SYKM


What We Are Reading
October 1, 2018

Sunrise HighwayPeter Blauner
Sunrise Highway (Minotaur Books 2018) begins with the gruesome 1977 murder of a 15-year-old girl in Nassau County, New York, found with twigs and branches stuffed down her throat. Kenny Makris is just starting at the DA’s office, and is steamrollered by Detective William Rattigan’s assertion that they have an eye-witness willing to swear he saw a black student enter the woods with the victim and come out alone. Markis doesn’t trust the testimony of the twitchy teenager, but Joey Tolliver is the son of a policeman. Realizing that a quick conviction will launch his career in the right direction, Markis goes along with the sham arrest of the impoverished black student. In 2017 NYPD Detective Lourdes Robles is called to Far Rockaway, where the plastic-encased body of a woman has washed up on the beach, her mouth filled with stones. Lourdes is haunted by the small bones in the decomposed victim’s stomach, and begins searching for other murders with similar characteristic, discovering a string of missing young women along the Sunrise Highway in Nassau County. Lourdes and her partner try to get case notes about the missing women, but DA Makris and Chief Tolliver are reluctant to even admit that there is any crime in their affluent jurisdiction, let alone the possibility of a serial killer operating under their radar for years. Flashbacks filling in Tolliver’s rise to power are interwoven with the current investigation, creating an ominous tension in this powerful second in the series featuring the driven Latina detective.

The BouncerDavid Gordon
The Bouncer (Mysterious Press 2018) is the story of Joe Brody, the bouncer at Club Rendezvous — Queens’ finest gentleman’s club, conveniently close to the airport. He encounters FBI Agent Donna Zamora, the best shot in her class at Quantico, relegated to working the hotline, in a club raid coordinated by the NYPD, a SWAT team, and the FBI. Donna is hoping to sweep up one of the terrorists whose Most Wanted pictures line her cubicle and escape from hotline duty into the field. Joe is arrested along with others from the club, and the two share an instant flair of attraction. Donna discovers that Joe isn’t your average strip club bouncer: he reads Dostoevsky, was expelled from Harvard, and has a classified military history she can’t access. His best friend from their Catholic school days is Geo Caprisi, a head mafioso. As Donna looks into his background, Joe is drawn into a weapons heist that goes wrong and then the theft of a vial of extremely valuable perfume. Joe manages to get their team past the advanced security of the perfume warehouse, but the double cross by part of the team makes him wonder if the vial really contains perfume, or something far more dangerous. Repercussions from both ventures put Joe on the hit list of the Flushing Triads and engender the intense scrutiny of the CIA. Darkly comic and very violent, this stylish thriller has it all.

City of InkElsa Hart
City of Ink (Minotaur Books 2018) finds Li Du, a former imperial librarian, working as a humble clerk at the North Borough Office in 1771 Beijing, using his access to official scrolls to secretly investigate the scandal that caused the execution of his mentor nine years earlier. The Black Tile Factory that produces the roof tiles used throughout the city is working at full speed, trying to complete the re-roofing of the examination yard before the annual exams for ministry positions begin. Hordes of anxious examination candidates add to the already crowded streets, frantically buying good luck charms and memorizing as many books as possible. Chief Inspector Sun takes Li Du with him to take notes when Madam Hong, the wife of the Black Tile Factory owner, and Pan Yongfa, presumed to be her lover, are found murdered early one morning at the factory. Hong Wenbin is arrested, but by law can not be charged with murder if he discovered his wife and her lover in flagrante delicto. Hong admits he had too much to drink the night before, but swears he didn’t murder anyone, and Li Du believes him. Pan worked for the Ministry of Rites, in charge of negotiating contracts with Hong and inspecting the quality of work, and Li Du wonders if the words on the assignation note might refer to blackmail rather than passion. Hamza, Li Du’s storyteller friend, accompanies him out of the city to the Glazed Tile Factory in Anhui run by Pan Yongfa’s old friend Ji Daolong, to relate the sad news. Ji mistakes Li Du for an auditor from the Ministry of Rites, and his panic reinforces Li Du’s suspicion that the murder had a financial motive. This third in the excellent series brings 18th century China to vivid life.

The Word Is MurderAnthony Horowitz
The Word Is Murder (Harper 2018, UK 2017) begins when Daniel Hawthorne, a disgraced yet brilliant detective inspector, contacts Anthony Horowitz, the celebrated novelist, offering to include him on a murder investigation if he turns the case into a book. The author is dubious, his previous acquaintance with the detective as a consultant on a television script was not a positive experience. But the case is fascinating: Diana Cowper, the wealthy mother of a famous actor, visits a London funeral parlor to make arrangements for her own funeral service and is killed six hours later. Hawthorne’s inability to work in a team led to his dismissal from the Met, but he’s been hired back as a consultant for difficult investigations since his ability to solve cases is unrivaled. Horowitz struggles to find a way to humanize the brusque detective in his book, but his secretive nature seems impenetrable. Hawthorne refuses to share any information about his private life, his family, or any interests outside the case. Horowitz considers abandoning the project, but he is engrossed by the case, and can’t bear to lose his inside access to the investigation. Trailing along behind the temperamental detective, and warned not to speak a single word, Horowitz puzzles out the connections that seem to come so naturally to the intuitive detective. An incomplete text on Diana’s phone leads them to a hit-and-run accident years ago that killed one twin boy and left the other severely damaged, potentially a motive for the murder. Hawthorne’s Sherlock Holmes–like observations contrast with Horowitz’s reluctant Watson-like case notes, resulting in an uneasy truce of two unlike men with very different strengths and weaknesses. This series opener promises future collaborations, especially after the author’s Tintin script project for Steven Spielberg fell through when Hawthorne crashed the script meeting.

Since We FellDennis Lehane
Since We Fell (Ecco 2017) is the story of Rachel Childs, an investigative reporter who had a career-ending meltdown on live TV while covering the earthquake in Haiti. The aftermath of her breakdown leaves Rachel with severe agoraphobia — unable to fly, take the subway, or leave the apartment for anything more than replenishing her supply of food and alcohol. Her marriage falls apart, leaving Rachel isolated and fearful. She is cheered by a supportive email from Brian Delacroix, the private investigator she hired years ago to try and locate the father her mother threw out of the house when she was very young. All she remembers is that his first name was James and he taught at one of the many colleges near Springfield, Massachusetts, which was not enough information for Brian to make much progress. He refused to take any more of her money, and advised her to give up the impossible search. Meeting again years later, Brian is very supportive, encouraging Rachel to take small journeys outside the apartment, but not pressuring her to accompany him on his frequent business trips. She begins working on a book about her experiences in Haiti, and feels herself slowly regaining courage, even venturing out to meet an old friend for drinks while Brian travels to London. Leaving the bar, she is startled to see a man who looks exactly like Brian coming out of the Hancock Tower. Panicked, she sends Brian a text, and he replies with a picture of his hotel, but she can’t shake the conviction that he is lying to her. Using her investigative journalist skills, Rachel begins to backtrack Brian’s various trips, discovering he has a secret life. This intense thriller is a finalist for the 2018 Gold Dagger Award.

Death In Sunset GroveMinna Lindgren
Death in Sunset Grove (Pan Macmillan 2018, Finland 2013) is set in the Sunset Grove retirement community in Finland. Siiri Kettunen and her best friend, Irma Lännenleimu are both in their early 90s, but full of life, seeking out new small adventures to brighten their dull existence. One morning they are playing cards with Anna-Liisa and laugh at the coincidence of their wardrobe choices in various shades of purple. Bored with the card game, Irma suggests that they form the Lavender Ladies Detective Agency to snoop around and do some meddling like Miss Marple. Anna-Liisa finds the idea rediculous, but Siiri is captivated. The following day they are shocked to hear of the death of Tero Lehtinen, the cook who is always friendly to everyone. Though described as a suicide, they are sure the cheerful young man wouldn’t have killed himself unless something awful happened. The debilitation of old age infuses life at Sunset Grove. Children and grandchildren are neglectful, no one understands the strange additional charges that appear on the monthly bills, fading memories cause endless confusion, Zimmer frames litter the halls, and it’s hard to plan parties in advance since no one knows who will still be alive the next week. Siiri takes a complaint about a cleaning charge to Director Sinkka Sundström, and asks about Tero’s death. The director brushes off Siiri’s concerns, and her abrupt departure makes Siiri even more determined to investigate. Soon Irma’s medical records disappear and strange new medications appear in Siiri’s room. Are they both growing even more forgetful, or is something sinister going on at Sunset Grove? This blackly humorous debut mystery is the first in a trilogy.

A Borrowing of BonesPaula Munier
A Borrowing of Bones (Minotaur Books 2018) introduces Mercy Carr, a retired Army Corporal returned from Afghanistan to her home in Vermont after her fiancé Sergeant Juan Martinez was killed and she was wounded. Nearly a year later, Elvis, the bomb sniffing Belgian shepherd she inherited from Martinez, is slowly recovering from K9 PTSD and they are both still grieving the loss of the man who brought them together. While walking in the woods one morning, Elvis alerts to the smell of explosives, and darts off into the trees. Catching up to the dog, Mercy discovers a baby in a backpack carrier, alone in the clearing. Finding no sign of the parents, Mercy straps on the backpack and begins the long hike back to cell phone service. Fish and Wildlife Game Warden Troy Warner receives the call to meet the hiker, and heads up the trail with his Newfoundland retriever mutt Susie Bear. After delivering the baby to the hospital, Mercy shows Troy the area she taped off for explosives and the clearing where the baby was abandoned. The dogs search the area and uncover a human femur. The crime scene techs find more of the body, a skull with a bullet rattling inside, and a tarnished pewter belt buckle with the pine tree and mountain symbol of Vermont. After the baby disappears from the hospital, Mercy is determined to find her, and tags along with Troy as he searches. For the first time since returning home, Mercy feels echoes of her military police training returning, and realizes that both she and Elvis need the mental and physical stimulation of working a case. This engaging series opener is the author’s fiction debut.

The AnomalyMichael Rutger
The Anomaly (Grand Central Publishing 2018) begins when Nolan Moore, the star of The Anomaly Files, a You-Tube documentary series featuring investigations into unsolved mysteries. Derided by scientists, the show has a dedicated following of conspiracy theorists who believe the government is concealing important truths. Nolan, his best friend and producer Ken, cameraman Pierre, and assistant producer Molly travel to the Grand Canyon to search for a cavern filled with carvings and idols, supposedly discovered by G.E. Kincaid in 1909. Most of Kincaid’s party perished while exploring the caves, and his records are unclear about the exact location of the opening high on a cliff face. Joining Nolan’s expedition are Gemma, a web reporter, and Feather, the representative of Palinhem Foundation, which is paying the bills for this trip and potentially boosting The Anomaly Files to a cable network. The expedition gets off to a promising start: the riverboat guide is competent and an excellent cook, and Pierre records some good footage of Nolan filling in the historical background. Nolan’s core team doesn’t really expect to find Kincaid’s cavern, and are about ready to film the inevitable "another mystery yet unsolved" closing sequence when Pierre notices a tiny shadow on the cliff above them. Though steep, the cliff is scaleable, and the party begins the long climb up, carrying a few sandwiches, a water bottle each, some headlamps, and all the extra camera batteries. At first the cave doesn’t seem very remarkable, though larger than expected, and they begin exploring the corridors, eventually finding a shaft with handholds carved like a ladder. Eventually they discover something very strange, a perfectly carved stone ball balanced on a square base. Things turn very bad very fast and Nolan and his team begin to doubt any of them will return to tell the story. Nolan’s wry narration adds humor to this chilling thriller, the first under the Michael Rutger pseudonym by screenwriter Michael Marshall Smith, who also writes as Michael Marshall.

Baby TeethZoje Stage
Baby Teeth (St. Martin’s Press 2018) is the story of the Oakland, California, Jensen family: father Alex, mother Suzette, daughter Hanna. Suzette, an artist and designer who suffers from Crohn’s disease, is now a stay-at-home mom to Hanna, now seven and just losing her baby teeth. Hanna has always adored her father, who gives her unconditional love, but as a toddler began to doubt that her mother adored her at the same level, designing endless tests prove her motherly love, which Suzanne always fails. Hanna’s defiant behavior, inability to interact with others, and refusal to speak resulted in her expulsion from both preschool and Kindergarten. Alex refused to believe the schools’ descriptions of Hanna’s behavior, which included feral barking, and Suzette took on the task of home schooling. After two years and another in a series of doctor’s appointments that verified Hanna has no physical reason for muteness, Suzanne convinces Alex to try again, enrolling Hanna in an alternative school. The night before the school interview, Hanna tip-toes into her parents’ room, whispering into her mother’s ear. “My name is Marie-Anne Dufosset,” in a perfect French accent. Hanna refuses to speak in front of anyone else, but continues to frighten her mother by intoning phrases in Marie-Anne’s voice and rolling her eyes back into her head. Suzanne researches Marie-Anne Dufosset, learning that at the age of 18 she was the last woman burned at the stake as a witch in 1679 France. Alternate chapters from Suzette’s and Hanna’s perspective document Suzanne’s growing terror that her daughter means to harm her and Hanna’s conviction that if she can only get Mommy out of the way she can stay at home with her adored and adoring father. This creepy debut thriller is deviously engaging.

Ressurection BayEmma Viskic
Resurrection Bay (Pushkin Vertigo 2018, Australia 2016) introduces Caleb Zelic, a deaf private investigator in Melbourne, Australia. An urgent text mentioning danger from “Scott” sends him to the home of Gary Marsden, a Senior Constable doing some insurance investigations for Caleb, where he finds his childhood friend brutally murdered. Caleb can’t imagine why their investigation of the professional theft of two million dollars worth of cigarettes from a warehouse could have made Gary the target for torture and an execution style killing, and begins retracing Gary’s movements while dropping the name Scott into every converstation and watching for reactions. Caleb never forgets a face, but his attempts to hide his hearing loss and rely on lip reading often result in missed words and confusion. His partner Frankie, a former cop, fills in the gaps when she is present, but solo interviews are difficult. Since there is no sign of forced entry, Caleb surmises that Gary voluntarily opened the door to his killer, who may be someone he also knows. The police suspect that Gary was involved in something shady, and conclude Caleb is also involved. Fearing that his ex-wife may be in danger, Caleb persuades her to take refuge with her mother in their home town of Resurrection Bay. After Caleb himself is attacked and wounded, he also retreats to Resurrection Bay and places himself under the care of Kat’s doctor mother. Unfortunately he may have brought the danger with him to Resurrection Bay. This intense debut thriller won the 2016 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel, and is a finalist for the 2018 Gold and Debut Dagger Awards.

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September 1, 2018

The Lonely WitnessWilliam Boyle
The Lonely Witness (Pegasus Books 2018) is the story of Amy Falconetti, a former party girl who gave up her old life when she returned to the church after her aspiring actress girlfriend Alessandra left her to pursue her career. Now dressing in dowdy clothes instead of her showy vintage outfits, Amy delivers communion to housebound Brooklyn residents. Mrs. Epifanio tells Amy that her usual caretaker Diane hasn’t visited for several days, instead sending her son Vincent who sneaks into her bedroom and makes her uncomfortable. Vincent appears during Amy’s visit, and refuses to return Mrs. Epifanio’s key. Amy follows Vincent, hoping he will lead her to his mother’s house so she can verify that Diane is only ill, not dead. Instead Vincent visits a bar, leaving with another man, who fatally stabs him on the sidewalk. Amy holds Vincent’s hand while he dies, and then inexplicably takes the murder weapon instead of calling the police. Amy’s alcoholic father, who left the family when she was a child, reappears and wants to make amends. Amy fears that the killer saw her witness the murder, and is stalking her. Alessandra comes back to town for a visit, inspiring Amy to don a wig and one of her old outfits, toying with the idea of abandoning her new safe normal life for her former risky and self-destructive existence. This gritty noir novel is mesmerizing.

Death Comes in Through the KitchenTeresa Dovalpage
Death Comes in Through the Kitchen (Soho Crime 2018) begins when Matt Sullivan, a journalist from San Diego, arrives in Havana, in the spring of 2003, carrying a wedding dress for his girlfriend Yarmila Portal, just before the Black Spring crackdown on dissidents (journalists, librarians, and human rights and democracy activists). Matt and Yarmi met online through her food blog Yarmi Cooks Cuban, and their mainly virtual courtship resulted in a marriage proposal. Matt is surprised that Yarmi isn’t waiting for him when he emerges through customs, but isn’t worried until she doesn’t answer her door. Her downstairs neighbor lets Matt into the tiny apartment, where he discovers Yarmi’s fully clothed body in the bathtub. Concerned by rumors that the secret police consider any American visiting Cuba as a potential CIA agent, Matt downplays his job, explaining that his newspaper features only cultural stories about San Diego, Baja California, and Mexico, and that he has not come to Cuba to write about Cuban politics. He is so flustered by the interview that he doesn’t realize until he is back on the street that the police did not return his passport. Matt visits the restaurant Yarmi worked for to deliver the kitchen gadgets she requested from America, surprised to discover it consists only of a few tables in a crowded living room. Isabel welcomes him and explains the restaurant is a paladar, licensed to serve no more than 12 customers at a time. Yarmila worked there illegally since paladars must be run only by relatives. The longer Matt stays in Cuba the more he wonders if Yarmi told him the truth about anything at all: her food blogs feature ingredients impossible to get in Cuba except through the black market, events she described never happened, and worst of all, she had a Cuban lover she never mentioned. The police have the emails between Yarmi and Matt, and his request that she write an article for the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) makes him the prime suspect. The intriguing Yarmila appears only in her culinary blog posts in this fascinating mystery revealing the dark side of the modern Cuban Revolution.

A Ladys Guide to Etiquette and MurderDianne Freeman
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (Kensington 2018) begins in April 1899, as young widow Frances Wynn, the Countess of Harleigh, ends the year of mourning for her husband Reggie, who died of a heart attack in his mistress’s bed during a house party at Harleigh. An American heiress, Frances’s marriage was orchestrated by her mother, who brought Frances to London from New York for the sole purpose of using her million-dollar dowry to marry a title. Eight years later, much of the money has been squandered by Reggie, or spent on much needed repairs of the family estate, but now Frances is eagerly planning her departure from Harleigh for a leased house in London with her young daughter Rose. Her brother-in-law Graham and his wife Delia are horrified by her plan, knowing it will be much harder to wheedle money out of Frances from a distance. Once in London, Frances is surprised to learn that her younger sister Lily is being sent from New York for her coming-out season under Frances’s sponsorship, but she quickly rises to the challenge of ordering a new wardrobe for Lily and entering the whirl of social engagements. Within a week Lily has three suitors, and Frances begins to investigate their characters to protect Lily from her own mistake of marrying a man only interested in her money. The police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death, and Frances has difficulty relating the timeline of that fateful evening while omitting the clandestine midnight move of Reggie’s body back into his own bed. As she probes into the backgrounds of Lily’s suitors and the details of the burglaries that happen during parties in London, Frances discovers that she has a talent for asking questions and making connections, the first time in her life she has found something she is good at. This witty and high-sprited debut mystery is the first in a series.

London RulesMick Herron
London Rules (Soho Crime 2018) finds the Slough House group of outcast and demoted MI5 agents in worse shape than usual — fighting addictions, dealing with grief, and worrying that their newest addition J.K. Coe may be unable to control his urge to kill if panicked. Only the clueless Roddy Ho, who believes his sexual attraction is equal to his IT skills, is feeling on top of the world, thrilled to finally have a girlfriend. Shirley manages to knock him out of the way of the car trying to kill him, which Roddy was totally unaware of while intent on hunting Pokemon with his cell phone. Meanwhile, 12 people are killed in Abbotsfield and a pipe bomb kills 14 penguins at their enclosure in Dobsey Park, called The Watering Hole. That name reminds Coe of something, but he can’t quite remember what. Claude Whelan, First Desk at MI5, already has his hands full protecting the Prime Minister, dealing with the MP responsible for the Brexit vote, and worrying about the Muslim about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, while hiding his own dark secret from ambitious Second Desk Lady Di Taverner. Jackson Lamb, head of Slough House, knows that unlike Moscow Rules, anything goes when London Rules take over. This blackly humorous fifth in the series is a deserved finalist for the 2018 Gold and Steel Dagger Awards.

After the MonsoonRobert Karjel
After the Monsoon (Harper 2018, Sweden 2016) finds Swedish police security agent Ernst Grip struggling to cope with depression following the death of his lover. After losing control in a raid on a possible terrorist cell in Stockholm, his boss sends him to Djibouti, a tiny country sandwiched between Eritrea and Somalia in the Horn of Africa, to investigate the death of Swedish Lieutenant Per-Erik Slunga during a practice on a shooting range. Slunga was the head of a small MovCon unit, responsible for the air shipments supplying the Swedish armed forces protecting Swedish sea traffic from Somali pirates. The Commander of the HMH Sveabord explains that they have completed their own investigation and the police have arrested the local man who fired the shot. But Grip doesn’t believe the story and begins digging deeper. Meanwhile, a wealthy Swedish family is kidnapped by pirates and taken to Somalia. Carl-Adam is wounded during the capture, and his wife Jenny only has time to grab a few of the medications needed to control their young son’s epileptic seizures. As the days stretch into weeks, the family grows weaker as they struggle to survive in the hot climate on one small bucket of water a day. Grip’s investigation into Slunga’s death uncovers secret caches of cash sent to Sweden on the military transport plane, perhaps providing a motive for what is beginning to look like murder rather than accident. Grip is forced to make some hard choices as he struggles to balance morality and justice in this excellent second in the series.

The UnseeingAnna Mazzola
The Unseeing (Sourcebooks Landmark 2017, UK 2016) is the story of Sarah Gale, an unwed mother of a young child in 1837 London. Sarah and her lover James Greenacre were accused of murdering and dismembering Hannah Brown. James admitted to dismembering and disposing of the corpse, but swore he did not murder Hannah. During the trial James insisted that Sarah was innocent, but Sarah would not speak to the evidence, and both were convicted of murder. Edmund Fleetwood, a young criminal barrister, has been commissioned by the Home Secretary to investigate Sarah’s case and determine if death by hanging is the appropriate punishment. Edmund becomes a regular visitor to Sarah in Newgate prison, but Sarah still refuses to speak of the crime, though declaring she is innocent. Edmund shares stories of his own unhappy childhood and difficult relationship with his father, and Sarah gradually comes to trust him, revealing selected parts of her own difficult life. Edmund is sure she is hiding something about the crime, but comes to believe she did not get a fair trial. Unfortunately the Home Secretary isn’t interested in reviewing the trial, requesting only an independent opinion about the sentence. As the date of her execution draws near, Edmund has a better understanding of Sarah’s predicament, dependent upon the support of a man who didn’t treat her well in order to feed and clothe her son, but no nearer a strategy for commuting her death sentence. This intense debut novel, based on a historical case, won the 2018 Edgar Award for Best Paperback.

The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward AbbeyJ. Michael Orenduff
The Pot Thief Who Studied Edward Abbey (Open Road 2018) finds Hubie Schuze, potter and owner of a shop in Albuquerque selling Native American pottery and his copies, teaching an Anasazi Pottery Methods seminar at the University of New Mexico. The job offer was a surprise to Hubie since he was expelled for pot hunting as a student, which was then legal but embarrassed his professor who was digging in the wrong spot. Hubie begins his first class by asking the students to turn off their cell phones, which isn’t a popular move but displaying an 11th century pot next to his identical copy gets their attention. The students object to the $100 lab fee, so Hubie takes them on a field trip to dig their own clay, which goes better than expected. Each of Hubie’s 12 students is unique, but the most mysterious is Ximena Sifuentes, who never speaks. Hubie finds the endless sensitivity trainings and cut-throat department politics harder than teaching, and tries to have little to do with his colleagues, which is easier than expected, since several refuse to speak to him, convinced the new pottery course should not have been offered to an outsider. When one of his students is murdered, Hubie’s friend Susannah, an ardent murder mystery fan, helps him sort through the evidence identifying Hubie as the prime suspect, in order to identify the real killer. Hubie’s usual irreverent outlook is amplified by the campus politics and political correctness satire — a 10-minute seminar on inclusion presented solely in sign-language with no translation, baffling department staffing procedures, endless sexual harassment acronyms including CAR, SANE, SMART, SPASM — in this eighth in the humorous series.

The ConfessionJo Spain
The Confession (Crooked Lane Books 2018) begins when JP Carney walks through an unlocked patio door in an affluent Dublin suburb and brutally attacks Harry McNamara with his own golf club, while his wife Julie sits frozen in fear and shock. Julie believed Harry was dead and threw her bloody clothes in the washer before calling the police, but instead he remains in a coma in intensive care. Carney turns himself in to the police an hour after the attack, confessing to the murder, but insisting Harry was a random victim chosen because he lived in a luxurious mansion. Julie tells Garda Síochána Detective Sergeant Alice Moody that the attacker was a stranger, but that he did whisper something into Harry’s ear before leaving. Disgraced banker Harry McNamara was recently cleared of multiple charges of financial fraud, though most of his colleagues in HM Capital were convicted. Alice finds it hard to believe that the attack was random, but JP’s legal aid soliciter has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of diminished responsibility. And the laundry running in the McNamara home doesn’t feel right. Alternate chapters from the perspectives of Julie, Alice, and JP fill in the backstory of Julie’s fairy tale romance and JP’s childhood with his mother in and out of mental institutions. Alice’s investigation of the attempted murder ties the present together, as she tries to figure out why JP attacked Harry, and if Julie was really powerless to do anything to stop him. This intense psychological thriller explores themes of greed, lust, addiction, and revenge.

The Chalk ManC.J. Tudor
The Chalk Man (Crown 2018) features 12-year-old Eddie Adams and his four best friends, who develop a secret code featuring chalk figures to add a bit of excitement to their small English village life in 1986. The chalk man code is used to set meeting places and send warnings about the bullies who torment them. One morning Eddie follows the chalk man signal to the woods, and discovers the dismembered body of a teenaged girl he secretly admired. In 2016 Eddie is teaching at his old school and hiding an alcohol problem, when he receives a letter containing a chalk man symbol, the same figure that led him to the body in the woods 30 years earlier. Eddie shrugs the anonymous letter off until he learns that his old friends have also received letters containing the chalk man, a code that they all believed was secret to their group. Mickey has returned to Anderbury for the first time in 20 years, hoping to make a bundle by writing a book about the girl’s murder. Though the prime suspect committed suicide before he could be questioned, Mickey reveals he has new information that may identify the real killer. Flashbacks to 1986 from various perspectives fill in the backstory leading to the body in the woods, exposing secrets each of the small group would like to remain hidden. This debut thriller, a finalist for the 2018 Steel Dagger Award, builds tension to the chilling climax.

HalcyonRio Youers
Halcyon (St. Martin’s Press 2018) begins when 10-year-old Edith Lovegrove wakes up with a horrible scene in her mind — a man with no hands screaming in the road. Grabbing a marker from her desk, she draws the horror she sees on the walls of her bedroom before reaching out mentally to her older sister Shirley. Their parents, Laura and Martin Lovegrove, are first aware of Shirley’s panic before discovering that Edith’s night terror is far worse than ever before. Three days later Garrett Riley explodes an IED, and the news reports are eerily similar to Edith’s drawings, convincing Laura and Martin that Edith’s recurring nightmares are actually premonitions. In the middle of Lake Ontario is a small private island owned by Valerie Kemp, known as Mother Moon, who runs a self-sustaining community called Halcyon. Valerie collects those who want to escape the pain of their past lives and are willing to give up technology for peace and pursue the beauty and healing power of the mystical place Valerie calls Glam Moon. As Edith grows more fragile, Martin makes the difficult decision to move his family to Halcyon for a few months, or perhaps permanently. But once on the island Martin has second thoughts. There is something about the charismatic Mother Moon that feels off, perhaps dangerous. This intense paranormal thriller is riveting.

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August 1, 2018

Safe HousesDan Fesperman
Safe Houses (Knopf 2018) begins in 1979 West Berlin. Helen Abell is responsible for the CIA’s safe houses, making sure they are comfortable havens for field agents and case officers meeting with local operatives. She often drops in unannounced when no meetings are scheduled to check that the cleaning crew is doing their job properly and that the safe house is properly stocked with food and beverage. While changing out the tape in the attic of a safe house, Helen sees first and older man and then a younger man enter the house. Helen decides not to reveal herself, instead slipping on the headphones to check the recording system, overhearing a coded conversation about bodies of water: lakes, ponds, and bays. Helen tells her lover Clark Baucom about the strange meeting, and he orders her to return for the tape, burn it, and forget she ever heard anything. Returning to the attic to retrieve the tape later that night, Helen is startled to hear a key in the door signaling another unauthorized visit. She recognizes Kevin Gilley, a case officer, and then sees a young German woman, code named Frieda. Hearing shouting, Helen steals down the stairs to provide support if needed to Gilley, instead discovering him violently raping the woman. Gilley insists the sex was consensual, and the woman reluctantly agrees. Helen isn’t convinced and adds the rape tape to her collection. In August 2014, Henry Mattick is living in a rental house in the small town of Poston, New York, when William Shoat shoots and kills his parents Tarrant and Helen in the house next door. Learning that Henry is an investigator, William’s sister Anna hires him to help her understand the tragedy. Anna recognizes that her brother has mental problems, and fears someone convinced him to murder their parents. Discovering that her mother was a CIA agent before her marriage is a total shock to Anna and provides a possible motive for her death. Alternating sections connect the current murder investigation to Helen’s mission in the past to bring a serial rapist to justice.

The Darkest Time of NightJeremy Finley
The Darkest Time of Night (St. Martin’s Press 2018) begins when Lynn Roseworth’s seven-year old grandson William vanishes in the middle of the night. Upset that he wasn’t allowed to sleep in a tent with his older brothers Brian and Greg because of a possible storm, William went into the woods by himself. Brian followed William into the woods, but says only “the lights took him,” before sinking into a near-catatonic state. Lynn’s husband Tom is a US Senator, and the woods are soon crawling with FBI and National Guard searchers, but no trace of William can be found. Tom has just announced his decision to run for Vice President, and his team suspects William’s kidnapping has something to do with his political enemies. But Lynn is stunned by Brian’s statement about the lights, remembering back to her own childhood when her father warned her that if she ever entered the woods she was as good as dead. Her father was thrilled when she left Tennessee for college, and married Tom, arranging a job for her in the astronomy department at the University of Illinois. Mysterious phone messages for one of the professors, Dr. Richards, provided Lynn with a much-needed intellectual challenge while Tom spent long hours studying in law school. Dr. Richards was working with a secret group tracking mysterious disappearances around the world, all preceded by a storm, swarming lady bugs, and a bright light from the sky. Lynn wasn’t convinced aliens were involved, but was moved by the grief of the families of the missing and intrigued by the similarities of the disappearances. Though her father warned her never to return to her childhood home, Lynn convinced Tom to take over her father’s house when she was expecting their first child. Lynn kept her daughters out of the woods as they grew up with stories of snakes and poison ivy. Now she fears that her return to the house next to the woods her father feared is the cause of her grandson’s disappearance. This intense debut thriller leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

Paper GhostsJulia Heaberlin
Paper Ghosts (Ballantine Books 2018) is narrated by a 24-year old woman obsessed with Carl Louis Feldman, an elderly documentary photographer she believes kidnapped and murdered her older sister Rachel, who disappeared 12 years earlier at the age of 19. Carl, who was charged but not convicted with the murder of another young woman, is living in a halfway house for dementia patients with a tendency toward violence. Pretending to be his daughter, our narrator takes Carl on a road trip through Texas, planning to visit the places where he took eerie photographs and young women disappeared or were murdered, hoping to jolt his memory and learn what happened to Rachel. Carl claims to have no recollection of any of the places or the missing women, but agrees to the trip with a list of conditions including junk food, feather pillows, boots, and a shovel. Carl quickly regains the use of his left arm supposedly paralyzed by a stroke, and is far sharper mentally than expected, extremely charming, and potentially dangerous. Carl’s two invisible friends occupy the back seat, along with an abused puppy he rescues at their first photo/missing woman location: the 17th Street bridge over Waco Creek. Adding to the suspense are interspersed photographer’s notes from Carl’s book, lists from our narrator’s “My Survival Notebook, Age 9,” and otherworldly black and white photos of two young twins wearing wedding veils, similar to the one our narrator found on the stairs of their house before Rachel disappeared. As the days pass, the two travelers grow unexpectedly close despite their mutual mistrust and deception, adding depth to this haunting thriller.

Jar of HeartsJennifer Hillier
Jar of Hearts (Minotaur 2018) is the story of Geo (Georgina) Shaw, whose best friend Angela vanished when they were popular high school juniors. Fourteen years later Angela’s dismembered remains are found in the woods next to Geo’s childhood home where her father still lives. Buried with her body is Angela’s camera, with pictures of the party she and Geo attended the night she disappeared. Kaiser Brody, a Seattle detective who was best friends with Geo and Angela, arrests Geo, now an executive with a Seattle pharmaceutical company, and Calvin James, Geo’s 21-year-old boyfriend back when Angela disappeared. Geo confesses to helping Calvin bury Angela’s body, and is sentenced to five years in prison. Calvin, dubbed the Sweetbay Strangler, is convicted of murder and given three life sentences for murdering Angela and two other women. No one can understand why Geo kept quiet about Angela’s death, putting her parents through the endless torment of uncertainty. In prison Geo joins forces with Ella Frank, the wife of a drug boss serving time for the murder of two rivals, offering her financial skills in exchange for protection. Calvin escapes from prison within a year, and Kaiser visits Geo in prison, hoping she has some idea where he has gone. He shows her the piece of paper Calvin doodled on during their trial, featuring a heart enclosing her initials. Shortly before Geo is released from prison, the dismembered body of a woman is found in the same spot Angela was buried, along with the body of a small child. Kaiser is sure that Calvin is killing again to get Geo’s attention, perhaps targeting her as well. This chilling psychological thriller explores the aftershocks of a horrific event on the lives of everyone touched by it, the lasting effects of grief, and the lengths some people will go to bury a secret.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood StarVaseem Khan
The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star (Redhook 2017) begins when Inspector Chopra, a retired policeman working as a private investigator, is hired by retired film star Bijli to find her missing son Vikram “Vicky” Verma, who vanished during a the grand finale of a concert promoting his upcoming film: the Mote in the Third Eye of Shiva, a blockbuster slated to be the biggest Bollywood production of all time. Hundreds of actors and elephants are waiting for Vicky to reappear, threatening the film that is already behind schedule and over budget. Chopra isn’t as infatuated with films as his wife Poppy and baby elephant Ganesha, but he does have a soft spot for Bijli and takes the case. Meanwhile, former sub-inspector Abbas Rangwalla, now Chopra’s assistant, takes a case with the Queen of Mysore, leader of the eunuchs of India, who is concerned about the mysterious owner of a mansion who hires girls to stay for three days, playing games and singing but never meeting their employer. The Queen fears the strange client may turn dangerous, and wants Rangwalla to accompany the next set of girls undercover, a job he is spectacularly unsuited for. The dark underbelly of life in Mumbai contrasts with some very funny scenes in this clever third in the series, a finalist for the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Paperback.

The Widows of Malabar HillSujata Massey
The Widows of Malabar Hill (Soho Crime 2018) introduces Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family who has just joined her father’s law firm, in 1921 Bombay, India. A disastrous early marriage nearly ruined Perveen’s life, but a negotiated separation and an Oxford law degree have given her new hope, though she spends most of her time doing paperwork for the firm. Mistry Law has been appointed to serve as executor of the will of Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner whose three widows inherited his estate. Perveen is concerned that all three of the women, including one who signed only with the X of the illiterate, signed their portion of the inheritance over to a charitable foundation run by their husband’s business agent Mr. Mukri. Worried that the women did not understand the document they signed, she persuades her father to let her interview the widows, who live in full purdah, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to men outside the family. After meeting the distasteful Mukri and talking to the widows, Perveen is convinced that something shady is going on, and that the women need her protection. Flashbacks reveal the story of Perveen’s marriage, losing her freedom and living completely under the control of her husband and his family who have a completely different view of women than her own family’s more modern perspective. This fascinating series opener was inspired by India’s first female lawyer, who read law at Oxford and was admitted to the Bombay Bar in 1923.

The Excape ArtistBrad Meltzer.
The Escape Artist (Grand Central Publishing 2018) introduces Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, a mortician working on the government’s top-secret and high-profile cases at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. An explosion on a small military plane leaving Copper Center, Alaska, sends Nola Brown’s body to Dover. Zig insists on taking care of the body since Nola saved his daughter Maggie’s life when they were 12-year old Girl Scouts together. The accident left Nola with 40 stitches and a partial left ear. Maggie died in a car accident a year later, and Zig treasures any connection with his daughter. During the autopsy, Zig is startled to discover two pristine ears, and then a note in the stomach: “Nola, you were right. Keep running.” Certain that Nola is not only still alive, but in danger, Zig begins to search for her, learning about her career as the Army’s artist-in-residence, sent around the world to record the horrors of war. Interspersed chapters from Nola’s perspective fill in the details of her horrific childhood, an abusive foster father, and her life-long love of sketching the world around her, discovering details in her drawings that she wasn’t aware she noticed. Nola and Zig learn about Operation Bluebook, a secret government program that goes back to Harry Houdini. Both damaged by their pasts to the point that the danger seems irrelevant, Zig and Nola form a reluctant partnership to find justice for the woman who died in Nola’s place. This riveting thriller is the first in a planned series.

Bloody JanuaryAlan Parks
Bloody January (World Noir 2018, UK 2017) introduces Harry McCoy, an experienced detective in 1973 Glasgow. McCoy gets a summons to Barlinnie prison to talk to Howie Nairn, arrested for murder by McCoy’s retired partner, who warns him that a waitress named Lorna working in one of the posh restaurants is going to be killed the next day. Saddled with a novice partner named Wattie, McCoy tracks Lorna down at her bus stop, just in time to see a young man shoot her and then himself. McCoy returns to Barlinnie to get more information from Nairn, but finds him dead in the showers with his tongue cut out, indicating he talked about something he shouldn’t have. McCoy is surprised to see the name Bobby enclosed in a heart tattooed on Nairn’s chest, homosexual gangsters being rare in Glasgow. Lorna’s roommate tells McCoy that Lorna made extra money partying with rich men and McCoy suspects she may have been involved with a sex and drug ring run by the Dunlops, Glasgow’s wealthiest family protected by those in power. McCoy girlfriend Janey, a prostitute with a secret heroin addiction, may also be controlled by the Dunlops. McCoy’s friend from his reform school days, drug dealer Stevie Cooper, is in competition with the Dunlops. McCoy suspects that some of his superiors may be customers of the Dunlops, and conducts most of his investigation off the books, which becomes more challenging as five more murders happen that first week of January, including several people McCoy interrogated. This intense noir thriller is the first in a series.

The Glass ForestCynthia Swanson
The Glass Forest (Touchstone 2018) begins in the fall of 1960 when 21-year old Angie Glass gets a call from her 17-year old niece Ruby, explaining that her father (Henry) has just committed suicide after her mother (Silja) left the family. Angie’s husband Paul wants to leave Angie and their baby boy PJ behind in Wisconsin while he travels to Stonekill, New York, to deal with the death of his brother, but Angie insists that she and PJ can help comfort Ruby. But Ruby isn’t interested in Angie’s help, remaining silently in her room or in the woods next to the ultra-modern house her mother designed. Left alone in the house with PJ, Angie begins to poke through Silja’s and Henry’s belongings, discovering signs of a loveless marriage between two people who lived completely separate lives. Flashbacks fill in the story of the marriage of Henry (who was wounded in the war) and Silja (who took on the task of supporting the family) as they grow apart both personally and politically. Angie is surprised to learn that Paul has a history in Stonekill, a dark one that is only mentioned in whispers and asides. The longer they stay in Stonekill, the more Angie begins to question the truth of her own marriage, worrying that Paul doesn’t love her nearly as much as she loves him. An ominous sense of buried secrets builds throughout this intense suspense thriller.

The LegacyYrsa Sigurdardottir
The Legacy (Minotaur 2018, Iceland 2014) begins in 1987 when three neglected Icelandic siblings aged one through four are separated by child services after the death of their mother and grandfather. Though one woman advises keeping the children together, the rest of the team votes in favor of splitting the children up to make adoption more likely. Twenty-eight years later, Huldar, a newly promoted police detective in Reykjavík is investigating his first homicide: Elísa Bjarnadóttir, a young mother who was brutally murdered while her seven-year-old daughter hid Margrét under the bed. The traumatized child won’t make eye contact or speak, so Huldar brings in Freyja, a child psychologist with child protection services, to manage the interview with Margrét. The few words the child speaks don’t help to identify the murderer, and everyone is confused when she indicates that her father, who was away at a medical conference, is responsible for her mother’s death. Meanwhile, Karl, a reclusive young college student, hears a strange transmission on his shortwave radio: a series of numbers. The first group of numbers is Karls’ own ID number. He looks up the second group and discovers it is the ID number of Elísa Bjarnadóttir, a woman he has never heard of. Transmissions on subsequent nights are even more mysterious: strange sequences like “75, 23, 62-92, 7, 32, 14 reversed.” Karl tries everything, but can’t crack the code. A second brutal murder increases the tension in this powerful series opener, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel.

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July 1, 2018

Under WaterCasey Barrett
Under Water (Kensington 2017) introduces Duck Darley, a former rich kid and Olympic-hopeful swimmer, now working as an unlicensed private investigator in Manhattan. Duck left competitive swimming as a teenager when his father was arrested for fraud and he began drinking to combat the shame. An arrest and prison sentence for drug dealing keeps Duck from qualifying for a private investigator’s license, so he does unlicensed work for rich New Yorkers angling for good divorce settlements. Margaret McKay, the mother of his old swim team frenemy Charlie, asks Duck to find her troubled 18-year-old daughter Madeline, now missing for several days. Duck tries to turn her down, but the connection to his old life is too strong. Mrs. McKay would prefer not to go to the police, which Duck understands after finding Madeline’s drug stash. Charlie won four Olympic gold medals, so their old coach puts up with Madeline’s spotty attendance at swim practice, more for Charlie’s sake than because of Madeline’s talent. Madeline has an aversion to social media, so Duck’s best lead is her ex-boyfriend James Fealy, a film student at NYU. Duck tracks down the address for Fealy’s film company Scion Productions, which turns out to be an apartment containing Fealy’s mutilated body. Fealy’s best friend swears he had no enemies except his psycho ex-girlfriend, pushing the missing Madeline to the top of the suspect list. Cass Kimball, who helps Duck with his investigations when not working as a dominatrix, puts up with his increasing dependence on alcohol and the painkillers he became addicted to after taking a bullet meant for her. Her connections in the sex-trade world lead to the discovery of porn films featuring Madeline, another secret Duck would prefer not to share with her widowed mother. This intense debut noir thriller by a former Olympic swimmer is a finalist for the 2018 Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel.

Exhibit AlexandraNatasha Bell
Exhibit Alexandra (Crown 2018) begins when Alexandra Southwood, happily married to Marc and devoted to their two young daughters, doesn’t return from her bike ride home from her part-time teaching job. Though assured by the London police that most missing adults return safely within a day or two, Marc is panicked. Alex’s disappearance is completely out of character and he is sure she has been abducted. Held against her will in a small room, Alex is shown news clips of Marc appealing to the public for information. As the days pass, she is consumed by memories of their chance meeting at the library when she was home visiting halfway through her MFA program in Chicago. Back in London again for Christmas, Alex impulsively didn’t board the plane back to Chicago, giving up school to marry Marc. Alex is haunted by memories of events over the next 15 years: a rich love life and the birth of two daughters. Marc tells the police that the only stressful parts of Alex’s life were the death of her beloved father and her difficult relationship with her mother, an alcoholic now suffering early-onset dementia. After discovering Alex’s bloody coat by the river, the police reclassify her disappearance as a murder investigation. No sign of a body is found, and Marc refuses to believe she is dead. As the months pass, he begins to pack some of her belongings away to store in the attic, discovering a box with letters from Amelia Heldt, her college roommate and now a provocative New York performance artist. Reading the letters, Marc begins to wonder if they were more than roommates, and discovers how much Alex gave up in order to live a quiet live as a wife and mother instead of pursuing her dream to become an avant guarde artist. Part of Amelia’s mystique is that she refuses to make public appearances, insisting that it’s the art that matters, not the artist, and neither the police nor Marc can track her down to ask questions about Alex. This intense debut psychological thriller explores the nature of love, secrets, and personal fulfillment.

The Last Equation of Isaac SeveryNova Jacobs
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy: A Novel in Clues (Touchstone 2018) begins when Hazel Severy, receives a letter from her grandfather Isaac, a famous mathematician who apparently committed suicide a few days earlier. The foster daughter of Isaac’s youngest son, Hazel is unsure why her grandfather selected her to destroy all his work except his last equation, warning that two more will die. After her adopted father went to prison, Hazel and her brother Gregory were adopted by Isaac and his wife. Unlike her uncle Philip, a theoretical physicist, and the rest of the family geniuses, Hazel had no talent for numbers, though Isaac complemented her logical thinking. Renowned for developing predictive equations for apparently random events, Isaac had been working on a formula to solve the traffic problems in Los Angeles, but that seems an insufficient motive for murder. Inside a copy of her favorite novel, Tender Is the Night, Hazel discovers additional clues that lead her to a hotel room containing a street map of Los Angeles covered with red adhesive dots. A long-lost cousin cultivates Hazel’s acquaintance, and she is beguiled into sharing information her grandfather insisted be kept secret. Meanwhile, Philip is contacted by P. Booth Lyons on behalf of a shadowy company who is very interested in obtaining the results of his father’s final project at any cost. This intriguing debut novel explores dysfunctional relationships and the long-lasting effects of childhood trauma.

Scot FreeCatriona McPherson
Scot Free (Midnight Ink 2018) introduces Lexy Campbell, a clinical psychologist who moves from Scotland to California to marry a handsome dentist. While working on a license to practice in California, Lexy works as a marriage guidance counselor. When her marriage falls apart, Lexy plans to return to Edinburgh after one last job: helping Mr. & Mrs. Bombaro, a couple in their mid-eighties, dissolve their marriage. On the Fourth of July, Mr. Bombaro is killed. Fireworks are involved in the murder and as owners of a fireworks business whose motto is “Nothing goes BOOM like Bombaro,” Mrs. Bombaro is the likely suspect. Lexy cancels her flight and moves into the Last Ditch motel to help Mrs. Bombaro prove her innocence. At the motel, she finds unexpected support from Todd (who suffers from cleptoparasitosis, a delusionary fear of arthropod infestation) and his partner Roger. Todd redecorates Lexy’s motel room, fills her fridge with wine and snacks, and offers advice about lingerie. Additional support comes from Noleen, who manages the motel, and her partner Kathi, who runs the attached Skweeky Kleen launderette and suffers from severe germaphobia. Lexy’s struggles to understand American culture and slang are hilarious, and the inability of anyone to pronounce the Gaelic spelling of her first name — Leagsaidh — is a running joke. This very funny series opener is a winner.

A Necessary EvilAbir Mukherjee
A Necessary Evil (Pegasus 2018, UK 2017) begins when Crown Prince Adhir Singh Sai of Sambalpore comes to Calcutta in 1920 for a meeting with the Viceroy. Representatives of many kingdoms have gathered to discuss the formation of the Chamber of Princes, an Indian House of Lords to assuage the clamor for Home Rule. The prince attended Harrow with Sergeant Surendranath (Surrender-Not) Banerjee, and wants to discuss some threatening letters with Banerjee and Captain Sam Wyndham, a former Scotland Yard detective serving on the Imperial Police Force. As they are traveling to the Grand Hotel, the prince is shot and killed by a man wearing the saffron garb of a Hindu holy man, who escapes into the crowd. Lord Taggert hopes that the murder has a religious motive rather than a political one, since Prince Adhir had made public his decision not to join the Chamber of Princes. Wyndham and Banerjee travel to Sambalpore, a tiny but fabulously wealthy kingdom, to attend the funeral and investigate the assassination, discovering that the charismatic prince had alienated religious factions with his penchant for modernization and an affair with a white woman. Adhir’s father is terminally ill, and his younger brother Punit, the new crown prince, seems to be interested only in hunting and women. Though Prince Punit is the prime suspect, the Maharaja’s 126 concubines and his 256 children are also possibilities. Or the motive may be connected with the kingdom’s legendary diamond mines. This excellent second in the series pits Wyndham, anxious to return to Calcutta and easy access to the opium he is addicted to, and the talented Banerjee, against both British and Indian factions eager for power and control.

The Other Side of EverythingLauren Doyle Owens
The Other Side of Everything (Touchstone 2018) begins with the brutal murder of Adel Minor, a widow in her 80s, in the small town of Seven Springs, Florida. The second murder of another elderly woman prods widower Bernard White from his self-imposed solitude to reconnect with his fellow octogenarians, the “originals” who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Realizing they are being targeted, they pair up for safety, recalling the days when they socialized at parties in each other’s homes. Bernard learns that his long-ago affair with his neighbor Vera was only one in a string of her extramarital adventures, destroying the romantic memories that have sustained him since the death of his wife. Adel’s neighbor Amy Unger, a 30-something cancer survivor whose emotional collapse after hysterectomy and double mastectomy drove her husband away, is surprised when Adel’s death reawakens her artistic energy, and begins to paint a series of imagined scenes depicting the murder. Bernard’s neighbor Maddie Lowe, a 15-year old working as a waitress at The Smiling Pig and struggling to cope with her mother’s abandonment, is drawn to Charlie, a homeless man who becomes the prime suspect. This engrossing debut thriller, narrated from the multigenerational perspectives of Bernard, Amy, and Maddie, explores the effects of abandonment, loss, and loneliness.

The Room of White FireT. Jefferson Parker
The Room of White Fire (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2017) introduces Roland Ford, a former Marine and cop now working as a private investigator in San Diego. Dr. Paige Hulet at the Arcadia mental hospital hires Ford to track down Clay Hickman, a bipolar patient who escaped two days earlier. An Air Force veteran who served in Iraq, Clay exhibited symptoms of PTSD including violent behavior before his family brought him to Arcadia three years earlier. Dr. Hulet took over his treatment when she arrived a year later to become the facility’s medical director, and suspects he is suffering from a “moral injury,” the psychological trauma caused by something he did, rather than something done to him. Alec DeMaris, Arcadia’s director of security, isn’t concerned about what is wrong with Clay, he just wants him found before the news of his escape gets out. Ford tracks down the young neighbor women who helped Clay escape, telling him Clay talked about his mission "to bring white fire to Deimos" before stealing her truck. Ford discovers that Clay didn’t serve in Iraq, but can’t get past the redacting of his service records to discover exactly what he did in the military, though torturing prisoners seems likely. Briggs Spencer, the co-founder of Arcadia, coauthored a book for the CIA presenting the use of effective torture techniques to extract information from prisoners. This compelling series debut, a finalist for the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Novel, includes very disturbing descriptions of interrogation techniques designed to break the most hardened prisoner.

Exit StrategyCharlton Pettus
Exit Strategy (Hanover Square Press 2018) begins when Jordan Parrish, whose tiny protein modeling startup company Genometry in Boston is about to go under, debates between suicide and calling the Exit Strategy number. Jordan’s therapist gave him the number when he and his wife Stephanie recently lost a baby as a final alternative to suicide, a way for the desperate to escape their untenable lives. Knowing suicide will nullify both his personal and business insurance policies, leaving his wife and their two your children penniless, Jordan calls the number, and wakes up in a small prison-like room. In his former life, Jordan’s unrecognizable decomposed body has been discovered in the river after a car crash with the remains of a woman presumed to be his mistress. Stephanie is gutted both by his death and his betrayal, but can’t help saving the coded note she left him when they met in college, based on DNA coding they both studied. Exit Strategy relocates Jordan to Japan, warning him that any attempt to contact his family will mean death for them all. But unlike Exit Strategy’s usual clients fleeing criminal acts, Jordan can’t adjust to his new life, and spends time playing Foldit, an online protein folding puzzle game and experimental research project. Alex Prenn, Jordan’s business partner and best friend since college, orchestrates the sale of Genometry to Pfizer, a huge drug company, and steps in to help Stephanie with the traumatized children. Jordan’s extremely high scores draw the attention of the Foldit scientists, and an accidental “like” of one of Stephanie’s Instagram photos reinforces her certainty that she would know if Jordan was really dead. As he tries to evade the scrutiny of Exit Strategy, Jordan begins to suspect that someone wanted him gone. This intense debut thriller cleverly combines scientific investigation and a wild chase across countries.

Hotel on Shadow LakeDaniela Tully
Hotel on Shadow Lake (Thomas Dunne Books 2018) begins in 1990 Berlin when Martha Wiesberg receives a letter from her twin brother Wolfgang, bearing a stamp with Hitler’s face and dated 1944. The postman explains that he has delivered a few other old letters, discovered after the wall came down. Clutching the letter, Martha is transported back to 1938, when she struggled to fit in with the changes in Berlin. Martha wanted to study literature at the university, but she was instead assigned to help a woman about to deliver her seventh child, forced to hide her “un-German” novels away. Wolfgang excelled in his Hitler Youth group, and was selected by Baldur von Schirach himself as a valuable asset to the Nazi regime and given a grant to improve his technical skills at university. Wolfgang brought his new friend Siegfried home for dinner, and their excitement about hearing the Führer speak made Martha realize her twin had become a dangerous stranger. In 2017, Maya Wiesberg and her father receive word that the remains of her grandmother Martha, who disappeared in 1990, have been discovered in America at the Montgomery Resort and Preserve, a pricy weekend getaway north of New York City. Consumed with a need to discover what drew her beloved grandmother to America, Maya spends a month’s salary on a five-day reservation at the Resort. Hiking on the grounds to the site of the landslide that uncovered her grandmother’s body, she meets the ranger who found the bones and learns the death might not have been an accident. A local history pamphlet tells the story of the powerful Montgomery family who took over the hotel in 1914, and interspersed chapters tell Martha’s story in 1944. This engrossing debut historical thriller was inspired by a real family letter received 46 years late.

Grist Mill RoadChristopher J. Yates
Grist Mill Road (Picador 2018) is the story of Patrick, Michael, and Hannah, who went to school together in Roseborn, a small town 90 miles north of New York City. Neither Patrick nor Michael had a happy home life, and the two spent most of their free time playing adventure games in the Swangum Mountain wilderness area. In the summer of 1982, when the three ranged in age from 12 to 14, Hannah joined them in their favorite hideout on Grist Mill Road one fateful summer day, ending with a violent crime. Twenty-six years later the three are living in New York City when their paths intersect again, reawakening their guilt, resentment, and anger. Hannah is a crime reporter, Michael has made a fortune, and Patrick is writing a food blog after being laid off. Though each holds a firm belief about the event, all three have hidden secrets about the crime. Narrated by all three characters from their current and past perspectives, individual interpretations of the shared event and the different realities that led to it gradually coalesce into the whole truth of that life-changing summer day. This intense character-driven thriller is stunning.

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June 1, 2018

Dodging and BurningJohn Copenhaver
Dodging and Burning (Pegasus Books 2018) is set in 1945 Royal Oak, Virginia. Twelve-year-old Ceola Bliss is consumed with grief over the loss of her brother Robbie, declared missing in the Pacific. She obsessively re-reads the last pulp detective story they enjoyed together before he left, and spends as much time as possible with Robbie’s best friend Jay Greenwood, who has returned from the war with an injured leg. Bunny Prescott, who would like to be Jay’s girlfriend, joins them the day Jay takes Ceola to a clearing in the woods where he found a dead woman. The body is missing, but Ceola finds a velvet shoe and helps Jay retrieve his camera. The two girls pressure Jay to tell the police, but he is worried they won’t understand why he stopped to take pictures of the body rather than reporting it immediately. The photographs Jay develops of the dead blond woman are strangely beautiful, and the three become obsessed with figuring out who she was and who killed her. A local woman named Lily Vellum is missing, and Ceola is certain she is the victim, but Bunny begins to suspect that Jay isn’t telling the whole truth. Ceola’s parents forbid her to spend time with Jay, insisting he was a bad influence on Robbie and will corrupt her as well. A sheltered child of her time, Ceola doesn’t understand that Jay and Robbie were more than friends, and that her parents are consumed with guilt for forcing Robbie to join the Army as soon as he turned 18, convinced the Army would transform him into the man they want him to become. Fifty-five years later Bunny, a successful mystery author, receives one of Jay’s pictures in the mail. She writes to Ceola, and together the two reconstruct the events of that long-ago summer. This compelling debut thriller reveals the dangerous existence of gay men in the 1940s, who faced persecution if they revealed their sexual identities.

Splinter in the BloodAshley Dyer
Splinter in the Blood (William Morrow 2018) begins when Detective Ruth Lake finds her partner Detective Chief Inspector Greg Carver shot in his own sitting room next to an empty whiskey bottle and a 1911 Colt pistol. Believing Carver killed himself, Ruth dismantles his unauthorized collection of Thorn Killer charts and files and takes them to her car along with the gun. Re-entering the house, Ruth is about to call in the murder when she notices a flicker of Carver’s eyelid. While Carver is airlifted to the hospital, Ruth describes entering the open door after Carver called her but doesn’t mention the files. Carver was obsessed with the Thorn Killer, who kidnapped and tattooed five women with thorns before killing and displaying their bodies in artistic poses. The fifth victim, Kara Grogan, was discovered nine days earlier posed to mirror a honeymoon picture of Carver’s estranged wife Emma, and wearing her earrings. While Carver lies in a coma, Ruth becomes the lead investigator, using Carver’s secret files to retrace his investigation of Kara’s final days. When Carver wakes up five days later with no memory of the shooting, he knows Ruth is hiding something. Learning that his secret Thorn Killer collection is missing, he is sure the Thorn Killer tried to kill him, but Ruth knows that isn’t true. Unfortunately she has carefully removed all fingerprint evidence from Carver’s house. Details of the year-long investigation of the four earlier killings are revealed as Carver works with a hospital neuropsychologist to retrieve his memory of the night he was shot. This twisty thriller is the first book by author Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Helen Pepper under the Ashley Dyer joint pseudonym.

Flowers and Foul PlayAmanda Flower
Flowers and Foul Play (Crooked Lane Books 2018) is the story of Fiona Knox, whose Nashville flower shop was driven out of business by a chain just before her fiancé left her for their cake decorator in the midst of planning their wedding. Alastair Croft, her godfather Ian McCallister’s attorney, calls to inform her that Ian has died overseas while serving in the army, leaving her his cottage in Duncreigan, Scotland. Eager to get away from Nashville, Fiona flies to Scotland and meets Hamish, long-time caretaker of the cottage and garden while Ian traveled around the world. Duncan, Hamish’s pet squirrel, makes off with the cottage skeleton key and the two chase him into the walled garden. Fiona is horrified that her uncle’s amazing garden looks dead, and Hamish explains that it began to wither a few days before he received the news of Ian’s death. The only sign of life is the climbing rose on the menhir, an ancient standing stone in the center of the garden. Hamish tells Fiona that she is now the caretaker of the garden, and if she follows the instructions in Ian’s letter she can bring it back to life. Fiona is explaining that she didn’t receive a letter when they spot the body of Alastair Croft at the base of the stone. Chief Inspector Neil Craig is suspicious of Fiona but since she was on an airplane at the time of death settles instead on Hamish as the prime suspect. Determined to prove Hamish’s innocence, Fiona sets out to learn who else might want Alastair dead, discovering that his scheme to turn a stretch of coastline into luxury condos has alienated most of the village. Every time Fiona visits the garden more plants spring back to life, and she seems to be the only one who doesn’t understand the power of the garden. This humorous cozy mystery is the first in the Magical Garden series.

The Silent RoomMari Hannah
The Silent Room (Minotaur Books 2018, UK 2015) begins when Northumbria Special Branch Detective Inspector Jack Fenwick is kidnapped from the prison van after his conviction for firearms smuggling. Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan is sure his boss is innocent of the charge, but a video of Fenwick walking quietly to the car of the two kidnappers doesn’t look good to Eloise O’Neil, the Professional Standards officer leading the investigation. Ryan was away from the station visiting his blind twin sister Caroline, struggling to cope after their mother’s recent death. Fenwick and Ryan had an unofficial agreement that he could make up time evenings and weekends, but DS John Maguire insinuates that his absence could be connected to Fenwick’s escape. O’Neil isn’t convinced, but goes along with Maguire’s decision to suspend him. Ryan reluctantly turns over his warrant card, knowing he will have a very difficult time tracking down Fenwick’s kidnappers without it. Grace Ellis, the retired Serious Incident Squad officer who mentored both Fenwick and Ryan, hears the news of Fenwick’s conviction and escape when she returns from a month in the French Riviera. Grace just happened to buy a former police house with the wires to run a major incident room still under the floorboards. Her friend Frank Newman, ex-MI5, knows just the guy to connect everything back up. Once the Silent Room is back in action, they can begin searching for the kidnappers and back-tracking through Fenwick’s recent cases to figure out who had a motive to frame him. This police procedural thriller is the first in a new series by the 2017 Dagger in the Library winner, awarded for a body of work by a crime writer that users of libraries particularly admire.

GnomonNick Harkaway
Gnomon (Knopf 2018, UK 2017) is set in near-future London, where the Witness System protects the citizens through “transparent” continual observation. Diana Hunter, a suspected dissident, dies during a government interrogation. Mielikki Neith, a trusted senior Witness Inspector, is assigned the task of investigating the first ever death during a government interrogation. The System supposedly isn’t capable of making mistakes, but something went wrong. Neith begins the process of immersing herself in the neural recordings, and is shocked to discover multiple personalities, each with their own distinct story. Kyriakos is an extremely talented financier in Athens whose encounter with a shark allows him to see patterns in the stock exchange; Athenais is an alchemist in ancient Carthage whose fictional creation of the Chamber of Isis becomes real; Bekele is a painter who escaped from an Ethiopian prison to London currently designing a controversial video game where black skin is the norm and government surveillance is increasing; Gnomon is a disembodied and perhaps dangerous intelligence from the distant future. As Neith experiences the hours of recordings, she feels the first hints of doubt about her belief in the Witness System, wondering if the interrogation could be classed as torture, or even murder. Neith can catch only faint glimpses of Hunter hidden behind the other personalities, possibly created to mask herself from the omnipresent System. This complex and powerful mix of literary fiction, classic mystery, and science fiction probes the fine line between government protection and individual freedom.

The Last Place You LookKristen Lepionka
The Last Place You Look (Minotaur Books 2017) introduces Roxane Weary, a private detective in Columbus, Ohio. Shattered by the recent death of her father, a cop who died in the line of duty, Roxanne has been drinking too much whiskey and turning down jobs. Her brother sends her a client, and Roxanne accepts the case to pay the rent. Danielle’s brother Brad Stockton was convicted of the stabbing murders of the parents of his girlfriend Sarah Cook fifteen years earlier in the Belmont suburb. Seventeen-year-old Sarah vanished that night, and is presumed dead. Brad insisted he never saw Sarah or her parents that night, but forensic evidence was found in the trunk of his car. Danielle is sure the police were influenced by Sarah’s aunt, who insisted her sister was frightened by Sarah’s black boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, and didn’t spend much time searching for other suspects. Danielle swears she saw Sarah in a local gas station a few nights earlier, and wants Roxane to find her and figure out why she has been hiding all these years. Roxane isn’t sure that Danielle could have identified Sarah in the dark after 15 years, but agrees to take the case since Brad is on death row, due to be executed in two months. As she investigates, Roxane stumbles over an unsolved case of her father’s, the murder of another blond teenaged girl the year before Sarah disappeared. The Belmont police aren’t thrilled with Roxane annoying their residents, and begin to pull her over whenever they spot her car, but she is sure that her questions have agitated the real murderer. This intense debut novel featuring a sympathetic yet damaged investigator is a finalist for the 2018 Anthony and Shamus Awards for Best First Novel.

The Good LiarCatherine McKenzie
The Good Liar (Lake Union Publishing 2018) is the story of Cecily Grayson, a mother of two who is running late for a meeting with her husband Tom in downtown Chicago. Just as she arrives at the building, it explodes. Photographer Teo Jackson’s photograph of Cecily silhouetted against the burning building goes viral, becoming the enduring image of the disaster that killed 513, including Cecily’s husband and her best friend Kaitlyn Ring, and injured more than 2000. Franny Maycombe, a young woman who reveals that Kaitlyn Ring was her birth mother, introduces herself to Cecily at the funeral, who is stunned that Kaitlyn didn’t tell her about Franny. A year later Cecily and Franny are working with the Compensation Initiative, screening requests from bereaved families. Cecily received a large settlement, but Kaitlyn’s family is still waiting for compensation since nothing with her DNA was found in the ruins. The Compensation Initiative has hired Teo to film a documentary about the explosion, and he is interviewing Celily and Franny. Teo is sure Cecily isn’t telling the whole truth, but she can’t bring herself to tell her children that Tom was cheating on her and that the meeting was to talk about divorce. Meanwhile, Kaitlyn Ring is living in Montreal under her maiden name, working as a nanny for cash and trying not to think about her former life and the husband and two small children she left behind. The one year anniversary of the disaster known as Triple Ten (10:00 AM on October 10th) takes over the news, and Kate sees a picture of her husband, children, and Franny all together. Alternate sections from Cecily’s and Kate’s points of view are interwoven with interview transcripts with Franny. This intense psychological thriller probes the nature of truth and the debilitating effects of guilt.

American by DayDerek B. Miller
American by Day (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2018) finds Oslo Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård struggling to come to terms with her fatal shooting of a kidnapper, a rare police killing in Norway. Though the shooting was deemed justified by the police scrutiny, Sigrid is haunted by uncertainty — would she have made the same instinctive decision to fire her gun if the man had been a native Norwegian instead of an immigrant from Kosovo? Sigrid takes a leave of absence to stay with her father on the family farm to rest and recuperate, but her father sends her to America to search for her brother Marcus, who is missing. Arriving in New York, Sigrid discovers that Marcus vanished after his girlfriend Lydia Jones fell to her death from a condemned building. Jefferson County Sheriff Irv Wylie invites Sigrid to help him search for Marcus, but Sigrid is worried about her brother’s safety if armed American police track him down. Examining the crime scene photos, Sigrid is startled to discover that Lydia was African-American. While interviewing Lydia’s friends, she learns that Lydia was suffering from depression after her 12-year-old nephew Jeffrey, playing in his front yard with a toy gun and two friends, was shot and killed by the police. The shooting was ruled justified, and Sigrid can’t help comparing it to her own experience. Would Jeffrey have been shot and killed if he were white? While searching for Marcus, Sigrid experiences American extravagance: shopping at Walmart and eating at diners with six-page menus. Irv, who at first suspects Sigrid is autistic, comes to respect her talent. Originally discounting Irv because of his folksy nature and cowboy boots, Sigrid reluctantly accepts his help following Marcus into the wild backwoods of the Adirondacks. Laced with sly humor, this heart-felt second in the series explores American institutionalized racism, reliance on guns, and preference for individualism over cooperation when solving problems.

The Long SilenceGerard O’Donovan
The Long Silence (Severn House 2018) introduces Tom Collins, an Irish immigrant and former New York City cop, working as a private investigator in Hollywood, California. In February of 1922, producer Mack Sennett asks Tom to look into the murder of William Desmond Taylor, a successful director. Sennett is worried that his top star Mabel Normand, who was romantically involved with Taylor, may become a suspect since she was the last one to see him. Sennett fears that Mabel’s box office appeal will disintegrate if the press discovers Mabel’s drug problem and smear her in the papers. Mabel is missing, and though he visits all her usual haunts — elegant restaurants, glamorous nightclubs, dodgy speakeasies, and grimy dope dens — Collins can’t find a trace of her. While trying to track down Mabel’s drug dealer, Collins offends a gangster who decides his life would be much easier without Collins around. But even more dangerous than the gangster is Big Al Devlin, a New York cop indicted for corruption on Collins’s evidence six years earlier in New York now working in Los Angeles. The gangster is out to kill him, but Devlin also has the power to arrest him and beat him in the cells. Taylor was a respected director, but Collins finds plenty of suspects among the desperate starlets, ruthless stars, and envious rivals. This compelling debut mystery set in a Hollywood controlled by the movie industry is the first in the Hollywood Noir series.

Memento ParkMark Sarvas
Memento Park (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2018) begins when Matt Santos, an actor in Los Angeles, gets a call from the Australian consulate explaining that a painting looted from his family’s home in Budapest during WWII may be returned through the process of restitution. Matt asks why they aren’t talking to his father, and is told he refused to discuss the painting. Matt’s relationship with his judgemental father is strained, but his father reluctantly admits that Matt’s grandfather Bela Szantos traded the painting for exit documents out of Hungary. The documents arrived too late to save Matt’s grandmother and his father insists Matt should have nothing to do with the ill-fated painting, which was taken to Australia by members of the Arrow Cross, the Hungarian Fascist party who took on the Gestapo role of rounding up Hungarian Jews. When shown a picture of Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kálmán, Matt has a feeling he has seen the painting before, and searches through a file of old family photos. A creased black and white photograph of the living room of his grandparent’s Budapest flat, dated April 1944, clearly shows Budapest Street Scene hanging over the hearth. Matt’s father raised him as an American, with no connection to his Hungarian heritage or the Jewish religion. Working with restitution lawyer Rachel Steinberg, Matt observes the loving family and fulfilling religious life he was denied, and is consumed by the need to understand his family history. The painting is worth an estimated two million dollars, so Matt travels to New York, Chicago, and Budapest to search for documentation to prove his family’s claim, and to discover why his father, who has never passed up an advantage, refuses to help. This engaging novel explores identity, the aftershocks of war, and the power of art.

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May 1, 2018

The Grave’s a Fine and Private PlaceAlan Bradley
The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place (Delacorte Press 2018) finds 12-year-old aspiring chemist and amateur sleuth Flavia de Luce on a boating trip in 1952 with her two older sisters, organized by loyal family servant Dogger after a family tragedy. As their punt drifts down the river, Dogger points out the church where Canon Whitbread killed three elderly parishioners by adding cyanide to their communion wine. Thinking about poisons is just the thing to distract Flavia from her grief, and she muses about the symptoms of cyanide poisoning while dangling her fingers in the water. Seizing what she thinks is a giant fish, Flavia find herself clutching the jaw of a dead young man, soon identified as the vicar’s son Orlando. Before the police arrive, Flavia examines the body, noticing a bruise on the back of the head and the distinct smell of paraldehyde, used to treat alcoholism and nervous conditions. Flavia takes a sample of the liquid from Orlando’s lips and extracts a scrap of paper from his pocket. With Dogger’s help, Flavia constructs a makeshift lab and identifies cyanide in her sample. Surprised when the autopsy results reveal that Orlando drowned, Flavia and Dogger mount parallel investigations to discover the truth about Orlando’s death, and also verify the guilt of Canon Whitbread, which looks more doubtful with every passing day. Flavia cultivates the acquaintance of the young son of the local undertaker while Dogger meets a woman from his past, an Australian Army Nurse from the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp Dogger has never fully recovered from. This darkly funny ninth in the series is completely satisfying.

Death OverdueAllison Brook
Death Overdue (Crooked Lane Books 2017) introduces Carrie Singleton, the new head of programs at the library in Clover Ridge, Connecticut. A bit dubious about returning to the town where she spent childhood summers, Carrie decides to give the new job six months. Dorothy Hawkins, the reference librarian, is resentful that an outsider is given the job she coveted, but the ghost of former librarian Evelyn Havers encourages Carrie to stay. Carrie’s first event is a presentation by Al Buckley, a retired homicide detective who claims to have new evidence about the murder of Laura Foster, a beloved library aide who was murdered 15 years earlier. Laura’s husband and sons attend the presentation. Her older son Ryan is angry, accusing Al of sensationalism, but her younger son Jared is supportive. Carrie is surprised to see a chocolate cookie on Al’s refreshment plate since she didn’t buy any of that variety, but doesn’t think much about it until Al collapses and dies after eating the cookie. Horrified by Al’s death, Carrie vows to do everything she can to catch his killer. Convinced that the new murder is connected to Laura’s, Carrie and Jared delve into his family’s past. This light-hearted series opener was a finalist for the 2017 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel.

Beneath the MountainLuca D’Andrea
Beneath the Mountain (Harper 2018, Italian 2016) is the story of Jeremiah Salinger, a new York City native and half of a documentary-making team who made it big with a series of films about rock and roll roadies. After the fourth film, Salinger and his partner Mike McMellan run out of steam. Salinger falls in love with Annelise, and moves to Siebenhoch, a remote village in the Dolomites, once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The locals speak the ancient dialect of Ladino, root for Germany against Italy in the World Cup, and have little tolerance for outsiders. The sight of a bright red helicopter against the deep blue sky inspires Salinger to make a documentary about the Dolomite Mountain Rescue group started by Annelise’s father Werner and his friends many years earlier. Salinger is lowered with the camera from the helicopter to film the rescue of a tourist who had fallen into a cravasse. Left alone at the bottom of the cravasse while the woman is lifted, Salinger becomes disoriented, hearing the hissing voice of an ancient Beast. The helicopter and the rescue team are destroyed in an avalanche. Wracked with survivor’s guilt, Salinger is diagnosed with PTSD but hates the anxiety drugs, and only pretends to take them. Trying to distract himself from his auditory hallucinations, Salinger becomes fixated on the story of an old crime, three murders in the Bletterbach Gorge. Evi, a geology student, her boyfriend Kurt, a mountain guide, and her younger brother Markus didn’t return from a hike. Werner, who discovered the bodies with members of the Dolomite Mountain Rescue group, reluctantly describes the horrific scene: Evi was beheaded, and the others were torn limb from limb. The killer was never identified. Convinced that solving the mystery is his only hope of retaining his sanity, Salinger, who promised Annelise he would give up work for year, secretly investigates the crime everyone in the village would prefer to forget, gradually coming to believe that the Beast is responsible. This atmospheric debut thriller explores the terrifying after-effects of trauma.

A Death of No ImportanceMariah Fredericks
A Death of No Importance (Minotaur 2018) is set in 1910 New York City. Jane Prescott has just taken the position as ladies’ maid to the two daughters of the Benchley family. Dismissed by New York society as “new money,” the Benchleys come to rely on Jane’s understanding of the rules of high society. Eldest daughter Louise is unhappy, shy, awkward, and not nearly as pretty as her younger sister Charlotte. Jane is fond of Louise, and hopes to mitigate some of her shortcomings. Charlotte is eager to succeed in society, and quickly flirts her way into a relationship with Robert Norris Newsome, Jr., known as Norrie. The Newsome family money came from coal and then steel, and Norrie is the season’s most eligible bachelor despite his dubious reputation and his father’s hope that he will settle down and marry Beatrice Tyler. Mr. Newsome has remarried a much younger wife, who is about the same age as Norrie and his sister Lucinda, causing strife within the family. Charlotte tells her mother that she is secretly engaged to Norrie, who has not yet informed his father. An item about the secret engagement appears in Town Topics, and New York society is horrified that Norrie has jilted Beatrice for the daughter of a nouveau riche unknown. When Norrie is murdered at the Newsome Christmas Eve ball, Jane discovers the body. Mr. Newsome had received threats from anarchists referencing the disaster at Shickshinny Mine, where 21 miners died, including eight children who were left to smother. Though this is a compelling motive, Jane worries that there might be a more personal motive for the murder, perhaps Charlotte’s fear that Norrie would jilt her as well. Honed by years of service to the wealthy, Jane has a talent for staying unnoticed while noticing everything, which helps her gather information the police cannot. This appealing series debut is the first adult mystery by the Edgar-nominated Young Adult author.

UNSUBMeg Gardiner
UNSUB (Dutton 2017) introduces Caitlin Hendrix, a detective with the Narcotics Task Force in San Francisco, California. Caitlin has only been a detective for six months when she is asked to visit the scene of a homicide, a young woman marked with the sign of Mercury. Caitlin is stunned since the UNSUB (unknown subject) dubbed the Prophet hasn’t struck for 20 years. Her father was the lead detective on the team that never caught the serial killer who murdered and posed two victims at a time in grotesque displays. The case consumed her father, destroyed his marriage, and eventually sent him to a mental hospital. The murders stopped, but Mack Hendrix never recovered from his failure to protect his city. Mack warns Caitlin to stay away from the investigation, but she volunteers for the team and is accepted in the hopes she will be able to help determine if the new murders are committed by a copycat. With each new killing Caitlin is more convinced that the Prophet who haunted her childhood has returned. Notes similar to the ones the Prophet sent to her father are now addressed to her, and Caitlin is determined to redeem her family name by figuring out the method behind the madness. This chilling series opener is a finalist for the 2018 Barry Award for Best Thriller.

The Lost OnesSheena Kamal
The Lost Ones (William Morrow 2017) introduces Nora Watts, a homeless research assistant for a private investigator in Vancouver, British Columbia. A recovering alcoholic, Nora lives secretly in the basement of the office. She has no formal training, but an unerring instinct for spotting a lie that is invaluable during witness interviews. An early morning call from Everett Walsh asking for her help finding a missing girl upsets Nora’s precarious balance. Everett’s wife Lynn explains that their missing 15-year-old daughter is also Nora’s daughter, the baby she gave up for adoption immediately after giving birth. At first doubtful, one look at Bonnie’s picture convinces Nora they are telling the truth — Bonnie’s deep black eyes are a mirror of her own. Bonnie is a chronic runaway, and the police aren’t taking her disappearance seriously. A biracial product of the foster care system, Nora understands only too well the dangers to young girls on the streets, and reluctantly begins to search for the daughter she never expected to see again. The investigation opens floodgates to the trauma of Nora’s past, memories she buried deep and tried to smother with alcohol. As she tracks Bonnie’s boyfriend, Nora realizes that Bonnie didn’t run away, she was kidnapped. The question is by whom and for what reason. This searing debut novel is a finalist for the 2018 Barry and Thriller Awards for Best First Novel.

The Paris SpySusan Elia MacNeal
The Paris Spy (Bantam 2017) finds Maggie Hope, a code-breaker and spy for Winston Churchill’s Special Operations, in Paris, searching for Erica Calvery, a fellow female spy whose transmissions have been sent without the proper codes. Trained as a geologist, Erica was sent to the beaches of Normandy to collect sand and soil samples and determine beach gradients before being captured by the Germans. It’s 1942, and Paris is occupied by the Nazis, who have draped the swastika everywhere. Using the couture wardrobe of a friend, Maggie is posing as a fashionable Irish lady in Paris to buy her trousseau. Since Ireland is a neutral nation, Maggie is allowed to stay at the Hotel Ritz Paris, where she meets Coco Chanel, who invites her to the ballet and a masked ball. Maggie isn’t comfortable socializing with German officers, and fears she will meet someone who knows her true identity. At the ballet Maggie finds a few moments to speak to fellow spies Sarah and Hugh, working undercover as a ballet dancer and a cello player. They collect a briefcase containing Erica’s samples and hide it. But one of their colleagues is a double agent, and the Germans know about the bar where a secret code can be used to request a safe house. Maggie is also searching for her German half-sister Elise Hess, a Resistance fighter hiding in a nunnery near Paris. The sharp contrast between the fashionable Parisians who socialize with the German officers and the starving Parisians is amplified by hints of the future: rumors of identifying Jews with yellow stars and including children in German roundups. This unsettling sixth in the series was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

The Old ManThomas Perry
The Old Man (Mysterious Press 2017) is the story of a 60-year old man who calls himself Dan Chase. Chase has been hiding out for 35 years, ever since his Army Intelligence assignment to deliver money to a rebel Libyan army. Realizing that the money never got to its intended target, Chase stole the 20 million back from Faris Hamzah, but the Army refused to accept it, branding him a thief and seeking his arrest. After his wife died 10 years earlier, Chase adopted two large dogs, which save his life by alerting him to an assassin. Chase kills the man, and assembles his escape kit of money, weapons, and alternate identities while waiting for the police to arrive. They accept his story of self-defense against an armed intruder, but Chase knows he needs to move quickly and leaves Vermont immediately. Hamzah, now a leader of an important faction in Libya, has capitalized on the US desire for a Libyan ally to avenge himself on the man who humiliated him. Julian Carson, trained by Army Intelligence in Afghanistan, is assigned the task of assisting the Libyan assassination team, who vastly underrate the survival instincts of “the old man.” In the second attempt, after killing two more Libyans, Chase ambushes Julian, giving him his life in exchange for delivering a message: Chase will return the money if the government tells Hamzah he is dead. Julian begins to suspect that Chase is telling the truth, but realizes that the truth doesn’t matter. Both Chase and Julian are decent men, trained by their government to track, kill, and hide in plain sight. This intense stand-alone is a finalist for the 2018 Barry Award for Best Thriller.

A Talent for MurderAndrew Wilson
A Talent for Murder (Simon & Schuster 2017) begins when Agatha Christie is nearly pushed off a London train platform. Her rescuer, Dr. Patrick Kurs, presents her with a dilemma: she can help him murder his wife or he will tell the world about her husband Archie’s affair with another woman, destroying his reputation. Dazed by the encounter, Agatha attracts the attention of a young couple. John Davidson, who works for an unnamed department at Whitehall, recognizes Agatha and introduces her to his friend Una Crowe, who seizes upon the possibility of becoming a writer as a distraction from her grief over her father’s death. Dr. Kurs follows up by sending Agatha one of Archie’s love letters to Miss Nancy Neele and then threatening the life of her daughter Rosalind. Dr. Kurs orchestrates Agatha’s disappearance, leaving her fur coat in her beloved Morris Cowley before crashing it at the bottom of a hill. Agatha follows Dr. Kurs instructions and checks herself into the Hydro Hotel in Harrogate under the name of Neele. The police suspect suicide at first, but then suspicion falls on Archie when his affair comes to light. Meanwhile, Agatha racks her brains for a way out of her predicament, wondering if it is possible to give Kurs’s wife a poison that would mimic death long enough to obtain the death certificate necessary to fulfill her obligation to Kurs. Pretending to be a reporter, Una interviews Nancy Neele, and discovers she had been consulting a doctor for her nerves. Una finds Dr. Kurs distasteful, but swallows the “tonic” he gives her while pretending to be a new patient, and then disappears herself. Incorporating real-life details, this compelling version of Agatha Christie’s 10-day disappearance in 1926 is the first in a series.

A Perfect ShotRobin Yocum
A Perfect Shot (Seventh Street Books 2018) is the story of Nicholas “Duke” Ducheski, whose defining moment was the “miracle” shot in his high school state championship basketball game. Now middle-aged and working in the steel mill, Duke is greeted daily on the streets of Mingo Junction, Ohio, where high school sports are still important. Married to a woman who doesn’t love him, Duke has been saving money for a divorce. But Nina refuses to even think about a divorce, and her brother Tony DeMarco, an enforcer for the local mob, tells him to forget about it. So Duke sets up a partnership with his childhood friend Angel and uses the money to open a bar & grill they christen Duke’s Place. Moonie, the third member of their enduring friendship, helps Duke refurbish the building. Unfortunately Moonie has a gambling problem, and chooses absolutely the wrong plan for retiring his debt, bringing the wrath of the mob down upon himself as well as Duke. Determined not to lose the bar, the one thing he has accomplished in the last 20 years, Duke decides to outsmart Tony if it’s the last thing he does. This gripping thriller explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and being true to oneself.

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April 1, 2018

Madness Treads LightlyPolina Dashkova
Madness Treads Lightly (AmazonCrossing 2017, Russian 1998) features Lena Polyanskaya, a Russian magazine editor married to high-ranking colonel in counterintelligence. In 1996, Lena works from home several days a week, caring for their two-year-old daughter Liza with the help of an elderly neighbor while her husband is on assignment in London. Lena’s friend Olga Sinitsyna calls in tears one evening. Her brother Mitya had just been found by his wife Katya, hanging from the gas pipe above their kitchen door. The police found drugs in his body, and ruled the death a suicide. But Katya, who is a drug addict, swears that Mitya would never have injected himself with drugs, especially since a famous producer had recently shown interest in his songs. Discovering that the drugs had been injected in Mitya’s right wrist, extremely difficult for a right-handed person, Lena and Olga suspect that Mitya was murdered. Fourteen years earlier, while Lena and Olga were in journalism school, they traveled with Mitya to Tobolsk, Siberia, as guests of the Culture Department of the Tobolsk Young Communists Committee. There they met Veniamin Borisovich, the Young Communist Culture Department chief, an awkward young man in the middle of a serial murder spree, before he was redirected by Regina Valentinovna Gradskaya, an exceptionally ugly psychoanalyst with a talent for hypnosis. Many plastic surgeries later, Regina is a beautiful woman who has transformed a serial killer into a successful producer. Only three people remain who may have knowledge of her husband’s prior life. When Katya dies of a fatal overdose, Lena fears that she and Liza may be next. This intense thriller is the first in English by Russia’s most successful author of crime novels.

Hollywood HomicideKellye Garrett
Hollywood Homicide (Midnight Ink 2017) introduces Dayna Anderson, who came to Hollywood to become an actress. After catapulting to semi-fame in a series of Chubby’s Chicken commercials, Dayna is now broke and sleeping in her best friend Sienna’s spare bedroom/shoe closet, trying to land a real job. Dayna is sort of OK with her fringy financial status until her father tells her the bank is about to foreclose on their house. Desperate to help her parents, Dayna is struck by a billboard offering a $15,000 reward for information about the hit-and-run driver who killed young Haley Joseph. Dayna realizes that she and three friends had seen a car speeding away from the scene of the accident, a car with custom tinted window embossed with a rose design. The four had been out drinking, but Dayna remembers Omari filming out the window with his phone as they drove. Unfortunately Dayna and Omari had a falling-out that night, and she hasn’t spoken to him for over a month. It seems easier to try and discover something about Hayley’s last days, so Dayna and Sienna visit Clothes Encounters, a designer resale shop where Hayley worked. Dayna is soon a regular caller to the Tip Line, trying to convince the gum-chewing Voice on the other end that she has information for the police. The Voice becomes increasingly more doubtful since Dayna’s prime suspect changes with each call. Aubrey S. Adams-Parker, a bicycle-riding private investigator clad in a neon orange jumpsuit, is also investigating the crime, and the two opposite personalities reluctantly join forces. Sienna has the pulse of Hollywood gossip and helps out when not filming herself for a potential reality show she plans to call Lady in Red. This funny debut mystery just won the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery, and is a finalist for the Agatha and Barry Awards.

Tornado WeatherDeborah E. Kennedy
Tornado Weather (Flatiron Books 2017) begins one spring afternoon in Colliersville, Indiana, when Fikus the bus driver drops off five-year-old Daisy Gonzalez at her driveway. The sky is tornado-watch green, and the children on the bus are noisy and upset. Usually Daisy’s father Hector, a high school teacher, is there to push her wheelchair, but today it’s Basketball Juan, a mentally disabled man Daisy says is teaching her to play ball. Fikus is uneasy about the unusual situation, but the screaming of an Asperger’s child propels him back inside the bus. When Daisy goes missing, the poverty-stricken town’s residents are worried, each suspecting the other. The dairy farmer has brought in a crew of immigrants from Mexico, and most would prefer to shift the blame to a newcomer. The immigrants understand more English than they speak and pick up secrets about the family: the fragile mother and the only son who has just changed his name to Willa. The hairdresser knows more about her customers than they imagine, though not the infidelity in her own relationship. Fikus convinces his friend Irv, a hermit who removes roadkill for the county, to help him search for clues about the day Daisy vanished and where she might possibly have been taken. And a witness to the hit-and-run accident that killed Daisy’s mother and left the child confined to a wheelchair three years earlier, has never told anyone about the car that sped away. Told from multiple perspectives, this complex examination of the intersecting lives of the town’s residents, who feel a collective guilt for not protecting Daisy, is a finalist for 2018 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Holmes EntangledGordon McAlpine
Holmes Entangled (Seventh Street Books 2018) begins in 1943 when L.L. Borges brings a handwritten manuscript he discovered in the ill-organized Miguel Cané Municipal Library in Buenos Aires to a private investigator he dreamed about a few weeks before. Borges reveals secrets about the PI’s current investigation, and convinces him to read the manuscript, written by Sherlock Holmes. After the death of his friend and chronicler Dr. John H. Watson, Holmes has given up detective work and amuses himself by posing as a visiting lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, currently Professor Heinrich von Schimmel. Arthur Conan Doyle, a little-known author, pays a surprising visit to the Professor’s office, declaring that the spirit of current prime minister Stanley Baldwin revealed Holmes’s secret identity during a séance. Only Conan Doyle heard Baldwin’s spirit manifestation, who also revealed that he was crippled in a hansom cab accident and never became prime minister. Conan Doyle believes his life is in danger. Holmes is more interested in how the author penetrated his disguise than saving his life, but takes the case. He joins forces with Dr. Watson’s widow to expose the tricks of spiritualists and delve into the baffling new science of quantum mechanics while trying to stay one step ahead of a tall blond man determined to kill him. This very strange book is a fascinating addition to the Holmes universe.

The BreakdownB.A. Paris
The Breakdown (St. Martin’s Press 2017) begins when Cass ignores her husband Matthew’s warning about the danger, and takes the Blackwater Lane shortcut through the woods in a torrential rainstorm late one night. She passes a woman pulled over and stops briefly, but the woman doesn’t get out of the car or flash her lights for help, so Cass continues on to her isolated house. The next day she hears on the news that a woman has been found dead in her car, and the police are investigating it as a suspicious death. Cass is consumed with guilt for not stopping yet relieved that she wasn’t murdered herself. Discovering that the woman was an acquaintance she hoped would become a friend only makes things worse, but Cass can’t bring herself to confess that she drove home without offering help. A text from her best friend Rachel asking about a present she doesn’t remember offering to pick up increases her stress. Cass’s mother was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at the age of 44, and though Cass is only 34 she worries that she may be in the early stages of the disease herself. Over the next few weeks she leaves the house without her purse, forgets where she parked her car, and is surprised by the arrival of packages she doesn’t remember ordering. The phone rings several times a day while Matthew is at work, and the silence on the line feels menacing rather than annoying. Convinced that the murderer tracked her down and is stalking her, Cass is frightened whenever she is alone in the house, too petrified to work on the lesson plans she should be writing during her summer break. Rachel is sympathetic, but Matthew is sure she is having a breakdown, and convinces a doctor to prescribe strong anti-depressants that fog her mind even more. This chilling psychological thriller illuminates the stark terror of losing one’s memory.

The Vanishing SeasonJoanna Schaffhausen
The Vanishing Season (Minotaur 2017) features Ellery Hathaway, a police officer in the small town of Woodbury, Massachusetts. There isn’t much crime in Woodbury, and the small police force doesn’t suspect murder when three people disappear over the course of three years. Bea Nesbit disappeared on her way back to college in Boston, Shannon Blessing was an alcoholic whose car also went missing, and Mark Roy was a mailman who suffered from depression. Only Ellery is convinced the three missing persons cases are actually murders, and she fears the next person will vanish when the first week of July arrives. No one in Woodbury knows that Ellery is really Abby, the final victim of serial killer Francis Michael Coben who was rescued by FBI agent Reed Markham. Determined never to be a victim again, Abby dyed her hair, changed her name, and trained for the police. By keeping her past a secret, Ellery hopes people will see her as the woman she is today, rather than the traumatized girl she was before. Since there are no bodies or any evidence of foul play, Ellery’s boss doesn’t think there is anything more they can do to investigate. Afraid another person will vanish soon, Ellory contacts Markham, telling him that each year for three years she has received an anonymous card on her birthday with a local postmark. Ever since she was abducted on her 14th birthday, Ellery hasn’t celebrated and doesn’t think anyone in Woodbury knows the date of her birthday. Markham is concerned enough to check that Coben is still securely locked up and heads to Woodbury to investigate. This chilling debut thriller won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition.

Persons UnknownSusie Steiner
Persons Unknown (Random House 2017) finds Detective Manon Bradshaw working cold cases in Cambridgeshire, England. Unmarried and five months pregnant, Manon has moved her black adopted 12-year-old son Fly away from the dangers of London to live with her sister Ellie and her almost three-year old son Solomon. Fly hates being the only black child in the mostly white village, though he loves helping to take care of Solomon. Manon finds cold cases a bit boring, and when a man is found dead from stab wounds in Hinchingbrooke Park, she offers to help. The man is soon identified as Jon-Oliver Ross, a wealthy London banker and Ellie’s ex-husband. Jon-Oliver had been visiting Solomon once a month for the last six months while Manon and Ellie were at work, always ordering Fly to leave the house so he could spend time alone with his son. Jon-Oliver’s unpleasant texts to Fly, the fact that Fly was caught on CCTV walking though the park around the time Jon-Oliver was killed, and the racial profiling Manon hoped wasn’t as bad outside London, cause Fly to become the prime suspect. No one except Manon, who is intimately acquainted with Fly’s ability to lose himself in his adolescent musings, can believe he could have passed a murder without noticing anything. Therefore he must be the killer. Wracked with guilt for putting Fly in jeopardy by uprooting him from his familiar surroundings, Manon uses every contact she has to learn about the investigation in order to prove Fly’s innocence. This darkly humorous suspense thriller is the second in the series.

My Absolute DarlingGabriel Tallent
My Absolute Darling (Riverhead Books 2017) is the story of Turtle, a 14-year-old girl who lives in the wilds of Mendocino County, California, with her father, a charismatic, paranoid, and abusive survivalist. Since the death of her mother years earlier, Turtle has grown up wild, more comfortable outdoors with a knife or gun than talking to people or trapped in a schoolroom. After a breakfast of raw eggs and beer, Turtle rides the bus to school, where she day-dreams through her classes and doesn’t respond to the one teacher who tries to break through her shell. While roaming the woods during summer break, Turtle finds two high school boys carrying camping equipment but clearly lost. After secretly following them for several hours, Turtle reveals herself and shows them a safe place to camp, leading them back to civilization the next day. Jacob and Brett are fascinated by Turtle, and introduce her to Brett’s mother, who claims that Turtle’s mother was once her best friend. Trained by her father to be wary of strangers, especially women, Turtle refuses to answer her questions. Turtle knows she will be punished for being out all night, but is thrilled to discover that though her father searched for her, he was unable to track her. Turtle can’t stop thinking about Jacob and that quick glimpse of a completely different life within a loving family. Motivated by the possibility of her first real friendship, Turtle begins to imagine escaping her father’s control and experiencing freedom. This searing debut thriller is a finalist for the 2018 Barry Award for Best First Novel.

A Head in CambodiaNancy Tingley
A Head in Cambodia (Swallow Press 2017) begins when P.P. Bhattacharya, a trustee and patron of the new Searles Museum in Marin County, California, asks Jenna Murphy, the young Asian art curator, to authenticate a stone head he bought in an Atherton garage sale. Jenna is overwhelmed by the beauty of the carving and suspects it is the head of Radha, the consort to Krishna, stolen five years earlier from an 11th century statue in the museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia. When she declares it must be returned, P.P. is crushed. But the more Jenna studies the head, the less sure she is that it is genuine. It displays far too little wear for a carving that spent centuries in an outdoor temple, and the flawless head is somehow too modern. The two visit the family who sold the head, and learn that the deceased owner, Tom Sharpen, was also suspicious of the piece. They are horrified to learn that Sharpen was murdered, beheaded with a machete. The museum sends Jenna as the tour leader of a small group of art aficionados to Thailand and Cambodia, where she and P.P. hope to discover the provenance of the head of Radha and track down the dealer who sold it to Sharpen. The wealth and privilege of Jenna’s group contrasts with the poverty they encounter while visiting temples and street markets. A poisonous viper is found in Jenna’s hotel room, and she is sure she is being followed, but government corruption and echoes of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge make her leery of trusting anyone with her suspicions. This art history-packed debut is a finalist for the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.

ProtocolKathleen Valenti
Protocol (Henery Press 2017) introduces Maggie O’Malley, a young pharmaceutical researcher just starting her first job at Rxcellance. Maggie’s mother died of liver cancer and she is hoping to be assigned to the team developing therapies to attack cancer cells, but is disappointed to find she will be working on an acne drug instead. Maggie’s best friend Constantine Papadopolous gives her a recycled phone as a first job present, and she is startled when a meeting reminder appears along with the face of a woman she doesn’t know. The same woman’s face appears on the evening news, the victim of a hit-and-run. When she goes home to visit her father on the weekend, Maggie asks Constantine to find out who the phone’s previous owner was, but the second-hand dealer refuses to share that information. She discovers that her father is close to losing his restaurant, and works out a secret deal with her aunt to take over some of the mortgage payments A second reminder followed by another death is even more frightening, especially when she notices possible connections between the victims and Rxcellance. Worried that losing her job will mean financial ruin for her father, Maggie begins searching for whoever is behind the mysterious meeting notifications. This intense debut thriller investigating Big Pharma and multi-million dollar drugs is a finalist for the Agatha and Lefty Awards for Best Debut Mystery.

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March 1, 2018

A short Time to DieSusan Alice Bickford
A Short Time To Die (Kensington 2017) begins on a cold October night in the Finger Lakes area of New York when teenaged Marly Shaw takes a shortcut through the woods after a school dance. Chased by her drunken step-father Del Harris and his even scarier father Zeke, Marly manages to escape, though Zeke fatally wounds Del with a wild shot and then dies of a heart attack. Pushing their truck into the ravine, Marly makes it home without her alcoholic mother aware of the long bullet crease down one thigh. Marly and Elaine, who was brutally assaulted by Louise and Troy Harris, work on a technology project together in the library, making enough money to escape to college. Thirteen years later, the two have completed graduate school at Stanford, and are successful tech engineers when decomposed bodies are discovered in the Santa Cruz mountains. There is no trace of clothing or jewelry with the bodies, identified by DNA testing as Louise and Troy Harris of Charon Springs, New York, by Santa Clara Country Sheriff Detectives Vanessa Alba and Jack Wong. The New York Chief of Police tells the California detectives that the infamous Harris clan has controlled Charon Springs for generations, though Carl Harris, the current head of the family, is more business-like and less vicious than his brother Zeke, whose body was discovered 12 years earlier, and Zeke’s vindictive wife Rosie, who died of cancer four years ago. The remains of Louise and Troy appear to be about four years old, so Vanessa and Jack travel to New York to interview Carl. The California detectives are stunned by the intensity of the January cold, and concerned by the local acceptance of the brutal Harris clan, who routinely abused their wives and children. Interspersed chapters tell Marly’s story as the detectives try to figure out why Louise and Troy were in California and how they died. This intense debut thriller is a finalist for the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.

Blood TruthMatt Coyle
Blood Truth (Oceanview Publishing 2017) begins when private investigator Rick Cahill picks up a safe discovered when his childhood home was demolished. Rick isn’t sure he wants to open the safe, which was hidden in a false wall in his father’s study. Rick has been ashamed of his father ever since he left the La Jolla, California police force in disgrace 27 years earlier, and is sure the money he finds in the safe is dirty. The small caliber gun worries him even more. Since his father has been dead for 18 years, Rick seeks out his father’s old colleagues. No one wants to talk to him, but he does discover an unsolved homicide committed with a small caliber gun six months before his father resigned. When his ex-girlfriend Kim asks him to follow her husband Jeffrey, Rick tries to say no, but Kim needs to know if her husband is unfaithful before she tells him she’s pregnant. Rick enlists the help of Moira MacFarland, a fellow PI, to tail Jeffrey. Kim and Jeffrey are both realtors, and Rick isn’t sure at first if the blond woman Jeffery is meeting is a client until he follows them to a hotel room. What he sees through the window isn’t proof of infidelity, but it sure looks like it. After Jeffrey leaves, Parker Stone, a shady power broker, arrives and leaves a briefcase with the woman Moira identifies as Sophia Domingo. Jeffrey insists that Sophia is a merely a client, but Rick wonders if a real estate swindle is in the works. Moira tries to help Rick with his quest to figure out why his father hid the gun, but he isn’t ready to share his family secrets and rebuffs her offer of friendship, leaving his dog Midnight as the only one who looks forward to spending time with him. This dark fourth in the series starring our ill-fated investigator is a finalist for the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Mystery.

Murder in an English VillageJessica Ellicott
Murder in an English Village (Kensington 2017) begins in 1920 when American adventuress Beryl Helliwell spots a personal advertisement for a genteel lodger placed by Edwina Davenport, her English school chum from finishing school. Now a woman of a certain age with a fondness for gin, Beryl is not eager to return to Prohibition America and heads to the hamlet of Walmsley Parva in her bright red motorcar. Edwina, a very proper English lady, is delighted to have company and a bit of help paying the bills, while Beryl admits she can do with some peace and quiet after a recent hot air balloon crash that stranded her in the desert. Beryl’s idea of serenity is much more energetic than Edwina’s, but the two quickly fall into their old comfortable friendship. When Beryl discovers that Edwina is mortified by village gossip about her financial collapse, Beryl circulates a more interesting rumor that Edwina is a secret agent who sent for Beryl to help with a clandestine investigation. Edwina is horrified, but confesses that there is one unsolved village mystery that has bothered her for a couple of years — the disappearance of Agnes Rollins, a member of the Women’s Land Army assigned to the village during the war. The local constable had a low opinion of the morals of the young women in the Land Army, and didn’t take the disappearance seriously. When Edwina is attacked in in her back garden and nearly strangled with her own scarf, the two friends realize that Beryl’s rumor of a secret investigation for the government must have frightened someone with a guilty conscience. This droll series opener is a finalist for the 2017 Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

The Deep Dark DescendingAllen Eskens
The Deep Dark Descending (Seventh Street Books 2017) begins when Minneapolis homicide detective Max Rupert is given an illegal recording by defense lawyer Boady Sanden. Max’s wife Jenni was killed in a hit-and-run accident in the parking garage next to the hospital where she worked as an ER nurse nearly five years earlier. Though ruled an accident, Max has struggled with guilt that she may have been targeted because of his job, which he endangered by conducting his own surreptitious investigation. The recording of a phone conversation between two men stuns him — they are arranging the death of a cop’s wife in the parking garage near the Hennepin County Medical Center because "she stumbled onto something she shouldn’t have." Max never considered the possibility that Jenni’s work may have been the cause of her death, and hopes this new slant will help him track down her killers. Max and his partner Niki are working on their first case of the year — a woman burned to death in her car on New Year’s Eve. Dennis Orton, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor, is found badly burned at the scene, along with a Bic lighter. The woman is identified as Pippi Stafford, Orton’s live-in girlfriend. Intubated in the Burn Unit with second and third degree burns, Orton is unable to talk. While in the hospital, Max tracks down a colleague of Jenni’s who can’t reveal much about Jenni’s last days at work because of HIPAA rules, but can share that Jenni had a meeting with Farrah McKinney, an interpreter, the day she died. Farrah remembers being asked to interpret for Zoya, a young Belarusian assault victim, possibly a prostitute, who had been thrown through a second story window. Interspersed chapters follow Max as he tracks a man Up North, struggling with his need to find justice for Jenni and the rage pushing him to administer that justice personally. This dark fourth in the excellent series is a finalist for the 2018 Barry Award for Best Paperback.

You’ll Never Know DearHallie Ephron
You’ll Never Know, Dear (William Morrow 2017) begins when a woman arrives at the home of famous doll-maker Sorrel Woodham, known to everyone as Miss Sorrel, with a dilapidated hand-made doll. Miss Sorrel’s daughter Lis is glad of the distraction since her mother is always depressed around Remembrance Day, the day Lis’s little sister Janey disappeared nearly 40 years earlier. Seven-year-old Lis had been in charge of watching over Janey in the front yard, but a stray puppy enticed her into the woods. When she returned both Janey and her doll were gone. No trace was every found of Janey, but each year Miss Sorrel posts an advertisement offering en ever-larger reward for the doll. Miss Sorrel is convinced the battered doll is Janey’s, the porcelain head sculpted into Janey’s own image, but her insistance on knowing where the doll came from frightens the woman away. That night Vanessa, Lis’s graduate student daughter, has a vivid dream about her Grandma Sorrel and a doll before being awakened by a call from Miss Sorrel’s next door neighbor explaining that her grandmother’s porcelain kiln exploded, sending both Miss Sorrel and Lis to the emergency room with carbon monoxide poisoning. Vanessa packs up her mother’s doll, the first portait doll Miss Sorrel created, and heads home to Bonsecours, South Carolina. Miss Sorrel has to stay in the hospital for a few days, but Vanessa takes her mother home, discovering that Miss Sorrel’s valuable doll collection has been stolen. The only two remaining are Lis’s portrait doll and the damaged doll that might be Janey’s. Lis doesn’t think the police are taking the kiln accident and doll thefts seriously, and sets out to locate the woman who delivered the doll. The woman lives in a rundown trailer with her mother Jenny, who has Janey’s pale blue eyes and is about the right age. Lis and Vanessa investigate Jenny’s background, uncovering more questions than answers. This character-driven thriller is a finalist for the 2018 Mary Higgins Clark Award.

The Widow’s HouseCarol Goodman
The Widow’s House (William Morrow 2017) begins when Jess and Clare Martin decide to sell their mortgaged Brooklyn loft and move back to Clare’s hometown of Concord, New York, where they met in college. Both were creative writing students with Professor Alden Mongague, known as Monty. Jess’s debut novel was a big success, but he hasn’t been able to complete a second book. Clare works as a freelance editor, having sacrificed her writing dreams long ago. The couple isn’t able to afford to buy a house in Concord, but agree to take on the job of caretakers for Riven House, which comes with a caretaker’s cottage, hoping that the change of scene will inspire Jess to complete his novel. Monty lives and writes in Riven House, staying in a basement flat to save on heat. During the tour of the octagonal house, Monty tells the story of the Riven House ghost. While his mother Minnie was pregnant with Monty, his father came down from Harvard to crown the Apple Blossom Queen, impulsively driving off with the girl in the cart full of apple blossoms. When the girl gave birth to a baby boy nine months later, she carried him to the porch of Riven House in the dead of night. The next morning the girl’s body was found frozen in the pond, and the baby dead of cold on the doorstep. Clare finds the story oddly familiar and discovers a story fragment she wrote in college about the apple blossom girl, sparking her long-dormant desire to write. She researches the incident at the local library, learning that Monty’s mother spent time in the Hudson River Mental Hospital after his birth, convinced that her real baby had been taken away and a fairy changeling left instead. Minnie believed that the apple blossom girl’s ghost haunted the house, and eventually killed herself. Having suffered a breakdown after miscarrying her own baby, Clare is haunted by the story, and begins to see a ghostly form on the grounds at night and scratching sounds in the nursery. This eerie gothic thriller is a finalist for the 2018 Mary Higgins Clark Award.

The IrregularH.B. Lyle
The Irregular (Quercus 2017) introduces Wiggins, an ex-soldier recruited by Vernan Kell in 1909 to do undercover work in London. Head of counterintelligence at the War Office, Kell wants to set up a Secret Service, but doesn’t have the required clear proof of a threat to national security. Kell’s upper class agents aren’t able to blend in on the streets of London, and are quickly targeted by the men they try to follow. Orphaned at a young age, Wiggins ran the Baker Street Irregulars, a gang of urchins who gathered information on the streets of London for Sherlock Holmes. Trained by the great detective himself, Wiggins has an impressive talent for observation and deduction. Wiggins, who doesn’t like following orders, declines Kell’s job offer until his best friend Bill is killed while trying to apprehend two robbers. Wiggins finds a red enamel star and suspects that Russian anarchists are involved, but the police aren’t interested in widening their investigation past the robbery. Realizing that working as a secret agent would give him the opportunity to track down Bill’s killer, Wiggins agrees to work for Kell if his identity is kept secret. Kell sends Wiggins undercover to serve as a watchman in a munitions factory that appears to be leaking information to the Germans. Wiggins rescues a Latvian laundry maid from street thugs, and Bela introduces him to her Russian friends. They are very interested in his job at the munitions factory, and Wiggins hopes he can find justice for Bill while tracking down the spy in the factory. His knack for Sherlockian observation gives Wiggins an advantage in his environment where few can be trusted. This compelling debut novel, a finalist for the 2018 Barry Award for Best First Novel, is the first in a series.

The Rules of Backyard CricketJock Serong
The Rules of Backyard Cricket (Text Publishing Company 2017, Australia 2016) begins with Darren Keefe in the trunk of a car: wounded, cable tied, and gagged. As he struggles to free himself, Darren looks back on his life, beginning with endless games of backyard cricket with his older brother Wally. Often left on their own while their single mother worked as a bartender, the brothers spent hour after hour perfecting their cricket skills, fiercely competitive and determined to become professional cricket players. Supported by their mother, the brothers became the youngest to join the junior team and rapidly advanced. Along the way Darren befriends Craig Wearne, a bear of a boy who saves them from a beating by players they humiliate. At 20 Darren is the first to be recruited for the state team, followed by Wally soon after. Wally’s serious nature goes over well with the officials and the public, but Darren is drawn into Craig’s circle of girls and drink and drugs. An arrest derails Darren’s career while Wally is picked up for the Australian national team and travels all over the world. Officially the bad-boy of Australian cricket, Darren struggles to stay in the game, gladly spending time with Wally’s daughter and teaching her to play cricket. As the car carrying Darren speeds towards its destination, he desperately tries to escape his bonds while trying to figure out who can possibly want to kill him and why. This intense thriller exploring the love/hate dichotomy of sibling rivalry and the obsession of sport is a finalist for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel and the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

Lost LuggageWendall Thomas
Lost Luggage (2017) introduces Cyd Redondo, a young, third-generation Brooklyn travel agent specializing in senior citizens. Though she has worked for her family’s travel agency since high school, Cyd has never been further away from home than New Jersey, and is determined to sell enough tickets for the Tanzania tour to win the prize of a free trip for herself. The first to arrive at the office, Cyd is horrified to find a huge blue parrot impaled by a serrated knife on her Uncle Ray’s desk, wrapped in a "Tanzania: The trip for the life you have left" brochure. Her uncle tells Cyd not to bother the police, and she heads next door to Mrs. Barsky’s Pet World to see if she had a break-in as well. The 83-year-old Mrs. Barsky is dead, presumably from yet another stroke, but Cyd submits Mrs. Barsky’s request for a private autopsy, specified in her will because of her conviction that she had been under government surveillance every since her arrest for protesting the Vietnam war. Cyd sneaks off to the Travel Agents’ Convention in Atlantic City to try to sell out the Tanzania tour. Wandering into the Herpetology Exhibit by mistake, she faints and is rescued by Roger Claymore, attending the adjacent Chiropractic convention. Back in Brooklyn, Cyd learns that Mrs. Barsky has been poisoned and that she has won the Tanzania Safari. Just as Uncle Ray is explaining that she should cash in the trip to upgrade the office computer system, Roger arrives bearing flowers. As her relatives begin to interrogate Roger, Cyd impulsively invites him to join her on safari. Dressed in her version of safari attire — leopard skin mini skirt and crocodile stiletto heels — and well supplied with Tupperware, Cyd and Roger head off to Africa and find themselves in the middle of an exotic animal smuggling ring. This very funny series opener is a finalist for the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.

Cast the First StoneJames W. Ziskin
Cast the First Stone (Seventh Street Books 2017) begins when reporter Ellie Stone is sent from New Holland, New York, to Los Angeles in 1962 to write a piece about hometown boy Tony Eberle, who just landed his first role in a Hollywood movie. When Ellie arrives on set, director Archie Stemple is in the midst of an angry outburst because Tony didn’t show up. Dorothy Fetterman, advisor to the president of Paramount Studios, tells Ellie that Tony is a nobody and will be quickly replaced. Seeing her story go down in flames, Ellie convinces Dorothy to find Tony’s contact information, and Dorothy gives her his address along with the name of the producer who hand-selected Tony for the role — Bertram Wallis. Ellie visits Tony’s apartment building and meets the super Evelyn Maynard, who tells her that Tony rooms with Mickey Harper. The two are often late with the rent, but Mickey paid the late rent only yesterday. Ellie likes the interesting woman, but is discomfited to realize that Evelyn is flirting with her. Mickey won’t tell Ellie much about Tony except the first name of his girlfriend, and she suspects he is hiding something. Dorothy asks Ellie to meet her and Archie Semple for a drink, and they demand to know if she has found Tony. Bertran Wallis has been missing for two days, and they hope Tony may know something about his whereabouts since the two appear to have a connection. Hoping to save her story by getting Tony his job back, Ellie says she can reach Tony but needs a day or two. Bertran Wallis is found dead the next morning in the ravine below his Hollywood Hills mansion and Ellie realizes her chances of saving Tony’s career, and her story, are slim. But the intrepid reporter launches herself through the commonplace sexism, racism, and homophobia to track down New Holland’s almost-famous son. This excellent fifth in the series is a finalist for the 2018 Lefty Award for Best Mystery.

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February 1, 2018

The Dark LakeSarah Bailey
The Dark Lake (Grand Central Publishing 2017) introduces Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, the lead homicide investigator in rural Smithson, Australia. When beautiful Rosalind Ryan, a former high school classmate, is found floating in the lake surrounded by red roses, Gemma downplays their past relationship to stay on the case. Gemma hasn’t seen Rose since they graduated, a few weeks after the suicide of Jacob, the boy they were both in love with. Now an adored high school English and Drama teacher, Rosalind recently quit her teaching job in Sydney to return home to Smithson. Though her father is one of the town’s richest men, Rosalind lived in a small apartment and had little to do with her father and three older brothers. Jacob’s younger brother Rodney was a student of Rose’s, and his resemblance to Jacob brings back painful memories Gemma has tried to suppress, especially when rumors arise that Rose was involved with a student. Gemma lives with her toddler son Ben and his father Scott, who would love for Gemma to marry him and take a less dangerous job. But Gemma is a talented investigator, stimulated by the mental adrenalin of a case, and embroiled in anardent affair with her partner Felix, a London immigrant with a wife and family. Haunted by her past and floundering in her present, Gemma feels that investigating the murder is the only aspect of her life she has real control over. This intense debut thriller is the first in a series.

The Last Mrs. ParrishLiv Constantine
The Last Mrs. Parrish (Harper 2017) is the story of Amber Patterson, a young woman with a plan to change her life. Amber engineers a “chance” meeting with Daphne, a wealthy socialite married to handsome real-estate mogul Jackson Parrish. From Amber’s perspective, the couple lives a fairy tale life with their two young daughters in a huge mansion located in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. Daphne runs Julie’s Smile, a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Amber is prepared with a touching story of an adored sister who died of CF like Daphne’s sister Julie. Daphne invites Amber to come to the next committee meeting for the upcoming annual fundraising party for Julie’s Smile, and Amber quickly establishes herself as a hard-worker Daphne can rely upon. Meanwhile, Amber researches Jackson’s interests, becoming an expert on the art he collects and reading the classics Daphne confesses she can’t appreciate despite her husband’s encouragement. Amber is soon working as an assistant in Jackson’s office, impressing him with her meticulous research on his important clients, and gradually changing her fade-into-the-background attire to more seductive clothing. Despite her friends’ doubts about a friendship with an unknown young woman, Daphne begins to include Amber in family outings on Jackson’s boat and weekends at their summer cottage. Amber learns that Jackson is desperate to have a son, but Daphne has not gotten pregnant in the last seven years. Adding that fact to her arsenal, Amber sets out to seduce Jackson and give him the perfect reason to divorce his wife. The self-centered and scheming Amber is the quintessential villain in this devious thriller, the first under the Liv Constantine pseudonym by sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine.

FlashmobChristopher Farnsworth
Flashmob (William Morrow 2017) finds John Smith at the wedding of the daughter of a television star he recently saved from kidnappers as part of his work as a troubleshooter for One Percent, a Los Angeles-based clandestine organization serving the very rich. A former CIA agent trained to hear people’s thoughts, Smith senses something dangerous. A group of gunmen dressed as witers opens fire on the bride. Smith takes down one of the shooters but is able to pry only one word from his mind: Downvote. Intrigued, Smith discovers that Downvote is an encrypted website on the Dark Net listing the names of celebrities who should be taken down. Originally the celebrities voted to the top of the list were the victims of pranks, but now Downvote is offering a reward for physically attacking or killing the top name. Whoever is running Downvote activates a violent flashmob through the website and sends targeted emails and social media posts to the phones of anyone near the target. The bride’s father hires Smith to track down whoever is responsible for the attack on his daughter, and Smith follows the digital clues to a reclusive tech billionaire who probably designed the algorithm used by Downvote. Smith relies on his ability to read thoughts to pass through crowds unnoticed, but barely escapes the sudden attack by angry flashmob all looking at a photo on their phones of Smith burning the American flag as he tries to move unseen through the Houston airport. This excellent second in the series highlights the terrifying ability of targeted news and social media to transform a group of regular people into a violent mob.

The Freedom BrokerK.J. Howe
The Freedom Broker (Quercus 2017) introduces Thea Paris, a kidnap and ransom specialist with Quantum Security International in London. When Thea was a child, her 12-year-old brother Nikos was kidnapped and held for ransom. Thea witnessed the kidnapping, but was too terrified to call out for help. Released after nine months, Theo was permanently changed by the experience. Determined never to feel helpless again, Thea worked hard to become the leader of the most respected black-ops kidnap team in the world, rescuing the wealthy and powerful after ransom negotiations fail. At Christmas Thea heads to Greece to celebrate her father’s 60th birthday. Now a powerful oil magnate, Christos Paris has never forgotten his humble beginnings as the son of a Santorini fisherman, returning to the island every year to throw a party. While Thea is off running, Christos is on the phone trying to close the biggest oil deal of his career aboard his yacht Aphrodite. When Thea returns, the yacht and her father are gone. Activating her team, Thea follows the yacht’s GPS chip to find the crew brutally murdered and no sign of her father except his abandoned phone, containing a cryptic text in Latin. Fully aware that kidnap victims don’t have a long survival window, Thea hunts for any clue to the identity of the kidnappers and their motive for taking her father. This high intensity debut thriller is a finalist for the 2018 Barry Award for Best Thriller.

RighteousJoe Ide
Righteous (Mulholland Books 2017) finds Isaiah Quintabe still haunted by the death of his brother Marcus in a hit-and-run accident years earlier when Isaiah was a teenager. Now working as a private investigator, mainly for his poor neighbors in East Long Beach, California, Isaiah spends most of his time alone with his rescued pit bull. While searching for a car part in a junk yard two years ago, Isaiah stumbled across the car that killed Marcus, realizing the accident was really a planned hit. Isaiah visits the storage shed where Marcus kept his construction tools and records, searching for anything that happened in the weeks before he died that might have led to his murder, suspecting that the neighborhood gang might be responsible. Sarita Van, Marcus’s girlfriend Isaiah adored from a distance, asks for his help with a family problem of her own. Sarita’s half-sister Janine, a DJ and gambling addict, and her boyfriend Bennie, also a gambler, are on the run in Las Vegas from a loan shark and his seven foot sidekick plus the Chinese gangsters they tried to blackmail to pay off their debt. Isaiah heads to Las Vegas with Dodson, his former robbery partner now gone straight with a pregnant girlfriend, to find Bennie and get Janine into a safe place. The story of Isaiah’s quest to find justice for his brother is interwoven with his current quest to earn Sarita’s love and respect by saving her sister. Laced with humor, this compelling second in the series is filled with fully fleshed characters who speak in distinctive voices.

The Wolves of WinterTyrell Johnson
The Wolves of Winter (Scribner 2018) is set in the Canadian Yukon after nuclear war and disease destroy most of society. Lynn McBride lives with her mother, brother, and uncle, eking out an existence by hunting and raising carrots and potatoes during the short growing season. Lynn’s father died in the flu pandemic that followed the nuclear war. It appears that the flu was created as a tool of war, but no one is sure which side actually released the virus. Cold climates are safer, so the McBrides have retreated into the winter Yukon. Out hunting one day Lynn is startled to see a dog followed by a young man who introduces himself as Jax. She invites him home for a meal, but Lynn’s mother holds a shotgun on Jax before reluctantly treating a wound on his leg. The McBrides are wary of the stranger, but Lynn is fascinated by Jax, the first stranger she has seen in years, and charmed by the husky he calls Wolf. Jax doesn’t seem to understand that Wolf is really a dog, and has never eaten a blackberry. But he is freakishly strong and quick, which comes in handy when a group of men calling themselves traders try to kidnap him. Jax confesses that he is hiding from Immunity, a group using any means possible to find a cure for the flu pandemic. One of the men escaped, and Jax and Lynn’s uncle set out in pursuit, trailed by Lynn who is tired of being left home with her mother. This fast-paced debut thriller is set in a post-apocalyptic world only a bit more threatening to human life than the frozen Yukon.

The SmackRichard Lange
The Smack (Mulholland Books 2017) is the story of Rowan Petty, a con-man down to his last five grand. When his car breaks down in Reno, Petty reluctantly takes a job as part of a phone scam while trying to make some money at the poker tables. He runs into Don, an old friend who relates the story of the first con he ever ran. Called the Smack, the con involved convincing a mark to jointly cheat a third man in a game. Don also tells Petty about a rumor of two million dollars of Army money smuggled out of Afganistan and stashed somewhere in Los Angeles until the smugglers finish their tours. Petty wants to get out of Reno anyway, and agrees to try and track down the man holding the money. Petty meets a hooker who calls herself Tinafey (like the actress but all one word). Tinafey is ready for a change of scene, and the two head to LA to see if they can turn their luck. When Rowan realizes some dangerous men are also after the money, he decides it’s not worth the risk until his estranged daughter ends up in the emergency room needing some very expensive surgery. Petty views himself as a man without emotional entanglements, and is surprised by his growing attachment to Tinafey and the resurgence of his long-dormant love for the daughter he left with his mother many years earlier. A wounded veteran, a washed-up alcoholic actor, and a French couple Tinafey meets at the motel pool all become part of Petty’s complicated plan to secure the money before the bad guys do. This caper novel hits all the right notes.

Bluebird, BluebirdAttica Locke
Bluebird, Bluebird (Mulholland Books 2017) introduces Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger who left the the rural Highway 59 area of East Texas for Houston as soon as he was old enough. Darren joined the task force investigating the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT), his family farmhouse in Camilla was vandalized a few weeks later, and Darren’s name began appearing on ABT websites. Anxious to remove Darren from the limelight, his boss sends him up Highway 59 to the tiny town of Lark, where two bodies were pulled from the Attoyac Bayou within a week: first Michael Wright, a black lawyer passing through from Chicago, and then Melissa Dale, a local white waitress. When Darren arrives in Lark, Sheriff Van Horn is supervising the crime scene behind Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, for years the only café along Highway 59 that served black travelers. The clientele is still mainly black, though Wally Jefferson, who lives across the road in his family’s huge plantation house and owns the white supremacist biker bar where Melissa worked, stops by daily for Geneva’s fried fruit pies. Finding the first black body didn’t generate much law enforcement interest, but the discovery of a dead white woman changes everything, stirring up the barely hidden racial tensions of distrust, resentment, and hate. The sheriff is too friendly with Jefferson for Darren’s comfort, and no one wants to listen to his suspicion that the ABT has something to do with the murders, afraid of an explosion of racial violence. The music, food, and history of East Texas permeate this powerful series opener, a finalist for the 2018 Edgar Award for Best mystery.

Say NothingBrad Parks
Say Nothing (Dutton 2017) begins when Virginia Judge Scott Sampson gets a text from his wife Alison that she will pick up their six-year-old twins Emma and Sam from school for a doctor’s appointment. Scott is disappointed to forgo the usual Wednesday afternoon Swim with Dad fun, but doesn’t worry about the change until Alison arrives home without the twins and tells him she didn’t send the text. They are just heading out the door for the school when the phone rings. The kidnapper instructs Scott to say nothing, that the twins will be returned safely if he follows instructions about a drug sentencing verdict the next day. The school insists that it was Alison who picked up the twins, and the blurry video shows a blond woman of Alison’s physical type driving what is clearly their own van. Alison finds a blond wig in the bedroom of their Turkish nanny, but Justina swears she has never seen the wig before and didn’t pick up the children since it was Scott’s usual day. After a bag containing clippings of the twins’ hair arrives on their doorstep, Scott and Alison chose to follow the kidnapper’s instructions to the letter, and Scott reluctantly rules in favor of a drug dealer whose tainted product has caused several deaths. But only Sam is released into the courthouse, and Scott realizes this first verdict was only a test; the real case is hiding somewhere in his upcoming docket. Alison can’t hide the fact that Emma is missing from her family, and her older sister Karen, tries to convince them to do something, but they are too worried about Emma’s safety to fight back. Scott soon identifies the case the kidnappers are interested in — Palgraff vs. ApotheGen, a patent suit worth billions. What he can’t figure out is which side is willing to kidnap small children to win. This tense domestic thriller makes every parent’s terrifying nightmare all too real.

Fierce KingdomGin Phillips
Fierce Kingdom (Viking 2017) begins as Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln enjoy a final few moments of playtime in the sand of the Dinosaur Discovery Pit of the zoo, one of their regular afternoon hangouts. Gathering up Lincoln’s action figures, the two make their way through the nearly deserted zoo towards the exit in the dusk. Joan hears some popping sounds, but is intent on hurrying her son out before the zoo closes until she sees several bleeding bodies and the back of a tall man carrying a rifle. Carrying Lincoln, Joan races in the other direction, frantically scouring her memory of the zoo for a place to hide. They pass a teenage couple and Joan warns them to avoid the shooter at the exit, heading for the porcupine habitat, empty since the animal died. Hoping it is still deserted, Joan lowers Lincoln over the railing and the two hide behind the tall rocks of the enclosure. She texts her husband, who calls the police but can’t get any information. Unsure where the gunman is, Joan struggles to keep her active son still and quiet. Voices alert her to the fact that there are two gunmen stalking anything that moves in the zoo. Suspecting that they saw a flash from her phone screen, Joan throws it as far as she can, leaving her to rely only on her own instincts and her intimate knowledge of the zoo layout to keep her son safe. Fleeing through the zoo, Joan struggles to balance her need to protect Lincoln at all costs against helping others they meet along the way. This harrowing thriller packs a lifetime of emotion into three tense hours.

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January 1, 2018

The Shadow DistrictArnaldur Indridason
The Shadow District (Minotaur 2017, Iceland 2013) introduces Konrád, a retired police detective in Reykjavík, Iceland. Bored with retirement, Konrád convinces his former colleague to let him help out with the investigation of the death of Stefán Thórdarson, a 90-year-old man found smothered in his bed. Newspaper cuttings in his room describe the 1994 murder of a young woman found strangled behind the National Theater. Konrád remembers the case since his con-man father had assisted with a séance for the murdered girl’s parents. A parallel narration from 70 years earlier documents that murder investigation. In 1944, Iceland was on the brink of terminating the union with Denmark and becoming an independent republic. Affairs between Icelandic women and British and American servicemen were so common that a committee was set up to deal with the scandalous Situation. The Icelandic-American courting couple who discovered the body in the Shadow District are interviewed by Flóvent, an Icelandic policeman, and Thorson, the bilingual son of Icelandic immigrants to Canada working on behalf of the American military police. Flóvent and Thorson identify the murdered woman as Rósamunda, and think there might be a connection with the death of another woman in the countryside. Both young women said they had been attacked by huldufólk, mythological hidden creatures. As Konrád searches through crumbling records for more information about the old deaths, he begins to wonder if the wrong man was arrested for Rósamunda’s murder all those years ago, and struggles to connect the past to the recent murder of the old man. The plight of young women in wartime, striving to find their way in a world where they have little power over their own destiny, provides a striking background in this effective series opener.

Are You Sleeping?Kathleen Barber
Are You Sleeping (Gallery Books August 2017) begins in 2015 when Poppy Parnell, a podcast journalist, launches the first episode of “Reconsidered: The Chuck Buhrman Murder.” Back in 2002 Chuck Buhrman, a college professor married to Erin with 14-year-old twin daughters Lanie and Josie, was shot and killed late one night in their Elm Park, Illinois, home. Erin was staying with a friend recovering from oral surgery, and Lanie discovered her father’s body. At first both girls insisted they had been sleeping, but later Lanie said she saw Warren Cave, a troubled teen living next door, fleeing through the woods. Warren was arrested, convicted, and is serving a life sentence. Erin had a breakdown, left her daughters with their aunt, and joined a cult. Entering public school for the first time after being homeschooled by their mother, Lanie went off the rails, betrayed Josie, and the twins haven’t spoken for many years. Warren’s mother Melanie, who had been having an affair with Chuck, swears her son is innocent and convinced Poppy to look into the case. In 2015, Josie is working in a bookstore and living in New York City with Caleb, an Australian currently on an overseas assignment. Josie legally changed her last name right after high school, and doesn’t want to think about the past, but can’t help listening to the first podcast episode, and then the next, until she is totally consumed with fear that Warren may actually be innocent. But if Lanie lied, who did kill their father? The sudden death of Josie’s mother sends her back to Illinois, and when Caleb returns Josie has a new problem. How can she tell the partner she has been living with for years that she needs to go to the funeral of the mother she told him died long ago, and that she has a twin sister she never mentioned. This intense debut psychological thriller examines the long-lasting effect of violent death on the victim’s family.

Murder at the House of Rooster HappinessDavid Casarett
Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness (Redhook 2016) introduces Ladarat Patalang, the nurse ethicist at Sriphat Hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Detective Wiriyai Mookja, an acquaintance of her cousin Siriwan, visits the hospital to ask for her help. Two days earlier a young woman brought her dead husband to the hospital emergency room, where he was quickly pronounced dead from heart failure and the body released back to the wife. The strange thing is that the police officer thought he recognized the woman, who once brought another dead husband to another hospital. Wiriyai asks Ladarat to quietly consult the hospital records, and she concludes that would be the ethical thing to do. The records don’t tell them much: no tests were done and the dead man’s name was Zhang Wei, a common Chinese name. Ladarat wonders how the body was released so quickly, and discovers the woman brought her marriage certificate with her to the hospital, surely a strange thing to grab on the way out the door with a dying husband. The arrival of an American couple attacked by an elephant claims Ladarat’s attention. After studying medical ethics for a year in Chicago, her English is excellent, and the director asks her to break the news to the American’s parents that his coma is probably permanent. When the medical records clerk discovers eight other incidents where a dead man named Zhang Wei was brought to different hospitals by his wife, Ladarat is glad for a distraction from the grieving and angry Americans and decides she can use her training to serve as an ethical detective. Frequent translations of the invariable Thai smile that can have many meanings, descriptions of the food the not-a-cook Ladarat picks up on her way home, and the contrasting Thai and American views of medical treatment add both local color and depth to this engaging debut mystery, the first in the Ethical Chiang Mai Detective Agency series.

HackedRay Daniel
Hacked (Midnight Ink 2017) finds white-hat hacker Aloysius Tucker helping his cousin Adriana and her wife Catherine care for Maria, their 10-year-old orphaned niece. Someone has hacked Maria’s Facebook account, sending lesbian porn to all her Facebook friends, whose parents are horrified. Adriana just wants help dealing with the Facebook account, but Tucker is determined to track down the Internet bully and get an apology for Maria. He quickly identifies the culprit as Peter, the older brother of one of Maria’s classmates, discovering along the way that Maria is dealing with her grief over the recent murders of her parents by doing a little bullying of her own. Tucker consults his FBI friends, but when he mentions Peter’s name, they warn him away. Tucker is struggling to control his own anger after the murder of Maria’s parents, and begins to stalk Peter online. When Peter is decapitated shortly after Tucker threatens to cut off his head in a chat room, Tucker becomes the prime suspect in the murder investigation. But that’s not Tucker’s biggest problem. The flame war he started online has exploded, a hacker army is out to destroy his digital reputation, and a bounty hunter is out to kill him in the real world. Even his Twitter followers are abandoning him. Tucker’s home address is made public, and protesters gather outside his house, one armed with handcuffs and determined to make a citizen’s arrest. Tucker’s usual good humor begins to fail under the strain of too much alcohol and his inability to control his rage, but he is determined to use every one of his hacker skills to bring down whoever is trying to ruin his life. This intense fourth in the series highlights the consequences of online bullying and the snowballing nature of online outrage.

The Marsh King’s DaughterKaren Dionne
The Marsh King’s Daughter (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2017) is the story of Helena Pelletier, who lived with her parents in an isolated cabin surrounded by a marshy swamp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Despite his occasional brutality, Helena idolized her father, who taught her to hunt and fish and told amazing Ojibwe stories. Their cabin had no electricity or indoor plumbing, and Helena’s self-effacing and withdrawn mother spent most of her time on household chores. Until she was 12, Helena didn’t know that her mother was kidnapped as a 14-year-old by her father, and that she was born two years after the abduction. The eventual escape of Helena and her mother caused an international news sensation. Fifteen years later, Helena is married with two young daughters, living on the land she inherited from her father’s parents. Her husband knows nothing of her past, which Helena left behind when she changed her name at the age of 18. The struggle to adapt to the modern world after 12 years living in the wilderness was difficult, and Helena still carries a knife and hunts when she can. The news that her father has killed two guards and escaped from prison sends Helena into a panic. The man known as the Marsh King is an expert survivalist, and Helena doubts that the police can capture him before he finds her family. Hopefully the training she received from her father will be good enough to beat the Marsh King at his own game. Flashbacks fill in the details of Helena’s surprisingly happy childhood as she searches for the man she is sure is hunting for her and her daughters. This intense thriller is mesmerizing.

The Western StarCraig Johnson
The Western Star (Viking 2017) finds Sherriff Walt Longmire reminiscing about an excursion on the Western Star steam train with the Wyoming Sheriff’s Association many years ago. A newly minted deputy just back from Vietnam, Walt was traveling with his new boss Lucian Connolly, 24 other veteran sheriffs, a copy of Murder on the Orient Express, and his trusty Colt .45. Sheriff Marv Leeland, the current president of the Association, befriends Walt, asking for his help with a secret investigation. Leeland suspects that a group of sheriffs on the train is running a vigilante group, killing dangerous suspects who escaped justice. When the train stops for water, Walt is hit over the head and left for dead beside the tracks. Waking up after the train leaves, Walt manages to rejoin the train only to find himself a suspect in the murder of Leeland. Interspersed sections set in present day find Lucian and Walt in Cheyenne to attend the parole hearing of the most dangerous man they ever arrested. For years Walt and Lucian’s testimony at the hearings have kept the serial killer in jail serving his life sentence, but his lawyers have filed for compassionate release after a cancer diagnosis. The two timelines converge in a cliff-hanger ending in this cleverly plotted 13th in the series.

BonfireKrysten Ritter
Bonfire (Crown 2017) features Abby Williams, an environmental lawyer based in Chicago, returning to her hometown of Barrens, Indiana, for the first time in ten years to investigate Optimal Plastics, whose chemicals may be damaging crops and causing rashes and other illnesses. Abby was bullied in high school by Kaycee Mitchell, her childhood best friend, and Kaycee’s gang of popular girls. When they were seniors, Kaycee had a mysterious illness that caused her to faint, quickly spreading through her girl gang. The other girls, including Misha, confessed that it was a prank, but Abby witnessed Kaycee coughing up blood and now wonders if that was the first case of Optimal Plastics pollution-caused illness. The rest of Abby’s team is focussed on soil and water tests, and gathering statements from individuals reluctant to speak against the company providing most of the town’s jobs. Optimal has bought up most of the town, may control the police force, and is currently financing the construction of a new community center. Abby tries to track down Kaycee, but Mischa, now the high school vice principal, says she hasn’t heard from Kaycee since she left town right after graduation. While talking to Mischa, Abby notices a row of pictures in the halls: 16 beautiful girls and 2 handsome boys who have been nominated for the Optimal Star Scholarship, another tentacle into the school system. When a high school girl tries to commit suicide, Abby suspects that The Game, targeting girls on the fringes of the in-crowd, is still feeding off the weaknesses of vulnerable girls. Abby fights against slipping back into the victim mentality that ruined her high school years, determined to find justice for Kaycee and others who endured social shaming as well as those suffering debilitating illnesses. This intense debut thriller explores the far-reaching damage of bullying and abuse.

White BodiesJane Robins
White Bodies (Touchstone 2017) is the story of twin sisters Tilda and Callie. Tilda has always been the twin everyone noticed — beautiful and outgoing — while unassuming Callie faded into the background. Tilda is now a successful actress recognized everywhere she goes and Callie works in a bookstore. Callie has always watched over her sister, and Tilda’s new relationship with wealthy Felix concerns her since it looks like he has taken over her life. Felix has moved into Tilda’s flat, convinced her to stop working because no parts are good enough for her, and continually straightens the kitchen, even wrapping the clean dishes in cling film. More concerning are the syringes Callie finds buried in the bathroom trash and the bruises on Tilda’s arms. Callie adds all these facts to the dossier she maintains about her sister, and searches online, discovering the webside ControllingMen.com. She joins the site and spends hours every night reading the posts, eventually making two online friends: Belle, a nurse who is concerned about her best friend married to a domineering and potentially violent man, and Scarlett, who is trapped in a relationship with an abusive control freak. As Callie’s concerns grow, she increases her surveillance of Tilda and Felix, sneaking into their flat to search for evidence and reading Tilda’s hidden diary, sharing everything with Belle and Scarlett. Though the site requires fictitious screen names and anonymity, Belle offers to meet in real life to share Scarlett’s brilliant idea about using the plot of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train to safely remove the dangerous men from each other’s lives. This intense debut novel of psychological suspense probes the fine line between love and obsession.

The Devil’s Wedding RighVidar Sundstøl
The Devil’s Wedding Ring (University of Minnesota Press 2017, Norwegian 2015) begins when private investigator Max Fjellanger returns home from Florida for the funeral of Knut Abrahamsen, his former police colleague. Max and Knut haven’t been in contact for over three decades, but Max is sure Knut would never have committed suicide, and fears his death is connected in some way to the disappearance on Midsummer Eve 1985 of Peter Schram, a young folklore researcher working in the village of Eidsborg in the Telemark region. At the time, Max and Knut suspected the local sheriff Jørgen Homme was obstructing the investigation, but the two young officers were too worried about keeping their jobs to challenge him. Exactly 30 years later Cecilie Wiborg, a student researching the old, pagan rituals associated with the 13th-century Eidsborg stave church, also disappears on Midsummer Eve. Max is sure there is a connection between the two disappearances and Knut’s death, and begins to research the history of the wooden statue of Saint Nikuls from the 13th-century stave church with the help of Tirill Vesterli, a university librarian and single mother who loves crime novels and leaps at the chance to help with a real-life investigation. Max tries to discourage Tirill when they discover that a religious cult with a sinister Midsummer Eve ritual may still be operating in Eidsborg, perhaps with the support of Jon Homme, the current sheriff and son of Max’s old nemesis. As Midsummer Eve draws near, Tirill sends her young son away, but is as committed as Max to figuring out the truth. This intense thriller leaves open the possibility of a sequel.

YesterdayFelicia Yap
Yesterday (Mulholland Books 2017) is set in an alternate Cambridge, England, populated by Monos (who remember only the last 24 hours) and Duos (with a 48-hour memory). Full memory exists until the age of 23, after that everyone relies on their iDiary to move facts into long-term memory, learning important items by reading their diaries every morning. Claire Evans (Mono) and Mark (Duo) are one of the few mixed marriages, though the favorable tax benefits are in progress in hopes of increasing the Duo birthrate. Mark is a novelist hoping to be elected as the next MP for Cambridgeshire, campaigning on his understanding of the Mono perspective. Claire suffers from feelings of inferiority caused by daily reminders that her husband’s memory is twice as long as hers, and takes daily pills to combat her depression. DCI Hans Richardson has been assigned the investigation into the death of a woman found floating in the River Cam close to the Evans mansion. Hans is a Mono posing as a Duo, knowing that if his Mono class is known he will lose his job. Since cases are often solved by links between minor observations not important enough to record in his diary, Hans pushes himself to solve every case in 24 hours, earning the best record in his department. The dead woman is identified as Sophia Ayling, and the autopsy reveals a head trauma. Since she is the victim of a violent death Hans is granted access to her iDiary and learns that she was having a torrid affair with Mark, making him the prime suspect. In her diary Sophia claims to have regained full memory after an accident in college, resulting in a lengthy commitment to a mental institution. Told from all four perspectives, this inventive debut crime novel examines the seductive possibility of revising one’s own past.

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2017 Reviews


Disclosure: Some of these books were received free from publishers.