I was a devout acolyte of Faye Kellerman’s early Decker and Lazarus books. The Ritual Bath (1986) is, to me, one of the greatest first mysteries ever. In it, Peter Decker, an LAPD detective, encounters the orthodox Jewish Rina Lazarus after a rape and murder at her neighborhood mikvah, or ritual bath. Improbably, the two eventually get married and the series, now 26 books long, is a strong one. The early books were marked by intensity of character discovery, intensity of violence, and Kellerman’s propulsive narrative skill.
This book will be published October 27, 2020.
If this book isn’t the birth of a long running series, I would be stunned. A definite relative of Nevada Barr’s long running and beloved Anna Pidgeon series, Alice Henderson has created an adventure suspense mystery with a foundation in the natural world. While Anna Pigeon is a parks ranger, Alex Carter is a biologist who studies endangered species in their dwindling habitats. Like Anna, however, Alex is definitely a bad ass.
Proving her hand with action scenes, the book opens with Alex attending an event celebrating the saving of a natural habitat within a city. Her discovery of over a hundred species of birds who called the area home has prompted the city of Boston to create a protected space, upsetting plans for a development project. Alex is due to be interviewed by a TV reporter – during the interview the two women are shot at and while Alex escapes, she is traumatized by the incident.
Ellen Hart knocks another one out of the park. I continue with my mantra: if you love traditional detective fiction, few writers are doing it better than Ellen Hart at the moment. The air is sucked out of the room by some of the writers of traditional fiction set in England (Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie) or Canada (Louise Penny), but make no mistake, Ellen Hart is treading the same ground. She’s just doing it in Minnesota instead of London or Montreal. As much as I love Cleeves, Crombie and Penny, I love Hart every bit as much, and with 27 books in her Jane Lawless series (and counting) there’s plenty to embrace.
This novel will be published on September 8. You can pre-order it here.
Margaret Mizushima must have been a fan of Nancy Drew as a child, as she has the narrative gift familiar to lovers of Carolyn Keene of leaving a little cliff hanger at the end of each chapter (or novel, as the case may be). I love series fiction for many reasons, but a big reason is visiting and checking in with the continuing lives of characters I’ve come to know and love, just as I loved checking in with Nancy, George and Bess when I was a girl.
This is an excellent suspense novel, so excellent that I devoured it in a single day. It gives a reader plenty to think about – but that’s after you’ve careened through it’s pages. I absolutely could not stop reading.
Set in Michigan’s beautiful upper peninsula, the book alternates narratives between that of Rachel’s, in the present, and that of Jenny’s and Peter’s in the past. It’s not immediately clear how the two connect but when they do, you really can’t look away. Rachel is living in a mental hospital for killing her mother at age 11 and watching as her father then killed himself. She has no memory of these events.
Hank Phillippi Ryan was on the cutting edge of the new wave of what I think of as “fem jep” with a psychological edge. Other writers like Gillian Flynn and Sophie Hannah were also early, excellent adopters of this formula. I read many of these books – they’re a blast – but I got to thinking recently, what sets one apart from another? Almost all of them have an insanely clever hook, and Ryan is no exception to this particular trope.
But what really, really draws me into Hank Ryan’s books is her pure empathy for her characters. Maybe it’s her years of working as a reporter, listening and taking in other people’s stories, but however she comes by this quality in her writing, it’s an extraordinary one, and one that’s often missing from similar fem jep thrillers. It makes you completely invested in her characters and to me, also amps up the suspense, because if you truly care about the people you are reading about, bad things happening to them are that much worse.
Harlan Coben’s The Boy from the Woods is one of his fresher – and angrier – books in awhile. He’s using lawyer Hester Crimstein as his main character (mostly), and as readers, we get some of the fierce Hester’s backstory, as she listens to her grandson when he tells her he’s worried about the disappearance of a bullied girl in his class.
There’s also the titular character, the “boy from the woods,” aka Wilde, a man who was discovered as a 6 or 8 year old in the woods, apparently having survived living on his own for quite a while. He learned English from breaking into abandoned homes and watching television but as a grown man, he’s still most comfortable alone in the woods.
If you’re a fan of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s, you’ll be delighted to know that Hid From Our Eyes picks up right where One Was a Soldier left off. Since it’s been awhile I’ll recap: Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her husband Russ Van Alstyne have welcomed their first child (read the book to find out the child’s name and sex). Clare is in addiction recovery, and believably – for anyone familiar with addiction – she teeters from sober to wishing she wasn’t. That’s the rich background.
This book will be available on April 7, 2020.
This ticking clock thriller feels like the book Cara Black has long wanted to write, it’s so explosive, so taut, and so impossible to stop reading. The propulsive narrative follows Kate Rees, a young American sent to assassinate Hitler when he visits Paris for three hours in 1940. The set up introduces Kate as she’s waiting with her sniper rifle for Hitler’s appearance; then it goes back in time, very briefly, to establish Kate as a person. She’d been living in Scotland with her Welsh husband and their baby daughter when she loses them both to a German bomb, making her determined to fight the Germans with every bit of herself.
Carol Goodman’s luscious prose doesn’t mask her storytelling drive, and it’s a haunting and unforgettable combination. The Sea of Lost Girls is set at a girl’s boarding school in Maine, centering on the family of Tess, Harmon and Rudy. Tess and Harmon both work at the school; Rudy is Tess’s son and Harmon’s stepson, as well as a student at the school. The book kicks off with him texting his mother in the middle of the night, and she rushes off to find out what’s wrong.
As a reader, I was instantly drawn into the dynamic between Tess and her son, who has had some troubles but whom she loves fiercely. Her greatest goal is that of any mother’s: to protect him. And, as it turns out, he needs it. His girlfriend, Lila, whom he had been fighting with, turns up dead the next morning and suspicion falls on both Rudy and Harmon in turn.