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Deep as Death

Katja Ivar. Bitter Lemon, $14.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-912242-30-6

Ivar’s disappointing sequel to 2019’s Evil Things opens with a prologue set in 1935 in which a man causes a woman to slip into a frozen lake and drown by breaking the ice in front of her. When a prostitute’s body is found floating in icy Helsinki Harbor in 1953, the police tell the madam of the victim’s upscale brothel that it was likely an accident. Unsatisfied with this answer, the madam seeks help from private investigator Hella Mauzer, the first female homicide detective on the Helsinki police until her abrupt dismissal for disobeying direct orders. An attempt to drown a second prostitute suggests the first prostitute was murdered. Told from multiple viewpoints, the complex narrative fails to build much momentum. Hella’s complicated personal life, in particular her married boyfriend dumping her, distracts. A provocative denouement and some evocative prose (“this was a city of softened greys and sunless mornings, of blurry shadows and damp drizzle”) compensate only in part. Fans of Evil Things will hope for a return to form in the trilogy’s conclusion. Agent: Marilia Savvides, Peters, Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.). (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Don’t Turn Around

Jessica Barry. Harper, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-0628-7486-3

The pseudonymous Barry follows her debut, 2019’s Freefall, with a gripping novel about two women, seemingly strangers to each other, who set out on a mysterious nighttime drive from Lubbock, Tex., to Albuquerque, N.Mex. At the wheel is Cait Monaghan, a directionless 20-something bartender from Austin. Rebecca McCrae, Cait’s prim 30-something passenger, is trying to escape her husband. Their journey quickly turns from an easy 300-mile trip to a fight for survival as an unknown driver tries to run them off the road on a desolate stretch of highway. Neither woman turns out to be what she seems at first as they face threats that lurk anywhere and everywhere—particularly in the men they encounter and occasionally have to rely on. Along the way, Barry addresses various issues dominating today’s headlines and affecting women’s lives, including cancel culture, online bullying, and reproductive rights, while maintaining the tension. This action-packed story will keep readers riveted. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Blood Angel

Bernard Schaffer. Kensington, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4967-2762-6

Schaffer’s adequate third Santero and Rein thriller (after 2019’s Unsettled Grave) finds the pair on the trail of a sadist. Fifteen years earlier, Jacob Rein, then a Viera County, Pa., police detective, helped stop high schooler Tucker Pennington from torching a classmate, Brenda Drake, he doused with gasoline. Now, before Pennington is released from a secure mental facility, Brenda apparently commits suicide, and Det. Carrie Santero discovers a threatening letter near the body signed by “The Master,” Pennington’s criminal alias. When Pennington’s psychiatrist is later found murdered, Santero decides that she needs now ex-detective Rein’s help. At the crime scene, Rein and Santero note inconsistencies with Pennington’s previous m.o., and agree that a copycat could be at work. Since there’s just one significant alternative to Pennington as the villain, the reveal of the “real” killer won’t surprise many readers. The detectives are clever enough but not particularly distinctive. A fair amount of action, gore, and weird ritual should satisfy most fans of serial killer fiction. Agent: Sharon Pelletier, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Mist

Ragnar Jónasson, trans. from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. Minotaur, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-76811-7

Isolation and despair undo the characters in Jónasson’s exceptional third and final novel featuring Reykjavík Det. Insp. Hulda Hermannsdóttir (after 2019’s The Island). In February 1988, Hulda, who has returned to work after time off to deal with an unidentified personal issue, is still struggling to get through the day and perform any meaningful work. She’s forced into action by her boss when multiple corpses are found on a farm, with indications that the bodies have been there since around Christmas. Flash back to a snowy day in December 1987. Einar and Erla Einarsson, who live on a remote farm, answer a knock on the door to an unexpected visitor, who introduces himself as Leó. The couple offer Leó shelter for the night, but Erla becomes suspicious of their guest’s account of how he arrived at their home. Jónasson ratchets up the nail-biting tension gradually, alternating the developments at the farm along with the events in Hulda’s life that led to her traumatic stupor. Fans of dark crime fiction that doesn’t pull punches will be amply rewarded. Agent: David Headley, DHH Literary (U.K.). (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Credible Threat: An Ali Reynolds Mystery

J.A. Jance. Gallery, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-9821-3107-4

Is it possible to feel sympathy for a cold-blooded killer? Bestseller Jance pulls it off in her poignant 15th Ali Reynolds mystery (after 2019’s The A List). Rachel Higgins has been going through the motions in the years since her grown son, David, died of an overdose. But after she realizes that David was molested as a teen by his swimming coach, Father Needham, at St. Francis High in Phoenix, Rachel carefully plots her revenge. Since Needham died of AIDS in prison after being convicted of multiple counts of pedophilia, Rachel decides to kill Needham’s superior, Archbishop Francis Gillespie, for letting it happen. When the archbishop begins receiving anonymous threats, he asks High Noon Enterprises, a cybersecurity firm owned by Ali and her husband, B. Simpson, to investigate after the police dismiss the notes as not a credible threat. When B. has to go overseas, the case is left to Ali and her team of cyber experts. Depth of character compensates for some overwriting. Jance has rendered a masterly study of the effects of grief, rage, and the power of forgiveness. Agent: Alice Volpe, Northwest Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Mountains Wild

Sarah Stewart Taylor. Minotaur, $27.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-250-25643-0

In this languorous series launch from Taylor (the Sweeny St. George mysteries), Long Island, N.Y., homicide detective Maggie D’arcy learns that someone unearthed a scarf belonging to her cousin, Erin Flaherty, while scouring the Wicklow, Ireland, woods for missing schoolteacher Niamh Horrigan. In 1993, when then 23-year-old Erin vanished from Dublin, Maggie flew over and spent weeks hounding the gardaí, retracing Erin’s steps, and interviewing her acquaintances before departing empty-handed. Authorities now suspect that Erin fell victim to a serial killer who may also be holding Niamh, so Maggie takes leave from work and returns to Dublin to resume digging, since solving Erin’s disappearance may facilitate Niamh’s rescue. Maggie’s narrative alternates between past and present, her investigations unfolding in tandem, while infrequent flashbacks to the cousins’ childhood chronicle their turbulent relationship. Woolly plotting saps momentum and the denouement feels contrived, but Taylor’s affection for Irish geography, history, and culture suffuses the tale, adding texture and atmosphere. Fans of Elizabeth George should take note. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, Aevitas Creative Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Bones of Wolfe: A Border Noir

James Carlos Blake. Mysterious, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5688-4

At the start of Blake’s rollicking, if somewhat familiar, fifth Border Noir (after 2017’s The Ways of Wolfe), Eddie Gato Wolfe and a small crew aboard a boat in the Gulf of Mexico deliver a shipment of guns to members of the Mexican branch of the Wolfe clan for delivery to the Los Zetas cartel. The Mexican crew takes possession of the guns, only to be ambushed and slaughtered once ashore. The Wolfes quickly root out the culprit, an upstart rival gang member hoping to gain favor by giving the stolen guns to El Chubasco, the notorious head of the Sinaloan cartel. When the Wolfes recover the stolen guns from the rival gang member, they find a cache of upscale pornographic DVDs along with the guns. Kitty Quick, an actor in one of the flicks, bears an uncanny resemblance to 115-year-old Wolfe family matriarch Aunt Catalina’s long-lost sister, Sandra. Could Quick be a distant Wolfe relative? The grand dame thinks so, and sends a group of Wolfes to extricate her from the clutches of El Chubasco in a rescue operation that’s a bit of a retread from an earlier novel. Though it’s not up to Blake’s usual high standard, series fans will enjoy this entertaining adventure. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Assoc. (July)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Silver Wings, Iron Cross

Tom Young. Kensington, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4967-3043-5

This exciting WWII thriller from Young (The Hunters) follows the careers of two enemies, Lt. Karl Hagan, an American B-17 pilot, and Oberleutnant Wilhelm Albrecht, second in command of the German submarine U-351. Hagan, who’s of German heritage, is feeling tremendously conflicted about his last assigned mission, because it’s a bombing run over Bremen, Germany, where his aunt and uncle live, but of course he obeys orders. After Albrecht receives a suicide order for the U-351 and his men while the boat’s in dry dock in Bremen, he decides to desert during the B-17 raid on the city. Hagan’s plane is shot down, and he parachutes into Germany. In an unlikely twist, Hagan links up with Albrecht and the two of them go on the run together, but Young makes it work thanks to authentic detail and plenty of convincing background information on the two principals as well as on almost every one of the secondary characters. Genre fans will find a lot to like. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Girl from Widow Hills

Megan Miranda. Simon & Schuster, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6542-9

The hospital administrator who now calls herself Olivia Meyer, the narrator of this suspenseful but far-fetched page-turner from bestseller Miranda (The Last House Guest), has put as much distance as possible between her and the drama that riveted the country two decades earlier when, as sleepwalking six-year-old Arden Maynor, she was apparently swept away during a storm into the drain pipes of her hometown of Widow Hills, Ky., until a miracle rescue three days later. But despite the subsequent charitable outpouring, the future proved far from rosy for the traumatized child, who was unable to remember most of her ordeal, and her troubled single mother. The adult Liv seems finally to be starting fresh in Central Valley, N.C.—until one night, while sleepwalking, for a second time, outside, she stumbles over a dead body. As Liv tries to keep Det. Nina Rigby at bay while she investigates further herself, the author throws suspicion on a succession of suspects. The pace quickens with a second murder and the appearance of a stalker. Even though Miranda opts increasingly for surprise over plausibility, psychological thriller fans will enjoy the ride. Author tour. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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You Can Go Home Now

Michael Elias. Harper, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-295416-9

Iranian-American Nina Karim, the heroine of this strong thriller from Elias (The Last Conquistador), has a secret reason for joining the Long Island City, N.Y., PD—she wants access to resources only a police officer has so that she can find the anonymous Army of God sniper who killed her father when she was a teen in 1999. In the course of her work as a detective, she sees a pattern in murder victims who abused women while they were alive and connects them all to the Artemis Shelter for Women, where she goes undercover as an abuse victim. Meanwhile, she pursues a lead on the identity of her father’s killer. Though Nina’s feelings about the “cowardly bastard” are clear, she’s morally conflicted about finding the killer of the abusers. A few women at the shelter have stories that feel clichéd, like the Pakistani woman who’s threatened with an honor killing, but overall Elias does a good job of conveying a painful reality. This is for anyone who doesn’t mind their heroes acting in the gray areas to see justice done. Agent: Caroline Michel, Peters, Fraser & Dunlop Group. (June)

Reviewed on 04/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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