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Nothing Important Happened Today

Will Carver. Orenda (IPG, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-912374-83-0

In the prologue to Carver’s outstanding second mystery featuring London Detective Sergeant Pace (after 2018’s Good Samaritans), a man’s corpse is discovered a year after he apparently committed suicide by handcuffing himself to a tree in a remote forest and throwing away the key. In the main narrative, nine nameless individuals who call themselves “The People of Choice,” each movingly describe their lives. Another unidentified narrator ruminates about the psychology of cults and the mistakes made by notorious serial killers. In due course, the nine all turn up at Chelsea Bridge and hang themselves in full view of horrified bystanders. Meanwhile, Pace is undergoing psychotherapy to be cleared for a return to duty, but he’s not sharing his belief that he’s the epicenter of “bad things.” When Pace learns of the group suicide, his professional curiosity moves him to investigate. The gut-punch ending explains the death in the prologue. Fans of classic downbeat noir from Cornell Woolrich and the like will find Carver has brilliantly translated their themes for the 21st century. Agent: Blake Friedmann, Blake Friedmann Literary (U.K.). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Nightshade: A Livy Nash Mystery

M.L. Huie. Crooked Lane, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-64385-456-4

Set in 1947, Huie’s harrowing sequel to 2019’s Spitfire finds Ian Fleming, the director of London’s Kemsley News Service, running foreign correspondents for newspapers all over the world. Some are actual journalists, while some, like Livy Nash, are freelance agents for MI6. When Livy worked as a spy in occupied France during WWII, she had only one real friend, fellow agent Margot Dupont. But Margot was listed as missing and is presumed dead—until the day MI6 receives a wireless signal from an unknown location with the word Nightshade, Margot’s call sign. To find Margot, Livy rekindles her wartime affair with Russian agent Yuri Kostin, now a major in the MGB. For Livy, the end of the war brought no peace, and her new assignment takes its toll on her already fragile psyche. Livy faces brutality, betrayal, double-crosses, and worse as she takes advantage of there being little honor among spies. Huie does a masterly job of wringing all the glamour out of the intelligence game. Agent: Carrie Pestritto, Laura Dail Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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One Step Behind

Lauren North. Berkley, $16 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-9848-0386-3

The lives of two troubled women intertwine in this unsettling psychological thriller from British author North (The Perfect Son). Jenna Lawson, a physician in the Accident and Emergency department of Westbury District Hospital, is the victim of a stalker, whose machinations—which include sending emails to Jenna and her employers accusing her of sexually abusing a child patient—are often uppermost in her mind. Meanwhile, personal trainer Sophie worries about her brother, Matthew, with whom she shared a difficult childhood. Based on glimpses of Matthew that are too often to be coincidental, Jenna suspects he is the stalker, but she has never managed to take a photo of him to show the police. The tables turn when Matthew ends up in Jenna’s emergency room, having been hit by a bus. Jenna determines to find out everything she can about him, discovering along the way that everyone close to her has secrets. A nice see-sawing of emotions and motives will keep most readers guessing to the end. North remains a writer to watch. Agent: Tanera Simons, Darley Anderson Literary (U.K.). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Agent

Robert Dugoni. Thomas & Mercer, $25.95 (464p) ISBN 978-1-5420-1497-7

Retired American spy Charles Jenkins is feeling angry and embittered in bestseller Dugoni’s fast and furious sequel to 2019’s The Eighth Sister. Recently cleared of treason charges brought by the CIA, he’s determined to live a quiet life with his family, until he learns that Russian spy Paulina Ponomayova is being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison. Since Paulina, who was in fact a double agent for the CIA, once saved his life, Jenkins sets out to rescue her. To achieve this impossible feat, Jenkins turns to Viktor Federov, the former FSB officer who relentlessly pursued him across Russia and Europe in the previous book. Federov has lost everything after failing to apprehend Jenkins, becoming a scapegoat for his government. Whether Federov and several others along the way can be trusted is a constant concern as Jenkins tries to get to Paulina and smuggle her out of the country. Dugoni writes with such immediacy that readers will feel as if they’re standing alongside Jenkins as he contemplates his next death-defying move. Fans of espionage fiction are in for a high-octane thrill ride. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Bones Remember: An Alexa Glock Forensics Mystery

Sara E. Johnson. Poisoned Pen, $15.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1335-9

Johnson’s winning sequel to 2019’s Molten Mud Murder finds Alexa Glock, formerly of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, still in New Zealand, where she has found a job with the Forensic Service Center in Auckland. Her specialty in forensic odontology makes her the perfect person to identify the remains of a man discovered on remote Stewart Island, whose main tourist draws are its native birds and shark cage diving operations. Alexa confirms that the body is that of Robert King, who disappeared while deer hunting in Rakiura National Park 10 months earlier. There’s a bullet hole his skull. Then a dead man washes up on the beach, a third of his body torn away by sharks. He, too, was shot. The flora and fauna of rural New Zealand turn out to be relevant to the murder investigation. At the exciting climax, Alexa uses her wits, not a gun or martial arts skills, to take out the bad guy. Hopefully, this refreshingly normal heroine will be back soon. Agent: Natalie Lakosil, Bradford Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Don’t Look for Me

Wendy Walker. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-19870-9

At the start of this exemplary psychological thriller from Walker (The Night Before), guilt-ridden Molly Clarke runs out of gas in Hastings, Conn., fives years to the day after the death of her younger daughter, Annie, for which she blames herself. She gets out of her car and starts walking, but never reaches home. Two days later, the Hastings police find a handwritten note Molly left in a hotel room asking her family not to look for her. Two weeks later, 21-year-old Nicole, Molly’s older daughter, receives a tip from a woman who claims she saw Molly the day she disappeared getting into a stranger’s pickup truck. Despite the strained relationship between Nicole and Molly since Annie’s death, Nicole decides to investigate. When she learns of another woman who vanished from Hastings, she tries to determine whether the two disappearances are connected. Chapters from Molly’s perspective that reveal her present whereabouts heighten the tension. Distinctive, well-developed characters complement the skillfully paced plot. This moving look at the bond between a mother and her children reinforces Walker’s place at the top of the genre. 75,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Wendy Sherman, Wendy Sherman Assoc. Literary Management. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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For the Best

Vanessa Lillie. Thomas & Mercer, $15.95 trade paper (358p) ISBN 978-1-5420-0587-6

Poe Foundation CEO Jules Worthington-Smith, the protagonist of this smoothly plotted thriller from Lillie (Little Voices), wakes up one morning with a hangover at home in Providence, R.I. The night before, Jules hosted an event honoring celebrity professor Terrance Castle, but she remembers little of it. Then Det. Frank Ramos arrives at her door and shows her a wallet that she identifies as hers. Ramos tells her the wallet was found next to a murder victim in an alley. The police take Jules to the crime scene, where she learns the victim is Terrance, whom she vaguely recalls meeting at a bar after the event. The only suspect in the killing, Jules soon loses her job and her reputation. As she struggles to piece together what happened that night, she launches a vlog with the purpose of uncovering Terrance’s murderer. Along the way, Jules must contend with her fraught family history and her drinking problem. Lillie keeps the suspense high up to the shocking ending. Readers will root for troubled Jules every step of the way. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders and Assoc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Girl Who Wasn’t There

Vincent Zandri. Oceanview, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60809-396-0

Sidney O’Keefe, the unreliable narrator of this engrossing thriller from Thriller Award winner Zandri (The Caretaker’s Wife), declares, “I’m lucky to be alive, having survived a ten-year stint in an upstate New York maximum security prison... incarcerated for a quadruple homicide I did not commit.” Unexpectedly released on parole, Sidney reunites with his wife, Penny, and their 11-year-old daughter, Chloe, at a resort near Lake Placid, N.Y. “It’s a sweet dream come true,” he muses, until Chloe goes missing. His first thought is that his former boss, crime lord Mickey Rabuffo, is behind the abduction. The Lake Placid police, however, are convinced that Sidney himself is responsible for the girl’s disappearance. He winds up on the run, unsure who’s friend or foe. To save himself and his family, Sidney vows to stop at nothing, a decision that leaves him ensnared in a tangled web of death and deceit. How much of what’s going on is real or only in Sidney’s imagination Zandri leaves tantalizingly unclear. The ambiguity is more likely to please readers than not. Agent: Chip MacGregor, MacGregor and Luedeke Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Funeral for a Friend

Brian Freeman. Blackstone, $27.99 (300p) ISBN 978-1-9826-6372-8

In Thriller Award winner Freeman’s deftly plotted 10th Jonathan Stride novel (after 2018’s Alter Ego), the Duluth, Minn., police lieutenant’s best friend, Steve Garske, admits to Stride on his deathbed to burying a body to protect Stride. Stride immediately informs his superiors, knowing if it turns out to be the body of reporter Ned Bauer he’ll be implicated in Bauer’s death, since the police know he was the last person to see Bauer alive. Shortly after Garske dies, the police dig up Bauer’s remains in Stride’s yard. Bauer, who came to Duluth seven years earlier to investigate 30-year-old anonymous rape accusations against a prominent politician, has a bullet hole in his skull. Bauer was believed to have drowned at the time, and Stride is now the prime suspect in his murder. Meanwhile, Cat Mateo, a teenage runaway Stride and his wife have taken under their wing, has been receiving a lot of unwanted attention resulting from the publicity surrounding her surviving a sexual assault attempt by a Hollywood celebrity, who came to town to shoot a movie in the previous book. Grateful MeToo survivors have sent Cat messages, but she’s unnerved when someone local sends her a threatening picture of herself. Surprising connections between her case and Stride’s soon emerge. The undercurrent of misogyny in this tale about the effects of sexual violence may put off some readers. Fans of grittier crime novels should be satisfied. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Kingdom

Jo Nesbø, trans. from the Norwegian by Robert Ferguson. Knopf, $28.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-525-65541-1

This twisty standalone from bestseller Nesbø (the Harry Hole series) centers on the complex relationship between brothers Roy and Carl Opgard, who grew up in a remote Norwegian village. In a hunting mishap, 15-year-old Carl mortally wounds the family dog, but it’s 16-year-old Roy who puts the animal out of its misery and later lies to their parents about who had the guts to do so. Indeed, Roy has always cleaned up Carl’s messes. As adults, the brothers go their separate ways, but old secrets threaten to surface when Carl returns with his wife to the village, where he hopes to build a hotel that will make him rich, a venture that Roy, who runs a gas station and convenience store, is skeptical of. The revelation that Carl may have been sexually abused by their father, who died with their mother in a car crash officially deemed accidental years before, suggests trouble to come. The resulting bloodshed feels both unsettling and inevitable. Fans of classic noir such as Double Indemnity will be hooked. Agent: Niclas Salomonsson, Salomonsson Agency (Sweden). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/17/2020 | Details & Permalink

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