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.
RaveBooklistIt’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.