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Taking Pity

David Mark. Penguin/Blue Rider, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-16821-5

In Mark’s excellent fourth novel featuring Det. Sgt. Aector McAvoy of the Humberside Police, McAvoy’s boss, Det. Supt. Trish Pharaoh, feels the pressure from London to eliminate the powerful Headhunters, the group responsible for the attack in 2014’s Sorrow Bound that injured McAvoy’s wife and daughter and forced them into hiding. Meanwhile, McAvoy is tasked with reviewing a decades-old case the Home Office is concerned could be appealed. Since 1966 it’s been assumed that Peter Coles, considered mentally unfit for trial, murdered four members of the Winn family in cold blood on their farm; Coles confessed and has been locked away in psychiatric institutions. After sifting through the minimal evidence, McAvoy notices enough discrepancies to question the official version. McAvoy and Pharaoh make unsettling connections between the still-lethal 81-year-old Francis Nock, who’s one of the area’s last criminals to rebuff the Headhunters, and the Winn murders. Mark weaves a complicated web of deception, betrayal, and violence as the action builds to a stunning conclusion. Agent: Oli Munson, A.M. Heath (U.K.). (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Clandestine: A St.-Cyr and Kohler Mystery

J. Robert Janes. Open Road/MysteriousPress.com, $14.99 trade paper (268p) ISBN 978-1-5040-0934-8

As shown in the absorbing 16th St.-Cyr and Kohler mystery (after 2014’s Carnival), Janes continues to address how “the everyday common crimes of murder, arson and the like” were investigated during the Nazi occupation of France. In 1943, Det. Insp. Hermann Kohler, a decent man who works for the German police, and Louis St.-Cyr, of the Sûreté, find themselves near the ruins of a monastery northeast of Paris dealing with a double homicide. René Deniard, the driver of an armored bank van, and his assistant, Raymond Paquette, were gunned down in the course of an unusual robbery. The killer or killers took small bills and the identity papers from the victims, but they left behind the large denominations, as well as a treasure trove of such luxury items as champagne and truffles. The presence nearby of some expensive high heels adds to the mystery. As in the best historical whodunits, the effective insertion of minor details (starving French and Germans ate “roof rabbits,” the euphemism used for cats) goes a long way to bringing the reader into the story. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Somebody I Used to Know

David Bell. NAL, $15 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-451-47420-9

At the start of this satisfying thriller set in a small Ohio college town from Bell (The Forgotten Girl), housing authority caseworker Nick Hansen spots a young woman in a grocery store who bears a startling resemblance to Marissa Minor, the love of his life, who died 20 years earlier at age 20 in a house fire. When Nick approaches her, she flees. The next day the police question him. The woman Nick saw, 20-year-old Emily Joy Russell, has been murdered, and in her pocket was a paper with his name and address on it. In the course of trying to find out about Emily and why she had been looking for him, Nick uncovers heartbreaking crimes from the past. Insights provided by a number of people close to him, including his ex-wife, Gina, force Nick to reevaluate his relationship with Marissa. Distinctive characters and a smartly crafted plot lift this well above the genre average. Author tour. Agent: Laney Katz Becker, Lippincott, Massie, McQuilkin Literary Agents. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Royal Assassin

Kate Parker. Berkley Prime Crime, $15 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-425-26662-5

In Parker’s frothy third Victorian Bookshop mystery (after 2014’s The Counterfeit Lady), London bookseller Georgia Fenchurch, a leading light of the Archivist Society (a covert group “dedicated to getting justice for people when the police fail”), gets ample opportunity to spend time with her dream man, the Duke of Blackford, and help the British Empire. The Russian bodyguard of Princess Kira, a Romanov engaged to be married to a cousin of Queen Victoria, has been murdered, and the British government authorities fear that Kira will be next. Georgia goes undercover as Kira’s secretary and soon learns that her charge is guarding some secrets very tightly. A subplot concerning the man Georgia holds responsible for her parents’ murder somewhat distracts, as do plot contrivances that function purely to put people’s lives in jeopardy. Smart pacing and a hefty dose of chaste romance may be enough for most cozy readers. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyons Literary Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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House Rivals

Mike Lawson. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2360-2

In the prologue of Lawson’s workmanlike 10th Joe DeMarco thriller (after 2014’s House Reckoning), three men assault Sarah Johnson, a muckraking blogger who’s trying to expose corruption in Montana and North and South Dakota, late one night behind a restaurant. One of her attackers delivers a chilling warning—next time “we’ll tie you naked to a tree and leave you for the wolves”—before letting her go. Wealthy Leonard Curtis, an independent natural gas driller, has set his dogs on Sarah: a pair of down-market fixers, Marjorie Dawkins and Bill Logan, who hired the assailants. Sarah’s grandfather calls on an old friend for help, House Minority Leader John Fitzpatrick Mahoney, who’s DeMarco’s employer and “as corrupt as any congressman on Capitol Hill.” Sent west to deal with the problem, DeMarco comes to admire Sarah’s resolve and crusade. This is a decent, though familiar, story—the individual pitted against big business and the state—and Lawson spells out every plot point and emotion along the way. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Swede

Robert Karjel, trans. from the Swedish by Nancy Pick and Robert Karjel. Harper, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-233958-4

Early in Karjel’s English-language debut, a superior thriller set mostly in 2008, Ernst Grip, a member of Sweden’s security police, joins forces with FBI officer Shauna Friedman in New York City. The pair fly to Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean, where Grip’s job is to interview a prisoner, another Swede, who has been tortured for years. Meanwhile, in a subplot set in the wake of the 2004 tsunami that devastated Thailand, a survivor of the disaster known only as N. travels to an isolated beach community where he befriends several other survivors; they fall under the influence of a mysterious American, Bill Adderloy, who persuades them to commit a highly complicated crime that’s to take place in Topeka, Kans. Grip strives to ferret out the details of the impending crime and N.’s part in it. Filled with rich characterization and unforeseeable twists and revelations, this mesmerizing first in a planned series will leave readers gasping for breath. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Broken Promise

Linwood Barclay. NAL, $25.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-451-47267-0

Promise Falls, N.Y., is a less salacious but deadlier version of Peyton Place in this engrossing smalltown thriller from Arthur Ellis Award–winner Barclay (No Safe House). Reporter David Harwood, recently returned to town, visits his emotionally fragile cousin Marla Pickens, who lost her baby girl during birth 10 months earlier. Harwood is startled to find her caring for a 10-month-old baby boy, brought to her, Marla claims, by an angel. Meanwhile, Det. Barry Duckworth of the Promise Falls PD has multiple (and strange) crimes to contend with, including an especially ugly murder. Marla’s newly acquired baby is at the heart of the mystery, but as Duckworth and Harwood pursue their separate investigations, secrets held by everyone from Harwood’s parents and Marla’s mother to hospital administrator Agnes Pickens and sleazy former mayor Randall Finley are exposed. Linwood’s adept characterizations and knack for unsettling twists make this a surefire bestseller. Author tour. Agent: Helen Heller, Helen Heller Agency (Canada). (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Naked Eye

Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-02054-3

In bestseller Johansen and son’s exciting third novel featuring Kendra Michaels (after 2014’s Sight Unseen), Kendra, a law-enforcement consultant whose senses of smell and hearing are extraordinarily acute, believes that serial killer Eric Colby is still alive, even though he was supposedly executed by lethal injection at California’s San Quentin State Prison months earlier. Meanwhile, San Diego reporter Sheila Hunter, who’s eager to interview Kendra, runs a newspaper story that supports Kendra’s theory about Colby. Dismayed that Sheila’s story has tipped off Colby, Kendra agrees to talk to the reporter. Just hours after their meeting, Sheila turns up dead, hanging from the mast of a house boat in a local marina. The MO suggests that Colby could be the killer. Beth, the sister of Eve Duncan (the star of Iris Johansen’s main series), joins Kendra in a thrilling race against time to stop a killer who seems to follow Kendra’s every move. Agent: Andrea Cirillo, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Bones of You

Debbie Howells. Kensington, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61773-766-4

In British author Howells’s suspenseful and poignant debut, horse-loving 18-year-old Rosie Anderson goes missing and a few days later is found stabbed to death in the woods, much to the shock of the residents of her well-to-do Sussex community. People want to believe that Rosie’s killer was a stranger, someone who committed a crime of opportunity. Kate McKay, a horse-loving neighbor who has a daughter Rosie’s age, attempts to comfort Rosie’s bereft mother, Jo. Also devastated are Jo’s husband, Neal, who’s a famous journalist, and their younger daughter, Delphine. The how and the why of Rosie’s murder slowly unfolds across the dual narratives of Rosie, who, in death, looks over a family life that was far from perfect, and Kate, who’s battling her own demons. Savvy mystery fans will identify the culprit before the big reveal, but the increasingly tense storytelling and astute observations on mother-daughter relationships will keep readers turning the pages. Agent: Juliet Mushens, Agency Group (U.K.). (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Hostile Takeover: A John Lago Thriller

Shane Kuhn. Simon & Schuster, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4767-9618-5

When newlywed hit man John Lago and his former nemesis, Alice, cap their bespoke Manhattan nuptials by bumping off their boss at Human Resources Inc.—a boutique contract assassination firm with the genius MO of getting killers close to otherwise inaccessible targets by placing them as interns—the couple expect some blowback. But nothing even their exquisitely twisted imaginations can conjure comes remotely close to the smoke and mirrors scenario that unfolds in this sardonically funny and psychologically astute sequel to Kuhn’s debut, 2014’s The Intern’s Handbook. Nor does anything prepare the sizzling hot duo, now partnering uneasily as co-CEOs of the thriving HR Inc., for the marathon mayhem that ensues once their bone-deep distrust turns them back into each other’s deadliest enemies. Though character soon takes a back seat to the inspired multiplex-ready execution scenarios of the bullet-train plot, readers ready for a cartoonishly enjoyable adventure shouldn’t mind a bit. Agent: Hannah Brown Gordon, Foundry Literary + Media. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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