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Windswept

Patricia Ryan. Severn, $27.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8357-5

The island paradise of Aruba, where Emily Harrington arrives on vacation from wintry Manhattan, stars in Ryan’s clunky romantic suspense novel. Emily is looking forward to being joined by her fiancé, Michael, currently detained in London, but it’s quickly obvious that do-gooder Emily is a poor match for him, an ambitious up-and-coming lawyer. On the island, much of the excitement comes from hard-drinking travel writer Roger Stirhew, who makes enemies faster than the staff can whip up signature cocktails. When Roger is killed, there’s no shortage of suspects, including his wife, resort owner Martin Maitland, society columnist Marietta St. John, and restaurateur Jon Peterson. Emily, who finds the body, may have glimpsed the killer and must therefore spend a lot of time with the relentless but charming Insp. Thomas Moller. Ryan (A Bucket of Ashes) relies heavily on her picturesque setting, making for a whodunit that’s longer on description than on suspense. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Coldsleep Lullaby

Andrew Brown. Minotaur, $24.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-03599-8

A London Sunday Times Fiction Prize winner, this outstanding series debut from South African Brown (Inyenzi) introduces tormented Det. Insp. Eberard Februarie. “In need of a work environment with less expectations and fewer temptations” after becoming addicted to drugs while on narcotics duty, Eberard transfers to the small town of Stellenbosch, where he hopes to make a fresh start and repair his relationship with his school-age daughter, who lives in nearby Cape Town with his ex-wife. When the body of Melanie Du Preez, an 18-year-old white girl, is found floating in a river, routine police work leads to a black man from Burundi known only as Bullet, who argued with Melanie shortly before her death. The case takes an unexpected turn after Bullet’s arrest, and Eberard becomes convinced that the obvious explanation is wrong. His further probing exposes him to an underworld of sexual perversity that may point the way to the truth. Fans of gritty procedurals in unfamiliar settings will look forward to the next book. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Before I Wake

C.L. Taylor. Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-4022-9418-1

At the outset of British author Taylor’s gripping first novel, 15-year-old Charlotte Jackson has been lying in a coma in a hospital after being hit by a London bus in an apparent suicide attempt six weeks earlier. Charlotte’s 43-year-old mother, Sue, looks for clues in her daughter’s secret diary to the girl’s rash actions. Charlotte’s father, Brian, is sure that the bus driver’s claim that she deliberately stepped in front of the bus is a lie. When the suspicious Sue catches her husband lying—about his whereabouts on a morning when he should have been at his office, for instance—he questions her sanity. Sue soon realizes that she can trust no one. Flashbacks from two decades earlier chart the course of her abusive relationship with ex-boyfriend James—whose reappearance in the present ratchets up the suspense. This psychological thriller will resonate long after the final page. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Reckless Disregard: A Parker Stern Novel

Robert Rotstein. Prometheus/Seventh Street, $15.95 trade paper (350p) ISBN 978-1-61614-881-2

In Rotstein’s contrived second contemporary legal thriller featuring child actor–turned–attorney Parker Stern (after 2013’s Corrupt Practices), a video game creator known only as Poniard is in trouble. William Bishop, a major Hollywood power player, is suing Poniard because he claims that the gamer’s latest hit, Abduction!, identifies him as the kidnapper of actress Felicity McGrath, who disappeared in 1987. Poniard, who refuses to reveal his true identity, hires Stern to fight the defamation suit. The road to the truth takes a number of improbable and convoluted turns. For example, Lovely Diamond, Stern’s former lover, turns out to be Bishop’s attorney—and her son has a special link to Abduction! Readers should also be prepared for some overwrought prose (e.g., “the heart is truly the reservoir of love and emotion, because my own heart gambols and twirls and finds a jubilant equilibrium I thought was gone forever”). Agent: Elizabeth James, Sandra Dykstra Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Dead Lil’ Hustler: A Loon Lake Mystery

Victoria Houston. Tyrus (F + W Media, dist.), $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4405-6840-4

Smalltown police chief Lewellyn “Lew” Ferris has to deal with the same problems faced by urban communities, though with much fewer resources, as shown in Houston’s pleasing 14th mystery set in Loon Lake, Wis. (after 2013’s Dead Insider). A particularly potent strain of marijuana has found its way to Loon Lake, but a more serious problem is the discovery of banker Peter Corbin’s body in the Pine River in nearby Nicolet National Forest. Then a distraught father, Jake Barber, implores Lew to help find his college-age son, Liam, who disappeared in the area while fly-fishing a small stream. Lew can count on boyfriend Paul Osborne for help, while bumbling mayor Ed Pecore and bossy FBI agent Alan Strickland complicate her investigation. Houston knows both her territory and her characters well, and she uses both to good effect in advancing her nicely executed plot. Agent: Martha Millard, Martha Millard Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Taxi Ride: A Ranjit Singh Novel

A.X. Ahmad. Minotaur, $24.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-01686-7

In chapter one of Ahmad’s solid sequel to 2013’s The Caretaker, New York City cabbie Ranjit Singh is thrilled to realize that his fare is Shabana Shah, a famous Bollywood actress, who tips him generously when he delivers her to the Dakota, where she’s staying in a friend’s apartment. By coincidence, the Dakota doorman is Mohan Kumar, a junior colleague from Ranjit’s army days in India. That evening, the two old friends meet in a Dakota storage room, where they drink Scotch and reminisce. The next morning, the police show up at Ranjit’s cab company and claim that fingerprint evidence places him at the scene of Shabana’s murder in her apartment the night before. And Mohan, the one who can vouch for Ranjit, has disappeared. Ranjit, ever the gallant Sikh, makes a winning hero in a mystery revealing of how Indians do business—legitimate or otherwise—in New York and around the world. Agent: Stephanie Abou, Foundry Media. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Better World: Book Two of the Brilliance Saga

Marcus Sakey. Amazon/Thomas & Mercer, $14.95 trade paper (434p) ISBN 978-1-4778-2394-1

Set in a near-future America tragically accustomed to terrorism, Edgar finalist Sakey’s stellar sequel to 2013’s Brilliance holds the reader in thrall until the final crack of an unthinkable doom—then offers more. U.S. President Lionel Clay, a man temperamentally and intellectually better suited to the classroom than to national leadership, desperately needs the help of Nick Cooper, one of the “brilliants” born since 1980 with special gifts that outstrip 99% of humanity. The members of a shadowy group, the Children of Darwin, are burning truckers alive, starving three American cities, and threatening all-out civil war. Cooper’s fight against this foe demonstrates the importance of decency, principle, and love in a world where politicians’ promises of “protection” lead to the bitterest enslavement. Sakey skillfully juggles a complex backstory while setting up an intricate foundation for this apocalyptic trilogy’s conclusion. Agent: Scott Miller, Trident Media Group. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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’Til Dirt Do Us Part

Edith Maxwell. Kensington, $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7582-8464-8

Maxwell’s engaging second Local Foods mystery (after 2013’s A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die) finds Cameron Flaherty preparing for her first farm-to-table dinner party. Eighty people will gather under a tent on her organic farm in Millsbury, Mass., served from a temporary kitchen in the barn. Fortunately, a threatened storm holds off, and the evening is a big success. The next day, however, Cam learns that one of her guests, cantankerous Irene Burr, has been found dead in a pig sty on a neighbor’s pig farm. When Bobby Burr, Irene’s carpenter stepson who helped repair Cam’s barn after a fire, becomes a suspect in what proves to be a murder case, Cam sets out with Bobby’s mechanic friend, Simone Koyama, to prove his innocence by finding the real killer. On top of the intriguing whodunit plot, Maxwell vividly portrays life on a small contemporary farm. Agent: John Talbot, Talbot Fortune Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Nine Lives to Die: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. Bantam, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-345-53050-9

Murder and mayhem are the order of the day in bestseller Brown’s well-plotted 22nd Mrs. Murphy mystery (after 2013’s The Litter of the Law). A winter charity function ends badly when wealthy car dealer Pete Vavilov, a leader of the Silver Linings charity, which helps the disadvantaged youth of Albermarle County, Va., is found dead in his car during a snowstorm the same night as the party. Before New Year’s, another member of the Silver Linings Board disappears, series heroine Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen discovers a skeleton, and checks go missing. As usual, the four-footed characters—felines Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and their canine chum, Tee Tucker—do much of the sleuthing, as they provide wry insights into the book’s human characters. Brown’s idyllic world, with its Christian values, talking animals, and sympathetic middle-aged pet owners, has understandably struck a chord with many readers. Agent: Wendy Weil, Wendy Weil Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Lights Out!

Donald Bain. Severn, $27.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8358-2

Fans of Donald Westlake and Elmore Leonard will enjoy this bright caper novel from ghostwriter Bain (Close-up on Murder and dozens of other Murder, She Wrote/Jessica Fletcher mysteries). Straight-arrow Carlton Smythe, a 53-year-old engineer, has spent his career working at an Ontario power company before being “phased out.” Not content with his moneyed marriage to Cynthia and infatuated with beautiful Gina Ellanado, whom he met on a business trip to Argentina, Smythe conceives a plan to get rich by creating a major blackout, like the one in the Northeast in 2003, and selling or franchising the blackout’s specific time to criminal interests. Smythe gets the nerve to approach Dominick Martone, head of Ontario’s leading crime family, but he must also contend with a nosy mother-in-law, a drunken engineer, a private detective, a DEA agent, and a Malaysian terrorist. Smythe’s plan takes off with unintended, unexpected, and amusing results. Agent: Bob Diforio, D4EO Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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