RaveThe New York Journal of BooksEric Rickstad’s latest Vermont thriller presents a psychological mystery with stunning twists—perfectly paced and carefully constructed so that each startling new direction fits perfectly with what’s gone before, yet feels utterly unpredictable. That’s the ideal balance for this can’t-put-it-down novel crammed with sinister foreboding and family trauma ... Though Rickstad declares this novel to be a new direction for him, the vivid portrayal of place and threat will be familiar to those who’ve read his other books ... Rickstad makes it clear that it took both The Story Factory and the unusual tilt of Blackstone Publishing to allow him to swerve into this powerful diversion of narrative and suspended disbelief. Three more books are promised. Which should be, in fact, as good a return on investment as young Wayland will get for his desperate investigation.
Tove Alsterdal, Tr. Alice Menzies
RaveNew York Journal of BooksThis translation by Alice Menzies reads well, letting Alsterdal’s steady accumulation of haunting and guilt-drenched detail build a memorable internal world. The power of this crime novel is as much in the struggles of Eira’s too-personal investigation as it is in the criminal threats involved. Eira is a victim of her own inescapable compassion, as well as of the demands for clarity that come with her investigation. Among today’s abundant crime novels, it’s rare to find one that demands a second reading for its language and insight. We Know You Remember is one of that small group, and more American appearances of Tove Alsterdal’s other titles are well worth looking forward to.
MixedNew York Journal of BooksIn this occasionally off-balance volume, commentary from Lilley fills gaps around the investigation’s action. That slows the pace. But it also allows a peek at how current master author Rankin views the original character ... a lot of what Rankin received was likely to be far from finished work. The shorter paragraphs, less deep descriptions, and uneven pace (compared to classic McIlvanney) all suggest exactly that. So reading The Dark Remains, yields far more than the strangely amazing and touching answer to \'What if you combined crime noir geniuses McIlvanney and Rankin?\'
RaveNew York Journal of BooksTaut and passionate, it’s a plot-driven and morally demanding narrative full of threat and heartbreak. The fiercely portrayed reality of life in a divided land and the costly choices everyone faces make this into a page-turner. Berry also excels at keeping her protagonists smart and even wise—so when things do go wrong, it’s not because of foolish mistakes ... Northern Spy will be a hit for readers of Dublin noir and tartan noir, as well as those who’ve already discovered Stuart Neville’s Belfast noir with its grit and darkness. But because Berry opts to view the pain and violence through a young mother’s eyes, there’s less in-your-face blood and guts, and perhaps more agony in spite of that.
Ed. by Michael Koryta
RaveNew York Journal of BooksThere are 19 wildly varied stories in this collection from the Mystery Writers of America, and each one packs a punch of plot and character, bound so tightly in the short story format that their power can be explosive. Or, on the other hand, haunting ... That’s the marvel of really fine short stories: Despite the intensity, the demand that everything important take place in a handful of pages, these authors provide vivid details of character and location and terrible situation so that...there’s a fresh demand for attention, excitement, and even compassion. When a Stranger Comes to Town will give you the very best of what crime fiction should deliver. Means, opportunity, and obsession—right?
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksRuth Rendell, Shirley Jackson, Stuart Neville, all come to mind as Stonex ramps up the tension and hauntings. The Lamplighters holds its secrets close, forcing the investigator and the reader to pry determinedly at those deep-driven slivers of loss, jealousy, anger, and yes, even the violence of the cold and powerful ocean, until the last layers of revelation finally are torn apart. With such dark and treacherous secrets, the men of The Lamplighters echo the force of the seas around them. The deepest mystery that Stonex then offers is: What use is the love each of them has known if it can’t finally rescue them?
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... fine-tuning military and cyber-savvy suspense with a dose of advanced technology, all blended with compelling character development. The Breaker is a page-turner where courage, instinct, and initiative are constant necessities, and failure means the ultimate sacrifice ... The pace in The Breaker is relentless, the action dependent on both weapons and truck chases, and the descriptions beg for a film version ... the battle of friends versus power-hungry creeps takes on new dimensions, and Nick Petrie keeps it all moving, with all the balls in the air, so there isn’t really time for disbelief—just for the next weapon and defensive maneuver, with an edge of self-sacrifice ... Petrie slaps out a highly satisfying finale, and there’s only one thing to do after finishing The Breaker: Check the titles of the earlier five in this action series and start stacking them up for a binge read.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksQuartey lays out scenes like jigsaw puzzle pieces, all pointing in different directions ... Like his earlier books, Sleep Well, My Lady gives Quartey, a Ghana-born Californian physician as well as writer, plenty of space to lay out issues of class and wealth, as well as corruption and political maneuvering. He spins a swift and well-twisted tale of evidence and motives, and of Emma’s efforts both undercover and among the other investigating agents. The bouncing timeline scatters red herrings nicely, and there’s added suspense in seeing various perspectives and wondering how Emma and the team will assemble all the pieces ... ike Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana series, Sleep Well, My Lady is an all-agency tour de force. But unlike Smith’s series, Quartey adds a satisfying spice of outrage and danger ... It’s good reading, especially for a [...] TBR stack.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksDavid Downing’s novels of crime, suspense, and espionage have danced through both world wars. His Station series, six titles before Wedding Station , evoke the relentless terror of life in Berlin during World War II. Now, in a fierce and daring prequel, Downing reveals the back story to the propulsive series ... Wedding Station (the title refers to a location in Berlin, Wedding, pronounced with a V sound at the start) is an ideal choice for both Downing fans and newcomers to his fast-paced and intense crime novels. As a \'prequel,\' it won’t require catch-up time, except perhaps for the alphabet soup of the various German groups menacing Berlin. And as part of the series, it’s a marvelous exploration of how John Russell steps out of ordinary life into endless dangerous choices, and into how the Nazi regime will convince itself of a mission to subdue all of Europe.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksPick up Exit if you’d like to sample a very new way of building a crime novel with an unusual pace. It has something of Jasper Fforde in the compiled coincidences, and more of the relentless yet methodical pace of, say, Mario Giordano or Oliver Potzsch. There’s humor here, but it is very, very dry, alternating with tender—with the kind of protagonist who may eventually have to \'blow his nose with happiness.\'
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksArdent readers of this Charles Todd series may regret that Hamish’s abrupt and caustic voice, so quick to warn Rutledge of danger, is not especially present in A Fatal Lie. Nor are the other aspects of this investigator’s own grief-stricken life: the betrayals in love, the desperate need for honest friendship, the sense of being forever lost in a peacetime that doesn’t grasp and won’t admit what he’s endured and how the war has broken him ... Yet for that very reason, A Fatal Lie provides an excellent book with which to walk into Rutledge’s pursuit of crime and determination to make things right. It also gives a haunting introduction to the perils and fierce protectiveness of Welsh culture, a setting in which long-term vindictiveness can flourish and persist, if Rutledge fails to grasp the forces in play and the motives that may stem as much from love as from malice ... s a police procedural, also, the book’s persistent untangling of motive, means, and opportunity provides an instant classic for this mystery genre, along with an intriguing exploration of the heart’s effects on the mind.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksVidich carries the wintry mood of Soviet menace and danger powerfully, and his plot twists are tight and all too believable ... With George Mueller, a CIA agent rolling out of the embassy and into a late-in-life mission to meet a new Russian spy, the moment is all about rational fear and determination ... Garin’s return to the Soviet Union is by definition perilous, with all the odds against him. His own identity as some sort of Russian himself will slowly unfold over the course of his mission—but there’s no question that somewhere in the Soviet files, his image and story are well documented, and he’s in danger from this moment on, in Moscow ... The deepest and most painful conflict in The Mercenary becomes whether Alek Garin must meet the same ending as Alec Leamas. Vidich holds the issue in fierce suspense all the way through this standalone thriller.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... cuts remarkable new ground ... An intense and fast-paced investigative novel ... Gardner’s fierce and skillful blending of rage and despair and unhealable wounds makes Frankie an unforgettable protagonist. She can’t be called an amateur sleuth, because her impassioned searches have shown solid results. She has families that speak for her, because she cared enough to work for discovery of what happened to their loved ones. Yet she’s not paid by any of those. And she walks a knife edge of internal haunting ... introduces what may be the most powerful sleuth of the decade, an \'ordinary\' woman driven to uncover the truth at any personal cost. There’s only one thing to ask for by the time the book ends: please, please, a sequel and a series.
Alexander McCall Smith
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksMcCall Smith’s storytelling provides great charm as he unravels the experience and thinking of his rural but increasingly wise protagonists ... Mma Ramotswe and her allies practice that love of land and courtesy to each other in gently amusing ways that eventually resolve the mysteries, potential crimes, and tensions of their lives. In a time of pandemic, there could be few more rewarding and soothing tales to read than How to Raise an Elephant.
Andrea Camilleri, Trans. by Stephen Sartarelli
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksAnyone who’s subjected themselves to drama school at any level—or even to ordinary high school—will grasp the real level of malice and damage produced by the far-too-clever director. So it’s a relief to tag along with the mundane and sometimes stumbling efforts of police procedure, as Montalbano marvels at his discoveries and tries to find the right combination of person and scene to explain both the original murder and a second one. Stephen Sartarelli’s translation allows Camilleri’s deft humor to come through vividly; his attempts to portray lower classes by giving them Cockney-style slang are less successful but tolerable for the sake of enjoying this lively crime novel. There’s no need to read the other 25 Inspector Montalbano books before The Sicilian Method, but this enjoyable romp may send readers scurrying for them afterward, giving birth to a new generation of collectors of Camilleri’s dark humor and neatly twisted plots, along with the persistence of an inspector who can’t ever let himself be defeated by crime.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksFrear’s writing is intense and suspenseful, with a perfect balance of red herrings and dogged pursuit of the truth. She spills Kinsella’s stresses a bit at a time, from a first-person point of view that always hides something ... Frear’s writing has the sharp dark tang that Tana French exhibits, and she updates the British crime narrative to the dangerous conflicts of loyalty that Stuart Neville paints best, with their hungry roots in the ever-decomposing past. If there’s a single weak spot in Shed No Tears, it’s in the overly optimistic ending. Yet with Frear’s record to judge from, it’s a good bet that the sequel to come will turn out to be more menacing and dangerous than Kinsella could have guessed, even from her own family’s experience.
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksConnelly spins this series as a first-person narrative, which slows the pace. There are plenty of action scenes, but also a lot more inner conversation than in the Harry Bosch books ... Passionate followers of the Bosch series may not find much to enjoy in The Law of Innocence: Bosch’s appearances are brief and not very interesting, compared to the character himself ... That said, Connelly carries out what he’s endlessly powerful in doing: He spins a story in which the risk is life itself, and the collateral damage may be integrity. Watching Mickey Haller work out how to balance the two makes this a compelling crime novel that lingers in value long after the last page.
PositiveThe New York Journal of Books... a page-turner where suspense keeps ramping up ... In the tradition of Agatha Christie, the characters are trapped together, and the clues are abundant, but perhaps only Susan Ryeland has the motivation to assemble them all and dare to accuse the killer ... will be either adored or dreaded by readers, with no middle ground. Dare to open it if you’re ready to face both page length and puzzle solving.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
RaveNew York Journal of BooksRyan’s tight-twist plot careens forward, ramping up suspense every couple of pages and putting everyone in danger. When it looks like Meg intends to steal Ellie’s news job as well, the tension grows almost unbearable ... For a while, this thriller switches characters in flashes like a Shakespearean drama, storms and treachery rattling off stage. Then, as the dangers move to center action, the characters spin ... Ryan provides an extra tang of satisfaction as all the most potent characters in The First to Lie are tough, savvy, scientifically sharp women with skills that could slide effectively into the original James Bond series.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksThe Nightworkers wipes off the stage makeup of these crime figures and reveals their humanity, their longings for care—giving it and receiving it ... Like the strongest authors in this genre, Selfon bares the effects of death on each of us. His dialogue is compelling, his plot actions and his images of Brooklyn’s underworld unforgettable ... A few chapters in, there’s no chance of putting down this book until the highly satisfying yet unexpected finale.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksParetsky takes the time to frame setting and character, even dividing many of the stories into mini chapters of their own. There’s a paragraph after each tale where Paretsky opens up its backstory, and these add tasty seasoning to the book ... Obviously, readers already somewhat familiar with Paretsky’s works will get extra pleasure from this gathering that stitches together so much of her previous writing as well as revealing personal and professional motives to her storytelling ... a perfect match for summer’s relaxing moments, whether they are long ones on vacation or short breathers between home-based neverending gig economy labors. Each story brings a change of pace, a clever crime, and a burning sense of what human justice demands. Which, of course, is exactly what one would expect from a Grand Master of Mystery.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksGriffiths is a master storyteller, with two vivid mystery series underway. This is the more rapidly paced of the two (the other is set a half century earlier), and the unavoidable strands of Ruth’s passion—her work, her child, her lovers—act as potent forces while March’s apparently ongoing crime spree nets them all ... Bringing the traditional British mystery up to date with this strong and driven sleuth—not a true amateur sleuth, but an active partner with the official investigation—is the best part of reading this ongoing series from Elly Griffiths. And it looks like there’s plenty of room for more.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksJohn Lawton’s British detective fiction has reached the height of being predictably stirring, powerfully written, and cleverly knit together ... As a crime novel or work of espionage, Hammer to Fall isn’t a simple read. It demands some historical grasp of the reader, and patience with the curling plot. But there are intermittent sweeteners of humor and affection, and the final scenes lead dramatically to a high-tension Cold War quandary that promises more to come in this entertaining series.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksLeon’s ability to paint both her city of Venice and the quandaries of commitment make this Trace Elements a quietly powerful book. The plot and related risks are less dramatic than usual, and perhaps less memorable, but in the long run, this is a book rich with questions of honor and trust, offered from the hand of a master storyteller.
Emily St. John Mandel
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksWhat Mandel does, in her layered and tender narratives, is show the haunting that love and good intentions can create ... each character is brought to delicately blushed color as if in Japanese watercolor, through the moments Mandel provides for them, either in their visions or in their settings ... The Glass Hotel also places life and dying into their necessary parallel positions of meaning ... Mandel’s symphony of belief and offerings builds slowly to a pattern that, in the midst of loss, insists on giving meaning and value to the half-understood, half-intended journeys that people so often take. And wake up to, and marvel, and perhaps see through the glass.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksVidich rarely gives much description of a scene or personal appearance but sketches the interior of a character—and all his significant ones are men—deftly and sharply ... disclosure comes more from the author\'s revelatory passages, and less from the situations playing out ... the first few chapters of The Coldest Warrior aren\'t the greatest quality—whether from overworking, or hasty rearrangement, or careless editing, it\'s impossible to know. Yet Vidich soon blooms with powerful moments and short snippets of insight that cut deep ... The book spins quickly into risk and danger, and the final chapters, fast-paced and dark with threat, provide one of the best manhunt and intended escape sequences of current espionage fiction. One could quibble with the very last scene, a bit soft for a book of such terse \'noirish\' narrative—but the heart of the book is so good that it\'s an important one to grab, read, shelve, and think about.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksDovalpage is a skilled tour guide, opening up the Cuba of two decades ago, the island nation today, and the beliefs and results of Santería. Deftly unfolding details within the action, she reveals Cuba and its people as rich with fascination and depth ... Although she doesn’t yet have the knack of creating deeply compelling characters, Dovalpage’s writing hints at the possibility that she will be to Cuba what Donna Leon has become for Venice. Savor the excitement of this author’s early career and enjoy seeing her strengths mature.
Helene Tursten, Trans. by Marlaine Delargy
MixedThe New York Journal of BooksTursten’s books present the Swedish setting as if it were a character, in rich, active detail. The cultural quirks that make this so interesting for American readers are front and center in the crimes ... The book has a brisk pace and plenty of twists, as well as some frankly sexy scenes for Embla when not on the job. Marlaine Delargy handles the translation, as she has for others from this author, and it’s clear and well written—but also a bit flat, as sentence structure becomes a counterweight to the plot and drags it down. It’s tempting to assume this is the price of Scandinavian noir (like the endless depressions of Henning Mankell’s books), but because Embla is actually a lively and likeable character, that’s unlikely. Frequent shifts of point of view don’t help. Whichever the cause, the reader will need to summon some tolerance and keep faith in the plot itself.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksLittle by little, one sideways reference or clue after another, the crime at the heart of the book emerges. And a silence builds, as large as the loss that Sarah Jane’s still carrying. Is it Sarah Jane’s own, or does it belong to one of the dead men she’s seen? ... Lit with insight, affection, and the deep tenderness that can accompany long-term grief, Sallis’ Sarah Jane is that most unusual of mysteries: one that investigates the soul, walking.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... any parent’s horror story, spelled out in twisted and lurid detail. The only way to read it is to be very sure it’s not going to happen to you and yours—but McKinty doesn’t leave much room for that certainty ... The exhilaration of a crime ride with McKinty is that he never stays just on the surface. His jabs to the underworld aren’t just in terms of menacing criminal figures; they reach the darkness in all of us ... McKinty’s fierce twists of narrative and pressure create one highly believable surprise after another, for a compelling up-to-date twist on crime and threat. The Chain will unforgettably haunt you even if you just read the first chapter—so you might as well lock the doors, bite your nails, and read it all.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksPerry’s adroit handling of matters of law and crime creates an intriguing skein of tangled motives and court case potential in this fast-paced and likeable novel. In addition, she spikes the action with a slowly growing attraction and daring whiff of romance between Pitt and his other boss’s brilliant daughter, forensic expert Miriam fforde Croft ... Anne Perry’s long career has labeled her as an \'English author of historical detective fiction.\' But Triple Jeopardy shows emphatically that Perry’s best writing exhumes the motives of the human heart. This is, in the long run, the finest characteristic of well-written fiction, and sets readers looking for more from this promising new series.
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksRecipe caution: Fluke provides extensive directions for her recipes, making them a good choice for beginners. But about half the recipes involve pre-made mixes and artificial toppings, so if you’re particular about avoiding those, prepare to do many revisions. Still, one of the pleasures of this series is getting a clue to how new recipes are devised, especially the ones that connect to friendly community events in Fluke’s version of Minnesota town life. Fluke can also be relied on for solid basic investigations, without any high-tech testing or complicated profiling. Chocolate Cream Pie Murder is an updated, country-style classic mystery, meant for simple enjoyment and a touch of admiration at how Hannah always picks herself back up again, even when there’s a body in her bedroom and a disaster in her bakery. It’s fine to read this one without having the rest of the series; plenty of clues and references to earlier plot twists arrive in a timely fashion. The only tough part about the book is the recipes can lure a reader into cooking something before reading the next chapter.
Jonathan De Shalit
PositiveNew York Journal of BooksStein is brilliant and deadly, a combination that probably should go with some form of psychopathy. Or is that a normal result of training with Mossad and appreciating the horrors that anti-Semitism and global warfare commit against Israel daily? Because author Jonathan de Shalit (a pen name for a former Israeli intelligence agent) never clears that up, a terrible ambiguity lingers, and even deepens, around this highly connected woman ... De Shalit’s adroit plotting and description of weapons and their effects makes the action scenes lively and compelling, with highly believable terrorist aims ... the author has learned to portray a female and still employable version of Le Carré’s less than lovable traitors.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksMaster of suspense Barry Eisler links two of his series together in the hard-hitting and compulsive thriller \"The Killer Collective\" ... Page after page, explosion and killing and escape after another, this sharp-edged storyteller pulls off one of the great escapades of all time. And if, afterward, the notion seems unlikely, the collective too dangerous, the odds of success against it—that part won’t matter. The fun of Eisler’s super thriller is in the excitement, the chase, and the survival. The Killer Collective binds it together into a blazing adventure of espionage escape fiction, perfect to start the new year.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksEntertaining ... Woods, a pro at keeping the plates spinning, creates a stellar performance of risk, intrigue, and hard-won escapes for his very experienced protagonist ... This is a classic \'Mafia crime\' mystery, told in a chatty and delightful way. Don’t count on memorable tropes or depth, as they are not the point of Woods’ efforts. But go ahead and bet on Stone Barrington to work things out. And if you’re going along for the ride, as Dino will be from time to time, be sure to bring a dinner jacket. Stone solves crimes in style.
PositiveThe New York Journal of BooksShort, hard-paced action chapters cascade, as these overtrained but information-deprived young adults chase down the force that’s attacked their bizarre security. With the pace of a Lee Child thriller, the knife and gun fights and high-tech weaponry flash, again and again, and with each comes a small revelation ... This propulsive page-turner turns modern espionage into a life-stakes race ... Fans of this author’s previous series, with the genderfluid Vanessa Michael Munroe, may find it challenging to accept a switch of protagonists. But the international span of Liars’ Paradox once again displays the fierce and powerful route this author’s already lived, and her determination to bare the horrors of today’s global balance of violence—countered, of course, by skills, and passionate loyalty to family and friends.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksA tour de force ... The Comforts of Home makes it clear that home is about far more than where you hang your hat, be it an official uniform cap or a disguise ... Readers of the earlier eight books of the series will appreciate how the demands of the cases tug him back toward characters they’ve come to trust and admire, because Simon trusts them, and now he actually needs them, to find his strength again and to manage the challenges of pursuing those who commit murder ... Although Hill’s books are well known as award-winning crime fiction, The Comforts of Home can’t be read as a page-turner: It’s too dense, too probing, too layered with pain and loss and the kind of love that family and good friends provide in the middle of life’s major messes ... As the best mysteries do, this one probes the mysteries within ... A fine read, memorable and satisfying in its dark tangles and solutions.
PositiveNew York Journal of Books\"With River Bodies Katchur launches a crime series instead, the Northamption County Series, with a promise to feature lead detective Parker Reed in the books ahead ... Deftly braiding suspense, crime, and the search for trust and truth, Katchur works a modern ‘deliverance’ out of a harsh rural location, with potential that she more than justifies in her plot twists, pacing, and growth of character ... Don’t let the occasionally too-short chapters or the jumps of point of view or timeline bother you—it’s worth reading all the way through this intense thriller, and gives a taste of how extraordinary this author will be as she continues to reach into her best books ahead.\
RaveNew York Journal of Books\"But the basics are all in place for gothic suspense—in fact, Stuart Turton, a freelance London journalist, might as well be channeling Edgar Allen Poe or Stephen King for this compelling thriller ... This urgency turns The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle into a dark and intriguing thriller, a crime novel well outside the norm, and entirely memorable for both plot twists and unusual characters. Place on the stack of \'to be read twice.\' Turton’s crafted a winner.\
RaveNew York Journal of Books\"Lethem’s writing weaves together the surreal and the heart-wrenching, and Phoebe’s strong dark voice speaks with the same alcohol-soaked despair as in earlier Los Angeles noir ... But going deep isn’t the only way to read The Feral Detective: It’s also one of the most unusual, unlikely, and un-put-downable PI novels ever.\