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A Pattern of Lies

Charles Todd. Morrow, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-238624-3

A chance encounter in the fall of 1918 lands Bess Crawford in the midst of a disturbing mystery in bestseller Todd’s suspenseful seventh outing for the veteran British nurse (after 2014’s An Unwilling Accomplice). With her hopes high that the slaughter of WWI will end soon, Bess manages to get leave from France to visit her parents. But when she’s stranded in Canterbury waiting for a train, she runs into Maj. Mark Ashton, a former patient. Her pleasure at the unexpected meeting is soon marred by his revelation that his family has been the subject of a sustained whispering campaign. Two years earlier, the family business, a gunpowder factory, exploded, causing more than 100 deaths. Though the official investigation ruled out sabotage, rumor has it that Mark’s father, Philip, was responsible. Even Philip’s arrest doesn’t end the Ashtons’ persecution, and Bess hazards her life to find the truth. The resolution doesn’t match the buildup, but this is a minor shortcoming. Agent: Jane Chelius, Jane Chelius Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Clear by Fire: A Search and Destroy Thriller

Joshua Hood. S&S/Touchstone, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-0571-5

The frequent references to the past make 82nd Airborne veteran Hood’s overly complex debut, an exciting military thriller, read as if it were the second book in the series. Under the guidance of Gen. Winfield “Duke” Cage in his new role as a cabinet secretary, the Department of Defense sets up a secret unit commanded by Colonel Barnes that combines elite fighters from every branch of the American armed services to take on any group that’s deemed a danger to U.S. interests. Meanwhile, Mason Kane, a ruthless Special Forces operator on the run in the Middle East, has to figure out why everyone is trying to kill him, unravel a conspiracy at the highest level, and track down Barnes once the colonel goes off the reservation and launches his own private war. Despite the murky, overstuffed narrative, it’s impossible to take your eyes off Mason, who knows no bounds as he goes about achieving his mission. Fans of this popular subgenre will definitely look forward to Mason’s return. Agent: Bob Diforio, D4EO Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Way of Sorrows: The Angelus Trilogy, Part 3

Jon Steele. Penguin/Blue Rider, $26.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-399-17149-9

Steele wraps up his apocalyptic Angelus trilogy with a bang. As readers know from 2012’s The Watchers and 2013’s Angel City, a war has been raging for the “soul of man” after supernatural beings betrayed their mission to guide humanity in its designated role of caretakers of Earth’s life forms. The beings’ lust for female humans led to breeding with them, which introduced evil into the world. Impressively, Steele balances the high eschatological stakes with humor. For example, Jay Harper, who’s actually a being hiding in the form of a dead man, wonders, “How the hell did we superior creatures of light survive two and a half million years in paradise while spending great swathes of time not knowing what to do next?” Such passages are a welcome respite from the grim narrative, which places the globe on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. Steele also deserves credit for making the complex backstory easy for first-timers to follow. Agent: Georgina Capel, Capel & Land Ltd. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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In a Dark, Dark Wood

Ruth Ware. S&S/Gallery/Scout, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5011-1231-7

At the start of Ware’s solid but somewhat derivative first novel, a psychological thriller, crime writer Leonora Shaw leads a solitary life in London but receives an invitation to Northumberland to celebrate the impending marriage of Clare Cavendish, a friend she hasn’t seen in 10 years. Nora and Clare were once inseparable, but something drove them apart. Nora and her sarcastic school chum, Nina da Souza, another invitee, decide to make the trip to the remote cottage known as the Glass House, the site of the hen party weekend. Flashbacks show Nora in the hospital, where she’s recovering from an accident that she can’t quite recall and wonders whose blood is on her hands. From the catty conversations at the party, secrets from Nora and Clare’s past emerge, particularly relating to Nora’s former love, James Cooper. Ware does a competent job ratcheting up the suspense, but the revelations aren’t as exciting as the buildup. Agent: Eve White, Eve White Literary Agency (U.K.). (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Murderer’s Daughter

Jonathan Kellerman. Ballantine, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-345-54531-2

Many readers will struggle to sympathize with Grace Blades, the protagonist of this standalone with an improbable plot from bestseller Kellerman (Motive), after a flashback opening that shows five-year-old Grace living in a trailer park, neglected by her parents, and forced at a young age to forage. Grace overcame those horrific circumstances and is now, at 34, a highly regarded psychotherapist in L.A. Even though she’s independently wealthy, Grace doesn’t accept insurance or allow her patients to pay on a sliding scale. She has a reckless side, which she indulges in one-night flings with strangers. To her shock, one of those hookups becomes a new patient, Andrew Toner, who traveled from out of state to see her. Soon afterward, he’s found murdered, and Grace turns sleuth after figuring out that he was using an alias. Readers should be prepared for some florid prose (“the ocean to the west a series of gray-cresting waves on black satin, the mountains to the east an endless chocolate bar”). (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Monet Murders

Terry Mort. Pegasus Crime (Norton, dist.), $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60598-697-5

Some readers may find it tough to take someone calling himself Bruno Feldspar seriously—and the fledgling PI using that nom de guerre most decidedly doesn’t, part of the charm of this breezy debut noir set in Tinseltown circa 1934. Though there are, as the title promises, multiple stiffs in this deft blend of art theft, adultery, and Hollywood sleaze, Mort (The Hemingway Patrols) generally keeps the banter-filled proceedings as bubbly as the beverage his handsome protagonist frequent shares with a number of knockouts, notably Garbo-esque Myrtle George, whom he has helped nail a studio contract. The intrigue centers on Bruno’s investigation into the possible switch of an ersatz Monet with the real deal—and, if so, what this might have to do with at least two violent deaths—but much of the novel’s appeal lies in its rogues’ gallery of characters, including raffish British art expert “Bunny” Finch-Hayden and Bruno’s hard-boiled part-time secretary, Della, who also runs an escort service. Readers will hope to see more of Bruno. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident Media. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Mycroft Holmes

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse. Titan (titanbooks.com), $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-783291-53-3

Basketball legend Abdul-Jabbar (On the Shoulders of Giants) makes his triumphant adult fiction debut with an action yarn that fills in the backstory of Sherlock Holmes’s older and smarter brother, Mycroft. In 1870, the 23-year-old Mycroft, who has a reputation as a daredevil, is serving as a secretary at the War Office when word reaches London of a series of unusual deaths in Trinidad. Someone, or some thing, has been killing children and draining their blood. The locals believe the culprits are supernatural beings known as lougarou, who drain children of their blood, and douen, who leave highly unusual footprints near their victims. The tragic news stuns Mycroft’s fiancée, Georgiana Sutton, who immediately sails home to Trinidad. Disobeying her request to stay behind, Mycroft follows Georgiana to Trinidad, where he must exercise his intellect and his innate diplomatic skills to solve the crimes and remain alive. Sherlockians who relish the screen adventures of Cumberbatch and Downey will be particularly entertained. Agent: Deborah Morales, Iconomy. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Dark Reservations

John Fortunato. Minotaur, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-07419-5

In Tony Hillerman Prize–winner Fortunato’s strong but overly complicated first novel, Joe Evers, a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent three months away from forced retirement, catches a cold case that will either sink him to a new low or allow him to escape with a high. In 1988, Arlen Edgerton, a New Mexico congressman; his secretary, Faye Hannaway; and their driver disappeared. Now the remains of their car have turned up on the state’s Navajo reservation. Besides bringing back rumors of corruption and infidelity, the reopened case threatens several powerful people, including Edgerton’s wife, Grace, who’s running for governor, and former Navajo Nation president William Tom, who suspects his much younger third wife of sleeping around. Joe manages to annoy them all in the course of his investigation, even as he contends with his hostile boss, Supervisory Special Agent in Charge Dale Warren, who no longer trusts him. Though Joe must navigate too many trails in his quest for the truth, he proves a resourceful hero. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Married Sex

Jesse Kornbluth. Open Road (openroad-
media.com), $12.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-5040-1125-9

Kornbluth’s debut novel starts off astonishingly smart and sexy but ends a little unevenly. David is a divorce lawyer who has been blissfully married to Blair, a Barnard dean, for over 20 years. Despite continually seeing the worst aspects of marriage, David and Blair keep theirs lively. However, charismatic photographer Jean Coin upends their world when she propositions David to be her lover for six weeks. David adheres to a deal he made with Blair years prior: if an offer came their way, it would have to involve both of them. They have two initial threesomes, but then a shocker muddies the whole situation, causing David to reevaluate his marriage. The eroticism of the mature marriage between David and Blair is intoxicating and delightful—a departure from the sedate, sexless midlife marriages that readers often find in literature. Coin’s appearance, however, signals a return to familiarity in the genre. Coin lacks motivation or depth, appearing merely to be a destructive force in their relationship and not much else. In addition, there are some believability issues with Blair’s motivations. Though some parts feel contrived, readers will appreciate the intimacy of the writing, both in its depiction of marriage as well as the New York City setting. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Uninvited

Cat Winters. Morrow, $14.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06234-733-6

In Winters’s (author of YA novels including In the Shadow of Blackbirds) dark and romantic adult novel, an act of shocking violence encourages a young woman to flee her rural Illinois home amid the influenza outbreak of 1918. When 25-year-old Ivy Rowan’s brother and father commit a terrible act, Ivy, recovering from the flu, flees her home, takes a room in town, and even begins driving an ambulance for the Red Cross. Ivy’s always been able to see spirits (the “uninvited”), and amid so much death and sickness, it seems she’s seeing them at every turn. However, she soon finds refuge in a passionate, forbidden romance, and in a love for jazz, but she wonders if her newfound freedom can last in a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams. The author effectively captures the dangers of the period, and yet Ivy finds bastions of human kindness and acceptance. Her compelling voice carries this gothic coming-of-age story, at once horrifying and tender, toward a revelatory yet hopeful conclusion. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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