PositiveBooklistIf you’re a fan of Nordic noir, this dark mystery, the second in the High Coast series, should suit your taste for the shivery. Everything is dystopian to the nth degree ... Some readers may find the relentless bleakness over the top, but noir fans should savor it all, especially for the bite that Alsterdal brings to Eira’s dauntless character.
Alexander McCall Smith
RaveBooklistAs they would sink into one of Phuti’s large, overstuffed, extremely comfortable armchairs, so will readers delightedly immerse themselves in descriptions of the Botswana landscape; in Precious and Grace’s conversations over mugs of red bush tea; and in the doings of the rest of the cast of comic characters. Another delight from the prolific McCall Smith.
RaveBooklistThis eerie thriller, in which the setting itself may be actively malevolent, can stand next to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Stephen King’s The Shining ... Expect shivers and lots of them.
RaveBooklist... [a] thoroughly ingenious blend of rom-com and spy cozy ... Ellie narrates, in a witty, matter-of-fact way, filling us in about picking locks, using her contacts with shady antiques dealers and fences to find the mysterious clock, and coping with the myriad privations of living in London during the war. Ellie is wonderfully resourceful and divinely funny. Let’s hope this expertise-and-romance-filled series continues for a very long time.
PositiveBooklistThese 15 stories have wonderful settings (including restaurants, cafés, the Great Chamber of a Lascaux cave, market stalls in the tiny village of St. Denis, and Bruno’s own kitchen), and, for any gastronome, the detailed descriptions of food prep are delicious. But this is far more a food procedural than a police procedural. The stories are short on plot and suspense—for example, two market-stall owners have a dispute and Bruno resolves it; a boy is lost then found later; Bruno and the family tour a cave. Readers looking primarily for mystery will find this collection lacking, but it’s delightful reading for those who love the food and atmosphere of Walker’s novels.
RaveBooklistNagendra’s evocation of setting is riveting, and her use of colonial history is thoroughly fascinating, with devastating depictions of the airy condescension of the British. While McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is an obvious parallel, Nagendra’s novel also suggests the Nancy Drew mysteries, in which the intrepid, 18-year-old Nancy is helped by her attorney father. A fine start to a promising series.
M C Beaton
RaveBooklistThe fact that Macbeth has a new recruit makes for some terrific comic moments ... It also expands the reader’s world beyond Lochdubh to all around the Highlands, as Macbeth and Dorothy explore castles, lochs, and mountains. In a foreword, writer R. W. Green explains how he collaborated with Beaton on this book before her death in 2019; he indicates that Beaton left him (and fans) with more ideas for the series. Long live Macbeth, Sergeant of Scotland!
RaveBooklist... street-smart ... From the start, readers will be intrigued by the myriad skills that go into street reporting, from figuring out which calls to the TV station’s tip line are credible to how to develop sources, how to set up shots and interview difficult or traumatized subjects on-air, and how to avoid being manipulated by sources with agendas. Manning’s determination to find the killer behind eight unsolved homicides leads her down increasingly dangerous paths. A pulse-pounding story that also provides a fascinating and important look into the difficulties of reporting on and finding justice for Black victims.
PositiveBooklistThe Black detectives are unflappably witty in the face of hostility ... Though at times Everett’s edgy surrealism goes a bit off the rails, this fierce satire is both deeply troubling and rewarding.
RaveBooklistMiranda has crafted another suspense story of almost unbearably sustained tension ... Miranda, who makes the setting, where everyone knows one another and ends up fearing one another, all the more chilling for its seeming normality, is a master of misdirection and sudden plot twists, leading up to a wallop of an ending. A powerful, paranoid thriller.
Sarah Stewart Taylor
PositiveBooklistAs with the first Maggie D’arcy, the Irish setting takes center stage, with Maggie herself playing backup. A big problem, though, is that Taylor does little to orient either new or returning readers; unless you’ve read The Mountains Wild recently, it’s hard to get a grip on what’s going on. Still, this has the makings of a solid series.
RaveBooklistRubinstein, whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times Magazine, and whose Ballad of the Whiskey Robber (2004) was a finalist for the Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime, has constructed a shattering piece of investigative journalism involving street gangs, race relations, and law enforcement ... This is a gripping deep dive into media underreporting and too-quick judgment, and, most shockingly, into how the criminal-justice industrial complex may be invested in systemic corruption designed to keep drug wars going. Dramatic and wrenching.
L. R. Dorn
MixedBooklistIn podcast style, the mystery gives us a range of voices and perspectives, from the boathouse attendants on, held together by the narrator. The advantage of this format is its great immediacy. However, since the book is written as a script, it lacks the depth of a novel and can’t provide the ambient sounds of a podcast or the visuals of a docuseries. Still, this will be intriguing for podcast fans.
PositiveBooklistThe Inspector Chen series follows the chief inspector of the Shanghai Police Bureau, who has a degree in English literature and is a published poet, as he navigates the perilous waters of conducting investigations without running afoul of party leaders. In this, the eleventh in the series, Chen fears he is soon to be dismissed from his post. A bizarre element of this mystery is that there is no actual investigation ... The latest Chen is both a scathing indictment of contemporary China and an explanation of how poet Chen came to be Chief Inspector Chen. Gripping, but best for longtime readers of the series.
MixedBooklistCoben, who has written 32 crime novels and won many awards, including the Edgar, the Shamus, and the Anthony, gives readers a propulsive plot that hinges on the discovery of a stolen Vermeer and a reach-back to a kidnapping 24 years earlier ... The fact that Win, the kind of long-winded egomaniac you’d avoid at a party, narrates the story may be off-putting for many readers, but the intriguing plot may hold them.
PositiveBooklistFern’s decision to return to help her aging father move lacks credulity, but it does get her on scene, where she can use Astrid’s memoir to interview people from Astrid’s past ... Many readers will figure out whodunit long before Fern does, but this is still an absorbing psychological thriller.
PositiveBooklist... [a] compelling debut mystery. He presents two main characters whose every move and perception has been shaped by wartime ... Harrowing connections are made to financial scammers, the Italian Mafia, and the sadists controlling street sales, along with equally harrowing glances back at Coop’s adventures in the Afghan desert.
Seraphina Nova Glass
PositiveBooklistGlass takes some now-familiar conventions from women-in-peril thrillers and gives them a good run in this entertaining mystery ... Nicely creepy.
MixedBooklistHorror movie meets mystery ... horror-movie conventions come into play, as Rachel makes decisions that put her more and more in danger. This is strong on the psychology of guilt and great at creating the spooky, haunted-house landscape, but the absurd, horror-movie plot elements get in the way a bit.
PositiveBooklistFeeney offers a brilliant cat-and-mouse game here: Which of the pair is the murderer; which is being investigated? Add to that mix the fact that the cop slept with the woman victim the night of her murder, and the fact that the anchorwoman who replaced our heroine goes missing the day after her return, and you have one volatile, tension- and thought-provoking mix.
Sierra Crane Murdoch
PositiveBooklistMurdoch’s reporting is so exhaustive that it is sometimes slow going, but it’s well worth following for Murdoch’s, and Yellow Bird’s, insights into historical and contemporary Native American life.
RaveBooklistFinder is a master of the narrow escape. In his stand-alone thrillers, his protagonists are abruptly plunged from ordinary lives into mazes that other people have constructed; their survival depends on finding the way out ... The extended scenes of Heller breaking and entering into a mansion and, later, a corporation are exquisitely detailed. Finder’s characterization of Heller gets more layered with every installment. The way Heller moves through the mystery, using social skills, street smarts, and technology to get in and out of trouble, is breathtaking. Excruciating suspense.
RaveBooklistWhat Mullen’s debut gives readers is a wrenchingly detailed, utterly credible story of women whose peril comes from poverty ... Mullen is brilliant at depicting their points of view ... Mullen builds almost unbearable suspense about whether the two friends will join the women in the marshes.
RaveBooklistHvistendahl makes industrial espionage both understandable and riveting, chiefly by focusing her narrative on two scientists (one Chinese, one American, both manipulated by DBG) who, wittingly and unwittingly, are forced into collecting seeds and information for DBG. This is a complex story, but it’s presented clearly and vividly, thanks to Hvistendahl’s background as a science journalist here and in China; to her exquisite pacing; and to her narrative skills. Unlike many current spy books, which focus on long-ago espionage, this one examines an investigation into the pressing, ongoing problem of industrial espionage. Hard to put down and harder to stop thinking about.
RaveBooklistThere’s so much to praise here: Munier’s deep knowledge of the culture of hunting (especially the bow-and-arrow variety); her brisk, incisive characterizations; the way she maintains a taut line of suspense throughout; and, best of all, her portrayals of wounded yet still courageous pairs of humans and dogs. A not-to-be-missed K-9 mystery.
RaveBooklistThe story is reminiscent of Joseph Finder’s thrillers, in which an ordinary man is suddenly plunged into an extraordinary situation, with the noose tightening on every page. Francis writes a stunning paranoid thriller here, with all evidence pointing against Russell, friends and acquaintances shunning him, and the media condemning him. Fans who may be disappointed at the loss of a solid racing connection will soon cheer for this dark horse.
PositiveBooklistThe twenty-fifth Richard Jury mystery...continues the Grimes tradition of mixing solid procedural details with deft characterization and offbeat wit ... The only discordant note is the appearance of aristocrat Melrose Plant, longtime friend of Jury’s, who seems to have materialized from an Oscar Wilde play and takes away from Grimes’ tightly constructed plot.
PositiveBooklistGodfrey approaches a brutal crime in an unlikely spot the way a novelist would ... Her interviews with all the principals, ranging from the police scuba team that found the body through prosecution and defense attorneys, suburban families, teachers, and the accused themselves, bring this case disturbingly alive.
RaveBooklistThe 1930s setting is to die for, including many evocative details, like the speaking tube with which Rachel communicates with the driver of her Rolls-Royce, and the presence of a yellowing poster for Hitchcock’s 1929 thriller Blackmail, hanging in the luggage office of a London train station. Best of all, the way that Edwards keeps deepening the creepiness of this mystery until the very end is utterly stunning.
Howard Michael Gould
MixedBooklistReaders will think Charlie is either a hoot, or a role model, or beyond boring in his environmental machinations. At any rate, far too much of the book is lavished on a character quirk, rather than a character. The private-eye work here moves well ... The narrative sags in the Charlie eco parts, but otherwise the novel offers a well-plotted trip through some dangerous regions.
Sara Lövestam , Trans. by Laura A. Wildeburg
PositiveBooklistThis mystery has a moral center, with a growing bond between two beautifully realized characters, and a gut-clenching depiction of what it’s like to live in constant fear.
MixedBooklistThis is the kind of narrative that forces readers to get into the mind of the subject, engendering suspense and empathy ... Unfortunately, the patient’s recollections are often overlong, and the interplay between the two women lacks a degree of believability. Still, the skillfully generated suspense will keep fans of psychological thrillers engaged.
PositiveBooklist... [a] well-paced series opener ... The story excels at mounting tension as victim after victim falls to the sniper, who leaves no evidence. Worth reading for the plot alone, but Page doesn’t quite make it as a Nero Wolfe–like lovable curmudgeon. Give him another chance, though; this series has potential.
Alexander McCall Smith
RaveBooklistThe wildly prolific McCall Smith adds yet another series hero, Paul Stuart, to a list that includes Botswanan Precious Ramotswe, of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; philosopher Isabel Dalhousie, of Edinburgh, who solves friends’ problems in the series bearing her name; and Inspector Varg, of Sweden ... A hugely entertaining novel about a man who keeps getting into scrapes yet somehow finds his own way out of them.
MixedBooklistThis psychological suspense story rests on a coincidence and sometimes skids off the road of narrative credibility, but it is ultimately rewarding ... Petrova is expert at showing how desperate both these women are ... This is an uneven novel, but its darkness and wild resolution will appeal to many readers.
PositiveBooklistWhat makes this latest Quinn mystery especially nerve-racking is the fact that Quinn’s husband, a former prison chaplain, may have the evidence that Beaufort seeks ... The narrative is slowed down a bit by overly long chunks of dialogue, but, overall, the plot never loses its drive, and the characters are truly intriguing.
RaveBooklistMartin always delivers a live-wire plot, well-realized characters (he’s especially adept at character-revealing scenes), and an incredibly varied setting—this time, he throws in some expertise in medieval falconry. Another winner in an always-strong series.
Agnete Friis Trans. by Sinead Quirke Kongerskov
PositiveBooklistNordic noir gets another complicated, flawed hero who is compelled to explore inner as well as outer mysteries in this second stand-alone...this branch of Nordic noir could be called Danish desolate; the settings, in contemporary Copenhagen and on a Jutland farm in 1978, mirror the psychological landscape by focusing on the bleak and challenging ... The hero, Jacob, is indeed a melancholy Dane, an alcoholic and failing architect (the metaphor extends subtly and thrillingly to his own life)...
RaveBooklist... a stunning account ... powerful ... Levin’s treatment goes far beyond true crime here, though that aspect is an immense story itself ... Beyond the story of Taylor’s wrongdoing, though, Levin demonstrates how a single distortion can ruin lives ... Levin does a terrific job of balancing his portrait of a criminal, of the racism of police who didn’t bother to solve the three murders connected to Taylor, and of the widespread stereotyping of Blacks that grew out of her crimes and a president’s distortions.
PositiveBooklistOxford don McGuinness mixes mystery with reflection in his second novel...The title hints at the wonderfully unsettling quality of this mystery ... McGuinness’ portrayal of the British media hounding the suspect builds brilliantly. The story is told from Ander’s point of view, which is both fascinating and annoying, since Ander is so prone to reflection. However, the overall effect packs a decidedly noirish punch.
Alexander McCall Smith
RaveBooklistMcCall Smith now extends his gift for comic situations and insightful commentary to a projected series set in Sweden ... McCall Smith uses these cases to shine a revealing light on human nature, including the foibles and heartaches of the investigators ... Detective Varg promises to be a complex series character, and the department itself looks certain to deliver more oddball yet poignant cases.
RaveBooklistAbsolutely arresting ... The fact that the creation of the Israeli state was a dream, not a reality, as Friedman reminds us, is the chief tension behind the four spies’ work. This tension is enhanced by Friedman’s tales of double-crosses and shifting tactics.
PositiveBooklistCoben, once again, shows a well-constructed, lucky life blown open by fate ... Though marred a little by too much description, which slows the narrative, this remains solid Coben, with clever plotting and dead-on character sketches.
PositiveBooklistAs usual, Robinson provides a solid police procedural enhanced by the rugged Yorkshire setting. Banks himself—jazz- and solitude-loving, difficult, somewhat melancholic, unlucky in love—is always fascinating. Robinson doesn’t give much help to new readers, but, for series fans, this one is a sure bet.
Thomas Christopher Greene
MixedBooklistGreene leads readers (and his protagonists) down some very twisty avenues of reasoning that abruptly end ... The steadily shocking tone could be more varied, but this stands as an absorbing mystery about who is predator and who is prey.
PositiveBooklistThe movement here from small tests to bigger ones masterfully escalates the suspense. The juxtaposed points of view, with reactions of each protagonist to the other, keep the reader guessing until the end. A great follow-up to The Wife between Us.
Patrick Radden Keefe
PositiveBooklist\"The book is an extensive and often wrenching view of this bloody patch of history, especially fascinating in the way Keefe shows how indoctrination worked at the family level. While he identifies it as narrative nonfiction, the writing here is more straight historical account, rather than an immersive exploration, but it will definitely draw those interested in the Irish \'Troubles.\'\
Alexander McCall Smith
PositiveBooklistFor fans of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, there can be no prospect more delightfully chilling than a face-off between Mma Precious Ramotswe, owner of the agency and solver of people’s problems, and Violet Sephotho, man-stealer, cheat, schemer par excellence, and longtime rival of Precious’ assistant, Mma Makutsi ... New readers may find this latest in the series a bit digressive, with characters’ dialogue and thoughts sometimes seeming like filler. Still, the campaign gives the tale needed focus and bite, and McCall Smith slides in intriguing glimpses of a troubled Botswana, including the sobering fact that women who work the mines often must give up their children to the orphanage. A lesser light in a series that still shines very brightly.
Michel Bussi, Trans. by Sam Taylor
RaveBooklistFrench thriller writer Bussi...combines a stunning setting with a locked-room mystery that keeps expanding and intensifying ... Besides offering a top-notch puzzle, Bussi delivers the kind of cynical and witty police procedural beloved by fans of Georges Simenon. Add glimpses into the disturbing history of the island and its present-day unrest, and you have a wonderfully immersive thriller.
MixedBooklistForsyth may be the victim of bad timing in his latest international adventure. It’s set in 2019, with the focus on a British teen on the autism spectrum who has managed to hack into the heart of the U.S. national security system. Unfortunately, the real-life cyberterrorism of the past two years has far outpaced even the most gifted spy novelist’s darkest projections, making Forsyth’s premise seem a little ho-hum. The story takes a long time getting going ... once it gets going, [the story] is satisfyingly tense and world-based, but without the usual sense of shocked foreboding that Forsyth has been able to generate in the past.
PositiveBooklistWeaver brings in a Nick-and-Nora dynamic with her high-living, slightly flawed detective couple. The combination West End backstage and upper-class drawing room proves equally winning.
Howard Michael Gould
PositiveBooklistScreenwriter Gould takes us behind the scenes and onto the sets of contemporary Hollywood, with loads of insider knowledge delivered in a thoroughly engaging way ... The deep and fascinating portrayal of the dissolute Pinch will remind film buffs of Alan Swann, the Peter O’Toole character in My Favorite Year. A fast-paced and funny treat for anyone who loves the movies.
Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
RaveBooklistAn opening anecdote in which Horace learns about his own biases during a domestic-violence call is especially gripping ... this hard-hitting, convincing indictment of the biases in today’s law enforcement ... skillfully weaves together Horace’s own harrowing and enlightening experiences with the stories and reflections of those interviewed. Police shootings get special attention, with Horace showing how bias escalates danger. A must-read for anyone interested in understanding and solving these problems, which, Horace emphasizes throughout, start with unearthing our own implicit biases.
William Kent Krueger
PositiveBooklistKrueger is adept at fusing shocks with setting (Cork’s investigations often turn into survival stories). He also gives fascinating details about Ojibwa culture. His prose style, however, is a bit one-toned, the unvarying rhythm of many of his sentences suggesting Longfellow’s \'Evangeline\' ... Great atmosphere, both physical and cultural.
RaveBooklistPerrusquia, a longtime reporter for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, adroitly weaves together three stories: how Withers worked for and against the movement, how the FBI used operatives like Withers to create a surveillance state in the ’60s, and, just as fascinating, how Perrusquia’s years of research, along with suing the FBI for the release of classified documents, led to his shocking discovery. Perhaps most important, Perrusquia gives readers insight into the complexities of Withers as a man, and an appreciation of the lasting impact of his photos.
RaveBooklist...[a] brilliant work of narrative nonfiction ... Taibbi is unsparing in his excoriation of the system, police, and courts that led to the fatal choke hold and worked to blur the abuse afterward, rooted in the NYPD’s policy of showing activity through arrests—many times manufactured or bogus—then 'test-a-lying' in court about what happened. This is a necessary and riveting work.
RaveBooklistWhat photographer Jacob Riis did for the tenement poor in How the Other Half Lives (1890) and what novelist Upton Sinclair did for stockyard workers in The Jungle (1906), journalist Bruder now does for a segment of today’s older Americans forced to eke out a living as migrant workers. ... In the best immersive-journalism tradition, Bruder records her misadventures driving and living in a van and working in a beet field and at Amazon. Tying together the book is the story of Linda May, a woman in her sixties who takes on crushing jobs with optimistic aplomb. Visceral and haunting reporting.