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Look Behind You

Iris and Roy Johansen. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-07598-7

In Johansen and son’s winning fifth Kendra Michaels novel (after 2016’s Night Watch), FBI special agent Roland Metcalf visits Kendra, a music therapist with heightened senses, at her San Diego, Calif., studio, to ask for her help with an investigation into a series of bizarre killings. Special agent Gina Carson, Roland’s arrogant partner, is skeptical of Kendra’s qualifications, until Kendra, who was blind for many years before surgery restored her eyesight, demonstrates her amazing powers by deducing personal information about Gina. After Kendra gets on board, former FBI agent Adam Lynch, who has partnered with her on previous cases, comes to San Diego. Adam acts as Kendra’s protector as the sexual tension between the two of them grows and Kendra gets closer to discovering the identity of a vicious killer who seems to know her every move. A long list of well-developed suspects makes this one of the more complex and satisfying entries in this bestselling romantic suspense series. Agent: Andrea Cirillo, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Library of Light and Shadow

M.J. Rose. Atria, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7812-9

Set in 1925 New York City, bestseller Rose’s engaging third paranormal novel featuring the Duplessi family (after 2016’s The Secret Language of Stones) focuses on artist Delphine Duplessi, who was blinded as a child but had her sight restored by “magick.” That magick enables Delphine to paint portraits of people while wearing a blindfold. It also gives her the “ability not just to see people for who they were but also to see the secrets they harbored.” During a party at a Manhattan penthouse, Delphine paints Clara Schiff, the wife of wealthy bootlegger Nick Schiff, but the completed picture is scandalous, depicting a naked Clara, “half woman, half beast,” being worshipped by a creature, “half man, half beast,” whose face resembles that of Nick’s brother, Monty. Since Monty had an affair with Nick’s first wife, Delphine’s reveal of Clara’s secret naturally inflames her husband and results in a death. Rose makes the guilt Delphine suffers palpable, and the supernatural blends smoothly with the realistic action. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Part of the Silence

Debbie Howells. Kensington, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0691-1

The discovery of a young woman beaten and left for dead on a farm in Cornwall drives this complex, confusing psychological thriller from British author Howells (The Beauty of the End). When the victim, whose name is Evie Sherman or maybe Jen Russell, wakes up, she has amnesia. All she remembers is that she has a three-year-old daughter whom no one can find any trace of. Meanwhile, Charlotte Harrison recognizes Evie’s picture in the paper and agrees to help the police by talking to the girlhood friend she remembers as Jen. But Jen, sedated in her hospital bed, shows no sign of recognizing Charlotte. The police investigation inevitably leads to a very cold case: the disappearance and presumed death years before of a small girl whom Jen was babysitting. When the body of an errant teen runaway turns up, it’s not clear how, or even if, it’s related. Readers are likely to guess one of the big surprises long before the less-than-satisfying end. Agent: Juliet Mushens, Agency Group (U.K.). (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Lying Game

Ruth Ware. Scout, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5600-7

When Isa Wilde, the narrator of this engrossing psychological thriller from bestseller Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10), gets a text—“I need you”—from old friend Kate Atagon, she knows she must drop everything in London and go to Salten, a town on England’s south coast, where the two attended Salten House, a cut-rate boarding school. Doctor Fatima Qureshy and casino dealer Thea West, who also attended Salten House, receive the same message. At school, the four girls perfected what they called the Lying Game, with myriad rules and intricate scoring. An incident that caused the girls to leave before their senior year looms large as Isa, Fatima, and Thea gather at the house where Kate has always lived with her father, Salten’s art master. Kate informs the group about a riverbank discovery—a human bone—that could unravel the foursome’s 17-year pact of silence. Alternating between the past and present, Ware builds up a rock-solid cast of intriguing characters and spins a mystery that will keep readers turning pages to the end. Agent: Eve White, Eve White Literary Agency (U.K.). (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Third Nero: A Flavia Alba Novel

Lindsey Davis. Minotaur, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-07891-9

Davis has never been better at using actual political turmoil in the service of a page-turning plot than in her fifth novel set in first-century Rome featuring freelance investigator Flavia Alba (after 2016’s The Graveyard of the Hesperides). On the day of Flavia’s wedding to Tiberius Manlius Faustus, “a sweet and serious person,” a lightning strike seriously injures Tiberius and kills three other men. As Flavia contemplates adapting to a new and unwelcome reality with a bedridden husband, bureaucrat Claudius Philippus approaches her with an extremely sensitive assignment: Emperor Domitian, who’s notorious for having perceived enemies executed without hesitation, has recently ordered the deaths of two provincial governors. Both men may have supported another governor who attempted to wrest the throne away from Domitian, and Philippus asks Flavia to find proof that the emperor’s suspicions are warranted. Meanwhile, three pretenders passing themselves off as the resurrected Nero threaten Domitian as well. Davis successfully maintains a high level of tension throughout. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Smack

Richard Lange. Mulholland, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-32762-6

Career con artist Rowan Petty has run out of luck in this gritty, poignant crime novel from Hammett Prize–winner Lange (Angel Baby). Living out of a hotel in Reno, Nev., Petty is down to his last five grand and trying to stay afloat working various phone scams for chump change. When an older criminal colleague approaches Petty with a story he heard in prison about $2 million in stolen army money smuggled out of Afghanistan into L.A., Petty is just desperate enough to take the bait. Accompanied by a down-on-her-luck prostitute who calls herself Tinafey, Petty heads to California. Things get complicated and violent quickly, as Petty discovers that he isn’t the only one looking for the stolen cash. Meanwhile, he makes contact with his estranged daughter, whose life has taken a difficult turn. Lange is a master at writing about characters on the margins of society and humanizing outcasts and misfits, and he manages to capture the surreal culture of Los Angeles in all its contradictory glory. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Game of Ghosts: A Charlie Parker Thriller

John Connolly. Atria/Bestler, $26.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7189-5

Connolly smoothly integrates moments of humor into the terrifying plot of his fine 15th supernatural thriller featuring Maine PI Charlie Parker (after 2016’s A Time of Torment). Parker partners with a shadowy FBI agent, Edgar Ross, to locate “individuals who had made a pact, either knowingly or not, with servants of an old evil.” The nature of this pact forms an ominous backdrop to the main action: Parker becomes suspicious when Ross asks him to track down a fellow Maine gumshoe, Jaycob Eklund, who went missing five days earlier. Like Parker, Eklund was an occasional consultant for the FBI. Though Parker is convinced that Ross is lying about the work Eklund was doing, he agrees to look for the PI. On top of all that, he’s threatened with the loss of custody of his grade-school-age daughter, Sam, after she survived an abduction ordeal. That plot line complements, rather than distracts from, the fraught search for Eklund. Agent: Darley Anderson, Darley Anderson Literary (U.K.). (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Lies We Tell

Theresa Schwegel. Minotaur, $25.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-00178-8

In this nuanced, thought-provoking crime novel from Edgar-winner Schwegel (The Good Boy), Chicago cop Gina Simonetti struggles to hide her multiple sclerosis from her department. If her disease is revealed, she fears losing her job as well as her ability to care for toddler Isabel, her addict brother’s child. She’s raising Isabel alone because her feckless ex, Tom Sheridan, bailed when Gina got her diagnosis. After an altercation with Johnny Marble—who’s suspected of assaulting his frail mother, among others—leaves Gina in the hospital and risks exposing her diagnosis, she becomes torn between the hunt for Johnny and her fear of being called to testify against him, which will require confessing the reason for her physical weakness. Eventually, Gina uncovers a deeper web of exploitation stretching far beyond domestic abuse. Schwegel fleshes out a slow-burning plot with compelling portraiture as she addresses larger questions about the nexus of profitability and care among society’s most vulnerable. Agent: David Hale Smith, Inkwell Management. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Final Girls

Riley Sager. Dutton, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-101-98536-6

Quincy “Quinn” Carpenter, the heroine of Sager’s uneven thriller debut, and five college friends spend a weekend in the Pennsylvania woods at the remote Pine Cottage, where a knife-wielding maniac kills everyone but her. She is only spared because Officer Cooper (“Coop”) shoots the culprit. Quinn, who remembers no details, isn’t the only lone survivor of such a massacre around the same time: Lisa Milner survives a sorority house attack, and Samantha Boyd fights off a motel killer. Lisa is the only one of the three who embraces the media’s “final girl” label—a trope familiar to horror movie buffs, referring to the girl who survives the bloodbath—and even writes a book about her experience. Quinn wants nothing to do with her fellow “girls,” and 10 years later has settled down in Manhattan with a boyfriend, a baking blog, and lots of Xanax. Then Coop shows up and tells Quinn that Lisa is dead, and the nightmare starts anew. Sager does a good job building suspense, but some readers may find the book’s themes of casual male power and female subservience after trauma deeply unsettling. Agent: Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Cold Hearted River: A Sean Stranahan Mystery

Keith McCafferty. Viking, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-42960-9

In McCafferty’s intriguing sixth Sean Stranahan mystery (after 2016’s Buffalo Jump Blues), the Montana fishing guide helps his ex-girlfriend, Sheriff Martha Ettinger, retrieve Frieda Toliver’s belongings from the ridge where she died during a surprise snowstorm. Among Frieda’s effects is an old fly-fishing wallet bearing the initials “EH.” Patrick Willoughby of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club identifies the contents as an obscure three-fly cast favored by Ernest Hemingway—an odd coincidence, given that someone recently offered to sell Patrick a collection of Hemingway’s fishing tackle. Sean and Patrick go to appraise the gear and instead find the corpse of Frieda’s stepbrother. Sean’s efforts to locate the missing memorabilia and determine its provenance unearth tales of a stolen steamer trunk containing not just Hemingway’s rods and reels but also an unpublished short story. McCafferty writes about fly-fishing, Hemingway, and the American West with obvious affection and authority. Colorful characters and forbidding locales complement the book’s central puzzle, which has surprising real-life roots. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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