A Cast of Vultures

Judith Flanders. Minotaur, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-08782-9

Near the start of Flanders’s engaging if convoluted third novel featuring London book editor Samantha Clair (after 2016’s A Bed of Scorpions), Sam agrees to help an elderly friend, Viv, locate a missing neighbor of Viv’s, Dennis Harefield. Days after she and Viv break into Dennis’s flat, his body is discovered in an abandoned building that caught fire and was home to a group of squatters. When the police accuse the dead man of arson and drug dealing, Sam resolves to help Viv prove his innocence, disregarding the concerns of her boyfriend, police detective Jake Field. Claire’s quest soon puts her in jeopardy. Flanders adroitly avoids chick-lit clichés, opting for nuanced, multidimensional characters, including Sam’s high-powered attorney mother, Helena, and her reclusive upstairs neighbor, Mr. Rudiger. Insights into the fraught culture of publishing, where editors balance publicity demands with interference by corporate management consultants who refer to books as “product,” lend interest. Readers will look forward to seeing more of smart, successful, self-deprecating Sam. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)