2022 Reviews
January 1, 2022

The PushAshley Audrain
The Push (Pamela Dorman Books 2021) is the story of Blythe Connor, whose mother Cecilia and grandmother Etta were both terrible mothers, neglectful and cruel. Blythe and Fox fell in love in college, totally smitten with each other. Blythe also falls in love with Fox’s family: close, supportive, and loving — so different from her own. Fox is eager for a family of their own. Blythe is consumed with fear that she won’t be a good mother, but finally gives in. The birth is difficult and Violet is not an easy baby, crying constantly when Blythe holds her though smiling and content with Fox. Other mothers are in love with their babies, but Blythe finds it impossible to connect, withdrawing from the new mothers group and isolating in their apartment. Fox can’t understand why Violet doesn’t respond to Blythe, though she does all the right things: nursing, cuddling, rocking, feeding, bathing. Desperate to rediscover herself, Blythe returns to writing, using headphones to block out Violet’s crying. Violet becomes more defiant as she grows: kicking, scratching, refusing to eat. Blythe is sure something is wrong with their daughter, but Fox believes she is exaggerating behavior he never sees while he is at work. The preschool teacher reports incidents when Violet is four: she is cruel to other children. This confirms Blythe’s worry, but Fox concludes his bright daughter is just acting out because she is bored, and the couple grows further apart. When a classmate falls to his death from a playground structure Blythe is positive Violet was right next to him before he fell. Was she responsible? Desperate to hold their marriage together, Blythe becomes pregnant again. Everything is different when Sam is born: Blythe bonds instantly to her son and caring for him is pure bliss. Even seven-year-old Violet seems to love her little brother, but Blythe can’t shake the feeling that something untrustworthy is lurking behind her daughter’s angelic smile. This intense debut psychological thriller brilliantly exposes the dark side of motherhood.

The Dark HoursMichael Connelly
The Dark Hours (Little, Brown and Company 2021) is the fourth in the series featuring Renée Ballard, a young detective in Hollywood, demoted to night shift after filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor. It’s New Year’s Eve and Ballard is waiting out the inevitable shower of bullets at the stroke of midnight under an overpass with her reluctant partner Lisa Moore, a day shift detective from the Sexual Assault Unit who is unhappy about working at night. Ballard is hoping to catch the Midnight Men, two rapists who assault women in their own beds on holiday nights. Ballard knows that Moore is just marking time until her retirement in four years, and isn’t surprised when she gets little help when they are called to the death of Javier Raffa, an auto shop owner killed by a midnight bullet during the annual party he hosts for the neighborhood. Raffa was a former Las Palmas gang member who bought his way out of the gang. All the witnesses were looking at the sky at midnight as fireworks and bullets shot through the air, but no one saw the shot that killed Raffa. Ballard notices singed hair around the wound, and realizes that the kill shot did not fall from the sky. Ballistics connects the killing to the unsolved murder of Albert Lee, worked by retired homicide detective Harry Bosch ten years earlier. When Ballard tries to check out the Lee murder book, she learns it is missing, last checked out by Harry Bosch. Bosch remembers the case, but swears he didn’t remove the murder book. Then a woman reports she was raped by two men on New Year’s Eve, and Ballard verifies two unreported facts from the previous rapes, proof they are all connected. Determined to continue working both cases, Ballard is hampered by the low morale in the police department caused by the pandemic and increasing social unrest. Harry Bosch is the only person she can count on to match her dedication, but she is putting her career in jeopardy by working with an outsider. This excellent third collaboration between Ballard and Bosch leaves open the possibility of a future partnership.

The Stranger Behind YouCarol Goodman
The Stranger Behind You (William Morrow 2021) is the story of struggling magazine journalist Joan Lurie, whose article exposing newspaper tycoon Caspar Osgood as a sexual predator goes live the evening of his wife Melissa’s Solstice Gala Fundraiser at the New York City Garden Conservancy. Melissa watches in horror as everyone’s phones light up and they converge on her, demanding a statement. Joan’s editor Simon Wallace rents a restaurant to celebrate the blockbuster story, where Joan is offered a seven-figure advance for a follow-up book. Ecstatic that she might finally be able to pay off her student loans and buy some decent clothes, Joan has too much to drink, fumbling with her keys at the dark entry to her apartment door. Chloroformed and brutally attacked, Joan wakes up the next day with a bloody lump on her head, but thankfully not raped. Checking her laptop to verify all her files are still there, Joan realizes she can’t focus on the words, her blurred vision making it impossible to read. Using the book advance, Joan rents a high-security Manhattan apartment in the luxury building called the Refuge, a former Magdalen Laundry where poor “wayward” girls did hard labor while waiting to give birth. Joan’s 96-year-old neighbor Lillian Day has lived in the building since 1941, when she witnessed a murder and was sent there for her own safety. As the days pass Joan’s vision doesn’t improve, but she is too frightened to leave the building, instead ordering a voice-activated digital assistant she calls Bot, who reads and writes for her. Melissa considers asking her husband to move out, but is convinced to make a statement of support, only to discover her husband’s body in the pool the next morning. Angry and revengeful, Melissa sets out to discredit Joan and her sources while Joan searches for women Osgood took sexual advantage of who are willing to endure the notoriety of sharing their abuse. Convinced that someone is entering her apartment, Joan changes the locks but the uncomfortable feeling of being watched persists. Lillian is a welcome distraction as she gradually shares her past over cookies and cups of tea. This gothic thriller is mesmerizing.

The Apollo MurdersChris Hadfield
The Apollo Murders (Mulholland Books) is set in 1973 as NASA is preparing to launch Apollo 18, the final scheduled lunar landing mission. Though promoted as a scientific mission, Kazimieras ”Kaz” Zemeckis is sent to Houston as flight controller, sharing the top-secret information that the Russians are preparing a secret launch of Almaz, a space station to spy on America. Almaz’s cameras will be powerful enough to identify objects down to the size of small cars, a security disaster for the secret testing at remote airfields like Edwards in California and Area 51 in Nevada. Apollo 18’s mission changes to fly close enough to Almaz to take pictures, and then to land near the Russian’s lunar rover Lunokhod, which has clearly discovered something of great interest to the Russians, perhaps uranium. Five years earlier Kaz’s own chances of becoming an astronaut were destroyed when he lost an eye when his F-4 Phantom jet fighter collided with a bird. After earning his doctorate at MIT, he was recruited by the National Security Agency, which headed NASA’s lunar landing program through the 1960s. Meanwhile in Moscow, Vitaly Sergeievich Kalugin is elated to find the name of his sleeper agent in the NASA press release about Apollo 18. A few days later mission commander Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Hoffman is killed in a helicopter crash, and Major Chad Miller is appointed to take his place along with Lieutenant Michael Esdale and Captain Lucas Hemming. When Apollo 18 lands on the Moon, prepared to disable Lunokhod, they are startled to discover that two armed Cosmonauts are already there. A communication glitch leaves Apollo 18 unable to talk back to Houston, their only option to transmit zeros or ones for yes or no. This exciting debut thriller by a former astronaut and commander of the International Space Station maintains a high level of suspense to the very end.

One Got AwayS.A. Lelchuk
One Got Away (Flatiron Books 2021) begins when Berkeley, California, private investigator Nikki Griffin is hired by Martin Johannessen to protect his incredibly wealthy mother from Dr. Geoffrey Tyler Coombs, who has duped her into transferring 1.5 million dollars to his offshore account and giving him several thousand dollars of gifts plus a fully loaded 911 Porsche. Martin understands there isn’t a legal recourse since everything was freely given, but a recent overheard conversation between his mother and Coombs leads him to believe she is being blackmailed. Martin reluctantly shares contact information for his siblings William, Ron, and Susan, but says his mother is away in Scottsdale. Nikki tracks Coombs down at his hotel, and is impressed by his charisma, everyone loves him. Next she visits oldest brother William, who is under 24-hour care after a traumatic brain injury in a hit-and-run accident three weeks earlier. Sister Susan tells Nikki that she keeps her distance from her family, but has no issues with her mother spending her money any way she likes. Brother Ron won’t talk to her. Returning to the hotel Nikki discovers Coombs has checked out and headed for the airport, presumably heading home to London. After following several false trails she tracks him down at The Cypress Grove Inn, a luxury resort in Monterey where the cheapest room is $1,400 a night. Coombs helps her discourage a drunken tech entrepreneur and they have dinner together. She is surprised to feel a connection: Coombs is another lone wolf who lives for danger and excitement. In his room he pulls a gun and zip ties her, demanding to know why she is following him. He swears he isn’t blackmailing Mrs. Johannessen and she fights back just as four men enter the bungalow. They assume Nikki is a call girl, and bundle Coombs into an oversized suitcase and wheel him away. Freeing herself with the razor in the bathroom, Nikki heads out on her motorcycle, discovering the dead body of the gate security guard but no sign of the car. Fired by Martin, Nikki is re-hired by Mrs. Johannessen who offers triple what Martin was paying if she can free Coombs. With the help of her friend Buster, a giant with anger management issues, and Mason, a nerdy kid with excellent observational skills, Nikki sets out to rescue Coombs in this hair-raising second in the series.

HostageClare Mackintosh
Hostage (Sourcebooks Landmark 2021) is the story of Mina Holbrook, who dreamed of being a pilot before leaving flight school after a panic attack during her first training flight. Now a flight attendant with a five-year-old daughter Sophia, Mina worries that her marriage to Adam, a police officer, might not survive the stress of raising an adopted child with attachment disorder. Sophia was taken from neglectful mother at the age of four months, and then spend another six months in foster care while her case ground slowly through the court system. Mistrustful of adults, Sophia struggles to maintain an emotional connection to her parents, especially her father. Sophia has also been diagnosed with hyperlexia, advanced and unexpected reading skills and abilities far beyond her chronological age. Mina returned to work when Sophia’s case worker recommended it would help with Sophia’s attachment issues, that she would learn to trust her mother would always return to her. Parenting Sophia is incredibly stressful, and Mina began to look forward to her overnight trips. They hired Ukrainian Katya as an au pair, which worked well until Katya left unexpectedly in six months earlier, telling Mina to ask Adam about her reason for leaving. Now separated, Adam stays in the house with Sophia when Mina is working, struggling with the constant reminders that it is Mummy their daughter wants. Desperate for a break, Mina trades assignments with another flight attendant so she can work the inaugural non-stop 20-hour flight between London and Sydney: five days away from home. Sophia has memorized all the details about the Boeing 777 including the four pilots and sixteen crew members who take turns working and resting. Mina is the senior flight attendant, working in First Class, which is salted with journalists, celebrities, and Instagram influencers. There isn’t a single empty seat on the plane. Shortly after take-off it is announced that the wi-fi isn’t working, causing great distress to the journalists. Mina finds an EpiPen on the counter in the galley with a scuffed label: Sophia Holbrook. Too busy to worry about how it got onto the plane, Mina drops it into her pocket. Later she finds a picture of Sophie from that very morning at school drop-off, which panics her. Nine hours from Sydney she finds an envelope addressed to her as they are cleaning up the meal service. Inside is a letter giving her a choice: save her daughter’s life or allow a passenger to enter the flight deck. Unsure which of the 353 passengers are terrorists, Mina struggles to balance her compulsion to save her daughter with the reality of a plane held hostage in this terrifying thriller.

All Her Little SecretsWanda M. Morris
All Her Little Secrets (William Morrow 2021) is the story of Ellice Littlejohn, a successful corporate attorney for Houghton Transportation Company in Atlanta, the only Black employee outside the security department. Eillice escaped her neglectful controlling mother with the help of a neighbor who facilitated her acceptance as a scholarship student to elite boarding school at the age of 14. Eillice has always felt guilty for abandoning her younger brother Sam, who has had several brushes with the law. Ellice has been sleeping with her boss Michael Sayles for years now, trying to convince herself she is satisfied with the role of mistress and the frequent early morning assignations in his office on the 20th floor. One fateful morning she enters the building before security goes on duty, and discovers Michael’s body, shot through the temple with a gun in his hand. Horrified, Ellice flees down to her tiny office on the 18th floor, protecting their secret affair. Late that day she is called to CEO Nate Ashe’s executive suite. Head of HR Willow Somerville joins them and Ellice is sure they know of the affair and that she is being fired now that Michael is no longer there to protect her. Instead, she is offered Michael’s job as Houghton’s executive vice president and general counsel. Though a promotion is to the executive team is what Ellice dreamed of, she is startled by the offer until she realizes it’s all about PR. Protesters have been picketing outside the building for three months, accusing Houghton of discriminatory hiring practices, and promoting the lone Black attorney is good optics. After the funeral Elise is flown by private jet to Nat’s country club in Savannah, which has only one token Black member. She is shunned by most of the guests, and overhears conversations objecting to her promotion. Michael’s wife gives her an envelope containing Michael’s resignation letter from Houghton, and email printouts indicating financial discrepancies. Ellice considers resigning herself, but Nate’s second in command threatens to reveal events from her past that could ruin her. And the police detective investigating Michael’s murder shows her a security tape of a man in a hoodie that looks a lot like her brother Sam. This debut legal thriller by a former corporate lawyer is a deft mix of corporate politics and the importance of family.

Gone For GoodJoanna Schaffhausen
Gone for Good (Minotaur Books 2021) introduces Chicago police detective Annalisa Vega. Twenty years earlier, when Annalisa was in high school, the Lovelorn Killer murdered seven dark-haired women, binding them with rope, slowly strangling them, and then sending a love letter addressed to the victim to the press. His final victim was Katie Duffy, the mother of Annalisa’s boyfriend Colin. Annalisa is called to the scene of a new murder: grocery store assistant manager Grace Harper has been killed in the same way. Analisa is partnered with her ex-husband Nick Carelli, who calls her to Grace’s office upstairs, one wall covered with photographs of dead women strangled with ropes — the Lovelorn Killer’s seven victims. They learn that Grace was part of a group called Grave Diggers, amateur sleuths investigating cold cases. Grace was interviewed by a TV news team, stating she had a new theory about the Lovelorn Killer, something never explored by the police. Grace hadn’t shared her theory with the Grave Digger group yet, and her notes and laptop computer are missing. One of the Grave Diggers remembers that Grace thought there might be a connection between the weather and the murders: a big storm before each one. Annalisa’s father was a detective at the time of Katie Duffy’s killing, sidelined because their families were close friends, now retired and suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Determined to catch the killer, Annalisa minimizes her own connection to Katie and tries to recreate Grace’s research. After being caught on film by reporters outside Grace’s house, Annalisa receives a phone call from someone with a disguised voice and realizes she is talking to the Lovelorn Killer. Interspersed sections from Grace’s journal document her investigation into the killings and her realization that the killer must be someone totally ordinary, invisible in the neighborhoods where he stalked his victims. This tense and well-plotted series launch is excellent.

False WitnessKarin Slaughter
False Witness (William Morrow 2021) begins when Atlanta defense attorney Leigh Collier gets a call from one of the firm’s partners assigning her a case. Leigh is surprised since she’s sure Cole Bradley doesn’t even know who she is, but learns that the defendant Andrew Tenant fired his previous attorney and requested her specifically. Leigh isn’t thrilled to be defending the wealthy man accused of a violent rape, especially since the trial begins in only a week, but it’s clear she needs to accept if she wants to keep her job. Andrew has invoked his right to a speedy trial, and refused a reduced charge in exchange for a year of monitored probation. The firm’s private investigator discovered that a guilty admission would expose him to additional charges — rapes with a similar pattern of violence. At the client meeting Andrew is accompanied by his tattooed fiancée Sidney Winslow and his mother Linda, whose voice sounds familiar. But it’s not until Andrew asks about Leigh’s younger sister Callie that she realizes who he is: the child Callie was babysitting the night his father Buddy Waleski disappeared twenty years earlier. Callie was only 14 at the time. Buddy had been raping her for two years when she accidentally discovered his video equipment, stabbing him with a kitchen knife when he attacked her. Somehow Andrew, only 10 at the time, has learned the truth of that fateful night, and is determined to blackmail Leigh into using illegally acquired evidence to destroy the rape victim on the stand. With the help of her fragile sister, for years a heroin addict, Leigh searches desperately for a way to prevent the man she is convinced is a violent rapist from harming anyone else, especially her own 16-year-old daughter. This disturbing thriller pits the two determined sisters against a pathological rapist growing more violent with each attack.

Last Girl GhostedLisa Unger
Last Girl Ghosted (Park Row 2021) is the story of New Yorker Wren Greenwood, persuaded by her best friend Jax to create a profile on the dating app Torch. Her first two dates didn’t go anywhere, and tonight’s date is with Adam Harper, a cybersecurity expert who quotes Rilke. They don’t connect at the noisy bar, but when Adam walks her home Wren relaxes and agrees to a followup dinner, which is so successful they begin seeing each other every day. Adam hates crowds and avoids the subway, but Wren also loves to walk and they enjoy finding new places to eat every evening, spending most nights together in Wren’s brownstone. Three months later they still haven’t met each other’s friends, but Wren feels safe enough to share the dark secrets of her childhood past, though she doesn’t reveal that she is Dear Birdie, the Chronicle advice columnist and podcaster. The next morning Adam says he wants to ask her something important that evening and then disappears. Determined not to let Adam ghost her, Wren texts and leaves voicemails, which go unanswered until the number is disconnected. His profile on Torch has been removed, there are no new posts on his rarely-used social media accounts dealing with security related matters, and his Chelsea apartment she visited only twice turns out to be a vacation rental. Private investigator Bailey Kirk appears at her door, displaying a picture of the man she knew as Adam, who was dating his client’s daughter when she disappeared nine months ago. Mia Thorpe knew him as Raife Mannes and also met him on Torch. Bailey believes Adam is also responsible for the disappearance of two other troubled young women, who vanished along with their money. Horrified, yet hoping it isn’t true, Wren begins searching for Adam. Interspersed chapters from “Then” reveal Wren’s childhood in a remote compound off the grid, where her family relocated after her father returned from a tour overseas filled with rage and paranoia. Wren’s journey to find the truth about the man she still believes might be her true love while facing the demons of her past is riveting.

Hummingbird SalamanderJeff VanderMeer
Hummingbird Salamander (MDC 2021) begins when security consultant “Jane Smith” receives an anonymous envelope containing the address to a storage facility and a key from the barista at her local coffee shop in the Pacific Northwest. In the nearly empty storage unit she finds only a medium-sized cardboard box sitting on a wooden chair. Inside the box is a taxidermy hummingbird and a note with only three words: Hummingbird… Salamander… Silvina. Jane knows salamanders well from her childhood growing up in the woods near their farm, but the hummingbird and the name Silvina are a mystery. Used to keeping secrets, Jane hides the box containing the hummingbird in the trunk of her car, and doesn’t say anything to her husband or teenage daughter. The next day at work she searches the hummingbird, discovering four microscopic numbers etched into the eye sockets. Cautious by nature and profession, Jane uses her colleague Larry’s computer to search for the hummingbird, discovering that Selastrephes griffin is considered extinct. She asks her assistant Allie to research “Better Days Storage Palace + Silvina” and learns Silvina was the rogue daughter of the powerful Argentine Vilcapampa family, the ecoterrorist daughter of a big game hunter who died in a car accident seven days earlier. Six feet tall and 230 pounds, Jane is a former wrestler and weight lifter who stays in shape with frequent visits to a seedy gym. She stores the hummingbird in her gym locker, along with her go-bag containing stacks of cash and burner phones. Jane isn’t sure what prompted her to buy the pre-made go-bag and obtain a secret credit card, but realizes she may need it when her husband discovers someone has been watching their home. After Larry is brutally attacked and left in a coma, Jane tells her husband to take their daughter and hide somewhere while she tries to evade pursuit and find the salamander Silvina must have hidden somewhere. This complex thriller set in a world threatened by climate change and pandemics follows the clever and driven Jane on a year-long quest to find the truth and hopefully save the world.

Steel FearBrandon Webb & John David Mann
Steel Fear (Bantam 2021) begins when Chief Finn, a Navy SEAL sniper, boards the USS Abraham Lincoln for transport home from Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Finn is being sent home in disgrace: an entire settlement of Yemeni locals were slaughtered in Mukalla, and he has no memory of the event. Finn tries to locate the official reports, but is told he no longer has access. Finn spends most of his time wandering the multiple decks of the huge aircraft carrier, making a mental map of entries, exits, choke points, hatches, etc. Like all snipers, Finn has extraordinary powers of observation, automatically scanning for anything unusual or out of place. He notices morale is low and leadership is weak: Captain Eagleberg doesn’t give the usual morning announcement and rarely interacts with anyone. Monica Halsey is a helicopter pilot, close to earning her helicopter aircraft commander qualification. Unfortunately her commanding officer Nikos Papadakis is in charge of that, and he doesn’t like Monica one bit. Monica spends most of her free time reviewing a recent helicopter crash that killed four of her friends, searching for the cause. As the days pass, morale grows worse when first Sam Schofield and then Kristine Shiflin, a jet pilot and Monica’s best friend, disappear overboard leaving typed suicide notes behind. Finn finds the cap to a hypodermic needle on the deck, leading him to believe that neither Shiflin nor Schofield committed suicide — there is a serial killer on board. Command Master Chief Robbie Jackson fears Finn may be right, but the Captain refuses to authorize an investigation. The next death is impossible to ignore, and the Captain decides Finn himself must be the culprit. There were no problems before he boarded the ship, and the Captain and others are suspicious of the mystery surrounding Finn’s past. This complex thriller featuring the enigmatic Finn is the fiction debut of the non-fiction co-authors: former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb and award-winning author John David Mann.

February 1, 2022

The TurnoutMegan Abbott
The Turnout (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2021) is the story of ballet dancers Dara and Marie Durant. The sisters were homeschooled by their exotic mother, who founded the Durant School of Dance they inherited when their parents died in an accident a decade earlier. Dara’s husband Charlie was once their mother’s prize pupil and surrogate son. Now tormented by pain after years of injuries he keeps the books while Dara trains the older students and Marie teaches the little ones. Unhappy with her secondary role in the family and the school, Marie moves out of the old family house to the attic of the dance studio. It’s The Nutcracker season, and tensions are high at the school, with students desperate to discover who will be cast in the coveted roles of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince. Marie’s space heater causes a fire, and one of their three studios is destroyed by the fire and the water sprayed to extinguish it. The mother of a student recommends a contractor: a large man in his early 50s named Derek who convinces them to use the insurance money to double the size of the ruined studio. Charlie and Marie are all for expansion, but Dara is mistrustful of Derek and his big ideas. The repairs and remodeling don’t go as scheduled, but the bigger problem for Dara is the change in Marie, who begins wearing lipstick and revealing clothing, obviously smitten with Derek. Nutcracker rehearsals are too time-consuming to give Dara much time to worry, though Derek’s constant looming presence makes her uncomfortable. The other young ballerinas turn on the girl cast as Clara, undercutting her confidence and embedding razor blades in her toe shoes, and the boy cast as the Prince needs frequent reassurance and private coaching. This intense noir thriller exposes the dark side of the world of ballet: the beauty of line and movement masking jealousy and constant physical pain.

We Know You RememberTove Alsterdal
We Know You Remember (Harper 2021) is set in the small town of Kramfors, in the Ådalen region of Northern Sweden. Twenty years earlier, when he was 14, Olof Hagström confessed to the rape and murder of 16-year-old Lina Stavred, whose body was never found. Too young to be sentenced, Olof was sent to a youth home and exiled from his family. Returning to the house where his father Sven still lives, Olof uses the key hidden under the stone in the front yard, discovering a dog locked into the kitchen and his father dead in the shower, the water still running. Freeing the dog, Olof stumbles outside and gets into his truck, only to find the dog blocking the road. Patrik Nydalen, visiting Sven’s closest neighbors Tryggve and Mejan, calls the police. Police detective Eira Sjödin, who was nine when Lina was killed, arrives at the house with August Engelhardt, a newly qualified rookie working in the rural district for the required six months to gain experience before moving closer to the regional capital. August knows nothing about the old case, which shaded Eira’s childhood with fear though Eira’s mother Kerstin, now in the early stages of dementia, shielded her from the details of the crime and investigation. Her older brother Magnus was Lina’s age, and the shock of the crime sent him down a path of drugs and alcohol he never completely recovered falsrom. Sven had been dead for several days, killed by a single horizontal gash across his belly, probably a large hunting knife. Georg Georgsson, a murder detective from violent crimes, arrives to take over the investigation, asking Eira to assist with her local knowledge and connections. The water washed any evidence off the body, leaving the police with no physical evidence. Olof is questioned and held over night but then released. Public opinion is strong that Olof is responsible, but he didn’t arrive at his childhood home until four days after his father died. Eira begins to examine the 20-year-old evidence boxes, and realizes that 14-year-old Olof was interrogated without his parents for long periods of time, pleading to see his mother, and finally “confessing” by not opposing the words that were fed to him by the police. To her horror Eira discovers that her brother Magnus had a relationship with Lina, and begins digging into the past to find the truth. This excellent crime novel was awarded the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year in 2020.

The Darkness KnowsArnaldur Indridason
The Darkness Knows (2021, Iceland 2017) features Konrád, a retired police detective in Reykjavik. The frozen body of a man is discovered in the Langjökull glacier, identified as Sigurvin, a businessman who disappeared thirty years earlier. There are wounds on the back of the skull, and the body is dressed in clothing inappropriate for a glacier trip. The case has haunted Konrád for decades ago, unable to find any evidence to link the disappearance to Hjaltalín, the man he was believed killed Sigurvin. The day after Sigurvin’s body is identified, Hjaltalín tried to flee for Thailand. Arrested, he refuses to talk to anyone except Konrád, who reluctantly comes out of retirement to work as a temporary consultant. Back in 1985, Iceland was very different: beer was still illegal and there was only one state-run TV channel. Sigurvin’s sister reported him missing when he didn’t answer his phone or show up for work. Then the police received an anonymous phone call from a woman who said she overheard Sigurvin’s former business partner Hjaltalín threatening to kill him in the company parking lot. The two had owned a small fishing business and Hjaltalín accused Sigurvin of swindling him out of millions of króner. Hjaltalín claimed to have been with a married woman when Sigurvin disappeared, but refused to name her. Hjaltalín hopes that Konrád can finally clear his name, finally freeing him from the common perception that he got away with murder. Then Konrád gets a call from Herdís, a woman who wants to share something her brother saw thirty years earlier by the hot-water tanks on Oskjuhlíd, where Sigurvin’s red jeep was found. Villi was only nine at the time, and didn’t make a connection to the Sigurvin’s disappearance until he saw a true-crime program twenty years later, triggering the memory. He reported it to the police, but the policeman he spoke to thought it was too vague to take seriously. In 1985 Villi had been playing on the top of the tanks when a scary man with long hair and a small ring in one ear appeared, threatening to track Villi down kill him if he told anyone he saw him. As Villi ran away, he saw the lights of another car arriving. Thinking back, Villi realized that was the night Sigurvin went missing. Villi was killed in a hit-and-run accident soon after his report. This excellent thriller is the first in the series starring Konrád, who had a minor role in The Shadow District.

Silent ParadeKeigo Higashino
Silent Parade (Minotaur Books 2021, Japanese 2018) begins when skeletal remains are found in a burned out house in Shizuoka, Japan. One body is identified as Yoshie Hasunuma, an elderly woman who died six years earlier of natural causes. The other is identified as Saori Namiki, a 19-year-old woman who disappeared three years earlier. Nineteen years earlier Hasunuma was arrested and tried for the murder of 12-year-old Yuna Motohashi. There was only circumstantial evidence linking Hasunuma to the crime. He had burnt something in an incinerator, but refused to answer any questions from the police and did not speak during his trial. The verdict was not guilty and Hasunuma successfully sued the government for compensation for the time he spent in detention. Detective Chief Inspector Kusanagi visits Saori’s parents Yutaro and Machiko, who run a restaurant in the Kikuna shopping district of Tokyo with the help of their younger daughter Natsumi, showing them a picture of Yoshie’s stepson Kanichi Hasunuma. They all recognize the picture of Hasunuma; he was a frequent customer before Saori disappeared, banned from the restaurant for inappropriate attentions to Saori. The police arrest Kanichi Hasunuma, but he refuses to answer any questions. Without any physical evidence, the court cannot indict, and he is released, visiting the restaurant to threaten to sue the family for compensation for false arrest. Soon after, during the annual Kikuno Story Parade, Hasunuma is found dead inside a small storeroom he was renting. There is no sign of disturbance so Kusanagi suspects poison, but there is no cup or mug with the body. Kusanagi calls on his old college friend Manabu Yukawa, a physics professor and occasional police consultant known as Detective Galileo. Kusanagi and his assistant Detective Kaoru Utsumi begin checking the alibis of everyone who might have a motive to avenge Saori — her parents and younger sister, her music teachers who thought she could become a star, the boyfriend she kept secret from her parents — but everyone has an alibi for at least part of the time. Meanwhile Yukawa tries to figure out if there is a way a poisonous gas could have been introduced into the small locked storeroom from the outside. This clever “impossible” mystery is the fourth featuring the brilliant puzzle-solving professor.

A Line To KillAnthony Horowitz
A Line To Kill (Harper 2021) begins when Anthony Horowitz, the celebrated novelist, receives an invitation from his publishers to attend a literary festival on Alderney, an small island off the south coast of England famous for its natural beauty. Anthony is delighted, but their request to include Daniel Hawthorne, the retired detective inspector whose cases are the subject of Anthony’s new series of books, is worrisome. Hawthorne, a brilliant detective who left the force under a cloud of suspicion, is prickly and has few social skills. Anthony is surprised when Hawthorne agrees without protest, and the two set off to join a small group of authors: Chef Marc Bellamy and his assistant Kathryn, blind spiritualist Elizabeth Lovell and her husband, juvenile author Anne Cleary, French poet Maïssa Lamar, and island historian George Elkin. The festival is organized by Judith Matheson and sponsored by Charles le Mesurier, owner of the online casino SPIN-THE-WHEEL.COM. On the drive to the hotel, Anthony notices large hand-painted signs reading BAN NAB. Judith explains the NAB stands for Normandy-Alderney-Britain, the electric power line a French company is planning to connect France and the UK through Alderney. Charles le Mesurier has agreed to sell a huge tract of land for the power converter station, and Judith’s husband Colin is the head of the local NAB committee, which recommended going ahead with the project despite protests from a vocal minority concerned about the negative impact on wildlife and island quality of life. Anthony observes an awkward meeting between Marc Bellamy and the entitled and very unpleasant Charles le Mesurier, who attended school together. Colin tells Anthony that le Mesurier’s financial advisor Derek Abbott, is even worse, and Anthony finally understands why Hawthorne was eager to come to Alderney. Abbott is the child pornographer who "fell" down a flight of stairs while Hawthorne was escorting him to an interview room. When le Mesurier is murdered at a party at his mansion, just about everyone is a suspect. Two officers are sent to Alderney from Guernsey, but neither has any homicide experience. Hawthorne, with Anthony in attendance, is asked to help with the investigation. This cleverly plotted and witty third in the series featuring the delightfully mismatched pair pokes fun at the detective fiction genre and the world of publishing.

Dream GirlLaura Lippman
Dream Girl (William Morrow 2021) is the title of Gerry Andersen’s blockbuster novel, the character of Aubrey so realistic his readers refuse to believe she is not based on a real person. Now 61, Gerry has recently moved from New York City to a penthouse in Baltimore, relocating to his hometown to care for his dying mother. A fall down the floating staircase connecting the two floors leaves Gerry flat on his back in bed, his right leg immobilized and elevated in a trapeze for the 8-12 weeks it will take for the bilateral quad tear to heal. In constant pain, Gerry vacillates between worrying about becoming addicted to his pain medication and counting the minutes until his next dose. His new assistant Victoria spends the days with him from nine to five, dealing with his mail, his minimal social media, and preparing his meals. Aileen is hired to work the night shift from seven to seven, watching movies on her tablet and knitting. The day of his accident a letter in the packet forwarded from New York — hand addressed from Fait Avenue, Baltimore — stuck in his memory because Aubrey from Dream Girl lived on Fait Avenue. Victoria can’t find the letter but Gerry is sure he was heading downstairs to look for it when he fell. Late one night Gerry’s phone rings: a woman claiming to be Aubrey. Gerry shouts for Aileen, who didn’t hear the phone and suspects Gerry had a drug induced dream. Gerry sifts through all the women who may wish to torment him — his three ex-wives, the young women he betrayed his wives with, the girlfriend he left behind in New York. Then Victoria reports that DreamGirl@Aubrey is tweeting about his penis, but the tweets disappear quickly. Imprisoned in his penthouse and worried he is no longer able to distinguish between memories, dreams, and reality, Gerry fears he may have inherited his mother’s dementia. This clever modern noir builds suspense to the final scene.

The Bloodless BoyRobert J. Lloyd
The Bloodless Boy (Melville House 2021, self-published 2013) begins on New Year’s Day 1678, when the body of a young boy drained of blood is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River in London. Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments at the new Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge, and his assistant Harry Hunt are asked to investigate the death by Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, Justice of the Peace for Westminster. With the body is a letter in code. Sir Edmund fears the bloodless boy is part of a plot against King Charles II. Only 12 years have passed since the Great Fire, 18 years since the fall of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of a king, and the city is beset by fear and rumors of Catholic plots and foreign assassins. That same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, kills himself and Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury, is released from a year of imprisonment in the Tower of London, determined on revenge against the king. Hooke and Hunt examine the body, discovering that the boy had been bled over the course of a year, dates marking each hole. They preserve the body in the Society’s Pneumatical Engine, a glass chamber pumped free of air, locked behind a heavy door in the cellar. Hooke and Hunt review all they know of blood in religion, magic, and philosophy: witches use blood in spells, Scythian soldiers drink the blood of the first man conquered in battle, statues of Mary have been seen to weep tears of blood. Scientific study has revealed that blood flows through the body, it coagulates, and losing too much blood reduces the body temperature and causes death. Research into blood infusions have not been very successful. Pope Innocent VIII was given blood from young boys in a rejuvenation attempt but died soon after. The Society tried infusions of lamb and calf blood but further experiments were prohibited after several deaths. Hooke and Hunt are committed to using scientific evidence to determine how the boy was killed, but discovering why and what the blood was used for sends them deep into the dangerous world of politics. This dense historical thriller explores the darkness of Restoration London.

Damascus StationDavid McCloskey
Damascus Station (W. W. Norton & Company 2021) is the story of CIA case officer Sam Joseph, who is sent to France to recruit Mariam Haddad, a Syrian Palace official temporarily in Paris to persuade exile Fatimah Wael to renounce her frequently televised opposition to President Assad. Mariam’s cousin Razan was recently arrested for protesting against the government in Damascus, and the CIA hopes Mariam also has sympathy for the opposition. Colonel Daoud Haddad, Mariam’s uncle and Razan’s father, works at the Scientific Studies and Research Center, Branch 450: chemical weapons security and transport. Sam orchestrates a meeting with Mariam at a Paris party, rescuing her from an over-attentive Bulgarian diplomat. In gratitude, she agrees to meet him for a drink the next day, and a spark of attraction grows between them. Mariam describes the wonderful sense of freedom she feels in Paris, and Sam shares his talent for poker, which attracted the attention of the State Department and an embassy job. Mariam tells Sam that there are two Palace factions in Ali Hassan’s Security Office, the central hub for Syria’s security services. One team is led by her boss, Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Najjar. The other faction is led by Jamil Atiyah, a powerful pedophile who detests Bouthaina. When Bouthaina presented Assad with proof of Atiyah’s corruption, he sent men to attack one of her aides, nearly killing him. Three Syrians attack Mariam when Sam escorts her back to her hotel room, and together they kill all three men, presumably sent by Atiyah as another warning to Bouthaina. Sam admits he is CIA, and Mariam tells him she has tracked secret purchases of isopropyl alcohol, used in the production or sarin, a deadly chemical warfare agent. Deeply disturbed by what is happening in her country, Mariam agrees to help gather evidence about the manufacture of sarin gas. The two travel separately to Damascus, using spycraft to communicate. This excellent debut spy thriller by a former CIA analyst highlights the human aspect of working against one’s own country.

Murder at Wedgefield ManorErica Ruth Neubauer
Murder at Wedgefield Manor (Kensington 2021) rejoins young American widow Jane Wunderly in 1926, staying at Wedgefield Manor in the Essex countryside with her Aunt Millie before they return to America. Their host is Lord Hughes, the adoptive (and natural) father of Millie’s long-lost daughter Lillian, a talented golf fanatic determined to compete on the amateur circuit. Lord Hughes has hired war veterans to work on the estate, including a West Indian gardener missing a hand. Handsome young Air Force veteran Simon Marshall works as a mechanic and flirts with Lillian, to the dismay of her very devoted friend Marie. Jane amuses herself reading mystery novels and taking flying lessons from Group Captain Hammond in his lightweight de Havilland Moth biplane. Aunt Millie vacillates between horror at the possible danger and hope for a potential second marriage for her niece. Jane isn’t interested in Hammond, but is delighted to come down to breakfast to discover a new houseguest: Mr. Redvers who helped Jane solve a murder earlier that year in Cairo. Redvers reports there has been a fatal accident involving one of the estate cars: Flight Lieutenant Simon Marshall is dead. An examination of the car reveals the brake lines were cut, presumably to target Simon since he was the only one who drove the Lambda. Lord Hughes’s nephew Alistair and niece Poppy are frequent visitors. Poppy is pretty and guileless, but Jane doesn’t care for Alistair, who is rude to the veterans his uncle treats as part of the family and overly attentive to Lillian. Luckily Redvers, who Jane suspects does secret work for the government, accepts her help willingly in this new investigation. Even Aunt Millie admits Jane’s observational skills are sometimes useful, and asks her to keep a close eye on Lillian. This engaging second in the series is great fun.

The DamageCaitlin Wahrer
The Damage (Pamela Dorman Books 2021) is the story of a the Hall family living in the small town of Salisbury, Maine. When Julia married Tony she was worried about his need to take care of her and fix everything, but soon realized that personality trait came from growing up in a dysfunctional family. When Tony was 17 his abusive father and new wife had a baby. Tony took responsibility for his half-brother Nick, making sure he was fed and clothed and cherished. Now 18 and a college student, Nick is the victim of a violent rape by a handsome older man he met in a bar. Instead of his parents, Nick asks the police to call Tony to meet him at the hospital. Detective John Rice is assigned to the case, and is pleased to learn that one of Nick’s friends took a picture of the man, who paid a transient woman to rent the motel room with cash. Rice is concerned that Nick has no memory of the rape or beating, he blacked out after being hit over the head soon after entering the room. Julia, a lawyer experienced in sexual assault cases, trusts that Rice is a good detective capable of handling the investigation. The man Nick knew as Josh is soon identified as Raymond Walker, a respected businessman with no history of violence. Walker admits the sexual encounter, but insists it was consensual and that Nick was eager for rough sex. Walker’s mother leaps to her son’s defense, flooding Facebook with accusations against Nick. As the legal system slowly cranks through the process, Nick’s self-worth and mental stability begins to crumble, and Julia realizes Tony is prepared to do something stupid to fix the situation, saving his brother from further anguish. This stunning debut thriller is a finalist for the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Debut Novel.

March 1, 2022

Girl AAbigail Dean
Girl A (Viking 2021) is the story of Alexandra “Lex” Gracie, who escaped from chains at the age of 15, stumbling to the road to get help for her older brother and four younger siblings from imprisonment by their parents. Known as Boys A to D and Girls A to C, the emaciated children were nursed back to health in hospital and then separated for adoption or foster care, believing they wouldn’t recover mentally and emotionally if kept together. Identified as Girl A, Lex was lucky in the psychologist assigned to her: Dr. K, who helped her work through her terrors and guilt for not escaping earlier when the punishments weren’t so severe. Their father Charles took poison as the police arrived, and their mother Deborah spent the rest of her life behind bars. The younger children are adopted first, and the policeman who carried the little ones from house adopts Lex, who misses her sister Evie the most, her constant companion chained to the other bed in the small room with covered windows. While dying of cancer, Deborah appoints Lex executor of her will, a small portfolio of assets and the house. Lex at first refuses to accept the job, but Evie suggests using the money to transform the House of Horrors into a community center to provide services for abused children. Lex must convince each of her siblings, some she hasn’t seen since the rescue, to agree to the plan. As she reconnects with each one, Lex is forced to confront deeply buried questions: Why didn’t Ethan, who was not chained to a bedframe like the other children, stay in the house? What happened to the baby who disappeared? Do all of the children contain seeds of their father’s madness? This devastating debut thriller is a finalist for the 2022 Barry and Thriller Awards for Best First Mystery/Crime Novel.

Kill All Your DarlingsDavid Bell
Kill All Your Darlings (Berkley 2021) is the story of Connor Nye, a college English professor at Commonwealth University in Kentucky. Connor’s wife and 15-year-old son died in a boating accident in Maine, and he has been unable to pull himself out of debilitating grief for years. But his students love him, especially those in his senior fiction writing seminar, despite his tendency to drift away in the middle of office hours. His most talented student is Madeline O’Brien, who writes compelling stories about neglected girls struggling with poverty. After one spring seminar Connor invites his students to the pub for a drink. When everyone else leaves, Madeline gives Connor her thesis, a novel about the friendship between two women that ends when one is killed. Connor is surprised that all but the last few pages are handwritten, and Madeline explains her computer died and she can’t afford a new one. Since he is quite drunk she walks him home. She doesn’t return to her own apartment. The police suspect foul play since she took nothing with her, but can find no trace. Two years later Connor returns home from a signing party for My Best Friend’s Murder, just released by a major New York publisher, to find Madeline waiting inside his house. Connor is simultaneously relieved Madeline is alive and horrified that the truth about who really wrote the novel will come out. Connor explains that he was terrified of losing his job since he was unable to write himself and found the work of editing her thesis novel exhilarating. Madeline won’t explain why she vanished, but demands the money he was paid for her work in exchange for not telling the truth to the college. Connor admits he has already spent most of the book money, which wasn’t much, but will check into getting a loan from the bank. The next morning Alicia Bowman from the Gatewood Police Department appears on his doorstep with a copy of My Best Friend’s Murder. Bowman questioned Connor two years earlier after Madeline disappeared, but this time she is there to talk about Sophia Greenwood, a young woman who was murdered two and a half years earlier. The descriptions in Connor’s book about the murder of Sarah Redmond, strangled with her grandmother’s vintage scarf, contain specific details about the crime that were never released publicly. Though tempted to confess that the incriminating details came from Madeline, Connor keeps the secret until he can talk to Madeline again and figure out who frightened her into leaving. Interspersed sections from two years earlier fill in the story of Madeline’s growing friendship with Sophia as they support each other through sexual harassment. This suspenseful thriller set in the world of academia is a finalist for the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Paperback.

Girl in IceErica Ferencik
Girl in Ice (Gallery/Scout Press 2022) begins when talented linguist Valerie “Val” Chesterfield is asked to travel to Greenland to establish communication with a girl found frozen in the glacier. Val’s twin brother Andy, a climate scientist, was stationed on the remote island along with his mentor Wyatt Speeks and Jeanne, the mechanic and cook. Andy committed suicide six months earlier by going out unprotected in the -50° weather, but neither Val nor her father believe he would kill himself. Val suffers from debilitating fear of just about everything outside her home, but arms herself with medications and sets out for the tiny island 800 miles north of the Arctic Circle. On the military plane she meets marine scientists Nora and Rajeev Chandra-Revard, also bound for the island. Wyatt and Jeanne swear they cut the frozen body of the girl from the glacier, but Raj refuses to believe that is possible. Val, who speaks West Greenlandic and Inuktun, doesn’t understand a word the young girl says, and is at first horrified by the terrified girl, who won’t eat any food except raw fish and meat. After cutting her skin and fur clothing off, the girl refused everything except a far-too-large Rudolph Christmas sweater. Val tries all the languages she knows, but the girl clearly recognizes none of the words. When Val touches the sweater and says Rudolph, the girl answers “kannisuak” and Val realizes why she loves the sweater — the reindeer looks like a caribou. Counting the rest of the reindeer, Val learns her words for one through eight. Many days of trust-building later, the girl shares her name — Sigrid. As they begin to share words, Val realizes Sigrid’s mysterious drawings predict the future: sickness and death if Val can’t figure out what the strange shapes mean. Val’s pills disappear, and she is forced to fight against her own fears of the unknown to protect Sigrid from whatever threatens her. Each day the darkness closes in a bit more in this moving and claustrophobic thriller.

Shadow HillThomas Kies
Shadow Hill (Poisoned Pen Press 2021) begins when freelance journalist Geneva Chase and her new boss Nathaniel Rubin arrive at the Long Island mansion where Morris Cutter and his wife Julia died. Genie’s personal life is complicated. She is the legal guardian of 15-year-old Caroline, the daughter of her fiancé who died two years earlier, and determined to make a new start by cutting down on the alcohol consumption that ended her job as the Sheffield Post. The police believe Morris shot his wife and then himself, but their son Eric believes they were murdered, and has hired Lodestar Analytics, a New York commercial and intelligence firm owned by Rubin, to prove they were murdered. Recently retired as CEO of Continental Petroleum & Gas, Morris was looking forward to time to travel and work on a history of the business founded just before World War II by the Cutter family. Eric and his wife Oliva have a new baby daughter, and both Morris and Julia were thrilled to be grandparents. If the Cutters were murdered, it was by someone with a key and the alarm code, but Eric can’t think of anyone except himself and his sister Lisa who know the code. A meteorologist for NASA, Lisa and her father have been at odds for years, believing his company was contributing to global warming and ruining the earth. Walking Genie through the house, Eric notices that his father’s laptop is missing as well as his old-fashioned leather appointment book. A few days before his death Morris was scheduled to present a pseudoscientific report to Congress seeking to delay action on climate change legislation, and Genie wonders if his nephew Stephen, a member of the radical environmentalist group Gaea, might be the culprit. Leonard Ryan, an account director for Fisher, Evans, and Sinclair, consultants for Continental Petroleum & Gas offers Genie $250,000 to verify the police verdict of murder-suicide and close the investigation by Thursday, the day before the report will be presented to Congress. Genie finds Julia’s appointment book and finds a notation for three days after their death: Morris — Shadow Hill, his nickname for Capitol Hill. Fisher, Evans, and Sinclair double the bribe offer but Genie refuses and keeps investigating, certain she is now being followed and at risk. This fourth in the series featuring the determined crime reporter/investigator is a finalist for the 2022 Sue Grafton Award.

How LuckyWill Leitch
How Lucky (Harper 2021) is narrated by Daniel, a 26-year-old social media support person for regional Spectrum Air. When he’s not trying to calm down irate passengers, Daniel enjoys sitting on his front porch in Athens, Georgia, especially very early in the morning when it is still cool. Most everyone is still asleep, but Daniel usually sees a young college student walking to school from the nearby student housing. This young woman is not staring at her phone or listening to music, just enjoying the fresh morning air. For the first time in the three weeks she’s walked past his house, the woman notices Daniel at the back of his porch and gives a little wave hello before walking up the street. A vintage tan Camero pulls up next to her and opens the passenger door. Daniel can’t see much of the driver, just a blue Atlanta Thrashers hat and the shiny tip of his left boot. The woman seems uncertain but gets into the car and they drive away. A few days later Daniel sees an article in the Atlanta Banner-Herald with a picture he recognizes: nineteen-year-old Chinese exchange student Ai-Chin Liao is missing, last seen leaving her housing the morning Daniel saw her get into the tan Camero. Daniel texts his best friend Travis, asking him to call the tip line and report Daniel’s information. Daniel has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a degenerative disease leaving him little control over his body. He can move his powered wheel chair with his still functioning left hand and can speak with a voice generator, but communicating with anyone except Travis and his home health aide Marjani is challenging. Despite his physical limitations, Daniel considers himself a pretty lucky guy with friends, a home of his own, a steady job, and college football to enjoy each fall. Travis, who is usually stoned, finally gets through to the tip line and leaves a message with his own name and Daniel’s address. The police officer who arrives the next day is flummoxed when Daniel answers the door, hands him a card to give to Travis, and leaves before Daniel can respond. Frustrated, he posts a message on Reddit about seeing Ai-Chin get into a tan Camero, which he later deletes. The next day he gets an email quoting his post and decides to answer, offering his help to resolve the situation. Marjani sees the email and forwards it to the police, who explain it’s from a known crank who tries to confess to every crime. But Daniel is sure that Jonathan knows something about Ai-Chin’s disappearance, and continues the email correspondence, which becomes increasingly threatening. Muddy footprints on Daniel’s porch cause concern: does the kidnapper know who he is and where he lives? Daniel’s narrative voice make this finalist for the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Mystery something special.

Suburban DicksFabian Nicieza
Suburban Dicks (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2021) begins when West Windsor, New Jersey, police officers Michelle Wu and Niket Patel respond to an early morning anonymous call: gas station attendant Sakunananthan Sasmal has been shot. The first murder in West Windsor in 30 years, both young police officers are unprepared. They are struggling with the yellow police tape when a blue minivan roars into the station, containing a very pregnant woman and four noisy children. Andrea Stern rushes toward the bathroom with a small child, who pees all over the pavement when they encounter the tape. Andie scans the crime scene, noticing the bullet strikes on the building, the closed cash drawer inside, the blood spatters on the gas pump, the wet stain on Sakun’s pants, and the tire marks her daughter is peeing on. Advising the officers to take notes and pictures, Andie roars back out of the station. Trained as an FBI profiler, Andie solved one big case while still an intern at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit before becoming pregnant with her first child, now 10 years old. Though she loves her children, Andie has always regretted giving up the career she was perfectly suited for. The police report the murder was a result of a robbery, and Andie decides to volunteer to help. Kenneth Lee, a disgraced young New York Daily News investigative reporter now working for the local weekly paper, gets a tip that the police suspects Sakun was selling drugs and heads to Tharani Sasmal’s home, arriving just as Police Chief Bennett Dobeck arrives to break the news of their nephew’s murder. After filming a flustered Dobeck responding to his question about drugs, Kenny heads off to his assignment to cover a Girl Scout tree-planting project. While still a student at Columbia University, Kenny won the Pulitzer Prize, but has been on a downward spiral since falsifying information while chasing another big story. Missing her diverse group of friends from the city, Andie joins a group of Indian women at the pool that afternoon, asking if they know the Sasmals. The women report that Sakun was a good boy and agree his death was probably the result of a robbery. Their homes are broken into frequently because they wear gold jewelry, but the police don’t investigate. West Windsor was originally a farming community, exclusively white except for day laborers. The influx of Indian, Chinese, Pakistani, and Korean families has caused tension. Andie learns the Indian families are frequent targets of racism, ranging from jokes when ordering pizza to being turned down for mortgages and having pool permits denied. In fact, the Sasmals just filed a protest after their pool permit was denied and their white neighbor’s approved. Andie and Kenny form a partnership when both are rebuffed by the police, investigating Andie’s hunch that the murder is a coverup for something that happened decades earlier. Andie creates a workspace in the basement, and carts her children to the library for research or trades child care with her friends, feeling more alive than she has in ten years. This funny series launch starring the pair Kenny dubs Suburban Dicks is a finalist for the 2022 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

The Last Mona LisaJonathan Santlofer
The Last Mona Lisa (Sourcebooks Landmark 2021) begins when New York artist and art history professor Luke Perrone receives an email from Luigi Quattrocchi, who discovered a journal written by Luke’s great-grandfather Vincenzo Peruggia in the papers of his recently deceased lover, Professor Antonio Guggliermo. Quattrocchi tells Luke he buried the journal in one of the boxes donated to the Laurentian Library in Florence, but did not include it in the inventory, suggesting Luke also keep the journal a secret. Luke has been fascinated with his notorious ancestor ever since he was 14, cleaning out the dusty attic as a punishment for skipping algebra. In an old steamer trunk Luke discovered a prison photo of Vincenzo, taken in 1914 in Murate Prison, while serving time for stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum, where he was employed building protective wood and glass boxes to protect the most valuable paintings. When Luke grew out of his teenage rebellion and went to art school, he began searching for information about his great-grandfather, but most of his letters and emails went unanswered. Thrilled at the possibility of reading Vincenzo’s own words, Luke takes a leave and heads to Florence, grateful that his parents raised him bilingual in Italian. John Washington Smith of INTERPOL’s Art Theft Division has been watching Luke for years. The theft of the Mona Lisa and the possibility that the painting recovered after the 1911 theft is not the original has become an obsession. Fearing budget cuts will soon eliminate his job, Smith takes sick leave and follows Luke to Florence, hoping that solving the mystery will convince INTERPOL he is valuable. Meanwhile, an American art collector who owns what he believes is the original painting, learns of the journal and contacts his source for stolen art to track it down, determined to prove once and for all that his painting is indeed Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. In Florence, Luke meets American art student Alexandra Greene at the Laurentian Library while deciphering Vincenzo’s journal from 1914 describing the theft, his time in prison, and the world of art forgery. Luke doesn’t tell Alexandra about his secret project, though she is very interested in him and his research. While tracing the journal’s path to Guggliermo, Luke discovers that the book dealer who sold it to him also died recently, and begins to worry that he and Alexandra may be in danger, sure that his room has been searched and that he is being followed. This fascinating thriller is based on the real theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre by Peruggia, who later tried to ransom the painting back to the Italian government before being arrested and sent to Murate Prison.

Deep Into the DarkP.J. Tracy
Deep into the Dark (Minotaur Books 2021) is the story of Sam Easton, an Afghanistan vet working at the Pearl Club cocktail lounge in his hometown of Los Angeles. An IED explosion killed Sam’s four fellow soldiers, leaving him with half a face seared into waxen rubble over reconstructed bone. His PTSD nightmares have come back with a vengeance after he was weaned off the addictive tranquilizers, causing his wife Yukiko to move out. The antipsychotic prescribed by his doctor seems to be helping, though his memory is still fragmented. Meanwhile, LAPD detective Maggie Nolan and her partner Al Crawford are called to the scene of a murder: the third woman in three months has been killed and disemboweled in the Miracle Mile area. Melody Traeger is the bartender at the Pearl Club. Music producer Markus Ellenbeck tells her he has finally figured out why she looks so familiar: Roxy Codene, the guitar player for Poke, an all-girl punk band that didn’t last long. Melody denies it; she’s put her wild past and drug addition behind her. Melody’s boyfriend Ryan Gallagher, a music promoter, watches from the end of the bar, jealous of Ellenbeck’s obvious attraction to Melody. Later in his luxurious apartment he orders Melody to quit her job, but she refuses, grateful to the Club that helped her put her life back together and pays enough for both her rent and tuition. Ryan punches her in the face, and she flees to Sam’s house for the night, fearful of returning to her own apartment. When she returns home the next morning she discovers a vase of long-stemmed red roses on the dresser in her bedroom. Assuming it was Ryan who pried open her kitchen window and left them, she sends an angry text, threatening to kill him if he breaks in again. His return text is “What roses?” Later that day Ryan’s cleaning woman discovers his murdered body. The combination of the text and Melody’s black eye put both her and Sam on the suspect list. Crawford likes Sam for the murder, but Nolan, whose brother was recently killed in Afghanistan, has a soft spot for the PTSD plagued vet. Rolf, the young son of noir murder director Hans Hesse, approaches Sam in a coffee shop, insisting he would be perfect for the lead in his first film, a thriller called Deep in the Dark. Another murder connected to Sam sharpens police suspicion and the stress increases Sam’s mental instability. Frantically trying to maintain focus and evade the insistent young film director, Sam tries to protect Melody from whoever is stalking her and clear both their names. This excellent series launch featuring the complex police detective and the vet determined to rebuild his life takes the co-author of the Monkeewrench series in a new direction.

Our Woman in MoscowBeatriz Williams
Our Woman in Moscow (William Morrow 2021) is the story of twin sisters Ruth and Iris Macallister. Tall and blond, Ruth was always the most admired of the twins, though Iris grew into an attractive curvy woman. In 1939 Ruth and Iris move from New York City to Rome to stay with their older brother Harry, who works for the American ambassador. Ruth does some modeling work and artistic Iris sketches and haunts the museums. Cornelius Alexander Digby, known as Sasha, and Iris begin an affair, though Iris is a bit startled by Sasha’s defense of communism. Harry defends his friend and fellow embassy official, declaring that they were all Communists in college, and eventually everyone grows out of it. On a weekend getaway Iris discovers an envelope in Sasha’s suitcase by accident, and realizes he is passing information to the Russians. When the Americans are ordered to evacuate Rome in June 1940, Iris refuses to leave Sasha. In 1948 Sasha is working at the American embassy in London, when he, Iris, and their two children vanish. No sign of them is found, and competing rumors circulate: the entire family was eliminated by the Soviets, Sasha defected to Moscow with his family and vital American secrets. Four years later, in June 1952, Ruth, now a respected force in a Manhattan modeling agency, receives a postcard from the sister she hasn’t heard from in 12 years. Shoving it unread in a drawer, Ruth doesn’t think of it again until Sumner Fox from the FBI appears at her office, asking questions and ordering her to get in touch immediately if she hears from Iris. Ruth finally reads the card: Iris is expecting another baby in July. Then a letter arrives asking if Ruth will come to Moscow and support her through the birth, mentioning how difficult her pregnancies have been. Days later Ruth is heading off to Moscow with counterintelligence agent Fox posing as her husband, determined to rescue her sister and her children. In Russia, Lyudmila Ivanova of the KBG, watches the defectors from America and England, sure that one is a double agent, perhaps Sasha Digby. This intense spy thriller explores the role of women in the Cold War.

The Secret TalkerGeling Yan
The Secret Talker (HarperVia 2021, Chinese 2004) is the story of Qiao Hongmei, a Chinese immigrant married to Glen, a San Francisco Bay Area professor. The two met in Beijing: Glen a 49-year-old visiting professor of English, Hongmei a young married military interpretor taking English classes on the side. Their affair destroyed her marriage and caused Hongmei to lose her job after being investigated and imprisoned for suspicion of selling secrets to the Americans. Rescued by Glen two years later, Hongmei’s current life seems perfect, but they have grown apart. Glen teaches, Hongmei works on her PhD thesis, and the couple communicates primarily through notes left on the fridge. Then Hongmei receives an email from a stranger, chronicling a recent visit to a restaurant with a tall American and describing every detail of her appearance, clothing, and gestures. The stranger observes that Hongmei appeared to be completely closed off from her husband, merely floating through her daily existence without engaging. As far as her husband is concerned, Hongmei is a secret talker, never revealing her true self. Hongmei answers the stranger, beginning an email correspondence in which she reveals the deepest secrets about her past, born in a small village she has always been ashamed of, and time as a military intelligence officer-in-training. She tries to break off the email relationship several times, but keeps returning to the stranger she calls the Secret Talker, the only person she can talk to about her true feelings. Some comments begin to make her a bit nervous, the Secret Talker knows her every movement and things that can’t be observed by seeing her in public, like a birthmark. With the help of a friend, Hongmei begins stalking her stalker, determined to expose the Secret Talker’s own secrets. This short noir psychological thriller explores the nature of individual need and the importance of identity.

April 1, 2022

We Were Never HereAndrea Bartz
We Were Never Here (Ballantine Books 2021) begins in Quiteria, Chile, where Emily Donovan and her best friend Kristen Czarnecki are enjoying their annual trip to a part of the world they’ve never explored. Emily has really missed Kristen since she moved to Australia for work 18 months earlier, but is not prepared when Kristen suggests they both take six months off and travel the world together. Emily finally has a job she loves for an organic cat food startup, and is nearly confident enough about her new boyfriend Aaron to tell Kiristen about him. Kristen has always been critical of Emily’s relationships, finding a fatal character flaw for each one, so Emily has kept Aaron a secret until Kristen’s proposal prompts her to blurt it out as the reason she can’t take a six-months vacation. Kristen says she understands and the two set off to the bar, as usual introducing themselves with fake names and personas to the men who buy them drinks. Paolo is obviously attracted to Kristen, who flirts with him despite Emily’s attempts to communicate with their established secret signals that she is sure he is dangerous. Kristen suggests Emily stay for another drink or two and heads back to their rented room with Paolo. When Emily arrives after the pre-arranged 45 minutes, she finds Kristen covered in blood next to a dead body. Emily is still fighting the debilitating panic attacks that she has suffered since they killed a backpacker trying to rape her years earlier in Cambodia, and can barely focus when Kristen insists they must get rid of the body immediately, before anyone realizes he came home with her. Back in Wisconsin, Emily tries to pretend it never happened, trying to bury the new trauma on top of the old one, when Kristen suddenly moves back from Australia. She inserts herself into every aspect of Emily’s life, making it impossible for Emily to ignore their shared violent past and the growing suspicion that Kristen is dangerous as well as controlling.

BlackoutMarco Carocari
Blackout (Level Best Books 2021) begins in 2016 when 43-year-old photographer/bartender Franco DiMaso brings a man home to his dark Manhattan rooftop one hot July night. Whatever the man he met through the MeatUp app gives him to smoke makes him dizzy and sick. The scene he sees through the 4th story window of the brownstone across the street looks like a movie at first, but Franco is sure he is witnessing a murder. He tries to call the police, but passes out instead. Waking up alone on the street more than an hour later, he summons the police, but they don’t find anything in the empty apartment. Noticing his dilated eyes, they assume he imagined the whole thing. Franco tries to contact the MeatUp man, but he doesn’t answer his messages, and then deletes his account. Franco tries to forget he may have witnessed a murder until the apartment of his upstairs neighbors/landlords is broken into, and one of men is attacked. The light in their apartment was on a timer, and Franco worries the murderer may have broken into the wrong apartment. Flashbacks to 1977, when Franco was four years old, reveal the murder of his father Frank, shot by a masked gunman while Franco was in the back seat of the car. The killer searched Frank’s pockets and pulled the cross from his neck, vanishing just as the 12-hour blackout descended on Manhattan. When a cache of drugs and money are discovered in Frank’s locker, it’s assumed he was a dirty cop killed by his underworld contacts. The nightmares Franco suffered after his father’s death forty years earlier return, mixed with his hazy and frightening recollection of the night of the new murder. A few days later the police link a body to the apartment, and Franco is stunned to realize he knows the man, a buisness owner who hired him to take photos of his staff. Franco’s fingerprints are found in the apartment, moving him from witness to prime suspect. This debut thriller is a finalist for the 2022 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.

Razorblade TearsS.A. Cosby
Razorblade Tears (Flatiron Books 2021) starts when the cops appear at Ike Randolph’s door in Richmond, Virginia. Though Ike’s been out of prison for 15 years and turned his life around, running a successful lawn and gardening business, as a Black ex-con he feels a sudden jolt of fear. The police tell him that his son Isiah and Isiah’s husband Derek have been been murdered, shot multiple times. Ike never accepted Isiah’s sexuality, but is devastated by his death, realizing he will never be able to make amends for his prejudice and anger. Derek’s father Buddy Lee Jenkins, a white ex-con alcoholic with a debilitating cough, is also crushed by the news. Buddy Lee was also unable to accept that his son was gay, and Derek was ashamed of his father’s criminal record. Buddy Lee’s ex-wife Christine threw their teenage son out of their house when her new husband Judge Gerald Culpepper ran for city council with a platform of abhorrence for the sacrilegious homosexual life. Ike and his wife Mya take in Isiah and Derek’s three-year-old daughter and try to come to terms with their grief. The police try to investigate, but Isiah and Derek’s friends won’t say much, though no one has a bad word to say about either of the two young men. The only lead is a death threat from the Blue Anarchists sent to Isiah at his job as a reporter for The Rainbow Review after he wrote an article exposing the organization’s transphobia. When Isiah and Derek’s headstones are desecrated, Ike gives in to Buddy Lee’s insistence that they need to take the investigation into their own hands in order to find justice for their sons. Ike and Buddy Lee discover that Derek, who worked at a bakery, met a girl at an event they catered at a music studio. She had been betrayed by a married man, and Derek wanted Isiah to publish her story. Meanwhile, Grayson, leader of the Rare Breed motorcycle gang, has been hired to find and eliminate a girl named Tangerine, who said too much to a reporter. Ike and Buddy Lee have little in common except their guilt over not accepting their sons, but that’s enough to take on the world. Buddy Lee talks about revenge, but Ike knows that revenge is “just hate in a nicer suit,” and gives in to the lure of resuming his dangerous prison persona. This violent thriller with a big heart is a finalist for the 2022 Lefty, Edgar, Barry, and Thriller Award for Best Novel.

Like a SisterKellye Garrett
Like a Sister (Mulholland Books 2022) begins when Lena Scott, a young Black graduate student at Columbia University, learns from an article in the New York Daily News that her half-sister Desiree Pierce has been found dead in a Bronx playground wearing only lingerie. It’s the morning after Desiree’s 25th birthday party, and the police decide all the signs point to an accidental overdose by the former reality star and well known party girl with a huge Instagram following. Lena and Desiree have never been close and haven’t spoken in two years, separated by Desiree’s privileged life with their father Mel, a wealthy hip-hop star, while Lena was raised by her single mother. Mel’s assistant sent Lena expensive gifts each birthday, but she never forgave him for leaving her mother and starting a new family, legally changing her name to her mother’s maiden name when he didn’t show up for her high school graduation. Desiree loved the spotlight, and basked in reality star fame until a drunk driving accident ended her short career. Lena isn’t surprised that Desiree was found with an ample supply of cocaine — her sister had frequent bouts of over indulging in drugs — but the needle marks on Desiree’s thighs raise a red flag: Desiree hated and feared needles so much she couldn’t even get her ears pierced. Where the body was found is also surprising: Desiree would never venture above 125th street without a very good reason, and Lena fears her sister’s death was caused by coming to visit her. But why? Lena backtracks through Desiree’s Instagram feed, searching for the truth of her sister’s last days and examining the final posts documenting her birthday celebration. Lena is forced to confront her guilt over the choices she’s made about her family, especially when she realizes that Desiree’s friends acted more like a sister than she did. This cleverly plotted domestic suspense thriller explores sexism, racism, and the complex nature of familial relationships.

A Slow Fire BurningPaula Hawkins
A Slow Fire Burning (Riverhead Books 2021) starts when London houseboat resident Miriam Lewis notices the cabin doors of the neighboring narrowboat on Regent’s Canal are open. Inside she discovers the murdered body of Daniel. Distraught at the sight of the bloody corpse, she impulsively picks up a house key from the floor, guessing it belongs to Laura Kilbride, the troubled young woman she saw leaving late the night before. Daniel is the son of Carla Myerson’s sister Angela, who died recently after a fall down the stairs. Carla asks the police to call her ex-husband Theo. Their marriage fell apart after their toddler son Ben fell to his death from Angela’s balcony 15 years earlier. Theo and Carla were never able to forgive Angela, or each other for leaving their son in her care for the weekend. Theo is a professor and writer, but was unable to write a word for years after Ben’s death, finally producing a thriller — The One Who Got Away — about two teenage girls who were abducted. According to Miriam the book is based on the memoir of her own experience she gave to Theo to read, but he insists the manuscript was lost and he never read it. Laura suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and has never fully recovered, often arrested for minor incidents. She admits she was on the boat with Daniel and they had a fight, but swears he was alive when she left. Miriam also saw Carla visiting Daniel on the boat within the last few days, and describes her to the police, hoping to cause Theo pain by shifting suspicion from Laura to Carla. Flashbacks to Ben’s death and Laura’s accident along with sections from The One Who Got Away fill in the backstories of the damaged characters who all have a part in Daniel’s murder.

Lightning StrikeWilliam Kent Krueger
Lightning Strike (Atria Books 2021) takes place in 1963 Minnesota, when Cork O’Connor is 12 years old. The small town of Aurora is in an ancient forest next to the shores of Iron Lake, and Cork and his friends are free to roam at will. Cork and his friend Jorge are hiking to Lightning Strike in the Quitico-Superior Wilderness in the July heat, trying to complete one of the 10-mile hikes required for their hiking merit badge. A terrible smell leads them to the body of Big John Manydeeds, hanging in a tree. Sheriff Liam O’Connor, Cork’s father, believes the death is a suicide, that the two empty whiskey bottles indicate he has fallen off the wagon and back into depression. Cork’s friend Billy Downwind insists his uncle didn’t drink, and Cork’s Ojibwe grandmother Dilsey agrees. Tensions between the Ojibwe and the white community increase when Liam and his officers don’t discover any indications of foul play. Cork’s family is caught in the middle, with Cork and his mother trying to explain that Liam is doing everything he can while the Ojibwe become more convinced that they are being ignored and betrayed once again. Cork, Billy, and Jorge decide to do some investigating themselves, searching for anyone with a motive to kill Big John. Oscar Manydeeds, Big John’s half-brother, finds a lighter at Lightning Strike with the initials DM and an inscription in Gaelic. Liam connects the lighter to Duncan MacDermid, owner of the North Star iron mine. Meanwhile, Cork discovers a note "goodbye" at the site of the hanging, scented with a perfume he identifies as Shalimar, the perfume worn by Mrs. Mary Margaret MacDermid. Cork and his friends don’t care for MacDermid, who is outspoken in his prejudice against Indians and Mexicans and are convinced he was responsible for Big John’s death. Liam takes his evidence to the judge, but is ordered to leave MacDermid alone. As racial tensions increase, Cork sees his small town in a new light, one where not everyone has the same rights. This excellent prequel to the Cork O’Connor series is a finalist for the 2022 Lefty Award for Best Mystery.

The Man Who Died TwiceRichard Osman
The Man Who Died Twice (2021) begins when Elizabeth Best gets a letter pushed under her door at Coopers Chase, a retirement residence in Kent, England — an invitation for a drink from a dead man who never existed. Elizabeth isn’t too surprised to find her ex-husband and fellow former spy Douglas Middlemiss at the meeting place, but the presence of Poppy, the incompetent new waitress at the pub is unexpected. Poppy is “babysitting” Douglas, who recently broke into the home of international money launderer Martin Lomax along with Poppy and another Secret Services operative named Lance, to check the spy equipment and take a few pictures. Martin knows this sort of thing is to be expected in his line of work, but having a bag of diamonds stolen is not. The twenty million pounds of diamonds were a down payment from a New York mob to a Colombian cartel and Martin’s life is on the line if he doesn’t get them back. Poppy was outside on lookout duty, and Lance and Douglas swear they never saw the diamonds. Unfortunately Douglas removed his itchy face covering, and Martin has him on CCTV. If Douglas doesn’t return the diamonds in two weeks, Martin will reveal his identity to the New York mafia and the Columbian cartel. Douglas begs Elizabeth to find the diamonds and save his life. Elizabeth suspects Douglas may have stolen the diamonds, but life is a bit boring after the conclusion of the previous Thursday Murder Club Case, and agrees as long as she can enlist her fellow septuagenarian sleuths Joyce Meadowcroft, Ron Ritchie, and Ibrahim Arif. Poppy declares that won’t be possible, but Elizabeth ignores her and everyone is thrilled to have a new case, including local police officers PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson. Meanwhile, Ibrahim is attacked by two street thugs who steal his phone and beat him ruthlessly, sending him to the hospital. Returning home, he is still quite shaken, and his friends worry he may never leave his rooms. Elizabeth organizes two investigations of the diamond theft and Ibrahim’s attack, playing to the strengths of each member of the Thursday Murder Club. This very enjoyable second in the series is full of red herrings and laced with dry humor.

Death at GreenwayLori Rader-Day
Death at Greenway (William Morrow 2021) is the story of Bridget Kelly, a disgraced nurse-trainee from St. Prisca’s Hospital in London, given the chance to redeem herself by caring for a group of evacuated children under the age of five. In April 1941, Bridget boards the train to Greenway House, Agatha Christie’s holiday home in the country, and is startled to see that two of the children are infants. Somehow she expected them all to be nearly five. Mrs. Joan Arbuthnot greets Bridget as Nurse Kelly, and she is too embarrassed to admit she is only a trainee, and a dismissed one at that. Mrs. Arbuthnot and her husband Malcolm are no help with the children so Bridget is relieved when the second nurse arrives at the last moment, introducing herself as another Bridget Kelly. Mrs. Arbuthnot declares they can’t possibly have two Nurse Kellys and Bridget blurts out that she was Bridey at home. She isn’t happy when Mrs. Arbuthnot immediately calls her by the childhood nickname from then on, especially when the second Bridget declares that everyone calls her Gigi. Mrs. and Mr. Arbuthnot disappear to their seats, leaving Bridey and Gigi in charge of the 10 small children. The glamorous Gigi doesn’t seem to know how what to do, vanishes to the toilet, and doesn’t come back for over an hour, flirting with some men in the next carriage. The entire group is stunned by the grandeur of Greenway, full of rooms that can’t be entered, curios that can’t be touched, a piano that shouldn’t be played, and a library full of books. The bombings aren’t nearly as bad in the countryside, but Greenway is too close to the English Channel for Bridey’s comfort. Her entire family was killed by a bombing raid in London, and Bridey is consumed with grief, though she finds taking care of the children a comfort. Gigi does as little work as possible, but the two gradually develop a friendship. When a body washes up near the estate, Bridey examines the body, finding clear evidence of murder. She forces Gigi to look as well, since Bridey recognizes the man from the train, one of the group Gigi was flirting with. Gigi refuses to admit she knows the man, and Bridey doesn’t force her, though Gigi’s faintness at the sight of blood causes her to doubt Gigi is even a nurse. This compelling mystery, a finalist for the Lefty and Agatha Awards for Best Historical Mystery, explores the long term effects of the trauma of war on both adults and children.

What Comes AfterJoAnne Tompkins
What Comes After (Riverhead Books 2021) is set in a small town on the coast of Washington. Two teenage boys are dead, Daniel Balch murdered by his close friend Jonah, who later commits suicide, leaving a one-sentence confession to the murder. Daniel’s father Isaac lives alone with his dog Rufus next door to Jonah’s widowed mother Lorrie, who lives with her young daughter. Isaac and Lorrie haven’t spoken since Jonah’s suicide. Isaac has retreated into his Quaker faith, unable to forgive Jonah and by extension his mother, while Lorrie is wracked with guilt over her son’s violent action and grief over his death. Then Evangeline McKensey appears. Barely sixteen, Evangeline has been scrabbling to survive after her drug-addicted mother deserted her, leaving $200 in an envelope in their rented trailer three months earlier. About to be evicted, Evangeline discovers she is pregnant, and wanders along the street where Daniel and Jonah lived, taking shelter in Isaac’s back yard. When Isaac lets Rufus out late that night, he discovers the cold and hungry teenage girl, and takes her in for the night. Evangeline eats like a starving person and then takes her first shower in weeks, luxuriating in the soft bed with clean sheets. The presence of a guest motivates Isaac to clean the house he has neglected since Daniel’s death, and actually eat something himself. Isaac doesn’t believe Evangeline’s story about how she came to be in his back yard, but soon realizes she is pregnant and suspects she knew both Daniel and Jonah. Realizing he can’t deal with her alone, he asks Lorrie for help. When the doctor says she’s about six weeks pregnant, they all realize that was just before Daniel disappeared, though Evangeline doesn’t admit she knew both boys. As the weeks pass, Daniel struggles to get past his anger against Lorrie and his growing suspicion that Evangeline may have had a part in his son’s death. Evangeline works hard to catch up with her class in high school while cautiously beginning to trust the two new adults in her life. Jonah’s story is revealed thought interspersed sections narrated on the day of his death. This complex exploration of guilt and grief and anger is a finalist for the 2022 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Harlem ShuffleColson Whitehead
Harlem Shuffle (Doubleday 2021) is the story of Ray Carney, owner of a new and gently used furniture store on 125th Street in New York City. Few people know that Ray comes from a long line of uptown crooks. Carney fences the odd item with no provenance that his cousin Freddie or others bring in, but mostly stays on the right side of the law. His wife Elizabeth is expecting their second child and they are mainly content in their cramped apartment near the subway tracks, despite the disapproval of her parents who life on Striver’s Row. In 1959, Freddie joins a crew who plans to rob the Hotel Theresa, Harlem’s ritzy hotel, and volunteers Carney as the fence. Carney is dubious, but the money would certainly come in handy, and he doesn’t know how to say no to Miami Joe and his gang when they all arrive at Carney’s Furniture after hours. The heist is successful, but one of the deposit boxes contained jewelry belonging to the mistress of mobster Chink Montague, putting everyone on Miami Joe’s crew in danger. Carney hoped to fly under the radar, but the cops on Chink’s payroll visit his store, demanding a weekly envelope now that he has been identified as a fence. Though he tries to stay as honest as possible, Carney is tempted by his new underworld acquaintances and the lure of money to provide for his wife and children. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, this powerful novel brings 1960s Harlem to vivid life.

May 1, 2022

The Final CaseDavid Guterson
The Final Case (Knopf 2022) begins when our narrator’s 83-year-old father Royal has a car accident, resulting in the loss of his driving privileges. The narrator has recently stopped writing fiction, so is free to drive his father to his Seattle law office the next morning, where Royal putters around reading the newspaper and looking through old files. The phone rings with a call from the Public Defender’s Office in Skagit County — a woman needs an attorney. She and her husband were arrested on homicide charges, and her husband had been assigned the last public defender, and Royal’s name is on a list of lawyers willing to take cases free of charge if no public defenders are available. Betsy and Delvin Harvey’s adopted Ethiopian daughter Abeba Addisu, renamed Abigail Harvey by her new Christian fundamentalist parents, died of hypothermia in their front yard, while Delvin was at work and Betsy and their seven natural children were inside the house. Royal’s son drives his father to Skagit County to interview his client. Royal is horrified by Abeba’s death, but is compelled by his belief in the right to legal representation to defend Betsy, who is charged with homicide-by-abuse along with her husband Delvin. Royal asks his son to visit the Boeing plant where Delvin works, and interview the millwrights. He records anecdotes describing Delvin as a hard-worker who played the ocarina, talked about religion a lot, and became increasingly more paranoid about the rich and powerful wanting to control everything. Out on bail, Betsy goes to stay with her parents. Royal and his son visit to see if either of her parents might be a good character witness. Mr. Huber doesn’t say much while Mrs. Huber swears she never Saw Betsy discipline their children with a plumbing line or anything else before launching into a diatribe about how her daughter and husband are victims of prejudice because they are Christian and white. During the trial witnesses describe the group Betsy became part of who believed in conditioning children from birth with physical punishment and deprivation, all backed up by Scripture. The loving and supportive relationship between our narrator and his family stands in stark contrast to the horrific parenting of Betsy and Delvin Harvey. Based on a real-life event, this literary legal thriller is heart-rending.

The Paradox HotelRob Hart
The Paradox Hotel (Ballantine Books 2022) is next to the Einstein Intercentury Timeport that transports the ultra-wealthy to the time period of their choice for an exorbitant fee. January Cole runs security at the hotel, which is never easy but especially hard right now with multiple delayed time flights just as the three trillionaire bidders for the US government-owned timeport begin to arrive: Vince Teller, a racist real estate magnate; Prince Mohammad al Khalid bin Saud, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia; Osgood Davis, a tech and data investor who wants to fix climate change. Since those with delayed flights aren’t checking out, those arriving can’t check in, and everyone is demanding the best suites. The blizzard rolling in compounds the problem and ground travel to another hotel or airport is impossible. January also has personal problems. She is still deep in grief over the accidental death of Mena, the love of her life. Working close to the timeport is dangerous, the effects of time slippage increase over time, and January has become Unstuck, moving uncontrollably backwards and forward in time. She pretends to be still in Stage One, but knows she’s moved to Stage Two — mandatory relocation away from the timeport before the fatal Stage Three takes hold. But January met Mena at the Paradox, often sees her ghost, and can’t bear the thought of losing her again by leaving. Then January finds a murdered man in Room 526. Since no one else notices the bloody corpse, she knows the murder is in the future, and sets out to identify the man and prevent it. While patrolling the hotel three small dinosaurs the size of chickens dash through the lobby, and she has another future problem to solve: preventing the smuggler from bringing them back from the Late Cretaceous. January’s flying computer assistant/health monitor Ruby begins checking the Late Cretaceous passenger lists and reviewing the camera feeds outside Room 526, and notices that some of the video feeds have been erased, leaving giant holes in the security monitoring. January manages to neutralize life-threatening attacks on the trillionaire bidders but isn’t sure if they are trying to eliminate each other or if someone is trying to sabotage the privatization of the timeport. January fights to maintain her own mental stability as she works with Ruby to protect the Paragon’s guests while solving a murder that hasn’t happened yet in this intense science fiction thriller.

My Heart Is a ChainsawStephen Graham Jones
My Heart Is a Chainsaw (Gallery/Saga Press 2021) is the story of high school senior Jade Daniels, a half-Blackfoot high school senior living with her abusive alcoholic father. Jade rarely sees her mother, who works in the Dollar Store in their tiny town of Proofrock, Idaho. The lonely angry teenager draws solace from her extensive knowledge of the world of slasher films, especially those featuring a masked killer seeking revenge for wrongs inflicted. Proofrock is on the shores of Indian Lake, home to Camp Blood, the site of a massacre 50 years earlier. On the other side of the lake a new development is being constructed in the national forest, luxury second homes for the ultra rich. When Jade returns to school after eight weeks under observation after a suicide attempt, she is startled to meet a new girl in the restroom, their graduating class has grown to 32. Letha Mondragon’s father is putting the finishing touches on their huge home in Terra Nova, and Jade expects to be ignored or worse, but Letha is kind. Using the slasher film rules, Jade knows Letha is the "final girl," the innocent who will survive the killing. The only teacher Jade has even a slight connection with is Mr. Holmes, the history teacher with an Extra Credit box on his desk. Jade makes frequent deposits into the box, explaining the slasher genre and making connections to Proofrock history. When blood is spilled into Indian Lake, Jade is sure the murders targeting the Terra Nova community can be traced back to a slasher out for revenge. She warns Sheriff Hardy, but neither he nor anyone else takes her seriously. Letha is her only hope, but she believes Jade is projecting the horror of her own reality onto the town, and cannot believe any of Jade’s slasher suggestions can be true. This heartbreaking and often funny novel narrated by the troubled, broken, and courageous Jade is both an homage to classic horror films and searing social commentary.

Red WidowAlma Katsu
Red Widow (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2021) begins when CIA intelligence agent Lyndsey Duncan is recalled from administrative leave by the Security Operations Center. Lyndsey fears she is being terminated, the result of an affair with a British intelligence officer in Lebanon, but instead she is tasked with an internal CIA investigation. Lyndsay was a respected agent in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” for her ability to separate truth from fiction. The sudden death of Yaromir Popov on a flight to Washington DC, presumably poisoned, alerted the CIA to the devastating news that three Russian assets have been exposed. Lyndsay recruited Popov herself — her first triumph as a case officer — and they had a long and close relationship. SOC is convinced there is a mole in the CIA, and Lyndsey is told her indiscretion will be ignored if she identifies whoever is feeding information to the Russians. Theresa Warner is in the cubicle next to the one Lyndsey is assigned while waiting for a private office. They met five years ago when Lyndsey first came to Russia Division, Theresa already a distinguished junior officer and Lyndsey destined for the field. Theresa’s husband Richard, a branch chief, disappeared two years earlier during an Agency operation, transforming Theresa into the Red Widow, renowned by her connection to her husband’s star on the agency Wall of Honor. The two women strike up a cautious friendship, and Theresa’s inside knowledge of Russia Division is invaluable to Lyndsey, who finds her experience as field agent hasn’t prepared her for the insular culture inside Langley. This intelligent spy thriller exposes the deadly office politics at Langley that have wide-reaching repercussions in the field.

The AnomalyHervé Le Tellier
The Anomaly (Other Press 2021, French 2020) is the story of the passengers on an Air France flight from Paris to New York. In March 2021 the plane traveled though “the storm of the century,” but managed to land safely. Three months later JFK air traffic control receives a distress call from the same plane piloted by the same pilot, Commander David Markle, and carrying the same passengers. ATC verifies the pilot’s information along with the fact that Markle is currently on life support at Mount Sinai Hospital. General Patrick Silveria takes over communication with the plane, informing Markle he is activating Protocol 42 and redirecting the plane to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Meanwhile, Professor Adrian Miller, a probability expert and professor at Princeton gets a call on the bulletproof charcoal-gray smartphone he has been carrying at all times since 2001, when he and fellow mathematician Tina Wang inventoried and developed protocols to handle all possible air traffic catastrophes following the events of 9/11. The two young researchers identified 37 basic protocols along with contingent pathways for response. After submitting their 1500+ page top-secret report, the Department of Defense returned it with one question: "What if we’re confronted with a case that fits none of the situations covered?” Sure that that would never happen, the two created Protocol 42, named after the question asked in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and recommended in that instance scientists should be entrusted with the solution, writing their own names and recommending the bulletproof cellphones. Adrian and Tina are transported to the Pentagon, and tasked with figuring out what to do with the duplicated 13 crew member and 230 passengers aboard the Boeing 787. Interspersed chapters introduce characters from the plane, including a contract killer, a Nigerian pop star hiding his sexual orientation, a Black American lawyer pressured into working for Big Pharma, an author who wrote a book called The Anomaly. Changes have occurred in the 106 days between flights: the breakup of a relationship, a cancer diagnosis, a pregnancy, a suicide. When the characters are eventually introduced to their duplicates, they struggle with questions of identity and the alluring yet frightening possibility of making different choices than their doppelgänger. This mind-bending mix of thriller and speculative fiction is fascinating.

Devil’s Chew ToyRob Osler
Devil’s Chew Toy (Crooked Lane Books 2022) begins when 25-year-old Hayden McCall is accidentally kicked in the face by Camilo Rodriguez, a handsome go-go dancer at a Seattle gay bar. Camilo apologizes and invites Hayden home, where he meets Camilo’s dog Commander and enjoys a night of snuggling. Waking up early the next morning, Hayden discovers that Camilo has vanished as two police officers knock insistently at the front door. Camilo’s pickup truck was found abandoned in an empty parking lot, the door open and engine running. Hayden admits he only met Camilo the night before and has no idea where he could be. The police are suspicious of his story, especially since his black eye has become very colorful overnight. Hayden leaves a note for Camilo and locks the dog inside the house. When he doesn’t hear from Camilo by noon, Hayden returns to the rental house, discovering that the entire house is in disarray, Camilo’s laptop missing, and Commander cowering under the bed. Unwilling to leave Commander alone in the house or abandon him at a shelter, Hayden smuggles the dog into his small studio apartment though his lease prohibits pets. Returning to the bar, Hayden tries to learn more about Camilo, meeting Hollister, a tall curvy Black woman with a six-inch mohawk, and then Burley, a gigantic force of nature. Hayden learns that Camilo is a "Dreamer" whose Venezuelan parents were deported along with his sister. Fearing the police aren’t taking Camilo’s disappearance seriously, the two begin tracking Camilo’s recent activities, discovering he recently tried to buy a gun. Hayden is five foot four if he rounds up, just under 125 pounds, and has bright red-orange hair and freckles, so Hollister and Hayden form quite a distinctive team, but neither is willing to take on the sidekick role. Though they have absolutely no experience investigating — Hollister is a furniture-maker and Hayden an eighth grade social studies teacher and part-time blogger — they are both curious, tenacious, and determined to find their missing friend. They follow the trail to Barkingham Palace, a pet store where Camilo took a part time job. Owner Della Rupert claims she doesn’t know a Camilo, but her luxurious mansion suggests something illegal is going on at the pet shop. This debut traditional mystery with a diverse cast of characters is hopefully the first in a series.

Under Lock & Skeleton KeyGigi Pandian
Under Lock & Skeleton Key (Minotaur Books 2022) introduces Tempest Raj, a magician who was almost killed onstage when one of her illusions didn’t work as expected during the launch of her new Las Vegas show. Tempest’s stage double Cassidy Sparrow sued Tempest for endangering herself and others with an unsafe stunt. Fleeing the negative press, Tempest retreats to her childhood home in California where her father, Darius Mendez, and maternal grandparents, Ashok Raj and Morag Ferguson-Raj, still live. Tempest’s mother Emma vanished onstage five years earlier, just after giving Tempest a silver charm bracelet for her 21st birthday. Ashok Raj was born into a family of magicians in the Indian state of Kerala, a talented family with a curse dooming the first-born child of each generation. Tempest’s parents founded Secret Staircase Construction, creating hidden rooms, sliding bookcases, and backyard treehouses for their clients. The company has struggled after Emma’s death, missing her talent for finding the perfect childhood fantasy for each project. Darius and his crew are currently working on building a magical playroom for Calvin Knight’s six-year-old son Justin. Tempest’s oldest friend and Locked Room mystery fanatic Ivy Youngblood, who does part-time welding for Darius, tells Tempest the 110 year old mansion is creepy, and that Darius spotted some discrepancies in the blueprints. Tempest has always avoided any talk of joining the family business, but knows her experience building sets with similar blueprints might be helpful. She immediately realizes the measurements from the 1925 drawings don’t match the earlier ones. When they open the wall, a bag containing a body tumbles out. The wall has been sealed since the lath and plaster was replaced with sheetrock in the mid-1900s, so the police don’t rush to the scene. When they eventually arrive, Tempest is horrified to discover that instead of skeletal remains, the body inside is that of Cassidy Sparrow. Determined to clear her name from suspicion, Tempest works with Ivy and fellow-magician Sanjay Rai, the Hindi Houdini, to figure out how Cassidy’s body ended up inside the sealed wall, and identify her killer. This delightful traditional mystery series opener features a diverse cast of characters and delicious-sounding recipes created by Ashok Raj that blend Indian cuisine with his wife’s Scottish heritage.

GRave ReservationsCherie Priest
Grave Reservations (Atria Books 2021) begins when Leda Foley, owner of Foley’s Far-Fetched Flights of Fancy travel agency, rebooks Seattle detective Grady Merritt’s connecting flight from Atlanta because she has a strong feeling he should not get on the plane. Grady is furious until his original plane explodes on the runway. Back in Seattle, Grady tracks down Leda and she explains the sporadic psychic abilities she is trying to improve by performing Klairvoyant Karaoke at a local bar, singing whatever song comes to her mind while holding an object that has meaning to the person. Grady isn’t convinced she is psychic, but the unsolved murder of Christopher Gilman, CEO of an internet start-up, and his son Kevin 18-months earlier had gone cold with not a clue in sight. Leda knows her psychic abilities are unreliable at best, but she hopes Grady might be persuaded to reopen the unsolved murder of her fiancé Tod, his body found three years ago in the back seat of his own car. Grady takes Leda to the motel where Gilman was shot and allows her to handle sealed evidence bags containing Gilman’s effects. Leda is startled when she sees a flash of light and hears snatches of conversation. It’s not much, but more than Grady had, perhaps enough to reopen the investigation. When they shake hands good-bye, Leda experiences another flash and passes out, stunned by the certainty that Grady’s case is connected to Tod’s murder. Leda’s best friend Niki encourages her to step out of her comfort zone to help Grady, and her betta fish named Brutus seems to agree. This funny series opener is very enjoyable.

The MaidNita Prose
The Maid (Ballantine Books 2022) is the story of Molly Gray, a 25-year-old maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. Molly loves her job: the strict routine of cleaning while observing proper hotel staff etiquette provides the structure she needs to feel safe. But she misses her Gran, who died a few months ago. Gran raised Molly and helped her navigate the baffling world of social skills. Each evening Molly would describe events that puzzled her, and Gran would interpret the social cues Molly missed or misinterpreted. Gran saved up a nice nest egg over the years, calling it the Fabergé and planning for Molly to go to community college and learn about hotel management. Unfortunately Molly was duped by a man she met at college orientation who took her out for walks before stealing Gran’s PIN code and emptying their account. Molly was too embarrassed to tell Gran before she fell sick, and then it was too late. Molly takes on extra hours to pay the rent, and some of the longtime repeat guests tip well, especially Giselle Black, who is kind to Molly and helps her interpret her wealthy husband’s sarcasm. When Molly enters the Black’s penthouse suite on Monday, she discovers Mr. Black asleep on the bed, an open bottle of Giselle’s pills spilling from the bedside table. Realizing he is dead, Molly calls the Front Desk and then faints. Detective Stark is puzzled by Molly, who curtsies when she arrives and displays no emotion about Mrs. Black’s death, instead obsessing about being unable to complete her shift and “return the suite to a state of perfection.” Molly has few friends at the hotel, but is fond of doorman Mr. Preston who greets her each day, busboy Juan Manuel who always has a glass of ice water ready for her breaks, and especially handsome bartender Rodney Stiles. Molly is unaware of the undercurrents at the hotel, and the unusual code of behavior she has memorized makes her the prime suspect when it is discovered that Mr. Black was murdered. This heart-warming debut traditional mystery narrated by the unique Molly is very satisfying.

No One Will Miss HerKat Rosenfield
No One Will Miss Her (William Morrow 2021) begins when the putrid smoke from Earl Ouellette’s burning junkyard in the small town of Copper Falls, Maine, begins moving toward the summer homes near the lake. Since tourist season ended a month earlier, the homes are probably all empty, but Sheriff Dennis Ryan sends Deputy Myles Johnson to check. Myles is surprised that the front door to the lakefront house that Earl’s daughter Lizzie rents out is unlatched, and enters cautiously. Following the trail of blood he fishes something pulpy from the garbage disposal — the remains of a nose. State Police investigator Ian Bird arrives as the techs are finishing examining the body of a young woman in a red bikini, whose head has been destroyed by a shotgun blast. The dead woman is identified as Lizzie Ouellette by a huge mole on the inner curve of one breast. Lizzie’s husband Dwayne Cleaves is missing, along with his pickup and the shotgun registered to his house in town. Bird is surprised at the resentment against Lizzie and her father. Earl came from elsewhere but Lizzie was born in Copper Falls and lived there her whole life. No one except her father seems to care that Lizzie is dead, though they are all concerned about the missing Dwayne, who they feel Lizzie unfairly trapped into marriage. Bird can only locate one woman who will admit any kind of friendship with the dead woman, and that only grudgingly. Everyone else closed ranks against Lizzie and her father, and the resentment increased when Lizzie fixed up the lake house and began renting it to wealthy strangers from the city instead of the usual friends and relations. Adrienne Richards and her husband Ethan are her most frequent guests, renting the house for weeks at a time each summer. Ethan Richards was involved in a financial scam that caused thousands their life savings, but never convicted. Instead he and Adrienne were shunned by their Boston society friends, leaving her nothing to do once the social invitations dried up. Desperate for companionship, Adrienne and Lizzie strike up a sort of friendship, spending hours together each day on the deck while Ethan floats on the lake. Bird eventually visits Adrienne in Boston, alone in her luxurious home with only a cat for company, her husband away on one of his mysterious business trips. This twisty character-driven novel of psychological suspense was a finalist for the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Mystery.

June 1, 2022

Hairpin BridgeTaylor Adams
Hairpin Bridge (William Morrow 2021) begins when Lena Nguyen meets Corporal Raymond Raycevic at Hairpin Bridge, a remote location 70 miles outside Missoula, Montana, where her 24-year-old twin sister Cambry jumped to her death three months earlier. Raycevic is sympathetic and professional, a decorated 17-year veteran of the Montana Highway Patrol who has rescued several people. Leah hasn’t seen much of Cambry for the last few years, but she is convinced Cambry would never have committed suicide, especially by jumping from a bridge. The area around Hairpin Bridge has no cell phone reception, so Cambry’s final text to Lena wasn’t sent until the phone in her pocket was transported to the morgue. “Please forgive me. I couldn’t live with it. Hopefully you can, Officer Raycevic.” Lena doesn’t believe the text was written by her sister, and suspects it was crafted to divert suspicion from Raycevic, who pulled Cambry over for speeding only an hour before her death. There were sixteen attempted 911 calls on Cambry’s phone, unsent because of the dead zone, and Leah is convinced her sister was terrified before being trapped on the bridge, which has been closed for decades. What was her sister doing on the backroads so far from Missoula? And why was Raycevic there to catch her speeding? Determined to find the truth, Lena brings a cassette recorder and convinces Raycevic to tell her about Cambry’s final hours, hoping to lure him into saying more than he intends. Raycevic is a large powerful man, and presumes that Lena, a tiny minimum-wage electronics store worker, poses no threat with her old-school recording device in an area with no phone reception. Interspersed sections from Lena’s blog fill in details of the sisters’ past, and passages from Cambry’s perspective from the book Lena is writing shift and change as Lena learns more about what really happened on Hairpin Bridge in this twisty and frightening thriller.

The Lost GirlsJessica Chiarella
The Lost Girls (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2021) begins when Marti Reese’s podcast JANE DOE wins an award for Best Debut Series. Marti’s 16-year-old sister Maggie disappeared in 1998, when Marti was eight. The two girls had been walking in the twilight near their suburban Chicago home when a car stopped. Maggie told Marti to run, and got into the car, never to be seen again. In April 2018 Marti gets a call from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office: Jane Doe #4568 has been found on the street, blonde and about the right age to be Maggie. Marti’s friend Andrea, a podcast producer, films Marti when she gets the call, the first in eight years to identify a body that might be her sister, but DNA results prove it is not. Over the next week Andrea and Marti record the six episodes that will become the JANE DOE podcast, documenting Maggie’s disappearance, the investigation, and the toll on the family when no clues to her fate are ever discovered. Marti hopes the podcast will finally let her put her sister’s disappearance to rest. Then she gets a call from Ava Vreeland, an ER doctor who wants her to look into the murder of 18-year-old Sarah Ketchum, strangled and buried in LaBagh woods seven years earlier. The picture Marti finds of Sarah online is the spitting image of Maggie, and Ava reports that Sarah spent alternate weekends and half the summer with at her father’s home, mere blocks from Marti’s family home in Sutcliffe Heights. Marti is stunned that this case wasn’t on her radar until she realizes Sarah’s killer was caught and convicted: Ava’s younger brother Colin McCarty, who was 17 at the time. Ava convinces Marti to look into the case, pointing out all the inconsistencies in the circumstantial evidence against her brother, insisting that whoever killed Sarah might also have been responsible for Maggie’s disappearance. Neither Marti nor Andrea are comfortable focusing on a convicted killer, but the discovery that the police buried evidence pointing away from Colin convince them to focus the next podcast series on Sarah in the hope of verifying her killer has indeed been caught and convicted. This psychological thriller highlights the debilitating effect of trauma and the obsessive need to find the truth, however awful it might be.

The Grandmother PlotCaroline B. Cooney
The Grandmother Plot (Poisoned Pen Press 2021) is the story of young Freddy Bell and Middletown Memory Care (MMC), where Freddy visits his beloved grandmother, now a mere shadow of her former self, hoping for a day she recognizes him. Freddy’s three older sisters are scattered from Alaska to Australia. His mother was killed in an accident the previous year, after making Freddy promise to care for his grandmother if anything happened to her. Freddy made the 14-hour drive every month to help Grandma with chores around the house until her memory began deteriorating, forcing him to move into her house before MMC became the only solution. Freddy is a glass artist, producing beautiful beads in the studio he’s constructed in the garage as well as fantastic marijuana pipes. Freddy’s income is sketchy as best, and he fell into laundering money at art shows for Doc and the Leper, dangerous men who aren’t interested in letting him out of their clutches. At MMC, Freddy and widow Laura Maples become friends. Laura visits her Aunt Polly, who sometimes just babbles but other days is overjoyed to see her favorite niece. Laura is a musician, and has just purchased a pipe organ and an old piano to keep her two grand pianos, Victorian pump organ, and harpsichord company in her great room that also houses her collection of smashed brass instruments. Inside the old piano Laura discovers a hand drawn musical score she believes is a lost manuscript by Charles Ives, which could be worth a fortune if it can be authenticated. Freddy and Laura help each other through the bad memory days and celebrate the good ones. Another frequent MMC visitor is Kenneth Yardley, visiting his wife Maude. After Maude dies, Freddy feels sorry for Kenneth, but Grandma calls him a "meany beany," a bully. The autopsy reveals Maude was smothered. Concerned about the safety of Grandma and Aunt Polly, Freddy and Laura begin to snoop around a bit. They trust the staff, but wonder if Kenneth might have had a hand in his wife’s death, or perhaps an outsider. All visitors are required to sign in and out, but Freddy rarely does, using the code on the secure back door instead. Freddy begins receiving threatening calls from Doc and the Leper, and fears have figured out where he lives. Becoming a person of interest to the police is the last thing he needs right now. Though often stoned and unable to manage his own life, Freddy is kind and gentle to the confused residents at MMC, standing up for their need for love and security even at the risk of sacrificing the anonymity that protects his own illegal activities.

Rock Paper ScissorsAlice Feeney
Rock Paper Scissors (Flatiron Books 2021) begins when Adam and Amelia Wright win a Scotland weekend getaway. Amelia hopes the weekend away will save their marriage, but Adam isn’t convinced the marriage counselor knows what she’s talking about. The journey from London takes longer than expected because of the weather, and it’s pitch dark by the time they arrive at the converted old chapel along with their elderly labrador Bob. Shivering in the cold, they enter the chilly building, finding a welcome note from the housekeeper, but no cell phone service. Amelia is upset that Adam has brought his laptop bag; she’d hoped he would pay attention to her rather than his latest screenwriting project for a change. The freezer is full of prepared meals, and a wooden trapdoor leads to an underground crypt full of dusty bottles of wine. A hot meal next to the fire improves the mood until Amelia spots a ghostly face peering through the stained glass windows, causing an asthma attack. The bedroom is another shock, painted the same shade (Mole’s Breath) with exactly the same pillows, blankets, and throws on the bed as their bedroom back in London. Adam has a nightmare that night, reliving the evening when his mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking their dog, his usual job he refused to do in a fit of teenage rebellion. Adam witnessed the accident but was unable to identify the driver since he has prosopagnosia, known as face blindness, making it impossible for him to see distinguishing features on faces. The face in the window belongs to Robin, a lonely hermit from the nearby small thatched cottage, fascinated by every detail about the couple, especially the woman in her stylish clothes and makeup. Alternating chapters from Adam’s and Amelia’s perspectives reveal the cracks in their marriage, each hiding secrets from the other. Interspersed chapters written to Adam by his wife on each of their wedding anniversaries describe the gifts they exchange (Paper, Cotton, Leather, etc.) and Adam’s dream of convincing his favorite author Henry Winter to let him adapt a novel for the screen. Each yearly letter reveals a bit more about their marriage, including the reasons for keeping the letters a secret. A finalist for the 2022 Thriller Award for Best Novel, this intense novel of psychological suspense reveals layer upon layer of deceit.

AnthemNoah Hawley
Anthem (Grand Central Publishing 2022) begins when teenagers across America begin killing themselves in record numbers. Simon Oliver’s sister Claire was one of the first, before the suicides reached epidemic numbers. Their millionaire father, CEO of Rise Pharmaceutical, required the company advertising and marketing divisions to encourage doctors to prescribe pain pills at higher doses, despite the proven risk of addiction. Claire killed herself with hundreds of free sample packets of oxycodone from her father’s office, first gluing the foil packets to the walls of her parents’ marble bathroom. But it’s 14-year old Simon who discovers her body. Simon finds a book about the Earth, full of depressing facts about global warming, pollution, the buildup of plastics in the ocean, the accumulation of human-made trash. Racked with anxiety, Simon is sent to the Float Anxiety Abatement Center in Chicago, where he meets Louise Conklin, an angry Black 15-year old, and the Prophet, a 14-year-old who suggests that their anxiety is caused by the fact they are coming of age in a world with problems the adults have ignored to the point they are probably unsolvable. The Prophet tells Simon God has given him a message: the adults are lost and the children must start over and build a new utopia by fighting the Wizard. When Simon tells Louise about the Prophet’s message, she faints — she was lured from the streets by the Troll to the Wizard’s mansion to slake his unquenchable lust for underage girls. Meanwhile, Judge Margot Burr-Nadir is called to Washington DC to accept the President’s nomination to the Supreme Court just as her daughter Story vanishes. Story is traveling with Sampson, the son of Avon DeWitt, who was converted in prison to the idea of personal sovereignty, bringing up his two children completely off the grid with no birth certificates or social security numbers. Sampson’s mission is to rescue his sister Bathsheba who is being held by the Wizard in southern California. The suicides continue, often with A11 written at the scene of their death, and panic spreads across the nation. The Prophet, Simon, and Louise escape from the Anxiety Center and fall in with a group of young people carrying guns to protect themselves, traumatized by years of active shooter drills and watching endless news reports of yet another school shooting. This near-future dystopian thriller is frightening and all too plausible.

My Sweet GirlAmanda Jayatissa
My Sweet Girl (Berkley 2021) begins in a Sri Lanka orphanage when Paloma and her best friend Lihini are 12. Everyone is excited because an American couple are coming to visit, hopefully donating money for new books and maybe even a music teacher. The excited girls are telling ghost stories after lights out, deliciously scared by tales of Mohini with her red eyes and long sharp nails. As usual Shanika creeps out later that night, taking her dirty plastic doll to the playground, her scarred face glowing in the faint light. When Mr. and Mrs. Evans arrive the next day, Paloma and Lihini are posed near the window reading, slightly breathless after rushing to see who can grab Wuthering Heights first. The two girls introduce themselves, and Mrs. Evans is enthusiastic about Paloma’s choice, declaring it is her own favorite book and calling her a sweet girl. Everyone is surprised when the director reports that the Evans want to adopt Paloma; usually much younger girls are chosen. Paloma is thrilled to be going to America and escaping being transferred to the convent on her 15th birthday, but terrified to be leaving the only home she’s every known and her beloved friend Lihini. Interspersed chapters set in San Francisco 18 years later find Paloma estranged from her adoptive parents, reduced to renting part of her expensive apartment to Arun, recently arrived from India. Returning home after drinking far too much, she discovers Arun dead in the kitchen, covered in blood. Panicked, she sees Mohini lurking in the corner, runs from the apartment, and passes out in the hallway. Awakening hours later she calls the police, but neither a body nor any sign of blood is found in her kitchen. The two timelines gradually converge, revealing Paloma’s current mental instabilities and the truth of what happened in the orphanage during the month Paloma was waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Evans to return with the adoption paperwork. This dark debut psychological thriller exploring the intricacies of identity and belonging is a finalist for the 2022 Thriller Award for Best Debut.

True Crime StoryJoseph Knox
True Crime Story (Sourcebooks Landmark 2021) is the story of the cold case of the disappearance of Zoe Nolan, a 19-year-old University of Manchester student who walked out of a party at her dorm on December 17, 2011, and was never seen again. Evelyn Mitchell, a writer who lost interest in fiction after a nearly fatal bout of breast cancer, attends a reading for Joseph Knox’s debut novel Sirens, asking penetrating questions about the tendency in crime fiction to focus on serial killers rather than their victims. The two become casual friends, and two years later the first few chapters of True Crime Story appears in Joseph’s inbox. Fascinating by what happens to girls who go missing, Evelyn has chosen the case of Zoe Nolan as the subject of a true crime book. Joseph does some research into Zoe’s disappearance, learning about her struggles in school, the boyfriend with a criminal record, her destructive relationship with her twin sister Kimberly, and the Shadow Man who had tracked her every move. But in the eight years since Zoe’s disappearance there has been no new evidence, and Joseph doesn’t answer the email, fearing the lack of a resolution will prevent publication and drive Evelyn even further into depression. Then Kim finally agrees to be interviewed by the press, revealing that she herself was kidnapped about a month before Zoe’s disappearance. The twins had been together at a club and Kim borrowed Zoe’s bright red jacket before being hustled into a van, released only when they discover her reconstructed knee. Evelyn interviews everyone from Zoe’s life, concentrating on witnesses and potential suspects twin sister Kim, parents Robert and Sally, classmate and friend Fintan Murphy, flatmate and friend Liu Wai, boyfriend Andrew Flowers and his flatmate Jai Majmood. Transcripts of the recordings reveal cracks in Zoe’s perfect facade and disturbing relationships between the people in her life. Joseph becomes fascinated by Evelyn’s research, and increasingly worried about her safety as she uncovers new information about Zoe’s disappearance, including a tangential connection to Joseph himself. This intricate crime thriller is mesmerizing.

How To Find Your Way in the DarkDerek B. Miller
How to Find Your Way in the Dark (Mariner Books 2021) begins in 1938, when 12-year-old Sheldon Horowitz and his father Joseph are returning from the unveiling of the headstone marking the graves of his mother Lila and her sister-in law who died in a fire at the Palace Theater in Harford a year earlier. Joseph is a reclusive man still shaken by his war experiences in France, and encouraged his wife’s frequent trips to visit his brother Nate and enjoy big city life with her sister-in-law. Joseph borrowed a truck from the Krupinski brothers for the long drive from rural Massachusetts, which Sheldon isn’t happy about. The Krupinskis are an unsavory family who sell the pelts Joseph and Sheldon trap and prepare, and Sheldon is sure they are cheating them. Sheldon and his best friend Lenny Bernstein, who dreams of being a comedian and is the only other Jewish kid within 1000 miles as far as they know, imagine the Krupinskis are part of a vast criminal network. They are about 20 miles from home when the thuggish driver of a white truck makes eye contact with Sheldon as he pulls up beside them, running them off the road and killing Joseph. In shock, Sheldon walks home and is found by Lenny three days later — groggy, disoriented, and weak from lack of food. Lenny assumes he is just sad because of the memorial, heats water for a bath, and takes him to school. Returning home, Sheldon finds the Krupinski brothers waiting inside, demanding to know what happened to their truck. When Sheldon explains there was an accident, they loot the house, taking a monogrammed suitcase with his mother’s jewelry and his father’s clock. Shaking with rage, Sheldon packs a rucksack and then burns down the house. When the sheriff arrives, Sheldon tells him about the accident, and blames the fire on the Krupinskis. Sheldon’s Uncle Nate arrives to take him to Hartford, away from the tiny town Nate escaped from years before. Nate is shaken by the death of his brother, and uncertain about adding another child to his motherless family: Abe (18) and Mirabelle (16). Sheldon tells Abe his father was murdered by a guy with a mustache and fancy suit, probably mistaking his father for a Krupinski. Abe believes him and points out a car that has been watching their house for months. Sheldon doesn’t recognize the man and Abe explains he thinks it might have something to do with Nate’s job at the Colt Armory. Guns started to go missing in the factory, and Nate was promoted from his job as an accountant to solve the thefts. No Jews get promoted at Colt, and Abe suspects his father is being set up. Sheldon’s quest to bring his father’s killer to justice proceeds against a background of rumors of German persecution of Jews, teenage rebellion against tradition and orthodoxy, and the cut-throat world of becoming a comedian in the Catskills. This character rich thriller provides insight into the past that molded Sheldon into the 82-year old hero of Norwegian by Night.

We Are Watching Eliza BrightA.E. Osworth
We Are Watching Eliza Bright (Grand Central Publishing 2021) begins when young self-taught coder Eliza Bright is promoted at Fancy Dog Games to become the first woman on a three-person team to work on their enormously popular multiplayer online superhero role-playing game Guilds of the Protectorate. It’s a tradition at Fancy Dog that a new addition to a team picks a new feature or update, and Eliza chooses the sex patch, code that allows players to interact sexually. After working all weekend, Eliza arrives to find “//80085 Fix” scattered through all the code she wrote. She checks her local copy and finds it’s flawless, and assumes something got mangled in the upload. She emails team members Lewis Fleishman and Jean-Pascale Desfrappes reassuring them that she’s uploaded a fresh copy and everything works perfectly, and asking what the mysterious code 80085 means. Chats between Lewis and Jean-Pascale reveal their distain for having a woman added to their team, assuming she slept with someone to get promoted. When Eliza tells her friend Devonte that she feels excluded, he tells her to give them time. When she asks about the code, he doesn’t answer in person, but in chat later advises her to write it down, and she realizes it stands for BOOBS. He advises they are just being idiots and are not used to working with women, but Eliza is uncomfortable. Her friend Suzanne also suggests Eliza just let it go, saying even if she does file a report the two will only get assigned to sensitivity training or something. But Eliza can’t let it go and asks Preston Waters, co-founder and CEO of Fancy Dog Games, for a Conversation — his idea for establishing a positive corporate culture. Preston takes her out to dinner, which only confirms Lewis and Jean-Pascale’s suspicion that she slept her way to promotion. Preston calls them into his office with HR and assigns them to sensitivity training but does nothing else. Eventually Eliza shares her story with a reporter interested in digital harassment and things spiral completely out of control. Eliza is fired for violating her NDA, and the headline the following day is Gamer Girl Fired for Speaking Out. The negative press threatens a new release from Fancy Dog Games, activating anti-Eliza actions from fanatic fans. The HR rep leaves Eliza’s personnel file out, Jean-Pascale picks it up by accident, and Lewis shares her phone number, personal email, and physical address resulting in identity theft. Eliza soon realizes someone is monitoring her personal chat and sharing information on Internet forums, she is targeted on social media with rape and death threats, unordered deliveries are sent to her home, and photos taken in real time appear online. Interspersed sections from a vicious male super-fan known as The Inspectre document the escalation of those willing to go to any extreme to protect Fancy Dog Games and the game they cannot live without. This intense debut thriller exposes the misogyny that lurks online and the terrifying power of anonymous attacks.

All These AshesJames Queally
All These Ashes (Polis Books 2021) begins when Bill Henniman, a Newark police lieutenant, asks Russell Avery, a former crime reporter for the Newark Signal-Intelligencer now working as a private detective, for help. Avery is stunned to see Henniman on his doorstep since they didn’t part on good terms after Avery exposed corruption within the Newark Police Department. Most of Avery’s clients were police officers and Henniman took down a corrupt officer, so both their careers are compromised. Banished to the records room, Henniman has been looking back through old cases, realizing that the wrong man may have been convicted for the murder of the Twilight Four, four poor Black teenagers who went missing in 1996 and were never seen again: Shayna and Adriana Bell and their cousins Kurtis and Lavell Dawkins. Fifteen years later Isaih Roust offered to give up the Twilight Four killer in exchange for a lighter sentence, saying that his cellmate Abel Musa, the boyfriend of older sister Cynthia Bell, had confessed to killing all four teenagers and burning their bodies in an abandoned building. There was no evidence against Musa, but he didn’t hava an alibi for night the Twilight Four went missing, and was convicted. Three months ago Henniman learned that Isaih Roust informed on another inmate, which proved false, putting Musa’s conviction in doubt. That combined with the fact Musa is dying of pancreatic cancer has resulted in his release to a hospital. At the hospital Avery runs into social justice activist Keyonna Jackson, now working for Councilwoman Mariana Pereira, who is running for mayor against Mayor Cleanthony Watkins, who preys upon his female staffers and is entwined with police corruption. Key has known Cynthia Bell for years, every since she organized marches in the streets, calling out the NPD for first not taking the disappearance seriously, and then not solving the case. Mayor Watkins also appears at the hospital, declaring that he is determined to put the Twilight Four killer back behind bars. As Avery begins to investigate possible motives for the Twilight Four killings, he realizes this could be the big story that might make a return to journalism possible: a cold case that haunted the city for decades, a veteran cop looking for redemption, a wrongful conviction, and two mayoral candidates eager for headlines. The night the Twilight Four went missing there had been a four-alarm fire in a high rise apartment building occupying most of the fire-fighters, leaving a trio of abandoned row houses to burn to the ground. The land was later redeveloped with no investigation. Avery suspects Isaih Roust himself might be involved with the killing — how else could he know the details of the fire that consumed the bodies? Or perhaps Kurtis and Lavell’s foster parents Anthony and Lorena D’Agostino had a motive, protecting their $700 per child monthly boarding stipend: Lavell had reported being beaten, but the other foster children wouldn’t corroborate the claim and no evidence was found. This excellent second in the series explores ideas of power, justice, and the importance of family.

July 1, 2022

The Lighthouse WitchesC.J. Cooke
The Lighthouse Witches (Berkley 2021) begins in 1998 when single mother Liv Stay arrives at Lòn Haven, an isolated coastal town on The Black Isle, Scotland, with her three daughters Sapphire (15), Luna (9), and Clover (7). Fleeing the reality of a cancer diagnosis that may leave her three daughters orphans, Liv has accepted a job to paint a mural in a 100-year-old lighthouse called The Longing owned by Mr. Roberts. Sapphire (Saffy) is confused by the sudden move and angry about leaving her friends behind while Luna and Clover are uncertain at first, but soon settle in. Mr. Roberts is away at sea, and Liv is perplexed by the sketch he left for the mural, an abstract diagram of lines and arrows and circles. The Longing lighthouse is a grim granite cone with a rickety staircase spiraling to the lantern room at the top. Isla Kissick, Mr. Robert’s housekeeper, tells Liv the lighthouse is safe if she keeps rowen wood wrapped around the handle on the heavy metal door. Saffy finds an old book on the bookshelf — The GRIMOIRE of Patrick Roberts — narrating his experience with the witch hunt of Lòn Haven. Ilsa tells Liv that the cave under the lighthouse was once a prison for women accused of witchcraft and then burned alive. One of the women cursed the town with wildings: supernatural beings who kidnap and then mimic human children. Liv is nervous in the lighthouse, finding bones carefully arranged and hearing noises. Twenty-two years later Luna receives a call with the news that her sister Clover has been found. Clover, Saffy, and Liv all disappeared back in 1998, and Luna is overjoyed that Clover is alive. At the hospital she discovers a young girl instead of the 29-year old woman she expects. The filthy and dehydrated child immediately recognizes the stuffed giraffe Luna shows her, calling the toy by its name Gianne and cuddling it to her cheek just as Clover used to do. Stunned, Luna accepts responsibility for the child, giving in to her demands to return to Lon Haven to be reunited with her mother. On The Black Isle they discover the lighthouse destroyed and suspicion from the town that Clover is a wilding. Sections from Saffy and Liv’s perspectives in 1998 fill in the details leading up to the disappearance. This intense thriller based on Scotland’s witch hunts was a finalist for the 2022 Edgar and Thriller Awards for Best Paperback Original.

One Step Too FarLisa Gardner
One Step Too Far (Dutton 2022) begins when Frankie Elkin, a recovering alcoholic who travels the country searching for missing people, reads an article about Martin O’Day’s final search for his son Timothy, who went missing in the Popo Agie Wilderness in Wyoming five years earlier. The wilderness trip was Tim’s bachelor party with his four college best friends Josh, Miguel, Neil, and Scott. After a night of heavy drinking by everyone, Scott went missing from his tent and Tim went out to find him. The next morning the other three stumble into town raving about blood and bears and mountain lions. The search party finds a disoriented Scott, but no sign of Tim was every found, despite numerous searches over the years. Tim’s mother Patrice is dying of cancer, and her final wish is to recover the remains of her son so she can be buried next to him. Nemeth, a former ranger and local guide, is leading the final search party composed of Martin, Miguel, Neil, Scott, Bigfoot Bob from the North American Bigfoot Society, and Luciana with her cadaver dog Daisy. Josh was supposed to be part of the team, but is incapacitated by a bout of the DTs, and Bigfoot Bob vouches for Frankie, familiar with her record of locating missing persons from online forums. Luciana lends Frankie lightweight hiking gear to replace her normal outfit of jeans and t-shirts, and she raids Josh’s pack for camping food and supplies for the six-day trek. The areas close to where Tim disappeared have already been searched; this final search is to Devil’s Canyon, a remote area further away. Frankie doesn’t own a car and walks everywhere, but hiking with a pack is different and the first day nearly wipes her out. Knowing her wilderness skills are far behind everyone else, she concentrates on getting to know the other members of the search party. She concentrates on Tim’s father and friends, sure that someone is hiding something about that fatal bachelor party trip. When most of their food disappears from the bear proof bags strung in the trees, Frankie knows there are only two possibilities: one of their party is sabotaging the search or they are not alone in the woods. This second in the series places the haunted, observant, and compassionate Frankie in an environment that she fears is far outside her skill set.

Rock of AgesTimothy Hallinan
Rock of Ages (Soho Crime 2022) begins when Los Angeles high-end burglar Junior Bender is summoned by Irwin Dressler, Hollywood’s most dangerous mobster. Though now in his 80s and weakened by pancreatic cancer, Dressler is still a force to be reckoned with, and not a man one can say no to. Arriving at Dressler’s mansion, Junior is met by Tuffy, one of Dressler’s live-in body guards, a frilly blue apron looking out of place over his massive biceps. Junior learns that Dressler is refusing to go back for more radiation treatment, has lost his appetite, and birthday cake is about the only thing he will eat. Dressler tells Junior he invested in Rock of Ages, a national tour organized by four of his gangster colleagues who own a piece of several bands popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the bands have been feuding with each other for more than 40 years so the tour hasn’t gone smoothly: destroyed hotel rooms, fights, overindulgence in drugs and alcohol, and two near-fatal accidents. But what concerns Dressler is that someone is using the tour to steal Dressler’s money. He needs Junior to figure out who the thief is and stop them. Rock of Ages is finishing the tour in Los Angeles this weekend, so Junior doesn’t have much time. Unfortunately his ex-wife is away with a new boyfriend, leaving Junior in charge of their teenage daughter Rina, who is very interested in learning more about what her father really does for a living. He takes her to the first of the three concerts, suffering through the Drum Solo That Would Not End by Boomboom of Rat Bite. They go backstage just in time to see a set piece fall from the flies onto the drummer. Junior leaves Rina in the dubious care of Lavender, a groupie since the 60s, and discovers the rope supporting the set piece was first frayed and then cut. The money from the tour is in cash, triple-locked into custom-made suitcases guarded by the four gangsters — Yoshi Perlman, Jack Gold, Oscar Fiddles, Eddie Prince — but somehow nearly $300,000 is missing. Junior suffers through music at a deafening volume from obscure bands like Wet Spot and Teeth of the Nameless and tries to shield his daughter from bodyguards and aged rock stars while figuring out which of the gangsters are willing to kill. This excellent eighth in the series is great fun.

1979Val McDermid
1979 (Atlantic Monthly Press 2021) introduces Allie Burns, a young reporter at the Daily Clarion in Glasgow, Scotland. In January 1979, on the train back from Hogmanay with her family, Allie runs into fellow Clarion journalist Danny Sullivan, the least objectionable of the men she works with. They huddle together for warmth when the train is stuck waiting for a snow plough, and Danny tells her about a story he’s been chasing: international tax fraud by a group of Scottish nationalists. Danny is a talented investigator, but he doesn’t have Allie’s gift for writing, and the two join forces. Glasgow is suffering through strikes, power cuts, political unrest, and blizzards, but Allie is energized by the possibility of escaping the “women’s stories” her editors assign her to the exciting world of real investigative journalism. Rona Dunsyre, editor of the women’s pages, encourages Allie to make some contacts with the women involved with the devolution referendum to break away from the United Kingdom, and Allie begins attending political gatherings. Eavesdropping on a group of young men after a meeting she discovers a secret IRA cell in Belfast looking for weapons. Knowing they won’t accept a woman into their group, she enlists Danny’s help to go undercover and infiltrate the cell. Both stories bring the attention the two young reporters crave, but also put them both in danger. This excellent series opener explores a pivotal time in Scotland’s history

The GoldenacrePhilip Miller
The Goldenacre (Soho Crime 2022) begins when Shona Sandison, senior reporter at the Edinburgh Post, begins looking into the death of painter Robert Love, murdered in his home studio. Detective Reculver, a powerful man with a penchant for wearing makeup, informs Shona he can’t tell her anything, but suggests she get in touch with Love’s daughter. Meanwhile, art provenance inspector Thomas Tallis, is sent from London to authenticate The Goldenacre, the final painting by Scottish architect and painter Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The watercolor was purchased in 1927 by Lord Melrose as a gift for his wife, and hung in their Denholm Estate ever since. The painting sustained some smoke damage in 1961, and the original frame was destroyed when it fell from the wall. Olivia and Felix Farquharson, twin grandchildren of the original purchaser, have decided to take advantage of the Acceptance Instead of Tax provision, donating the painting to Public Gallery of Edinburgh and generating a tax deduction of more than £12 million. Both Sir Dennis Carver, director of the Public Gallery, and Tallis’s boss back in London push for a quick authentication of provenance, but Tallis is concerned that Carver doesn’t feel he needs to inspect the painting itself, just the paperwork. Then Edinburgh City Councillor John Cullen is killed in a pub toilet, his head crushed by a metal spike in a similar manner to Love’s murder, suggesting the two men had a common enemy. Shona lives with her father, a retired newspaper man who spends his days puttering around on his allotment, and fears the days of real newspaper reporting are about over. Shona becomes interested in Tallis, who left his previous job under a cloud, and may know something about Love’s death. Tallis is grieving the end of his marriage, missing his young son, and leaves increasingly desperate voicemails for his father, the former deputy directory of MI6, at a mobile phone number he has been instructed to call only in the case of extreme emergency. This excellent well-plotted noir thriller pits unique characters against the hard-edges of modern life.

Ocean StateStewart O’Nan
Ocean State (Grove Press 2022) begins in the small working class shore town of Ashaway, Rhode Island, when 8th grader Marie Oliviera reveals that her high school senior sister Angel helped kill another girl. It’s 2009 and Marie and Angel live with their mother Carol in a ramshackle house across the road from the abandoned Line & Twine mill where their grandparents met. Carol works as a nurse’s aide at the nursing home, drinks too much, and brings home a succession of dubious men. Their father sees his daughters every other weekend if he isn’t in jail for drinking and fighting. Marie is plain and feels invisible, while Angel is beautiful and popular with a handsome boyfriend — Myles Parrish from a wealthy family. Myles and Angel have been together for three years and spend every minute they can together, the perfect devoted couple. Birdy Alves is small and pretty, a bright senior soccer star taking AP classes and dating Hector but hopelessly in love with Myles. Birdy skips soccer practice and shifts at the grocery store to meet Myles secretly, who claims to be passionately in love with her as well. Their stolen time together is magical until the day someone snaps a picture of them holding hands and posts it on social media. Just after Halloween Birdy disappears. Narrated mainly from Marie’s viewpoint, interspersed sections fill in the events of that fatal autumn from the perspectives of Birdy, Angel, and Carol — three women searching desperately for love and meaning in their lives. This haunting novel explores the intense power of teenage love and longing, pushing both Birdy and Angel to actions they know are not in their own best interests.

The VerifiersJane Pek
The Verifiers (Vintage Books 2022) is the story of Claudia Lin, who works for Veracity, a discreet agency that verifies the truth of online dating profiles. Claudia hasn’t told her dysfunctional family about her new job at Veracity, which she considers the love child of Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes. Her controlling mother, overachieving Harvard-grad older brother Charles, and beautiful older sister Coraline believe she is still working as a copy editor for Aurum Financial. Her mother hopes Claudia will soon marry a nice Chinese boy, unaware that her daughter prefers girls. Claudia is a passionate fan of classic murder mysteries who wrote her senior thesis on Jane Austin, and achieved a high score in a new online game Murder Most Foul a diagnostic test designed by Veracity owner Komla Atsina to identify individuals with traits well suited to verifying. Most customers want Veracity to verify that the people they meet online are truthful, but they don’t usually come in until they have met their online match in person. Iris Lettriste has been flirting with Charretter on Soulmate Messenger for 16 days but grew concerned when he evaded her overtures to meet in real life, disappearing when she said there was no point continuing their online relationship if there was no plan to meet in person. She suspects he may even have a dangerous agenda. Komla and his assistant Becks Rittle are reluctant to take the case, but Iris insists. They discover that Charretter always searches with the same parameters: woman between the ages of 24 and 36 who live in Manhattan. When Claudia analyzes the chat stream, she notices Charretter deflected personal questions back to questions about Iris, rarely sharing anything about himself. They are surprised when Iris requests a second verification of Jude Kalman, a man she met online and then dated briefly before he stopped responding. Claudia is delighted when she is assigned the task of following Kalman, imagining herself a character in one of the Inspector Yuan novels she’s loved since childhood, featuring impossible crimes and ingenious solutions. Ten days later the woman they knew as Iris is dead, presumably a suicide from an overdose of her migraine medicine. Claudia is sure she was really murdered, and takes on the task of solving the impossible crime. This clever debut mystery explores the influence of technology on the search for the perfect mate in the digital age.

When You Are MineMichael Robotham
When You Are Mine (Scribner 2022, UK 2021) is the story of Philomena McCarthy, an ambitious young police officer with the Metropolitan Police in London. Phil and her partner Nish respond to a domestic violence call, a neighbor reporting a woman screaming. Tempe, a frightened woman in her late twenties answers the door, her face bruised and bleeding. A man pushes her out of the way and insists it’s all a misunderstanding, but Phil is worried Tempe may have a fractured cheekbone and leads her into the hall. The man pushes by Nish, declaring he’s Detective Sergeant Darren Goodall from Scotland Yard and grabbing at Tempe’s hair. Phil uses her martial arts skills to handcuff him and place him under arrest. Tempe refuses to make a statement but does accept Phil’s offer to take her to a shelter. Back at the station Phil discovers that Goodall has accused her of assault, stating Tempe is a prostitute and police informant who came to him for protection after a beating by her pimp. Chief Superintendent Drysdale takes Phil’s bodycam and sends her home, ordering her to forget the incident. Phil has been avoiding calls from her step-mother, with an insistent invitation to come to her father’s 60th birthday party. Phil hasn’t seen her father for nine years, determined to break all ties with the notorious gangster and his three brothers. But now that marriage to her boyfriend Henry is on the horizon, Phil attends the party to the great joy of her father and uncles. Restricted to desk duty, Phil searches for prior incidents involving Goodall, discovering an emergency call from a sobbing boy named Nathan, reporting that his father is holding his baby sister upside down over the stairs. Phil asks her father for a favor, and he arranges an off-the-books apartment where Tempe can hide from Goodall. Tempe and Phil become friends, bonding when Tempe reveals she is an event planner and can easily organize the wedding Phil and Henry haven’t had the time or energy to plan themselves. Henry doesn’t take to Tempe, concerned that she is inserting herself into their lives and suspicious of the constantly changing story she tells about herself. Suspecting that Goodall is also abusing his wife, Phil orchestrates a meeting, incurring Goodall’s rage and another threatening warning from Chief Superintendent Drysdale. This character-driven psychological thriller is highly recommended.

Real EasyMarie Rutkoski
Real Easy (Henry Holt and Co. 2022) is set in 1999, featuring the dancers in the Lovely Lady Strip Club in a suburb near Chicago, desperate women who find it difficult to make enough in tips to cover the house fees, struggling to support themselves and their children. Samantha (club name Ruby) is the star dancer, beautiful and graceful. She lives with her boyfriend Nick and his young daughter Rosie, the child she always wanted but could never have. Kim (Lady Jade) is the new girl, inexperienced and awkward. Samantha gives Kim advice and offers to drive her home the night she takes Ecstasy, either on purpose or because someone slipped it into her drink. Neither make it home that night. Kim’s body is discovered near the spot their car was run off the road, but there is no sign of Samantha. When searching the car, Detective Victor Amador spots two rolls of cash in the foot wells. Both are missing after his supervisor Sergeant Rabideaux conducts a follow-up search, and Victor finds the smaller roll pushed under the brake pedal of his car. His partner Detective Holly Meylin had the day off, the anniversary of the hot day her young son died after her husband forgot he was sleeping in the back of his car. Holly and Victor fear the crown carved into sole of Kim’s foot indicates a serial killer, and interview everyone at the club: the dancers, bouncers, and owner Dale Gately. The dancers don’t know much about each other, often not even their real names, and can’t or won’t tell the police much. Holly notices that Georgia (Gigi), a mixed-race dancer, notices details and convinces her to become a confidential informer, calling Holly whenever she notices something a bit off at the club. Shifting perspective between the police, dancers and their children, club patrons, and the killer adds a dream-like veneer this character-driven thriller, the adult debut of a YA author.

The Marlow Murder ClubRobert Thorogood
The Marlow Murder Club (Poisoned Pen Press 2022, UK 2021) begins when 77-year-old widow Judith Potts takes her nightly summer swim in the River Thames. Swimming upstream from the Arts and Crafts mansion she inherited from an aunt, Judith hears a man’s voice call out, “Hey, no!” and then a gunshot at her neighbor Stefan Dunwoody’s house. Unable to crawl through the thick rushes, Judith swims back home and calls the police. Half an hour later she sees a police car arrive and an officer looking through the window and wandering through the garden before driving away. The next morning she receives a phone call from Detective Sergeant Tanika Malik from the Maidenhead Police Station, following up on Judith’s report. DS Malik tells Judith not to worry, her neighbor is probably away for the holiday weekend. Judith tries to concentrate on her job of creating crossword puzzles, but ends up searching online for any news of Stefan, finding only an article from six weeks earlier reporting a tipsy dispute between Stefan and Elliot Howard, owner of the Marlow Auction House. She punts upstream to Stefan’s house, and searches for any sign of foul play, eventually discovering Stefan’s body in a weir next to the river, a bullet hole in the center of his forehead. Judith reports the body to DS Malik, who tells her Stefan reported an attempted burglary five weeks earlier: his house was broken into but nothing was taken, not even his computer or any of his valuable collection of paintings. The police believe Stefan shot himself, though no gun is found at the scene. Judith is sure it is murder and begins her own investigation. At Stefan’s art gallery his assistant tells Judith a man came into the gallery the previous week and had a loud argument. Judith pulls up a picture of Elliot Howard on the gallery computer, and the assistant immediately identifies him as the man Stefan argued with. Fearing the police aren’t taking her suspicions about Elliot Howard seriously, Judith enlists the help of Becks Starling, the bored young wife of the vicar, and Suzie Harris, a lonely dog walker who knows everyone, to help solve the crime. This clever traditional murder mystery full of sly humor is the first in a series starring the three intrepid women.

August 1, 2022

Beautiful Little FoolsJillian Cantor
Beautiful Little Fools (Harper 2022) begins when a woman shoots enigmatic millionaire Jay Gatsby on a hot August day in 1922, his body falling into the swimming pool outside his West Egg, Long Island mansion. The body of local mechanic George Wilson is found in the wood nearby, an apparent murder/suicide in retribution for the hit-and-run death of George’s wife Myrtle the previous day. Detective Frank Charles finds a diamond hairpin in the bushes near the pool, and suspects one of the women orbiting Gatsby may be responsible for his death. Myrtle’s younger sister Catherine McCoy is a suffragette, fighting for freedom and independence for women, especially for her sister Myrtle who is trapped in a loveless marriage with no chance for happiness. Daisy Fay had a brief affair with Gatsby when he was an impoverished soldier, before the death of her father revealed debts that would have forced her mother to sell their house. Daisy attracted the attention of handsome and very wealthy Tom Buchanan and they were soon married, happily until she realized Tom was incapable of being faithful to one woman. Daisy’s best friend Jordan Baker is a talented golfer who nearly takes a championship until her love affair with another woman golfer causes her expulsion from the team on the more acceptable grounds of cheating by moving her ball. Daisy and Tom move from mansion to mansion in one city to another, leaving whenever his indiscretions are exposed, ending up in East Egg for the summer. Determined to win Daisy back, Gatsby makes a fortune with illegal enterprises and buys a house just across the sound, the lights and music of his wild parties drifting across the water. This powerful reimagining of The Great Gatsby told from the perspectives of the three women is a mesmerizing exploration of love and obsession, the power of money, and the desire to live one’s life free from the expectations of others.

Hot TimeW.H. Flint
Hot Time (Arcade Crimewise 2022) is set in August 1896 during a hot wave in New York City. Dead horses litter the street and the poor suffer and die in record numbers. It’s a presidential election year, the gulf between the wealthy and the destitute has widened, and anti-immigrant prejudice has flared. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt is struggling to reform the corrupt police department. His assistant Otto “Rafe” Raphael from the Lower East Side, is one of the first Jewish officers in the heavily Irish force, and Minnie Kelly has just been hired as the department’s first female stenographer. William d’Alton Mann, publisher of Town Topics, featuring gossip and innuendos about the Four Hundred, the city’s social elite, is known to dabble in blackmail in exchange for suppressing a particularly damaging story. When his body is found at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, Detective Sergeant Gallagher decides it’s a robbery gone bad, but Rafe suspects it’s murder by one of his blackmail victims. Dutch, a homeless newsboy, witnessed the murder. He fled when spotted, but lost both his cap identified by his initials and the embroidered handkerchief that is his only memento of his mother. Roosevelt is uncharacteristically uninterested in Rafe’s thoughts about Mann’s death, eventually ordering him to stop investigating. Gallagher is part of the anti-terror squad, and tells Roosevelt that the anarchists have enlisted the “Hebrew element” as spies at Police Headquarters. As evidence he gives Roosevelt a note in Yiddish about a meeting to fight capitalism. Gallagher convinces Roosevelt that there will be an assassination attempt during William Jennings Bryan’s upcoming rally at Madison Square Garden, but Rafe suspects that Gallagher is orchestrating the plot in order to shift Roosevelt’s attention from his investigation of police corruption. This fascinating historical thriller is the fiction debut of historian Gerard Helferich.

The AppealJanice Hallett
The Appeal (Atria Books 2022, UK 2021) begins in the spring of 2018 when The Fairway Players, an amateur theatre group, begins auditioning for their next play: All My Sons by Arthur Miller. Isabel Beck, a St. Ann’s Hospital Elderly Care nurse in her early 30s, invites her new colleague Samantha Greenwood and Sam’s husband Kel to try out for the play. Sam and Kel are recently returned from eight years in Africa working as volunteers for Médecins Sans Frontières and Issy convinces them that joining Fairway Players is the perfect way to meet people in their new community. Martin Haywood directs as usual, and the starring role is given to his wife Helen, a talented actress, while their son James serves as co-director. Their daughter Paige Reswick always gets a part as well, while Issy hopes for a minor role. Unfortunately she isn’t cast this time, but both Sam and Kel are given parts. Unusually, there is no communication for weeks between Martin and the Players, who are nervous about arranging work shifts and child care to fit the rehearsal schedule. Finally Martin announces that Poppy, the two-year-old daughter of Paige and her husband Glen, has been diagnosed with a rare type of brain cancer. The family considered cancelling the production, but decided to continue with the play to keep some normality in their lives as Poppy begins treatment. Paige withdraws, and Issy is given her part. Martin explains that Poppy has Medulloblastoma, and her only chance of survival is an American drug therapy not yet available in the UK. Consultant Oncologist Dr. Tish Bhatoa has started Poppy on conventional chemotherapy while the Haywards raise the necessary funds: $350,000. Fairway Players member Sarah-Jane MacDonald, who worked in fund-raising before starting a family, starts a crowdfunding appeal — A Cure for Poppy — and begins planning the first event: a black tie party with dancing and an auction. Emails and texts from the Fairway Players reveal support for Poppy and her family as well as creeping doubts about the mysterious American treatment and concern about how much money has actually been raised and what it is being used for. Roderick Tanner, QC, provides Olefemi Hassan and Charlotte Holyroyd nearly two years of fragmentary digital records, asking them to give him an objective analysis of the individuals involved in the events leading up to murder as he works on an appeal for someone he believes has been wrongfully convicted. This remarkably clever debut novel won the 2022 New Blood Dagger Award.

Child ZeroChris Holm
Child Zero (Mulholland Books 2022) is set in New York City, in a world ravaged by bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics. When it didn’t seem that things could possibly get worse, a bioterrorist attacked the city, killing nearly 100,000. Detective Jacob Gibson lost his wife in that attack three years earlier, known as 8/17. Their daughter Zoe is now four years old, and comes home from preschool with a fever, soon rising to 102.6°F, a tenth of a degree above the threshold for mandatory reporting to the Department of Biological Security (DBS), founded shortly after 8/17. Jake gets a call from his partner Amira Hassan to a massacre at Park City, and reluctantly begs his ex-girlfriend Hannah Lang, an emergency room surgeon, to watch Zoe, fearing that his usual babysitter will call the DBS. Mateo Rivas and his uncle Gabriel were sent to the Sheep Meadow Emergency Refugee Center in Central Park along with thousands of others stranded in Manhattan on 8/17. Infection raged through the camp, and a fence was constructed around what came to be known as Park City, trapping close to 5,000 people who eventually settle in small groups. Gabriel helps Mat (now 12) escape through the sewer from Park City the night armed men invade the camp. By the time Jake and Amy arrive, the coroner is sorting through the 100 or so murdered bodies that were stacked and burned, wondering what made them worth killing and why anyone would want to ransack their few belongings in the cluster of tents and shanties. Agents Paget and Medina from DBS take over the investigation, hoping to help President Marshall Whitmore and his chief advisor Lionel Mercer, the director of biological security, control the politically damaging attack. Mat tries to connect with the Resistance, but is betrayed, and barely escapes with his life in the ensuing gun battle. Jake and Amy respond to the shots, and rescue Mat, but not before Amy is injured. A video taken by a bystander makes Jake and Amy look like kidnappers, and they hide in an empty apartment, afraid of arrest if they take Amy to the hospital. When Mat helps her recover from the infection they realize Mat is what the armed men were searching for, a natural producer of beneficial microbiota that fight bacteria. This frightening near-future thriller is all too plausible.

Five DecembersJames Kestrel
Five Decembers (Hard Case Crime 2021) begins in late November 1941 when Honolulu Police Detective Joe McGrady is called late at night to investigate a possible homicide in a shed on a dairy outside the city. McGrady discovers a naked disemboweled young man hanging from a meat hook. McGrady leaves to call for reinforcements and returns to find a scar-faced man exiting the shed carrying a gas can, who is killed when they exchange shots. McGrady finds the body of a naked young woman under the blanket on the cot: bound, tortured, and repeatedly knifed. The disemboweled man is identified as the nephew of Admiral Kimmel, who commands the U.S. Pacific Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor. The unidentified young woman looks Japanese. The scar-faced man has a WWI US Army bullet buried in his hip, and is presumed to be German. Captain Beamer wants to close the case, but McGrady is sure there were two killers and begins searching for the second man, who used the name John Smith to fly out of Honolulu to Hong Kong. Leaving just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, McGrady follows Smith, who orchestrates McGrady’s arrest on a false charge of rape in Hong Kong. When the Japanese capture Hong Kong, McGrady is taken prisoner and meets the family of the murdered Japanese woman Miyako, who worked as a translator for the American Navy. After the war McGrady continues to search for John Smith, determined to bring closure to Miyako’s family, suspecting Smith may be a German spy. This powerful historical thriller won the 2022 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel, and is a finalist for the 2022 Barry Award for Best Thriller.

The Shadow of the EmpireQiu Xiaolong
The Shadow of the Empire (2022) introduces Dee Renjie (Judge Dee), Empress Wu’s Imperial Circuit Supervisor for the Tang Empire in 7th Century China. Judge Dee’s new position, which takes him out of the capital city Chang’an to the provinces, is a subtle demotion. Empress Wu, a former imperial concubine, is debating whom to appoint as her successor: her nephew Internal Minister Wu or Prince Li, her son with the former emperor. Judge Dee, a Confucian scholar, believes it is unacceptable to choose someone from the Wu family as the successor of the throne of the Li family. His bookish argument based on orthodox Confucian discourse has upset the Empress. The day after he leaves the capital for his new post a messenger from Minister Wu arrives at the hostel, asking him to spend a few days looking into a murder. Xuanji, a beautiful young poetess and courtesan, has been arrested for the murder of her maidservant Ning, beaten to death and buried in a shallow grave in the courtyard of the Xianyi Nunnery where she resides. Xuanji was arrested and tortured into confessing to the murder, stating she was in a drunken rage she can barely remember. But it is unclear how the tiny poetess managed to drag the body into the courtyard and dig the grave by herself. Minister Wu is concerned the case has become sensational; the public feels it is symbolic of the empire’s moral decline. A quick conclusion with a believable confession is necessary to maintain political stability. Poetry writing is an integral part of the civil service examination, and Judge Dee is known as a poet himself. He decides to have a collection of Xuanji’s poems compiled, a worthy project to preserve her work and a convenient excuse to ask questions about her life. As Judge Dee and his manservant Yang ask questions in the village, they learn Xuanji had two lovers: Wen, a poor youth who lived just outside the nunnery walls and Zi’an, a wealthy man with a jealous wife who makes generous donations to the nunnery in exchange for secret visits. The villagers also talk of a black fox spirit that appeared recently, believing the spirit possessed Xuanji and led her to violence. This clever series opener based on the real-life Dee Renjie is the first in the Judge Dee Investigations.

Blood SugarSascha Rothchild
Blood Sugar (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2022) is the story of Ruby Simon, who committed her first murder at the age of five. Ruby’s beloved seven-year-old sister Ellie was being bullied by classmate Duncan Reese, who who made life miserable for Ellie and others, excused by teachers and other adults as just the behavior of a rambunctious boy. Ruby’s parents are the opposite of helicopter parents, instead submarine parents expecting their children to fight their own battles. So Ruby does. While swimming in the ocean, she pulls Duncan underwater, only releasing his ankles when he goes limp, surfacing herself a good distance away. Though she’s committed two other murders and feels no guilt, Ruby doesn’t consider herself a sociopath, she only kills those who deserve it and only when necessary. After earning her undergraduate degree at Yale, Ruby returns home to Miami Beach to earn her doctorate degree at the University of Miami. Ruby has long-lasting friendships and a thriving practice as a psychologist, helping others deal with their fears and insecurities. She rescues a cat from a dumpster and is content in her small apartment. She meets Jason in a lamp repair shop and they are soon in love. Jason is cautious about food and drink because he has type 1 diabetes and Ruby is a total neat freak Type A personality but they learn to accept each other’s idiosyncrasies and marry. Jason’s mother, who abandoned him as a toddler and despises all his girlfriends, hates Ruby with a passion. When Jason dies after his blood sugar drops dangerously low, Ruby is devastated. A few weeks later Detective Keith Jackson brings Ruby in for questioning, accusing her of murdering Jason, and displaying the photographs of the three other people who died when she was near. He can’t prove Ruby was responsible for any of the three earlier murders any more than she can prove she was not responsible for Jason’s death. This excellent debut thriller featuring the unique Ruby is riveting.

BlackoutSimon Scarrow
Blackout (Kensington 2022) is set in December 1939 Berlin, a city covered with snow and ice as the Nazis increase in power. Former actress Gerda Korzeny has an argument with her lover Oberst Karl Dorner at a Christmas party, angry that he will not follow through on their agreement to leave their spouses. The next day her body is found near the train tracks, raped and killed by a single crushing blow to the head. Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke, Head of Pankow Kripo Station, is summoned to the office of SS Oberführer Müller, the Head of Gestapo, and ordered to take over the investigation. Gerda was the former mistress of Josef Goebbels, who changed her racial record and married her off to Nazi lawyer Korzeny when the fact that she was the daughter of a Jew became a political liability. Korzeny, who rewrites laws to make the Party’s actions legal, is much older and his bored young wife soon begins taking lovers and attending parties on her own. Müller wants the case solved quickly before any scandal attaches itself to Goebbels, and Schenke’s unwillingness to join the Nazi Party makes him disposable if a scapegoat is needed. Schenke was a successful race car driver until a near-fatal accident ended that career six years earlier, and has chosen to stay out of politics if possible, dedicating himself to bringing criminals to justice. Korzeny and Dorner each insist the other is the prime suspect, but the discovery of the body of a second raped and murdered young woman found next to the train tracks leads Schenke and his team to suspect a killer is using the blackout to hide his crimes. They discover other cases marked as accidents in the previous three months that may also be the work of the same murderer. Unhappy with Schenke’s inability to close the case of Gerda Korzeny quickly, Müller assigns Scharführer Otto Liebwitz to watch over the investigation. Schenke dislikes the young Gestapo officer on sight, distrusting him as a spy, but Liebwitz proves to be intelligent and detail-oriented though rather an odd duck with few social skills. This excellent historical thriller is hopefully the first in a series.

Quiet in her BonesNalini Singh
Quiet in Her Bones (Berkley 2021) begins when author Aarav Rai returns home to stay with his father Ishaan while recovering after a car accident left him with possible brain damage and a pulverized foot in a walking cast. The Rai house is on a cul-de-sac next to the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park in New Zealand, an elite group of rich families who have been neighbors for decades. Ten years earlier, when Aarav was 16, his mother Nina Rai disappeared after a drunken argument with his father. A quarter of a million dollars in cash vanished that night as well, and most everyone assumed Nina left her abusive husband to start a new life elsewhere. But the police appear to report that the body of a woman in a car registered to Nina Parvati Rai has been found in the forest not far from their home. Formal identification awaits DNA analysis, but a wallet with her ID was found in the car along with remnants of a red silk dress like Nina wore the night she vanished. After learning that his mother was in the passenger seat of the car, Aarav can’t get the scream he heard that fateful stormy night out of his head, and begins investigating all the men who might have killed his mother and abandoned her body in the forest. The police probe Aarav’s memories of the night 10 years earlier, and he begins to doubt his own recollections. What did happen to the rug that also disappeared that night? Has he suppressed memories of his own actions? Or are his fragmented memories the result of his brain repairing itself and his pain medication. The police order him to stay out of their investigation, but Aarav is determined to expose his mother’s murderer, even if it reveals an ugly truth about his neighbors, his family or himself.

Anatomy of a ScandalSarah Vaughan
Anatomy of a Scandal (Atria/Emily Bestler Books 2018) begins when Sophie Whitehouse’s husband James, a Home Office minister, confesses to a five-month affair with Olivia Lytton, his parliamentary researcher. James broke off the affair a week earlier, but now someone has leaked it to the press. Sophie is crushed, but stands by the husband she still loves, hoping to shield their two young children from the worst of the scandal. Ten days later, after a sexual encounter in a small lift at the House of Commons, Olivia accuses James of rape. Kate Woodcroft, Queen’s Counsel, a criminal barrister who specializes in prosecuting sexual crimes, is sure Olivia is telling the truth, but worries that the handsome and charismatic James will sway the jury. Flashbacks to Oxford, where Sophie and James first met, provide insight into James’s privileged background as one of the moneyed and popular crowd — a member of the Libertines, an elite dining club, along with Tom Southern, the Prime Minister who is still a close friend. Seen through the eyes of Sophie’s tutorial partner Holly Berry, an overweight scholarship girl, Sophie and James are a golden couple: beautiful, athletic, talented. Holly knows that Sophie uses friendship and flattery to get her to do most of their work, but enjoys being a peripheral part of Sophie’s world. When Holly doesn’t return the next year, Sophie doesn’t give her a second thought. This compelling psychological thriller probing the imbalance of privilege and power in sexual relationships has been adapted as a Netflix miniseries.

This Might HurtStephanie Wrobel
This Might Hurt (Berkley 2022) begins in January, when 31-year-old Boston branding agency executive Natalie Collins receives an anonymous email: “Would you like to come tell your sister what you did — or should we?” Natalie hasn’t heard from her younger sister Kit since she left for Wisewood, a six-month self-improvement program on a small island in Maine. Wisewood participants are required to relinquish all contact with the outside world during their stay — no phones or Internet — so Natalie didn’t expect to receive any calls or texts, but the six months are over and Kit still hasn’t gotten in touch. Natalie calls Wisewood, but they won’t let her speak to Kit. Determined to tell Kit her secret before someone else does, Natalie threatens to call the police unless the Wisewood staff let her on the ferry. At Wisewood she is stunned to discover her contraband phone has no reception, and her cabin has no power outlets. Participants have also given up make-up, wear simple clothing, and eat tasteless meals. The female Wisewood staff are shaved bald and call the leader Teacher. Natalie meets two women who tell her they used to be friends with Kit, bonding as the youngest participants when they arrived at Wisewood. They appreciate the good Wisewood has done in helping them become emotionally stronger and free of debilitating panic attacks, but have no interest in living at Wisewood permanently but Kit has become totally focused on achieving true fearlessness and becoming her Maximized Self. Sure that something is off at the cult-like retreat, Natalie begins to snoop in the staff areas, putting herself in danger. Interspersed chapters from the perspective of a girl who dreams of becoming a magician tell the story of childhood with her older sister “Jack” enduring constant emotional abuse by their father “Sir” and neglect by their cowed mother. Chapters from Kit’s perspective fill in the details of her life at Wisewood and increasingly intense relationship with Teacher, the only person she feels has ever appreciated her true potential. This complex psychological thriller is devastating.

September 1, 2022

Woman on FireLisa Barr
Woman on Fire (Harper 2022) begins when young journalist Jules Barr fast-talks herself into a job with renowned Chicago investigative journalist Dan Mansfield. Now managing editor, Dan pulls Jules into a story about a sniper holding the residents of an apartment building hostage, and is impressed with her quick reactions and talent for tracking down the human interest side of the story. When his old friend Ellis Baum, famous shoe designer and owner of Anika Baum, Inc., asks for help locating a painting, Dan enlists Jules for an off-the-books investigation. Ellis has just seen a report of the death of Carl Geisler, the reclusive son of Helmuth Geisler, whose Munich apartment was stacked with art confiscated by the Nazis. Margaux de Laurent, the granddaughter of Berlin art dealer Charles de Laurent, steals the bulk of Carl’s cache of paintings, planning to sell most on the black market but keeping her grandfather’s favorite: Woman on Fire. Ellis tells Dan the truth he has always hidden: he is the son of Anika, Miss Germany 1927, and her lover, Jewish banker Arno Baum. Ernst Engel completed his final painting: a portrait of Anika titled Woman on Fire, painted in secret when Arno was with his wife and children. Two years later, Helmuth Geisler, the Third Reich’s art thief, appears at Anika’s apartment, forcing five-year-old Ellis to watch the humiliation and death of his mother. Now dying of cancer, Ellis is determined to find the painting so he can see his beloved mother one final time. Ellis’s grandson Adam Baum, a brilliant painter Margaux controlled with heroin before he nearly died of an overdose she administered, joins forces with Jules and Dan, warning them Margaux is a ruthless psychopath who will do anything to get and keep what she desires. This intense thriller set in both the past and the present in the United States and Europe, follows the dangerous investigation of the painting.

A Killing in CostumesZac Bissonnette
A Killing in Costumes (Crooked Lane Books 2022) introduces Cindy Cooper and Jay Allan, who bonded in middle school over their shared passion for singing and performing. They later married and were soap opera stars in the 1990s until Cindy told Jay she thought she was gay, and he surprised her by saying he was too. The scandal around their divorce destroyed their TV careers, but they remained best friends. After the death of Cindy’s wife Esther twenty years later, they opened Hooray for Hollywood, a movie memorabilia store in Palm Springs, California. Jay didn’t have much savings from his career as a Las Vegas lounge singer, but Cindy’s career in financial management provided the funds to bankroll the initial investment in Hooray for Hollywood. Cindy hasn’t told Jay yet that they’ve reached the end of her savings when they are approached by Ben Sinclair, the financial advisor for Yana Tosh, a 90-year-old former star of the silver screen with an incredible collection of costumes and props, who is looking for someone to sell her collection. Cypress Auctions, a huge national company, is also being considered as the seller, but Cindy and Jay make a good first impression, stressing that as a small local shop they can give Yana and her collection the individual attention required. Yana’s son Warren Limon opposes the sale of the collection, hoping that his mother will instead establish a museum to house the collection with himself as the well-paid museum manager. Dylan Redmond, a vice president for Cypress Auctions, invites Cindy and Jay to his hotel suite with an offer: if they tell Yana to go with Cypress he will send some smaller business their way. They refuse and leave. When Dylan’s body is discovered by his assistant Eydie Jackson, she tells the police she heard Dylan arguing with Cindy and Jay through the adjoining wall. Detective Simon Fletcher discovers their shop is in financial difficulty, making Cindy and Jay the prime suspects. A local television news report identifies them as likely suspects, causing immediate cancellations of upcoming appointments with clients. Desperate to clear their names and save their store, Cindy and Jay search for other suspects, discovering that Ben Sinclair’s license as a financial advisor was revoked after misconduct and that Yana has made it clear she will leave her son little if anything in her will. Bissonnette has fun with movie trivia (Jay wears vintage movie bowties and Cindy drives the original Jurassic Park SUV) as well as cozy mystery tropes (Detective Fletcher is the first openly-gay Palm Springs detective and attracted to Jay) in this clever and light-hearted debut mystery.

As the Wicked WatchTamron Hall
As the Wicked Watch (William Morrow 2021) introduces Jordan Manning, an ambitious crime reporter who moves from Texas to Chicago for a new job at a television station. Jordan has a master’s degree in forensic science and takes pride in her ability to read a crime scene, usually the first to arrive in her signature designer stiletto heels, and often noticing details others miss. There have been several unsolved murders of Black women in Chicago in the past two years, and Jordan is concerned when MISSING posters for 15-year-old Masey James appear around the city. The police treat Masey’s disappearance as a typical teenage runaway, but Masey’s mother is sure something has happened to her daughter. Masey reminds Jordan of herself at that age — ambitious, smart, confident, stylish — and her usual ability to maintain an emotional detachment begins to crumble. Masey’s body is discovered in an abandoned lot three weeks later; sexually assaulted, strangled, eviscerated and then burned. Jordan becomes obsessed with the case, struggling to balance her drive to be the one to break big stories against her compassion for Masey and her mother. Neglecting her other assignments and putting her personal life on hold, Jordan struggles to keep Masey’s story at the top of the news while researching the earlier murders, coming to the conclusion that there is a serial killer targeting Black women. This accomplished debut and series opener by the Emmy Award–winning broadcast journalist explores themes of journalistic ethics, the tendency of police to under-investigate crimes involving people of color, and the intense competition in the newsroom for air time and promotions.

Dark HorseGregg Hurwitz
Dark Horse (Minotaur Books 2022) finds Evan Smoak, former government assassin Orphan X, recovering from an attack on his penthouse. His growing friendship with neighbor Mia Hall and her young son confuses him. Evan has never had a normal family, and dinner with her relatives is an experience far outside his comfort zone. After leaving the Orphan Program, Evan reinvented himself as the Nowhere Man, helping those with nowhere else to turn. Aragón Urrea, head of a drug-dealing operation in South Texas calls the Nowhere Man number, telling Evan a vicious rival cartel has kidnapped his daughter Anjelina from her 18th birthday party. Aragón explains that he is not cartel, merely an unconventional businessman who also provides employment in legitimate operations and builds roads and schools for the local community. Evan is dubious and texts Orphan Program washout Joey Morales, a 16-year-old super-hacker he has become responsible for. Joey investigates Aragón and agrees that he is not cartel, having been cleared by numerous DEA and IRS investigations, operating in the gray areas of global commerce outside the law. Persuaded by Joey’s information and the reality of an innocent young woman in the hands of a cartel, Evan heads to Hidalgo County, Texas, to meet Aragón in person. The Urrea compound is protected by an un-hackable security system, but Joey engineers a jailbroken cell phone into an Amazon package headed to the compound, allowing her access inside the security system, and Evan access inside the fence. He is surprised that Aragón lives in a normal house rather than the usual cartel mansion, and is soon eating breakfast with Aragón and his aunt. Anjelina has been taken by the Leones, a Mexican cartel led by the dangerous and paranoid El Moreno. Aragón has no idea why El Moreno kidnapped his daughter, they aren’t direct rivals and have no territorial issues. Evan knows it is impossible to penetrate El Moreno’s security in Nuevo León since he owns the entire area, and comes up with a plan to attract his interest in Los Angeles, earning an entry as a new recruit. Sections from Anjelina’s perspective reveal El Moreno as an unstable violent man who belittles his only son Reymundo, keeps women in cages, and feeds his enemies to a captive lion. This seventh in the Orphan X series balances violence against evil with Evan’s compulsion to protect the innocent.

Bullet TrainKōtarō Isaka
Bullet Train (Harry N. Abrams 2021, Japan 2010) takes place on the Shinkansen high-speed bullet train traveling from Tokyo to Morioka. Yuichi Kimura boards the train in order to take revenge on the Prince, a 14-year-old psychopathic schoolboy with an angelic face who orchestrated a deadly fall from a department store roof that put Kimura’s young son Wataru in a coma. Also on the train are Tangerine and Lemon, a pair of young free-lance criminals who have just rescued the kidnapped son of gangster Minegishi along with a locked suitcase containing the ransom. Lemon is a fanatic fan of Thomas and Friends, categorizing everyone he meets as one of the model trains on the sheet of stickers he carries in his pocket. Since the suitcase is large, Lemon decides to store it in the luggage space in the gangway between cars. Scolded by Tangerine for not keeping the suitcase within view, he goes to retrieve it, only to discover it is missing. They both rush back to search unsuccessfully, and returning to their seats get an even bigger shock: the son of the unpredictably violent Minegishi is dead from an unknown cause. Meanwhile Nanao, a young criminal with persistent bad luck, is sent by his partner Maria with a simple job: board the Shinkansen train, steal a suitcase from the luggage space between cars three and four, and exit at the next stop. Unfortunately, as soon as he seizes the suitcase Nanao bumps into an old adversary known as The Wolf who attacks him. Meanwhile, the Prince manages to incapacitate Kimura with a stun gun, and binds his hands and feet, warning Kimura that if his accomplice in the hospital calls him and gets no answer Wataru will be immediately killed. Minegishi has purchased most of the seats on the train to protect his son, so the various criminals move freely between the 10 cars, searching for the suitcase while trying to avoid being recognized. The Prince is irredeemably evil, but most of the assassins are unexpectedly sympathetic, especially Lemon and Nanao, also known as Ladybug. This darkly funny caper thriller, a finalist for the 2022 Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger Award, has just been released as a movie.

AuroraDavid Koepp
Aurora (Harper 2022) begins when Norman Levy, an 88-year-old solar scientist retired from Chicago to the small nearby town of Aurora, receives a phone call from Perry St. John, a former student now a lead researcher at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitoring solar events. Perry reports that the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite picked up a burst of solar radiation that will miss earth by seven degrees in 45 minutes. Unfortunately that solar burst masked another flare with zero degrees of inflection, on course for a direct hit on earth. Norman runs the data through his self-designed model three times, and reluctantly admits the auroral event will hit earth in seven to twelve hours. The last auroral event, known as the Carrington Event after the British astronomer who witnessed it, hit on September 1, 1859, enveloping the planet in electrical current. Telegraph systems around the world went up in flames. They were the only significant electrical systems in operation and were repaired in a few days, and most of the world went immediately back to normal. Perry and his colleagues at NOAA frantically try to convince the world to take everything electric offline for two weeks, but are unsuccessful. Norman’s neighbor Ashley Wheeler, who inherited her alcoholic ex-husband Rusty’s teenage son Scott when they separated, returns home to find Scott watching the news of the impending blackout, which is predicted to last twelve to eighteen months in most of the country. They head to the Piggly Wiggly for whatever supplies are available. Ashley’s brother tech billionaire Thom Banning heads with his family to the underground compound he built in Provo, Utah, during COVID, prepared to ride out the disaster with his luxury supplies, chef, doctor, dentist, personal trainer, and security guards. Soon Norman’s hand-built radio is Aurora’s only means of communication, and the town slowly bands together to take care of each other and grow food while resentment in Thom’s community begins to fester. This character-based scientific thriller is a fascinating exploration of resilience and individual reaction to crisis.

Notes on an ExecutionDanya Kukafka
Notes on an Execution (William Morrow 2022) begins 12 hours before the scheduled execution of serial killer Ansel Packer, who has a plan to escape from Death Row by charming and controlling a young female prison guard. Interspersed with the countdown of hours from Ansel’s perspective, are narratives by three women. Lavender’s narration begins when she is just 17, about to give birth to Ansel on an isolated farm with her controlling boyfriend Johnny. Four years later she manages to escape from the abusive father of Ansel and his new baby brother, calling social services to rescue the abandoned children, emaciated from the strict rationing imposed by their father. Ansel never recovered from the long hours trapped alone with his starving brother, screaming from hunger. Hazel is the twin sister of Ansel’s wife Jenny, who fell under Ansel’s spell despite Hazel’s warnings. Saffron “Saffy” Singh first met Ansel at a foster home when she was 12. At first attracted to the handsome boy who pays attention to her, Saffy is traumatized when he puts the rotting carcass of a fox in her bed after a perceived slight. Transferred to another foster home, Saffy doesn’t think of Ansel again until 15 years later. Recently promoted to Investigator with the New York State Police, Saffy and her partner respond to call from a hiker who discovers a skull half buried in the woods. The bodies are those of three girls who disappeared nine years earlier: Izzy Sanchez, Angela Meyer, and Lila Maroney, who was Saffy’s best friend from the foster home that included Ansel. Izzy’s co-worker remembers a strange boy who worked with them at the Dairy Queen named Ansel Packer. Saffy is convinced Ansel is the killer, but without evidence her superiors don’t pursue her lead, and order her to drop it. This intense thriller traces the ripple effect of abandonment and abuse on the serial killer as well as the three narrators.

The ClubEllery Lloyd
The Club (Harper 2022) takes place during the three-day grand opening of Home Group’s newest luxury club: Island Home just off the English coast. Home CEO Ned Groom inherited the original Home Club in Covent Garden from his grandfather 30 years earlier, and with his younger brother Adam has expanded to 11 member clubs around the world, guaranteeing absolute privacy to the select few for a hefty annual fee. Separated from the mainland by a road that appears briefly on a causeway at low tide each day, Island Home is even more secluded than the other Home Clubs scattered around the world, and all ninety-seven of the five thousand pound per night guest cabins are booked by actors, artists, musicians, and other celebrities. Cell phones and other technology is collected at check-in, guaranteeing that the Home guests can party hard with no fear of embarrassing photos. Jess Wilson is the new head of housekeeping, overwhelmed by the long lists of specific requests submitted by each guest, including preferences about lighting, bedding, snacks, and drinks. Annie Spark, the head of membership, has been Ned’s second-in-command for decades, in charge of keeping all 5,761 world-wide Home members happy. Responsible for sending out the invitations to Island Home’s Halloween weekend opening, Annie has been fielding emails and phone calls for months, soothing the ruffled feathers of members who didn’t make the list. Ned’s PA Nikki is working overtime to control Ned’s tantrums when the final details of room decoration and menus don’t go as planned, worried that Ned may have exceeded Home Group’s capacity to transform the island into a luxury resort on a very short timeline. The drinking and over-indulging begins as soon as the first members arrive on Thursday afternoon, and the staff is too busy to worry about minor details until Friday morning, when Jess discovers that the most impressive cabin has been completely trashed, everything down to the lightbulbs destroyed. Jess and her crew restore the cabin, but notice other indications some of the guests are unhappy with Home. Then a body is discovered and Ned is nowhere to be found. Interspersed flashbacks reveal secrets and motives from both the ultra-rich and those who serve them in this intense thriller.

The Children on the HillJennifer McMahon
The Children on the Hill (Gallery/Scout Press 2022) begins in 1978 in the small town of Fayeville, Vermont, where 13-year-old Vi lives with her younger brother Eric and Gran, who has taken care of them since their parents died in a car accident. Gran is Dr. Helen Hildreth, a renowned psychiatrist who achieves great results in the Hillside Inn, her residential treatment center. Vi is fascinated by the Inn, and often visits with the excuse of bringing lunch to Gran. Occasionally Gran brings patients home to stay with the family, people not quite ready to be released into the world who need the comfort of feeling they are at home. Vi and Eric call them strays, and secretly photograph them with Eric’s Polaroid camera, hiding the pictures with Vi’s notes written neatly on notecards. Gran’s colleague Dr. Hutchins often drops by in the evening to indulge in Gran’s homemade gin and discuss the patients at the Inn. Vi eavesdrops and takes notes in her notebook, thrilled to hear about the patients though frustrated that they refer to them only by initials. One day she hears them discussing Patient S, who Gran saved but needs to protect from the authorities. Vi and Eric also work together on The Book of Monsters, written by Vi and illustrated by Eric, describing all the different kinds of monsters they learn about in books. Vi is reading Frankenstein on the porch when Eric appears with an injured rabbit, one of the many animals he has rescued with Gran’s help. Since Gran isn’t home, Vi tries to restart the little rabbit’s heart with electricity. When Gran returns she gives first aid to the rabbit and then introduces Iris, a traumatized girl about Vi’s age dressed in hospital pajamas, bruises up and down her arms, with a thick red scar running from ear to ear across her shaved skull. Vi is confused since the Inn doesn’t treat children, but agrees to Gran’s instructions to watch Iris, try to coax her to talk, and report back on her progress. Iris doesn’t remember anything about her past, and Vi suspects she is Patient S, with something too horrible to confront from her past. Interspersed sections from 2019 are narrated by Lizzy Shelley, the pseudonymous host of a popular podcast called Monsters Among Us, traveling to Vermont where a young girl has vanished after reportedly meeting with a local monster known as Rattling Jane. Excerpts from The Book of Monsters and The True Story of the Hillside Inn, an exposé written in 1980, bring the past and present together in this frightening exploration of the hidden monsters that live among us.

Last Call at the NightingaleKatharine Schellman
Last Call at the Nightingale (Minotaur Books 2022) introduces Vivian Kelly, an orphan living with her serious and practical older sister Florence in a New York City tenement in 1924. Vivian and Florence work long hours sewing beads and bangles for a dressmaking shop, barely making enough in wages to pay the rent and buy the cheapest food possible. At night Vivian escapes reality by visiting The Nightingale, an underground dance hall serving illegal drinks, where she has made friends with bartender Danny Chin, who often slips her free champagne, and Beatrice Henry, a waitress who wants to be a singer. On the dance floor Vivian doesn’t feel inferior because of her poverty, instead she’s just another pretty girl having fun. One night Bea and Vivian head to the back alley for a smoke, discovering the body of a well-dressed man shot in the chest. Club owner Honor Huxley asks for all the details, and then tells them to forget they saw anything. The speakeasy is raided the following night, and Vivian has no one to call to bail her out. Honor pays the $25 fine, and in exchange asks Vivian to keep her eyes and ears open, especially when she’s around a new customer named Leo Green. The dead man is identified as Willard Wilson, but the papers report he died of heart failure. Since Vivian’s hand was injured in the raid, she is assigned the task of delivering dresses to be fitted, ending up at the Wilson residence with three mourning dresses for his widow, who doesn’t appear to be very mournful. Evading thugs who think she witnessed something the night of the murder, Vivian capitalizes on her ability to make friends and invite confidences to try and identify the culprit. This captivating series opener explores the freedom afforded by the speakeasy environment, where those of different social classes, races, and sexual orientations meet to drink and dance and forget the cares of the outside world.

The CartographersPeng Shepherd
The Cartographers (William Morrow 2022) begins when Nell Young’s father is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library (NYPL). Director of the Map Division, Dr. Daniel Young was a legend in the field of cartography, but Nell hasn’t seen or spoken to him for seven years, since the day he fired her after an argument about a box she discovered in the basement archives, containing two rare maps and a faded 1930 gas station highway map. Dr. Young’s death is declared the result of a heart attack, the head wound caused when he fell. Left alone in his office, Nell finds her father’s most treasured possession hidden inside a secret drawer in his desk: the leather portfolio belonging to Tamara Jasper-Young, his wife and Nell’s mother who died when Nell was a toddler. Inside the portfolio Nell finds the gas station map that caused the argument: Esso 1930 New York & Vicinity Highway Map. Nell suspects her father may have been murdered, but Dr. Young had been alone in the library, Henry the guard making his rounds the only movement on the security cameras. Nell goes online to search for other copies of the highway map, and finds 212 entries, each one marked stolen, destroyed, or missing. In one of the comments, Nell finds a warning to beware of the Cartographers. That night a dark figure enters the NYPL at midnight without triggering the alarm, killing Henry and searching all the map cases and drawers but stealing nothing. Nell fears the mysterious person was searching for the very map that is hidden in her apartment. Nell met Felix in grad school, her specialty ancient maps, his contemporary. Both began internships at NYPL and both were fired the same day by Dr. Young when Felix came to Nell’s defense. Their romance didn’t survive, but Felix is the only person Nell reaches out to for help. Felix works for Haberson Global, a digital mapping and database security company just awarded the contract for the NYPL. Haberson plans to tag all physical material with micro RFID and install tracking devices in every room. As Felix examines the security footage he notices something very strange, the mysterious person vanishes from the Map Division and never exits the building. Nell suspects there is a “phantom settlement” in the 1930 map, an intentional error inserted so a map maker can prove a map has been illegally copied. Interspersed sections from various perspectives narrate the story of seven friends who met at college, including Daniel Young and Tamara Jasper, who come up with the idea of combining their skills in art, cartography, and surveying to create The Dreamer’s Atlas. This complex mystery fantasy thriller skillfully blends the modern digital world with the magical power of old maps.

October 1, 2022

Deep WaterEmma Bamford
Deep Water (Gallery/Scout Press 2022) begins when Royal Malaysian Navy Captain Danial Tengku responds to a distress signal, discovering a severely wounded man and a traumatized woman suffering from dehydration. British newlyweds Jake Selkirk and Virginie Durand invested their life savings on a 36-foot yacht harbored in Malaysia. Virginie spent her childhood sailing a yacht her father co-owed, and Jake worked in a boat yard, so they felt confident in their ability to live on the yacht they renamed Wayfinder. During the month they spent repairing and refurbishing they met another yachter who told them about Amarante, a remote island paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Though they had decided to head to Thailand for their first voyage, Jake and Virginie change their plans and sail to Port Brown to stock enough provisions for several months. In a restaurant they meet two other tourists, a beautiful black woman and an older white man sailing a huge catamaran. Vitor buys them a bottle of wine and talks about business in Rio de Janeiro and New York City in an unplaceable accent. Teresa says little except that she is from Mozambique, seeming distracted and maybe a bit frightened. Vitor laughs at their description of Amarante, wondering why anyone would want to go to a place with no bars, restaurants, nightlife. Jake and Virginie enjoy the two-week sail to Amarante, reveling in the freedom to live in bathing suits and bare feet. Virginie loves to swim, but Jake is terrified of the deep water — he is comfortable on the ocean, but not in it. When they finally spot the island, Jake has difficulty starting the engine, but they make it into the bay where two other boats are anchored. Canadians Stella and Pete are Amarante regulars, spending the permitted two months every year. The other boat belongs to Roly, an Australian who sails with his dog Gus. While exploring the island Jake and Virginie are surprised to find the remains of a brick wall, houses, and a small graveyard, which they learn was a former prison camp. Jake and Virginie settle into island life, learning the rules of communal living, sharing fish and coconuts. Then Vitor and Teresa arrive, changing the social dynamics. This excellent debut thriller explores the dangers of a closed society, even in paradise.

The Hunting SeasonTom Benjamin
The Hunting Season (Constable 2022, UK 2020) begins when Daniel Leicester, a private detective with Faidate Investigations in Bologna, Italy, is tasked with finding Ryan Lee, a young Korean-American supertaster. It’s truffle season and the hunt is on for the legendary Boscuri White, the peak of Italian gastronomy. Ryan was in town to verify that truffles sold as Boscuri White are the real thing and worth the exorbitant price. Ryan’s parents have just arrived from America for a visit, and are concerned that their son didn’t meet them at the airport as planned and hasn’t responded to either phone calls or texts for two days. Daniel moved from England to Bologna with his wife Lucia and baby daughter Rose 12 years earlier, hoping to finally have the time to finish his long-commissioned book on north London gang culture, but soon began working for his father-in-law, ex-Carabinieri and still known as the Comandante. When Lucia died, Daniel couldn’t bear taking Rose away from her Italian family, and is now known as the English detective. A man calling himself Il Conte (The Count) sends Daniel to talk to Aurelio Barbero, known as Il Cacciatore (The Hunter), the foremost truffle hunter in the area, who tells him Len Ligabue, the man behind Antichi Artigiani del Cibo, the giant food hall in the city centre, sent Daniel to stay with him to learn to identify the Boscuri White. Daniel and the Comandante head to Ligabue’s home. There they find his office at the top of the tower in disarray, and Ligabue’s broken body in the courtyard below. Next to the body is a badly injured dog, Ligabue’s famous truffle-hunting Lagotto. Oriana de Principe, a reporter for the national TV show Occhio Pubblico (Public Eye), is waiting outside the hotel when Daniel arrives to search Ryan’s room, eager to convince the Lees that a public appeal and offer of a reward, with Daniel as translator, is the best way to find their missing son. Daniel begins visiting restaurants specializing in seasonal truffle dishes, discovering that Ryan often left intricately folded origami animals after tasting their dishes. Then Liana Benvenuto, Bologna’s Queen of Truffles, summons them, explaining that the Triumvirate overseeing the sale of truffles suspects there is a new fake truffle that is nearly impossible to distinguish from the Boscuri White, threatening the livelihood of all of Bologna’s truffle hunters. This second in the series featuring the clever and affable Daniel Leicester brings the niche world of truffle hunting to vivid life.

Find MeAlafair Burke
Find Me (Harper 2022) begins when New York defense attorney Lindsay Miller’s best friend Hope Miller moves to East Hampton to start an independent life. Fifteen years earlier, recent high school grad Lindsay found Hope at the scene of an accident in her small New Jersey town Hopewell, thrown from an overturned car, later discovered as stolen. The critically injured young woman had no identification and no memory of her past when she awoke in the hospital. The town of Hopewell banded together to take care of the young woman, providing free health care, a job, an apartment, and a foster family with Lindsay’s father, the Chief of Police. Unable to obtain a driver’s license or official identification, she chose the name Hope Miller. Lindsay understands Hope’s desire for a fresh start with people who don’t know her story, but worries that she will struggle without support. Hope manages to get a job working for an independent realtor willing to pay her in cash and a six-month house-sitting opportunity. Lindsay is used to daily communication from Hope, and grows worried when she doesn’t hear from her for several days, traveling to East Hampton to check on her. Hope’s boss says he hasn’t heard from her since she texted Friday night that she had finished staging a house five days earlier, which was done perfectly except for the missing throw rug by the front door. Sure that something has happened to Hope, Lindsay visits the house. The owner calls her next-door neighbor over, a police officer named Carter Decker, who does a luminol test for blood residue, getting a hit right where the missing rug should have been. The blood matches an unidentified DNA sample found at the scene of a murder by a Wichita, Kansas, serial killer known as the College Hill Strangler 23 years earlier. Researching those murders, Lindsay comes across a quote by NYPD homicide Detective Ellie Hatcher, whose father was the lead detective on the investigation but committed suicide before the killer was caught and convicted. Since the local police in East Hampton seem uninterested in investigating Hope’s murder, Lindsay gets in touch with Ellie, hoping she is still interested in solving the mystery of her father’s death. This excellent thriller is the sixth in the Ellie Hatcher series, but works well as a standalone delving into the compulsions and secrets of three complex women.

BOX 88Charles Cumming
BOX 88 (Mysterious Press 2022, UK 2020) begins in 2020 when Lachlan “Lockie” Kite is kidnapped by Jahan Fariba at the funeral in London of his childhood best friend Xavier Bonnard, who has just committed suicide. A small team from MI5 is following Kite, determined to confirm Kite is the operational commander of the secret Anglo-American spy unit known as BOX 88 that has been operating off the books for more than 40 years. MI5 intelligence officer Cara Jannaway attends the funeral with the mission of striking up an acquaintance with Kite, who gives her his card. Thirty years earlier Lockie and Xavier were just finishing their final term at Alford College, the exclusive boarding school attended by 56 prime ministers and every prince and king of England since 1066. Best friends since they started at Alford, Xavier invited Lockie to spend part of the summer with his family in Cannes, a welcome invitation to the scholarship boy needing a break from working at Killantringan Lodge, the struggling family hotel in Scotland. Learning of the invitation, Lockie was immediately recruited by Alford history teacher William Peele, a founding member of BOX 88, capitalizing on the chance to gather information about Xavier’s father Luc Bonnard and his guest Ali Eskandarian, an Iranian believed to be the head of the terrorist network responsible for the Lockerbie bombing the previous year. BOX 88 hoped that Lockie, just 18 and looking younger, could get close enough to Eskandarian to gather evidence about his current projects. Fariba tells Kite they have also kidnapped his pregnant wife Isobel, and demands he tell him everything he knows about Ali Eskandarian. Cara calls the number on the card Kite gave her, which is routed to BOX 88 and installs spyware on her phone. Kite stalls Fariba and his men as long as possible, searching desperately for a way to escape. The BOX 88 group swoops up Cara, convincing her to work with them to rescue Isobel and Kite. Interspersed sections from 1989 fill in the details of that pivotal summer in Cannes when Lockie Kite was learning the tradecraft of spying. This excellent spy thriller leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

The Magnolia PalaceFiona Davis
The Magnolia Palace (Dutton 2022) begins in 1919 New York City. Lillian Carter (21) has worked for the past six years as an artist’s model under the pseudonym Angelica, supporting herself and her mother, who chaperones all the sittings. Statues featuring Angelica appear around the city, from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. But when Lillian’s mother falls ill with the Spanish flu and dies, she is overcome by grief, and is soon in debt. The murder of her landlord’s wife combined with a flirtatious note trying to get a rent extension found by the police frightens Lillian into fleeing her apartment, ending up outside the Henry Clay Frick House on Fifth Avenue. The reclining nude carved above the entrance of the mansion is Angelica, and she pauses to recall that sitting. A woman comes out, scolding her for not going to the servant’s entrance, where Lillian is given a much needed cup of tea, and then taken to see Miss Helen Clay Frick, who is in need of a private secretary. Miss Helen is a bit brusque but Lillian surprises her by identifying the artist who carved the bust of a nymph in the corner — her own likeness. Lillian’s is hired on the spot, and accepts the job, which comes with room and board, planning to work for a month and then use her pay for a train ticket to Hollywood, hoping for a career in the silent pictures. In 1966, eighteen-year-old Veronica Weber’s mother gives her a lopsided haircut which looks enough like a Vidal cut to land the novice model a Vogue photoshoot in the Frick Collection, an art museum in a former Golden Age mansion in New York City. The shoot doesn’t go well, the scantily dressed models are photographed making show angels, and Veronica retreats inside to warm up, ending up locked inside the Frick when everyone else leaves and the power goes out. Tripping in her high heels, she falls near the organ, and discovers a pile of paper hidden in the pipes. Joshua Lawrence, the archivist cataloging Miss Helen’s papers in the basement, is also trapped in the Frick by the storm. Together they begin reading the notes, which appear to be a scavenger hunt. The first one is dated November 1919, and Joshua suspects they lead to the Magnolia diamond, a flawless twelve-carat pink diamond that has been missing for nearly 50 years. Interspersed chapters weave the stories of the two young women together in a fascinating mix of fact and fiction and mystery.

The Woman in the LibrarySulari Gentill
The Woman in the Library (Poisoned Pen Press 2022) begins when author Winifred "Freddie" Kincaid visits the Reading Room at the Boston Public Library, searching for a quiet place to find inspiration for a mystery novel. She joins a table with three other people, giving each a nickname: Freud Girl, a young woman with full-sleeve tattoos on both arms reading psychology books; Heroic Chin, a young man in a Harvard Law sweatshirt; Handsome Man, typing at full speed on his laptop. A terrified woman’s scream breaks the silence, startling the foursome into conversation and an excursion for coffee at the nearby Map Room Tea Lounge. Freddie is newly arrived from Australia on an author-in-residence scholarship, and is delighted to make some new friends, sheepishly confessing she’s a writer when the others see the nicknames in her notebook. When the body of a woman is discovered in the library later that day, the four new friends band together to solve the crime. Interspersed emails from Leo, an American aspiring author in Boston, to Hannah Tigone, the Australian author really writing the book from Freddie’s perspective, give feedback on local color as she sends him each chapter for advice. Hannah had hoped to visit Boston herself, but can’t travel because of COVID restrictions. Leo’s emails grow progressively darker, and he begins to send pictures of crime scenes to help Hannah get all the bloody details right. This clever literary thriller about Hannah writing the story of Freddie writing the story of the murdered woman in the library is both funny and menacing.

Death and the ConjurorTom Mead
Death and the Conjuror (Mysterious Press 2022) begins in 1936 when celebrated London psychiatrist Dr. Anselm Rees is found dead in his locked study, his head half severed by a single stroke. That evening housekeeper Olive Turner was instructed to admit a late visitor, who arrives at 11:15 PM just as the rain begins. The mysterious visitor lets himself out about a half hour later. Through the closed study door Olive asks if Rees would like a nightcap, but the doctor refuses just before he receives a telephone call. About five minutes later Della Cookson pounds at the door, demanding to see Dr. Rees. Olive taps at the study door, but there is no response. Worried, she pushes the key from the lock on the inside and slides it under the door on a sheet of paper. The two women enter the study and discover the bloody corpse. They check the windows, which are securely locked from the inside, and the one possible hiding place in the room: a large wooden trunk which is completely empty. Scotland Yard Inspector George Flint arrives just as the rain is tapering off and a search confirms there is no weapon in the room. As the search is concluded the doctor’s daughter Lidia returns from dinner at the Savoy followed by dancing at a club in Soho with her fiance Marcus Bowman. The next morning Flint visits Joseph Spector, a retired stage magician who assists the police with “impossible” crimes. Spector and Flint talk through the details: the locked room, the missing weapon, the short time period between Dr. Rees speaking on the phone and Della’s arrival. Though two sets of footprints were found in the rear garden, neither set goes anywhere near the house. Dr. Rees and his daughter moved from Vienna to London about five month earlier. Lidia tells Spector and Flint that her father has never recovered from his one failure, a patient called the Snakeman who slit his own throat with a razor. In London he has taken only three patients: actress Della Cookson, who went straight to an opening night party after the premiere of her new play Miss Death; violinist Floyd Stenhouse, who claims to have spoken to Dr. Rees on the phone at 11:30 the previous night when he returned home after performing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; and author Claude Weaver, who had dinner with his publisher before spending the rest of the night at home with his wife. Flint begin confirming the alibis while Spector considers motives, researches the Snakeman, and examines every inch of the study. This debut locked room mystery features a fair-play puzzle and a vivid cast of period characters.

The Bangalore Detectives ClubHarini Nagendra
The Bangalore Detectives Club (Pegasus Crime 2022) introduces 19-year-old Kaveri, who moves to Bangalore in 1921 to marry Dr. Ramu Murthy. Kaveri feels lucky to have been matched with the handsome young doctor, but misses the freedom she had at the Maharani Girls’ School back in Mysore. Kaveri makes friends with her widowed neighbor Uma, who gives her cooking lessons, and secretly studies mathematics in their storehouse while her strict mother-in-law is napping, hoping to pass the entrance exam to university. The Congress, a political party fighting for India’s independence from the British Empire, calls for a mass strike of workers the following week. Their milkman Manju, who also works at the hospital, is late the next day, his younger brother Venu leading their cow instead. Venu looks half-starved, and Kaveri offers him a plate of left-over rice, learning that Manju has not been bringing money home lately, and never returned after going out the night before. Ramu and Kaveri attend a dinner for the Bowring Hospital doctors at the Century Club, newly opened with the mission of allowing the “natives” and the English to mingle socially. Kaveri is introduced to Dr. Charles Roberts, the Chief Medical Superintendent of Bangalore, and his effervescent wife Daphne, dressed in a shimmering purple beaded dress that barely skims her knees. Kaveri spots Manju and his wife Muniamma among the waitstaff hired for the dinner, and then sees Manju arguing with a beautiful woman next to a tree in the garden while a dangerous looking man lurks in the shadows. Just as the dinner ends a body is discovered by the tree, the same frightening man Kaveri saw earlier. Deputy Inspector Ismail interviews the doctors and their wives, and Kaveri tells him what she observed. The next day she visits the Century Club garden with the pretext of getting cuttings for her own garden, and discovers a knife hidden in the tree. Inspector Ismail is both impressed and amused when Kaveri asks him to check for fingerprints, promising to compare them against those of both Manju and Muniamma. Ramu cautions Kaveri to leave the investigation to the police, but she decides to visit Muniamma, who she noticed was pregnant and extremely thin. Muniamma confesses that the beautiful woman is a prostitute named Mala controlled by the dead man, and Manju was infatuated with her. With Uma’s help, Kaveri sets out to prove Muniamma is innocent, discovering that her talent for observation and logic make her a great detective. This engaging series launch is the fiction debut of a university professor in Bangalore.

Goering’s GoldRichard O’Rawe
Goering’s Gold (Melville House 2022) finds former IRA soldier James “Ructions” O’Hare living in Saint-Émilion, France, with his share of the £36.5 million National Bank of Ireland robbery he orchestrated three years earlier. Eleanor Proctor, the bank employee he seduced and then fell in love with, is enjoying their quiet life, assured by Ructions that the IRA, who were unjustly blamed for the robbery, will never find them to collect a cut of the money. Then IRA Commander Robert "Tiny" Murdoch spots Ructions on the street, surprising them both. Ructions gets in touch with his fence Serge Mercier, who doesn’t know how the IRA tracked Ructions down, but confesses he is worried about another matter. Ructions arranges a meeting, but before he can get there five disguised men with German accents invade Serge’s Lake Geneva mansion, demanding the Ceremonial Field Marshal’s baton Reichsmarschall Herman Goering received from Hitler, and killing Serge’s elderly butler who didn’t make it into the safe room. French Police Superintendent Thierry Vasseur arrives to investigate the murder, finding a sheet of paper in Serge’s office with the word RUCTIONS and a phone number. Serge admits to Ructions that he does indeed have Goering’s baton, moved recently to his safe deposit box when he learned that a Neo-Nazi group led by Karl Keller and calling themselves the Fourth Reich, was searching for the baton, believing it holds a clue to the location of the gold bullion plundered by Goering. Ructions gets the baton from Serge’s bank, and discovers a painting hidden inside, indicating the gold is somewhere in Ireland, which was neutral during the war. Hunted by both the IRA, the Fourth Reich, and the French police, Ructions has to use all of his cleverness to stay one step ahead, keep Eleanor from being kidnapped, and find the gold. Second in the series, this heist thriller is great fun.

Two Nights in LisbonChris Pavone
Two Nights in Lisbon (MCD 2022) begins when Ariel Pryce wakes up in their Lisbon hotel room to find her husband John missing. She checks his location on her phone app, which reports "Location not available," and he doesn’t respond to texts or calls, which is totally out of character. The hotel staff haven’t seen John, so Ariel wanders the streets near the hotel and then visits the police station. Inspector António Montiz explains that they don’t search for adults missing only a few hours. Ariel and John have been married for less than a year, and she realizes she doesn’t know many details about her new husband. When she explains John is a consultant in Lisbon to meet a client, he suggests she contact the client, but Ariel can’t remember the name, which didn’t seem important when they spontaneously planned for her to join the trip. Her concern bothers Moniz enough to instruct two officers to follow her. Ariel visits the American embassy, but Saxby Barnes is unwilling to put pressure on the local police due to the short time John has been missing. He asks if either have ever gone by other names, and Ariel admits she changed her name many years ago to escape a bad situation. Barnes runs a quick check and discovers that John also changed his name, which Ariel does not know. Barnes reports the incident to Chief of Station Nicole Griffiths, with an official consular request for the CIA to locate John’s phone, and Griffiths sends two agents out to locate the device that has been inactive for six hours. That evening Ariel is out searching the streets, when a motorcycle roars up and hands her a phone. It rings with a ransom call for three million euros and a threat that John won’t be alive in two days if she doesn’t pay. Ariel is a single mother with a barely solvent bookstore, and she knows John doesn’t have that kind of money either. But the caller insists that Ariel knows people who do, leaving her little choice but to contact the very person she changed her name to evade. This excellent thriller features layer upon layer of deception.

Girl, ForgottenKarin Slaughter
Girl, Forgotten (William Morrow 2022) begins in April 1982 Longbill Beach, Delaware, when Emily Vaughn walks to the prom. Six months pregnant, Emily barely fits into her turquoise satin dress is barefoot since she can’t get her heels on her swollen feet. Emily has no idea who the father is, but it must be either Clay Morrow, Bernard “Nardo” Fontaine, or “Blake” Blakely — the three boys at the party where she took acid and blacked out — or their track coach and social studies teacher Dean Wexler, who they called to drive her home. Emily is determined to see the group of friends she has been separated from since her pregnancy began to show —the three boys and Blake’s twin sister Ricky — despite her parents’ orders to stay out of sight and not endanger her mother’s reputation since she is on Reagan’s list for appointment to a federal judgeship. Emily approaches her four best friends since elementary school, who all tell her forcibly to leave them alone. Later Emily is found in a dumpster outside of town with her face bashed in and neck fractured. Emily is kept alive in a vegetative state for two months until her baby can be safely delivered, dying of an infection a few days later. Judge Esther Vaughn and her husband raised the baby Judith. Neither Emily’s attacker or the father of her child were ever identified. Forty years later new US Marshall Andrea Oliver is given her first assignment: judicial security. Judge Vaughn has been receiving credible death threats, and a dead rat was mailed to her home. The Judge is back home in Longbill Beach for the summer recess, living with Judith and Judith’s teenage daughter. Her secret assignment is to look into Emily’s death. Andrea’s father Nick Harp, a psychopath convicted of domestic terrorism that resulted in Andrea growing up in witness protection, is up for parole. Andrea knew nothing about her father until two years earlier, when her mother finally told her the truth about her past. Since then she has been obsessed with learning the truth. Harp’s birth name was Clayton Morrow, and finding proof that he was responsible for Emily’s death would hold him in prison, keeping Andrea’s mother safe. Andrea is partnered with Deputy Marshall Leonard “Catfish” Bible, who has his own agenda: a series of local suicides that may be linked to the emaciated women working at Dean’s Magic Beans, the fava bean farm owned by Dean Wexler and Nardo Fontaine that Bible believes is a cult. Interspersed sections beginning with the party in October 1981 fill in the details of Emily’s final months leading up to the attack at the prom. This intense thriller, a followup to Pieces of Her, continues Andrea’s struggle to come to grips with her own past.

November 1, 2022

Good Rich PeopleEliza Jane Brazier
Good Rich People (Berkley 2022) begins when Lyla Herschel’s husband Graham and his incredibly wealthy mother Margo, select a new tenant for the guesthouse at the bottom level of their multi-level glass mansion on a cliff in the Hollywood Hills. Lyla is pampered and bored, with little to do but plan parties and socialize with the friends she doesn’t care for. Their kitchen is empty except for the cases of Moët. All of Lyla’s clothing is in her signature color of gray, though she regrets not choosing a more striking color like Graham’s blue or Margo’s white. She is sexually attracted to her husband, but he hasn’t touched her for months. When they married, Graham explained that the ultra-rich are different, suffering from a continual emotional ennui that can only be alleviated by playing dangerous games, like selecting and destroying a series of tenants. Lyla got too close to the previous tenant, so Margo and Graham decide it is her turn to take control of the new one: Demi Golding, a director at a tech firm looking for a quiet place to live with space for her shoe collection. Demi arrives just after midnight the day after truckloads of furniture and boxes of luxury shoes were delivered. Graham is away on a golf trip and Margo is sequestered on the top floor when Lyla finally meets the new tenant, who is edgier than Lyla expects. The truth is that Demi was out late buying heroin, and a young homeless woman offered to walk her home, spending the night on Demi’s couch. The next morning Demi is dead of an overdose, and the homeless woman takes over her guesthouse, eating the beautifully packaged food in her fridge, enjoying the luxury of a hot shower with scented soap and shampoo, and wearing the beautifully soft clothing. Lyla proceeds with the game (landlord as player, tenant as prey) while planning Graham’s 30th birthday party featuring a battle of “simunition,” real guns but fake ammunition. No one realizes Demi isn’t who she pretends to be, perhaps more qualified than previous tenants to hold her own in this creepy battle between the entitled rich and desperate poor.

The GatekeeperJames Byrne
The Gatekeeper (Minotaur Books 2022) introduces Desmond Aloysius Limerick, known as Dez, recently retired at the age of 35 from work as a military contractor. Dez’s specialty was gatekeeper: the person who opens doors and keeps them open for only the right people during an attack. Six months after completing a mission in Algeria, Dez is indulging in his passion for playing bass guitar while staying at the Hotel Treimain in downtown Los Angeles. Returning late one night a tall dark woman and her two bodyguards join him in the elevator. Drinking a final beer in his room he spots a sniper on the roof of the next building and four men dressed in black entering the lobby. His room phone has no dial tone, and his mobile no connection. Guessing they are after the woman on the 17th floor who smiled kindly at him, Dez heads for the stairs. Since he has no weapons, he breaks the fire alarm box, noticing the alarm doesn’t sound as he grabs the ax. He neutralizes the kidnap team, but terrifies Petra. When the police arrive, Petra is holding a gun to Dez’s head and he is arrested. The next morning LAPD detective Beth Swanson tells Dez he is free to go, that the woman whose life he saved pulled every string to get him released. Dez learns he has rescued Petra Alexandris, the daughter of the CEO of Triton Expediters, a military contractor, and Triton’s Chief Legal Council. Petra asks Dez to help her with a problem she has been unable to solve: someone has embezzled more than a billion dollars from Triton. Since she knows someone inside the company is guilty, Petra doesn’t know whom to trust. As an outsider, Dez is her best choice. The problem at first appears outside Dez’s realm of expertise, but he figures that the digital door through which the money was extracted is just another kind of gate, one he should be able to figure out how to control. Dez and Petra uncover a dangerous conspiracy with one disaster after another: media manipulation, an armed coup, and a scheme to use a nuclear power plant as a weapon. This debut thriller introducing a clever man-of-action who never loses his cool is the first in a planned series.

A Narrow DoorJoanne Harris
A Narrow Door (Pegasus Crime 2022) begins when Rebecca Buckfast, barely 40 years old, accepts the job of Headmaster at St. Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys in North Yorkshire. Not only is she the first woman headmaster in 500 years, but the school, merged with sister school Mulberry House and renamed St. Oswald’s Academy, now accepts girls. The influx of money by admitting girls has saved St. Oswald’s, but Latin master Roy Straitley isn’t pleased with the changes, bribing the Porter to save his own shabby desk and the scarred classroom school desks from destruction though he is too late to prevent the chalkboard from being replaced with a whiteboard and brightly colored markers. It’s the day before Michaelmas Term begins, and four of his more disruptive students suddenly appear looking uncharacteristically serious. While trying to get through the construction fence around the half-finished new Gunderson Building in the hopes of starting the new term with a world-class prank, they spotted what they believe is a body in a muddy sinkhole created by recent excavations. The shapeless form does look suspiciously like human remains, and Straitley finds a corroded metal pin in the mud: King Henry’s Grammar School: PREFECT. Straitley gives the Prefect’s Badge to Headmaster Buckfast and describes the possible human remains, startled that she seems unsurprised. Buckfast promises to inform the authorities as soon as she tells him everything she knows, and they begin meeting every day for an installment in her story, beginning when her much older brother Conrad Price, a pupil at St. Henry’s, disappeared on the day of her fifth birthday. Becky had walked the few hundred yards from her nursery school to St. Henry’s, as she often did when he neglected to fetch her, and was discovered hours later hiding in a locker. No sign of Conrad was ever found, and all she could say was “Mr. Smallface took him away. Took him through the green door.” In 1989 Rebecca took a position as a French master at St. Henry’s while living with Dominic Buckfast and her six-year-old daughter Emily. Dominic wasn’t happy about Rebecca teaching at St. Henry’s, which he viewed as an elitest institution, and they were both concerned when they found drawings hidden in Emily’s room of a nightmarish figure she called Mr. Smallface. Like Scheherazade, Rebecca stretches out her story evening by evening, describing the destructive effects her brother’s disappearance had on her family and her lonely childhood. Told in alternating chapters from Rebecca’s and Straitley’s perspective, this third psychological thriller set at St. Oswald’s is masterful.

Sinister GravesMarcie R. Rendon
Sinister Graves (Soho Crime 2022) begins sometime in the 1970s when Cash Blackbear, a 19-year-old Ojibwe woman, gets a call from her friend Sheriff Wheaton asking her to come look at the body of a Native woman found as the Red River Valley flood waters near Fargo, North Dakota, receded. Wheaton is Cash’s guardian, encouraging her to attend college classes and spend less time drinking beer and playing pool. Wheaton sometimes asks Cash to help with his investigations, valuing her ability to see beneath the surface. The only clue to the young woman’s identity is a torn piece of paper from a hymnal written in English and Ojibwe. Cash finds a church near the White Earth Reservation with a similar hymnal, one the locals warn her against since it is a “speak-in-tongues kinda church” whose pastor verges on being a cult leader. Cash visits the church, finding the service compelling, the congregation swaying to the music, fueled into spiritual rapture by the handsome preacher. When the service ends, Pastor John Steene shakes hands and hugs the women. Cash finds him both mesmerizing and a bit creepy, and feels sorry for his clingy wife Lillian who is clearly uncomfortable. Cash finds two small graves next to the church, and senses a malevolent presence. Visiting again the next Sunday, Cash is invited for lunch before the service. Lillian is kind and welcoming and Cash relaxes as the pastor charms her into telling them about her difficult time in foster homes, basking in his care and attention. After the service Cash joins a small group of young Indian women who met Pastor Steene when he came to their GED classes and invited them to church. They are discussing the upcoming funeral of church member Edie Birch, who attended church for months and then disappeared just after giving birth, her body recently discovered dumped in Little Lake. The women also wonder about Lori who hasn’t been seen at GED class or at church, wondering if she perhaps went home to Devils Lake. Cash fears that Lori may be the body in the Fargo morgue, and returns to the church hoping to find the truth. This compelling third in the series expands the character of Cash Blackbear, a true eccentric who believes she can almost read minds.

When the Corn Is Waist HighJeremy Scott
When the Corn Is Waist High (Keylight Books 2022) is set in the small rural community of Crooked Creek, Indiana, in the early 1980s. Tina Hillary has been found dead in her kitchen. The death of the 84-year-old woman wouldn’t have been remarkable if not for the white lily stem sewn into her arm. Sheriff Lancaster is up late watching TV, eating a plate of Indiana nachos with his cat Zacchaeus in his lap. Father Solomon Lancaster arrived in Crooked Creek 11 years earlier to replace the retiring priest of Jerusalem Independent Catholic, successfully running for sheriff the following year. Though the deputies have all been to police academy, Lancaster hasn’t. Lancaster realizes he is lucky to have three deputies in such a small community, but knows they don’t have much experience with murder. Mayor Sean Burke agrees, and asks County Sheriff Craig McNewel for support. McNewel and Burke immediately conclude there is a serial killer on the loose, but Lancaster insists they only have one weird murder at this point and advises against terrifying the township with the threat of a serial killer. Four loaned officers arrive: a female officer named Cindy Baxter and three interchangeable average-height white guys he secretly dubs Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Lancaster pairs each of the loaner officers with a local and they head out to interview Tina’s neighbors. Cindy confesses this is the first real police work of her law-enforcement career, and is eager to take notes and run the tape recorder. The first farmer is flabbergasted they expect him to have heard or seen anything at 11:00 PM, long after his 6:00 PM bedtime, and the second is incensed when Cindy asks if she had a grievance about her neighbor, insisting farm neighbors are all kin. On the way back to the station they come across Buzz Martinson, prone to nudity and erratic behavior after a car accident where he was the only survivor, sleeping naked in a ditch with his pet raccoon. The second murder is 17-year-old Katie McGuire, her hands removed and replaced by daffodils. Lancaster often worries that his two jobs might conflict, and only he knows Katie was pregnant, a secret shared in confession. The third victim is Vernon Yarbrough, a 40-year old farmer whose eyes have been replaced with black-eyed Susan blossoms. The FBI arrive, first a small group and then over 200, swelling the local population by over 15%. Lancaster and his deputies are shut out of the investigation, their local knowledge ignored as the hunt is on for a serial killer who has access to fresh flowers. Narrated by the dry-witted Lancaster, this darkly humorous thriller is full of sharp observations about rural life.

GeigerGustaf Skördeman
Geiger (Grand Central Publishing 2022, Sweden 2020) begins just after Agneta (69) and Stellan (85) Broman have said good-bye to their visiting daughters (Malin and Lotta) and grandchildren. The landline rings, and Agneta hears one word: Geiger. She finds her old pistol hidden away in the house, shoots her husband in the head, and flees on her bicycle, hoping it will be some time before anyone discovers his body. But one of the grandchildren has forgotten a stuffed toy, and Malin discovers the murder scene. Sara Nowak, a police officer in the prostitution unit, is called to the scene by a homicide colleague who knows she grew up with the Broman daughters and knew nationally beloved television presenter “Uncle Stellan” well. Malin is shaken and disoriented, unable to process her father’s murder and her mother’s disappearance, grateful for the comfort of Sara’s familiar face. The police assume it is a break-in gone wrong and Agneta was frightened into hiding. Meanwhile, Agneta arrives at the barn where she stored a Volvo many years earlier, relieved to see the car is still operable once the battery charges, ready to resume the mission she accepted many decades ago, to become again the person she had been drilled from childhood to be. Sara doesn’t believe Stellan was killed by the local gang of burglars, who rarely used violence and then only a knife. Searching for clues in Stellan’s past, she finds a link to an article about a Cold War book written by retired Swedish history professor Eva Hedin, naming Swedes who worked for the Stasi, the East German security service, in the 1980s. Stellan Broman was mentioned in the article. He denied being a Stasi spy though he did admire East German (DDR) ideology and worked to get the DDR recognized as an independent state. Hedin tells Sara that Stellan, code-named Geiger, was an "informal collaborator," promoting a positive image of the DDR and facilitating contact between East Germany and key Swedes. Hedin suspects someone may have read her latest book and realized Stellan Broman was Geiger, responsible for reporting East Germans trying to flee the DDR. When asked about Agneta, Hedin reports there is nothing about Stellan’s wife in the archives; her disappearance is a mystery. After years in the prostitution unit, Sara is frustrated with the Swedish government’s refusal to defend prostitutes from exploitation, allowing arrested men off with a fine mailed to their work address so their wives don’t know they visit and abuse prostitutes. Struggling with anger-management, she neglects her family and lashes out the men at the slightest excuse. Unable to interest the homicide team in the East German connection, Sara becomes obsessed with searching for the truth about the man she admired so much in her youth, putting her job at risk. This intense thriller is the debut of the Swedish screenwriter and director.

Dark ObjectsSimon Toyne
Dark Objects (2022) begins when Tannahill Khan, Detective Chief Inspector with the North London Murder Squad, is called to the scene of a murder in a luxurious house adjacent to a cemetery. Kate Miller has been killed with a knife, blood streaked across the walls and ceiling, her body meticulously arranged on the floor. Her husband Mike is nowhere to be found. Around her body are four objects: a small stuffed unicorn, two tarnished medals on faded ribbons, a set of keys, a slim book. It’s the book that draws Tannahill’s attention: How To Process a Murder by Laughton Rees. The murder scene is forensically clean, no evidence of the killer. Single mother to unhappy teenager Gracie, Laughton is a professor of criminology who suffers from OCD, her life ruled by taps and sets of threes. When she was 15, Laughton was present at her mother’s murder by Adrian McVey, a man accused of killing eight children whose conviction collapsed because of bungled evidence. When released, McVey killed Grace Rees, the wife of the lead investigator, now Commissioner John Rees, as she tried to protect her daughter. Laughton hasn’t spoken to her father since that day. Reporter Brian Slade, who wrote articles about Grace Rees’s murder and the downward spiral of Laughton into drugs and homelessness before becoming pregnant, receives an email with pictures of the crime scene. Delighted by the shock value of a book by Laughton left at the scene of a murder as her father is dealing with the bad publicity of knife attacks on the streets, Slade rushes the pictures into print. Tannahill convinces Laughton to help with the investigation, her determination to never work on a live case overruled by her need for the consultant’s fee to get Gracie out of the school where she is being bullied. Laughton recognizes that Kate’s posed body, with a sleep mask draped over her face, represents Justitia, the Roman figure of blind justice, and that the police should be looking for someone with a score to settle. Unfortunately neither Kate nor Mike have a discoverable past before they moved into the Highgate neighborhood a year earlier. The house was purchased through a Cayman Island company, which also paid their bills including their phones, which can’t be traced. Pages from Laughton’s book and sections from the perspective of the killer enliven this complex police procedural, the first in a planned series.

The Key to DeceitAshley Weaver
The Key to Deceit (Minotaur Books 2022) begins in 1940 London when Major Ramsey arrives looking for Electra “Ellie” McDonnell’s Uncle Mick. The McDonnells are a long-time family of burglars, trying to go straight after being recruited to help with the government’s war effort. Ellie is secretly attracted to Ramsey, but knows there is no way they can cross the social divide separating the wealthy aristocrat and common thief. Since Mick is out of town, Ramsey reluctantly accepts Ellie’s help to remove a bracelet device locked onto the body of a young woman found floating in the Thames. Ramsey suspects the device is a miniaturse camera and that the woman is spying for the Germans. Ellie removes the bracelet, and then asks if a woman’s perspective on the clothing might help in identification. She notices that the underclothes are new and expensive, as are the dress and sable fur coat, and suggests that the coat might be the place to start with identification. Sewn inside the coat lining is a small leather pouch containing a dozen small gemstones of excellent quality, and a clock key. The film inside the tiny camera has pictures of factories and other key locations as well as a picture of a sheet of paper with the text G02A04—East End, prompting Ramsey to conclude the woman was part of a spy ring photographing London for the Germans. The first bombing of London the previous week makes catching the spymaster of paramount importance. Ramsey is reluctant to involve Ellie any further, but she convinces him that the pawnbrokers likely to buy the gemstones won’t talk to the authorities, but trust her. To identify the spymaster, Ramsey is forced to call upon Uncle Mick’s safecracking abilities, Cousin Colm’s ability to disable alarm systems, and family friend Felix Lacy’s counterfeiting skills. Meanwhile, Ellie and Felix work together to uncover the true story behind her mother’s decades old conviction for the murder of her father. This excellent second in the series starring the clever and fearless Ellie is great fun.

The Day He LeftFrederick Weisel
The Day He Left (Poisoned Pen Press 2022) begins when Annie Behrens gets a text wondering why her husband Paul didn’t show up for his job as English teacher at Brookwood Middle School in Santa Rosa, California. Returning home from a late shift at the hospital the night before, Annie had fallen asleep on the couch after finishing a bottle of Zinfandel, and didn’t see Paul. Their 16-year-old son Jesse saw his father early the following morning, dressed in a jacket and tie instead of his usual more casual clothing and appearing upset. Annie discovers that Paul left his phone and lesson plan book at home, and reports his disappearance to the police. Two detectives with the Violent Crimes Division (Eddie Mahler, recovering from PTSD after a violent death a year earlier, and Eden Somers, a former FBI analyst) interview Annie, quickly realizing she is an alcoholic. Annie tells them she and her husband have grown apart and see little of each other because of their work schedules. Paul has mentioned some conflicts with girls in his class challenging his authority by refusing to complete assignments, but is a popular teacher with both his students and their parents. Annie gives the detectives a friendship bracelet she found in his briefcase, and the detectives ask for permission to search their home. They don’t find anything confirming Paul is a suicide risk, but also nothing to indicate where he has gone. Daniel Rivas, close to retirement, is the memory bank for the four-member Violent Crimes Division, able to quickly retrieve all the habits and relationships of local criminals. Steve Frames, a military veteran, is on temporary loan to the Narcotics Division, on surveillance to find evidence on the drug dealer they suspect is responsible for deaths caused by mixing fentanyl with heroin. Annie and Paul’s daughter Claire (13) is blackmailed by a girl at school, threatening to post incriminating pictures of both of her parents unless she pays $200. Jesse, who deals weed at his high school, threatens the blackmailer in return, and is given copies of the pictures showing Annie with a lover and Paul laughing on a park bench with one of his female students. The four complex detectives, each with troubles of their own, empathize with Paul’s wife and children, and follow up on each small clue to locate the missing man. This excellent police procedural is the second in the Violent Crime Investigations Team mysteries.

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire MenaceOlga Wojtas
Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace (2022) begins when middle-aged librarian Shona McMonagle, a time-travelling former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh, is transported to the tiny French Alpine village of Sans-Soleil. The village, circled by high mountains, is in constant shade. Shona knows only that she is there for one week to solve a problem, but has no clue what the problem is. She meets a group of five men: the mayor, the judge, the teacher, the police officer, and the undertaker/cheesemonger. The men are surprised that Shona has suddenly appeared in their remote village, clothed appropriately in a period outfit except for her beloved Doc Martin boots. After a short argument about how to pronounce her name, settling on Madame Maque Monet Gueule, and that Scotland is not the same as England, Shona is asked why she is there. Noticing a newspaper with the date July 9, 1900, she declares that she is there for the celebrations on the fourteenth, meaning Bastille Day, but the village instead celebrates Cheese. The group decides Shona should board with newly widowed Madeleine, whose husband Sylvain, the previous police officer, was torn apart by wild animals in the forest. Madeleine, who was not allowed to see her husband’s mutilated body before burial, insists he is still alive and searches for him every day. Shona asks for tea, which is unavailable, and settles for coffee without milk, which is also unavailable. A child arrives to milk Madeleine’s cow, and then scampers off with the bucket of milk, meeting other children in the street carrying milk to the cheesemonger. Shona assumes the children are engaged in some sort of practical biology lesson, but soon learns they haven’t had a proper academic lesson since the previous teacher was also torn apart by wild animals in the forest. Despite the abundant buckets of milk, the cheese shop is shuttered, and there is no milk for sale at the tiny store. Wondering if her mission has something to do with the wild animals in the forest, Shona convinces Madeline to lead her to the English milord’s castle on the edge of the forest. There she meets Lord Erroll, a thin man with his face mostly hidden by a muffler. He offers Shona homemade shortbread and tea, reluctantly providing a small portion of milk. Lord Erroll tells Shona the castle was built to order, replicating his favorite windowless octagonal room from the family castle in Slains, Scotland. It isn’t until she has left the castle that Shona makes the connection to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written when he was on holiday in Port Erroll, just next to Slains. She immediately concludes that all the villagers are vampires, living in Sans-Soleil because of they can’t abide sunshine. One wrong conclusion after another finally leads Shona to the end of her mission, rescuing the village and restoring milk for their tea. This second in the series starring the well-educated whiz at obscure martial arts is perfect farcical fun.

December 1, 2022

The Wheel of DollJonathan Ames
The Wheel of Doll (Mulholland Books 2022) finds Happy Doll, a former Los Angeles police officer who gained some impressive scars but lost his private investigator license and a kidney in his last adventure, trying to become an armchair Buddhist while enjoying a quiet life with his beloved dog George. Happy smokes marijuana to help with relaxation, but tries to avoid alcohol and drugs. In January 2020 a young woman named Mary DeAngelo comes to his “security specialist” office, asking him to locate her mother, whom she hasn’t seen for thirteen years. Mary explains that her mother, a homeless heroin addict now living in Olympia, Washington, contacted her on Facebook a few months ago but then dropped out of sight again. Mary has since closed her Facebook account and her mother stopped calling. Happy advises Mary to contact a private investigator in Olympia, but she explains that her mother Ines Candle told her to contact a man named Happy Doll if she ever needed help. Ines and Happy had a relationship just before she left Los Angeles following a suicide attempt, and he can’t resist the chance to help the woman he once loved. A former street urchin herself, Mary is now married to Hoyt Marrow, a wealthy man willing to indulge her quest to find her mother. Before meeting Marrow to collect his fee, Happy does some research, discovering the Mary has little online presence: no social media accounts, rental records, property ownership, arrests. The only thing he can find is her father and step-mother’s dual obituary from the car accident she described, survived by their daughter Mary. There is nothing about Hoyt Marrow, which must be a phony name. Happy finds a death notice for Mary’s mother, who died in a Seattle nursing home on Christmas Day, but no sign of Ines in any hospital or shelter. Happy meets Marrow and Mary at a restaurant, taking an immediate dislike to the man at least twice Mary’s age with a cosmetically altered face and scalp full of hair plugs. Marrow gives Happy a large check, ordering Happy to stop investigating his clients and start looking for Mary’s mother, while Mary appears drugged or drunk. In Olympia Happy finally locates Ines in a homeless encampment under the Fourth Avenue Bridge run by a gang of three dangerous men who supply drugs in exchange for disability payments and panhandling proceeds. Multiple murders follow our compassionate and violent protagonist throughout this gritty noir thriller, second in the series.

ShutterRamona Emerson
Shutter (Soho Crime 2022) is the story of Rita Todacheene, a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police force. Ever since she can remember, Rita has been plagued by the ability to see and talk to ghosts, which alienates her from her relatives and friends in the Navajo community. Rita became intrigued by photography at the age of five, when her grandmother built a pinhole camera from a box while they were out gathering piñon nuts. As Grandma took her picture, Rita noticed a shadowy man who stood beside her. When they later look at the picture together, there is a haze of light next to Rita. Grandma shows her a picture of her grandpa, and Rita recognizes the man who caused the light in the picture, horrifying her Grandma. The latest crime scene Rita photographs is the horrible death of Erma Singleton, whose body is spread in pieces over the highway after a fall from the bridge above, scattered by a semi truck and other vehicles. Detective Martin Garcia is quick to rule the death a suicide, but Rita sees a vision of men pulling Erma out of a car and tossing her over the edge. Over the years Rita has become more skilled at not engaging with ghosts, but Erma is desperate for help proving she did not kill herself so her baby will know the truth. Rita has been working too many hours in a row without sleep, and can’t fight Erma off, causing her boss to suspect she has lost touch with reality. Interspersed sections reveal Rita’s past traumas: the mother who left her with her grandmother at the age of three, her beloved cousin who was unable to resist the call of alcohol and drugs, the ghosts who haunted her life. Each chapter is framed with the name of the camera Rita used at that point in her life, helping her interpret the world. This impressive debut thriller featuring a unique protagonist is the first in a planned trilogy.

Winter WorkDan Fesperman
Winter Work (Knopf 2022) begins the winter the Berlin Wall was dismantled. Emil Grimm, Colonel in the HVA (Stasi) foreign intelligence service of the East Berlin Ministry of State Security, has retreated to his dacha outside the city with his bedridden wife Bettina. There is talk in the West German capital of Bonn of prosecuting the East German spies for treason, despite the fact East Germany was a separate nation. Out walking early in the morning Emil ponders his best course of action to avoid prison: Hire a lawyer? Flee to another country? He notices a cordon of yellow plastic tape surrounding a body he recognizes by the bright orange watch cap: his neighbor and fellow Stasi colleague Lothar Fisher. Major Dieter Krauss and his three men have made a mess the scene with their footprints and are in the process of searching the body when Lieutenant Marius Dorn, a detective inspector from the district headquarters in Bernau, arrives and orders them to leave, pointing out that Krauss no longer has authority to investigate anything. Two high-ranking members of the Stasi have taken their own lives in the past month, but Emil, who trusts Dorn, points out that Lothar’s death is unlikely to be a suicide: the gun is in his right hand and Lothar was left-handed. On his way home Emil notices smoke coming from the third dacha in the area: his former boss Markus Wolf, the Stasi’s most renowned spymaster now retired, has returned. CIA Deputy Director of Information Lindsay Ward was sent to Berlin in mid-January after protesters broke into Stasi headquarters, tossing records into the street and setting them on fire. Ward immediately made it known that the CIA would negotiate for any records that survived, competing with the Russians. She requests a transfer of CIA field agent Claire Saylor from Paris to serve as the liaison for a Stasi officer offering information in exchange for relocation. Aware that there is possibly a mole in the CIA, and knowing little of Berlin, Claire contacts her old colleague Clark Baucom, a retired agent now living in West Berlin. Baucom confirms that verifying the information will be difficult: Markus Wolf created a three-part system of files making it impossible to identify their foreign agents without all three pieces of the puzzle. Unaware that the anonymous Stasi agent offering information has been murdered, Claire follows the contact instructions and meets Emil instead, who is willing to exchange Stasi records for passports. This intricate spy thriller is highly recommended.

Alias EmmaAva Glass
Alias Emma (Bantam 2022) begins when two men enter a luxury building in London, tilting their faces away from the CCTV camera on the corner, tossing Uri Semenov, a Russian nuclear specialist who immigrated 15 years earlier, from the window of his sixth-floor penthouse. Secret Service Agent Emma Makepeace is working undercover at a T-shirt shop watching manager Raven, who organizes a left-wing protest group that may be receiving financial support from Russia. After many weeks posing as an activist from Manchester, Emma is convinced Raven isn’t ever going to be a real danger and is thrilled to be called in for her first major assignment. Secret Service head Charles Ripley describes the murder — a professional job like three other murders within the last two weeks of Russian scientists under the protection of the government, all killed in ways that could plausibly look like suicide, leaving no DNA evidence and no face capture on CCTV. Ripley explains that the four victims had two connections: they worked for the UK government and they were close associates of Elena and Dimitri Primalov, highly placed nuclear physicists in the Russian weapons program, assets for MI6 until someone betrayed them. Emma invented parts of the centrifuge the Russians used to develop weapons-grade plutonium. The Primalovs were extracted from Russia with their young son, granted full British citizenship and protection, and have been living in anonymity in rural Hampshire for two decades. Now an assassination team from the GRU (the Russian foreign military intelligence agency) is tracking down and killing former Russian scientists around the world over the past year, all with some connection to Elena Primalov. The mystery is why the Russians are taking huge risks to kill people who passed on all their secrets many years earlier. Elena and Dimitri have been taken into protective custody, but their son Michael, a pediatric oncologist, is refusing to leave his patients. Emma’s assignment is to persuade him before he is captured by the Russians to use as a bargaining chip with Elena. Emma’s first attempt fails since Michael doesn’t believe he is in danger, but an attack they barely escape changes his mind. Emma calls Ripley for help, but he is strangely unavailable, and she learns that the Russians have hacked into the CCTV system, making their flight across London to the safety of MI6 nearly impossible since subways, trains, busses, and taxis are out of the question as are credit cards and phones. It’s midnight, and Emma must use all her disguise skills as well as her intimate knowledge of London to get Michael to safety without triggering face recognition on the city’s security system before the sun comes up at 7:00 AM. This intelligent spy thriller, a series opener, is the first under the Ava Glass pseudonym by author Christi Daugherty.

The Family RemainsLisa Jewell
The Family Remains (Atria Books 2022) begins in June 2019 when Detective Inspector Samuel Owusu arrives at the shores of the Thames to investigate a bundle of skeletal remains found by a mudlarker. Meanwhile, Rachel Gold Rimmer receives a phone call from a detective in Nice breaking the news that her husband Michael has been found murdered in his house in Antibes and asking questions that might make her a suspect. Henry Lamb (42) is still adjusting to the fact that his younger sister Lucy, whom he had not seen since they were teenagers, has moved in to his immaculate apartment with her two young children, formerly homeless on the streets of France. Henry and Lucy had a horrendous childhood: a sadistic con man and his son Phineaus moved into their family home in Chelsea when they were young children, resulting in Lucy giving birth at 14. Shortly thereafter their parents and the unidentified man were found dead after taking poison, the baby Libby safe upstairs, and Henry and Lucy nowhere to be found. Thirty years later Libby has inherited the decrepit mansion and reconnected with her mother and uncle, who are living under assumed names. The bones found by the mudlarker are identified as Birdie Dunlop-Evers, a young musician who went missing in the late 1980s. The police connect a film of Birdie’s last pop hit to the mansion now owned by Libby, and begin to ask questions that may put her relatives at risk. Henry has been searching for Phin for decades, and finally locates him in Chicago. He sets off on his own to settle old scores, followed by Lucy, who worries that Henry’s obsession with Phin will lead to more violence. Flashbacks to 2016 fill in the back story of Rachel’s marriage to Michael, and his connection to the Lamb family. This excellent followup to The Family Upstairs can be read as a standalone, though the previous book provides additional insight into the characters, particularly the very disturbing Henry.

Billie Starr’s Book of SorriesDeborah E. Kennedy
Billie Starr’s Book of Sorries (Flatiron Books 2022) is the story of young single-mother Jenny Newberg and her 2nd grade daughter Billie Starr, who live in the small town of Benson, Indiana. Jenny has just been fired from her job after slugging her boss Bob Butz while he groped her. Her chain-smoking mother Carla, who plans to marry Butz, can’t understand why she “quit,” and Jenny is too embarrassed to tell her. Jenny knows the bank will foreclose on her house soon, and is always apologizing to Billie Starr for feeding her cheap meals like peanut butter and jelly for dinner and "forgetting" to send a check for the class field trip. Billie Starr and her friend Judd Pickens are writing a book together — The Book of Sorries — because both Jenny’s and Judd’s mothers are always apologizing for things but nothing ever gets better. Billie Starr’s father Randall doesn’t pay child support, but does appear drunk late at night demanding to see her. Just before Christmas Jenny is approached by two strangers in black suits who offer her a large sum if she will seduce the Candidate, wearing a wire to record behavior that might be enough to derail his campaign. The seduction isn’t as bad as Jenny feared, the Candidate is kind and gentle, but Tall Back Suit and Fat Black Suit aren’t at the café with her money. Realizing she has been duped, Jenny heads home to her desperate life. That evening as they are shivering in their cold house, Jenny apologizing that she hasn’t had time to call a repairman for their furnace, Billie Starr answers the door to discover the Candidate canvassing their neighborhood. Introducing himself as George Shepherd, he charms Billie Starr, fixes the furnace, and offers Jenny a job as office manager for his campaign. Without any other options, Jenny takes the job, and is surprised to find that she enjoys the challenge, though she is terrified that the recording of their liaison at the Riverview Inn will be released at any moment, destroying any chance she has of getting back on a firm financial footing. Then Billie Starr goes missing, and Jenny realizes she will do absolutely anything to get her back. This beautifully written novel is a powerful exploration of desperation and hope.

The Bucket ListPeter Mohlin & Peter Nyström
The Bucket List (Harry N. Abrams 2021) begins in 2019 when FBI agent John Adderley wakes up in a hospital bed in Baltimore with extensive gunshot wounds. John had been working undercover in Baltimore’s Nigerian drug cartel, barely escaping with his life, his cover blown. John is offered witness protection anywhere in the world with no connection to his life, but he chooses Sweden, where his mother and half-brother live. John’s father was Nigerian, moved to New York City, and met John’s Swedish art-student mother in a bar. When his mother became pregnant with John, they moved to Karlsad, Sweden, separating when John was 12 when his father took hm back to America, leaving John’s half-brother Billy behind. Now John’s mother has sent him a flashdrive of information about the 2009 disappearance of Emilie Bjurwall from her wealthy neighborhood just outside Karlsad, dubbed the Hämptons. Emilie’s mother Sissela manages the family clothing empire AckWe, and her father Heimer is a serious wine collector and amateur runner. Emilie had just returned from a stay at an exclusive drug treatment center, and her parents hoped she was now drug free. Then Emilie attends a Midsummer party, and doesn’t return home. The other young people at the party were drunk, remembering Emilie left around midnight but not much more. A picture posted on her Facebook page at 1:48 AM shows a “bucket list” tattoo on her forearm: three squares in a row, two with tattooed v-shaped ticks, the final square with a bloody tick carved into the skin with a sharp object. The last ping from Emilie’s phone is traced to the deserted tip of a promontory called Tynäs, where the police discover blood and semen, but no trace of Emilie or any of her belongings. The semen is matched to 19-year-old Billy Nerman, John’s younger half-brother, who denies being at Tynäs or having anything to do with Emilie. No body is found, and Billy isn’t prosecuted, though everyone believes he is guilty. Ten years later a new unsolved cases team is created, their first mission to re-examine the disappearance of Emilie Bjurwall. John hasn’t seen Billy since they were separated as children, but can’t resist the plea from his dying mother, and insists on being relocated to Sweden, despite the FBI’s concern that the Nigerians may be able to trace him there. Struggling with debilitating headaches, panic attacks from his near execution, and paranoia about the Nigerian cartel, John assumes the new identity of Fredrik Adamsson: an adopted Swedish child whose family moved to Massachusetts when he was young. After their death in a car accident Fredrik, now a police officer, returns to Sweden, and has just been transferred to the Karlsad station, using his American training to assist the cold case team. This intense debut noir thriller featuring the talented and troubled John Adderley is the first in a series.

Our Missing HeartsCeleste Ng
Our Missing Hearts (Penguin Press 2022) is set in a near-future America still recovering from the Crisis, the worst recession ever experienced. Twelve-year-old Bird was born in the early days of the Crisis to Harvard linguist professor Ethan Gardner and Chinese-American poet Margaret Miu. The Chinese were blamed for the Crisis, leading to the passage of Preserving American Culture and Traditions (PACT) when Bird was two. The president reassured the country that people of Asian origin (PAO) had nothing to fear as long as they were loyal Americans, but prejudice and acts of violence against PAO increased every year. Then the government began removing children from families with anti-PACT sentiments, placed into foster homes away from the environment of harmful views. When Bird was nine, a young protester used a line from Margaret’s single book of poetry — “All our missing hearts” — as a rallying cry against the removal of children from their families. Margaret was identified as the author of the book, and fearing Bird would be placed into foster care, she vanished. Bird didn’t understand why she left, or why his father placed all her belongings on the sidewalk, claiming to have banned her from their life. But he knows to keep his head down and not call attention to himself after years of bullying for being part Asian. Soon red hearts and slogans like “Where are our missing hearts?” appear in public places, causing crowds to gather and gawk at the colorful displays. Bird doesn’t connect the protests to his mother until his friend Sadie, a foster-child removed from her family, shows him an old article about his mother and her poem. Then he receives an unsigned card covered with drawings of cats, and remembers a bedtime story his mother used to tell him when he was very small about a boy who loved to draw cats. There are no books left in his school library, so Bird visits the public library, which has a few books left on the shelves. He notices the librarian removing a slip of paper from a book and hiding it in her pocket before working up his courage to ask about the story. With the help of the underground network of librarians working to reconnect PACT-seized children and their families, Bird tracks his mother to New York City, where she is working on another anti-PACT demonstration. This chilling dystopian thriller documents the insidious normalization of violence against anyone who looks Asian and the power of art to awaken an emotional response to to injustice.

Under a Veiled MoonKaren Odden
Under a Veiled Moon (Crooked Lane Books 2022) begins in September 1878 when the pleasure steamer Princess Alice collides with the Bywell Castle, a massive iron-hulled collier, instantly sinking the Princess Alice. All 600 passengers are thrown into the river. The crews of both ships frantically pull as many men, women, and children as possible out of the water, but few can swim and only 130 survive. Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, acting superintendent of the Wapping River Police, is in charge of the investigation. Rumors soon circulate that the Irish pilot of the Princess Alice was drunk, and then even more worrisome rumors that the disaster is part of a series of attacks by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the only path to restoring Irish Home Rule and recently dynamited a rail line. Corravan, who was born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family when his own parents died, must deal with suspicions that he cannot be a fair investigator. Corravan doesn’t believe the pilot deliberately caused the crash, and is accused by the Home Office of ignoring the obvious culprit for the crime. The Commissioner of Wrecks begins the process or raising the sunken Princess Alice, and Corravan hopes physical evidence will help move the investigation forward. Corravan is also in the midst of a plan to remove young Colin Doyle from the clutches of James McCabe’s Irish gang, raising concern with his supervisors that he is associating with criminals. Corravan’s author friend Belinda Gale discovers a disturbing sameness in the incendiary reports in different papers, leading to the conclusion that someone is orchestrating the negative press about the Irish in order to derail the discussions about granting Ireland home rule. This compelling historical thriller, second in the series, brings the anti-Irish sentiment and persecution of the Irish in London to vivid life.

Lavender HouseLev AC Rosen
Lavender House (Forge Books 2022) begins in 1952, when Evander “Andy” Mills is fired from the San Francisco police department after being caught in a raid of a gay club. Andy is contemplating suicide when Pearl Velez approaches him at a bar, asking him to investigate the recent death of Irene Lamontaine, the head of the famous Lamontaine Soap empire, explaining Irene was her wife. Andy is stunned Pearl would say that out loud in a public place, and having nothing left to lose, follows Pearl to Lavender House, a large estate behind a locked gate with extensive flower beds. Pearl tells Andy about the "family" living at Lavender House where everyone is free to be their true selves including Pearl and Irene’s son Harry, his boyfriend Cliff, and Henry’s wife Margo. Henry is married to Margo for business reasons — Lamontaine Soap is a family company and confirmed bachelors make housewives nervous. Margo has a girlfriend Elsie, who visits but lives in a flat above her club in the city. Margo’s mother Alice is also in residence, reluctantly putting up with lifestyles she doesn’t approve of because she would be homeless otherwise. The staff consists of butler Pat Kelly, who knew of Andy from gay clubs, and the cook Dot, who shares a room with the gardener Judy. Irene died three weeks earlier after falling from the balcony of her workshop to the library below. Her death was ruled an accident, but Pearl worries she may have been pushed. Unwilling to encourage the police to enter the sanctuary of Lavender House, exposing the residents to criminal charges and endangering the family business, Pearl kept her worries to herself until Kelly told her about Andy being fired. Andy notices a shattered bottle labeled “Lavender” and the low railing which does make an accidental fall conceivable. But the bloodstain on the floor is much smaller than it should be, and part of a tooth embedded in the floor is not consistent with either a fall or a push. The coroner’s report says Irene died of acute pulmonary edema, but Andy realizes she was dead before she hit the ground, perhaps from poison. Pearl hopes the murderer is from outside the Lavender House family, possibly from Lamontaine Soap’s competitor Gleam, but Andy doesn’t see how anyone from the outside could be the culprit. This engaging “manor house” mystery exploring the dangers of queer life in the 1950s leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

Secret IdentityAlex Segura
Secret Identity (Flatiron Books 2022) is set in 1975 New York City where Carmen Valdez is working as an assistant at Triumph Comics for sexist owner and editor-in-chief Jeffrey Carlyle. Carmen dreams of becoming a writer herself, but Carlyle is dismissive of the story ideas she shows him, though often asking her to edit the scripts written by others. Junior editor Harvey Stern appreciates Carmen’s talents, and secretly begs her to help him create a new character when Carlyle asks for the company’s first female hero. Carmen is dubious about a joint effort, but doesn’t see any other way to get the character she’s been dreaming for years into a comic book. Harvey has a few ideas of his own, and together they come up with The Lethal Lynx, the secret identity of Claudia Calla, a secretary at a newspaper. Carmen meets Marion Price, one of the few other women working in the comics industry, who warns her not to trust Harvey, but Carmen is too thrilled that her character will finally come alive to take the warning seriously. Carmen reworks her story ideas and gives them to Harvey who submits all six of Carmen’s scripts to Carlyle under his name only. Carlyle loves the character he renames The Legendary Lynx and hires Carmen’s favorite illustrator Doug Detmer as the artist. As Carmen is working on a plan to get credit, Harvey is killed, leaving her no proof that the Lynx is primarily her work. Detective Mary Hudson comes to Triumph to interview Harvey’s colleagues. Carmen explains that she and Harvey were just work friends, but Hudson knows he visited Carmen at her apartment and suspects Carmen is the one who discovered Harvey’s body. Meanwhile, Carmen’s ex-girlfriend Katherine appears in New York, telling Carmen she has left her husband. Carmen is both thrilled at the hope of resuming their relationship and terrified by the possibility that Katherine is as volatile as ever. Carmen’s life-long love of comic books came from her father, who shared his passion for the superhero stories, but their relationship didn’t survive her coming out. Interspersed excerpts from The Legendary Lynx issues featuring the Lynx in her spotted bell-bottomed costume pay homage to the era when comic books were only available at news stands, the industry fading. This powerful noir thriller deftly mixes elements of the murder mystery and coming-of-age genres.

Cold FearBrandon Webb & John David Mann
Cold Fear (Bantam 2022) begins when a young woman runs barefoot down a Reykjavík street on Christmas Eve, strips out of her clothes, and scrawls a word on her stomach in lipstick before plunging through the patch of water kept open for the ducks in the thick ice. Detective Krista Kristjánsdóttir and her partner Einar are called to the scene when the body is discovered, already dubbed “the little mermaid” by the press. The divers are unable to extract the body, frozen solid under the ice, and the detectives leave the crew busy cutting a section of the ice to transport to the pathology lab. In the crowd at the scene is Finn, an ex-Navy SEAL sniper in Iceland looking for the members of his team who massacred a town in Yemen, killed Finn’s best friend, and then framed Finn for the crimes. Finn is suffering from an extreme case of PTSD, and has only hazy memories of that fatal day. Finn has no idea why the SEALS have been deployed in Iceland or that Boone, a former SEAL turned contract killer hired to kill Finn has just arrived in Iceland. Einar believes the girl was too high to realize the water was freezing, but Krista sees terror in her eyes in the CCTV footage. Krista compares the footage near the pond with footage from airport customs and spots Finn, traveling under the name Marlin Pike and posing as a researcher for an American writer working on a novel set in Iceland. She is suspicious of his story, sure that Pike is hiding something. The body goes missing before the forensic analysis can be completed, probably sent to the crematorium by mistake. The only clues were reported by the divers cutting the body from the ice: a recent lower abdominal scar and a word in an foreign language perhaps with the letters OM. Oksana Shevchenko travels from Kiev when she sees the picture of the dead girl in the newspaper. She tells Krista that her younger sister Kateryna came to Iceland to work as an au pair, against Oksana’s advice. Kateryna was employed by Tryggvi Pétursson, the richest man in Iceland revered for making huge donations to preserve native culture and tradition. Kateryna was in residence at his lakehouse on Thingvallavatn, completing an eight-week training period before being placed with a family overseas. The staff was with their own families for Christmas, and no one realized she was missing. Boone leaves a string of bodies in his wake, pulling the attention of the police away from Kateryna. Finn can’t get the image of Kateryna running barefoot through the snow out of his head and returns to the duck pond where he meets Oksana, who looks very much like her sister. She tells Finn she believes Tryggvi is hiding something and the two begin following him. This second in the series featuring the talented and troubled Finn pits him against the driven Krista and the terrifying Boone.


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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