cover image Rumors of Her Death

Rumors of Her Death

J.M. Donellan. Poisoned Pen, $16.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-7282-7311-2

Donellan (Killing Adonis) gets readers to root for an unsavory lead in this funny, off-kilter thriller. American con man Archie Leach (one of his many pseudonyms) wakes up one morning handcuffed to a hospital bed in Australia with faint memories of a recent car accident. Addled by pain meds, he struggles to remember the alias he’s currently using and whether he should speak in an English accent. He soon learns he’s been confined to his hospital bed by the police, who are interested in the contents of a package he was transporting for underworld boss Sammy Saklas. After Archie manages to escape the hospital, Saklas informs him that the cargo has been lost, leaving Archie on the hook for millions of dollars. Desperate to find the funds and save his life, Archie strikes up a friendship with his neighbor, Nisha, who claims she may be able to help. Before long, however, Archie realizes Nisha might be just as big a liar as he is. The brisk plotting is enhanced by Archie’s well-developed inner emotional life and Donellan’s wry prose (one of Saklas’s thugs has “one of those classically Australian monikers that sounds like a normal name after a run-in with a combine harvester”). Timothy Hallinan fans will be gratified. Agent: Cindy Bullard, Birch Literary. (Sept.)