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In Want of a Knife: A Little Library Mystery

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli. Crooked Lane, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-68331-737-1

The death of 17-year-old Janice Root in an apparent hit-and-run on a road outside Bear Falls, Minn., propels Buzzelli’s unconvincing third Little Library mystery (after 2017’s She Stopped for Death). Janice, who helped her family sell peaches at the family fruit stand, was found wearing an odd, old-fashioned dress. When 16-year-old Camille Otis, another innocent girl, disappears soon afterward, people worry that Cammy, too, may be dead. Local author Zoe Zola, who’s writing a literary study of Jane Austen; Zoe’s neighbors Dora Weston and Dora’s daughter, Jenny Weston; and Jenny’s sometime boyfriend, Tony Ralenti, join forces to follow Cammy’s trail and to learn whether her disappearance and Janice’s death are connected. Meanwhile, a rich man from Chicago offers to give Bear Falls substantial funds to endow anything of their choosing, setting off a frenzy among the town’s residents. Series fans may enjoy the literary allusions, but others will be dismayed that certain characters act in ways that undermine their credibility and that the Jane Austen subplot has no relevance to the main action. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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I Will Never Leave You

S.M. Thayer. Thomas & Mercer, $24.95 (348p) ISBN 978-1-5039-5167-9

Laurel Bloom, one of the three narrators of the pseudonymous Thayer’s engrossing debut, should be deliriously happy after giving birth to a daughter, Anne Elise, but she isn’t. Patricia “Trish” Wainsborough, an heiress descended from four generations of prominent Washington, D.C., bankers, wants the baby, who’s the daughter of Trish’s husband, James. On the day of Anne Elise’s birth, James brings Trish to Laurel’s hospital room, hopeful that when she sees the baby, Trish will give James a divorce so he can marry Laurel, his mistress. Instead, Trish holds a prenuptial agreement over James that stipulates that if he leaves the marriage, or even threatens to, he will give up any claim to her fortune. Having become used to their luxurious lifestyle, James knows it’s unlikely he’ll deliver the divorce he promised Laurel. The suspense rises as the three employ various machinations to achieve each of their respective goals. The twist and turns of the plot make this a fascinating psychological thriller. Agent: Rick Pascocello, Glass Literary Management. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Golden Havana Night: A Sherlock Homie Adventure

Manuel Ramos. Arte Público, $17.95 trade paper (198p) ISBN 978-1-55885-867-1

Cuban émigré Joaquin “Kino” Machaco, a star outfielder for the Colorado Rockies, needs the help of Agustin “Gus” Corral in Ramos’s uninspired third mystery featuring the Denver, Colo., ex-con turned PI (after 2016’s My Bad: A Mile High Noir). Kino’s brother, Alberto, who lives with him and has a gambling problem, owes money to a bad guy in Cuba: entrepreneur Miguel “Hoochie” Almeida. Hoochie is possibly threatening the brothers and their sister, Lourdes Rivera, back in Cuba. Gus agrees to go to Cuba with Alberto and 500 grand in cash to try to resolve the problem. Soon after Gus’s arrival in Havana, where he connects with Lourdes, a series of violent attacks that leaves one dead makes him realize that his job wasn’t just about delivering the money. Trouble follows him back to Colorado. An unengaging subplot involving a search for a crooked cop distracts from the main story line. Ramos spins a dark if sometimes muddled tale of confused loyalties and shocking betrayals, and the subtitle will mislead readers expecting anything related to Sherlock Holmes. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery

James R. Benn. Soho Crime, $26.95 (360p) ISBN 978-1-61695-849-7

Set in the summer of 1944, Benn’s exceptional 13th mystery featuring U.S. Army investigator Billy Boyle (after 2017’s The Devouring) takes Boyle to Normandy, where Maj. David Jerome, the commanding officer of a signals company, has been found with his throat slit in a villa. A glass near the body with morphine residue at the bottom indicates to Boyle that the murderer spiked the major’s drink to lessen his resistance. Oddly, troops from Jerome’s company who were at the crime scene when Boyle arrived don’t hang around to be questioned—and Boyle must also account for the presence of 20-year-old Yvonne Virot, a mute woman living in the villa, whose clothing is drenched with blood. Complicating Billy’s task are a morally suspect Resistance leader and the villa’s owner, whose code name in the Resistance—Corday—evokes the excesses of the French Revolution. Details about ways to deceive the enemy about Allied army strength lend verisimilitude. Benn has never been better at integrating a whodunit plot line with a realistic depiction of life on or near the battlefield. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Ashes of Victory

Joe Weber, with R.J. Pineiro. Ignition, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-937868-67-3

A mysterious terrorist organization targets U.S. naval forces in this exciting military action thriller from bestseller Weber (Defcon One) and Pineiro (The Fall). Shortly after the USS Harry S. Truman leaves its berth in Norfolk, Va., an explosive-loaded DC-9 deliberately crashes into the Nimitz-class carrier. Later, in Singapore, the USS John C. Stennis, another Nimitz-class carrier, is badly crippled by a torpedo fired from a stealth submarine lurking off the Changi Naval Base. Other strikes follow. An enraged U.S. president, Cord Macklin, orders attacks on terrorist camps, but no one knows who’s behind the attacks. The prologue introduces readers to one perpetrator, Gen. Deng Xiangsui, the supreme commander of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, who has sworn revenge on the U.S. after being shot down over the Taiwan Strait in 1958. The authors touch on all the usual military thriller tropes, but it’s their technical expertise, meticulous descriptions of weaponry, and intense battle scenes that will enthrall genre fans. Agent: Andrew Zack, Zack Co. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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#Fashionvictim

Amina Akhtar. Crooked Lane, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-68331-834-7

Akhtar’s gleefully bloodthirsty debut sends up the mean girls of the New York fashion industry. Anya St. Clair, whose buzzing, intrusive thoughts lead to violent urges toward anyone who disrespects her, has grown from troubled child to unacceptably chubby style editor at fashion magazine La Vie. Obsessed with becoming the BFF of her perfect, blonde coworker, Sarah Taft, Anya is willing to use everything at her disposal—mood boards, spy software, planted evidence, or elimination of the competition—to suck up to Sarah or bring the woman down, whichever works. When Anya and Sarah become rivals for a promotion, Anya starts making increasingly unrealistic choices. Akhtar’s decision to bring in a detective as a romantic interest only highlights the implausibility of Anya being on the loose. This dark novel has the energy of Heathers gone 20-something and corporate, but its creatively staged revenge murders aren’t enough to carry a story marred by shallow stereotypes and an inability to sell its protagonist as simultaneously psychopathic and relatable. Agent: Deborah Schneider, ICM. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Cross Her Heart

Sarah Pinborough. Morrow, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-285679-1

Plot twists take precedence over psychological depth in this uninspired thriller from British author Pinborough (Behind Her Eyes). Single mother Lisa Buckridge, who works for a small recruiting company and lives in fear of someone from her past, devotes herself to her 16-year-old daughter, Ava. In turn, Ava feels smothered by her mother’s monitoring of her life and keeps from Lisa both her decision to lose her virginity to a casual boyfriend—and her obsession with a man she’s only communicated with online. The dark history that Lisa was covering up ends up exposed after Ava, a gifted swimmer, rescues a toddler who fell into a river at a fair in Elleston, England. In her relief at Ava’s safety, Lisa forgets to shield her face from a newspaper photographer, and the published picture leads to a revelation that shatters her connection with Ava. By pulling more than one plot punch, Pinborough weakens the impact of a story line that lacks the originality of her best work, the Thomas Bond novels. Agent: Veronique Baxter, David Higham Associates (U.K.). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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When the Lights Go Out

Mary Kubica. Park Row, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7783-3078-3

Jessie Sloane, the chief narrator of this lackluster psychological thriller from bestseller Kubica (Every Last Lie), spends her teen years caring for her mother, Eden, until Eden dies from cancer at their home in Chicago. Numb with grief, insomniac Jessie tries to get on with her life by applying to a community college, but a college official informs her that her Social Security number belongs to a girl who died 17 years earlier. Jessie never knew who her father was, nor does she have a birth certificate or a driver’s license, so trying to find her identity seems insurmountable. As Jessie’s insomnia worsens, she makes one bad decision after another. Flashbacks from Eden’s viewpoint show that she and her husband, Aaron, were loving newlyweds, but their marriage soured when Eden became consumed with having a baby. Jessie’s inability to tell reality from illusion quickly becomes tiresome, as does Eden and Aaron’s story. Eden’s account plods to a disappointing finale. Kubica fans will hope for a return to form next time. Agent: Rachael Dillon Fried, Greenburger Assoc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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A Forgotten Place: A Bess Crawford Mystery

Charles Todd. Morrow, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-267882-9

WWI has finally ended in Mary Higgins Clark Award–winner Todd’s memorable 10th mystery featuring British nurse Bess Crawford (after 2017’s A Casualty of War). Despite the conclusion of the fighting, Bess still has plenty of soldiers to tend to at a hospital in France—in particular, a group of Welsh soldiers, whose serious injuries make their future employment doubtful. When she’s reassigned to a clinic back in England, Bess is reunited with the Welshmen, only to find several of them suicidal. Following their discharge, their leader, Capt. Hugh Williams, writes to inform her that one of the privates took his own life, and to ask for help to avert future suicides. She uses some leave to seek Williams out, ending up in a desolate and isolated town on the Welsh coast, where he’s suspected of his own brother’s murder. His warning that it’s not safe for Bess to remain there proves prescient. The atmosphere of the claustrophobic community Bess is trapped in is palpable as Todd (the mother-and-son writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd) expertly ratchets up the suspense. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, DeFiore & Co. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Depth of Winter

Craig Johnson. Viking, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-52247-8

Bestseller Johnson’s harrowing 14th mystery featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire (after 2016’s The Western Star) takes the Wyoming lawman to Mexico, where ruthless killer Tomás Bidarte holds Walt’s grown daughter, Cady, captive in a remote mountain compound in the middle of the Chihuahua desert. The six-foot-four Walt faces formidable obstacles in rescuing Cady, not least being his attention-drawing size. Fortunately, one of his allies on this suicidal mission, a blind man known as the Seer, thinks to pass him off as real-life retired NFL star Bob Lilly, a ruse that works for a while. Once Walt and his team arrive at the compound, the trouble really begins. The tension lets up only intermittently as Walt lurches from one dire situation to another. Humorous asides and witty dialogue provide welcome relief from the often grim circumstances in which Walt finds himself, including a stint in the stocks during a Day of the Dead celebration and the climactic confrontation with Bidarte, who plays matador to Walt’s bull. Johnson is in fine form. Author tour. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/20/2018 | Details & Permalink

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