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Code Grey: A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery

Clea Simon. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8506-7

In Simon’s mildly charming ninth Dulcie Schwartz mystery (after 2014’s Stages of Grey), grad student Dulcie isn’t looking forward to spending spring break alone working on her dissertation, but when she learns that someone has assaulted Jeremy Mumbleigh, an eccentric former academic, on the Harvard campus, she turns her attention to whodunit. After all, there’s been an alarming series of break-ins on campus, though this case is different. Jeremy was carrying a missing rare book that may have connections to her own dissertation on The Ravages of Umbria, a Gothic novel. When the gentle Jeremy is accused of stealing the book, she’s sure he’s innocent. Luckily, Dulcie, who sometimes makes poor decisions, has the spirit of her deceased cat, Mr. Grey, to guide her. Her quirky appeal compensates in part for the lack of suspense, as do fascinating descriptions of rare books and Dulcie’s research topic. Agent: Colleen Mohyde, Doe Coover Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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No Other Darkness: A Detective Inspector Marnie Rome Mystery

Sarah Hilary. Penguin, $16 trade paper (408p) ISBN 978-0-14-312619-5

Both victims and villains abound in Hilary’s searing, intricately plotted police procedural, the sequel to 2014’s Someone Else’s Skin. Det. Insp. Marnie Rome and her partner, Det. Sgt. Jake Noah, get on the case after Terry Doyle, who lives in a new development on the outskirts of London, finds the bodies of two little boys in an old bunker under his garden. Terry and his wife have two small children and are also fostering a troubled teen, Clancy. Clancy brings back unpleasant memories for Marnie, who has not yet completely dealt with her parents’ murders years earlier by her 14-year-old foster brother. The subsequent disappearance of the Doyle’s two biological children raises the stakes. Hilary provides insights into the over-the-edge survivalist movement responsible for London’s secret underground refuges, built by sleazy opportunistic contractors for quick gain, as well as the psyches of police officers who must cope with the unthinkable. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company Authors Agents (U.K.). (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Lightning Stones

Jack Du Brul. Doubleday, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385527-75-0

A prologue set in 1937 in bestseller Du Brul’s fast-paced eighth Philip Mercer thriller (after 2006’s Havoc) offers a new explanation for the disappearance of aviatrix Amelia Earhart—some rock samples she was asked to transport emitted electromagnetic forces that skewed her navigator’s readings. In the present, Mercer, a geological consultant, has come to Minnesota’s Leister Deep Mine to teach mine rescue techniques. In another part of the mine, gunmen slaughter a team of scientists—headed by Mercer’s role model and surrogate father, retired professor Abraham Jacobs—who are studying climate change and cosmic rays. Vowing revenge, Mercer dedicates himself to tracking down the killers and their paymaster. There are some nice touches (e.g., a villain takes advantage of cap-and-trade limits on carbon emissions to make millions), but not every reader will be able to relate to an action hero who takes time during a gun battle to notice a woman’s “jeans stretched tight across her backside.” Agent: Robert DiForio, DiForio Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Deadly Assets: A Badge of Honor Novel

W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV. Putnam, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-17117-8

At the start of Griffin’s gripping 12th Badge of Honor novel (after 2013’s The Last Witness), the fourth to be coauthored with son Butterworth, Sgt. Matt Payne of the Philadelphia PD visits a North Philly diner, the workplace of Daquan Williams, a good kid who’s on parole and trying to go straight. Payne hopes Daquan might have information about a recent drive-by shooting, but their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of two armed teenagers, one of whom fires three shots before Payne stops him with a bullet to the chest. Meanwhile, as the end of the year approaches, a series of murders raises the annual death toll on Philadelphia streets to 362. The Rev. Josiah Cross, an ex-con who served time for assault and forgery, is leading protests over the killings in “Killadelphia”; Cross’s campaign includes a poster of Payne at a crime scene with the caption Public Enemy #1. Payne and his cohorts face long odds in a gritty police series that provides sociological comment but no easy answers. Agent: Robert Youdelman, Rember & Curtis. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Protocol Zero

James Abel. Berkley, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-425-27634-1

Clive Cussler fans will relish the pseudonymous Abel’s sequel to White Plague. On a bluff overlooking the Arctic Ocean, Col. Joe Rush, a Marine doctor, is studying whether polar bears are dying from a new germ when he receives a call from North Slope police chief Merlin Toovik. Merlin reports that he received a disturbing phone call from 15-year-old Kelley Harmon, who considers Joe her adoptive uncle. Kelley was hysterical, screaming about a sickness, when Merlin heard a shotgun blast just before the call went dead. Merlin also heard some strange background grunting noises. Though under orders not to get involved in local affairs, Joe goes to the isolated Harmon cabin, where he finds Kelley, her parents, and her cousin all shot to death. The full transcript of Kelley’s last call, including references to funny-tasting water and extreme light sensitivity, gives Joe some clues as to what happened. Abel nicely blends action and science in the service of a plausible, but terrifying, plot, peopled with well-developed characters. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories

Ian Rankin. Little, Brown, $26 (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-29683-0

The 31 rewarding stories in Edgar-winner Rankin’s complete John Rebus collection span the Scottish detective’s entire career, from his early days as a policeman learning the ropes right up to the time of his quasi-retirement. The best entries, such as “A Good Hanging,” which involves a murder disguised as a suicide during the Edinburgh fringe festival, feel like short novels. “Auld Lang Syne,” a superb tale set during a riotous New Year’s celebration, has a well-observed, even literary feel, while others offer traditional cases, such as “The Trap,” in which Rebus uncovers the truth about an aging husband’s deadly fall. Some Rebus fans will be familiar with many of the selections, which have been collected previously, but six have never been published in book form and two are written just for this volume. At short form, the hard-drinking, chain-smoking, no-respect-for-authority Rebus, the star of 20 novels, remains a compelling character, and this thick tome is a welcome addition to the Rankin canon. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The 3rd Woman

Jonathan Freedland. Harper, $26.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-220755-5

The United States’ debt to China has changed the balance of power dramatically in this convincing near-future thriller from Freedland (The Chosen One and three other novels under his Sam Bourne pseudonym). Since Beijing demanded that Washington make interest payments to China “America’s number-one priority,” an economically weak U.S. has given China direct access to custom duties. After a violent incident in L.A., Chinese military personnel are now stationed in West Coast port cities to protect Chinese customs officers. Against this disturbing backdrop, investigative reporter Madison Webb, who has just exposed the inhuman conditions at an L.A. sweatshop, is devastated to learn that her sister, Abigail, appears to have died as the result of a “druggie sex game that went wrong.” Unwilling to accept this theory, Madison pushes until she finds evidence that a cover-up with global implications may be in the works. Freedland keeps the pages turning and unveils a twist that few will anticipate. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Sue Grafton. Putnam/Marion Wood, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-399-16384-5

An inventive plot and incisive character studies elevate MWA Grand Master Grafton’s 24th Kinsey Millhone novel (after 2013’s W Is for Wasted), which includes a variety of X’s (a divorced couple named Xanakis, a spot on a map, etc.). Wealthy Hallie Bettancourt hires the Santa Teresa, Calif., PI for a simple assignment—find Christian Satterfield, a bank robber recently released from prison who was the baby 15-year-old Hallie gave up for adoption years earlier. Meanwhile, Kinsey agrees to help her friend Ruthie Wolinsky settle some papers belonging to Ruthie’s late husband, Pete, a private detective who was shot the year before in a robbery gone wrong. The two investigations spiral into complicated personal tales. Hallie has myriad secrets, and Pete’s papers lead Kinsey to finish one of his old cases, putting her in the crosshairs of the hate-filled Ned Lowe, who may be a murderer. This superior outing will remind readers why this much-loved series will be missed as the end of the alphabet approaches. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Bangkok Asset

John Burdett. Knopf, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-307-27268-3

An unusual crime scene disturbs Sonchai Jitpleecheep in Burdett’s wild and entertaining sixth novel featuring the Thai homicide detective (after 2012’s Vulture Peak). Near the corpse of a 12- or 13-year-old girl, whose head seems to have been pulled off her body by sheer brute force, someone wrote a message in the victim’s blood indicating that the writer knows who Sonchai’s father is. Before he can really process this suggestion regarding his unknown biological father, Sonchai witnesses two men in a boat each throw a woman off a boat to drown in the Chao Phraya River during a storm. The tragedy only gets weirder when video of the crimes shows that the boat’s other passenger, an enormously strong “tall blond farang,” swimming to shore against a raging current. That man is seen meeting with Joseph Goldman, a CIA spook, who was involved in notorious mind-control experiments. Impressively, everything comes together for a dramatic and satisfying, though downbeat, ending. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Night Sister

Jennifer McMahon. Doubleday, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-53851-0

Bestseller McMahon (The Winter People) combines suspense with fantasy in this convoluted tale. Amy Slater apparently murders her husband and son before killing herself at the Tower Motel in London, Vt., where she grew up. An old photograph with a cryptic note is the sole clue to the crime. Only Amy’s childhood friends, sisters Margot and Piper, understand the note’s reference to a secret that shattered their friendship with her years earlier. Refusing to believe Amy capable of murder, Margot and Piper delve into the motel’s past and the troubled Slater history—which includes Amy’s aunt’s unsolved disappearance. The story moves, not always seamlessly, from the present to 1989, when the girls discover a skeleton in a hidden room, and to the 1950s, when Amy’s mother and aunt were growing up. Teenage Amy is vivid and engaging, but other characters are not as well drawn. McMahon effectively creates an atmosphere of horror, and readers willing to entertain magic realism in their mysteries may find the Slaters’ secrets compelling. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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