RaveBooklistLike Louise Penny, Rankin consistently finds clever ways of involving his retired detective in new investigations ... Rankin hits on all cylinders here: he makes the most of the fascinating internment-camp story; he injects new life into the familiar mystery trope of an outside investigator roiling the surface calm of an insular community; and he continues to develop the rich interplay between Rebus and Clarke.
RaveBooklist\"Banville decorates his deceptively complex mystery with literary flourishes and uses familiar classical-era tropes to camouflage the darkness lurking below the surface ... No order-restoring resolution here, in this brilliant mix of old tropes and sadly modern evil.\
RaveBooklistFrench again displays impressive versatility ... French skillfully builds suspense, as the search reveals great turmoil beneath the village’s bucolic facade. This is a fine thriller, but it’s also a moving story of an unlikely friendship that grows from refinishing a ramshackle desk to rebuilding two nearly broken lives. Trey evokes both the vulnerability and inner strength of Ree Dolly in Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, a country noir that, like The Searcher, finds tenderness in the troubled hearts of its recalcitrant characters.
RaveBooklistSeries devotees will revel in both Penny’s evocation of Paris—every bit as sumptuous as her rendering of Three Pines—and in the increased role she allots to librarian Reine-Marie, whose research skills are crucial to untying the Gordian knot at the mystery’s core ... This celebration of the First Family of crime fiction will be treasured by Penny’s ever-growing legion of readers.
RaveBooklist... offers both an absurdist view of tomorrow’s headlines and a welcome reprise of the outrageously surrealistic tropes that first established the author as the Hieronymus Bosch of crime fiction ... The plot gets crazier from there in a manner that we might once have seen as exaggerated for effect but that, today, sounds like a White House presser. Among the many pleasures in this rampagingly funny satire is the reappearance of one of Hiaasen’s much-loved characters, the wily Skink, former Florida governor turned Everglades hermit, who joins forces with Angie and Mastodon’s fed-up wife, Mockingbird, to inject a dash of hope into the Boschian landscape.
James Lee Burke
RaveBooklistThe supernatural elements may be difficult for those new to the series, but for longtime Burke readers, they feel just right. Meditations on time and the power of the past have always been at the heart of Burke’s vision, and here they reach a new level of poetic rhapsody.
A. N. Wilson
RaveBooklistBlending perceptive analysis of the novels with parallel experiences in Dickens’ life, the narrative argues convincingly that \'the gallery of characters\' who buzzed about inside the author’s head \'had not come from a calm, happy place, but from a cauldron of self-contradiction and self-reproach, a bubbling confusion of moral centres.\' He is particularly strong in explicating that \'bubbling confusion\' as it applies to Dickens’ attitudes toward women and his hidden obsession with sex, from his hatred of his mother and, later, his wife to the ways the novels pulsate with sublimated sexual feelings ... Beyond the eye-opening analysis, Wilson also offers a moving personal account of why Dickens has meant so much to him.
Joe R. Lansdale
PositiveBooklistThe postman rings again in this grisly homage to the classic noir of James M. Cain ... Lansdale takes the familiar formula and adds a triple helping of gore (served with a soupçon of absurdist humor), a femme fatale who’s mastered the long game, and a blustery man with an identity crisis. It’s still the same old story in the end...but Lansdale really makes this used car purr.
RaveBooklist... Edie Pritchard...another of Watson’s resolute characters burdened by the inevitability of loss and the implacable landscape of eastern Montana ... [a] taut, understated narrative ... Watson remains incapable of creating characters who aren’t fully formed individuals, as courageous as they are vulnerable, and here he again displays his rare ability to craft strong women and to describe their everyday lives with rare power.
S. A. Cosby
RaveBooklistHeist-novel fans are all too familiar with the one-last-job premise, but Cosby trumps our expectations with a neat twist ... Cosby never misses a note in this high-energy read, from Bug’s under-the-hood wizardry to the actual driving to the sensitive character building, which gives depth to the entire cast, including Bug’s hapless yet treacherous associates. A superb work of crime fiction, uncompromisingly noir but deeply human, too...
Willie Mays and John Shea
RaveBooklistWith the Say Hey Kid, there’s always more to say, and, in this unusual mix of memoir, self-help, and baseball history, Mays and coauthor John Shea, longtime San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter, find a thoroughly engaging way to say it ... This approach, along with the book’s structure, which combines Shea’s narrative with Mays’ commentary, makes it possible to provide revealing detail about even the most-discussed events in the Mays highlight reel, and it gives Mays, who will turn 90 in 2021, the opportunity to reflect on the game and how to play it. Testimony from a host of past and present players, along with presidents and other notables, all inspired by Mays’ example, drives home the point that there’s never been anyone quite like number 24.
RaveBooklistMetafiction master Mitchell’s readers can be excused if they greet a new novel by this unalloyed genius with both goose-pimply anticipation and trepidation over meeting the challenge. Not to worry. Utopia Avenue, while leaving behind neither the complexity nor the genre-bending pyrotechnics of The Bone Clocks (2014), is by far the most accessible of Mitchell’s broad-canvas novels. This addictive Big Gulp of a narrative not only delivers a compelling and multitextured look at the 1960s, but it also could be the best novel about a rock band since Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010). Mitchell evokes the psychedelic age with a bravura mix of telling details and richly composed portraits of iconic figures ... Mitchell masterfully builds each of the four into top-of-the-marquee characters, subtly mixing coming-of-age portraits with revealing glimpses of inner lives ... a foot-tapping ode to rock music, but, like the band in full cry Mitchell continues to use the rhythms of surface reality to dig much deeper, but without ever losing the beat.
James Carlos Blake
PositiveBooklistThe noirish tone is certainly evident here, but this is not as dark as others in the series, more in the vein of a Thomas Perry caper novel, with plenty of blood. As such, it is never less than thoroughly entertaining.
PositiveBooklistPut two Irish guys behind a pint, get them talking, and let the backstory flow. Kevin Barry did it in Night Boat to Tangier...and now Doyle does the same in this freewheeling tale of longtime mates Joe and Davy, who reconnect in Dublin ... As the two track back through the years of their marriages, a mixture of regret and melancholy permeates what’s both spoken and left unspoken. And, yet, at the end of this long night’s journey into day, we are buoyed against the sadness by what is finally a portrait of love in the face of life.
RaveBooklistJazz Age Paris continues to fascinate, and George taps into that wellspring of interest with this enchanting historical novel .. As these four walk the sumptuously evoked streets, George cleverly brings their stories together in a stunning finale that should feel contrived but somehow doesn’t. Or maybe we just don’t care because the novel has put us under the spell of the City of Light yet again.
RaveBooklistIgnatius has written several top-notch spy thrillers, but his latest may be his most gripping yet ... Love it for it’s old-school suspense or for its ultramodern vision of technology run amok, but love it you will.
Szczepan Twardoch, Trans. by Sean Gasper Bye
PositiveBooklist... dense but powerful ... Twardoch spins the convention of the unreliable narrator in multiple directions: not only may the narrator be deceiving the reader, he may also be deceiving himself. All of this storytelling legerdemain adds complexity and fascinating psychological texture to the book, which at its heart is a gripping tale of a Godfather-like power struggle between warring mobs, one largely Jewish, the other anti-Semitic and pro-Fascist.The Tarrantino-caliber violence can be overwhelming but is never gratuitous in a novel that is fundamentally about a country and its people on the verge of decimation.
PositiveBooklistThis is fascinating stuff, with obvious connections to the headlines of the day, but all the keyboard pounding by Eliot and others gets a bit abstruse; still, there is a dynamite finale, in which bytes morph into bombs, and a tragic love story in which the lovers, like so many spies before them, can’t come in from the cold.
PositiveBooklist...a byzantine tale of alliances formed and discarded, double crosses tripled and quadrupled, in which \'corporations are the new nation-states,\' with their own armies. Like John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field... Steinhauer pits a disenchanted agent, an ideologue no more, against the new evil empire, multinational corporations for whom \'money knows no borders.\' It’s not a fair fight, but Milo is a hell of a counterpuncher, and we love rooting for him.
RaveBooklistAfter three epic-scale masterpieces...Winslow returns with a delicious serving of small plates. Bookending several novellas that reunite fans with characters from previous Winslow novels are two hard-hitting tales ... The power of these two tales notwithstanding, Winslow’s devotees may find themselves relishing even more the exquisitely entertaining nostalgia trips on offer in the middle stories, which bring back, among others, those irrepressible aging surfers from The Dawn Patrol...and The Gentlemen’s Hour as well as everybody’s favorite marijuana growers, Ben, Chon, and O, from Savages and The Kings of Cool A greatest-hits album but with all-new melodies: what could be sweeter?!
PositiveBooklist...[a] melancholy, deeply moving tale of three showpeople in postwar Britain ... In the crisp, eloquently understated prose that has been a hallmark of Swift’s award-winning career, he traces the lives of the trio, both during that pivotal summer and earlier ... The title is deeply ironic, in that none of the three ever knows for sure where they are—with themselves or with one another—but Swift makes sure we know: three performers who could never quite leave their secrets behind.
PositiveBooklist...a beguiling coming-of-age tale about an introverted Michigan boy who is uprooted from his family’s farm after his parents’ divorce and finds himself in Montana living with his mother, an NPR-addicted librarian whose choice of a new home was dictated by seeing Brad Pitt in A River Runs through It ... A sensitive, extremely well wrought novel.
PositiveBooklistThis first collection of Stone’s nonfiction, edited by his biographer, Madison Smartt Bell, brings together essays written for a variety of periodicals...and showcases the same dizzying welter of ideas and passions that defines Stone’s landmark fiction ... In What Fiction Is For [Stone] says that \'art is the only medium we have for removing a moment from the whirl of events and placing it under scrutiny in all its dimensions.\' These essays, however, argue persuasively that, for Stone, nonfiction can do the same thing.
RaveBooklistLawton does a brilliant job of incorporating backstory here, deepening our understanding of and feelings for rule-breaking Joe, who cares more for people than governments, while delivering a jaw-dropping finale that will leave readers palpitating for more.
RaveBooklistBlack knows a thing or two about frenetic dashes across the city’s neighborhoods, into and out of cafés, bars, and back alleys—after all, she’s been tracking Aimée’s peregrinations through 19 novels—but, harried as Aimée always is, she’s never had Nazis on her tail. Brilliantly building on the novel’s premise, Black constructs a surprise-filled plot, fueled by breathless pacing, Alan Furst–like atmosphere, and a textured look at Resistance fighters in Paris. There is even a tantalizing subplot involving the surprisingly sympathetic German policeman who is chasing Kate. Black stretches her wings here, soaring to new heights.
Michael Farris Smith
RaveBooklistAs in the best noir, a soul-strangling inevitability hangs over Red Bluff, yet somehow Smith gives his doomed characters a dignity in the face of forces well beyond their control.
RaveBooklist...a dark but moving portrayal of working-class lives that evokes the \'kitchen-sink dramas\' of such mid-century British novelists as Alan Sillitoe ... Eschewing sentimentality yet still managing to find embers of tenderness in these stunted lives, Boyle blends powerful social realism with a strong noir sensibility.
PositiveBooklistThroughout her acclaimed Guido Brunetti series, Leon has brilliantly melded topical social issues with timeless considerations of human imperfections and the dilemmas they generate. Here she does so again with a meditative novel that looks at the water crisis in Venice—not flooding this time, but pollution—set against the eternal problem of justice ... In an age where so many seek simplistic and wrongheaded answers to complex questions, it is comforting that Leon, in celebrating human complexity, remains one of our most beloved writers.
RaveBooklistThere is a bit too much melodrama as the narrative unwinds—especially in the story of the FBI agent on Phoebe’s trail—but that is only a quibble alongside the thoroughly fascinating and too-little-known story of Hannah Weinstein and her role in supporting blacklisted Americans, regardless of gender or race.
RaveBooklistSwanson hits the mystery writer’s daily double: a devilish premise combined with jaw-dropping execution ... Mystery fans will be salivating as the plot unfolds, trying to outsmart the confoundingly unreliable narrative and, of course, relishing the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the classic books, which range from A. A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery (1922) through Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992), including along the way, inevitably, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train (1950). Swanson hits every note in this homage to the old-school crime novel, and the turnabout ending will leave readers reeling in delight.
PositiveBooklistWhat a treat ... All this backstory will be catnip to Bernie disciples, and the stories are a treat, too, especially \'The Burglar Who Dropped in on Elvis,\' in which Bernie is charged with breaking into Graceland’s impregnable second floor.
PositiveBooklistVidich generates plenty of tension as Gabriel attempts to sort out who is after him and then constructs an elaborate plan to carve out a separate peace. In the manner of Charles Cumming and recent le Carré, Vidich pits spies on the same side against one another in a kind of internal cold war.
PositiveBooklist[Lumet\'s] is a life rich in story, both personal and professional, and Spiegel does a yeoman’s job of telling those stories in this illuminating biography ... sections of the book sparkle with life and vivid anecdotes, detailing how Lumet honed his craft directing such shows as Playhouse 90 and working with actors like Paul Newman, Rod Steiger, and James Dean ... Lumet’s is also a New Yorker’s story, and his love of the city and its streets is palpable throughout. Essential reading for movie fans.
RaveBooklist... quirky ... a multipronged story that showcases a fascinating gallimaufry of characters who swirl around the edges of the springtime ritual ... Spring training is, above all, a time pregnant with possibility, but Nemens shrewdly focuses on those struggling to hang on just a little bit longer, the annual opportunity for renewal—signaled by the smell of a freshly mowed infield and the sound of a crisply struck line drive—dimmed by everything from Tommy John elbows to one too many facelifts. And, yet, Nemens finds a kind of attenuated hope along with melancholy in these sharply etched character studies that \'end not with ‘out three’ but ‘out maybe.\'
RaveBooklistUsually, Ide walks the thin line between light and dark, playing off moments of caper-novel hilarity against outbursts of violence and the angst of misfired relationships, but this time angst wins by TKO. No matter. Ide goes dark with the skill of a noir master, leaving Isaiah in a very bad place and the reader gasping for breath. A stunning change of pace from one of crime fiction’s new stars.
Ash Carter and Sam Kashner
RaveBooklistLegendary director Mike Nichols...refused to write his memoirs, but this scintillating oral history fills the gap splendidly, with wry and heartfelt commentary by \'150 of his closest friends,\' ... what comes through most forcefully is Nichols’ ability to get the most out of his actors. And, of course, his unparalleled ability to tell a story, punctuated always by self-deprecating wit ... An exquisite oral history that will leave readers convinced that they, too, were among Nichols’ closest friends.
Piero Chiara, Trans. by Jill Foulston
PositiveBooklist...this hypnotic novel, a mix of thriller and mood piece on the nature of sexual attraction, has finally been translated into English ... It’s a quiet novel, but the suspense is as palpable as the unmistakable echoes of Patricia Highsmith.
Max Allan Collins
PositiveBooklist... a thoroughly entertaining pas de deux, evoking Richard Condon’s classic Prizzi’s Honor (1982), in which Quarry and Lu come together as lovers and co-conspirators, despite neither one being sure who will try to kill the other first. The seventies backdrop, complete with cavorting and bloodletting at a former Playboy resort, only adds to the time-capsule ambience of this pulpy pleasure trip.
Martin Cruz Smith
RaveBooklistPut Arkady Renko near the top of your list of favorite cynics in crime fiction. And, yet, despite the Russian investigator’s bedrock conviction that the Siberian Dilemma (After you fall through ice, do you climb out and die from exposure in seconds, or stay in the water and die from hypothermia in five minutes?) captures the essence of the human condition, he’s always been a sucker for love, and with love comes a kind of fatalistic optimism ... Smith does set-pieces as well as anyone in the genre, so get ready for the Siberian Dilemma to jump from metaphor to chilling reality in multiple ways (exit pursued by a bear). This is Smith at his absolute best: black humor, brown bears, and gray souls.
RaveBooklist... gripping ... Many of Furst’s signature themes are in full flower here—wartime love affairs (warm bodies beneath cold covers as Klaxons blare on dark streets) and character interactions as brief as they are indelible—but this time the special treat is the vivid detailing of Resistance operatives at work, well-oiled tradecraft blending seamlessly into everyday activities.
RaveBooklistBradby draws heavily on the daily news in this compelling thriller ... That’s a lot going on in one novel, but Bradby makes it work, driving home the quintessential espionage theme of betrayal as it permeates all aspects of Kate’s life, professional and personal. There are resonant echoes of le Carré here—in the way the betrayals reach from marriage beds to the seats of government—but there is also a distinctly contemporary feeling in the idea that truth, even when it’s discoverable, may no longer matter.
John Le Carre
RaveBooklistAs always, it is fascinating to watch the tradecraft play out (le Carré remains a master at showing us what spies do, wily spiders to the unsuspecting flies they entrap), but that darker strain present in varying degrees throughout this seminal espionage novelist’s oeuvre—the inescapable conclusion that individual lives, not evil empires, are the real prey that spies and governments devour—overshadows all else.
RaveBooklistNot only has Connelly created another fully formed series lead in Renée, who has her own fascinating backstory, but he has also forged a fascinating yin-and-yang relationship between the old-school Harry and the unconventional loner Renèe, who prefers sleeping on the beach with her dog. Uniting this duo, who work totally as equals, is a shared commitment to doing the job right and following Bosch’s credo,\'“everybody matters or nobody matters.\' Master chef Connelly has once again combined familiar ingredients into a new and completely satisfying dish.
PositiveBooklistLethem comments in his introduction on the expanding boundaries of crime fiction, noting \'how vital and diverse and happily contradictory the variations within a so-called genre can be.\' All of that vitality is on view in this unusual but thoroughly satisfying collectiong ... As always, an essential anthology.
PositiveBooklist... why another volume on the life and work? Musicologist Crawford brings to this well-trod ground an engaging focus on the music, scrupulously covering all the musical comedies in detail as well as the classical compositions and film work. He effectively interweaves what was happening in Gershwin’s personal life into the story of the songs and shows, rather than the other way around. It proves a felicitous approach, allowing detailed analysis of technique but folding in enlightening anecdotes ... Above all, Crawford makes the case for Gershwin’s crucial role in bridging various styles of music and performance, and then taking the melding process another giant step with his triumphant folk opera Porgy and Bess. A worthy tribute to Gershwin’s phenomenal creativity over only two decades.
RaveBooklistAimée Leduc’s nineteenth adventure is one of her best, both because the plot is notably rich, incorporating the complex relationship between France and its former colony, Côte d’Ivoire, and because the ongoing domestic drama in the extended Leduc household has become a thoroughly involving serial novel of its own ... Whether read as a crime story with roots in international politics or as the latest chapter in a fascinating family drama, this is a deeply satisfying and entertaining novel.
RaveBooklistIf this turns out to be, as Lagercrantz has suggested, the final installment in the series, it’s going out on a resounding tonic chord ... If this installment has a weakness, it’s that Blomkvist’s search, which leads to a tragedy that happened years before on Mt. Everest, seems unnecessarily complex. That might be fine in another novel, but here the reader wants more of Salander and less of mountain climbing. Fortunately, Lagercrantz, when he can get himself down the mountain, delivers in high style ... Salander is what she’s always been: a force to be reckoned with and one of the most memorable series leads in the history of crime fiction.
PositiveBooklistThe appeal of this series and especially of Gamache himself has always been Penny’s ability to show her hero moving from the tangible, brutal facts of murder to the emotions within, the stories in the blood. There are multiple stories, often contradictory, to be found in the many-tentacled web of human tragedy and suffering that Gamache teases to the surface in this moving exploration of ties that both bind and destroy.
E R Ramzipoor
RaveBooklist... a compelling historical thriller ... The stories of the six are all fleshed out in such a way that readers will be wanting to hear more about each one of them, and layered over the personal drama is the remarkable saga of how 50,000 copies of a newspaper were published under the thumb of the gestapo. This is a long book, but it is never less than engrossing.
RaveBooklistThe elaborate and fascinating premise set, Silva goes on to do what he has done so masterfully through 21 previous spy thrillers: combine ever-intensifying suspense with the multiple interactions between a familiar team of deftly portrayed characters—Allon’s colleagues, along with spymasters from the UK and U.S., as well as, in this case, the alternately infuriating and intriguing Khalid and several figures from previous novels, including American Sarah Bancroft, art historian and dabbler in the secret world. Fans of the series will be especially glad to learn that the notorious Soviet mole from The Other Woman (2018), Rebecca Manning, is back, too, again with her sights set on Allon. It all adds up to an irresistible thriller, built on the realpolitik of today’s Middle East but deepened by the universality of human tragedy.
PositiveBooklistAtkins’ signature blend of country noir and southern humor remains on display here, though this time the focus is on the personal traumas in the Quinn family’s closets. Another strong outing in a consistently fine series.
RaveBooklist... an audacious plot twist ... Meacham ratchets the suspense ever tighter, while providing fascinating backstory on the intrepid five as well as delivering a detail-rich portrait of Paris during the Occupation.
RaveBooklistWho is the darkest of them all?\' If there was a crime-fiction magic mirror somewhere, and one were to put this query to it, hoping to determine whose novels were the darkest in mood, in theme, and in the protagonist’s soul, the answer, almost certainly, would be Jo Nesbø. No one knows darkness like Nesbø’s Harry Hole ... may be Nesbø’s best storytelling yet. It’s not just clever; it’s diabolical, and let’s be glad it is, because the corkscrewing plot provides a measure of relief from the pain on view in this uncompromisingly intense and brilliant novel.
RaveBooklistTwo Irishmen waiting and talking inevitably recalls Samuel Beckett, and, like Waiting for Godot, this hypnotically beautiful tone poem is both wildly comic and deeply sad ... Through it all, though, it is the mercurial personalities of Maurice and Charlie and the depths of their storm-tossed friendship that elevate this dank night in a shady ferry terminal into a transformative celebration of language itself.
RaveBooklistBest known for his outstanding Sean Duffy series, set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, McKinty has also written several gripping stand-alones, of which this one is the best yet; in fact, it may well be the biggest thriller of the summer ... a high-concept thriller that draws creatively on familiar tropes ... The suspense here is intense, as one would expect, given the premise, but the true brilliance in this unrelenting novel comes from the way McKinty makes Rachel confront her own capacity for evil and deal with its reverberations, not only on herself and the child she kidnaps, but also on her own child, Kylie. A pitch-perfect psychological thriller.
RaveBooklistLippman does some innovative things with narrative: not only does the ghost of Cleo speak directly to the reader, excoriating the reporter for digging into the past that Cleo wants left undisturbed, but we also hear from a Greek chorus–like assembly of voices, some fictional, some historical, who add texture to the portrayal of the city’s racial politics. In the middle of all that is Maddie, a significantly flawed but always compelling figure, an utterly human mix of compassion and self-centered ambition. This is a superb character study, a terrific newspaper novel, and a fascinating look at urban life and racial discrimination in the ’60s.
RaveBooklistPavone delivers another thoroughly immersive, stylish, and intelligent thriller ... Pavone again unspools a tightly wound plot in which the levels of deception keep multiplying ... Pavone keeps us zooming through this book to find the answers to those and many other questions, but, in the middle of that race to the finish line, most readers are likely to find themselves slowing down a bit, savoring the richness of virtually every character.
RaveBooklist\"Using her signature narrative style, Atkinson not only tells the story from multiple points of view, but also moves back and forth in time, letting us see new sides of an incident from several characters’ perspectives. This technique feeds a rich kind of dramatic irony, as we know marginally more than the people in any one scene do, but never quite enough. As the lives of several Yorkshire couples slowly swirl out of control, with the ripples of dysfunction, buried abuse, and tightly held secrets gradually drawing Jackson into their red tide, we marvel at Atkinson’s rare ability to create in a relatively few but stunningly deft brushstrokes at least a half-dozen characters with the depth and complexity to own their own novel. Another dazzler from a writer whose talents know no bounds.\
RaveBooklist...this is no soft-focus coming-of-age story ... Mood drives the story—the empty beach town exudes a barely hidden sense of threat, of the unknown lurking everywhere ... betrayals are at the core of what happens at Cape May, but, beyond that, this remarkable debut novel offers a sobering reminder of how the possibilities of life, when first encountered, often carry their own riptide.
RaveBooklist\"... Kerr displays again his special talent for reflecting individual depravities against the broad canvas of a society collapsing upon itself. It’s fascinating to see a younger Bernie here, with the makings of the melancholic wiseass and world-class cynic he will soon become, but still just a tad vulnerable (and still learning to hold his liquor). The Bernie Gunther series is one of the great triumphs of modern noir, and it will be sorely missed.\
RaveBooklistOnce again, Leon transforms what might have been a straightforward mystery into something much richer and more resonant—in this case, a meditation on love, loss, family, and prejudice ... Many crime novels place domestic story lines alongside crime plots, but Leon masterfully blends the two, enhancing our understanding of both. It is in Brunetti’s conversations with his wife and children, and in his musings on his reading that we come to feel the full force of how preconceived notions about gender and sexuality can erode even the seemingly strongest of relationships. Far more than whodunit, the real subject of this novel (and Leon’s work in general) is what we all do to one another.
RaveBooklistThe best part of inadvertent spy novels is watching the newbies forced to think on their feet, making up tradecraft as they go, and Kit does it very well, indeed. Another winner from the superbly talented Cumming.
RaveBooklistThe publication of the concluding volume in Winslow’s epic Cartel Trilogy represents a landmark moment in crime fiction, and it couldn’t come at a more propitious time ... in the end, it is Winslow’s remarkable ability to translate the utter fiasco of our 50-year War on Drugs into the most wrenching of human stories, tragedy seemingly without end, that gives this novel its unparalleled power ... all of those stories come together in a crescendo of pain mixed with courage ... [Winslow\'s] prodigious research and ability to combine massive amounts of detail into a structured whole show on every page of this trilogy. But coming through with equal force is his eloquence.
RaveBooklistSuperb ... Scharer’s intoxicating first novel adds depth and shade to the picture, bringing a stunning chiaroscuro effect to the saga of a woman transforming herself into an artist ... charer effectively jumps back and forth in time, moving from bohemian Paris to the battlefields of Europe to Miller’s declining years in England, and she is always alert to the interplay of passion, intelligence, exhilaration, bitterness, and melancholy that fueled this unique woman to create a life of her own.
RaveBooklistHorn dexterously leaps across time, following various of Rachel’s many lives and allowing us to see her agony build through the centuries ... there is always an \'and yet\' in Horn’s novels—the pull of life and of love is nearly as strong as the lure of death. In that tension, Horn constructs a deeply satisfying novel, rich not only in history and the great philosophical conundrums of living and dying but also in humor and passion.
RaveBooklistAs we’ve noted before, Perry writes very well about smart people, whichever side of the law they happen to be on: he shows them thinking, and that process of observing a mind at work, putting together a plan and then improvising on it, proves as compelling as any action scene, although Perry is plenty good at those, too ... Nobody drives a narrative like Perry; sure, he knows how to stomp on the gas pedal and negotiate the curves, but, best of all, he does that while dispensing unfailingly interesting information about stuff we’ve never bothered to think about, which is one more reason we can’t get enough of Perry’s smart people.
PositiveBooklistRankin once again finds a clever and believable way of getting Rebus back in the game ... Rankin expertly juggles multiple story lines while gradually giving more screen time to Clarke, who has emerged as a worthy series lead. Still, it’s the presence of Rebus, in fine fighting form, that gives this tale its pop, especially in a concluding scene in which he uses some of his old tricks to extract a confession. Sometimes the old ways are still the best.
RaveBooklistHarvey writes with great power about the disappointments and tragedies of living, and he always digs deep into the emotional recesses of his characters—all of which makes the devastating ending of this remarkable novel all the more powerful.
RaveBooklistAn internal landscape that stands in stark but richly meaningful contrast to the wood-smoke-infused calm we’ve come to expect from the series’ primary setting ... Few mystery writers intertwine the personal lives of their characters with the crimes being investigated more skillfully than Penny does, and she is at her best here, as several key players face turning points in their lives, suggesting that if the past can strangle the present, it can also help clear the way for the future.
PositiveBooklistFor a twenty-first-century audience, the idea of Bing Crosby as both a swoonworthy movie idol and an inspiration to battle-hardened soldiers may seem difficult to comprehend, but that is the brilliance of Giddins’ work: he makes us see how, in a very different time, Crosby’s easygoing, waggish style was just what the country craved, on records and radio, at the movies, and in person.
PositiveBooklist\"Another P. G. Wodehouse impostor has turned up at the Drones Club, home away from home of Bertie Wooster, and he’s banging on the door, demanding admittance. But before dismissing Mr. Schott as an impudent bounder, let’s look at his credentials. He’s the author of Schott’s Original Miscellany, and if ever a book could qualify an author to write an homage to Wodehouse, this hilarious compendium of useless information...is surely it ... Now the spying butlers and their spymaster need Bertie’s help to nail an ascot-clad Fascist whose motto is Make Great Britain Great Again. To do so takes all manner of craziness, including an uproarious chase scene, but Schott brings it all off in high and hilarious style. Best of all, his wordplay can hold its own with the Master’s. Here’s Bertie describing the unctuous Fascist: \'The seventh Earl of Sidcup is a sore for sighted eyes.\'
RaveBooklistOf the myriad things Connelly does superbly as a crime writer, perhaps one of the least heralded is his ability to bring characters together from different series ... Connelly does what he has always done over 31 previous novels, from taking extreme care with procedural detail...through getting inside his characters’ heads and revealing a nest of ambiguity as well as dark sides ever eager to express themselves. A guaranteed chart-topper again for Connelly.
RaveBooklistOnce again, Ide brilliantly combines caper-style comedy with real-world violence and more than a dollop of complex human relationships, the kind that too often lead to mess and muddle rather than happily-ever-aftering. If you haven’t discovered this series yet, remedial action is required immediately.
PositiveBooklistLeisurely paced but enveloping...Faulks offers a subtle but affecting portrait of friendship while exploring the immense difficulty of making sense of the larger world.
RaveBooklist...Frank Guidry, a soldier in New Orleans mobster Carlos Marcello’s family, happens to know something he shouldn’t about what happened in Dallas—something he would give anything not to know. But he does know it, and that means he’s a loose end. Nothing to do but run, which Frank does, heading west and harboring the unlikely dream of reaching that chimerical frontier where Marcello’s boys can’t find him. On the road, he meets another would-be escapee, Charlotte Roy, running from an abusive husband and standing with her two young daughters beside their broken-down car. What great cover, Frank thinks, traveling with a woman, two kids, even a dog ... Berney bends his notes exquisitely, playing with the melody, building his marvelously rich characters while making us commit completely to the love story, even though we hear the melancholy refrain and see the noir cloud lurking in the sky. Pitch-perfect fiction.
Robert Olen Butler
PositiveBooklist\"Butler returns to his outstanding historical-mystery series starring Christopher \'Kit\' Marlowe Cobb with WWI in full swing, though still without the participation of the U.S. An American spy posing as a journalist, Cobb is in Paris, ostensibly writing about American ambulance drivers but actually tracking German agents. When hand-set bombs begin exploding in Paris, it’s clear that the espionage threat has intensified dramatically. But is it German agents setting the bombs or some form of homegrown terrorist? ... Beneath the frame story, this is a surprisingly introspective and quite moving novel about love and war.
PositiveBooklist Online\"...Retired North Carolina county sheriff Wyatt McGee has always regretted being forced to separate two brothers, Mick and Keith, from their drug-addicted mother, Savannah. Keith, who was adopted, turned out fine, but the other brother dropped off the map—until now. Mick has a plan: the two brothers will reunite with their mom, whom he has tracked through Facebook to New Orleans ... Another winner from a consistently strong writer.
Jean-Claude Izzy, Trans by. Howard Curtis
RaveBooklist OnlineThe second in the late Izzo’s Marseilles Trilogy...once again finds Fabio Montale—now at loose ends, after quitting the corruption-riddled Marseilles police force—entangled in somebody else’s troubles. This time it’s his cousin, the beautiful Gélou, whose son has disappeared after running away to be with his Arab girlfriend. Fabio agrees to look for the boy, but he finds instead a hydra-headed tragedy—murder and deceit fueled by the racism that threatens to turn the once vibrant seaport town into a cauldron of violence. This hard-hitting series captures all the world-weariness of the contemporary European crime novel, but Izzo mixes it with a hero who is as virile as he is burned out.
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen
RaveBooklist\" And, yet, Forster’s plea for the primacy of human relationships remains central to Murakami’s work, even if, as happens here, those connections can sometimes be terrifying as well as life-sustaining ... Murakami’s multifaceted genius is expressed not only through his wide-ranging imagination but, even more important, through his ability to ground those imaginative flights in the bedrock realism of human experience.\
RaveBooklist\"The thriller plot is taut and suspenseful, as jolting as it is carefully nuanced, but it is Pelecanos’ focus on character, on his ability to show the richness and depth of his people, as well as their often-heartbreaking yearning for something more, that gives this novel—and all his work—its special power. The fact that this time that elusive \'something more\' comes in the form of books will make this a novel to treasure for anyone who, like Michael, has been bitten by the reading bug.\
RaveBooklist\"Often, when writers attempt to tell two related but different stories, the reader picks a favorite and loses interest in the other. That’s never the case here. Atkinson is a masterful narrative strategist, linking her two stories by the appearance in Juliet’s postwar world of figures from her MI5 days and the suggestion that she is now at risk for what happened then ... And, as all of Atkinson’s readers know, she is an exquisite writer of prose, using language with startling precision whether she is plumbing an inner life, describing events of appalling violence, or displaying her characters’ wonderfully acerbic wit. Evoking such different but equally memorable works as Graham Greene’s The Human Factor (1978) and Margaret Drabble’s The Middle Ground (1980), this is a wonderful novel about making choices, failing to make them, and living, with some degree of grace, the lives our choices determine for us.\
RaveBooklistVlautin transforms what might have been a weepy, unbelievable TV-movie of a novel into a tough-and-tender account of a boy, a big-hearted horse, and a mostly unforgiving world. What Daniel Woodrell does for the hardscrabble Ozarks, Vlautin does for the underside of the New West. Unforgettable.
RaveBooklist OnlineThe Quinn Colson series just keeps getting better and better. Its blend of country noir and badass humor is as smooth as three fingers of Gentleman Jack, and its ensemble cast is uniformly rich ... Atkins throws [a] gallimaufry of characters together in a roller coaster of a plot that’s alternately blood-splattered and tenderhearted, the latter driven by the fact that Quinn’s imminent wedding looms over the whole shebang. If you like country noir, and you haven’t visited Tibbehah County, you’re overdue for a road trip.
RaveBooklist\"Once again Silva follows the familiar structure his readers have come to love—gathering the team, setting up the sting, laying on the tradecraft, dealing with the surprises—but this time there is an even more elaborately detailed backstory than usual, and it is every bit as compelling as the tension-drenched drama slowly unspooling in the present and leading to a socko finale on the shores of the Potomac River ... Silva is never merely imitative; he uses these references and plot elements to add texture and resonance to his story, which puts a chilling, twenty-first century spin on the idea of Russian interference in global politics.\
RaveBooklistThe level of treachery and betrayal, personal and otherwise, depicted here is byzantine in its complexity and potential to spawn collateral damage. This is a masterfully constructed example of classic le Carré–style espionage fiction, the all-enveloping perfidy burrowing its way into inner lives and leaving the survivors only tentatively able to move forward.
RaveBooklistSo begins a byzantinely plotted escapade in which the oft-noted similarity between Bernie and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is more evident than ever ... Beyond Marlowe, though, there’s Bernie, looking for a way out of his personal slough of despond and back to himself. Bernie’s internal demons have always provided the compelling drama in this series, and here we loyal supporters are granted a ray of hard-won hope. It provides a great moment in an always-riveting series.
RaveBooklistThe plot here is perhaps even more complex than that of The Dante Club, but the sleuths lack some of the charisma of their American counterparts (especially Longfellow). Still, Pearl again does a stunning job of transforming Dante into brilliantly staged crime fiction ... Literary-fiction book clubbers who like to dabble in thrillers will be palpitating at another chance to mix Dante and murder.
RaveBooklistIt can be jarring when a seemingly realistic novel suddenly jumps into full supernatural mode, but Hart handles the transition seamlessly. He has always worked on the edges of southern gothic, so his genre-bending leap seems less dramatic than it might otherwise. Moreover, his vivid evocation of Hush Arbor and the ghosts it shelters, extending back to slavery, carries a Faulknerian density that makes the idea of the past coming alive deep in a swamp feel not only believable but also inevitable. Hart makes it six for six here, and behind this uncanny string of success is a rare ability to combine the most propulsive of popular fiction with beguilingly rich characters (Johnny is the black-sheep first cousin to Quentin Compson).
PositiveBooklistAnother powerful exploration of the injustice of justice from a master of character-rich crime fiction ... Guido Brunetti may be the most beloved protagonist in crime fiction, and if his shoulders are stooping over so many encounters with human tragedy, his fans will feel only excitement at the prospect of joining him in his twenty-seventh adventure.
RaveBooklist\"Tucker is a true existential hero, facing his circumscribed world directly and acting with unflinching determination. His story, like the work of Daniel Woodrell, is both heartrendingly painful and unsentimentally uplifting.\
RaveBooklist OnlineHave good-hearted ordinary people ever had to endure as much pain as they do in a Willy Vlautin novel? Perhaps only in real life ... That’s what Vlautin does to us; he strips away our defenses with close-to-the bone prose that leaves us utterly exposed to the tragedy of being alive—and every bit as thankful for those moments of aching humanity before the curtain falls.
Jo Nesbø, Trans. by Don Bartlett
PositiveBooklistNesbø infuses the mythic elements of the tragedy with bold strokes of horrific, Don Winslow–like drug-war realism. The result displays in a strikingly original way both the timelessness of Shakespeare’s art and the suppleness of noir to range well beyond the strictures of formula.
RaveBooklist\"The echoes of Patricia Highsmith reverberate almost too loudly here. Yes, Mr. Ripley has become a femme fatale, but Mangan’s take on that familiar theme never seems reductive, nor mere homage. That’s partially because of the electrical energy that crackles between Alice and Lucy, but it’s also related to Mangan’s ability to turn the mood and the setting of the story into a kind of composite force field that sucks the reader in almost instantly.\
RaveBooklistBeauman’s latest, as brilliant as it is offbeat ... is just so damn clever and crazy funny. Don’t even think about giving up partway in, because, as [the novel's narrator] Zonulet explains, 'until it is too late to turn back, you have not really set out.'
RaveBooklistAnderson doesn’t publish much, but when he does, it’s something to remember ... a wrenching finale that functions almost cathartically for both Hanson and the reader, a release from the emotional tension that has been building throughout the story. It is perhaps the perfect time for an honest, realistic, unflinching portrayal of a good cop, and Anderson delivers just that.
RaveBooklist\"Horn dexterously leaps across time, following various of Rachel’s many lives and allowing us to see her agony build through the centuries. As Elazar, who betrayed Rachel but with whom she shares an unbreakable bond and unquenchable love, explains, \'It will never stop happening, Rachel. . . . Whether it’s next spring or ten thousand years from now—with every single child, you are going to watch that child die. And your husbands and lovers, too. All of them.\' And yet—there is always an \'and yet\' in Horn’s novels—the pull of life and of love is nearly as strong as the lure of death. In that tension, Horn constructs a deeply satisfying novel, rich not only in history and the great philosophical conundrums of living and dying but also in humor and passion.\
RaveBooklist\"With every new novel, Harkaway manages to further explode the idea of boundaries as useful tools to contain our understanding of character, genre, and story ... These myth-laden stories all connect to Neith’s investigation, but as Harkaway takes us deeper and deeper into the wormholes of his imagination, the fabric of those connections becomes less graspable ... We don’t understand, either; we don’t even understand if our lack of understanding is a flaw in the novel or in ourselves. We recognize that Harkaway is delivering a ferociously powerful polemic about the subversive nature of deep-diving electronic surveillance—its ability to rob individuals of their individuality—but far, far beyond that, we also recognize the dazzling complexity and pyrotechnical brilliance of the world he has created here. Give Gnomon a galaxy of stars for its sheer audacity.\
PositiveBooklistShowing his sensitive side and his usual shrewd ability to figure stuff out, Reacher proves the man for the job. Not your usual Reacher fare—God help us, we crave more head-banging—but a very good, multifaceted novel about dealing with the unthinkable.
PositiveBooklistNYPD Detective Ray Irving — overworked, underpaid, and absolutely dedicated to his job — risks his sense of ethics and, ultimately, his life to track down a serial killer who is imitating the crimes of some of the worst monsters in history. Entirely free of formula, Ellory’s breakthrough procedural should give him the kind of acclaim in the U.S. that he enjoys in his native Britain.
RaveBooklistThe third volume in Stansberry’s Dante Mancuso series again draws effectively on the rich history of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood ...split the difference here with a gripping noir mystery that takes its plot from events during the radical 1970s, the time of the Symbionese Liberation Army ... Attempting to track back the initial investigation of the crime, Mancuso resurrects old wounds and simmering resentments as he ponders whether his friend is telling him the truth ... a solid enough mystery, oozing the kind of palpable North Beach atmosphere that fans of the series have come to expect, but what makes Stansberry stand out from the crowd is the genuine noir sensibility he brings to his work, the overwhelming feeling that things must go wrong.
RaveBooklistIde’s debut, IQ (2016), was one of last year’s best crime novels, and he follows it with another scorcher ... Like the great Thomas Perry, Ide manages to combine light and dark in wholly unpredictable ways, blending comic capering with real-life bloodletting in a manner that diminishes neither and taps a vein of deep emotion lurking amid the laugh lines and spurts of violence. Anyone who loves Perry or Timothy Hallinan needs to hop on Ide’s bandwagon while there’s still room to sit.
RaveBooklistOn suspension from the New Orleans Police Department, thanks to fallout from the events of Doing the Devil’s Work, rookie cop Maureen Coughlin has been up to no good: pills, booze, and some very nasty vigilante work … Not only has Loehfelm created the most compelling, complex patrol cop in the genre—part take-no-prisoners badass, part too-sensitive-for-the street rookie—he has also reenergized New Orleans as a setting for the best in crime fiction, going well beyond the clichés (no Cafe du Monde here) and nailing that rich Treme vibe—edgy, dangerous, but pulsing with life. Maureen Coughlin is as good as it gets.
John Le Carré
PositiveBooklistLongtime le Carré readers have noticed for years the disconnect between the early novels, in which George Smiley, despite his overwhelming sense of moral ambiguity, never stopped believing in the necessity of espionage, and the later novels, in which the intelligence business has been poisoned from within. What, we’ve often wondered, would the stoop-shouldered Smiley make of today’s world? Finally, le Carré gives us the answer ... Those who have followed le Carrè’s career will relish the opportunity to revisit that enduring conundrum.
RaveBooklistCleverly improvising on the chord changes common to classic westerns (especially High Noon) and evoking the locked-room horror of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway, Sternbergh shows again why he is one of the most inventive thriller writers working today.
RaveBooklistWith all the dexterity of Thomas Perry, Lange walks the thin line between caper novel and blood-splattered noir, leading up to a rip-roaring finale. This fine piece of tragicomic crime fiction sets up like a stand-alone, but we'd sure like to see more.
RaveBooklistConnelly’s special genius has always been his ability to build character like the most literary of novelists while attending to the procedural details of a police investigation with all the focus of an Ed McBain. He does both here, showing us Renée on her surfboard, working out her Bosch-like demons, but also grinding through the minutiae of the case until she achieves that 'Holy Grail of detective work,' that moment of knowing she has her man. Many established crime writers—James Lee Burke, Ian Rankin, Randy Wayne White—have launched new series as their signature heroes age, but few have done it as successfully as Connelly.
RaveBooklist\"It’s rare for a writer to produce two career-defining masterpieces back-to-back, but that’s exactly what Winslow has done by following The Cartel (2015) with The Force. In an era rife with racially motivated police brutality, Winslow has created what will likely become our quintessential cop novel, looking both at what cops do right and wrong with clear-eyed realism and passionate humanity ... Grand in scope and equally grand in execution.\
RaveBooklistJumping seamlessly between past and present, Hunter re-creates the fascinating Depression-era story of how bank robbers became populist heroes, offering in the process a truly compelling character in Charles, a man burdened not only by his inflexible sense of honor but also by a secret residing deep in his soul ... Lots going on here, but Hunter fits the parts as snugly as Bob Lee reassembling a rifle. Yes, we know Hunter writes gun violence as realistically and meticulously as anyone in the business, but what we forget is that he builds character with equal precision. This is an outstanding thriller on every level.
Jo Nesbø, Trans. by Neil Smith
RaveBooklist...a gripping, way-scary crime novel in which former Oslo police detective Hole, now teaching at Norway’s police college, is called back to active duty to track down a 'vampirist,' that is, a person who craves blood and exhibits behavior similar to that expected of a vampire ... This one will keep readers awake deep into the night.
RaveBooklistA lot of thrillers boast twisty plots, but Lehane plies his corkscrew on more than the story line. The mood and pace of the novel change directions, too, jumping from thoughtful character study to full-on suspense thriller, like a car careening down San Francisco’s Lombard Street, cautiously at one moment, hell-bent at another. But this narrative vehicle never veers out of control, and when Lehane hits the afterburners in the last 50 pages, he produces one of crime fiction’s most exciting and well-orchestrated finales—rife with dramatic tension and buttressed by rich psychological interplay between the characters. Don’t be surprised if Since We Fell makes readers forget about that other psychological thriller featuring an unstable heroine named Rachel.
RaveBooklistCumming not only tells a moving human story here, he also constructs an airtight espionage plot full of unanticipated twists and leading up to a perfectly orchestrated finale.