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Posts Tagged ‘G.M. Maillet’

“On a Tuesday in May, in her thirty-fifth year, Rachel shot her husband dead.”

That’s the humdinger first line of the prologue to Since We Fell (Ecco, digital galley), Dennis Lehane’s new thrill ride of a novel that is as slick and unexpected as black ice. It reads almost like two books, with the first charting Rachel Childs growing up with a bitter single mother who refuses to divulge her father’s identity. After her mother dies when she’s in college, Rachel continues to look for her father, even as she becomes a successful TV news reporter in Boston and marries her producer. Then comes an on-air meltdown while on assignment in Haiti, and Rachel loses her career and her marriage. Debilitating anxiety attacks turn her into a shut-in until a chance encounter with a one-time private investigator she had briefly hired. Brian Delacroix is now a successful businessman who understands Rachel like no one else. She falls hard for him, and he for her. They marry and everything is going well, with Rachel gradually making solo trips into the city. It’s on one such foray that she spots Brian across the street in the rain. But Brian is on a flight to London. Isn’t he?

Uh-oh. This is a Dennis Lehane novel, after all. Remember Mystic River? Shutter Island? Gone, Baby, Gone? The reversals of fortune can make your head spin and your heart ache, and Since We Fell is no exception. Reflective Rachel must give way to action-figure Rachel as she finds herself caught in a conspiracy where nothing is what it seems. Nothing and no one. Trust me.

Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger (Simon & Schuster, digital galley) is another of those twisty thrillers pivoting on questions of identity and appearances. Reporter Leah Stevens has to resign her newspaper job after her sources are questioned in a story about college suicides. She fortuitously runs into her former roommate, Emmy Grey, who suggests Leah accompany her to rural Pennsylvania for a fresh start as a high school teacher. Then a woman who resembles Leah is found bludgeoned at a nearby lake, and Emmy goes missing. Questioned by a police detective, Leah admits to being stalked by a fellow teacher and is drawn into the investigation, especially when she realizes how little she really knows of Emmy and how much of it is lies. Miranda, author of the very good All the Pretty Girls, gets a bit bogged down in Leah’s back story and a few too many coincidences, but this is smartly written psychological suspense.

So many more mysteries and thrillers out there. Don’t miss Fallout (HarperCollins, digital galley), in which Sara Paretsky sends the intrepid V.I. Warshawski and her golden retriever to Kansas on the trail of a young fillmmaker and an aging black actress. In Lawrence (where Paretsky grew up), V.I. finds evidence of long-ago crimes seeping into the present, both in the university town and a in nearby decommissioned missile silo. Agatha Christie fans will appreciate the locked-room aspects of G.M. Maillet’s Devil’s Breath (St. Martin’s Press), even though the room in this case is a luxury yacht. British spy-turned-Anglican priest Max Tudor comes on board after the body of a glamorous actress washes ashore. Everyone, it seems, had a motive for murder. Plum Sykes launches a comic murder series set in 1980s Oxford with Party Girls Die in Pearls (HarperCollins, digital galley), featuring freshman sleuth Ursula Flowerbottom and her new BFF, American Nancy Feingold. Ursula’s discovery of the body of a fashionable classmate sends the duo on a round of parties where they can look their best while looking for a killer. Supremely silly fun and clothes to die for. In the surprising Long Black Veil (Crown, digital galley), Jennifer Finney Boylan offers a secretive leading character on a collision course with the past after the bones of a former classmate are discovered on the eerie grounds of an abandoned prison. And old bones also turn up in Sycamore (HarperCollins, digital galley), Bryn Chancellor’s interesting but overworked first novel. When word gets out about the skeletal remains found in a wash outside a small Arizona town, residents immediately think of 17-year-old Jess Winters, who disappeared 18 years ago. Chancellor moves back and forth in time and among various voices to explore the mystery of Jess herself and how her disappearance affected the town. Chancellor nails her teenagers but is less successful with the older characters, turning them elderly before their time.

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tatianaAsked if Russian police detective Arkady Renko is depressed because he has a wandering bullet in his brain, one of his colleague notes that “he’s not a ray of sunshine.” But in Martin Cruz Smith’s Tatiana (Simon and Schuster, digital galley), it’s melancholy Renko’s persistent idealism that shines like a beacon in dreary, corrupt Kalingrad, an industrial outpost on the Baltic. He ends up there because he doesn’t believe that crusading journalist Tatiana Petrova’s fall from a sixth-floor Moscow apartment was a suicide, and that she was killed after obtaining a coded notebook belonging to an interpreter killed on a Kalingrad beach. While his young chess-whiz friend Zhenya tries to decipher the symbols and gibberish in the notebook, Renko follows a complicated trail eventually involving a dead mob boss, his impulsive son and shadowy partners, an amber mine, Russian submarines, Chinese businessmen and a stolen bicycle. Bullets fly, but Renko’s not ready to give up on life, not by a long shot.

nightingaleRuth Rendell’s venerable detective Reg Wexford is officially retired, but in No Man’s Nightingale (Scribner, digital galley), he takes time off from reading Gibbon’s hefty Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to help find the killer of the local vicar. But this is no armchair cozy — the strangled vicar is single mother Sarah Hussain, whose gender, race and progressive views have divided St. Peter’s congregation. Indeed, Wexford’s former colleague, Mike Burden,  decides the murder is a hate crime and collars a likely suspect with motive and opportunity. But after meeting the dead woman’s teenage daughter and and a couple of longtime friends, Wexford suspects her complicated past — of which he hears several versions — may have played into her murder.  He also picks up clues from the constant prattle of his gossipy house cleaner, who found the body, and who unwittingly reveals details of another crime. Even as he copes with the loss of power and respect that came with his former job, Wexford proves himself as astute a detective as ever, as canny as his creator.

paganThe vicar is the hero and the heartthrob in Pagan Spring (St. Martin’s Press, purchased e-book), the third in G.M. Malliet’s witty series featuring Max Tudor, a former MI5 agent whose sleuthing skills were tested in Wicked Autumn and A Fatal Winter. Max has had little problem fitting into the village life of postcard-pretty Nether Monkslip, although he’s disappointed the ladies by taking up with Alwena Owen, a New Age herbalist. But several newcomers trouble the community’s apparent serenity, including a famous actor and playwright past his prime, his much-younger wife, and an enigmatic hairstylist from France who writes long e-mails. Of course, there’s a murder for Max to solve, and he is both helped and hindered by his friends, including the members of the Writers’ Square (because everybody has a writers’ circle). Old secrets come to light as villagers confront unpleasant truth. Fans of Miss Marple will feel right at home.

evilactScotland Yard detectives Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers take off for Italy in Elizabeth George’s Just One Evil Act (Dutton/Penguin, digital galley), with Havers risking her career in search of Hadiyyah, her 9-year-old neighbor. The girl is apparently with her English mother, who never married the Pakistani microbiologist who begs Havers for help. Not much can be done officially or legally, but Havers, more unlovely than ever, goes off on a tear, and handsome, aristocratic Lynley covers for her. The twisting plot, with echoes of the Amanda Knox case and that of still-missing Madeleine McCann, is absorbing, but at more than 700 pages, the book is overly long, and Havers’ self-destructive behavior grows tiresome. She’s better and brighter than this, as a charming Italian detective discerns.

cleelandNow, imagine that Lynley was sexually obsessed with Havers, and you’ll have an idea of the discomfiting atmosphere of  Anne Cleeland’s Murder in Thrall (Kensington, digital galley). Scotland Yard newcomer Kathleen Doyle isn’t really sure why Chief Inspector Michael Acton has taken her under his wing on a homicide case, but readers will quickly realize he’s been stalking her on the sly. When Lord Acton makes his intentions clear, Doyle is more than willing, although she takes a minute to worry about jeopardizing her career. I’ve already forgotten the murder this odd couple was investigating. Cleeland is better than this, as her appealing historical mystery Daughter of the God-King (Sourcebooks, digital galley) proves. Enjoy intrepid Miss Hattie Blackstone’s adventures in France and Egypt as she looks for missing archaeologists — who happen to be her parents.

cambridgePublisher William Morrow/HarperCollins is feeding my addiction to British crime with its new Witness Impulse e-book series. I’m a longtime fan of Frances Fyfield and Stephen Booth, and it’s good to see their titles available. But I’m especially happy to be introduced to excellent police procedurals by Alison Bruce (Cambridge Blue, The Calling), Mari Hannah (The Murder Wall) and Leigh Russell (Cut Short, Road Closed). Bruce’s Gary Goodhew is the youngest member of the Cambridge police force, Mari Hannah’s Kate Daniels is working homicide cases in Northumberland, and Russell’s Geraldine Steele is a DI in the rural town of Woolmarsh.

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When the going gets tough, I read crime fiction. Noir, cozy, thriller, procedural, caper, PI, amatuer sleuth. I like them all. They are my literary potato chips of choice, and I never stop with just one. So when things went south this fall on the homefront, I sought diversion in the pages of books, riding a crime wave that started around Labor Day and is still going strong.

The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Penguin; read digital galley via NetGalley): A celebrated Danish novelist introduces homicide detective Carl Morck, who, after being wounded in a disastrous shooting,  is exiled to Department Q as a special investigator of cold cases. Popular politician Merete Lynngaard vanished five years ago and is presumed dead. (Readers know better). Morck’s quick-step investigation, with the help of his assistant Assad, exposes long-held secrets, but he’s racing against a literal deadline. More of Morck will be welcome.

The Drop, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown; purchased digital edition): LAPD detective Harry Bosch returns in another socially realistic procedural that tests his puzzle-solving abilities and his belief that “everyone counts, or no one counts.” His investigation into a cold case linking a young boy to a long-ago murder is interrupted when a high-ranking city council member demands that Harry look into the death of his grown son, who fell from the famed Chateau Marmont. Suicide, accident, murder? Both cases follow twisting mean streets, validating Harry’s dislike of “high jingo,”  aka police politics. Meanwhile, he’s looking at forced retirement in three years, worrying over his 15-year-old daughter, dealing with partners old and new, and trying to connect with a troubled woman. Both Bosch and Connelly are such pros. Long may they continue their partnership.

‘V’ is for Vengeance, by Sue Grafton (Putnam; purchased hardcover): Harry Bosch thinks of himself as a dinosaur in a digital age, but PI Kinsey Millhone is really retro. In her 23rd outing, Kinsey is turning 38 in 1988 and sporting raccoon eyes, having once again stuck her newly-broken nose in someone’s else’s business.  But who knew a lingerie sale at Nordstrom’s would lead to a Mob-run shoplifting ring, or a suicide that may be murder, or an errant husband, or a spoiled young gambler willing to bet his life? And then’s the really ruthless guy. Says Kinsey, “I know there are people who believe you should forgive and forget. For the record, let me say I’m a big fan of forgiveness as long as I’m given the opportunity to get even first.” You go, Kinsey.

Wicked Autumn, by G.M. Maillet (St. Martin’s Press; purchased digital edition): On the surface, this English village mystery appears quite cozy. But the handsome vicar is a retired MI5 agent, the head of the Women’s Institute is a poisonous know-it-all, and idyllic Nether Monkslip’s harvest “fayre” ends in murder.  Max Tudor calls on his past to help the authorites ferret out a killer among his parishners and finds his paradise harboring some nasty serpents. This is the beginning of a new series that promises to be crisper than a crumpet and clever as all get out. Mind how you go, dearie.

Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing; read digital galley via NetGalley): Maron’s two series heroines, North Carolina judge Deborah Knott and NYPD detective Sigrid Harald, meet for the first time, and it turns out they’re sort of kin, dontcha know?! Deborah and her new sheriff’s deputy husband Dwight are on a belated honeymoon in wintry Manhattan when someone is murdered in their borrowed apartment. Missing is the mysterious maquette that Deborah’s delivering to Sigrid’s family per an elderly relative’s dying wish. It may have been the reason for the murder, or the murder weapon. Maron seamlessly shifts perspectives among her characters and ups the suspense in the subterranean depths of the apartment building. South meets North, and readers win in this holiday treat.

A Trick of the Light, by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s Press; read hardcover library copy): Penny’s astute detective Armand Gamache is involved in another intriguing mystery in the charming Canadian village of Three Pines. Several familiar series characters are on hand when the body of an art critic is found in a garden after an exhibition-night party. Several are suspects with mixed motives to spare. Penny artfully tells a tricky-indeed tale with characteristic warmth and wit. I was laughing aloud at some of the funny bits, and then was moved by the poignant passages on love and loss.

The Vault, by Ruth Rendell (Scribner; read digital galley from publisher): I’ve always thought Rendell’s 1999 novel A Sight for Sore Eyes to be one of her creepier psychological outings. The ending, with three bodies entombed in a basement vault of a London house, is a nightmarish stunner worthy of Poe. It doesn’t need a sequel, but Rendell has crafted a grimly entertaining one starring Inspector Wexford, restless in retirement. Picturesque Orcadia Place, made famous in a painting of a rock star and his girlfriend, is undergoing renovations by new owners when the tomb in the garden is discovered. There are four bodies — three dating back at least a decade, and another one about two years. Wexford’s roundabout involvement in identifying the remains and solving the crimes is confusing and a tad tedious at times; I remembered just enough of the first book to keep tripping over details, making me wish I had reread it before beginning the sequel. A Sight for Sore Eyes remains a stand-out stand-alone. The Vault is icing on the cake.

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