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Strong to the Bone: A Caitlin Strong Novel

Jon Land. Forge, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8464-5

Thriller Award–finalist Land’s epic ninth novel featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong (after 2016’s Strong Cold Dead) offers a double-barreled dose of Strongs: in 1944, Caitlin’s grandfather Earl Strong, also a Texas Ranger, looks into three murders at a German POW camp in Texas; in the present, DNA evidence from an Austin crime scene indicates that the man who raped Caitlin 18 years earlier is still at large. Meanwhile, Dylan Masters, the son of Caitlin’s lover, Cort Wesley Masters, has the misfortune to get on the wrong side of Ryan Fisker, the son of Armand Fisker, who deals in drugs on an international scale. Fortunately, clairvoyant warrior Guillermo Paz shows up at opportune times to save Dylan from the bad guys. Readers won’t be too surprised to learn that Caitlin and Cort are battling the same evils that Earl and others sought to destroy in the 1940s. Texas Rangers enjoy almost mythic status, and Land unapologetically celebrates their heroism in the exploits of Caitlin and her kin. Agent: Natalia Aponte, Natalia Aponte Literary Agency. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Chained: A Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery

Eileen Brady. Poisoned Pen, $26.95 (282p) ISBN 978-1-4642-0955-0

The discovery of the remains of Flynn Keegan, who everyone in Oak Falls, N.Y., assumed left for Hollywood after graduating from high school a decade earlier, propels Brady’s well-crafted third Kate Turner mystery (after 2015’s Unleashed). Someone evidently killed Flynn and buried him in the woods. Since Kate has plenty on her plate, she stays out of the investigation until Flynn’s family asks for her help and she starts chatting up pet owners about Flynn during client visits. Some recount tales of an earnest young man with big dreams, others are reticent to discuss the past, and a few are only too happy to gossip about the teen and his effect on the town’s ladies. As Kate’s digging turns up more secrets and long-buried lies, she has too many suspects and too little evidence. But when a high school classmate of Flynn’s is murdered, Kate knows she’s both perilously close to the truth and in grave danger. Brady keeps the suspense high through the surprising ending. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Ninth Grave: A Fabian Risk Novel

Stefan Ahnhem, trans. from the Swedish by Paul Norlen. Minotaur, $28.99 (608p) ISBN 978-1-250-10320-8

The prologue of Ahnhem’s scathing second Fabian Risk novel (after 2016’s Victim Without a Face) recounts how a letter written by a dying Palestinian held prisoner in Israel in 1999 got mailed to a woman in Sweden. Flash forward to 2009, when the Swedish minister of justice disappears one day outside the parliament building in Stockholm. Risk’s boss orders the sympathetically drawn policeman, who’s plagued by conflicts between his job and his marriage, to undertake a secret search for the missing minister. Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, Dunja Hougaard, an edgy Danish homicide detective, probes the vicious murder of the wife of a popular TV star. Excerpts from the Palestinian prisoner’s letter point to the horrendous truth behind this and subsequent brutal slayings. In the end, Risk and Hougaard arrive at an interlocking solution to their respective investigations, and Ahnhem exposes the greed and corruption at the highest levels of society and government. Fans of Scandinavian noir won’t want to miss this disturbing thriller. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Operator Down: A Pike Logan Thriller

Brad Taylor. Dutton, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-1-10198-481-9

Bestseller Taylor excels at quality action scenes, but getting there can be a chore, as in his complicated 12th Pike Logan thriller (after 2016’s Ring of Fire). What starts as a surveillance job for Pike, pal Knuckles, and sidekick and love interest Jennifer—all members of the extralegal counterterrorism group known as Taskforce—takes a deadly turn after a coup in the African kingdom of Lesotho. Diamonds are involved, as is an arms dealer who’s bartering trigger components for nuclear devices to pay for the coup. Meanwhile, Pike’s Israeli spy friend, Aaron Bergmann, gets captured and needs to be rescued. Aaron’s girlfriend, cold-blooded assassin Shoshana, is always entertaining, as she can be counted on to kill, in the most horrific manner, anyone who gets in her way or threatens her beloved Aaron. Pike has been partially tamed by Jennifer, but he’s still happy to go off reservation when needed, much to the dismay of his Taskforce boss—and much to the delight of series fans, who are sure to relish this entry, despite the slow spots. Agent: John Talbot, Talbot Fortune. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Strangers

Ursula Archer and Arno Strobel, trans. from the German by Jamie Searle Romanelli and Stefan Scholtz. Minotaur, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-11306-1

At the start of this propulsive thriller set near Munich from Archer (Five) and Strobel (The Flood), Australian heiress Joanna Berrigan finds a stranger in her living room. She orders him to leave, but he insists that he’s her fiancé, Erik Thieben, and that they live together. Erik follows Jo upstairs to make his case and discovers that all trace of him is gone from their house. Jo believes that Erik is either a crazy stalker or a gaslighting con artist. Erik suspects that Jo is either insane or trying to ghost him. A mutual friend confirms the couple’s engagement and cohabitation, but then why can’t Joanna remember Erik—and where are his belongings? Distrust and paranoia abound, but when deadly accidents start plaguing the pair, they must join forces to uncover the truth while fighting to survive. Nuanced characters, a complex plot, and a skillfully woven alternating narrative drive the story toward a denouement that shocks, but is too convoluted to fully satisfy. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Bomb Maker

Thomas Perry. Mysterious, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2748-8

An unnamed bomber wreaks havoc in this exciting if frustrating thriller from bestseller Perry (The Old Man). When a large cache of explosives blows up under a Los Angeles house, killing the 14 members of the LAPD Bomb Squad at the scene, Dick Stahl, a former bomb squad captain, takes over the squad on a temporary basis. On his first day, Stahl and his team must deal with an intricate car bomb, which he leads them in disarming. That evening, Sgt. Diane Hines, who drove Stahl to the site of the car bomb, arrives at his condo, where the two begin a relationship that grows over the course of the book. The detailed descriptions of the bomb maker’s devices and Stahl’s methods to disarm them are fascinating, but Perry puts considerably less effort into developing his characters. Stahl is annoyingly perfect, and his subordinates, who never attain his expertise, suffer in their careers as a consequence. The motives of the bomb maker and his mysterious backers remain vague. Still, action junkies will be rewarded. Agent: Mel Berger, WME. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Don’t Look for Me

Mason Cross. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-68177-628-6

British author Cross’s uneven fourth thriller featuring former black ops manhunter Carter Blake (after 2016’s The Time to Kill) finds him leading a carefree existence on Louisiana’s Grand Isle. In Summerlin, Nev., novelist Sarah Blackwell reports a late-night break-in at the house of her neighbors, Dominic and Rebecca Smith. Sarah hasn’t seen the couple in weeks, and when the police do nothing, she goes next door, where she retrieves a notebook containing Blake’s email address below a note saying “break glass in case of emergency.” Sarah emails Blake, and soon the two team up to track down Rebecca, whom he knew as Carol Langford, his former lover who disappeared six years earlier. Meanwhile, a contract killer closes in on Dominic, who has gone his own way. Blake eventually uncovers connections between the couple and a jewel heist in which millions of dollars in diamonds were stolen. He and the hit man inevitably collide with bloody consequences. Cross keeps the tension high, but the characters are largely two-dimensional and emotionally unengaging, and the real thrills are few and far between. Agent: Luigi Bonomi, LBA (U.K.). (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Need to Know

Karen Cleveland. Ballantine, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9702-7

Former CIA analyst Cleveland’s assured if thinly plotted debut is an unusual mix of family drama and spy thriller. The narrator, CIA analyst Vivian, is part of a team in the Counterintelligence Center, Russia Division, that’s searching for agents running sleeper cells in the U.S. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her four young children and doting husband. Flashbacks chart the couple’s courtship, then their lives as hyperbusy young parents, delving deeply into maternal and marital love. When Vivian isn’t fretting about her family, she’s trying to extricate herself from a colossal treasonous mess that results from a startling discovery that she makes in the course of her research. The deep backstory may attract readers not usually drawn to espionage novels, but thriller fans who like tradecraft and action will have to look elsewhere. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Mitford Murders

Jessica Fellowes. Minotaur, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-250-17078-1

The members of the real-life Mitford family figure prominently in British author Fellowes’s appealing fiction debut (after The World of Downton Abbey, about the hit TV show created by her uncle, Julian Fellowes), which explores the tensions between upstairs and downstairs in an upper-class household. On Christmas Eve, 1919, impoverished Louisa Cannon, who has just come close to picking a man’s pocket on a London street, runs into a friend she hasn’t seen in years, who’s accompanied by the eldest of the six Mitford sisters, Nancy. This chance encounter leads Louisa to a position as a nursemaid at Asthall Manor, the Mitfords’ estate in Oxfordshire. Meanwhile, real-life Florence Nightingale Shore (Florence Nightingale’s god-daughter), who served as a nurse during WWI, is fatally bludgeoned on a train between London and Brighton. Guy Sullivan, a railway policeman eager to earn his family’s respect in spite of the humble nature of his duties, gets involved in the search for Florence’s killer, as does Louisa after she learns that the dead woman had a connection to her new employers. The fairly clued solution makes for a satisfying ending. Agent: Caroline Michel, Peters Fraser and Dunlop (U.K.). (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Night Market

Jonathan Moore. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-544-67189-8

Moore (The Dark Room) sets this outstanding SF noir in a near-future San Francisco, where ocean current changes have made the rain nearly continuous, electric cars prowl the streets, and disposable LED postcard ads seduce the citizenry. When SFPD Det. Ross Carver and his partner, Cleve Jenner, answer a late-night summons to an expensive home, they find something odd: a man’s body “that looked like gray moss. Like a carpet of it spread across a rot-shrunken log.” Hazmat-suited FBI agents take over the crime scene and send the two to a portable decontamination unit. Ross awakens in his bed days later with his mysterious neighbor, the beautiful Mia Westcott, attending to him. He has no memory of that night, only the sense that something is wrong and a lingering metallic scent to guide him. Moore smoothly fills Carver’s quest for the truth with equal parts hidden menace and outright strangeness. This mystery feels like Blade Runner as if it were written by Charles De Lint or Neil Gaiman. Agent: Alice Martell, Martell Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/20/2017 | Details & Permalink

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