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Down the Darkest Street: A Pete Fernandez Mystery

Alex Segura. Polis (PGW, dist.), $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-940610-75-7

At the start of Segura’s muddled sequel to 2013’s Silent City, a drunken Pete Fernandez, former copy editor for the Miami Times, is enduring a thorough beating in an alleyway, and his fortunes only go downhill from there. Life for Pete consists of attending AA meetings, working a part-time job in a used bookstore, and allowing his former fiancée, Emily, to bunk at his house while she works out her problems with her cheating husband, Rick. When Rick pays a call at Pete’s house looking for Emily, Rick asks Pete to tell Emily that a friend of hers, Alice, is missing. Pete and Kathy Bentley, a former newspaper colleague, join forces to search for Alice. In the process, Pete and Kathy learn that other young women have been kidnapped off the Miami streets. Their mutilated corpses are clearly the work of a serial killer, who soon targets both Pete and Emily. Segura offers little in the way of originality in this haphazardly plotted, often clumsily written yarn. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cold Florida: A Foggy Moscowitz Mystery

Phillip DePoy. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8575-3

Set in 1974 in Fry’s Bay, Fla., this appealing first in a new series from Edgar-winner DePoy (December’s Thorn and six other Fever Devlin mysteries) introduces colorful Foggy Moscowitz, who once stole cars in his native Brooklyn. When Nurse Maggie Redhawk tells Foggy, who now works as an investigator for Child Protective Services, that addict Lynette Baker, a new mother, has fled the hospital with her sick baby, who needs medicine to survive, Foggy goes on a successful hunt for the baby. Later, members of the Tribal Council of the Seminole Nation take Lynette and her baby to their swamp. Foggy’s efforts to find the baby bring him into contact with a slew of characters, including Seminole sage John Horse, with competing interests. The baby is the key, and Foggy must figure out why before he can act. DePoy’s lively mix of Seminole history and the wry observations of a “Yankee Jew criminal” make for an amusing tale. Agent: Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary Management. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Killer Reunion: A Savannah Reid Mystery

G.A. McKevett. Kensington, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0078-0

McKevett’s middling 21st Savannah Reid mystery (after 2015’s Killer Gourmet) takes the proprietor of the Midnight Magnolia Detective Agency in San Carmelita, Calif., and her husband, Det. Sgt. Dirk Coulter, to her Georgia hometown for a high school reunion, where it seems everything is frozen in time. Savannah, who had a hard childhood and was often bullied, is itching for some overdue revenge. And it turns out that other members of her class have old scores of their own to settle. Jeanette Parker has not changed her nasty ways and has continued to make new enemies, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when someone decides to get rid of Jeannette once and for all. Savannah, who has a history with Tom Stafford, now the local sheriff, becomes suspect number one. Series fans will gobble up this mix of sorghum syrup and vitriol, but newcomers may struggle to care what happens to the characters, many of whom are too polite to say what they really think about others. Agent: Richard Curtis, Richard Curtis Associates. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Dodgers

Bill Beverly. Crown, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-101-90373-5

Beverly (On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America) makes his fiction debut with a dazzling crime novel that’s equal parts coming-of-age tale à la Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and travelogue à la Kerouac. East, a 15-year old gang member from South L.A., sets out for Wisconsin with three other teenage boys at the behest of his uncle, on a mission to kill a key witness in an upcoming trial. Along for the ride is East’s brother, Ty, an emotionless killer at 13. The revelations experienced by the young men as they drive cross-country through America’s heartland are life changing, and in some cases, life ending. The narrative is simultaneously coldhearted and lyrical. For example, the dark, abandoned houses in a neighborhood known as the Boxes are described as “a row of loose teeth,” and planes flash “like blades” in the morning sky. Readers won’t soon forget East and his bloody journey of self-discovery and, ultimately, salvation. Agent: Alia Hanna Habib, McCormick & Williams. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Girl from Home

Adam Mitzner. S&S/Gallery, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-476-76428-3

Manhattan hedge fund manager Jonathan Caine has it all—a multimillion-dollar condo, a trophy wife, and a summer rental in the Hamptons—in this gripping thriller from Mitzner (Losing Faith). When Caine’s part in a scandalous securities-fraud causes him to lose all the trappings of the good life, he returns to his hometown of East Carlisle, N.J., to care for his sick father and attend his 25th high school reunion. Caine quickly sparks an affair with former prom queen Jackie Williams, who has been living a nightmare with her drunk and abusive husband, Rick, while trying to protect her two children from him. The question becomes how much Caine has reformed, and how far he is willing to go to protect the person he cares for most. An unlikable character throughout much of the book, Caine manages to prove redemption is possible by the end. This inside look at underhanded Wall Street dealings dramatically explores the things that matter most. Agent: Scott Miller, Trident Media Group. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Letter Writer

Dan Fesperman. Knopf, $26.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-87506-3

North Carolina police detective Woodrow Cain, the hero of this intelligent, if flawed, thriller, must overcome his provincial ways and navigate the corrupt, racist world of big-city law enforcement on his arrival in New York City in 1942. His first case, what appears to be a simple murder of a man found dead in the Hudson River, quickly leads Cain to an uncomfortable discovery: patriotic zeal has led the NYPD and the city’s crime bosses to enter into a tacit understanding to work together to cleanse the city of troublesome immigrants. Fesperman (Unmanned) shows a skilled hand at creating the detail of wartime New York—the vitality of the German Yorkville section, the hysteria following the bombing of the luxury liner the Normandie, the influence of mobster Meyer Lansky. Unfortunately, the plot splinters in several directions and never delivers on its initial promise. Still, the likable and well-drawn Cain will go over well with readers, especially those fond of historicals. Agent: Jane Chelius, Jane Chelius Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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King Maybe: A Junior Bender Mystery

Timothy Hallinan. Soho Crime, $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-61695-432-1

In Edgar-finalist Hallinan’s darkly comic fifth Junior Bender mystery (after 2014’s Herbie’s Game), the endearing Los Angeles burglar is faced with his biggest existential crisis yet. His enigmatic girlfriend, Ronnie Bigelow, has left him; a malicious girl is picking on his estranged teenage daughter; and everyone he knows seemingly wants him dead. Meanwhile, a down-and-out movie producer manipulates Bender into breaking into a mansion owned by Jeremy Granger (aka King Maybe), who many view as the “most powerful person in Hollywood.” When Bender is caught red-handed, King Maybe offers him a way out of his predicament—but the quick-witted thief realizes too late that he has been carefully set-up to take the fall for a much more nefarious crime. Powered by Hallinan’s smart and sardonic narrative voice (a young actress is described as an “emaciated, Giacometti sculpture of tendons, tension, and teeth”), this brisk romp through the Hollywood Hills reads like a novel half its length: an undeniable page-turner. Agent: Bob Mecoy, Bob Mecoy Literary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Most Wanted

Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-01013-1

Christine and Marcus Nilsson, the Connecticut couple at the heart of this uneven standalone from bestseller Scottoline (Every Fifteen Minutes), have decided to use a sperm-bank donor after three years struggling to have a baby. No. 3319’s identity is anonymous, but, like many donors, he submitted two photographs—one as a child, one as an adult. While on early leave from her job as an elementary school teacher, pregnant Christine becomes convinced that the donor is Zachary Jeffcoat, who’s being called “the Nurse Murderer” in a TV newscast after his arrest. Christine begins her own investigation to determine if the biological father of her child is a serial killer, even if it puts her life and her marriage at risk. The plot is strongest when focusing on the trials of a couple desperate for a child and the psychological ramifications of using a sperm donor. But too often the story sinks to the melodramatic, unredeemed by Scottoline’s usual verve for character. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Literary Agency. Author tour; 400,000-copy first printing. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Close Your Eyes

Michael Robotham. LB/Mulholland, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-26794-6

In Robotham’s gripping 10th thriller featuring British psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and retired detective Vincent Ruiz (after 2014’s Watching You), brusque Det. Chief Supt. Veronica Cray wants Joe’s opinion on the murders of Elizabeth Crowe and her university-bound daughter, Harper, in their West Country home. Elizabeth’s death was from a frenzied knife attack, while Harper was asphyxiated in her bed and laid out like Sleeping Beauty. Joe is dismayed to learn that another psychologist has already leapt in to offer his so-called expertise on the case. Calling himself “the Mindhunter,” Milo Coleman, a former graduate student of Joe’s, is more stage performer than asset, jeopardizing the investigation at every turn by revealing key details to a public salivating for answers. Joe and Vincent dig into Elizabeth’s background and discover her predilection for unconventional sexual exploits, even before more bodies start turning up. Robotham’s tightly plotted whodunit meshes beautifully with a truly emotional family saga involving Joe’s former wife, Julianne. Agent: Richard Pine, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Family Jewels

Stuart Woods. Putnam, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-17469-8

At the start of bestseller Woods’s breezy 37th Stone Barrington novel (after Scandalous Behavior), wealthy divorcee Carrie Fiske hires the New York City detective turned attorney to dissuade her ex-husband, Harvey Biggers, from stalking her and to remove Biggers from her will. Stone tasks his associate, former boxer Fred Flicker, with the first assignment, and he accepts Carrie’s invitation for a weekend of business and pleasure in the Hamptons so that he might undertake the second. Stone revises the document, but barely has time to sample his lobster salad before discovering a dead body with ties to Biggers. He’s soon embroiled in a mystery that involves a priceless object with cultural and historical significance. Tony trappings, colorful characters, and a magnificent McGuffin provide ample distraction from the occasional dangling plot thread and the implausible ease and frequency with which Stone lands lucrative cases and beds beautiful women. Dry-witted dialogue keeps the tone light and drives this glossy, modern take on the classic detective story. Author tour. Agent: Anne Sibbald, Janklow & Nesbit. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/05/2016 | Details & Permalink

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