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Chain of Custody: An Inspector Gowda Novel

Anita Nair. Bitter Lemon, $14.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-908524-74-4

Nair’s satisfying second Bangalore police procedural (after 2014’s A Cut-Like Wound) reflects the speed of change in modern urban India while providing a reminder that age-old dangers are never far from the surface. The disappearance of Insp. Borei Gowda’s maid’s 12-year-old daughter, Nandita, happens to coincide with the start of his investigation into the grisly murder of a wealthy lawyer. Might there be a connection? Chilling passages from the perspective of a child-stealing criminal contrast with the many often slow-paced sections focusing on Gowda, his colleagues, his enemies in the vast police bureaucracy, and his troubles with his shrewish wife, Mamtha, and with his girlfriend, Urmila, a dedicated member of a child welfare group. Another subplot concerns a looming threat to a college girl conducting a secret courtship. Nair manages to tie these disparate elements together, mostly successfully. Harrowing set pieces on child abduction drive the plot to resolution. Readers will look forward to spending more time in Gowda’s agreeable company. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Road to Perdition

Max Allan Collins. Brash, $12.95 trade paper (254p) ISBN 978-1-941298-96-1

Collins (Quarry in the Black) expands this crime tale set in Depression-era Chicago—originally a graphic novel and later a Sam Mendes–directed film that was itself novelized—into a terrific full-length novel. Michael O’Sullivan, a notorious enforcer and hit man for Irish-American gangster John Looney, is also a family man, and does his best to compartmentalize his two roles. When O’Sullivan’s 12-year-old son, Michael Jr., sneaks along for one of his father’s nighttime outings and witnesses an execution conducted by Connor Looney, the boss’s impetuous son, Michael Jr. unwittingly puts his family in grave danger. O’Sullivan appeals for help to Frank Nitti, the rising mobster poised to replace an ailing Al Capone. The Italian mob, however, is disinclined to alienate the Looney gang for financial reasons, and O’Sullivan finds himself and his son on their own, pursued by numerous parties. Based partly on real historical figures and events, Collins’s modern classic really shines in this new incarnation. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Hanging Club

Tony Parsons. Minotaur, $25.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-05271-1

In Parsons’s solid third novel featuring London Det. Constable Max Wolfe (after 2015’s The Slaughter Men), Wolfe and his Murder Investigation Team view a video of a group of masked individuals abducting and hanging Mahmud Irani, a taxi driver whom they discover was once convicted of molesting underage girls. For Wolfe, a single father to five-year-old Scout, it’s difficult to drum up sympathy for those the Hanging Club, as they come to be known, target—a man who ran down a small child, a preacher who spews hate speech—but Wolfe’s determined to remind the public that the law must apply to everyone. Complicating his life is the sudden reappearance of childhood friend Jackson Rose, whom he and Scout discover one night sleeping rough on the city streets. Rose is as charming as Wolfe remembers, but his oldest friend can also be dangerous. Parsons does decent work mixing the messy particulars of Wolfe’s personal life with a case that demonstrates that the good guys and the bad guys are not always such distinct entities. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Two Can Play: An Audrey Harte Novel

Kate Kessler. Red Hook, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-30253-1

In Kessler’s solid sequel to It Takes One, Boston-based forensic psychologist Audrey Harte returns to her hometown of Portland, Maine, to serve as an expert witness at the trial of imprisoned 19-year-old Ian Monroe, an accused rapist and serial killer. Audrey’s past as a participant in the murder of her best friend’s abusive father in her teens not only colors all her relationships, including those with her lover, Jake Tripp, her parents, and her siblings, but also shapes her passion for her work. As Audrey works to evaluate the suspect and the surviving victims, a mysterious floral delivery and a disturbing interview with Ian suggest that he may have a partner, one with an unhealthy fascination for Audrey and who is continuing to prey on young women. Multiple points of view occasionally lead to repetitive scenes that slow the pace, but Kessler is careful to keep the action realistic and avoid genre clichés. This is a smart crime novel that will engage readers. Agent: Miriam Kriss, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Bronx Requiem

John Clarkson. Minotaur, $26.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-04725-0

Ex-con James Beck places loyalty above all else, as shown in Clarkson’s highly entertaining sequel to 2015’s Among Thieves. With a firm belief in the brotherhood of criminals, Beck unconditionally trusts his crew of fellow ex-cons, many of whom he met in prison before his first-degree manslaughter conviction was overturned. He’s especially anxious to bring into his fold Paco “Packy” Johnson, who’s being paroled after 17 years in prison. But soon after being released, Packy is murdered on a Bronx street. Beck and his team, who operate out of his Red Hook saloon, set out to find who killed Packy and try to help his 16-year-old daughter, Amelia, who works for pimp Derrick Watkins, one of the Bronx’s most vicious criminals. Beck and company run up against not only Watkins but also Det. John Palmer, an overly ambitious cop not above skirting the law. Strong storytelling combined with breathless action and a high body count keeps the solid plot churning, as do the complex characters. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, Janklow & Nesbit. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Chaos

Patricia Cornwell. Morrow, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-243668-9

In bestseller Cornwell’s uneven 24th Kay Scarpetta novel (after 2015’s Depraved Heart), the forensic pathologist investigates the bizarre death of 23-year-old Brit Elisa Vandersteelis, who was riding her bicycle in a Cambridge, Mass., park when she suffered a fatal electrical burn that looks like a lightning strike but isn’t. Meanwhile, Scarpetta’s FBI agent husband, Benton Wesley, is called away on matters of national security, which turn out to involve the sudden death of Gen. John Briggs, a long-time friend of Scarpetta’s and one of the backers of her Cambridge Forensic Center. Electricity seemed to play a role in his death, too, making Scarpetta believe there’s a connection. Of course, whenever there’s a series of suspicious deaths, the specter of Carrie Grethen, Scarpetta’s nemesis, isn’t far from her thoughts. Coupled with threats she’s been receiving from the mysterious Tailend Charlie, these new deaths appear to fit Carrie’s MO. Lots of cutting-edge forensic detail and some revelatory character moments help compensate for a plot with only occasional flashes of narrative energy. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Stone Coffin

Kjell Eriksson, trans. from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg. Minotaur, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-02551-7

Tragedy strikes the well-to-do Cederén family in Eriksson’s satisfying seventh ensemble mystery to be published in the U.S. (after 2015’s Open Grave). A hit-and-run driver kills Josefin Cederén and her six-year-old daughter as they are walking to church on a road near Uppsala. Homicide detective Ann Lindell and her colleagues suspect successful businessman Sven-Erik Cederén, the victims’ husband and father, who has disappeared. The police soon discover that Sven-Erik kept a mistress, owned foreign property, and engaged in shady business dealings, and yet odd inconsistencies strain the seemingly open-and-shut case. Eriksson smoothly shifts among the troubled minds of those affected by the deaths, including Sven-Erik’s gentle lover. Lindell’s empathy for the murdered woman (unlocked by Josefin’s poignant diary) tends to drift into pining for stoic builder Edvard Risberg, threatening to funnel the book’s emotional momentum away from the Cederéns. Still, readers who prefer measured, character-driven procedurals to gore or wisecracks will be entranced. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Twenty-Three

Linwood Barclay. Berkley, $27 (464p) ISBN 978-0-451-47272-4

Bizarre incidents continue to maim and kill the residents of Promise Falls, N.Y., in Barclay’s fast and furious conclusion to the trilogy that began with 2015’s Broken Promise. Many believe a serial killer is at work, while others are perplexed and refuse to believe such a thing could happen in their beloved burg. But then the next calamity hits with brute force: townspeople—young, old, rich, poor—begin to drop like flies from a mysterious ailment. Symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, and a racing heartbeat come on suddenly, and most victims are dead within hours. Others linger, comatose in a hospital crammed with bodies and helpless nurses and doctors. As the death toll rises, a pattern finally emerges, and Det. Barry Duckworth races to save the town and his own loved ones. Though some readers may feel befuddled by the sheer number of characters and relationships, Barclay skillfully juggles all the different plot lines right up to the stunning conclusion. Author tour. Agent: Helen Heller, Helen Heller Agency (Canada). (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Don’t Turn Out the Lights

Bernard Minier, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. Minotaur, $26.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-250-10605-6

French author Minier once again displays a rare gift for raising goose bumps in his intricate third thriller featuring Commandant Martin Servaz (after 2015’s The Circle). The Toulouse cop is on leave, undergoing treatment for depression, six months after the sadistic killer he was hunting sent him the heart of a woman Martin was involved with. He gets back on the job after receiving another package, which contains an electronic hotel key and an unsigned invitation to a meeting in the room it opens. When Martin visits the Grand Hôtel Thomas Wilson, he learns that room 117 was the scene of an artist’s bloody suicide a year earlier. Meanwhile, radio show host Christine Steinmeyer receives an unsigned note from someone threatening to take her life on Christmas Eve. Unsuccessful in her efforts to identify the disturbing letter’s author, she soon finds herself the victim of a sadistic plot to drive her mad. Minier sustains a high degree of tension throughout, while making his characters’ reactions to extreme stress plausible. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Beautiful Dead

Belinda Bauer. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2533-0

This is one exclusive that Eve Singer, an attractive iWitness News crime reporter, doesn’t want, in this taut thriller from British author Bauer (The Shut Eye). While covering the stabbing of a young woman just feet from throngs of London Christmas shoppers, Eve catches the eye of the murderer, who decides she would be the perfect amanuensis to aid his grandiose series of gruesome “exhibitions.” Bauer puts the sympathetic, conflicted Eve and the heart-tuggingly demented father for whom she is caring in escalating jeopardy, along with several memorable minor players, including Det. Sgt. Emily Aguda, whose small size leads people to underestimate her formidable skills (she’s a black belt in kickboxing and Judo). Though less of the killer, who’s pretty much a stock type, would have been more, readers will root for Bauer’s spunky heroine on this suspenseful slay ride through a snow-globe London. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company (U.K.). (Jan.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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