Staff Picks from the May Newsletter
With never enough time to read, I can manage only a few books by even my favorite authors these days, no matter how much I like their work. Among the small number of exceptions is John Hart, whose every work I have read avidly. The King of Lies, his first book, was nominated for an Edgar, and his second book, Down River, I thought was even better (it won the Edgar, and so did his third book, The Last Child). Redemption Road, his fifth novel, is a worthy successor to his previous body of work, which is worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as some of the best mystery novelists of our age: Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Thomas H. Cook, Scott Turow, and a tiny coterie of others. As with the best crime fiction, this one is a novel first and foremost, a beautiful work of literature that also includes horrific murders, violence, and detection. Its center, around whom the action takes place and is the catalyst for the behavior of every one of the characters, both directly and indirectly, is Adrian Wall, who is being released from prison after 13 years. We learn of the almost unimaginable torture he’s had to endure at the hands of a sadistic warden and his complicit thuggish prison guards, who are convinced he knows the whereabouts of a fortune in gold. The woman Wall was convicted of murdering has a young teenage son who wants vengeance and waits with a loaded gun for the day his mother’s killer gets out of prison. Another murder, strikingly similar to the one for which Wall was convicted, occurs almost immediately after his release. And then another. Creating unbearable tension while his large cast of sensitively drawn characters is caught up in a small southern town’s fear and anger, Hart’s ambitious big book, character driven and poetically written, will hold you enthralled from the first page to the last. Signed copies. A main selection of the Crime Collectors Club. $27.99
Fortunately, I had long plane rides to and from London to read, as this is a big book (528 pages) and every page is chockablock with interesting characters and surprising plot developments. An out-of-work journalist discovers that his cousin has a child that she claims was given to her by an “angel in white.” There is blood on her door and, when the baby’s mother is found brutally murdered, it’s not hard to find the most likely suspect. This is just one of the many odd occurrences in the small town of Promise Falls, N.Y. A Ferris wheel cab (#23) is filled with undressed mannequins and a sign that declares “You’ll Be Sorry.” Twenty-three squirrels have been hung from a fence. An apparent rapist at the college is seen wearing a hoodie with the number 23 on it. What does it all mean? OK. I really loved this book but admit I was not happy when some of the questions went unanswered. This is the first book of a trilogy (Far from True just came out in hardcover, and The Twenty-Three will be published in November) and it’s evident that the plan is explain all over the entire trilogy. Barclay is so good that it is worth the time to read 1,500 pages to get satisfaction, but expecting to run a mile and then being told it’s really a marathon may not be to everyone’s liking. Paperback. $9.99
While it may be easy to compare Martin Seay’s debut novel to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, they are vastly different animals. Despite sharing some aspects of format they each have their own unique stories to tell. Still, it’s obvious from the start that Seay certainly has the chops and imagination to merit a comparison to an author such as Mitchell, an observation which will be become apparent to the reader from the very first chapter. The Mirror Thief is made of three tales: one contemporary, one mid-20th century, and one set in 16th century Venice. This use of “Venice” carries through the rest of the book as well with events taking place in Venice Beach and the Venice Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, but it is not the main thread that ties these stories together. Rather, like the title notes, Seay is interested in reflection and illusion, the true self and the false. Oddly enough, he accomplishes this through the crime genre: an ex-Army MP searching for a missing friend (and possible casino heist mastermind); a young con-man setting up shop in 1950’s seaside California; a doctor and war hero stealing invaluable secrets under the nose of the Doge. This may all sound overly complex, but Seay pulls it off with ease. Each section is quick to captivate, and you will often find yourself coming up for air hours later wondering where the time went. The Mirror Thief is already garnering a huge amount of great reviews and I would not be surprised to find it in the running for various awards. That this is Seay’s debut hopefully means we have a brand new and very talented author on our hands with years of great books ahead of us. Signed. $27.95
Stockholm Det. Supt. Jeannette Kihlberg is called to investigate when mummified remains of teenage boys are discovered around the city in this riveting psychological thriller from first time authors Jerker Eriksson and Hakan Axlander Sundquist. Unable to fathom the mind of such a killer, Kihlberg turns to Sofia Zetterlund, a psychotherapist, for a profile of the murderer. Kihlberg is a very interesting woman, focused on stopping this killer while her present life is falling apart.And Sofia Zetturlund has a past she's trying to escape from.
The scenes shift between each character and from present to the past. Child abuse, human trafficking, multiple personality disorders, and murder. The twisting narrative takes us from Sweden to Sierra Leone, Kiev, and Lapland. It's an extraordinary, complex, unpredictable piece of work. It's difficult to say too much about without giving up it's secrets. The author's perform a remarkable high-wire act of balancing so many characters and plot lines together and bringing it all together for an exciting conclusion. In Sweden The Crow Girl was published in three volumes. Fortunately for US fans of Scandinavian crime fiction we won't have to wait a year between books, it's coming out in one huge volume. It's over 700 pages. But don't be put off by that. You won't be able to stop turning the pages. Coming June, 2016, US $29.95. (We will have Signed UK editions available this month, $50.)
After service in colonial India, Messrs. Avery and Blake are having difficulty adjusting to life back in Britain. They meet at ‘The Hindoostanee Coffee House,’ where Avery puts forth a proposition, but there is a strange new disconnect between them. The formerly close bond they shared is now frayed, but they have been summoned to the presence of Lord Allington, who wishes them to investigate a case that the London police seem strangely uninterested in pursuing. Three print shop purveyors of porn have been savagely murdered and positioned in such a way as to suggest some kind of sinister ritual. But the plot thickens--why are the police so blase? Is Allingham perversely protecting the killers? What is the role of the street peddler who is a source of information? What of the Lord’s assistant Threlfall, who alternates between diffidence and pomposity?
In the hustle and bustle of 1841 London, the reader can nearly smell the smells and hear the noisy center as author Carter takes us through the tale. A corking good historical mystery, and one that will call for a rereading in the future. $27.00.
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