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The Fifth Reflection: A Dot Meyerhoff Mystery

Ellen Kirschman. Oceanview, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-60809-250-5

At the outset of Kirschman’s loosely plotted, angst-filled third outing for consulting psychologist Dot Meyerhoff (after 2015’s The Right Wrong Thing), police chief Pence, of the Kenilworth (Calif.) PD, appoints Manuel Ochoa, a dedicated young officer, to the county’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Dot is concerned that Manny may not be ready for this difficult job. Meanwhile, JoAnn “JJ” Juliette, a photographer whose art consists of provocative and controversial nude pictures of her own children, asks her photography student Frank, Dot’s fiancé, for help when her two-year-old daughter, Chrissy, goes missing. The police, led by Manny, investigate Chrissy’s father, a wealthy venture capitalist, and his wife, as well as JJ and known pedophiles. When Chrissy’s body is found, the pressure increases on everyone. Using her skills as a psychologist and then as amateur sleuth, Dot unmasks a surprising but unlikely team of bad guys. Agent: Cynthia Zigmund, Second City Publishing. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Ruined Stones

Eric Reed. Poisoned Pen, $15.95 trade paper (234p) ISBN 978-1-4642-0834-8

Set during WWII, this sequel to 2016’s The Guardian Stones from Reed (the joint pseudonym of Eric Mayer and Mary Reed) lacks the interesting characters and plotting that have been consistent hallmarks of their John, the Lord Chamberlain series (Murder in Megara, etc.). Grace Baxter, a village constable’s daughter now serving in the women’s branch of the British Army, has arrived in Newcastle to assist a force that’s shorthanded due to the war. On her first day on the job, Grace looks into the death of an unidentified woman who apparently hit her head against an altar in the ruins of a Roman temple. Grace’s superior officer believes that the victim probably tripped in the dark, but Grace is intrigued that the body appears to have been posed to simulate a swastika. Grace, “a country woman, one filled by her grandmother with folk wisdom,” recognizes the arrangement of the woman’s limbs, the direction reversed from the familiar Nazi design, as a symbol of good fortune. Other authors have done a better job of setting murder mysteries during wartime. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Vector

James Abel. Berkley, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-58366-7

The pseudonymous Abel’s feverish fourth Joe Rush biothriller (after 2016’s Cold Silence) takes the former Marine medical officer and Eddie Nakamura, his partner and best friend since college, to Brazil, where they investigate resistant strains of malaria and, at the behest of the FBI, look for signs of bioterrorist activity in the Amazonian jungle. Unfortunately, Eddie contracts a virulent strain of the disease and is kidnapped by the mysterious Dr. Cardozo. With the aid of Capt. Izabel Santo of the Brazilian Federal Police, who’s working undercover as a freelance photographer, Rush rescues his friend and discovers that Cardozo has delivered specially bred mosquitos infected with a new deadly malarial parasite to Tom Fargo in the United States. A homegrown terrorist, Fargo starts dispersing the deadly insects in New York City, spreading disease and panic. Abel imbues Fargo with just enough humanity to make his fanaticism all the more chilling. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Thousand Cuts

Thomas Mogford. Bloomsbury, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-63286-845-9

Brisk pacing and sharply rendered characters help offset the overly convoluted plot of Mogford’s fifth novel featuring Gibraltarian lawyer Spike Sanguinetti (after 2015’s Sleeping Dogs). After he agrees to represent Christopher Massetti, an alcoholic old man, in a harassment case, the complainant—Dr. Eloise Capurro—is killed in a fire. When another woman tangentially connected to the case turns up dead, Sanguinetti begins finding connections between Massetti and an explosion that killed two naval engineers on the Royal Navy dockyard in Gibraltar during WWII. The saboteur, revolutionary Esteban Reyes, was executed, but the revelation that he was Massetti’s father forces Sanguinetti to look carefully at the specifics of the 1940 act of terrorism, and he soon finds a conspiracy that implicates some of Gibraltar’s most influential families. Complicating matters for Sanguinetti are a pregnant fiancée and a morally bankrupt business partner. The superficial exploration of these personal dynamics, however, makes for an emotionally flat read. Agent: Nicola Barr, Greene & Heaton (U.K.). (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Hack

Christopher Brookmyre. Atlantic Monthly, $25 (432p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2694-8

In Brookmyre’s overly technical eighth Jack Parlabane thriller (after 2016’s Black Widow), the Scottish journalist is lucky to land an interview with the online magazine Broadwave, whose editors are eager to milk his connections to an infamous hacker known as Buzzkill. Bucking hacking stereotypes, Buzzkill is a 19-year-old black Londoner named Samantha Morpeth who’s juggling caring for her younger sister with Down syndrome—while their mother is in prison—and attending college. All that changes when she’s blackmailed, following a group hack of a major bank, by a figure identified only as Zodiac, who instructs her to steal a flashy new product from a big-name tech company or else be exposed for her role as one of the Uninvited (think Anonymous). Sam turns to Jack for help, though their connection is frustratingly tenuous for too much of the narrative. Brookmyre excels when he focuses on human relationships, but too often he gets bogged down in the minutiae of carrying out a hack. Agent: Dan Mandel, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Painted Queen

Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess. Morrow, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-208351-7

The long-running series by MWA Grand Master Peters (1927–2013) featuring forthright Amelia Peabody Emerson and her irascible archeologist husband, Radcliffe Emerson, comes full circle with this energetic final novel completed by Hess, Peters’s friend and fellow mystery author. In 1912, the Emersons revisit Amarna, the setting of the first Peabody book, 1975’s Crocodile on the Sandbank; Egypt’s Service des Antiquités director Maspero is worried about the disappearance of German archeologist Morgenstern from the excavation there. Peabody soon locates Morgenstern in Cairo, but his erratic behavior and ties to forgers of a priceless likeness of famed queen Nefertiti disturb her. Efforts to locate the original artifact are complicated by attempts on Peabody’s life by men wearing monocles, an interlude with a melodramatic romance novelist, and the reappearances of the Emerson family’s nemesis, Sethos. Although fans may be a bit disappointed by some unresolved questions (such as Peters’s hints of a connection between the Peabody and Vicky Bliss series), the Emerson clan takes a fitting final bow as the curtain falls on a pioneering career. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Two Nights

Kathy Reichs. Bantam, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-345-54407-0

Sunday Night, the star of this fast-paced series launch from bestseller Reichs (Speaking in Bones and 17 other Temperance Brennan forensic thrillers), retreats to isolated Goat Island near Charleston, S.C., after an injury ends her police career. As a child, she barely escaped from a cult that claimed her mother’s life. Concerned about her well-being, her former foster father, cop Perry “Beau” Beaumonde, entices her out of seclusion by asking her to look for a teenage girl whose wealthy grandmother believes she was kidnapped by a cult. Sunday enlists her twin brother, August (“Gus”), in a search that leads to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., in pursuit of homegrown terrorists. Reichs sacrifices character development for unrelenting action, but Brennan fans should appreciate Sunday—a self-sufficient, tough-talking, scarred heroine—and the unquestioningly loyal, quietly lethal Gus. An explosive finale at the Kentucky Derby seems designed for the big screen. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph-Walsh, William Morris Endeavor. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Devil’s Muse

Bill Loehfelm. FSG/Crichton, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-27977-6

Loehfelm’s low-key fifth novel featuring New Orleans beat cop Maureen Coughlin (after 2016’s Let the Devil Out) finds the native New Yorker and rookie patrol officer working her first Mardi Gras. She has just pulled an emaciated man wearing nothing but hot pink zebra-print tights off the hood of an SUV. He’s obviously under the influence of a powerful hallucinogen, but when gunshots ring out nearby, Coughlin pushes through the crowds to find multiple people injured. Shortly thereafter, she’s notified that the junkie in the tights has died. In the chaotic hours that follow, Coughlin maneuvers through drunken revelers, an annoying street-level journalist with her own camera crew, and warring gang members to connect the mysteries of the shooting and the overdose. Fans of police procedurals will enjoy the grittiness of the narrative, but the relatively easy crime solving and the lack of any substantial character progression make this outing a bit formulaic. Agent: Barney Karpfinger, Karpfinger Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Blame

Jeff Abbott. Grand Central, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4555-5843-8

In this engrossing standalone from Thriller Award–winner Abbott (The First Order), a car crash in Austin, Tex., steals 17-year-old Jane Norton’s memory and kills her best friend’s boyfriend, David Hall. Investigators find Jane’s suicide note at the scene, turning sympathy for the survivor into blame. Jane can’t imagine intentionally wrecking her vehicle, let alone doing so with David as a passenger, but since she can’t remember the last three years, she’s unable to offer an alternative explanation. Two years later, when “Liv Danger” posts a message online claiming to know what really happened that night and pledging vengeance, the guilt-ridden Jane assumes it’s a cruel joke—until someone starts targeting those connected with the crash. The closer Jane comes to unlocking her memories and unmasking Liv Danger, the more certain she becomes that everyone in her life is conspiring to rewrite history and hide the truth. One soapy and superfluous subplot aside, this is an emotionally complex tale replete with finely drawn characters, shocking twists, and convincing red herrings. Agent: Peter Ginsberg, Curtis Brown. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Don’t Close Your Eyes

Holly Seddon. Ballantine, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-101-88589-5

A trio of compelling, if damaged, characters—and the traumatic events that scarred them—at times threaten to swamp this smartly plotted psychological thriller from British author Seddon (Try Not to Breathe). The story centers on yin-and-yang fraternal twins Sarah and Robin Marshall, as well as Callum Granger, the shy, sensitive classmate who becomes their de facto stepbrother after the two sets of parents permanently trade partners—heedless of the children’s best interests—ultimately shattering both families. Seddon skillfully pieces together the now-estranged twins’ lives by shifting narrators and time frames between the fraught past and the precarious present, which finds Robin, formerly lead guitarist for a popular rock band, the agoraphobic prisoner of her Manchester home, and a desperate Sarah plotting how to get back into the life of a three-year-old girl she cares deeply about. Plenty of last-minute bombshells await, but a number of disturbing revelations somewhat deaden their impact. Agent: Jenny Bent, Bent Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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