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Just Watch Me

Jeff Lindsay. Dutton, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-524-74394-9

This terrific series launch from bestseller Lindsay (Darkly Dreaming Dexter) opens with master thief Riley Wolfe, an antihero Dexter fans will relish, using a helicopter to steal a 12-ton statue in broad daylight during its installation ceremony in Chicago. Wolfe also abducts the honoree, a greedy pharmaceutical mogul who developed a cancer treatment he only sells for $500,000 a dose, before pushing him to his death from the aircraft. After that act of vigilante justice, Wolfe seeks “a heist that was beyond impossible, something ridiculous, unthinkable, stupid, totally out of the question,” and finds one after learning that the Iranian crown jewels are scheduled to be exhibited at Manhattan’s Eberhardt Museum. He sets his sights on the exhibit’s prize, the Ocean of Light, a diamond valued at more than $15 billion, despite the formidable array of security, both electronic and human. His crafty multistep plan is a pleasure to watch unfold, and Lindsay deepens his lead with the revelation that Wolfe is capable of killing without any pretense of a moral justification. Fans of the Ocean’s Eleven film franchise will be eager for more. Author tour. Agent: Nick Ellison, Nicholas Ellison Agency. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/04/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Empty Bed

Nina Sadowsky. Ballantine, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-61987-1

In Sadowsky’s entertaining sequel to 2018’s The Burial Society, British investment firm CEO Forrest “Holly” Holcomb asks his ex-lover, Catherine , who heads an organization that helps people disappear, to look into a situation in Hong Kong, where Holly’s employee Peter Lombard recently took his wife, Eva, on an anniversary vacation. Peter woke up in their hotel room one morning to an empty bed and Eva gone without a trace. Catherine sends two of her best agents, the spunky Stephanie Regaldo and the no-nonsense Jake Burrows, to Hong Kong to track the missing woman. Alternating narratives build suspense as it’s revealed that Eva and Peter’s marriage is anything but happy, and, despite fears that Eva was being followed, she may have disappeared voluntarily. Stephanie and Jake’s search takes them through a variety of colorful Hong Kong locales, from seedy brothels to sophisticated cybercafés. A subplot involving an FBI agent’s attempts to locate a wealthy businessman’s missing wife and son seems superfluous, but hints at a story line for next time. Readers will look forward to the third installment. Agent: Emma Sweeney, Emma Sweeney Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/04/2019 | Details & Permalink

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36 Righteous Men

Steven Pressfield. Norton, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-324-00289-5

Set in 2034, when global warming has pushed humankind to the brink of extinction, this un-put-downable apocalyptic thriller from Pressfield (The Profession) is steeped in Jewish eschatology—specifically the legend of the Thirty-Six Righteous Men, whose existence justifies the purpose of humankind in the eyes of God and prevents God from destroying the entire race. But when a serial killer begins murdering the Righteous, New York City police detectives James Manning and Covina “Dewey” Duwai set out to stop the killer before he triggers an end-of-the-world event of biblical proportions. While many narrative elements are noteworthy—the character depth, the powerful political and social commentary, the nonstop action, the breakneck pacing—it’s the author’s meticulously described and alarmingly realistic near-future Earth that will chill readers to their core. This dystopian cautionary tale stands as Pressfield’s most ambitious work to date. Agent: Sterling Lord, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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No Good Deed: A Sam Dawson Mystery

Steven W. Horn. Granite Peak, $29 (388p) ISBN 978-0-9991248-1-9

Horn’s entertaining fourth mystery featuring photographer Sam Dawson (after 2017’s When They Were Young) makes the most out of its clever concept—a search for vindication by the descendant of a wrongfully executed man. Dawson is still scarred by the loss of his lover, Annie, to a serial killer, but he takes a shine to lawyer Cricket McMurdy, who had ambitions of being appointed to the Supreme Court, until she was saddled with a family secret passed down for decades that led to her moving back home to Wyoming and starting an investigation into the execution of the real-life Tom Horn, who was charged with murdering a 14-year-old boy and hanged. Snippets of what that secret entailed are revealed through old newspaper clippings and flashbacks to 1903, when a teacher was accused of perjuring herself in defending Horn. Dawson joins Cricket’s crusade to clear her great-grandfather’s name, despite opposition from the powers that be, even going so far as to engage in some illegal grave-digging. Fans of mysteries with a Western setting, such as the Longmire series, will be satisfied. (Self-published.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Lost Are the Last to Die: A Sonny Burton Novel

Larry D. Sweazy. Five Star, $25.95 (332p) ISBN 978-1-43285-724-0

In Sweazy’s lackluster sequel to 2016’s A Thousand Falling Crows, it’s 1934 and former Texas Ranger Sonny Burton is adjusting to losing his arm after a gun battle with Bonnie and Clyde. Aware of his expertise, the Rangers call on Sonny to track down Billy Bunson, who has escaped from prison, where Sonny put him for life, and taken the warden’s pregnant wife, Dolly Rickart, hostage. Bunson wants to trade Dolly for his incarcerated girlfriend, Donna Del Ray, who was caught aiding him during his escape. Having crossed paths with the fugitive over the years, Sonny knows Billy is as duplicitous as he is dangerous. Aided by his Texas Ranger son, Jesse, Sonny has to react fast to keep up with Billy. Spanning 25 years, the narrative alternates between Sonny and Billy’s respective backstories and the present-day chase. Insufficient context for the two men’s occasionally overlapping pasts and thin characterizations limit this frontier mystery’s appeal. Readers might want to check out Sweazy’s Marjorie Trumaine series instead. Agent: Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Catered New Year’s Eve: A Mystery with Recipes

Isis Crawford. Kensington, $26 (312p) ISBN 978-1-4967-1499-2

Crawford’s convoluted 15th mystery with recipes (after 2018’s A Catered Cat Wedding) opens with Ada Sinclair, a distant relative of Bernie and Libby Simmons, owners of their late mother’s café in Longely, N.Y., inviting the sisters to cater a New Year’s Eve party. Bernie hopes that Ada’s outreach signals an end to a long-standing family feud, even after the sisters’ father, retired cop Sean Simmons, warns them that the Sinclairs are the very definition of dysfunction. Ada has discovered a notebook that she believes proves her father’s death 10 years earlier was murder, and she intends to present her evidence at midnight and reveal the killer. But the party ends abruptly when a guest collapses and dies after being pricked by a needle embedded in her Christmas popper. Fearing she’ll be framed for murder, Ada flees. Bernie and Libby determine to uncover the truth, and thus ensues a quagmire of activity involving secret meetings, car chases, breaking and entering, and endless banter between the two sisters. Established fans will best appreciate this one. Agent: Evan Marshall, Evan Marshall Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Forgiveness Dies: A Trevor Galloway Thriller

J.J. Hensley. Down & Out, $16.95 trade paper (234p) ISBN 978-1-64396-038-8

Hensley’s solid third Trevor Galloway thriller (after 2018’s Record Scratch) finds the former Pittsburgh narcotics officer and unlicensed PI back in the real world after three years in a psychiatric facility. Still on medications and prone to hallucinations, Galloway feels ill prepared to take on any kind of investigation. Nonetheless, when Nick Van Metre, a former Secret Service agent he used to know, asks Galloway to look into a possible threat to an up-and-coming presidential candidate, Galloway is interested. After Van Metre’s body is fished out of the Allegheny River, Galloway is committed to discovering the truth, if only his psychosis will let him recognize it once he’s found it. Though the plot may cover familiar territory, it moves forward at a steady clip toward a satisfying resolution. Galloway, with all his delusions and uncertain perceptions of what is or isn’t real around him, is an appealing and sympathetic hero with all the swagger of a Phillip Marlowe. He’s supported by an eclectic cast of characters, both real and imagined. Detective fiction fans will look forward to his further adventures. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Bottle of Rum: A Spider John Mystery

Steve Goble. Seventh Street, $15.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-645060-03-1

In Goble’s superior third early-18th-century mystery featuring Spider John Rush (after 2018’s The Devil’s Wind), Spider and Odin, his friend and former shipmate, are trying to leave their law-breaking days behind them while evading agents of the British Admiralty, which seeks to hang them for piracy. The pair take refuge in a Lymington tavern, whose owner, Thomas Bonnymeade, seems content to leave all the work to his wife, Agatha. One night, after serving dinner, Agatha goes upstairs. When she cries “Murder!,” Spider and Odin, as wanted men, are hesitant to investigate, but when no else will, they go upstairs, where they find Thomas stabbed to death. To his dismay, Spider recognizes the knife sticking out of the dead man’s neck as the property of a young friend of his. Despite the risks of getting involved, Spider sets out with Odin to bring the killer to justice. In a nice twist, the motive is more significant than whodunit. The combination of swashbuckling and deductions remains a winning one. Agent: Evan Marshall, Evan Marshall Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Hounds of the Basket Stitch

Anne Canadeo. Kensington, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0865-6

At the start of Canadeo’s gentle 11th Black Sheep and Company mystery (after 2018’s Purls and Poison), yarn shop owner Maggie Messina and her band of avid knitters visit the Plum Harbor, Mass., home of sisters Holly and Rose Piper, who are eager to learn some basic stitches. Fifteen years earlier, the sisters were involved in a car accident, and Rose, who was 14 at the time, suffered a head trauma that left “a large part of her personality... frozen in adolescence.” In recent months, though, Rose has made progress. When Emily Curtis, one of the doctors treating Rose, dies, the police assume Emily accidentally overdosed on drugs or committed suicide. Suspecting murder, Maggie once again turns amateur sleuth. Meanwhile, the knitters talk about dogs, what they’re going to have for dinner, and what’s going on in Plum Harbor. Never mind the mystery solving—the pleasure of this book lies in the familiar relationships among Maggie and friends. Cozy readers who are fond of knitting will be amply rewarded. Agent: Nancy Yost, Nancy Yost Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Firewall: An Emma Streat Mystery

Eugenia Lovett West. SparkPress, $16.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-68463-010-3

In West’s engrossing third Emma Streat mystery (after 2009’s Overkill), widowed former opera singer Emma is in snowy Boston looking forward to a Caribbean vacation with an ex-lover, Lord Andrew Rodale, an undercover crisis solver for the British Secret Intelligence Service, when she gets a call from her godmother, Caroline Vog. Caroline, who’s in her 80s and has no other family, asks Emma, the only person she can trust to handle a sensitive matter, to come to New York City to help put a stop to a blackmailer threatening to expose a secret in Caroline’s past. Emma agrees to come to the rescue. Caroline suspects her first husband, Pierre Hallam, is the culprit, but further exploration reveals him to be just a small player in a conspiracy to possess a cutting-edge computer program capable of penetrating even sophisticated security measures and firewalls. Coincidentally, Lord Andrew has Pierre under surveillance, and he and his team agree to join forces with Emma. The suspense mounts as Emma is thrust into the world of cybercrime and dangerous intrigue. Only the somewhat saccharine ending disappoints. Readers will hope it won’t be another 10 years before the next installment. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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