cover image Prayer


Philip Kerr. Putnam, $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-399-16765-2

Edgar-finalist Kerr takes a break from his Bernie Gunther PI series (Prague Fatale, etc.) with this provocative standalone set mainly in present-day Texas. Houston FBI agent Gil Martins usually handles domestic terrorism, but he can’t resist pursuing a case involving the deaths of several prominent atheists around the country in circumstances that seem to rule out foul play, but that also don’t accord with accident or suicide. Martins, who has lost his Catholic faith, faces an uphill battle, persuading his bosses to authorize his probe, but once he’s done so, he finds himself drawn into a complex mystery with highly personal implications. Meanwhile, a serial killer nicknamed St. Peter is targeting do-gooders. Despite references to The Turn of the Screw, the plot owes more to ghost-story writer M.R. James than to Henry. Evocative phrasing (“Dawn crept up onto the edge of the horizon like a thin trail of blood seeping slowly through a dull gray blanket”) is another plus in this exceptional thriller. Agent: Caradoc King, A.P. Watt (U.K.). (May)