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Rat Run: An Anderson and Costello Mystery

Caro Ramsay. Severn, $29.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8619-4

In the prologue of Ramsay’s dreary, rain-soaked seventh mystery featuring Det. Chief Insp. Colin Anderson and Det. Insp. Winifred “Freddie” Costello (after 2015’s Tears of Angels), Sue Melrose, who lives on Altmore Road in Altmore, Scotland, takes her two young sons one summer day in 1992 into the woods, where they fall victim to an ax murderer. Sue’s immediate neighbor, Andrew Gyle, with whom she quarreled, is convicted of the crime. In 2015, Gyle remains in prison with no chance of parole. When Howard Dirk-Huntley, an Altmore Road resident, drives his Range Rover into a sinkhole, the effort to extract Dirk-Huntley and his vehicle reveals human bones, which turn out to be about 10 years old and show signs of having been chopped. If the ax murderer who did in the Melroses committed what appears to be a crime around 2005, then Gyle is innocent. Anderson and Costello interview an odd mix of people who live on Altmore Road en route to identifying a killer whose motivations will strike many readers as poorly developed. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company (U.K.). (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Adam’s Rib

Antonio Manzini, trans. from the Italian by Antony Shugaar. Harper/Bourbon Street, $14.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-235467-9

Manzini’s entertaining second mystery set in Aosta in northwest Italy (after 2015’s Black Run) finds Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone still discontent living in the sleepy Alpine town, where he was transferred from his beloved native Rome as punishment for getting on a powerful government official’s wrong side. When Rocco responds to a report of burglars barricaded inside an apartment, he discovers it’s been ransacked—and a woman’s body is dangling from a lamp hook. He soon pegs this apparent suicide as murder. Rocco uncovers clues, sabotages his liaison with a local woman, and refuses to give up his desert boots for footwear that would be more appropriate for Aosta’s snow-laden streets. In the process, he struggles to control his anger and sadness (with the aid of a daily breakfast-time joint), does not suffer fools gladly, tries to do what is just, and exhibits a sharp sense of irony. Readers will look forward to seeing more of this fascinating and complex character. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Thrill Kill: A Matt Sinclair Mystery

Brian Thiem. Crooked Lane, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62953-766-5

At the start of Thiem’s hard-hitting sequel to 2015’s Red Line, Det. Sgt. Matt Sinclair of the Oakland, Calif., PD and his police partner, Cathy Braddock, arrive at a crime scene in a park. Hanging by the neck from an oak tree is a dead naked woman. Sinclair recognizes the victim as Dawn Gustafson, a Midwest runaway turned prostitute whom he tried to help years earlier. Sinclair, who once did a harrowing stint in Iraq as part an Army CID detachment, manages to maintain his hard-won sobriety and overcome his terrifying nightmares as he plunges into a morass of political and big-business corruption in his search for Dawn’s killer. Thiem, a former Oakland police detective and retired U.S. Army officer, offers insights into the prices paid by those sworn to protect and defend an increasingly obstructive and even hostile citizenry. His portrayal of a decent man’s efforts to uphold civilization in a decaying urban jungle rings all too disturbingly true. Agent: Paula Munier, Talcott Notch Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Coaster

Erich Wurster. Poisoned Pen, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4642-0567-5

Wurster salts his first novel, a tale of greed and mayhem, with an ironic and engaging commentary on the foibles of modern mankind. Bob Patterson is a pleasant incompetent whose greatest achievement until this story begins was marrying well. On the sudden death of his father-in-law, a Kansas City, Mo., business mogul, Bob is unexpectedly appointed executor of the extensive estate instead of his supercompetent wife, Sarah. When erstwhile fraternity buddy Dave “Corny” Cornwallis unaccountably visits, and a slick salesman, Tom Swanson, pushes a business proposal that turns out to be too good to be true, events rapidly churn into a whirlpool of criminal madness. Bob finds inner resources he never knew he had as one ordeal presages the next, even more dire calamity. But with Sarah’s help, Bob manages to cope and survive. There are perhaps a few too many discourses on the absurd aspects of society and the human condition, plus a noticeable plot hole or two, but all in all Wurster has delivered an exciting and enjoyable read. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Any Minute Now

Eric Van Lustbader. Forge, $25.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8551-2

Bestseller Lustbader (The Testament) skillfully blends supernatural horror with a gripping military thriller. When an operation in Pakistan goes wrong for Red Rover, a black-op private security team handling the dirtiest of wet work for the NSA, squad leader Greg Whitman makes it his rogue mission to complete the assignment, despite interference from his superiors, as well as from the Alchemists, an occultist cadre bent on world domination. Whitman turns to a former lover, Charlize “Charlie” Daou, to be the team’s armorer; her unorthodox weaponry is an enjoyable change from the usual munitions in such fiction. Felix Orteño, his communications and electronics expert, however, proves to be as much a liability as an asset in the operation. The action builds to a tense showdown with Preach Desmortiers, a bayou shaman who once shepherded Whitman’s own mystical powers, at the Well, the arcane subterranean facility where Whitman formerly practiced the black art of torture and interrogation for the Alchemists. Agent: Henry Morrison, Henry Morrison, Inc. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Night Bell

Inger Ash Wolfe. Pegasus Crime (Norton, dist.), $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-68177-165-6

The pseudonymous Wolfe’s provocative yet ponderous fourth Hazel Micallef mystery (after 2012’s Door in the River) highlights the mistreatment of those at the margins. After residents of a new housing development in Port Dundas, Ontario, begin finding bones in their yards, the police comb an adjacent field. Behind an old orphanage that abuts it, they discover bones from 18 adolescent boys, all of them murder victims. Meanwhile, an officer is kidnapped, and three people associated with the development are savagely murdered. The Mounties take over the case, displacing Hazel and her team, but the 64-year-old detective inspector remains determined to identify the dead children, rescue her colleague, and bring past and present criminals to justice. Flashbacks to 1957 follow 14-year-old Hazel’s efforts to locate a missing teenager. Factual and thematic ties bind the two story lines and provide the foundation for a sprawling mystery with emotional heft, but Wolfe’s attempts to raise stakes and add a ticking clock render the plot improbable. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Literary. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Sixth Idea

P.J. Tracy. Putnam, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-16935-9

Tracy’s entertaining seventh Monkeewrench novel (after 2012’s Off the Grid) centers on a top-secret science project in 1957 that involved the eight men who developed the hydrogen bomb. In the present, Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth turn to the Monkeewrench computer experts—Grace MacBride, Annie, Roadrunner, and Harley Davidson—when the only connection they can find between murder victims Chuck Spencer and Wally Luntz is that Spencer and Luntz are descendants of the eight men. Meanwhile, Lydia Ascher, another descendant, tells Magozzi and Rolseth about a website called the Sixth Idea that Spencer created to locate other descendants. The detectives are flummoxed by a kidnapping and the existence of an assassin who appears to be protecting the descendants. The Monkeewrench gang need all their various skills to track other descendants, protect Lydia, uncover a clever conspiracy, and help end the carnage in this successful mix of detection and thriller. Author tour. Agent: Ellen Geiger, Frances Goldin Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The One Man

Andrew Gross. Minotaur, $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-07950-3

Bestseller Gross (Everything to Lose) revisits the horrors of Auschwitz in this harrowing, thematically rich thriller, which marks a significant departure from his previous contemporary suspense novels. In the spring of 1944, both the Germans and the Allies are pressing toward the transmutation of uranium into atomic weaponry that could win WWII. Gross postulates that the U.S. Manhattan Project, headed by Robert Oppenheimer and joined by renowned refugee physicists like Denmark’s Niels Bohr, lacked one vital component—but the Nazis have incarcerated the world expert in that area, Dr. Alfred Mendl, in Auschwitz. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the head of the OSS, backs a near-suicidal plan to send a desk-bound Jewish intelligence officer, Nathan Blum, who escaped from Nazi-overrun Poland, into Auschwitz to rescue Mendl. Alternating between scenes of American hope-against-hope optimism and Nazi brutality, Blum’s deadly odyssey into and out of this 20th-century hell drives toward a compelling celebration of the human will to survive, remember, and overcome. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Smoke and Mirrors

Elly Griffiths. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-544-52795-9

Set in Brighton, England, in 1951, Griffith’s captivating sequel to 2015’s Zig Zag Girl finds Det. Insp. Edgar Stephens embroiled in a grim holiday hunt for the murderer of two children. Like an unnerving scene from a fairy tale, a trail of candy in the snow leads to the bodies of Annie Francis, a 13-year-old with a talent for writing, and Mark Webster, her constant companion of similar age. As Stephens searches for a killer, tension grows in the town. Is the murderer the candy-store owner and the last to see them alive, or the quirky bachelor who helped the victims stage plays? Matters become more complicated when magician Max Mephisto, Stephen’s friend, appears with a disturbingly similar tale of an earlier murder. Is an actor in the Christmas pantomime connected to the long-ago murder of a young performer? Are the present-day murders a reenactment? Stephens and his team must sort through misdirection and vanishing acts before another child dies in this suspenseful outing. Agent: Rebecca Carter, Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Falling

Jane Green. Berkley, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-58328-5

Green’s latest chronicles is an unlikely romance between 30-somethings from two different worlds. At 37, Emma Montague has decided to ditch the rat race of the New York banking world and seek out a quieter, more solitary existence, which takes her to idyllic Westport, Conn. There, she settles into a rundown cottage, and her burgeoning love for interior design takes off in a flurry of paint, carpet, and decorative wall hangings. While she’s cultivating her new love for home decor, she finds another new love in her landlord, Dominic, a hunky bartender who’s raising his six-year-old son, Jesse, on his own. Naturally, complications arise: Jesse has a hard time adjusting to change, Emma’s upper-crust English parents don’t approve of Dominic’s salt-of-the-earth upbringing, and Jesse’s erstwhile mother reappears after six years to try her hand at mothering. But Emma and Dominic’s feelings are deep, and they manage to make it work—until tragedy strikes, and Emma’s at risk of losing everything she’s come to love. Green’s fiction is full of disgruntled city gals finding their bliss in the ’burbs, but although Emma could certainly be a more compelling heroine (most of the main events of the plot happen to her without requiring much action or decision on her part), her community is full of nuanced characters that elevate the story above its cookie-cutter beats and add extra impact to the tearjerker ending. It likely won’t linger in readers’ minds, but it’s a pleasant enough beach read. (July)

Reviewed on 05/27/2016 | Details & Permalink

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