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Posts Tagged ‘Alafair Burke’

Sexual harassment.  #MeToo. Sexual misconduct. #Time’sUp. Sexual assault. Both Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal (Atria, e-galley) and Alafair Burke’s The Wife (HarperCollins) are ripped-from-the-headlines domestic thrillers where secrets threaten seemingly picture-perfect marriages and careers. But whose secrets? In Vaughan’s deft procedural, steely British barrister Kate Woodcroft is prosecuting rising political star James Whitehouse, who is accused of raping the young researcher with whom he recently ended an affair. The salacious details — the encounter took place in an elevator at the House of Commons — come as a shock to Sophie Whitehouse, who has known James since their days at Oxford. The courtroom dramatics are interspersed with flashbacks to that time, when James was friends with the future PM and Sophie’s study partner Holly was trying to fit in with her posh, privileged classmates. It’s a timely page-turner

, as is writer and law professor Burke’s new book, following her twisty The Ex.  In The Wife,  Angela Powell is thrust into the spotlight when her college professor and media darling husband Jason is accused of sexual misconduct, first by an intern and then by a woman who later goes missing. The revelations just keep on coming as NYPD detective Corrine Duncan investigates crimes past and present involving both Angela and Jason.

If you think long winter nights are made for mystery books and movies, you’ll want to take a look at The Woman in the Window (HarperCollins, e-galley). First-time novelist A.J. Finn — the pseudonym of a publishing insider — takes his cues from classic noir flicks like Gaslight and Rear Window, both of which inform the crafty tale about an agoraphobic child psychologist.  Anna Fox, the most unreliable of narrators, hasn’t left her Manhattan townhouse in months, peering at her neighbors through a camera lens. When she witnesses a stabbing in the house across the street, no one believes her, and well, yes, she had been drinking. Still, there’s something off about an angry husband, a troubled schoolboy, the taciturn tenant in the basement. Add in a cat, a skylight and a snowstorm. The first big twist didn’t surprise me, and I caught on to another just ahead of poor, paranoid Anna. It’s a doozy, though. Can’t wait to see what Finn cooks up next.

Crime fiction readers know a novel named Robicheaux (Simon & Schuster) can come only from the pen of James Lee Burke. He introduced New Iberia, La. sheriff’s detective Dave Robicheaux in The Neon Rain more than 30 years ago, and this is the 21st book in the series. Robicheaux is a stand-up guy on the side of the innocents, but he’s also an alcoholic who can fall off the wagon,  haunted by his memories of war, fallen soldiers and lost loves. It’s also possible that he may have murdered the man who accidentally killed his wife Molly in a car wreck, but there’s plenty of other trouble to go around. Much of it involves his old partner Clete Purcel, who has gotten tangled up with silver-tongued Senate candidate Jimmy Nightingale, who is in cahoots with career criminal Big Tony Nemo. The latter would like to make movies out of reclusive writer Levon Broussard’s Civil War novels, while Nightingale has his eyes on Broussard’s wife. The writing is often lovely and lyrical, the plot is intricate and blood-stained. (And yes, Robicheaux’s daughter Alafair is named after Burke’s own daughter, who also knows her way around a mystery. Witness The Wife, reviewed above.)

Louisa Luna introduces odd, bad-ass bounty hunter Alice Vega in Two Girls Down (Doubleday, digital galley), a fast-paced variation on the missing kids theme. Single mom Jamie Brandt leaves 10-year-old Kylie and 8-year-old Bailey in a strip-mall parking lot while she ducks into K-Mart to buy a birthday present, but finds her daughters gone when she returns. Her wealthy aunt hires Vega to help in the small-town police investigation, but the cops aren’t interested in the outsider’s reputed skills at finding people, so the enigmatic Vega teams with ex-cop turned PI Max Caplan. It’s an unlikely partnership, but the divorced father of a teenage daughter makes a good foil for loner Vega, who has a hacker on call to feed her info on the family, the cops and multiple suspects. False leads have the hunt for the sisters going down to the wire, and the suspense is killing. Come for the plot, stay for the characters.

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furstDecember, 1937. The snow is falling in New York City as a lawyer visiting from Paris looks over his shoulder to see  if he is being followed. It’s also snowing in Madrid as a middle-aged museum curator waits nervously to be questioned by the authorities. The two men’s fates are soon linked in the atmospheric Midnight in Europe (Random House, digital galley), in which Alan Furst once again illuminates ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times as Hitler’s shadow looms ever larger. Here, the Spanish Civil War serves as a precursor of what is to come, and Spanish emigre Christian Ferrar, who works for an international law firm in Paris, agrees to help the Spanish Republic obtain much-needed arms to fight Franco’s fascists. There is an eye-opening train journey through industrial Germany in the company of an arms dealer wanted by the Gestapo, and later a more harrowing trip to Odessa and Poland in which a train is hijacked. Moments of heart-in-your-throat terror alternate with scenes in Paris nightclubs and bedrooms that whisper of betrayal and romance. No one is better than Furst at evoking this midnight hour before war plunges Europe into darkness.

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Readers of S. J. Bolton’s gripping Lacey Flint novels know that the secretive London detective rarely goes with the flow. In A Dark and Twisting Tide (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley), she’s again risking life and limb, first by “wild-swimming” in the Thames, where’s she’s living on a houseboat, and then by going after a serial killer who is leaving the shrouded, drowned corpses of young women for her to find. She’s also risking her heart, growing closer to cop Mark Joesbury, whose undercover work takes him away for days at a time. Lacey goes undercover, too, disguising herself as an Afghan refugee to try and find out more about a possible human-trafficking ring targeting the tight-lipped immigrant community. Old friends and new enemies complicate matters, and then a nightmare comes true when she finds herself once again at the mercy of the river and a relentless pursuer who swims like a mermaid and attacks like a shark.

alldayAlafair Burke’s complex new thriller All Day and a Night (HarperCollins, digital galley) takes it title from prison lingo for a life sentence with no parole. That’s what presumed serial killer Anthony Amaro has been serving the last 18 years, which gives him a solid alibi for the murder of a Brooklyn psychotherapist. But because the body has the signature of Amaro’s old kills, it leads to the D.A. and police ordering a “fresh look” at his case. Is a copycat at work or was Amaro wrongfully convicted in the first place? As Amaro’s celebrity lawyer argues to get him released, Burke’s series detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner begin an investigation that takes them back two decades to the murder of a handful of prostitutes in Utica. Also investigating, but for Amaro’s side, is young lawyer Carrie Blank, whose half-sister Donna was one of the victims. Both Ellie and Carrie have conflicted feelings that spill over into their personal lives as old secrets come to light and loyalties are tested. Coincidences abound, but Burke keeps tensions high until almost the very end.

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How well do you know Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo? You might want to refresh your memory before starting Martha Grimes’ clever Vertigo 42 (Scribner, digital galley), in which Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury makes some dizzying connections between murders old and new. After meeting widower Tom Williamson at Vertigo 42, a London bar atop a financial-district high-rise, Jury takes off for Devon to look into the death of Williamson’s wife Tess 17 years ago. Did she fall — as the police think — or was she pushed — as her husband believes? And what, if anything, does childless Tess’s death have to do with the death five years earlier of a schoolgirl who fell into the country estate’s empty swimming pool while her pals were playing hide-and-seek? Meanwhile, Jury’s visit to his pal Melrose Plant’s country home presents him with the puzzle of a lost dog and the death of a young woman who fell from a nearby tower. Grimes juggles the surfeit of plots and the quirky cast with her usual ease, tipping her hat to Hitchcock and to previous Jury tales (there are 22) while readers’ heads spin.

strangerDetective constable Maeve Kerrigan often finds her brilliant boss, DI Josh Derwent, crude and rude. But no way she thinks he’s a murderer. Still, in Jane Casey’s sterling The Stranger You Know (St. Martin’s digital galley), Kerrigan’s  on the inside in the investigation of a serial killer who kills attractive young women in their homes, but Derwent’s shut out by their superiors. Not only does he fit the profile of a trustworthy stranger a woman might invite in her home, he also was the prime suspect in the long-ago, unsolved murder of his classmate Angela Poole. The new crime scenes have an uncanny similarity to Angela’s. Still loyal to Derwent, a wary Maeve continues the search for the “Gentleman Killer,” even as a stalker from her past reappears. Or has the killer targeted her?

someoneBrian McGilloway returns to Derry, Northern Ireland for the second Lucy Black thriller to be published in this country this year, after Little Girl Lost. In Someone You Know (HarperCollins/Witness Impulse, digital galley), Lucy’s assignment to the public protection squad again brings her into a murder investigation when an at-risk teen is killed, her body tied to the railroad tracks. If the train hadn’t been delayed, it would have destroyed the crime scene, and the death slated as a suicide. But someone is preying on Derry’s girls, even as they escape their dysfunctional homes to party with their friends, unaware just how close the enemy lurks. The daughter of two cops — one her chief superintendent boss, the other now suffering from dementia — Lucy has an affinity for the vulnerable that serves her well. A third book is on its way.

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lostS.J. Bolton can’t write new entries in her Lacey Flint series fast enough for me. The smart, damaged London police detective battled wits with a Jack-the-Ripper copycat and personal demons in Now You See Me, then went undercover as a Cambridge student in the harrowing Dead Scared. The spring e-book novella If Snow Hadn’t Fallen (St. Martin’s Press, purchased) found her witnessing a murder while off-duty, proving once again that Lacey takes crime to heart. Even though she is on leave in Lost (St. Martin’s, purchased e-book), nursing emotional and physical wounds, a series of grisly killings of young boys hits close to home. Her 10-year-old neighbor Barney fancies himself a detective only to discover a fearful secret about the “vampire” stalking his neighborhood. Lacey’s close relationship with a convicted killer also gives her insight into the case, but the atmospheric, heart-stopping narrative has as many red herrings as blood-drained bodies. Lost left me breathless — and wanting more.
crimeofRemember Dominick Dunne’s A Season in Purgatory, where a friend helps the scion of a powerful family cover up a murder? Walter Walker’s involving Crime of Privilege (Ballantine, digital galley) reminds me of Dunne’s novels on the crimes of the rich and famous, but Walker writes with the depth of Scott Turow and his plot conflates several Kennedyesque-scandals into an on-going cover-up/power trip. In 1996, narrator George Becket is on spring break when he witnesses a sexual assault in the Palm Beach mansion of powerful, liberal Senator Gregory and agrees to stay silent. Twelve years later, he’s an assistant district attorney on Cape Cod, thanks to the Gregory family connections, but his career has hardly flourished; the Palm Beach victim’s family has made sure of that. Guilt-haunted, weak-willed George gets a chance at redemption when he re-opens the investigation into the murder of a local girl who may have partied with the Gregory heirs. Corruption and hypocrisy abound in the tangled storyline as George tracks witnesses hither and yon. Loyalties are divided, friendships betrayed, lives are threatened. It’s as juicy as any tabloid tale, but you won’t be ashamed to be seen reading it.
anon Politics, power and murder also mingle in NPR correspondent Mary Louise Kelly’s first thriller Anonymous Sources (Gallery Books, digital galley), but so does nuclear terrorism. The results are decidedly mixed as Kelly intersperses ambitious reporter Alexandra James’ snappy first-person narrative with chapters told from the perspective of assorted characters, including a cop, a newspaper editor, a British graduate student with a secret life, a terrorist on the move, a CIA functionary, a Pakistani professor. The mysterious death of a Harvard grad who had been studying in England and whose father is a high-up D.C. insider starts things rolling, and the action moves from Boston to Cambridge, England and London, and back across the pond to Washington. A terrific scene has Alex targeted by an assassin on board a plane, and there’s a nail-biting search for a bomb in the White House. Kelly knows her stuff, from lost Burberrys to suspect banana shipments, but the erratic pacing and multiple perspectives undercut the suspense. Anonymous Sources often reads like a summer action flick, as produced and directed by Kelly.
alafairAlafair Burke is such a pro. In her ninth novel and second stand-alone, If You Were Here (HarperCollins, digital galley), she draws on her experiences as a writer and attorney to craft an intricate story of one woman’s persistence to find the truth both present and past. A former DA, McKenna Jordan now writes long features for a magazine and enjoys the good life in New York with her husband Patrick, a West Point grad handling museum security. Then an unidentified woman hauls a teen from certain death on the subway tracks, and McKenna thinks she recognizes her old friend Susan from grainy cell-phone footage. But Susan, another West Pointer, took off for parts unknown 10 years ago, presumably to get away from her domineering family of overachievers. McKenna brushes away doubts like so many flies and stubbornly hurdles numerous obstacles erected by the police, her editors, her former friends at the DA’s office and Susan’s family. Readers need to pay attention or risk tripping over the intertwining storylines.
deadwhiteCarolyn Hart is expert at rounding up suspects in Christie-like puzzle plots and she sure kept me guessing whodunnit in Dead, White and Blue (Penguin, library hardcover), the spirited 23rd book in the Death on Demand series. Bookstore owner Annie Darling and her inquiry agent husband Max once again tackle crime on the South Carolina resort island of Broward’s Rock when a femme fatale trophy wife goes missing after a holiday dance at the country club. Of course, no one will actually admit that vixen Vera has disappeared, not even when a possible witness is pulled out of the ocean by a shrimp trawler. The Darlings’ trio of irregular assistants Skype in from a yacht with suggestions that eventually lead to a full-scale reenactment of Vera’s last dance so as to catch a killer.
otherchildA famous German crime writer, Charlotte Link makes her American debut with the stellar The Other Child (Pegasus, digital galley), set in an English seaside village. Somehow the murder of a university student and the unexpected death of an elderly woman are linked not only to one another but also to events during the London Blitz. Among the refugees evacuated to the countryside back then were a schoolgirl with an unhappy home life and a neighbor boy whose family died in the bombing. Detective Valerie Almond only gradually becomes aware of the secrets buried in the past, but readers follow hints in a dead woman’s e-mails and writings. Link teases out this modern Gothic tale in accomplished Ruth Rendell fashion, while her unsettling plot recalls Mo Hayder.

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