter Lucia. Rena hasn’t seen them since an argument at Vic’s funeral nine years earlier, but she has nowhere else to go, having lost touch with Vic’s friends after his murder. Adrienne slams the door in Rena’s face, but neighbor Lacey Wolfstein, a former Golden Age porn star and con artist, notices Rena’s distress and invites her inside to calm down. Adrienne is about to leave town with her ex-boyfriend Ritchie, who plans to steal a big payoff from the Brancaccio crime family and start over with his old love and her daughter. Lucia despises her neglectful alcoholic mother, and dashes over to Wolfstein’s house while Adrienne is packing, hoping her grandmother will take her in. Ritchie appears with a briefcase full of cash and a gun in the trunk of his 1982 Cadillac Eldorado, followed by Crae, a violent hammer-toting enforcer for the Brancaccios. In the confusion, the women escape in the Eldorado, followed by Crea in his Lincoln Town Car, and Ritchie and Enzio, who isn’t dead after all, in the Impala. After a wild chase, the women lose the other cars and head for Monroe to hide out with Wolfstein’s friend Mo, a fellow porn star and grifter, unaware that Ritchie has an envelope with Mo’s address in his pocket. Lucia won’t let go of the briefcase of money, Rena is in shock, and Wolfstein and Mo revel in the thrill of the chase. This funny and violent caper novel featuring unique and unpredictable women is non-stop excitement.

The Break LineJames Brabazon
The Break Line (Berkley 2019, UK 2018) begins in Venezuela when British Intelligence agent Max McLean decides not to kill his target Ana María, the jilted mistress of the Russian ambassador to Cuba, when he realizes she is not the correct woman. Picked up by the British embassy team, McLean explains that he is an assassin but not a murderer, and is sent back to London in disgrace. McLean is a valued agent for The Unknown: a black ops team which delivers off-the-books justice on behalf of the British Government, and Commander Frank Knight, his handler for 23 years, offers him one final mission, and then the reward of the command of Raven Hill, the exclusive training ground for assassins. Major General King, the Special Forces Director, outlines the solo mission: McLean will be sent to Karabunda, a jungle outpost in northern Sierra Leone, to take out the white commander of a rebel force slaughtering innocent villagers and threatening British interests in West Africa. The son of an Irish scientist/soldier father whose plane was shot down by the Cubans, and a Russian mother who drowned herself after he died, McLean grew up speaking three languages interchangeably, and is fluent in several others. A sharpshooter who never misses his target, McLean understands why he has been selected, but not why he is being sent in alone with no backup and without the usual intel. Posing as a Canadian doctor, he scouts the remote area, but the military has closed the roads, claiming a cholera outbreak. Convincing them to let him view the dead, McLean finds savagely dismembered bodies covered with human bite marks. This high-intensity debut thriller examines the horrifying effects of war and madness.

Confessions of an Innocent ManDavid R. Dow
Confessions of an Innocent Man (Dutton 2019) is the story of Rafael Zhettah, the American-born son of poor Mexican parents who has made a life for himself in Houston, Texas. In his mid-30s, Rafael is the owner and head chef of a successful small restaurant when Tieresse, an extremely wealthy widow 14 years his senior, walks into the dining room and sweeps Rafael off his feet. Tieresse has endometriosis, a condition that makes sexual intercourse excruciatingly painful, but the two fall in love and marry. Tieresse tells Rafael she doesn’t mind if he has the occasional sexual encounter with other women as long as he saves his love for her alone. Rafael moves into Tieresse’s elegant house, but keeps his apartment above the restaurant for nights when he works late. He teaches Tieresse how to pilot a small plane and the two begin to build a home in a beautiful remote wooded area in Kansas. One night Rafael is working a late party at the restaurant, and spends the night with one of the waitresses at the restaurant apartment. That night Tieresse is murdered in their home, her fake jewels stolen. A week later Rafael is arrested for his wife’s murder, his infidelity and the two billion she left him forming a compelling motive. Held without bail, Rafael spends over a year in the country jail. After being sentenced to death, he is moved to death row. Over the next five and a half years he struggles to retain his sanity, slowly adapting to life in a small space, playing chess and getting to know other convicted murderers mainly through notes passed from cell to cell, while his lawyers work on an appeal. This gripping thriller exposing the injustices of the Texas death penalty system is the fiction debut of the founder of the Texas Innocence Project.

What We DidChristobel Kent
What We Did (Sarah Crichton Books 2019) is the story of Bridget Webster, whose carefully constructed world centered around her husband Matt and 16-year-old son Finn crumbles when Professor Anthony Carmichael walks into her dress shop with Isabel, a high school girl in search of a recital dress. Twenty years earlier Bridget was that young girl, groomed for seduction by her violin teacher before betrayal, guilt, and anorexia destroyed her music career and nearly took her life. Bridget hopes that Carmichael doesn’t recognize her, but he reappears a few days later, leering, standing far too close, and sickening her with the news that he kept photographs. Bridget can’t bear to tell her husband about her shameful past, but is determined to protect Isabel if she can. Journalist Gillian Lawson has tracked Carmichael from London to the small university in Rose Hill, hoping to finally gather enough evidence to put the man she is convinced is a pedophile behind bars. Gill goes to one of Carmichael’s lectures, but he doesn’t show up, to the chagrin of Matt, who is prepared with the AV equipment in his role as the head of the university tech office. Gill suspects that Bridget is one of Carmichael’s first victims, and begins shadowing her. Matt knows that certain things, like classical music concerts, cause Bridget to have panic attacks, but is unprepared for her increasingly paranoid behavior when news of Carmichael’s disappearance hits the news. Bridget’s shop assistant also notices that she is not herself, but is caught up in her own late term pregnancy, and Finn is obsessed with his first romance with a girl he met online. Bridget’s sister Carrie, who arrives to stay when her girlfriend throws her out, suspects the truth about Carmichael and is willing to break a few laws to protect her sister. This intense psychological thriller explores the long reaching effects of sexual abuse and the debilitating shame that often prevents victims from speaking the truth.

The Good DetectiveJohn McMahon
The Good Detective (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2019) introduces P.T. Marsh, a detective on the rural Mason Falls police force in Georgia who fell apart when his wife and young son died in an accident. Nearly a year later, P.T. is drinking too much to try and quell his nightmares, and making far too many bad decisions. He visits the home of Crimson, a stripper covered with bruises, late one night to convince her boyfriend to stop abusing her. The following morning P.T. and his partner Remy Morgan are called to the scene of the murder of Virgil Rowe: the very man P.T. threatened the night before. P.T. is almost sure that Rowe was alive when he left him and “accidentally” forgets to put on his crime scene gloves, convincing the techs to eliminate his fingerprints. While investigating a fire scene later that day, P.T. and Remy find the body of a black teenager with a blackened rope around his neck. After photographing the body, they seal the rope inside an evidence bag, hoping to keep the news of the lynching from the press as long as possible. The body is identified as Kendrick Webster, the 15-year-old son of the Baptist preacher. The gas cans inside Rowe’s shed and his neo-Nazi tattoos indicate that the two murders are connected, In fact Rowe may have had a hand in Kendrick’s murder before being killed himself. They post pictures of the two crime scenes on two adjacent walls at the station, covering the windows to keep the details of Kendrick’s torture secret. A question by a local reporter reveals a leak inside the police, and the partners begin investigating off the books, discovering a dangerous connection to some of Georgia’s oldest and most powerful families. This intense debut thriller featuring the grief-stricken detective and his faithful bulldog Purvis is the first in a series.

Where the Crawdads SingDelia Owens
Where the Crawdads Sing (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2018) begins in 1969 Barkley Cove, North Carolina, when the body of handsome Chase Andrews is found dead in the swamp under the old fire tower. It’s unclear if Chase fell accidentally or was pushed to his death, but the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the reclusive Marsh Girl. Interspersed chapters fill in Kya’s story, beginning in 1952 when Kya is six, and her mother deserts her abusive husband and and five children living in the shack at the edge of the marsh. Kya’s much older siblings drift away over the next few weeks, unable to live with their father’s anger without their mother’s presence. Pa spends most of his time in his boat or the marsh, giving Kya a dollar each week to buy food. Kya pretends her mother has sent her alone to the store, and tries to puzzle out what the coins she receives as change are worth. She teaches herself to cook and collects feathers and shells. A year later a woman appears to take her to school. Kya is terrified, but the hungry child can’t resist the promise of a hot meal for lunch. The other children tease her unmercifully, and Kya runs home vowing never to set foot in the school again. Used to hiding from her father, she evades the social workers and makes friends with the gulls on the beach. When she is ten, Pa vanishes for good, and Kya begins harvesting mussels to sell to Jumpin’, who runs a small Gas and Bait shop. Tate Walker, a friend of one of her older brothers, notices her on the water, and makes friends with the shy child by leaving presents of feathers. He teaches her to read, and shares his high school textbooks. Kya is thrilled to be able to label her growing collection of natural objects. The two bond over their love for the natural world, and Kya treasures time with a friend. When Tate leaves for college, Kya is left alone again, and finds the solitude almost unbearable. Arrested for Chase’s murder, Kya goes mute, unable to defend herself against townspeople who always mistrusted her. This powerful coming-of-age story was a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Call Me EvieJ.P. Pomare
Call Me Evie (G.P. Putnam’s Son 2019, New Zealand 2018) is the story of 17-year-old Kate Bennet, who is living in a remote beach town in New Zealand with an older man who tells everyone she is his niece Evie. Uncle Jim tells Evie they had to flee Melbourne and go into hiding to protect her. Evie has almost no memory of the fateful night but she knows Jim is not her uncle and resents his obsession with safety that includes no Internet or phone and locking her in her room every night. Jim swears Evie must stay out of sight as much as possible because the peple chasing them mean to do her harm. Evie fears Jim may be her captor rather than her savior and seeks opportunities to ask questions of the shopkeeper and few neighbors. As fragments of memory return, Evie desperately searches for a way to escape and return home. Alternating sections from “Before” fill in Kate’s senior year of high school, living with her over-protective widowed father, spending time with her best friend Willow and Willow’s slightly creepy father, and falling in love with Thom. In the “After” sections Evie hacks off her long hair revealing the scar on her skull, tries to avoid taking the daily pills Jim gives her, suffers debilitating panic attacks, and desperately tries to remember the truth about the traumatic night that changed her life. This stunning debut novel of psychological suspense probes the nature of memory, self-delusion, and sanity.

Beautiful BadAnnie Ward
Beautiful Bad (Park Row 2019) is the story of Maddie, who is living in Sofia, Bulgaria, on a Fulbright scholarship in 2001, teaching English and writing a book about life under Communism. Her best friend Joanna is living in Skopje Macedonia, working for the Red Cross helping women and children in refugee camps. At a Red Cross benefit, they meet Ian and Peter who are on the close-protection team for the British ambassador. Over the next months Joanna becomes close friends with the group of six young men on the British protection team, and Maddie gets to know them on her visits. Ian has a possessive girlfriend back in London, but the attraction between Ian and Maddie grows as the Christian-Muslim conflict in Macedonia becomes more dangerous. Joanna warns Maddie that Ian is not to be trusted, and the two have a friendship-ending argument right before 9/11 and Maddie’s return to New York. In 2010 Ian and Maddie reconnect. Neither has forgotten the other over the intervening years while Ian continued to work security overseas and Maddie returned to school to get a degree in education. Their week together in a New York hotel room was magical until Maddie realizes that Ian’s PTSD makes living in a city impossible. He convinces Maddie to move to Meadowlark, Kansas, the rural town she fled as soon as she graduated high school, and they have a son. In 2017, a 911 call brings the police to the scene of a killing in Meadowlark. Interspersed chapters moving back in time from ten weeks before the 911 call fill in Maddie’s current reality while chapters set in 2001 document the beginning of their love story. This intense psychological thriller explores the effects of trauma and the lengths people will go to protect those they love.

American SpyLauren Wilkinson
American Spy (Random House 2019) begins in 1992 when Marie Mitchell kills an armed intruder in her Connecticut home. A former FBI agent, Marie knows her claim of self-defense is valid, but flees with her twin four-year-old sons to Martinique, using a set of fake passports she prepared for just this sort of emergency. Marie believes the man she shot was an assassin sent to kill her, and wants to protect her sons at all cost. Interspersed sections from 1962 fill in Marie’s youth. Her mixed-race mother Agathe was sent from Martinique to New York to attend high school, forced by her aunt to pass as white. At the integrated Brooklyn school, she fell in love with William Mitchell, a Harlem boy. Marie and her older sister Helene grew up bilingual, speaking French with their mother. In sections from 1987 Marie is an intelligence officer with the FBI, doomed to monitoring paperwork despite her talents because of her youth, sex, and race. Everything changes when she is asked to join the task force to undermine Thomas Sankara, the charismatic Burkinabé revolutionary president of Burkina Faso. Despite Sankara’s Communist ideology, Marie secretly admires the work he has done to improve the quality of life for his people by vaccinating children and increasing the literacy rate. Disguised as a UN interpreter, Marie watches Sankara give a speech, and is captivated by his personal magnetism. Sankara asks for a tour of Harlem, and the two enjoy a diner meal and a jazz club. A month later Marie is in Burkina Faso, trying to figure out if her mission is to destroy Sankara’s credibility as a loyal family man by seducing him, or destroy the man himself by assassinating him. Inspired by the real life of Thomas Sankara, known as “Africa’s Che Guevara,” this debut spy thriller examines Cold War policies in Africa through the eyes of an intelligent and passionate young black American woman.

Miss Blaine’s PrefectOlga Wojtas
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar (Felony & Mayhem 2018) begins when Shona McMonagle arrives in Tzarist Russia — recruited for a time-traveling project by the founder of Miss Blaine’s School for Girls in Edinburgh. Miss Blaine, thought to be dead for centuries, discovers Shona working in a library, hiding away the despised copies of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the scurrilous novel that spread scandalous untruths about the finest educational institution in Edinburgh. Impressed by the former Head Girl with a flair for languages, Miss Blaine assigns Shona a demanding series of physical and educational trainings before sending her on a mission to the past, with a deadline of exactly one week to save someone from something, a mystery Miss Blaine explains will be obvious when she arrives. Shona is unsure exactly what year it is since the Tzar has banned all newspapers, but a recent painting of Paris pre-Eiffel Tower sets it before 1889. Arriving at her home for the week, Shona finds a wardrobe full of fashionable dresses and a fur coat with the sleeves packed full of throwing knives. Her serf Old Vatrushkin isn’t sure what to make of his new mistress, and Shona is horrified by the thought of owning another human being. She meets beautiful young Lidia Ivanova, an orphan about to be married to an ancient general, and decides saving Lidia from a loveless marriage must be her mission. In fact, the handsome young Sasha all the women are swooning over would make a perfect love match. Elderly dowagers begin tumbling down stone staircases to their deaths following visits from Lidia, but Shona is convinced her innocent young friend is blameless. This tongue-in-cheek debut mystery starring the intrepid Scottish librarian is great fun.

July 1, 2019

The Best Bad ThingsKatrina Carrasco
The Best Bad Things (MDC 2018) is set in 1887 Washington Territory. Alma Rosales was trained by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, but her inability to follow orders combined with William Pinkerton’s distaste for his father’s Women’s Bureau resulted in her dismissal. Alma is now working for Delphine Beaumond, the head of a West Coast smuggling ring, while sending coded messages to the Pinkertons to obfuscate Delphine’s empire. Large quantities of opium are vanishing, and Delphine suspects an inside job. Disguised as Jack Camp, a fiesty young dockworker, Alma goes undercover to investigate Nathaniel Wheeler, Delphine’s charismatic local boss and his gang. Unfortunately Alma met Wheeler a few days earlier while trying to seduce him in her female clothes, and he recognizes her. The sexual attraction between the two is amplified by her disguise as a young man, and Alma convinces him to both keep her secret and give her a job. Alma/Camp moves chameleon-like between male and female personas, switching disguises and accents, desperate to find the thief, take over Wheeler’s job, and wheedle her way back into Delphine’s bed. But Wheeler is smarter than she expects, and her dangerous game becomes more challenging every day. This wild ride of a historical thriller is a finalist for the 2019 Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel.

The Eighth SisterRobert Dugoni
The Eighth Sister (Thomas & Mercer 2019) introduces Charles Jenkins, a retired CIA case officer running a security consulting business from Camano Island, Washington. In his early 60s, Jenkins has a nine-year-old son and another baby on the way, so the news that LSR&C, his biggest client, isn’t paying their bills is worrisome. He is surprised when Carl Emerson, his station chief from 40 years earlier, appears on his doorstep, asking Jenkins to come back for a special assignment. Seven Russian women born to dissident parents were trained from birth to infiltrate institutions of the former Soviet Union and provide the United States with intelligence. Known as the Seven Sisters, the women have no knowledge of each other, each believing she is working autonomously. In the last two years, three of the Sisters have quit reporting and disappeared. The CIA believes Putin has discovered the operation and activated a counteragent, dubbed the Eighth Sister, a reference to the eight buildings Stalin commissioned but never saw built. Emerson believes that Jenkins has the perfect credentials to identify the Eighth Sister: fluent in Russian and the cover of being a disgruntled CIA agent who left the agency, willing to sell the names of the remaining four Sisters to bail out his struggling business. Jenkins refuses, but facing bankruptcy a week later he accepts the assignment, using the pretext of inspecting the security at LSR&C’s Moscow office to enter Russia. The Eighth Sister is not at all what Emerson described, and Jenkins is forced to flee the country across the Black Sea, pursued by a tenacious Russian intelligence officer. Unsure who he can trust, Jenkins must call upon every trick he has learned to save himself and protect his family in this gripping spy thriller, the first in a planned series.

The Shadows We HideAllen Eskens
The Shadows We Hide (Mulholland Books 2018) finds Joe Talbert, Jr. working as a reporter for the Associated Press and living in Minneapolis with his girlfriend Lila, frantically cramming for the bar exam, and his autistic brother Jeremy, who needs constant supervision. The news that State Senator Todd Dobbins is suing for defamation of character because of an article Joe wrote exposing his attack on his wife, puts Joe’s job on the line since he promised his source never to reveal her name. Joe can’t imagine how they will make ends meet and care for Jeremy if the Senator wins his suit. News of the death of another Joe Talbert in a small town in southern Minnesota gives Joe a welcome excuse for a leave of absense. The only thing Joe knows about his father is that his alcoholic mother named him after his father. Joe finds an obituary for Jeannie Talbert, learning that she was survived by her husband Joseph “Toke” Talbert and daughter Angel. Unable to resist the possibility that he has a half-sister, Joe travels to Buckley, where he learns that Joe Talbert was universally disliked though the town was fond of his wealthy wife, who committed suicide six months earlier. Foul play is suspected in Toke’s death, and Angel is in a coma caused by taking her mother’s leftover prescription drugs the same night. Joe visits the sheriff’s office and agrees to a DNA test after admitting he suspects Toke may have been his father. Toke inherited Jeannie’s land when she died, and if he is really Toke’s son, Joe will share the estate, worth millions, with Angel. Joe is stunned by the possibility, and then realizes he has just become the prime suspect for Toke’s murder. This compelling sequel to The Life We Bury (2014) is a finalist for the 2019 Barry Award for Best Novel.

ScrublandsChris Hammer
Scrublands (Atria Books 2019, Australia 2018) is set in Riversend, Australia, a small isolated community suffering the effects of a long drought. A year earlier Reverend Bryon Swift emerged from his church carrying a rifle, murdering five men before being killed himself by Constable Robbie Haus-Jones. D’Arcy Defoe covers the story, reporting that the men had discovered the priest was sexually abusing their sons. Journalist Martin Scarsden is sent to Riversend to write about the anniversary of the tragedy: how is the town coping? Martin, a war correspondent suffering from PTSD, is hoping to resurrect his career by proving he can stay focused and objective. He realizes the town that was struggling to cope with the drought a year earlier is much worse off: the pub has closed, the Black Dog Motel is barely surviving, and most stores have permanently shuttered windows. Though he is tasked with reporting on the town, Martin can’t help getting sucked back into the story of the shooting. Many townspeople, including Haus-Jones, don’t believe Swift was a pedophile, instead praising his work with the local youth and his charismatic preaching. Fran Landers, the widow of one of the victims, at first refuses to talk to Martin, but opens up when he saves her teenage son after a car accident. Fran insists that Swift was kind and generous and decent, a far better man than her abusive husband. Mandalay Blonde, a beautiful young woman with a baby son, also insists Swift was a good man, and convinces Martin that the real story is figuring out why Swift killed those five men. Just as Martin is earning the trust of the wary townsfolk, a new crime brings the national media back to town and Martin finds he has become part of the story rather than an objective observer. This powerful debut thriller is highly recommended.

The Awkward SquadSophie Hénaff
The Awkward Squad (MacLehose Press 2018, France 2015) introduces Paris police Commissaire Anne Capestan, relegated to the command of the Awkward Squad at the end of her six-month suspension after killing a suspect. Regional Chief Buron has created the new squad by relocating the department’s unfireable misfits who have refused to retire despite problems with health, drugs, alcohol, etc. Forty people are on Capestan’s roster, though most haven’t turned up to work for years. Capestan is given all the unsolved cases from the region, elevating the Île-de-France’s record for solving cases to 100%, and putting her squad at 0%. Lieutenant José Torrez, known as Malchance, is the first to appear. After four partners in a row were injured, stabbed, shot, and finally died falling off a tower block, no one is willing to work with Torrez or even make eye contact. Soon several more appear: Commandant Louis-Baptiste Lebreton, thrown out of internal affairs by his own division, Capitaine Eva Rosière, whose detective novels with thinly-disguised characters became a despised prime-time TV show, Capitaine Merlot, an alcoholic reeking of red wine, Lieutenant Évrard, a compulsive gambler from the gambling task force. They begin digging through the boxes of case files — burglaries, thefts, selling counterfeit goods, ATM scams — searching for anything worth further investigation. Buried among the chaff they finally discover two murders. Rosière and Lebreton take the 1993 case of Yann Guénan, a quartermaster in the merchant navy, heading off in Rosière’s luxury Lexus with her lapdog Pilou to interview the men who pulled his body out of the Seine. The second murder is that of Marie Sauzelle, an elderly woman strangled in 2005 during a burglary. Partnering with Torrez, who warns her about the danger of getting in a car with him, Capestan says she will try her luck and the two set out to see if any neighbors remember the crime from eight years earlier. Capestan feels naked without the sidearm she is prohibited from carrying, and Torrez hates the lack of a siren, but the new squad works well together and soon uncover unexpected evidence of police corruption in the long-abandoned cold cases. This engaging series opener is great fun.

The AdultsCaroline Hulse
The Adults (Random House 2018) begins with a 911 call on Christmas Eve: a woman named Alex reporting that someone has been shot with an archery arrow, blood everywhere. A month earlier, Alex’s boyfriend Matt explained that his ex-wife Claire would like to spend Christmas all together at the Happy Forest holiday park in North Yorkshire so that their daughter Scarlett can be with both her parents. Alex gets along fine with Claire, though seven-year-old Scarlett hasn’t warmed to her, and Claire’s boyfriend Patrick agrees in the hope that Claire will tolerate his training for an Ironman competition. Ever since the divorce three years earlier, Scarlett’s constant companion is an imaginary adult-sized stuffed purple rabbit named Posey. While shopping for presents with Claire, Scarlett and Posey run across a speaker for the Society Against Vivisection displaying a picture of an unhappy rabbit in a cage being tested for pharmaceuticals. Learning that Alex is a scientist, Posey and Scarlett decide she probably tortures rabbits, and resolve to stay away from her as much as possible at Happy Forest. The ultra-organized Patrick signs everyone up for activities in advance and Claire creates a joint packing list. The patient Alex goes along with the plan, participating in Forced Fun activities, wondering why Scarlett seems to dislike her more than ever, and trying to stick to her resolution to avoid alcohol while the other adults indulge. Learning that Matt knew about this planned trip months before he told her, and was even the instigator, cause her determination not to drink to crumble, resulting in a drunken evening in which everything goes wrong. This funny and suspenseful debut novel is highly recommended.

The Good SonYou-Jeong Jeong
The Good Son (Penguin Books 2018, South Korea 2016) begins when 26-year-old Yu-jin wakes up covered in blood to discover the murdered body of his mother at the bottom of the stairs in their duplex in Seoul. Yu-jin doesn’t remember much about the previous night. On medication for most of his life to prevent the epileptic seizures that began at the age of nine after the drowning deaths of his father and older brother, Yu-jin secretly stops taking his medication at times to reclaim the former clarity of mind he enjoyed as a young competitive swimmer. He has a faint memory of his mother calling his name in the middle of the night, and is confused by the bloody footprints leading to the door of his room. Could he have had something to do with her death? All he can remember is going out for a run around midnight. Yu-jin hides the body in their rooftop garden and begins a frantic three-day search for the truth. His adoptive brother Hae-jin calls, concerned about a missed call from their mother in the middle of the night, and then Aunt Hye-won, the psychiatrist who prescribes his medication, appears wondering why her sister isn’t answering her phone. Yu-jin explains that his mother left for a church retreat, buying himself a bit of time to deal with the blood-stained sheets and blankets. The news that the police are looking into the murder of a young woman found by the sea wall where Yu-jin often runs right after his brother finds a pearl earring that does not belong to their mother sends Yu-jin into full blown panic mode. This disturbing psychological thriller is the first translated into English by the award-winning South Korean author.

The Reign of the KingfisherT.J. Martinson
The Reign of the Kingfisher (Flatiron Books 2019) begins in 2013 Chicago when retired journalist Marcus Waters is summoned to the police station to watch a video. Police Chief Gregory Stetson is not happy to see the reporter who criticized his quick rise to power, but hopes Marcus can shed light on the video featuring a masked gunman shooting a hostage and demanding the release of the 1984 medical examiner’s report of the body claimed to be the Kingfisher. Marcus came up with the nickname “Kingfisher” for the vigilante who punished and left drugdealers and other criminals for the police before ending up in the Chicago River 30 years earlier. Marcus recognizes the murdered hostage as Walter Williams, a low-level drug dealer spared by the Kingfisher when he overpowered his boss Lawrence Tressy. Marcus recently interviewed Williams while researching a book about the Kingfisher, and suspects he may know the identity of the other two hostages. Detective Jeremiah Combs is unhappy that Stetson isn’t actively searching for the hostages, instead pursuing the Liber-teers, a group of computer hackers, and asks Lucinda Tillman, a detective on mandatory leave, to track down the names Marcus fears may be the other hostages. Wren, perhaps the most talented Liber-teen, decides to clear their group’s name by identifying the other hostages, or even hacking into the police system to find the ME report. The citizens of Chicago aren’t sure what to think. The nearly mythical Kingfisher, rumored to be freakishly strong and impervious to bullets, helped to put many criminals behind bars. Is it possible the man many considered to be a superhero is still alive? If so, where has he been for the past 30 years? After Wren is arrested, she joins Marcus and Tillman in a desperate effort to track down the gunman before more hostages are killed. This intense debut thriller explores the appeal and danger of vigilanteism.

Before She Knew HimPeter Swanson
Before She Knew Him (William Morrow 2019) begins when Hen Mazur and Lloyd Harding move to West Dartford, Massachusetts. Hen is an artist, working out of a nearby studio, and Lloyd commutes to Boston for his marketing job. Their new neighbors Matthew and Mira Dolamore invite them over for dinner and give them a tour of their mirror image house. Hen is fascinated by Matthew’s cluttered downstairs office, and enjoys looking at the assortments of objects on the mantle until she spots a Third Place Junior Olympics fencing trophy that looks an exact match to the one that went missing from the home of Dustin Miller, who was killed two years earlier. The next day Matthew hides the trophy in the basement of Sussex Hall, the private high school where he teaches history and Dustin was once a student. A few days later Hen comes up with a pretext of another house tour from Mira to help her plan her own decorating, hoping for a closer look at the trophy, but it is gone. Convinced that Matthew has murdered his former student, Hen confesses her suspicion to Lloyd. Fearing that her psychological instability is returning, Lloyd suggests she make a report to the police and then forget about it. Detective Martinez takes her report seriously, and visits Matthew to ask about the trophy and an accusation of sexual assault against Dustin by another student during their senior year. The talk doesn’t produce any new information, and Martinez is concerned when he reports back to Hen and learns she has been following Matthew. When Hen’s history of mental illness emerges, including a stay in a psychiatric hospital, her theory that Matthew is s serial killer is discounted. This chilling psychological thriller explores the long-reacing effects of childhood trauma and the challenges of living with mental illness.

The BloodE.S. Thomson
The Blood (Pegasus 2018) finds Jem Flockhart, a young apothecary in 1850 London, called to the Seaman’s Floating Hospital on the Thames by John Aberlady, the resident apothecary. Aberlady’s note, begging Jem to come immediately, has taken a week to arrive, and Jem and architect Will Quartermain hurry to the London Docks. Dr. Sackville and the Reverend Ambrose Birdwhistle, who manage the decommissioned naval frigate known as the Blood and Fleas, tell Jem that Aberlady has been missing for days. His apprentice, a young girl called Pestle Jenny, has been preparing medications in his absence. Jem, who was raised by her father as a boy in order to increase her chances in the world, is surprised that a girl has the job, and learns that Jenny is from Siren House, the League for Female Redemption run by Birdwhistle, as are most of the women working at the hospital. But Jenny is nowhere to be found, and Jem and Will head off to Deadman’s Basin, where he has been hired to demolish the crumbling villa once owned by Dick Tulip. As Will is examining the building Jem notices a face under the filthy water in the basin. The body is that of a young woman, and the constable sends to Siren House, assuming another prostitute has died. Interspersed chapters relate the “confessions” of the women who arrive at Siren House, each ending with a note about leaving Siren House for a position on the Blood. Before Jem can connect with Aberlady, he leaps to his death from the Blood, a presumed suicide after too much opium. But Jem suspects poison, and agrees to fill in as temporary apothecary, sure that the deaths of the young woman and Aberlady are somehow connected to the floating hospital. This excellent third in the series explores the desperate and unhealthy lives of the London poor and the passion for autopsies among doctors eager to advance their knowledge and careers.

August 1, 2019

Dark Sacred NightMichael Connelly
Dark Sacred Night (Little, Brown and Company 2018) begins when night shift detective Renée Ballard returns to Hollywood Station to find retired detective Harry Bosch, now working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department, searching through an old file cabinet. Bosch is investigating the murder of 15-year-old runaway Daisy Clayton nine years earlier. The only clue is a bruise that was found on Daisy’s body, a circular shape with the letters A-S-P. Bosch has traced the mark to a large plastic tub and is sure that the killer used it to soak Daisy’s body in bleach. Ballard has plenty of time on her hands during slow nights, and tracks down the field interview cards Bosch was searching for. These cards were filled in by patrol officers whenever they encountered people on the street. When digitized, the important information was entered, but comments often were not. Bosch hopes to find potential witnesses who were on the street the night Daisy was killed, or a mention of a van that could have been used to move the tub containing the body. The two driven detectives join forces, methodically searching through the boxes of field interview cards and then following potential leads. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of the two detectives track the joint investigation as well as the cases they are working on separately. Ballard’s cases are mainly burglaries and domestic violence, but Bosch is working on the execution 14 years earlier of Cristobal Vega, leader of the violent Varrio San Fer 13 gang. Bosch is sure that Vega was killed by Tranquillo Cortez, a young gang member now filling Vega’s position in the gang. Cortez has ordered a hit on Bosch, which may put Ballard in danger as well. This excellent police procedural featuring two complex and talented detectives is a finalist for the 2019 Barry Award for Best Novel.

The Poison BedElizabeth Fremantle
The Poison Bed (Pegasus 2019, UK 2018) is set in 1615 England during the reign of King James I, when Robert Carr and his wife Frances are arrested on suspicion of murder. Parallel narrations from His and Her perspectives fill in the five years leading up to the arrests, beginning with their first meeting at court. Robert, the king’s favorite and secret lover, has risen from an unremarkable background to become a Privy Councillor: powerful, wealthy, and surrounded by resentful enemies. Frances Howard is married to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, an abusive man who flaunts his mistress and is unable to consummate their union. Frances and Robert are captivated by each other, and her great uncle Henry Howard, Earl of Nottingham, orchestrates the nullification of Frances’s marriage so the two can wed, giving the Howards control over much of the government through Robert. Sir Thomas Overbury, an intimate friend of Robert’s who helps him with government papers beyond Robert’s educational ability, doesn’t trust Frances or the Howards, and counsels him against the marriage. Rushing into Robert’s room, Overbury finds Robert in bed with the king, a capital offense at the time. Overbury swears he will keep the king’s secret if Robert gives up his plan to marry Frances, and Uncle Howard comes up with a plan to get Overbury out of the country by having the King ask him to lead an embassy to the court of Tsar Michael of Russia. When Overbury refuses, he is thrown into the Tower, and dies five months later. When poison is identified as the cause of death, suspicion falls on both Frances, who sent jams and tarts, and Robert, who sent medicine. As their trials approach, Frances and Robert reflect on the five years they have known each other, questioning each other’s motives, deceptions, and the lengths each will go to protect themselves. This compelling historical thriller is based on a real-life crime and court scandal.

The Stranger DiariesElly Griffiths
The Stranger Diaries (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019, UK 2018) is the story of Clare Cassidy, a British English teacher at Talgarth High. Clare is working on a biography of R.M. Holland, a Gothic writer of ghost stories whose study is preserved in the top floor of the school library. Her favorite Holland story is "The Stranger," which she is reading to her half-term adult creative writing students the week before Halloween. Her best friend and fellow teacher Ella Elphick is found murdered, the note left with her body containing the words “Hell is empty.” The police assume the words are a quote from The Tempest: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here,” but Clare knows the quote also appears multiple times in “The Stranger.” Clare tries to shield her 15-year-old daughter Georgie from the murder investigation, confiding her fears and suspicious about a fellow teacher to her diary. When Clare discovers a message in her diary written by someone else, she worries that she may be the next target. Clare and her ex-husband Simon haven’t been happy that Georgie is dating Ty, a handsome 21-year-old, but now Clare is relieved Ty has a car and can chauffeur Georgie around when Clare is working late. Alternate sections from the perspective of Georgie fill in the family routine while those from the viewpoint of lead detective DS Harbinder Kaur, a 35-year-old closeted gay Sikh living with her parents, document the slow progress of the investigation. Clare continues reading “The Stranger” to her class, enhancing the eerie atmosphere of this chilling gothic thriller.

The WarehouseRob Hart
The Warehouse (Crown 2019) is set in a near-future world plagued by drought and unemployment. Every month hordes of people throng to a processing center in the desert, hoping to land a job at Cloud, a huge tech company run by Gibson Wells. Paxton, whose invention to create the perfect hard-boiled egg was gobbled up by Cloud, is one of the lucky ones who makes it through the electronic interview process. Zinnia, an undercover spy claiming to be a teacher, also gets the green light. The two chat on the bus to the Cloud campus while watching introductory videos explaining life at Cloud and reading the brochure showing the color-coded jobs: Red pickers and placers, Brown tech support, Yellow customer service, Green food service and cleaners, White managers, Blue security, etc. Paxton, a former prison guard, hopes for anything except Blue, and Zinnia hopes for Brown which will give her the most access. At the Cloud facility, each person is given a watch and instructed to wear it at all times to open doors, clock in for work, and pay for purchases. The watch is only to be removed for charging during the night, leaving the room without it will set of security alarms. In their rooms, Paxton finds a blue shirt, and Zinnia has red. Salary is paid in credits to one’s Cloud account, at below minimum wage but with the incentive of extra credits for maintaining a five star rating and the disincentive of docked pay for tardiness, not meeting quotas, using sick days. Zinnia’s first day as a picker/placer starts with a quick training, and then her watch begins sending her from one side of the huge warehouse to another. To make quota, she learns to run as fast as she can, and to ignore the safety harness in order to climb more quickly to the top bins. Paxton’s job isn’t as physically taxing, but the days are long and the constant vigilance for sales of Oblivion, a non-addictive form of heroin, are mentally exhausting. This powerful thriller presents an all-too-possible future where a totalitarian corporation takes control of every aspect of an individual’s life.

GretchenShannon Kirk
Gretchen (Thomas & Mercer 2019) begins when 15-year-old Lucy and her mother Susan arrive in Milberg, New Hampshire, the third high school and tenth state since they went into hiding 13 years earlier. Lucy wears colored contacts to hide her distinctive violet eyes, and tries to be an inconspicuous as possible, fading into the background when in public. They answer an ad for a rental at a ranch outside town, confusing Jerry Sabin, who wasn’t aware his teenage daughter Gretchen had placed an ad for the tiny cottage close to the massive ranch house. Gretchen is desperate for a friend, so her father agrees to the rental, accepting Susan’s request to pay with cash. The Sabins explain that certain areas of the property are off-limits, especially the woods where Gretchen’s mother was killed by a hunter while walking with four-year-old Gretchen. After the accident, Jerry added extra NO TRESPASSING signs, and then began planting traps when the hunters ignored the signs. Lucy is also lonely. Frequent moves whenever they suspect someone might have recognized them have made it impossible for Lucy to make friends, but Gretchen’s lack of respect for personal space makes her a bit nervous. Lucy sets strict boundaries — no peering into her bedroom window at night — and the two establish a tenuous friendship over the summer, Gretchen working on intricate jigsaw puzzles she cuts herself while Lucy paints. For the first time Susan allows Lucy to get a job working in the small town store, and Lucy is so thrilled with her new freedom that she doesn’t tell her mother when the bearded man who seemed to recognize her in their previous town appears in the store. Susan is furious when she learns they may have been spotted. When Gretchen overhears Susan and Lucy arguing about moving, she is willing to to just about anything to prevent her new friend from leaving. The secrets the two damaged families are hiding explode into an unexpected climax in this alternately funny, bizarre, and creepy thriller.

Smoke and AshesAbir Mukherjee
Smoke and Ashes (Pegasus Books 2019, UK 2018) begins in December 1921 Calcutta, when Captain Sam Wyndham, a former Scotland Yard detective serving on the Imperial Police Force, stumbles over a body while escaping a raid on an opium den. Though deep in an opium fog, Wyndham observes that the dying man’s eyes have been gouged out and a knife with a sickle-shaped blade punctures his lung. Unable to save the man’s life, Wyndham flees. Wyndham’s opium addiction has grown severe enough that he is trying to reduce his cravings with native remedies, but he knows he will not be able to hide his habit for much longer. Wyndham and Sergeant Surrender-Not (Surendranath) Banerjee are called to Lord Taggart’s office the next day to discuss the political situation. His Royal Highness Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, is on a royal tour, soon to visit Calcutta. Taggart believes that Chitta Ranjan Das, Gandhi’s chief lieutenant in Bengal, is planning some sort of demonstration, and tasks Wyndham and Banerjee, a close family friend of Das, with figuring out what Das has planned and preventing it. Das and his deputy Subhas Bose aren’t impressed with the viceroy’s warning, and everyone knows that arresting him will only make the explosive situation worse. Being called to the scene of a murder the following day is a welcome relief, until Wyndham realizes that the body of the nurse has similar wounds to the man he can’t admit he saw at the opium den: eyes gouged out and stab wounds in the chest. The military try to take over the murder investigation, but Wyndham refuses to let go despite veiled threats about exposing his opium addiction. The political situation in India is set against the realities of the two detectives: Wyndham haunted by his experiences of WWI and Banerjee ostracized by his family for continuing to work for the British after Gandhi’s call for non-violent non-cooperation with the goal of independence. This third in the excellent series is a finalist for the 2019 Historical Dagger Award.

City of WindowsRobert Pobi
City of Windows (Minotaur 2019) introduces Dr. Lucas Page, a former FBI agent injured on duty, now a professor and bestselling author. After losing a leg, arm, and eye, Lucas’s marriage collapsed along with his will to live. At physical therapy, he met a pediatric surgeon helping her foster child, and the two began to work together to heal. Leaving his Columbia University office for Christmas break a few years later, Lucas is looking forward to spending time with his now-wife Erin and their five adopted children, all emotionally and physically scarred foster children. Special Agent in Charge Brett Kehoe arrives at his doorstep in the middle of the worst blizzard in New York City history, asking for help with a sniper shooting. Lucas tries to refuse, but the victim is his former FBI partner Doug Hartke. Lucas reluctantly agrees to examine the scene, and is soon standing on the corner of Forty-second and Park Avenue, letting his brain churn through the angles and trajectories, rotating in place while absorbing the geometry. He identifies the only place the sniper could have been: 838 yards away on the roof of 3 Park Avenue. Erin hopes this is a one-time assistance, but the murder of a second law enforcement officer with another seemingly impossible sniper shot in another bitterly cold environment pulls Page back into his old job. The FBI works on tracing the one piece of physical evidence: armor-piercing ammunition modified with a meteoric core. Lucas figures the shooter must have been raised in a cold climate, and begins searching for previous sniper attacks in places too small to make it into national databases. Though a brilliant astrophysicist with acute spatial awareness that automatically converts a landscape into numerical values, Lucas has few social skills and no patience with bureaucracy, the antithesis of a team player. But he realizes he has missed the adrenaline rush of an investigation, and may not be able to give it up a second time. This intense thriller featuring a unique protagonist is the first in a series.

Alice’s IslandDaniel Sánchez Arévalo
Alice’s Island (Atria 2019, Spain 2015) begins when Alice, a painter and art teacher, receives a phone call from the police: her husband Chris has just been killed in a car accident. Seven months pregnant with their second child, Alice leaves six-year-old Olivia with her parents and drives to the hospital. Through the shock, her mind seizes on the fact that Chris’s car went off the road 100 miles the opposite direction from where he was supposed to be meeting with a client. Unable to shake the worry that her husband had a secret life, Alice visits the site of the accident and notices a nearby security camera. She convinces the gas station attendant to give her a copy of the video, and then returns to request copies of the video for other dates, discovering that Chris was on this highway on recent trips, far from where he should have been. Ove the next two months Alice begins backtracking, cajoling or buying security camera videos, until she tracks Chris to the ferry terminal to Robin Island near Nantucket. With Olivia in tow she visits the island, going into labor and giving birth with the help of the local dentist and veterinarian. When Ruby is a month old, Alice buys a small security camera, mounts it on a shrub near Chris’s grave, and makes an appointment under her maiden name with Mariam McCarthy Real Estate to look at houses on Robin Island. Miriam tells her there is nothing to lease, but shows her a Victorian with an attic perfect for a painting studio. Two months later Alice and her two daughters are living in their new Robin Island home, and Olivia is signed up to take the seaplane to a school on Nantucket. Alice’s obsession with surveillance increases once on the island, and she begins planting audio and video recorders, converting the attic into spy central, searching for the woman she is sure Chris was secretly visiting. Meanwhile, Olivia develops obsessive-compulsive disorder, organizing her toys and books into rigid categories and incessantly counting objects in order to protect the things she loves from vanishing like her father did. This lyrical mystery featuring the endearingly persistent Alice is the first adult novel by the acclaimed Spanish screenwriter, director, and children’s author.

Something in the WaterCatherine Steadman
Something in the Water (Ballantine Books 2018) begins with the digging of a grave, which Erin finds to be much harder than anticipated. Flashing back to three months earlier, Erin relives the buildup to their wedding. Mark is a high-flying investment banker, about to take some leave while the dust settles after an extra zero in a trading deal. Erin is a documentary filmaker, working on her first solo project: following three prisoners during and after their incarceration. She has finally lined up her final subject: London East End gangster Eddie Bishop, serving seven years for money laundering. During a phone interview, Erin is disconcerted to discover that Eddie has not only researched her career, but knows Mark’s name as well. Mark puts out feelers for another job, and is fired. As they review catering menus and floral displays for the wedding, Mark begins to panic about paying the bills. Erin’s income won’t cover the mortgage and no one is hiring investment bankers. They cut the wedding to the bone, but keep the planned honeymoon. Arriving in Bora Bora, a welcome bottle of champagne from Eddie Bishop frightens Erin: how did he know where they were spending their honeymoon? The day after a huge storm the newlyweds take a boat out to enjoy the water together. Awakening from a nap they find the water littered with paper and a black duffel bag banging against the hull. They turn the bag in at the hotel desk, but it gets delivered back to their room by mistake. Opening the bag, they find sealed packages of American dollars, a handful of diamonds, a USB drive, an iPhone, and a gun. Erin connects the phone to the hotel wifi and scrolls through the emails, mainly in Russian, and then opens the texts. As she is scanning the texts a new one appears: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Panicked, Erin shuts off the phone. They manage to remove their passport scans and address forms from the hotel office and flee back to London with the duffle bag, hoping no one could possibly figure out who they and where they live. This intense debut thriller is a finalist for the 2019 Macavity and Thriller Awards for Best First Novel.

A Good Enough MotherBev Thomas
A Good Enough Mother (Pamela Dorman Books 2019) begins when Dan Griffin walks into psychotherapist Ruth Hartland’s consulting room at the London Trauma Unit. The 22-year-old young man looks so much like Ruth’s missing son Tom that she is stunned. Ruth makes it though the first session with Dan, who is suffering PTSD symptoms after a brutal attack and rape, but has trouble focusing. Dan refuses to talk about his family, instead demanding tools and techniques to help him put the incident behind him. Ruth explains that the Trauma Unit offers talk therapy, a safe place for those needing to remake their connection with a world that has become a dangerous place. By the end of the session Dan agrees to return for his next appointment. Ruth knows that she should pass Dan off to one of her colleagues since his resemblance to Tom endangers her ability to focus on Dan’s feelings rather than her own, but she doesn’t. The Unit doesn’t know that Tom has been missing for more than a year, vanishing without a trace at the age of 17 after burning his passport and credit cards, leaving behind even his beloved copy of Into the Wild. Tom was always a fragile boy, uncomfortable with his peers and only completely happy in the outdoors. Since his disappearance Ruth’s marriage has disintegrated, and Tom’s twin sister Caroline is spending her gap year in Australia, leaving Ruth alone with her worry and sense of helplessness. Tom attempted suicide before he left, and Ruth is consumed with guilt that she didn’t understand the depths of his depression. Dan’s case gives her a welcome distraction, though she knows allowing him to break the boundaries between patient and therapist is dangerous for both of them. This emotionally wrenching psychological thriller is the debut novel by a former clinical psychologist with Britain’s National Health Service.

September 1, 2019

The Body LiesJo Baker
The Body Lies (Knopf 2019) begins when our unnamed narrator is assaulted walking home from a London train station. She manages to escape with only a punch to the face, and the baby she is carrying is unharmed. She and her husband Mark try to put the incident behind them, but she is still skittish when walking alone, especially at night. Three years later she is unsuccessfully hunting for a new position since her job at the bookstore pays only a bit more than childcare for Sammy, and the income from her debut novel isn’t worth talking about. The sudden offer of a lectureship in creative writing at a small university in rural Lancashire causes a family argument. Mark is unwilling to leave his London position, so she and Sammy move by themselves to a small house outside town, so remote there isn’t any cell phone coverage. The two other professors of creative writing are on leave, giving her the task of teaching unfamiliar curriculum as well as the MS creative writing group she expected. The six-member group is working on a range of projects including a YA werewolf novel, magical realism short stories, and crime fiction. Interspersed sections from the MA students’ class submissions reveal their personalities. The standout is Nicholas Palmer, an intense young man who submits pieces featuring Nick and a girl who died mysteriously. The professor is impressed by his talent, but his declaration that he only writes the truth makes her uneasy. Her own mother hasn’t forgiven her for the mother figure in her novel, which was intended to be fiction but was perhaps too close to the truth. As the term progresses, Meryl, the young American writing the werewolf novel, falls for Nicholas, who in turn becomes obsessed with their professor, appearing unexpectedly at the door of her isolated home and including her in his writing. The professor has difficulty establishing firm boundaries, unused to assuming the role of a teacher, and worried she may stifle the creativity of the troubled and talented young writer. Nicholas begins leaving new chapters of his work in her mailbox, terrifying her with his version of the present and hints of darkness in his past. This thriller is beautifully written and emotionally wrenching.

The Substitution OrderMartin Clark
The Substitution Order (Knopf 2019) is the story of disgraced lawyer Kevin Moore, working as the manager of a sandwich shop in small town Stuart, Virginia, while on probation for drug possession. One slow afternoon a man with dyed platinum hair orders a sandwich to go and tells Kevin he has a business proposition for him. Caleb is representing Melanie Culp, the young woman who visited Kevin’s office to review an option to buy a property shortly before he was arrested. Melanie claims she asked Kevin to contact the seller but he clearly remembers only being paid to review the option. The option for $975,000 lapsed, and the property was sold for $6,000,000. Melanie is suing Kevin for the difference unless he admits negligence, activating his malpractice insurance. Kevin refuses to go along with the scam. He has been drug free and sober for a year and is determined to endure his probation, rescue his marriage, and reinstate his law license. A few days later Kevin gets a call from the probation office — a supervisor has ordered him to come in for an additional drug test. Eddie Flanagan tells Kevin he failed the drug test and searches his car, discovering a gun and a dope stash. Kevin knows he is being framed, and insists the office keep a sample of the urine, planning to test it independently to prove it does not contain his DNA. Returning home, Kevin visits the ER for another drug test, but they won’t do the test without a doctor’s order. The next morning Kevin has a stroke and is hospitalized, so the drug test never takes place. While struggling to recuperate from the effects of the stroke, Kevin begins to investigate the mysterious Caleb and the land sale that made someone a lot of money. Kevin hopes he can outwit the scammers before he is framed for another crime and thrown back into prison. His friend Blaine, a young college student working at the sandwich shop, is a white (or maybe gray) hat hacker, and helps Kevin track the money, while his rescue dog Nelson provides emotional support. This clever and funny legal thriller is a winner.

The Lost ManJane Harper
The Lost Man (Flatiron Books 2019, Australia 2018) begins with the discovery of the body of Cameron Bright at an old stockman’s grave in the middle of the family cattle property in Queensland, Australia. Eldest brother Nathan and youngest brother Bub are shocked by the death, and no one can understand why Cameron left his Land Cruiser eight kilometers away to walk to certain death from exposure in the brutal December heat. The Land Cruiser is fully operable, so Cameron’s death is assumed to be suicide, though Nathan can’t believe his brother would choose this awful death over a quick shot to the head from one of the many ranch weapons. Cameron had been running the family ranch since their father’s death with the help of Bub and Uncle Harry, a non-relative who has worked on the ranch since the three brothers were small. Also living in the family home are their widowed mother, Cameron’s wife and two small daughters, and a young couple working as nanny and seasonal ranchhand. Nathan lives a three-hour drive away on a much smaller adjacent ranch, a wedding gift from his father-in-law. Nathan’s teenage son Xander is visiting for the holidays, a reluctant concession from his angry ex-wife. As the days pass, Nathan begins to suspect that someone had a hand in Cameron’s death, but no one is happy with his questions, which bring long buried secrets and resentments to the surface. Their father was a brutal man, beating his wife and children unmercifully, and the painful memories are almost more than the two brothers and their mother can handle on top of Cameron’s death. Suspects are few in the isolated outback area, and Nathan has misgivings about everyone on the family ranch. This intense thriller set in the unforgiving outback won the 2019 Thriller Award for Best Paperback and is a finalist for the 2019 Macavity and Ned Kelly Awards for Best Mystery.

The Sentence Is DeathAnthony Horowitz
The Sentence Is Death (Harper 2019, UK 2018) begins when screenwriter/author Anthony Horowitz is on a film set for Foyle’s War, a complicated London street scene recreating 1947. Nothing is going right and there are only 30 minutes left to shoot when a modern white and red taxi roars down the street. Detective Daniel Hawthorne has a new murder case and needs Horowitz immediately to document the investigation. At first regretting that he ever agreed to write a three-book series about the disgraced yet brilliant detective, Horowitz is hooked when Hawthorne describes the case. Celebrity divorce lawyer Richard Price was killed with a £3,000 bottle of Chateau Lafite, shortly after negotiating a £10 million settlement between his wealthy client Adrian Lockwood and celebrated poet and novelist Akira Anno. Painted on the wall with the posh Farrow & Ball paint sample for a redecorating project are three large numbers: 1 8 2. Hawthorne has an obvious suspect: a few day earlier Anno poured a glass of wine over Price’s head in a trendy restaurant and threatened to hit him with the bottle. Detective Inspector Cara Grunshaw of the Metropolitan Police is resentful that Hawthorne has been called in as a special investigator, and threatens Horowitz if he doesn’t keep her updated on Hawthorne’s progress. But Hawthorne doesn’t share his thoughts with Horowitz, instead letting him ramble on about possible theories and then pointing out all the holes in his logic. Horowitz is determined to learn more about the secretive Hawthorne, searching for a humanizing element to help his readers like the prickly detective. This clever and funny detective novel is the second in the series.

Miracle CreekAngie Kim
Miracle Creek (Sarah Crichton Books 2019) is a powerful debut thriller featuring the Yoo family, Korean immigrants running a hyperbaric oxygenation chamber called Miracle Submarine in the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia. Pak Yoo is the certified hyperbaric technician, and his wife Young is uncomfortable when Pak asks her to remain alone at the controls in the barn containing the Miracle Submarine while he checks on protesters in the parking lot. Inside the chamber are four patients: TJ and Henry (autism), Rosa (cerebral palsy), Matt (impotence), and two caregivers. The DVD playing the Barney video that keeps TJ calm goes dead, and Young dashes back to their house for fresh batteries. Running back with the batteries Young sees their teenage daughter Mary and Pak sprinting from opposite directions to the barn, which has exploded into flames. Rosa and her mother survive the explosion, but TJ’s mother and Henry are killed. Matt’s hands are badly damaged trying to pull Henry from the flames. A year later Mary has emerged from her coma permanently scarred, Pak is confined to a wheelchair, and Henry’s mother Elizabeth is on trial for murder. Elizabeth, who always before had sat next to Henry in the chamber, spent the session drinking wine on the bank of the creek after relocating her son away from his usual seat near the entry to the far end closest to the tank that exploded. Elizabeth’s lawyer is fighting the circumstantial evidence by building a case for reasonable doubt, pointing suspicion at Pak, who is about to collect a million dollars of insurance money. As the trial progresses the witnesses wrestle with their own demons and secrets: parental guilt about resenting the constant pressure of living with a child needing constant care, marital evasions and compromises, teenage vacillation between the desire to be mothered and independence, the immigrant struggle to adapt to a new language and culture.

Deception CoveOwen Laukkanen
Deception Cove (Mulholland Books 2019) begins when Mason Burke is released after serving 15 years in state prison for homicide. Near the end of his term, he spent six months training Lucy, a traumatized pit bull mix puppy, as a service dog. Mason calls the Rover’s Redemption Agency to check that Lucy completed the second half of her training, and learns she was assigned to a US Marine suffering PTSD, attacked someone, and had to be destroyed. Mason examines the picture of Lucy in her new home and tracks down the location from a partial sign on the building behind her in the distance: Deception Cove, Washington. The animal control office in the nearby county seat tells him Lucy bit a sheriff’s deputy and is due to be put down any day. Mason catches a bus the next day. Jess Winslow, Lucy’s new owner, depends on Lucy to get her through the night terrors caused by her memories of Afghanistan. Her husband Ty fell of his boat and drowned shortly after she returned home, and Deputy Kirby Harwood demanded Jess return a package of Ty’s. He refuses to explain what he is looking for, but insists she search the house and Ty’s boat. Harwood appears at her door late one night, again demanding the package, and Lucy attacks when he grabs Jess in a threatening manner. Jess explains the situation to Mason, and says Ty was always had some sort of get-rich scheme going, promising her they would be wealthy when she returned from overseas. Since Lucy isn’t being held at animal control, they realize Harwood is keeping her hostage somewhere, and local law enforcement isn’t going to help. Neither Mason nor Jess are good at trusting others, but they join forces to rescue Lucy, crossing a dangerous criminal gang. This intense thriller featuring two damaged people bound by loyalty to the dog that brought hope into their lives leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

What You Want To SeeKristen Lepionka
What You Want To See (Minotaur 2018) begins when the police show up at private investigator Roxane Weary’s apartment in Columbus, Ohio, to ask her what she knows about Marin Strasser’s death. Marin’s fiancé Arthur Ungless suspected she was haring an affair, and hired Roxanne to find out. Roxanne followed the elegant woman for several days but didn’t find anything suspicious except a fondness for upscale dress shops. When Arthur’s check bounces he is surprised since his print shop is doing well and offers cash, but Roxane tells him to take some time to consider if he wants to continue the surveillance. A few days later Marin was shot in an alley after leaving a restaurant where she and Arthur had an argument. Arthur owns a gun of the same caliber, but his gun is missing. Arthur tells Roxane he had his accountant look into the bounced check and discovered that $75,000 is missing from his business and personal accounts. He had given Marin signed blank checks to pay deposits for the wedding venue, catering, and flowers, and she systematically cleared out the accounts. Arthur insists that Marin didn’t use drugs or gamble but doesn’t know her family or friends. She was an orphan and they socialized only with people from Arthur’s social circle. The only bill Arthur didn’t pay was for Marin’s cell phone, and the business card for her interior decorating business lists only her name and phone number, no website or business address. Roxane convinces Arthur to hire a criminal lawyer and agrees to investigate Marin, discovering a criminal past and an unstable adult son. Roxane has her own demons to deal with — alcoholism and a destructive relationship with a beautiful woman — and can’t figure out if Marin was trying to leave her lawless past behind or deliberately targeted the trusting Arthur. This excellent second in the series is a finalist for the 2019 Shamus Award for Best PI Novel.

The Darwin AffairTim Mason
The Darwin Affair (Algonquin Books 2019) introduces Chief Detective Inspector Charles Field in 1860 London. Field is in charge of protecting Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their way to open a public bath when he notices Stevie Pachen, a pickpocket hiding something gun-shaped a bundle of rags. Apprehending the young thief, Field is horrified to hear a pistol shot, realizing he has been tricked away from the real assassin. Once he is sure the Queen is safe, he retraces his steps and finds Stevie dead, his throat cut and one ear missing. The discovery of an abandoned butcher’s apron coated with gore explains how the murderer managed to walk through the street covered with Stevie’s blood. As he tracks the elusive killer, described as a tall man with haunting black eyes, Field begins to suspect that the intended victim was not the Queen, but instead Prince Albert. London is caught up in the controversy surrounding the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and agroup of powerful men is determined to prevent the addition of Darwin’s name to the Queen’s Honors List. They fear the knighthood will solidify support for Darwin’s theory, and suspecting Prince Albert, a supporter of all things scientific, is championing Darwin. Field fears that the Queen will have him fired after the failed assassination attempt, but she is a fan of Inspector Bucket, introduced in Bleak House, and it is common knowledge that Dickens modeled his fictional detective after Charles Field. The black-eyed killer, known as Decimus Cobb, kidnaps Tom, the young butcher’s apprentice who saw him steal the apron, and shuts him into a coffin until Tom is subdued, willing to serve Cobb in exchange for his mother’s life. Tom joins the other children who steal for Cobb, including a strange girl named Mary who is kept separate in the attic since all the families she served died of fever, receiving food and a place to sleep as payment. Appearances by Darwin, Dickens, Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, the captain of the HMS Beagle, Karl Marx, who encourages Field to rethink his allegiance to the monarchy, and others are seamlessly integrated into the action of this clever historical thriller, the first adult novel by a playwright and YA novelist.

The Wolf Wants InLaura McHugh
The Wolf Wants In (Spiegel & Grau 2019) is set in the small town of Blackwater, Kansas. Sadie Keller’s brother Shane has just died, presumably from a drug overdose, but Sadie and her sister Becca know Shane wasn’t an addict, and suspect his new wife Crystle and her drug-dealing Pettit relatives are to blame. The small town police force is overwhelmed with the recent discovery of the skull of a child buried in the woods, and don’t treat Shane’s death as suspicious, declining to release his medical records without Crystle’s permission. Crystle refused to allow an autopsy, and the sisters barely get to the house in time to save Shane’s possessions from a bonfire while strangers cart items from the yard sale to their cars. They manage to salvage their grandmother’s pie safe, a few boxes with Shane’s drawings and keepsakes, and his restored 1978 Firebird with a Transfer on Death to their mother. Interspersed chapters narrated by 18-year-old Henley Pettit begin in four months earlier. Henley’s family is enmeshed in local crime, and she dreams of escaping. Her mother is a drug addict, currently back on drugs, and Henley takes over her housekeeping job at the Sullivan house to pay the bills. Jason Sullivan, home from college for the summer, becomes obsessed with her, appearing suddenly at her doorstep and insisting on dates. The skull found in the woods is identified a Macey Calhoun, who vanished with her father during a weekend visitation camping trip two years earlier. Hannah Calhoun and Sadie had become friends when their daughters attended preschool together, but grew apart when Hannah began doing drugs after a contentious divorce. The two narratives bring the story to a stunning conclusion in this lyrical thriller.

Lock Every DoorRiley Sager
Lock Every Door (Dutton 2019) begins when Jules Larsen wakes up in a hospital, told she is badly injured after being struck by a car right outside the Bartholomew in New York City. Jules remembers back to six days earlier, when she arrived at the exclusive apartment building to apply for a job as an apartment sitter. Jules just moved out of the apartment she shared with her boyfriend Andrew, after arriving home early after losing her job to find him in bed with another woman. Leslie Evelyn explains that the Bartholomew has rules prohibiting subletting and against units left empty for more than a month. The owner of 12A has died, and her London heirs need someone to live in the apartment while they sort out who will inherit it. Leslie explains that the other resident are very protective of their privacy, and Jules will not be allowed to post pictures online or have any visitors. Jules finds the rules a bit strange, but the offer of four thousand dollars a month for three months is irresistible, and she moves in the next day. She meets a former soap opera star, who greets her kindly, and Greta Manville, the author of a beloved book set in the Bartholomew, who brusquely reminds her of the rules against bothering the other tenants. In the apartment, Jules hears a strange squeaking sound, and discovers a welcome note in the dumbwaiter signed Ingrid. She learns that there are two other apartment sitters in residence: Ingrid in the apartment directly below her own and Dylan. Another dumbwaiter note from Ingrid arranges a meeting in Central Park. The two learn they are both orphans, Ingrid with no siblings and Jules with a sister who disappeared eight years earlier. Ingrid says she is a bit lonely at the Bartholomew, especially after Erica, the previous apartment sitter in 12A, left without a word after only a month. Ingrid is hurt that Erica didn’t say goodbye, and can’t understand how Erica could have given up $8000 since she needed the money as much as Ingrid does. The next day Ingrid doesn’t show up for their planned meeting, and Leslie tells Jules that Ingrid left in the middle of the night, dropping her keys in the middle of the lobby floor. Convinced that something very odd is going on at the Bartholomew, Jules begins researching the 100-year-history of the building, discovering that murder and suicide have created an urban legend that the building is haunted. When Dylan also vanishes, Jules is sure the Bartholomew is harboring a serial killer. As the days count back, the tension builds in this captivating thriller.

October 1, 2019

A Sharp SolitudeChristine Carbo
A Sharp Solitude (Atria 2018) features Ali Paige, a Montana FBI investigator based in Kalispell. Ali discovered she was pregnant right after breaking up with Reeve Landon, a loner who accidentally shot and killed his best friend when he was nine. Reeve, who tracks grizzly bears in Glacier National Park with his scat-sniffing dog McKay, offered marriage, but Ali realized that wasn’t the best solution for either of them. Instead, the two worked out a visitation schedule so that their daughter Emily, now five, spends frequent time with her father and his hyper-active dog. Journalist Anne Marie Johnson arrives to interview Reeve for an article about scientific canine research, but is more interested in asking uncomfortable questions about the shooting accident that Reeve doesn’t want to revisit. When Anne Marie’s murdered body is discovered the morning after she spent the day with Reeve, he is the prime suspect. Fearing that he will be arrested and jailed, the intensely private Reeve heads off into the November snow with McKay to track grizzlies and get away from it all. Reeve has never recovered from the crime he committed as a child, and feels that a wrongful conviction might be a deserved karmic punishment. Ali is not involved in the murder investigation, but is determined to spare her daughter the pain of an absent father she herself suffered. She uses her good relationships with the local police departments to gather information about the evidence they collect, endangering her own reputation and career. This intense thriller featuring two flawed yet likable characters is a finalist for the 2019 Barry Award for Best Paperback.

The Perfect WifeJP Delaney (Tony Strong pseudonym)
The Perfect Wife (Ballantine Books 2019) begins when Abbie wakes up from a happy dream of the day Tim proposed during Diwali in Jaipur. She is confused by the bandages around her neck and worries that Tim or their son Danny may have been injured in a car accident she can’t remember. Tim assures her they are both fine, but the dream was really an upload — this version of Abbie is a cobot (companion robot) with the face, body, and memories of his wife, who vanished while surfing five years earlier. Interspersed chapters fill in the backstory, beginning when Tim Scott hired Abbie Cullen as artist-in-residence for Scott Robotics, a successful high-tech firm in Silicon Valley. The firm was working on shopbots, robots designed to assist customers in high end shopping outlets. Tim was the Geek God of AI, a driven genius both respected and feared by his staff. Abbie added an unexpected sense of fun to the company, getting to know the staff on a personal level, creating interactive artworks, and pushing back when Tim exploded at staff not performing at the highest level. Tim tells Abbie that he has spent the last five years building her, driven to recreate the wife he still adores. Their son Danny doesn’t seem to remember her, not surprising for a child with Heller’s syndrome, a rare childhood disintegrative disorder that suddenly transformed Danny into a child with profound autism at the age of four. Using ABA (applied behavior analysis) Danny has been trained to control his behavior, but still doesn’t speak and rarely makes eye contact. Each day Abbie spends time with Danny, explores and cleans the house, and then uploads more memories every night. She discovers an iPad hidden away in a hollowed-out book, and realizes the real Abbie’s life with Tim may not have been as perfect as he recounts. In fact, Tim was a suspect when Abbie vanished while surfing alone at night from their beach house, and her body was never found. This brilliant and thought-provoking pshycological thriller explores themes of self-delusion, love, obsession, and the mystery of selfhood.

Into the JungleErica Ferencik
Into the Jungle (Gallery/Scout Press 2019) is the story of Lily Bushwold, a 19-year-old former foster child. Fluent in Spanish, Lily makes her way to Cochabamba, Bolivia, hoping for a job teaching English. The job never materializes, and Lily survives by shoplifting and cleaning in a hostel. One night she meets Omar in a bar and the two fall in love. Omar is working as a mechanic, eager to learn English in order to become a tour guide into the jungle. Lily learns that he was a hunter in his remote village of Ayachero, and misses his home desperately. After two months together, a messenger arrives from Ayachero: Omar’s four-year-old nephew has been killed by a jaguar and he is needed to help hunt down the beast before it kills again. Omar tells Lily she is welcome to come with him into the jungle, but the life will be hard. There is no electricity or running water and food is hard to come by. Lily, homeless since she was 13, is sure that she can take care of herself. and can’t bear the thought of being alone again. In Ayachero, Lily realizes that surviving in the wild is much harder than on the city streets. Everything is dangerous: huge spiders, even bigger snakes, hungry piranha, vicious eels, poisonous frogs. Omar and the men are gone for weeks at a time, hunting game that is scarcer every month, leaving Lily alone to figure out village life. Women’s work is never-ending: lugging laundry to the river, ironing the wet clothes to kill the dangerous river microbes, cleaning fish. Omar warns Lily not to go into the jungle, but she is fascinated by the stories about Beya, a shaman from the nearby Tatinga tribe who lives in a clearing, and can’t resist the lure of the unknown. Ruthless poachers appear periodically, hunting local animals and searching for a grove of priceless mahogany. The local tribespeople refuse to share the location, fearing the roads and machinery will destroy their village and the life they know. The dangerous poachers are the overt threat in this fascinating thriller, but the constant menace of the jungle is the true peril Lily must face.

The Missing OnesEdwin Hill
The Missing Ones (Kensington 2019) begins with the disappearance of Oliver, a four-year-old boy, during a Fourth of July celebration on Finisterre Island off the coast of Maine. Luckily the boy is found unharmed sleeping on a boat a few hours later, but the locals are uneasy. Could Rory Dunbar, the local deputy who is hopelessly in love with Oliver’s mother, have hidden the boy in order to become a hero by finding him? Or did Oliver’s disappearance have something to do with the drug addicts living in the deserted Victorian house outside town? Annie, a squatter in the Victorian, forms a tenuous friendship with Lydia during the search for Oliver. In late September another small boy named Ethan goes missing, the neglected son of a drug addict. Annie joins the search made difficult by a terrible storm battering the island. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, Harvard librarian Hester Thursby and her veterinarian boyfriend Morgan are still caring for Kate, the young daughter of Daphne, Hester’s best friend and Morgan’s twin sister, who left Kate at their apartment a year ago. Kate was nearly kidnapped a few months earlier during Hesters’ side business of finding missing people, and Hester has been unable to let the child out of her sight. Every day she tries to drop Kate off at daycare, but can’t bear to leave the clinging child, lying to Morgan about skipping work. Learning the truth, he gathers Hester’s friends for an intervention, which makes her angry. A cryptic text the next morning summons Hester, with Kate in tow, to Finisterre Island, arriving through the aftermath of the storm the day after Ethan went missing. The insular community of Finisterre Island is suspicious of strangers, especially once tourist season has finished, and Hester’s questions make everyone nervous, while Morgan is furious that she is putting Kate in danger again. This character-driven second in the series is highly satisfying.

One Night GoneTara Laskowski
One Night Gone (Graydon House 2019) begins in 1986 when young Maureen Haddaway arrives with the traveling carnival to spend the summer in the wealthy town of Opal Beach, New Jersey. Maureen doesn’t tell anyone her Sad Story about living with a drug addict mother, preferring to concentrate on the present and having a good time. She becomes friends with two of the locals at a beach party: wealthy Clay and friendly Tammy, who lets Maureen sleep on her floor after she catches her boss at the carnival filming her changing clothes. Maureen has a good feeling about Opal Beach, hoping to find a permanent job and settle down for a while. In 2015 Alison Simpson’s sister arranges a winter house and cat-sitting job for her in Opal Beach after Alison self-destructs on the air, condemning her philandering husband while presenting the weather report. Alison finds a silk scarf under one of the beds, and wears it tied around her head to the local coffee shop. Tammy, the woman behind the counter, looks at her in shock, asking if she is a relative of Maureen, explaining that her friend used to wear her hair in that style before she disappeared at the end of the summer 30 years earlier. The two become friends, and Tammy tells Alison that the police didn’t take Maureen’s disappearance seriously since she was only a carnival girl. Alison becomes interested in the story, and begins researching that long ago summer, discovering a box of old photographs a local artist is using for collage paintings. One of the pictures features Maureen and Clay, the son of Lorelei and Zeke Bishop, who live in the mansion next door. This suspenseful and unsettling debut thriller is narrated in alternating chapters by Maureen and Alison, two unique women viewed as disposable by the men in their lives.

The MasusoleumDavid Mark
The Mausoleum (Severn House 2019) is set in 1967 Gilsland, an isolated northern English village on the Scottish border. Cordelia Hemlock, a disgraced young academic, is in the graveyard mourning the recent death of her baby son when she meets Felicity Goose, a slightly older local woman with two sons. The insular townspeople haven’t taken to Cordelia, who has no interest in the locals, but a sudden downpour prompts Felicity to invite Cordelia home for a cup of tea while waiting out the storm. A lightning strike brings down an ancient laurel tree, and the two women watch a 300-year-old mausoleum fall to pieces in the pouring rain, revealing the body of a man dressed in a dark suit with a satchel wrapped around the torso. They run to Felicity’s house and are toweling dry when Fairfax, an elderly neighbor appears at the back door to check on Felicity. Cordelia tells him about the body, and he rushes back to the graveyard through the storm, promising to come right back and report. An hour later Felicity’s husband returns home and tells them that Fairfax has died in a car accident. No sign can be found of the body in the mausoleum, and their story is dismissed as the over-active imaginations of a couple of hysterical women. Felicity is willing to forget all about the weird incident, but Cordelia becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened, eventually pulling Felicity into her investigation. The two discover that Fairfax had been recording memories of local residents, focusing on the time when a German POW camp was set up in the village during the Second World War. Felicity begins cleaning out Fairfax’s cottage, searching for his notes and the recordings he made, hoping to find a connection between Fairfax and the missing body. This lyrical psychological thriller explores the long reaching damage of war set against the tendency of people to avoid bad memories.

Half Moon StreetAlex Reeve
Half Moon Street (Felony & Mayhem 2019, UK 2018) introduces Leo Stanhope (born Charlotte), who ran away from home at the age of 15, knowing that continuing to live as a girl would be a death sentence. Now working as the assistant to a coroner in 1880s London, Leo rents a room from a pharmacist and has fallen in love with Maria Milanes, a young prostitute working at a brothel on Half Moon Street. Leo can only afford to see Maria once a week, but convinces her to meet him the next Saturday for a matinee performance of HMS Pinafore. Maria doesn’t appear, and Leo figures she wasn’t able to get away until her body appears on the coroner’s slab on Monday. The police take Leo in for questioning after finding his name in the Half Moon Street appointment book, and he is sure his secret will be discovered, and that he will spend the rest of his life in prison or a madhouse forced back into women’s clothing. But he is unexpectedly released the next morning, told he is no longer a suspect. Consumed by grief, Leo begins asking questions about Maria, and discovers that almost nothing she told him was true. She was not Italian, her mother is still alive, and she was involved with an army major she hoped to marry. At the brothel Leo learns that Jack Flowers, a drowned man the coroner autopsied several days before Maria, worked as an enforcer for Mr. Bentinck, the owner of the brothel. Leo is sure Mr. Bentinck has something to do with Maria’s death, especially after Jack’s widow Rosie is kidnapped and threatened, told her children will be killed if she doesn’t return what Jack stole. Leo loses his job after his arrest, and manages to find another as a night porter at the hospital but has trouble staying awake all night after searching for dangerous connections between Jack and Maria during the day. This compelling debut historical thriller was a finalist for the 2019 Historical Dagger Award.

Paper SonS.J. Rozan
Paper Son (Pegasus 2019) finds Lydia Chin and her partner Bill Smith heading from New York City to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where Jefferson Tam, a distant cousin of her father has been arrested for murder. Lydia is amazed that her mother, always dismissive of her career as a private investigator, asked her to take on a case, and startled to learn there is a branch of the family tree she never knew about. Jefferson’s great-grandfather, Chin Song-Zhao, came to America in the middle of the nineteenth century as a paper son, taking on the name Tam in order to pass as a member of an established family. His grandson Leland Tam was stabbed in his grocery store, and Jefferson was found holding the knife. Lydia discovers that Captain Pete Tam, Leland’s brother and Jefferson’s uncle, is a gambler, which explains why her gambling-hating mother refused to talk about the Mississippi branch of the family. Reynold Tam, the half-white son of the third brother, is running for governor, and everyone is surprised when he shows up to pay his respects, since he distanced himself from his Chinese relatives. Lydia is trying to politely choke down Captain Pete’s sweet tea when the Coahoma Country deputies arrive looking for Jefferson, who has escaped from jail. They head over to the store, and discover a total mess. Strangely nothing seems to have been stolen, just destroyed. Even the old pictures mounted behind the register have been torn from their frames. This excellent 12th in the series examines the long relationship in the Deep South between the black population and the Chinese, who were willing to sell supplies to freed slaves.

The Devil AspectCraig Russell
The Devil Aspect (Doubleday 2019) begins in the fall of 1935 when young psychiatrist Viktor Kosárek travels to the Hrad Orlů Asylum for the Criminally Insane, a modern facility housed in a medieval mountaintop castle outside Prague. The asylum can hold up to 16 patients but currently contains only the country’s six worst murderers: The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon, collectively known as The Devil’s Six. Viktor, who studied with Carl Jung, is anxious to try his new medical technique using narcosynthesis therapy, a regimen of drugs designed to move patients past their ego to deal with the Devil Aspect hidden inside all of us, the inherent evil that can become dominent. The villagers have mistrusted the castle for generations, and fear that the patients are able to access secret passages to roam the countryside and murder innocents. Meanwhile in Prague, police inspector Lukáš Smolák is searching for a killer called the Leather Apron, who appears to be emulating the murders of Jack the Ripper. Fingerprints found at the scene of the latest brutal murder are identified as a small-time thief, who insists that while he did steal the woman’s housekeys, he only watched the bloody murder committed by either the Devil himself or someone wearing a devil’s mask. Smolák heads to Hrad Orlů to consult with the psychiatrist, wondering if the thief has two personalities within one body. As Viktor works with The Devil’s Six, listening to horrendous tales of murder, rape, torture, necrophilia, and cannibalism, eerily similar voices identifying themselves as by various names are captured during the sessions on the cutting edge Magneophone recorder. Another menace lurks in the wings: two of the doctors are wearing Sudeten German Party pins and the Jewish secretary has premonitions of persecution. This eerie historical thriller is terrifying.

The Hollow of FearSherry Thomas
The Hollow of Fear (Berkley 2018) features Charlotte Holmes, a disgraced young gentlewoman solving cases under the pseudonym Sherlock Holmes in 1880s London with the assistance of former actress Mrs. Watson. Charlotte’s half-brother is on the run from the evil Moriarty, and her older sister Livia may never land a suitable husband after the scandal surrounding Charlotte’s disappearance. Livia is enjoying a house party at Mrs. Newell’s country house when the attic cisterns supplying gravity-driven running water to baths and water closets flood the house. Luckily Lord Ingram is willing to host Mrs. Newell and her guests at nearby Stern Hollow. Lady Ingram is not at home, having unexpectedly departed for Switzerland at the end of her annual birthday ball, leaving her children and estranged husband behind. Lady Ingram is supposedly taking treatment for a bad back, but the society gossips whisper about a possible affair between Lord Ingram and his old friend Charlotte Holmes. The following day a servant fetching ice from the icehouse discovers the body of a woman. Her face has been bashed in, but it appears to be Lady Ingram. Disguised as a young man named Sherrinford Holmes, Charlotte comes to stay with Lord Ingram, who insists that his old friend Holmes be present for all the interviews with the police. Charlotte fears that Lord Ingram is being framed for his wife’s murder, and suspects it may have something to do with Moriarty. Charlotte is incredibly perceptive, picking up subtle clues about people from their clothing and appearance, and often offending them by blurting out truths they would rather keep hidden. At a young age she learned to soothe her over-sensitivity with cakes and pies, but consumes little food while investigating to sharpen her senses in order to save Lord Ingram from the gallows. This engaging historical mystery, the third in the Lady Sherlock series, is a finalist 2019 Barry Award for Best Paperback.

November 1, 2019

ThirteenSteve Cavanagh
Th1rt3en (Flatiron Books 2019) finds New York City criminal defense attorney Eddie Flynn, a former con man, recruited by Rudy Carp as second chair for the defense team of movie star Bobby Soloman, accused of murdering his wife and her lover. Eddie is tempted to join what Karp calls “the murder trial of the century” but never defends anyone he believes is guilty, and the evidence against Bobby Solomon is solid. Karp explains that Bobby insists the NYPD framed him for the murders, and Eddie agrees to a meeting. His ability to read people, honed by years as a con man, persuades Eddie that Bobby is innocent, and he joins the defense team. Eddie bargains for a partnership at Karp Law, hoping that the steady job with fewer risks will convince his estranged wife to return with their daughter. Meanwhile, Joshua Kane, a man unable to feel pain due to congenital analgesia, is scheming to get on the jury for the Bobby Solomon case. Kane is willing to do anything to earn a jury seat, including killing prospective jurors to increase his chance of being selected. Kane is an expert at mimicry and manipulation, but quickly realizes that his true opponent is not the renowned Rudy Carp but the shrewd and perceptive Eddie Flynn, who is actively investigating Bobby’s claim that he is being framed. This cleverly plotted legal thriller, fourth in the series featuring the likable defense attorney, is compulsively readable.

Second SightAoife Clifford
Second Sight (Pegasus 2019, Australia 2018) begins when lawyer Eliza Carmody returns to her small Australian coastal hometown of Kinsale to take interview an expert witness. The law firm Eliza works for is defending Colcart Electric against the town of Kinsale, nearly destroyed by a bushfire perhaps caused by lack of maintenance of power poles. Twenty years earlier Eliza and her best friends Amy and Grace were 16, eager to celebrate New Year’s Eve with three potential boyfriends while her older sister Tess had plans to attend the infamous footy club party. The night doesn’t go well for anyone. Shortly afterwards Eliza was sent away to boarding school, and she never forgave her father for refusing to listen to her pleas to come home, or her beautiful sister who was allowed to stay with their father. Policeman Mick Carmody is now in a nursing home, unable to speak or move after a car accident. Eliza learns that her father had two files in his car at the time of the accident, one the cold case of Grace Hedland, who never came home that long ago New Year’s Eve. A witness reported seeing Grace at the train station, and the presumption was that Grace ran away to the city in despair after Eliza appropriated the boy she loved. A childhood accident left Eliza with two different colored eyes, earning her the nickname Odd-Eyes and a reputation for Second Sight, being able to see the unseen. Since leaving Kinsale two decades earlier, Eliza has rarely returned, and is startled to discover that her former classmates and friends are strangely the same and different at the same time. The discovery of a necklace Grace was wearing the night she disappeared causes Eliza and Amy to scrutinize the past, wondering why they were so willing to accept the theory that Grace left town, and fearing that she was killed. Interspersed chapters from New Year’s Eve 1996 reveal details many would like to keep hidden. This intense thriller examines the power of love, the debilitation of grief, and the unreliability of memory.

Careful What You Wish ForHallie Ephron
Careful What You Wish For (William Morrow 2019) is the story of Emily Harlow, a professional organizer who helps clients declutter their lives. Emily’s only rule is that clients can only dispose of their own possessions. Emily is married to Frank, a lawyer who thinks he is a collector, but Emily knows he is a hoarder, insisting he keep his collections in their basement, attic, and garage. Emily began her business by decluttering her own sock drawer, taking a sequence of snapshots documenting the process of moving from chaotic to tidy. She posted the stop-motion video of the sock-sorting project on Instagram, garnering thousands of views and a human interest story in the Boston Globe. Partnering with her best friend Becca Jain, she launched Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers, helping clients declutter by documenting their vanishing items. They have two new clients. Mrs. Murphy is an elderly widow whose husband died a year earlier, and she is finally ready to begin sorting through their house and garage. Two weeks earlier Mrs. Murphy discovered that her husband left behind a storage unit she didn’t know about. Inside the storage unit are shelves of leather-bound books, tubes of maps and charts, and neatly labeled boxes containing vintage building hardware. Unfortunately the unit’s hygrometer is dead, and the items are moldering away. Quinn Newell needs help getting rid of a garage full of her possessions. Her husband Wally is a collector of furnishings and art, and refuses to let Quinn bring any of her own items into their house. Emily and Quinn commiserate about living with a hoarding husband over a bottle of Prosecco, fantasizing all the ways their husbands could suffer fatal accidents. Both decluttering jobs turn out to be far more complicated than Emily and Becca anticipated: items in the Murphy storage shed may be stolen, and Emily finds herself implicated in a fatal accident. This character-driven thriller is compulsively readable.

The QuakerLiam McIlvanney
The Quaker (World Noir 2019, UK 2018) begins in 1969 when Detective Inspector Duncan McCormack is sent from the Glasgow Flying Squad to the Murder Squad to evaluate the investigation of a serial killed dubbed the Quaker. Over the last year, the Quaker has picked up three young women from dance halls, raped and murdered them, leaving their bodies with no physical evidence. Nancy Scullion, the sister of the third victim, rode home in a taxi from the dance hall with her sister and a well dressed man she met at the club, but was too drunk to remember more than the vaguest details about the man except that he quoted scripture. The Glasgow Murder Squad followed every potential lead and haunts the dance halls, but hasn’t a single suspect. They resent McCormack’s presence, dislike him as an outsider and a Highlander, and only reluctantly share the files. McCormack isn’t happy with the assignment either, disinclined to pause his pursuit of McGlashan, Glasgow’s preeminent gangster whose daily activities threaten far more residents than the Quaker. McCormack reviews every scrap of paper related to the Quaker killings, and spends hours staring at the map with pins marking the women’s homes and the sites where their bodies were discovered, searching for patterns or clues, but can’t find anything the Murder Squad missed. The discovery of a new body revitalizes the press coverage and public fear. Partnered with Detective Sergeant Derek Goldie, McCormack investigates the new murder. He is troubled by slight differences from the earlier murders, but thinks he may have spotted a glimmer of a pattern connecting the killings. This intense thriller, a finalist for the 2019 Historical Dagger Award, leaves open the possibility of a sequel featuring the troubled McCormack, with dangerous secrets of his own to hide.

The ChainAdrian McKinty
The Chain (Mulholland Books 2019) begins on a normal Thursday morning in Plum Island, Massachusetts, when Rachel Klein drops her 13-year-old daughter Kylie at the local bus stop. Before heading off to Boston to visit her oncologist, she texts Kylie her usual bad joke, and is surprised she doesn’t get a groan in return. A call from a cold distorted voice tells Rachel to get a pen and paper and expect an important call. Five minutes later a frantic woman calls to tell Rachel she has kidnapped Kylie, explaining that the only way to get Kylie back safely is for Rachel to pay a $25,000 ransom to The Chain and to kidnap another child herself. If Rachel goes to the police or doesn’t follow through the woman will have to kill Kylie to save her own son. As soon as Rachel kidnaps someone else’s child to replace the woman’s son on The Chain, he will be released. She gives Rachel a list of supplies to purchase and instructions on how to access the dark web. Rachel calls her ex-husband, but gets no reply and heads to the bank to borrow as much money as she can. A second call gives Rachel the name of a family who didn’t follow the rules of The Chain, and she finds a news story covering the murder of the entire family. Rachel begins looking for women who overshare on social media, searching for a well-off family with no connections to law enforcement and a child vulnerable to kidnapping. Desperate for support, Rachel calls Pete O’Neill, her ex-husband’s brother who is retired military. The disembodied voice from The Chain approves Pete’s involvement, and reveals that Rachel’s every movement is being tracked. This relentless thriller is terrifying.

The Right Sort of ManAllison Montclair
The Right Sort of Man (Minotaur 2019) is set in 1946 London. The war is finally over and Tillie La Salle has gathered up her courage to visit The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, Proprietors, hoping to find a husband. Gwen’s husband Ronnie was serving in the Royal Fusiliers when he was killed by a mortar shell in Italy two years earlier. The shock of his death precipitated a mental breakdown and a four-month stay in a sanatorium. Ronnie’s parents assumed legal custody of Gwen’s young son, also named Ronnie after his father. Gwen and her son live in the Bainbridge home, well taken care of though Gwen chafes against the restriction of having no say in her son’s upbringing unless she can reverse the court order. Three months earlier Gwen and Iris met at a wedding, and Gwen admitted she had a talent for matchmaking and introduced the couple. Iris confessed that the bride asked her to do a little digging into the groom’s background, and two days later they opened their matchmaking business. When Tillie La Salle is murdered a week after her visit to The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, the police suspect Dickie Trower, the shy accountant they gave Tillie’s contact information to. Iris and Gwen are sure no man they vetted could be a murderer, and know the letter Trower received cancelling his first meeting with Tillie is a forgery even though it was typed on their business stationery with the office Bar-Let typewriter. Gwen suspects that Iris’s job as a secretary for the War Office masked top-secret work, and Iris has great respect for Gwen’s ability to get anyone to talk about themselves, so they decide their combined skills might be sufficient to prove Tower’s innocence and save their business. This engaging historical mystery and series opener is the first under the Allison Montclair pseudonym by an established author.

Beijing PaybackDaniel Nieh
Beijing Payback (Ecco 2019) begins with the murder of Vincent Li, presumably by a burglar. Lawyer Perry Peng informs Victor and Jules that their father did not own the restaurant chain, instead only managing the restaurants for the Happy Year Restaurant Company based in Beijing. Victor and Jules were unaware of the hardship of their father’s life in China. Vincent’s professor father and outspoken sister were casualties of Mao’s labor camps for counterrevolutionaries, and his mother sank into depression. After Mao’s death his mother was befriended by Linda, a young blond American missionary. Vincent, who had turned to crime to support himself and his mother, was fascinated by the outsider, who assured him all his sins could be forgiven. After Vincent’s mother’s death, the couple moved to San Dimas in southern California, opened a Chinese restaurant, and raised their children as bilingual Americans. Victor is a passionate college basketball player, and Jules is considering grad school options when their father was killed. An envelope passed on by Peng leads them to a confession written by their father, revealing that the restaurants are a cover for the activities of an international crime syndicate. Sun Jianshui, who was rescued as a child while begging in the street by Vincent before he met Linda, arrives in California and tells Victor that Vincent was killed because he refused to be part of a new smuggling scheme for a product called Ice. Sun convinces Victor that his only chance of protecting himself and his sister is to travel to Beijing to confront the gang his father joined as a teenager. This coming of age debut revenge thriller is driven, violent, insightful, and surprisingly funny in parts.

Waiting for Monsieur BellivierBritta Röstlund
Waiting for Monsieur Bellivier (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2019, Sweden 2016) begins when Mancebo, the Tunisian proprietor of a small grocery shop with a distant view of Sacré-Cœur in Paris is closing up one hot summer evening. An elegant woman introduces herself as Cat and explains that she would like to pay him to spy on her boyfriend, an author who lives in an apartment across the street. Madame Cat explains that she has noticed Mancebo’s usual seat on a stool outside his shop has a clear view of the apartment, and she needs to know if her boyfriend is having an affair. Mancebo at first refuses, but the chance to add variety to his unchanging routine is irresistible, and they arrange a system of exchanging reports and payment in recycled olive jars once a week. Helena Folasadu is a divorced woman with a young son. She is working on a magazine article in a cafe when a man asks if she is waiting for Monsieur Bellivier. She says no, and then notices he is approaching other women in the cafe with the same questions. Impulsively she motions the man over and changes her answer. The man takes her to an office in the top floor of the Areva tower with a lovely view of Sacré-Cœur, handing her a contract to read. In exchange for a substancial salary, she is to work in the office every day for three weeks, forwarding any emails that come through to Monsieur Bellivier. The man explains that she is free to read or work on her own computer as she waits for emails. Intrigued, Helena signs the contract, sure she won’t need her anxiety tablets for the first time in months. The emails are a strange mixture of numbers and letters which she memorizes before forwarding. At the end of each day, the receptionist hands her a bouquet. The flowers make her nervous, and Helena is desperate to get rid of them each day, passing them on to strangers and leaving them at a graveyard. Both Helena’s and Mancebo’s lives change as their new assignments break them out of their monotonous daily routines, causing them to examine everything more closely and worrying that they may be putting themselves in danger. This intriguing debut examines secret lives and the possibility of second chances.

Sarah JaneJames Sallis
Sarah Jane (Soho 2019) features Sarah Jane Pullman, who had a hard childhood on a chicken farm before running away as an adolescent. Falling in with the wrong crowd, she is arrested and the judge offers a choice: join the Army or go to jail. After her best friend in the service is killed right next to her in an explosion in the Gulf War, Sarah Jane is sent home. For several years she makes her living as an itinerant short order cook, moving from place to place and relationship to relationship, ending up in an abusive marriage she finally escapes. Challenging herself to get a college degree, Sarah Jane eventually ends up in the small southwestern town of Farr as a sheriff’s deputy, a job she is surprisingly good at. Her combat experience and years of living on the streets have made her an expert at interpreting people’s motivations and predicting their actions. When Sheriff Cal Phillips disappears, Sarah Jane is thrust into his job, her first solo investigation to track down the sheriff. The meandering narration moves back and forth from past to present, adding small chunks of Sarah Jane’s life history, slowly unveiling the motivations of the complex woman. This powerful short novel is both a crime story and an incisive character study of a young woman forced by circumstances to fight for survival.

The Bird BoysLisa Sandlin
The Bird Boys (Cinco Puntos Press 2019) finds Delpha Wade, on parole after serving 14 years in prison for killing her rapist, recovering from knife wounds in the hospital after killing a suspected murderer in self-defense. Her boss Tom Phelan, a new private investigator in Beaumont, Texas, was the only one willing to give the ex-felon a job, and now worries that Delpha won’t want to come back to her secretarial job in the office where she was attacked. But Delpha is determined not to let another violent man take her independence, and returns in time to sit in on a client meeting with Xavier Bell, a 75-year-old man from New Orleans who wants them to locate his estranged brother Rodney. Bell says his brother recently inherited some money from an aunt and may have purchased a house in Beaumont. He believes Rodney is living under an assumed name, but has a fondness for birds and might frequent the nearby wetlands. Bell pays for a week in advance in cash. As he leaves, Delpha calls him by name to return his umbrella, but Bell doesn’t react. Suspecting he is also using an assumed name, Phelan snaps his picture from the window as he departs. In 1973 tracking down records is labor intensive, and Phelan and Delpha split up the task: Delpha visiting real estate agents and asking about sales to elderly men in the last year, Phelan requesting the birth records from New Orleans so they can search for the births of two boys around 1900. Delpha revels in the expansion of her secretarial role, and Phelan is impressed with her ability to get people to share their secrets and her dedication to ferreting out information. Phelan investigates two other cases while waiting for the New Orleans records, striking up an acquaintance with a young camera nut who is willing to spend all his free time at the wetlands in exchange for his first payment as a real photographer. Phelan and Delpha are both clever and empathetic in different ways, forming a formidable team in this excellent second in the series.

December 1, 2019

The Mad Hatter MysteryJohn Dickson Carr
The Mad Hatter Mystery (American Mystery Classics 2019, reissue of 1933 original) finds Dr. Gideon Fell involved in two investigations: a prankster is stealing hats in London and leaving them in unexpected places and a recently discovered story by Edgar Allan Poe has disappeared from the collection of Sir William Bitton, who is also missing a top hat and an opera hat. Are the two mysteries connected? Chief Inspector Hadley has asked Dr. Fell’s advice on the Poe manuscript theft, but the case of the missing hats is consuming Fell’s attention, though Hadley believes it is only the work of a harmless prankster. When a corpse wearing a missing opera hat is discovered at the Tower of London, killed with a crossbow bolt through the heart, Hadley is forced to take the prankster seriously. The dead man is identified as the nephew of Bitton, and Fell is sure that the hat thief, dubbed the Mad Hatter by Bitton’s journalist nephew, and the manuscript thief cases are connected. This second in the excellent Gideon Fell series features clues to the murderer planted in plain sight yet artfully concealed. The interplay between the reserved Hadley and boisterous Fell adds humor to this classic mystery tale, a great introduction to an author who may be new to modern readers.

Your House Will PaySteph Cha
Your House Will Pay (Ecco 2019) begins in March 1991, when Shawn Matthews and his older sister Ava are caught up in the Westwood street riots the week following the Rodney King beating. Shawn doesn’t understand exactly what is happening, feeling simultaneous terror and excitement as the shops are vandalized. Shawn and Ava live with their cousin Ray, who has secretly joined the Crips, and Aunt Sheila, who does her best to protect and shelter her family. In 2019 Grace Park’s older sister Miriam persuades her to attend a memorial in front of the Los Angeles Federal Courthouse for Alfonso Curiel, a black teenager shot by police in his own back yard. An elderly woman asks the crowd to remember Ava Matthews, who was shot and killed in LA while trying to buy a bottle of milk 25 years earlier. Grace, a sheltered 27-year old pharmacist, works at her Korean immigrant parent’s drug store and lives at home in Granada Hills. Miriam moved out years ago, and hasn’t spoken to their mother in over two years, after a huge fight neither are willing to talk to Grace about. Meanwhile, Shawn’s cousin Ray is released from Lompoc Federal Prison after serving a 10-year term. While he was inside, Shawn moved his Aunt Sheila and Ray’s wife and children to Palmdale, putting distance between them and the gangs of Los Angeles. Shawn spent time in the gangs and prison after Ava was killed, but now has a steady job for a moving company and new life with his live-in girlfriend and her young daughter. Shawn gets Ray a job with the moving company, but Ray only works for a couple of weeks. Another violent crime brings the Matthews and Park families together, forcing everyone to confront uncomfortable truths about the past and ingrained prejudices of the present. Based on a real-life case, this powerful thriller grapples with themes of racial prejudice, identity, and the importance of belonging.

An Anonymous GirlGreer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
An Anonymous Girl (St. Martin’s Press 2019) begins when Jess Farris, a makeup artist doing contract work for BeautyBuzz, overhears a college student client deciding to skip an early morning research questionnaire appointment with psychologist Dr. Shields. Jess can really use the $500 and shows up for the appointment, which turns out to be a two-hour series of questions on the computer, prompting her to dig deeper on her answers to questions about cheating, canceling plans with friends, and hurting someone she cares about. When she asks about the odd questions, the assistant explains that Dr. Shields is doing a comprehensive study on morality and ethics. Jess is uncertain about revealing her secrets, but returns for the second appointment, knowing the money will help pay for the speech therapy her brain-damaged younger sister desperately needs. The computer addresses her only as Subject 52, but Jess feels compassion, and comes to rely on the release of expressing her true fears and guilt. When Dr. Shields contacts her directly, Jess agrees to in-person meetings, and then to real-life situations controlled by prompts on her cell phone. Alternately worried that she is not meeting expected behavior in the trials and a growing concern that Dr. Shields has taken over her life, Jess begins to investigate Dr. Shields, learning that she is on leave from the university after a personal crisis. Interspersed chapters reveal that the study has narrowed to one subject — Jess herself — with one focus: the temptation of infidelity. This creepy investigation of guilt and obsession is mesmerizing.

Hudson’s KillPaddy Hirsch
Hudson’s Kill (Forge 2019) begins in the fall of 1803 when Kerry O’Toole, a pickpocket turned school teacher, discovers a 13-year old girl dying of a stab wound in an alley near the Canvas Town slums. Her friend Justy (Justice) Flanagan, a New York City Marshal, discovers that the girl was pregnant, and the fading red designs on her hands and forearms indicate she is a Mohammedan. Her soft hands and the luxurious cloth of her wrap send Justy to a compound at Hudson’s Kill, started by Umar Salam, a former slave. Over the past 10 years the community, slaves originally from parts of Africa skilled in growing rice, has drained the swampy meadowlands, made Hudson’s Kill habitable, and has a thriving business in fine cloth. But no one will admit to recognizing the dead girl, and Justy is closely watched inside the walled community. Justy gets involved in a card game with Piers Riker and Chase Beaulieu and wins a carriage and horses from Beaulieu. He is horrified to learn that the driver, a slave, comes with the carriage. Too busy with the investigation to visit a judge and draw up the manumission papers, Justy enjoys the unaccustomed luxury of being driven around the streets and finds the driver surprisingly skilled in self-defense. Meanwhile, Kerry uses her father’s connection with the Bull, who controls the waterfront and Irish gangs, and her cousin Lew Owens, who takes a cut from every business run by someone with dark skin, to infiltrate the Hudson’s Kill compound and talk to the dead girl’s family. This well-plotted second historical mystery featuring the complex Justy and Kerry with a lively supporting cast is enlivened by frequent inclusion of Flash, the slang terms developed by New York City’s underworld.

Empire of LiesRaymond Khoury
Empire of Lies (Forge 2019) begins in 1682 Istanbul, when a naked tattooed man appears next to Sultan Mehmen IV’s bed, offering to help him finally conquer Venice, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. In 2017 the Ottoman Empire has controlled all of Europe for over 300 years when a naked tattooed man appears on the banks of the Seine, coughing up blood. After murdering the first stranger he encounters for his clothes, Ayman Rasheed makes his way to the hospital, desperate for the salvation of modern medicine. The surgeon is able to save his life through a heart valve replacement, and anesthesiologist Sayyid Ramazan Hekim is in charge of slowly bringing Rasheed back to consciousness. Fascinated by the mysterious tattoos, Ramazan records them with his phone, and discovers they incude schematics for an early steam engine and an ancient blasting detonator. Returning to the hospital, he begins the recovery process, but keeps Rasheed just drugged enough to lower his inhibitions. Former Iraqi ISIS leader Rasheed introduces himself as the governor for Mehmen IV, and over the next few days tells the story of discovering the secret of time travel in a crypt in Palmyra just after 9/11. Disillusioned with his reality, Rasheed began searching for the optimum time to return to the past and change the course of history. Ramazan’s wife Nisreen, a lawyer specializing in protecting the limited rights of Ottoman women, finds her husband’s search history and insists on visiting his patient. Rasheed’s ramblings about the individual freedom in the world he changed fascinate her. The current economic collapse has tightened surveillance and vastly increased the number of public beheadings for speaking out against the government, enforced by the Z Directorate internal security force. Ramazan’s brother Kamal Arslan Agha, a counterterrorism agent for the sultan’s secret police, is tasked with investigating the murder on the banks of the Seine, and discovers that Ramazan’s search history has made him and Nisreen targets of Z Directorate. This imaginative alternate history thriller is intense and thought-provoking.

The InvitedJennifer McMahon
The Invited (Doubleday 2019) Is the story of Helen and Nate, who leave their teaching jobs in a suburban Connecticut middle school to build a house on a 44-acre plot near the small village of Hartsboro, Vermont. Helen wanted to buy an old house full of history, but the small legacy from her father wasn’t enough. So Nate drew up plans for an energy-efficient house based on her favorite Colonial salt box design. A vintage trailer they can live in while building the house is included with the land, and they begin construction, relying on Nate’s math skills and Helen’s practical experience helping her father construct houses. The land was a bargain since much of the acreage is part of the Breckenridge Bog, not suitable for farming or building, and local legend says the bog is haunted. An American History teacher, Helen is fascinated with the legend, and begins researching the history of the property. She discovers that Hattie Breckenridge was hanged there as a witch in 1924, after a fire at the schoolhouse killed several children but not Hattie’s daughter Jane, who was home sick that day. Their nearest neighbor Olive Kissner, a 14-year-old living with her depressed father, is not happy that Helen and Nate have moved in. Olive is continuing the search for the treasure Hattie is rumored to have buried in the bog, hoping the news of its discovery will bring back her mother, who deserted them a year earlier without a word. Hattie salvages objects connected to Hattie and her descendants: a beam cut from the hanging tree, bricks from a mill fire where Jane died. Nate is horrified when he learns the violent connections of the items incorporated into their new home, but Hattie is sure they will help her calm the ghosts they both begin to believe are haunting the land. This eerie supernatural thriller deftly mixes ghostly elements with the very real menace of those protecting deadly secrets.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to GhostsKate Racculia
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019) begins at a charity auction for Boston General Hospital. Tuesday Mooney, a goth researcher on the rich and famous for the fundraising department, sneaks her best friend Dex Howard into the party, and he ends up at a table with cape-wearing eccentric billionaire Vincent Pryce and his wife Lila. Tuesday meets Archie, the son of tech giant Edgar Arches, mistaking him for his older brother Nathaniel, who has run the family company since their father disappeared six years earlier. When Pryce collapses during the bidding, Dex helps Lila try to revive him, but he is dead before reaching the hospital. The next day a letter from Vincent Pryce appears in the paper, announcing a treasure hunt with clues inspired by Edgar Allan Poe — the prize a share of his enormous fortune. Puzzle-loving Tuesday is hooked, and dives into the game with the help of Dex, who knows everything about musical theater and finance, Archie, whose dysfunctional family has some mysterious connection to Pryce, and her teenage neighbor Dorry Bones, who hopes something from Pryce’s macabre collection will provide a link to her mother who died two years earlier. Tuesday understands the pain of loss. Her best friend Abby Hobbes disappeared when they were 16, and began communicating with Tuesday through her Ouija board, earning Tuesday the reputation of the girl who talks to ghosts. It’s been years since Tuesday heard from Abby, but her voice begins echoing through Tuesday’s head as the hunt for clues grows more intense. Clever, funny, strange, and emotionally rich — this mystery adventure thriller has it all.

Good Girl Bad GirlMichael Robotham
Good Girl, Bad Girl (Scribner 2019) begins when London forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven is asked to evaluate Evie Cormac, who has initiated a court case asking to be released from Langford Hall, a high-security children’s home. Evie was discovered six years earlier hiding in a secret room of a deserted house six weeks after the tortured body of Terry Boland was found in the house. The abused and emaciated child refused or was unable to tell anyone her name, her background, or anything about what happened in the house. With a fake name to hide her past, Evie was placed in foster homes, but she continually ran away and was finally placed at Langford Hall. Evie refuses to share anything about her past with Cyrus, but insists she is now 18 and demands to be released. He is startled to discover that Evie is a human lie detector, able to discern the truth from anyone who looks her in the eyes. Cyrus doesn’t believe that living in Langford Hall is the best thing for the brilliant and self-destructive Evie, but she has no means of support other than a talent for poker, and is not likely to convince a judge she can maintain herself. The police also ask Cyrus to consult on the murder of high-school figure skater Jodie Sheehan, whose body was found on a lonely footpath near her home. According to Jodie’s family, coach, and friends she was just about perfect: kind, smart, and very talented. But something doesn’t feel right to Cyrus, and he discovers that Jodie had a secret life that may have caused someone to kill her. The connection between Cyrus and Evie, both emotionally damaged by their past, is the heart of this poignant psychological thriller, which leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

The Favorite DaughterKaira Rouda
The Favorite Daughter (Graydon House 2019) begins a year after college freshman Mary Harris fell to her death from a cliff into the ocean. Her mother Jane has rarely left the family’s luxurious oceanfront home in a Southern California gated community, sunk in a fog of grief, antidepressants, and alcohol. Her husband David has been working long hours and their younger daughter Betsy has grown secretive. David has organized a memorial celebration for Mary the weekend before Betsy graduates from high school, and Jane is determined to make her entrance back into the world, reaffirming her role as the perfect wife and mother. Her therapist advised reconnecting with a family dinner, but the plan falls apart when Jane sets four places by mistake, upsetting David who heads to the club to work out after reminding her that Betsy has an evening class. Jane focuses on her reemergence into Cove society at the memorial service, preparing for the starring role as “Mom.” The news that Mary’s birth mother is planning to attend makes her furious, but Jane takes comfort from a letter from the bank congratulating David on mortgage approval for a home on Newport Beach, which she is sure is a surprise purchase to help them make a new start. Jane spies on her husband and daughter with the parental controls she has activated on their phones, reading their texts and following their movements with Find My Friends. Betsy doesn’t text much, and Jane presumes it is because she is not nearly as popular as Mary was. At the memorial service someone leaves a note in Jane’s bag: “Mary’s death was not an accident. Just ask Betsy.” Narrated by Jane, this unnerving psychological thriller exposes the chilling reality of living with a narcissist.

Death in SummerMichael Theurillat
Death in Summer (Manilla 2019, Switzerland 2006) introduces Inspector Eschenbach, Chief of the Zurich Criminal Investigation Department. On a hot July day he is called to an exclusive golf club where a dead golfer has been discovered at the 15th hole. The man is identified as Philipp Bettlach, a 56-year-old divorced bank vice president who was well liked by other club members. Dr. Johannes Bettlach, Philipp’s older brother and president of Zurich Commercial Bank, tells Eschenbach that his younger brother went through a wild stage, but settled down and was a successful head of the marketing department, establishing good relations with foreign customers. Assisted by Claudio Jagmetti, a trainee from the police academy, Eschenbach re-enacts the scene of the shooting with a mannequin, discovering that the fatal shot was fired from a distance of at least half a kilometer. Doris Hottiger, a 22-year-old working as a golf instructor during the university summer holiday, was dating Philipp, but broke off their affair. Jagmetti is attracted to Doris, and spends the night with her before discovering she won awards as a sharpshooter. Marianne Felber, a journalist for the Zürcher Tagblatt, is given the murder to cover since the two senior reporters are unavailable. After interviewing Philipp’s brother, work colleagues, and friends, she comes to the same conclusion as Eschenbach — the man was too perfect, no annoying habits, faults, or enemies. The two independently begin delving into Philipp’s past, searching for a motive for murder. This debut mystery, the first in the series featuring the intuitive and unconventional Eschenbach, is also the English-language debut of the best-selling Swiss author.


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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