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Some Choose Darkness

Charlie Donlea. Kensington, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4967-1381-0

This engrossing novel from Donlea (Don’t Believe It) pits forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore against a smart serial killer. In Chicago in the summer of 1979, five young women disappear, all of them victims of a man known as the Thief. They’re presumed murdered, but their bodies are never found. Angela Mitchell, who has “a gift and a curse to remember everything she ever saw,” is able to identify the Thief , but she goes missing before the police can question her. There’s enough evidence, however, to convict the Thief of Angela’s murder and send him to Illinois’s Stateville Correctional Center, where he’s a model prisoner. In 2019, the Thief is released on parole, and through circumstances beyond her control, Rory, a nonpracticing lawyer, becomes his attorney. Soon she’s immersed in trying to figure out exactly what happened to Angela. Donlea smoothly mixes red herrings and genuine clues. Notwithstanding some unanswered questions left hanging at the end, readers who relish a good puzzle will be rewarded. Agent: Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits

Alys Clare. Severn, $28.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8868-6

Set in 1880 London, this impressive series launch from Clare (the Aelf Fen mysteries) introduces Lily Raynor, who has formed the fledgling World’s End Bureau, a private enquiry agency, after a traumatic experience ended her career as a nurse. The agency’s new assistant, Felix Wilbraham, is alone in the office when Ernest Stibbins, a Battersea accounts clerk, arrives claiming that his wife, Albertina, is in peril. Albertina, who claims to be a medium, feels a strong sense of menace and believes her spirit guides are warning her of danger. Lily poses as a bereaved fiancée to attend one of Albertina’s séances. Skeptical at first, Lily feels the same palpable sense of threat that Earnest described. As Lily and Felix look into Albertina’s past and clients, they see a possible link to a series of disappearances in Battersea. They also investigate an aging actress who has seduced a peer’s son. The solid plotting, colorful Victorian settings, and fun detective duo bode well for future installments. Agent: Laura Longrigg, MBA Literary (U.K.). (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Dear Wife

Kimberly Belle. Park Row, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7783-0859-1

At the start of this intense thriller from Belle (Three Days Missing), a woman called Beth drives west from Arkansas into Oklahoma to escape her violent husband. She’s carefully planned her exit for almost a year. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Hardison returns to Pine Bluff, Ark., after a business trip to discover that his real estate broker wife, Sabine, is not yet home and has once again left the house a mess. When Sabine’s car is found abandoned, and her whereabouts remain unknown, Det. Marcus Durand of the Pine Bluff PD investigates and soon focuses on Jeffrey as the chief suspect in her disappearance. As the first-person narrative shifts among Beth, Jeffrey, and Marcus, hints of each main character’s motivations emerge. The stakes rise when the police learn that Jeffrey abused Sabine. Multiple plot twists keep the reader guessing all the way to the stunning conclusion, and the link between Beth and Sabine comes as one of the book’s bigger surprises. Belle once again displays a knack for high suspense. Agent: Nikki Terpilowski, Holloway Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Murder in the Crooked House

Soji Shimada, trans. from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai. Pushkin Vertigo, $14.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-78227-456-8

Set in 1983, Shimada’s brilliant sequel to 2015’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders will thrill fans of golden age puzzle mysteries. Kozaburo Hamamoto, the president of the Hama Diesel company, has invited guests to celebrate Christmas at the unusual home he has constructed on Hokkaido. The building features intentionally sloping floors, and Hamamoto’s own rooms are in a tower resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which can only be accessed by a drawbridge connecting it to the main structure. Self-styled sleuth Kiyoshi Mitarai investigates when a member of the party is stabbed to death with a knife inside a locked room. Oddly, the murder weapon has some string attached to it. Other bizarre elements include one of the victim’s hands being tied to the foot of a bed and a scream apparently issuing from the corpse a half hour after the killing. The tension rises as one impossibility follows another before an effective and dramatic reveal. Shimada combines fantastic crimes with a logical and fair solution likely to stump even the most astute readers. (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Nearly Normal Family

M.T. Edvardsson, trans. from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Boyles. Celadon, $26.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-20443-1

Swedish author Edvardsson make his U.S. debut with an ambitious novel that focuses on the question: What would one do to save one’s child from the consequences of a horrible crime? Rebellious 18-year-old Stella Sandell has a violent temper and a penchant for getting into trouble, reflecting a need to defy her overprotective father, Adam, a Church of Sweden pastor in the town of Lund. When Stella is arrested for the murder of her lover, 33-year-old Christopher Olsen, a criminal law professor’s son with a checkered past, Adam and his lawyer wife, Ulrika, go to great lengths to help their troubled daughter. Edvardsson uses first-person narratives from Adam, Stella, and Ulrika to tell the story of the family, the crime, and the trial. This structure adds complexity and ambiguity, but the three different versions of the events result in too much repetition, dampening the suspense and weakening the denouement. This novel works better as a domestic drama than as a mystery. Agent: Astri Ahlander, Ahlander Agency (Sweden). (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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One Night at the Lake

Bethany Chase. Ballantine, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9634-1

At the start of this twisty suspense novel from Chase (Results May Vary), PhD student Leah Tessaro looks forward to leaving New York City and spending a week with her boyfriend of four years, Ollie Bierman, at his family’s house on Seneca Lake in the western part of the state. Leah is convinced that Ollie is going to ask her to marry him there. Meanwhile, Leah’s best friend, jewelry designer June Kang, is recovering from a recent breakup, and Leah insists that June join them on the trip to Seneca Lake—a trip that results in Leah’s death. Seven years later, June is engaged to Ollie, but overshadowing her happiness is the knowledge that she’s with the love of her life because Leah died. Despite feeling guilty, June agrees to return to the lake to celebrate Ollie’s mother’s birthday. Once there, memories from the past come back, and June realizes she doesn’t know exactly what happened the day Leah died. While the truth comes as something of a letdown, this tale of love, friendship, grief, and forgiveness will resonate with many. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Co. (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Rogue Strike

David Ricciardi. Berkley, $27 (416p) ISBN 978-0-399-58576-0

Ricciardi’s worthy if flawed sequel to 2018’s Warning Light takes CIA officer Jake Keller (who used to be known as Zac Miller) to Yemen on his first mission as a member of the agency’s Special Activities Center. He and veteran agent Curt Roach are in charge of launching a drone strike on terrorist leader Mullah Muktar. When the drone releases two missiles aimed at Muktar, someone seizes control of the missiles in midair and redirects them to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where pilgrims have arrived for the annual hajj. The world blames America for the thousands who die in Mecca’s Grand Mosque. The chief of Special Activities, Ted Graves, and other government officials try to pin the blame on Keller and Roach, saying the agents have gone rogue. In fact, certain individuals wishing to drive a wedge between Muslims and the U.S. have masterminded the attack. The twisting, complicated plot needs a lot of explaining to maintain coherence, and the otherwise rapid pacing and exciting action suffer as a result. Still, Ricciardi remains a fresh voice in the crowded spy thriller field. Agent: Rick Richter, Aevitas Creative Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Assassin of Shadows

Lawrence Goldstone. Pegasus Crime, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64313-130-6

What if President McKinley’s assassination in 1901 was not just the work of a lone nut? That’s the premise of this outstanding thriller from Goldstone (The Anatomy of Deception). After anarchist Leon Czolgosz manages to get close enough to McKinley at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., to shoot him, Secret Service agents Walter George and Harry Swayne are dispatched to that city to investigate. Their boss, John Wilkie, and power broker Mark Hanna are convinced there’s a conspiracy. But McKinley, who initially survives the shooting, insists that the agents not railroad anyone and pursue the truth, which could lead to Czolgosz’s political allies, who include Emma Goldman. The dogged George and Swayne begin to wonder if the attack was aided from the inside, given that the agents protecting McKinley weren’t suspicious of the assassin’s bandaged hand, which concealed his weapon. As McKinley’s condition worsens, George and Swayne come under surveillance—and under fire. Goldstone combines an intriguing theory of the crime with a jaw-dropping ending. This is his best novel yet. Agent: Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Black Jersey

Jorge Zepeda Patterson, trans. from the Spanish by Achy Obejas. Random House, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-9848-0106-7

Set during the Tour de France, this thrilling mystery from Mexican author Patterson (Milena) boasts as many twists and turns as the treacherous bicycle race that winds through the Alps and the Pyrenees. When a series of tragic events begins forcing participants out of the grueling 23-day race—such as the brutal assault on a cyclist while on a practice run and another’s apparent suicide—the detective in charge of investigating the incidents enlists the help of Marc Moreau, a French cyclist with military police training. But as Moreau—who is on a top team led by former champion Steve Panata—investigates the increasingly desperate attacks on riders, he must also deal with his own pressing issues, which includes a girlfriend and mentor who believe Moreau can, and should, step out of his longtime supporting role to Panata and win the yellow jersey for himself. This meticulously plotted novel about riders willing to die—and possibly kill—to win cycling’s biggest race will have readers guessing until the very last page. Patterson should win a wider American audience with this outing. Agent: Marina Penalva, Casanovas & Lynch (Spain). (July)

Reviewed on 04/05/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Conviction

Denise Mina. Mulholland, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-52850-4

Anna McDonald, the heroine of this spellbinding thriller from Edgar finalist Mina (The Long Drop), fled her personal problems in London and started over in Glasgow nine years earlier. She’s now engrossed in true-crime podcasts such as Death and the Dana, about a murdered family, a sunken yacht named the Dana, and a wrongful conviction. After Anna’s partner, Hamish, runs away with her best friend, Estelle, she and Estelle’s despondent husband, anorexic former rock star Fin Cohen, embark on a road trip, bingeing Death and the Dana while investigating its claims. Anna soon discovers that she has multiple ties to the tale. When a picture of her and Fin goes viral on social media, dangerous figures from Anna’s past get on their trail. The mysteries of Anna’s tragic history and the Dana’s true fate unfold in tandem, with podcast transcripts peppering the colorful narrative. Anna and Fin alternately bolster and antagonize one another, balancing introspections on modern life and human nature with laugh-out-loud humor. Mina delivers a metafictional marvel that both endorses and exemplifies the power of storytelling. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 03/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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