PositiveCriminal ElementA richly Gothic thriller that succeeds despite its excesses ... something of a hybrid of his previous books mashed up with Slavic folklore, German expressionist films, and the specter of Hitler’s rise to power. It’s a big, ambitious book whose parts end up being greater than the whole ... In its best moments, The Devil Aspect is a masterful blend of adjacent genres ... Smolák’s hunt for Leather Apron across the streets of Prague plays out like a Fritz Lang film, a trip through a shadowy labyrinth of streets in which not even one’s own senses can be trusted. That results in some great, evocative passages ... It takes a bit too long for Viktor and Smolák’s plotlines to connect, and by the time they do, Russell is rocketing to a conclusion that all feels a little too tidy. There’s a white-knuckle finale with some well-executed action, but the final pages don’t provide the closure the rest of the book seems to promise ... And yet, The Devil Aspect remains compelling. Though there are too many false leads and arguably too many serial killers roaming about, the individual elements work. Smolák is the sort of character who could helm his own series, and Russell’s ability to evoke the mood and atmosphere of the 1930s Czech Republic is impressive. While the big picture doesn’t totally gel, Russell finds the Devil in the details—and really makes him work.
Un-Su Kim, Trans. by Sora Kim-Russell
RaveCriminal Element\"From a genre perspective, [the book is] a refreshing shake-up ... [Its] blend of realism and the fantastic gives The Plotters an incisive edge ... The Plotters is deeply funny and, surprisingly, full of heart. There are moments of transcendence and heartbreak mixed in with the knife fights and shootouts, and Kim balances it all beautifully ... Speaking of action scenes—The Plotters delivers the goods ... Kim is a fresh voice in crime fiction, and the more he sits at his desk, twirls his pen and comes up with books like The Plotters, the better.\
RaveCriminal Element...a powerful debut about two women’s search for justice as they take on the corruption at the heart of their community ... There are plenty of secrets in The Widows, and Montgomery creates a layered, rich mystery that makes the most of its historical setting. Her prose is captivating and sharp, in tune both with the natural landscape and the human corruption that haunts the mountains ... The Widows is deeply researched, and Montgomery’s writing carries with it the confidence of truth ... a fantastic debut.
PositiveThe Criminal ElementJohnson’s prose is as sharp as ever. Plucking Walt from the confines of his home county and dropping him in the desert gives Johnson the chance to get literary...and cinematic. Depth of Winter isn’t so much a mystery as it is a Western, and Johnson gives the action the sort of big-screen treatment it deserves. There are shades of The Wild Bunch ... And the action is big, well-choreographed, and thrilling. There are brawls, shootouts, and some literally explosive moments, and they’re all suspenseful and well-earned. At the heart of the book is Walt’s ongoing internal conflict about when killing is justified ... In fact, Walt finds himself in this quandary so often that, by the book’s end, the motif is repetitive ... None of that is to say Depth of Winter is a ponderous slugfest. The narrative is propulsive and rarely stops, from Walt’s escape from a U.S. border patrol station that opens the novel to the tense finale that’s gripping, though predictable. And though the stakes are high, Johnson deploys his usual wit and humor to lighten the mood.