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The Get

Dietrich Kalteis. ECW, $21.95 trade paper (230p) ISBN 978-1-77041-684-0

In this captivating, irreverent 1960s-set caper from Kalteis (Under an Outlaw Moon), small-time Toronto thugs Lenny Ovitz and Gabe Zoller make their living strong-arming store owners into paying protection money to their boss, Ernie Zimm. Having borrowed $200,000 from a shady boxing promoter to gain partial ownership of several slum tenements, Lenny and Gabe are stuck in the collections racket, evading undercover cops and fighting off rival gangs until they can pay off their debts. Their problems escalate when charismatic police detective Gary Evans tries his hand at seducing Lenny’s estranged wife, Paulina, eager for information that could help bring down Zimm and his crew. Determined to avoid an expensive divorce, Lenny starts planning a heist that will ease his money troubles and get rid of his wife once and for all. Smooth plotting, vivid characters, and sharp dialogue (especially from the rough-edged leads) bolster this darkly comic story, which Kalteis shepherds to a hugely satisfying conclusion. Fans of Elmore Leonard and George Pelecanos will find much to enjoy. (June)

Reviewed on 04/14/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Zero Days

Ruth Ware. Scout, $29.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-9821-5529-2

This too-familiar thriller from Ware (The It Girl) centers on a woman devastated by her husband’s murder and her emergence as the primary suspect. Married couple Jacintha Cross and Gabriel Medway operate Crossways Security, a London firm that stress-tests security systems. After an unsuccessful assignment, Jacintha returns home to find Gabriel’s throat cut. Traumatized, she doesn’t call the police immediately, which pegs her as a person of interest. The situation becomes even worse when the widow gets an email informing her that Gabriel recently insured his own life for a million pounds and named her his beneficiary. Jacintha, who harbors hard feelings about the police after enduring an abusive relationship with a cop, goes on the run while trying to identify who’s behind the killing and why. Lackluster characterization and a shortage of surprises mar the cookie-cutter proceedings. Admirers of the author’s typically fresh takes on thriller staples will hope for a return to form next time. Agent: Eve White, Eve White Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/14/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Not the Ones Dead

Dana Stabenow. Head of Zeus, $29.99 (336) ISBN 978-1-80454-016-9

Stabenow’s satisfying 23rd Kate Shugak mystery (after 2020’s No Fixed Line) once again pits criminal forces against Shugak’s tight-knit Alaskan community. After nine people die in a plane crash, PI Kate and her partner, former state trooper Jim Chopin, investigate reports of drones flying near the crash site. When a journalist gets tipped to the presence of a 10th, unidentified, body, a tangled web of criminality and competing law enforcement interests emerges. Anchorage-based FBI agent James G. Mason shows up, revealing to the local detectives that a group of white supremacists has been operating in town. More digging reveals that another federal agency has been monitoring the group, and that Mason, hoping to avoid a violent showdown, had an agent keeping tabs on the sinister new arrivals. Before long, Kate taps into her rich network of sources and figures out that the unclaimed body is part of a government coverup that won’t allow for an easy resolution. The busy but sturdy plot moves swiftly, and readers new to the series could pick up this entry without missing a beat. It’s a fine addition to the Shugak canon. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/14/2023 | Details & Permalink

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The Endless Vessel

Charles Soule. Harper Perennial, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-304304-6

At the beginning of this hugely entertaining near-future dystopian thriller from comic book writer Soule (Anyone), the Louvre is burning, along with the priceless treasures within. It’s the handiwork of a group called Team Joy Joy, whose mission is to eradicate anything giving people pleasure or hope; objects in their crosshairs include art, food, books, and jobs. Many of its members are afflicted with a malady called The Grey, a clinical depression that manifested in the years after the Covid-19 pandemic and infected 27% of the world’s population. British-born Lily Barnes, a materials engineer living in Hong Kong, uncovers a mysterious piece of technology that may help slow the spread of The Grey, and her quest to uncover its secrets begins a suspense-laden trek across time and space that leads her to a ship harboring all of humanity’s memories and puts the fate of the human race on the line. Rich characters and a full-throttle plot, plus a solid finale, elevate this page-turner. It’s a winner. Agent: Seth Fishman, Gernert Company. (June)

Reviewed on 04/07/2023 | Details & Permalink

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The Good Ones

Polly Stewart. Harper, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-323415-4

In this promising if flawed slice of psychological suspense from Stewart (Wild Girls, as Mary Stuart Atwell), Nicola Bennett remains obsessed with the never-solved disappearance of her high school friend Lauren Ballard 16 years ago—and haunted by the suspicion that she may have made the young woman a target. So when Nicola’s mother’s death brings her back to her Appalachian hometown, the unemployed English professor sets out to solve the mystery herself. Not much has changed in Tyndall County since her teen years, when the protective wings of queen bee Lauren were the only thing keeping Nicola from becoming a total outcast. Except, that is, for the sparks suddenly flying between Nicola and Lauren’s hunky widower, who would have been scrutinized harder by investigators had he not belonged to one of the county’s most prominent families. As Nicola retraces Lauren’s steps in search of clues, it dawns on her that her obsession with Lauren’s case may have more to do with her own self-image than justice for her friend. Stewart doesn’t quite stick the landing after a climactic twist, but her messy, endearing lead and swift pacing make for a mostly thrilling ride. This should please fans of Megan Miranda and Megan Abbott. Agent: Denise Shannon, Denise Shannon Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/07/2023 | Details & Permalink

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The Silent Bride

Shalini Boland. Thomas & Mercer, $16.99 trade paper (322p) ISBN 978-1-66250-708-3

In this inventive psychological thriller from Boland (The Secret Mother), Alice Porter walks down the aisle to marry the love of her life, only to come face to face with a stranger when she reaches the altar. Even more frightening is that her family and friends all insist that this mystery man is, indeed, her fiancé. Shaken, Alice calls off the wedding and sets out to discover the truth about the man everyone claims is her intended. Her increasingly desperate attempts to uncover the truth expose ugly fault lines in her relationships with everyone until, eventually, Alice begins to doubt her own sanity. Just when she’s on the brink of a breakdown, an unlikely savior appears. As the novel gains steam, the twists come at such a dizzying rate that some readers may struggle to keep up, but Boland never fails to keep things exciting. Fans of Lucy Foley should enjoy this surprise-packed ride. (June)

Reviewed on 04/07/2023 | Details & Permalink

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The Man in the Corduroy Suit

James Wolff. Bitter Lemon, $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-913394-84-4

The brilliant final entry in Wolff’s Discipline Files trilogy (after 2021’s How to Betray Your Country) is another clever, twisty treat for espionage fans. Leonard Flood has gained a reputation as a dogged interrogator for MI5, and his skills have brought him to the attention of Charles Remnant, who heads a “secret cadre of officers” known as the Gatekeepers, who, in addition to their official duties, spy on the spies in their own department. Remnant taps Flood to help determine the loyalties of Willa Karlsson, who resigned the previous year after vetting candidates for the spy agency for decades, including Flood himself; she’s been poisoned and is recovering in the hospital. Given a spate of recent episodes that have hit MI5 with what Remnant terms “turbulence,” the officer fears there may be rot inside the service. Flood agrees to probe Karlsson’s activities, which turns up one surprise after another and leaves him questioning the loyalties of more than one colleague. Wolff is particularly good at making his lead, who could have been a colorless figure in lesser hands, sympathetic, and delivers some truly knockout twists. John le Carré admirers will be hungry for more. (June)

Reviewed on 04/07/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Relentless Melt

Jeremy P. Bushnell. Melville House, $17.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-68589-032-2

Bushnell (The Insides) skillfully blends genres in this charming supernatural mystery set in 1909 Boston. Artie Quick, a saleswoman at Filene’s department store, has her heart set on becoming a detective. To that end, she disguises herself as a man and attends an all-male night class on criminal investigation offered by the Boston YMCA. The instructor sees through Quick’s disguise immediately, but agrees to let her stay in the course, and soon she pairs up with her friend Theodore Reed, a student of the occult, to solve a slate of mysteries. First up is a series of unidentified screams near the Boston Common, followed by a woman who narrowly escaped strangulation. Quick and Reed suspect the cases may be related, but have little to go on. They hit a major setback when the YMCA cancels the crime course without explanation, leaving Quick and Reed to wonder if their investigations are being deliberately sabotaged. Quick is a hugely endearing lead, and the solution to the mystery is likely to surprise even seasoned genre fans. This is an off-kilter delight. (June)

Reviewed on 04/07/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Retribution: A Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery

Robert McCaw. Oceanview, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60809-556-8

McCaw’s fifth mystery featuring Hawaiian Police Chief Detective Koa (after 2022’s Treachery Times Two) is a labored misfire. Koa is in the crosshairs of the newly elected Hawaii Island mayor Bobbie Satō . During the mayoral campaign, Koa arrested Satō ’s teenage son, who’d been stalking a former girlfriend, and Koa now fears that he’ll be ousted from his post. His position becomes more fraught after his younger brother, Ikaika, becomes the prime suspect in a fatal stabbing; despite Ikaika’s past history of violence and the presence of his fingerprints on the knife, Koa is certain he’s being framed. Koa intervenes in the inquiry to exonerate Ikaika, a decision that coincides with an attempt on the life of a friend and colleague who may be being targeted by terrorists she tangled with in a prior posting. The excessively busy plot isn’t helped by subpar prose (“Soon, he thought, he would feel the kick of the weapon as it sent revenge hurdling toward the object of his wrath”). Series fans will hope for a return to form next time. Agent: Mel Parker, Mel Parker Books. (June)

Reviewed on 04/07/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Lay Your Body Down

Amy Suiter Clarke. Morrow, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-358-41831-3

In this enthralling psychological thriller from Clarke (Girl, 11), 26-year-old Del Walker, who has been “bouncing around minimum wage jobs” since she graduated college, opens a days-old voicemail from former flame Lars Obam, whom she hasn’t seen in years. His message is cryptic: “I need to talk to you. You... you were right.” A quick internet search turns up news that Lars has died in a hunting accident and the funeral will be held in Del’s hometown of Bower, Minn. Though she vowed never to return home, harboring major resentment toward the cultish local pastor, Del suspects foul play after hearing Lars’s voicemail and knows she must go back to uncover the truth about his death. Del is a dynamic narrator, and Clarke augments her musings with excerpts from her teenage diary and blog posts written by Lars’s wife, in which she presents the teachings of Bower’s sinister pastor. All of this intrigues, though the ending might strike readers as a touch too predictable. Still, this salacious mix of small-town cults and amateur sleuthing is mostly satisfying. Agent: Sharon Pelletier; Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (June)

Reviewed on 04/07/2023 | Details & Permalink

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