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The Spy Across the Table: A Jim Brodie Thriller

Barry Lancet. Simon & Schuster, $26 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9491-4

A kabuki play at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House in Washington, D.C., sets the stage for Lancet’s fast-paced fourth thriller featuring Japanese antiquities expert Jim Brodie (after 2016’s Pacific Burn). Jim is happy to arrange for an old college friend of his, Michael “Mikey” Dillman, to meet another friend, Sayuri “Sharon” Tanaka—both of them renowned production designers—in a room backstage. Unfortunately, someone shoots them there, killing Sharon and mortally wounding Mikey, before escaping. The U.S. president’s wife, Joan Slater, who was a close friend of Sharon, hires Jim to find the murderer and insists that Jim share any information he discovers with Tom Swelley, a Homeland Security agent. Despite the First Lady’s instruction that they work together, Tom physically threatens Jim to get him to back off of the investigation. Jim’s mission takes him to Asia, including both North and South Korea, where he confronts great dangers and jeopardizes his serious relationship with his girlfriend. Lancet keeps the suspense high through the exciting climax. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Lockdown

Laurie R. King. Bantam, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-804177-93-1

Heavy-handed foreshadowing mars this thriller about a shooting that occurs on career day at California’s Guadalupe Middle School from Edgar-winner King (Keeping Watch): “Students will be given the raw materials for their life’s plan, and shown the means to turn it into their life’s tapestry.... But today, the weaving of dreams will unravel long before the final bell”; “the midday sun will be sparkling off a thread of blood oozing down the center of the concrete quad.” The lead-up to the tragic events is presented from multiple perspectives, including those of various school staff members and students, as well as that of police sergeant Olivia Mendez, a speaker who was almost murdered by a gang member at the previous year’s career day. King uses extensive flashbacks to provide the backstories for her characters, but these don’t provide much depth. A subplot concerning the unsolved disappearance of a sixth-grade girl the previous fall adds little, and the end result is a superficial treatment of a serious issue. Agent: Linda Allen, Linda Allen Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Murder in Saint-Germain

Cara Black. Soho Crime, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-770-4

Set in the sizzling summer of 1999, Black’s twisty 17th Aimée Leduc investigation (after 2016’s Murder on the Quai) finds the Parisian PI doing a job for the École des Beaux-Arts, the kind of computer security work that pays the bills for her agency, Leduc Detective. Then old acquaintance and counterterrorism operative Suzanne Lesage asks Aimée to find a Serbian warlord, who was presumed dead but who, Suzanne insists, is alive and following her. This case presents the kind of danger that Aimée hoped she left behind with the birth of her daughter, Chloé, eight months before, but she agrees to help. Meanwhile, she’s wracked with guilt after a shooter seriously wounds her godfather, Morbier, and she doesn’t completely trust Chloé’s biological father, Malec, who has turned up, seeking to spend time with the baby. Black juggles numerous plot lines with panache and brings to life the charm and grit of Paris. A few nods to old-fashioned capers (Aimée keeps a whole wardrobe of disguises) enhance a mystery as sharp as Aimée’s designer stiletto heels. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Himalayan Codex: An R.J. MacCready Novel

Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch. Morrow, $26.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-241255-3

Schutt and Finch provide a textbook example of how to make the fantastic easy to buy into with their superior second Crichton-esque thriller featuring field zoologist R.J. MacCready (after 2016’s Hell’s Gate). In 1946, Maj. Pat Hendry visits Mac at his offices in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Natural History and shows him jawbones from a dwarf mammoth that suggest the creature had two trunks. Hendry reveals that the bones came from a remote part of Tibet known as the Labyrinth, which may also be the site of an even more amazing discovery—an incomplete codex believed to have been written by Pliny the Elder, which describes the ancient Roman naturalist’s encounter with something in the Labyrinth that could be “the key to shaping life itself.” Mac agrees to travel to the Himalayas to find and recover whatever that something is. Schutt and Finch enhance their suspenseful plot with descriptions of unusual but convincing life forms. An extended author’s note at the end explains that such speculation is grounded in science. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, Gillian MacKenzie Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Templars’ Last Secret: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel

Martin Walker. Knopf, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-101-94680-0

In Walker’s deftly plotted 10th mystery starring St. Denis, France, police chief Benoît “Bruno” Courrèges (after 2016’s Fatal Pursuit), the small-town cop with a knack for stumbling onto big cases rolls into action when an unidentified woman takes a fatal fall from the ramparts of an ancient fortress, apparently before she could finish painting graffiti there that may relate to the medieval order of the Knights Templar. With a Ministry of Justice observer in tow, Bruno displays brisk competence and amiable perceptiveness as he investigates what becomes a murder case. Prehistoric cave art, Crusader tales, and modern Islamic terrorism all figure into the crime, with each getting expository treatment that can be a little labored, even when written crisply. Series fans will happily note Walker’s customary appreciation for local wines, food, and culture, and his bemused explanations of French bureaucracy, though some readers may find the novel’s climax, by the prehistoric painted caves of Lascaux, slightly rushed and overheated. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Felicity Bryan Associates. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Crime Writer

Jill Dawson. Harper Perennial, $15.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-266958-2

When acclaimed suspense writer Patricia Highsmith, the antiheroine of this dreamlike, high-tension novel from Dawson (Lucky Bunny), moves into a Suffolk cottage in 1965, she welcomes the quiet seclusion. She looks forward to working on her new book, collecting snails, and maybe enjoying a weekend with her married lover, Sam Gosforth, who’s “everything I’m not.” Unfortunately, a nosy journalist, who Pat swears she’s met before, pressures her for an interview, and when Sam finally visits, her volatile husband, Gerald, follows in her wake. Pat has always been fascinated by what moves a person to murder, and she applies fierce resolve to the aftermath of a shocking act of violence that would not have been out of place in her novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. Dawson smoothly marries fact with fiction to capture the famously prickly Highsmith while astutely exploring love, obsession, and the myriad shades of darkness within us all. Agent: Caroline Dawnay, United Agents (U.K.). (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Weight of Night

Christine Carbo. Atria, $16 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5623-6

National park police officer Monty Harris and forensic anthropologist Gretchen Larson take turns narrating Carbo’s engrossing third novel set in Montana’s Glacier National Park (after 2016’s Mortal Fall). When a young man with a crushed skull is found buried in the park, Monty and Gretchen set out to ascertain his identity and catch his killer, amid a raging forest fire. They also have to look for a missing 13-year-old boy, Jeremy Corey. Gretchen and Monty are each plagued by ghosts from their pasts: Gretchen, who was institutionalized as a teen in a Norwegian mental facility, suffers from parasomnia, causing her to act out unconsciously while sleepwalking. Her parasomnia recurs the night before the discovery of the young man’s body. The hunt for Jeremy dredges up painful memories for Monty, who had a boyhood friend who similarly disappeared and was never found. The suspense builds as the pair race to stop a monster who apparently keeps victims alive for days before killing them. An intricate plot complements the compelling characters. Agent: Nancy Yost, Nancy Yost Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Knife Creek

Paul Doiron. Minotaur, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-10235-5

Edgar-finalist Doiron’s intelligent eighth mystery featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch (after 2016’s Widowmaker) finds Mike and his girlfriend, Stacey Stevens, in the woods of western Maine, where their job is to kill feral pigs that have migrated into the state and pose a serious environmental threat. To their horror, they discover that one pig has been eating buried human remains belonging to a weeks-old female infant. Mike and Stacey are even more unsettled when they realize that the corpse was likely buried in that specific location in a deliberate attempt to have it consumed by the pigs, eliminating any evidence of its existence. When Mike, who’s hoping for a promotion to investigator, starts looking into who might be responsible for the burial and the possible infanticide, he encounters someone long believed dead and triggers a wave of violence. Doiron maintains a high level of suspense while adding new insights into the character of his complex lead. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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You’ll Never Know, Dear

Hallie Ephron. Morrow, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-247361-5

In this character-driven page-turner from Ephron (Night Night, Sleep Tight), Lis Woodman was seven years old when her four-year-old sister, Janey Woodham, disappeared from their yard in sleepy Bonsecours, S.C. Decades later, what could be the first significant clue finally surfaces—in the form of Janey’s look-alike handmade doll that vanished along with her, one of the first of the highly prized creations that would turn the home workshop of the girls’ mother, known as Miss Sorrel, into a collectors’ mecca. Just hours after the doll’s arrival, the workshop explodes, and most of Miss Sorrel’s doll collection is stolen. With local law enforcement none too interested in investigating, it falls to Lis and her grown daughter, Vanessa, a grad student researching sleep, to hunt for answers—if they dare. Ephron overcomes some plot issues—the story starts slowly and several big surprises in the home stretch prove less than plausible—with her engaging portrait of three generations of bickering, bull-headed, but loving women challenged to become their bravest and best selves. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Wolf on a String

Benjamin Black. Holt, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-62779-517-3

Black (The Black-Eyed Blonde) displays his mastery of yet another mystery subgenre in this brooding, atmospheric whodunit set in 16th-century Prague. Christian Stern, the bastard son of the Prince-Bishop of Regensburg, has arrived in that city in the hopes of winning the favor of Rudolf II, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and obtaining a place among the court’s learned men, such as Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. The first night he spends in Prague, Stern finds Magdalena Kroll—the teenage daughter of Dr. Ulrich Kroll, Rudolf’s physician and “one of his chief wizards”—lying in a snowy street with her throat slit. Initially a suspect, Stern soon becomes the emperor’s designated investigator. In order to discover the truth behind the murder, he must navigate a realm in which no one can be fully trusted. Superior prose (Magdalena’s head rests in a pool of blood, a “black round in which the faint radiance of the heavens faintly glinted”) complements the intricate plot. Black is the pen name of Man Booker Prize–winner John Banville. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Literary Agency (U.K.). (June)

Reviewed on 04/21/2017 | Details & Permalink

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