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Eddie’s Boy

Thomas Perry. Mysterious, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5777-5

Edgar-winner Perry’s superbly crafted fourth Butcher’s Boy novel (after 2011’s The Informant) opens with retired hit man Michael Schaeffer driving a car with the bodies of three inept assassins he killed earlier that night as they were breaking into the Yorkshire manor house he shares with his wife, Meg. Michael intends to find out who ordered the hit on him, and after saying goodbye to Meg, who’s fully aware of his former profession, he travels to Australia for safety. But when gunmen ambush him there as well, Michael realizes, after eliminating them with ruthless efficiency, that a trip to the States will be necessary to pinpoint the origin of the attacks. In the U.S., he seeks out Justice Department bigwig Elizabeth Waring, who once used him as an informant, and suggests a trade for info about his hunters. It soon becomes clear that the likely instigator is a Mafia don Michael helped send to prison years earlier by framing him for a murder. An immensely clever cat and mouse game he engineers involving Waring and various mob factions ensues. Perry delivers a master class in the art of propulsive tension. Agent: Mel Berger, WME. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/02/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Dear Miss Kopp

Amy Stewart. Mariner, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-358-09312-1

Stewart’s engrossing sixth Kopp Sisters novel (after 2019’s Kopp Sisters on the March) finds the three siblings, based on actual sisters, separated for the first time, though they keep in touch through letters written from May to December 1918. Constance, the first female undersheriff in the U.S., remains home in New Jersey ferreting out German saboteurs. Fleurette travels across the country entertaining the troops with May Ward and Her Eight Dresden Dolls, a real-life vaudeville act. Norma, who’s stationed in a French village behind the front, trains carrier pigeons to relay military messages for the Army Signal Corps. (The travails of the pigeon service are a source of ongoing humor.) Meanwhile, a nurse serving with Norma at the American Field hospital becomes involved in the case of the theft of medical supplies. The nurse enlists Norma’s help, which may be connected to a spy ring. The tension rises as the 1918 flu pandemic looms large and events move closer to Armistice Day. Readers will eagerly await the sisters’ postwar adventures. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 10/02/2020 | Details & Permalink

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East of Texas, West of Hell

Rod Davis. NewSouth, $18.95 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-58838-416-4

Davis’s Jack Prine returns (after South, America) in this crime powerhouse—a maelstrom of meth dealing, human trafficking, and white supremacy. Prine gets a call from a longtime friend who asks him to find her missing adult daughter, Rose. Prine starts with an address in Atlanta, the only info Elle has on Rose, and finds two corpses behind the house. As Prine perilously navigates an intersecting world of neo-Nazi meth dealers and human traffickers, he learns Rose has been living under an alias. The biggest clues come from a Savannah restaurant Rose had frequented and hoped to work at, where Prine learns more about Rose’s criminal activities. When he realizes he’s in over his head, Prine contacts an old buddy with underworld connections, and the men’s search for Rose uncovers more bodies and more trouble. As the puzzle comes together, Prine learns the truth of how Rose manages to stay alive. The hardscrabble prose sets the perfect tone, and the characters are reliably complex. Davis is a great guide through gritty Southern territory. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/02/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Poetic Justice

Andrea J. Johnson. Agora, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-951709-08-2

During a trial in Delaware’s Trident County Superior Court, court stenographer Victoria Justice, the narrator of Johnson’s fast-paced debut and series launch, recognizes the defendant, Langley Mulligan, who’s charged with felony drug possession, only when Langley laughs. Ten years earlier, Langley, then the head cheerleader at their high school, laughed as she pushed Victoria into the school pool. Since Victoria was wearing a heavy mascot costume, EMTs had to save her from drowning. Langley escaped responsibility because no one witnessed the incident and the other cheerleaders gave her a false alibi. When evidence tampering leads to the dismissal of the current charges in the middle of the trial against Langley, Victoria is outraged. Soon afterward, a court officer involved in the trial, who’s Victoria’s mentor, is murdered. When the police fail to delve effectively into the crime, Victoria is driven to find the culprit. Victoria’s transcript of the trial, she comes to realize, just may hold the clue to the killer’s identity. Readers will cheer the plucky Victoria every step of the way to the shocking ending. Hopefully, she’ll be back soon for another adventure. Agent: Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/02/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Mistaken Identity

Michael W. Sherer. Cutter, $12.99 trade paper (374p) ISBN 978-0-9892748-8-3

Suspended FBI agent Jenny Roberts, who played a supporting role in Thriller Award–finalist Sherer’s Stolen Identity, takes center stage in this superior sequel. Feeling scapegoated and shunned by the FBI, Jenny decides to visit her family in rural Wisconsin, and boards a Chicago-bound train in Washington, D.C., as do two strangers: bullied executive assistant Dana Carlisle, who looks a lot like Jenny, and Mick Costanza, a thug from Jennie’s hometown, who has stolen his mobbed-up boss’s cellphone, which is chock-full of evidence of power brokers’ sexual and financial shenanigans and the gruesome murder of a shady congressman. Various villains, including some Russian mobsters, confuse Dana with Jenny, who become a Thelma and Louise–style team on the run to thwart further mayhem. Sherer keeps the live wires of his complex plot sparking and distinct. Jenny is a ticked-off but highly capable heroine, whose family of cops adds depth and texture so that motivation and revelation keep coming to the very end. This is a sharp and satisfying thriller. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/02/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Time for Mercy

John Grisham. Doubleday, $29.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-385-54596-9

At the start of bestseller Grisham’s disappointing third outing for attorney Jake Brigance (after 2013’s Sycamore Row), deputy sheriff Stu Kofer comes home one night in 1990 to the isolated house outside Clanton, Miss., he shares with his lover, Josie. In a drunken rage, Kofer falsely accuses Josie of infidelity, and knocks her unconscious. Kofer falls asleep after a half-hearted attempt to break into the room of Josie’s 14-year-old daughter, Kiera, whom he has sexually abused. Josie’s 16-year-old son, Drew, believes his unresponsive mother is dead, and fears Kofer will attack Kiera. After dialing 911 to report Josie’s murder, Drew takes the sleeping lawman’s service weapon and shoots him in the head. A judge taps Brigance to defend Drew after the teenager is charged with intentional homicide. As Brigance prepares his case, he learns a secret that he hopes will bolster his chances in court. The high-profile murder trial that follows, however, doesn’t live up to the promise of the book’s harrowing opening: the prosecuting attorney proves a weak opponent for Brigance, and the tepid courtroom proceedings fail to engage. This one’s for Grisham diehards only. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Co. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/02/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Law of Innocence

Michael Connelly. Brown, $29 (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-48562-3

L.A. defense attorney Mickey Haller takes on the hardest case of his career in bestseller Connelly’s superlative seventh Lincoln Lawyer novel (following 2015’s The Crossing). After the body of a career con artist is found in the trunk of Haller’s Lincoln Towncar, he faces a first-degree murder rap. Opting to defend himself, Haller enlists his own legal defense team to assist. Half-brother Harry Bosch steps in to help investigate, and the unusual case leads to the port of Los Angeles and a biofuel company run by a recidivist criminal with mob ties whom Haller put away years earlier. Bosch suspects that the company is running a complex scam and double dipping on government subsidies payouts. Meanwhile, 2020 is off to a strange start with reports of a deadly virus in China that threatens to spread worldwide. The tension builds as Haller prepares for trial, and it becomes clear that he was framed by a much larger entity than he originally thought. This is a supremely intelligent, well-paced courtroom thriller by a modern master. Agent: Philip Spitzer, Philip G. Spitzer Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/02/2020 | Details & Permalink

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When Memory Fails: A Harry Bronson Mystery/Thriller

L.C. Hayden. Hayden, $3.50 e-book (240p) ASIN B07PRK48TQ

In the prologue to Hayden’s gripping seventh novel featuring retired Dallas police detective Harry Bronson (after What Lies Beyond the Fence), the dying Isaac Sechrest, sometime in the early 1900s, tells his teenage granddaughter, Victoria, that the family fortune was “built on deceit, lies, and corruption.” He asks Victoria to find a way to return the money and property he stole to their rightful owners, and gives her a secret ledger that documents his crimes for safekeeping. In present-day Colorado, Harry wakes up, badly hurt, with no memory of who he is or how he was injured. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Sandy Sechrest, a descendant of Isaac’s, and her 20-year-old boyfriend, Daniel Jenkins, who’s Harry’s nephew, are held at gunpoint by Pablo Lazzarone, who boasts of having just killed Harry and threatens to hurt them if they don’t help him find the ledger. Flashbacks reveal how Harry and Sandy ended up in their current predicaments. Plot twists, including searing betrayals, add emotional heft to the fast-paced plot. Fans of offbeat suspense novels will be gratified. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Nothing Good Happens After Midnight: A Suspense Magazine Anthology

Edited by Jeffery Deaver. Suspense, $18.95 trade paper (338p) ISBN 978-0-578-72436-2

Most of the 13 all-original tales in this superlative anthology are unified by strange or unpleasant incidences occurring after the stroke of midnight. In contrast, Alan Jacobson’s thrilling “12:01 AM,” about a kidnapper patterning himself after a serial killer on death row, defies the perception that nothing good happens after midnight, as does John Land’s “ATM,” a redemption tale of a young man sent on a series of vague quests to improve people’s lives. Of special distinction are Linwood Barclay’s sublime nail-biter, “Night Shift,” about a newspaperman trying to stop a late-night caller from going on a killing spree, and Kevin O’Brien’s “Cell Phone Intolerant,” a darkly amusing vigilante tale of an anti–cell phone zealot whose crusade to punish inconsiderate people has shocking repercussions. Other standouts include Heather Graham’s disquieting spine-chiller, “Midnight in the Garden of Death,” in which high schoolers spend the night in a cemetery, and Deaver’s supernatural gothic, “A Creative Defense,” which underscores the power of music. This volume is guaranteed to keep readers burning the midnight oil well into the wee hours. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Genesys X

B.J. Graf. Fairwood, $32 (302p) ISBN 978-1-933846-99-6

In 2041 Los Angeles, the setting of Graf’s ambitious if flawed debut and series launch, biotechnology firms are racing to manufacture a cure for a virulent new strain of Alzheimer’s that’s attacking the young. Desperate researchers have grown more aggressive, taking reckless, unethical approaches in pursuit of unfathomable profits. Meanwhile, the police are struggling to contain a gang war erupting over control of the flooded market of a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. Homicide detective Eddie Piedmont catches the case of the accidental overdose of a 27-year-old stripper who was believed to be blackmailing a scandal-plagued microbiologist. Piedmont, looking to prove himself and get out from underneath his ex-cop father’s legacy of corruption and addiction, winds up in the crosshairs of both internal affairs and a powerful street gang after responding to a call about a reckless driver escalates into him killing a member of the gang. The final act relies heavily on melodramatic catastrophes and coincidental revelations to tie together plot threads. Subtle undercurrents of Greek tragedy suggest Graf is capable of better next time. Agent: Sandy Lu, Book Wyrm Literary & L. Perkins Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/25/2020 | Details & Permalink

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