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Allure of Deceit

Susan Froetschel. Prometheus Books/Seventh Street, $15.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-61614-017-5

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Froetschel (Fear of Beauty) highlights the problems of charity in this subtle, thought-provoking mystery. After tech entrepreneur Michael Sendry and his bride perish in a terrorist attack in India, his will provides for the establishment of a foundation, GlobalConnect, which will operate in 30 developing nations and distribute more than $400 million annually to various charitable organizations. A health team supporting reproductive rights goes to Laashekoh, a farming village in Afghanistan, where the town leader, Parsaa, has enough problems without ladies from “Tex-is” dropping out of the sky and telling him what to do. In particular, Parsaa has to determine the fate of Leila, a young woman accused of pushing his oldest son, Ali, off a cliff and whose innocent sisters are now treated like pariahs. The truth behind Ali’s death proves far from simple in a novel that raises uncomfortable questions about Western efforts to assist people in the developing world. Agent: Alison Picard, Alison J. Picard Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Night Is the Hunter: A Harlan Donnally Novel

Steven Gore. Morrow, $14.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-202509-8

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Gore’s third novel featuring former San Francisco police officer Harlan Donnally (after 2013’s A Criminal Defense) combines a serviceable mystery with an in-depth analysis of implied malice as the concept is used within the criminal justice system. A jury convicted Israel Dominguez of first-degree murder for shooting Edgar Rojo in an apparent gang war 20 years ago. Now Ray McMullin, the judge who put Dominguez on death row, wants Donnally to re-examine the case. Besides reading trial transcripts and arrest reports, Donnally interviews everyone he can find connected with the event, including the judge, witnesses, arresting officers, prosecutor, and DA. Donnally gets wildly different versions of what transpired (and the reasons for it), as well as pushback, since everyone has something to hide. The law may be clear, but human motivations can have bizarre results. Gore not only puts a face on the difficulties of serving justice but also illustrates their immensity. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Hades

Candice Fox. Kensington, $15 trade paper (310p) ISBN 978-1-61773-441-0

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Horrors abound in Australian author Fox’s first novel, a gritty police procedural set in Sydney. Hades Archer, the crime lord of the Utulla dump, disposes of the waste left over from human lives—and also creates artwork from “warped scraps of metal and pieces of discarded machinery.” Hades once rescued two children, Eden and Eric, from a botched kidnapping and raised them to become police homicide detectives: Eden is dangerously intuitive and creative, Eric lethally wild. Eden and her new partner, tough cop Frank Bennett, track a serial killer who kills for body parts he can sell to dying patients desperate for a transplant. In this twisted noir world, love goes as wrong as it can go, as shown in Hades’s relationship with the children he saved, and Bennett’s relationship with a victim who escaped her captor’s chop shop. Readers will look forward to the sequel set in this not-for-the-squeamish nightmare world down under. Agent: Gaby Naher, Naher Agency (Australia). (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Forgetting Place

John Burley. Morrow, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-222740-9

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Burley follows his fine debut, 2013’s The Absence of Mercy, with an even more impressive psychological thriller. Menaker State Hospital in Maryland houses those who are not fit for society, especially those whom society wishes to forget. Dr. Lise Shields, a member of Menaker’s psychologist team since receiving her medical license, works with patients who will likely never recover, or even improve discernibly. Nevertheless, she’s content with her routine—until she gets a new patient, Jason Edwards, who arrives unannounced and without documentation. Though she’s immediately suspicious, she can’t help bonding with her amiable, good-looking, but reticent patient. As her doubts about Jason’s institutionalization increase, so do the efforts of Menaker’s chief medical officer, Dr. Charles Wagner, to tamp down her investigations. Burley, himself a physician, renders the manifestations of psychological illness in such a way that both Lise and the reader must confront the terrifying nature of reality itself. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Robert Ludlum’s The Geneva Strategy

Jamie Freveletti. Grand Central, $16 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-4555-7758-3

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This exciting entry in the Covert-One series is Thriller Award–winner Freveletti’s second contribution to the Ludlum franchise (after 2012’s The Janus Reprisal). It begins with Lt. Col. Jon Smith, a member of the highly secretive Covert-One team, fending off several armed men after leaving a cocktail party in an upscale Washington, D.C., neighborhood for eminent microbiologist Chang Ying Peng, who was recently smuggled out of a Chinese prison. Smith soon learns that several important government officials were kidnapped that same night as part of an ambitious plan to acquire the passwords and codes needed to hack control of U.S. drones. Smith joins forces with CIA agent Randi Russell and others to rescue the kidnap victims. Meanwhile, a double-cross among the bad guys may result in a terrorist attack using a deadly and unstable mind-altering drug. Freveletti offers a savory mix of intense action and cynical politics. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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A Woman Unknown: A Kate Shackleton Mystery

Frances Brody. Minotaur, $25.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-03704-6

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Set in England in 1923, Brody’s fabulous fourth Kate Shackleton mystery (after 2014’s Murder in the Afternoon) finds the savvy PI trying to help a distraught husband, Cyril Fitzpatrick, locate his wife, who has a habit of disappearing for days at a time. Meanwhile, Kate is shocked to discover that banker Everett Runcie, who was seeking a divorce from his wife, has been found dead in his room at the Hotel Metropole in Leeds. The two threads turn out to be ingeniously related. Humming underneath the main story line is Kate’s continued mourning for her husband, who went missing in WWI. Such details as cloche hats, Yorkshire pudding, and “grand country houses” provide period flavor, while more serious historical matters, such as cultural attitudes toward divorce and adultery, prove germane to the plot. Snappy dialogue and a cast of well-developed minor characters are a plus. Agent: Judith Murdoch, Judith Murdoch Literary Agency (U.K.). (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Long Way Down

Michael Sears. Putnam, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-16671-6

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In Sears’s uneven third thriller featuring disgraced trader Jason Stafford (after 2013’s Mortals Bonds), investment banker Virgil Becker wants Stafford to investigate Philip Haley, CEO of a hot biotechnology client, to find out if he traded illegally. Becker worries that a scandal involving his client could be “dangerously expensive” to his firm. Haley protests his innocence, claiming that he’s being set up. But if so, by whom, and why? The stakes rise dramatically after the murder of Haley’s estranged wife, Selena, and Haley becomes the chief suspect. Sears is at his best explaining financial wrongdoing, and Stafford is a fine and fully rounded protagonist, but most of the supporting characters come across as caricatures, particularly the überprivileged Selena and a couple of billionaire CEOs. Despite its graceful prose, the book feels both overblown and undercooked, though many readers will enjoy the voyeuristic glimpses of the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. Agent: Judith Weber, Sobol Weber Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Life I Left Behind

Colette McBeth. Minotaur, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-04121-0

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Trust, obsession, and survival provide the foundation for British author McBeth’s outstanding second novel, a standalone like her 2014 debut, Precious Thing. Melody Pieterson nearly dies during an attack by a London neighbor and friend, David Alden, who was convicted of the crime and sent to prison. Six years later, Melody’s physical pain has abated, but she still feels the emotional pain of being betrayed by David. She lives with her fiancé, but seldom leaves their secluded house a few miles from London. Melody is forced to relive the violence when another woman, Eve Elliot, is murdered shortly after David is paroled. McBeth smoothly alternates points of view among Melody, who struggles to rejoin humanity; Eve, who speaks from the grave; and Det. Insp. Victoria Rutter, who investigated both cases and begins to question David’s guilt. The author avoids gimmicks as the action realistically builds to a surprise finale. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Death of a Liar

M.C. Beaton. Grand Central, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4555-0478-7

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At the start of Beaton’s highly entertaining 31st Hamish Macbeth mystery (after 2014’s Death of a Policeman), the Lochdubh, Scotland, police sergeant receives a phone call from Liz Bentley, who claims she’s been raped. Hamish and his team rush to the village of Cromish, where they learn from Liz’s doctor that she’s a chronic liar and still a virgin. But Liz’s second call for help is no lie, and Hamish discovers her dead body in a vegetable patch outside her house. Meanwhile, back in Lochdubh, someone tortures and murders Frank and Bessie Leigh, a couple new to the area. Detective Chief Inspector Blair, always eager to deny Hamish opportunities, keeps the Leigh investigation for himself. Hamish handles Blair and Superintendent Daviot nimbly, but stumbles badly with familiar flames Priscilla Halburton-Smythe and Elspeth Grant. There are nasty characters behind the killings, and Hamish’s deep knowledge of local folk and his keen observations lead him into danger. Beaton’s series remains as engaging as ever. Agent: Barbara Lowenstein, Lowenstein Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Damned

Andrew Pyper. Simon & Schuster, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5511-3

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Pyper (The Demonologist) makes a familiar plotline fresh in this literate supernatural thriller. In 1989, at the age of 16, Danny Orchard’s twin sister, Ash, dies in a fire in an abandoned Detroit house. Danny himself almost dies that night as well, but his survival, coupled with his somehow coming into possession of a watch that was buried with his late mother, leads some locals to believe that he passed beyond the veil and returned. But for Ash, a sadist in life, death is no obstacle for her to continue tormenting her sibling. As Danny grows into adulthood, she haunts him. When he finds happiness with a woman (whom he met speaking about his near-death experiences), Ash also targets her, leading Danny to seek the truth of Ash’s death in the hope of putting her ghost to rest once and for all. As in the best horror, Pyper’s keen eye for the quotidian makes the fantastic feel plausible. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Gernert Company. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/05/2014 | Details & Permalink

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