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The Good Killer

Harry Dolan. Mysterious, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4841-4

When Iraq vet Sean Tennant, the hero of this satisfying crime novel from Dolan (The Man in the Crooked Hat), stops a shooting spree in a Houston mall by fatally shooting unstable Henry Keen, he draws unwanted attention to himself. Sean is actually Sean Garrety, and he and his wife, Molly Winter, have been in hiding from small-time crook Jimmy Harper, whose brother died while committing a robbery with Sean, and from Adam Khadduri, the dodgy art dealer they robbed. Sean speeds to rural Montana to join Molly, who’s lying low at a retreat, and the couple flee across the country, with Jimmy and Adam’s men in hot pursuit. Despite the many players, Dolan gives each of them their own believable motivations and emotions. The action concludes, not with a shoot-out, but with one of Keen’s victims as she deals with the aftermath of the tragedy, providing a calm coda after the relentless chase. Both action junkies and readers who like their thrillers on the cerebral side will find something to enjoy. Agent: Agent: Victoria Skurnik, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Salt River

Randy Wayne White. Putnam, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-735-21272-5

In bestseller White’s subpar 26th Doc Ford novel (after 2018’s Caribbean Rim), Leo Alomar, a shady IRS agent, accuses Doc, a Florida marine biologist, of living above his means. Alomar has figured out that Doc has been selling gold that he retrieved from the waters off the Bahamas, old Spanish coins melted down into mooring anchors. The IRS agent promises to make any tax problems from the unreported income go away if Doc will reveal where more such treasure might lie. Meanwhile, Doc’s eccentric friend, Tomlinson, a small-time ganja merchant and Zen Buddhist, finds his past has returned to haunt him as well. Years earlier, Tomlinson was a sperm donor, and some of his adult biological children are trying to arrange a reunion, an effort that places lives in danger. Neither Doc nor Tomlinson particularly endears himself to the reader, and some of the plot elements may be too over the top even for series fans. Hopefully, White will return to form next time. Author tour. Agent, Esther Newberg, ICM. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Twisted

Steve Cavanagh. Flatiron, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-20732-6

In a note at the start of this clever standalone from Cavanagh (the Eddie Flynn series), the pseudonymous J.T. LeBeau, a bestselling thriller author, warns readers not to “believe a single word you read.” Outside an L.A. theater where a memorial service is being held for LeBeau, Paul Cooper waits nervously, intent on shooting one of the mourners. Flash back four months. In Port Lonely on the East Coast, Maria, Paul’s wife, who has begun an affair with Daryl Oakes, a waiter at the Coopers’ country club, discovers a bank statement revealing that Paul has received $20 million from LeBeau Enterprises that he has concealed from her. Paul himself seems to be in hiding from a possible murderer. After Maria is brutally attacked and Paul disappears, local law-enforcement suspect Paul is involved in the attack and that Daryl also has a role; in any event, uncovering LeBeau’s identity is crucial to cracking the case. Fresh twists on identity and motivation make up for some overly familiar final revelations. Cavanagh fans won’t be disappointed, despite this not being his best. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Cold Trail

Robert Dugoni. Thomas & Mercer, $15.95 trade paper (398p) ISBN 978-1-5420-9322-4

Thriller Award–finalist Dugoni’s impressive seventh Tracy Crosswhite mystery (after 2018’s A Steep Price) finds Seattle homicide detective Tracy and attorney husband Dan back in Cedar Grove, Wash., where they both grew up and where Dan has taken on a complex case against Cedar Grove’s mayor and a group of investors trying to revitalize the downtown area. The case puts Dan at odds with many of the townsfolk, and when Tracy gets involved in a fatal arson case, she’s soon ruffling feathers as well. The arson victim was not only the police chief’s wife but a reporter looking into a 1993 cold case, the murder of teen Heather Johansen. Heather was killed two years before Tracy’s younger sister, Sarah, and their deaths are hauntingly similar. Worse, Tracy learns Heather was last seen on a dark country road headed to the Crosswhite house. Dugoni weaves a compulsively readable tale of love, loss, and greed. Readers will look forward to the further exploits of his sharp-witted detective. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Occurrence

Robert Desiderio. Post Hill, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64293-300-0

Script writer Desiderio makes his fiction debut with an uplifting political thriller-cum-fantasy. Photojournalist Dominique Valen and U.S. Army captain Julian Ledge are being held prisoner in a warehouse in the Iraqi desert by the new leader of ISIS and are about to be executed when a drone missile goes off course and hits the warehouse. In her struggle to escape, Dominique grasps an ancient cuneiform covered in markings that “refer to an inner elevation in consciousness that leads to a place in the world where that level of transcendence exists in physical form.” In that moment, Dominique, Julian, and the ISIS leader, each in their own way, have a revelatory experience, one that will unite them forever. Reincarnation, psychic communication, a Bedouin spiritual guide who looks like actor John Hurt, a miracle-working Peruvian teen, and so much more enter the mix as the three seek to “change the world.” Those with a mystical bent tired of conventional Middle East thrillers will welcome this exercise in wish fulfillment. Agent: Bob Gersh, Gersh Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Thief River Falls

Brian Freeman. Thomas & Mercer, $24.95 (350p) ISBN 978-1-5420-9336-1

Thriller writer Lisa Power, the heroine of this strong standalone from Thriller Award–winner Freeman (the Jonathan Stride series), hits the jackpot with her latest book, Thief River Falls, the success of which allows her to move to a house near her hometown of Thief River Falls, Minn. Then an amnesiac little boy appears one autumn night, claiming that he witnessed a hideous murder. He says he’s being chased by the killers, who include the local police and Denis Farrell, the most powerful man in town—who already was Lisa’s mortal enemy. Her attempts to flee with the boy are thwarted by bad weather, and they can’t hide because everyone in the area recognizes the famous author. Besides, all Lisa’s allies seem determined to betray her, as she strives to act as heroically as her novel’s lead character. Readers will admire the skillful way Freeman plays tricks with thriller conventions. Agent: Deborah Schneider: Gelfman Schneider Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores

Massimo Carlotto, trans. from the Italian by Will Schutt. World Noir, $17 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-60945-569-9

In Carlotto’s gripping sixth noir featuring PI Marco Buratti to be published in English (after 2016’s For All the Gold in the World), Padua, Italy, restaurateur-turned-crook Giorgio Pellegrini wants Buratti, a former blues singer who’s trying to put his criminal past behind him, to look into the murders of Pellegrini’s wife and mistress, who were tortured before being garroted in the cellar of the man’s restaurant. That the day’s earnings were untouched indicates that information about Pellegrini, rather than robbery, was the motive for the killings. Shady cop Angela Marino threatens to frame Buratti and his PI partners for cocaine trafficking if they don’t cooperate and probe the murders. Their digging reveals that the murders were the result of a carefully planned operation, orchestrated by a shadowy woman following in her father’s illegal footsteps. Carlotto makes even minor characters three-dimensional, such as a woman whose face shows that “she’d expected more from life and couldn’t figure out why that hadn’t come to pass,” in this grim tale of violence and corruption. James Ellroy fans will be satisfied. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Burglar in Short Order: A Bernie Rhodenbarr Collection

Lawrence Block. Subterranean, $30 (144p) ISBN 978-1-59606-957-2

MWA Grandmaster Block collects 15 tightly crafted and amusing short stories and articles concerning burglar and bookseller Bernie Rhodenbarr, hero of The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling and other novels. In “Mr. Rhodenbarr, Bookseller, Advises a Young Customer on Seeking a Vocation,” Bernie schools a hapless shoplifter who comes with sticky fingers into his bookstore. In “The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke,” a clever roman à clef inspired by the famous mystery book collection of publisher and bookstore owner Otto Penzler, an original solution is presented for a locked room puzzle, with a Penzler avatar providing the corpse. Among other high points is an article detailing how the 1987 movie Burglar inexplicably went from hiring a pre–Die Hard Bruce Willis as Bernie and instead cast Whoopi Goldberg in the title role. A foreword, “A Burglar’s Origins,” and an afterword, “A Burglar’s Future,” are original to this volume. The author’s legion of fans won’t want to miss this one. Agent: Danny Baror, Baror International. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Aosawa Murders

Riku Onda, trans. from the Japanese by Alison Watts. Bitter Lemon, $14.95 trade paper (346p) ISBN 978-1-912242-24-5

Japanese author Onda makes her English-language debut with an enigmatic and haunting crime novel. In 1973, 17 people die at the Aosawa villa on the Sea of Japan in the city of K—, including members of three generations of the Aosawa family, after drinking spirits and soft drinks that were delivered to the house as a gift. The massive police inquiry settles on the delivery man as the culprit. He later hangs himself and leaves behind a note confessing to the mass poisoning, which he carried out after he got a “notice that he had to kill the Aosawa family.” In 2003, Makiko Saiga, who was a neighbor of the Aosawas and the author of a book about the murders, talks to an unidentified interviewer. That’s followed by testimony from other people with a link to the case, including the police detective obsessed with it. Onda’s unusual narrative technique, which presents differing perspectives by giving only the responses to the interviewer’s questions, enhances the nesting-doll plot. American readers will appreciate why this puzzle mystery won the annual Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Fiction. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Warsaw Protocol

Steve Berry. Minotaur, $28.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-14030-2

With his 15th Cotton Malone novel (after 2019’s The Malta Exchange), bestseller Berry once again shows there’s no working author more skilled at combining thrilling adventure with engrossing historical detail. Ex-operative Malone is in Bruges, Belgium, for an antiquarian book fair when he stumbles onto the theft of a religious artifact, one of a string of international burglaries of the Arma Christi, seven holy relics of the Passion of Christ. Stephanie Nelle, head of the Magellan Billet, Cotton’s former Justice Department agency employer, and Tom Bunch, a feckless adviser to corrupt U.S. president Warner Fox, task Cotton with stealing one of the remaining relics as the entrance fee to an exclusive illicit auction of Soviet-era material intended to blackmail Poland’s president. Cotton, a reluctant but stalwart hero, is thrust into a deadly bidding war that could disrupt the fragile power balance between America and Russia. Berry seasons the plot with fascinating lore and vivid locations, as informative as any textbook. If only textbooks were this exciting. Agent: Simon Lipskar, Writers House. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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