Staff Picks for June
What a premise! Nick Mason is in prison for a minimum of 25 years with no possibility of early parole when a fellow prisoner, the wealthy and powerfully connected Darius Cole, who continues to run a drug empire from his cell, makes him an offer: He will get Mason out of prison but, for the next 20 years, he will have to follow any orders that Cole gives him. Desperate to see his wife and daughter, Mason agrees. Of course, anything that seems too good to be true has a hidden trap and that quickly turns out to be true when Mason’s first assignment is to kill someone who turns out to be a cop. Dirty, but, still, a cop. His contact tells him the first one is the hardest, and more calls come. When he begins to think he made a bad deal in order to attain his freedom, his contact makes his position clear: “This isn’t freedom. This is mobility. Don’t get those two confused.”
Mason’s life has many complications. Hoping to get back together with his wife, he finds her happily remarried. When he stops to buy a dog that winningly wagged his tale when Mason sees him in the window of a pet store, he finds himself attracted to the woman who runs the shop. As events pile up, he realizes that he will need to protect her and his former family. Meanwhile, the policeman who put him away and is enraged that Mason is free, promises him he’ll put him back in jail. When he uncovers the fact than an elite division of the Chicago police force is corrupt, they, too, come after him. Hamilton is a double Edgar-winner and his novels about former Detroit cop Alex McKnight are among the most beloved series in the mystery world, but this book is quite different: far grittier and more violent than his previous books. It is neither better nor worse; it’s just different, and a masterly work of crime fiction in every way.
A Crime Collectors Club Main Selection. Signed. $26.00
Inspired by the adventures of Frances and Ainslie Conway and their 5 year excursion to the Galapagos Islands during the 1940’s, Allison Amend’s new novel adds a bit of intrigue to what is already a fascinating story. After running away from small town Minnesota, teenagers Frances and Rosalie land in Chicago, ready to live a life of excitement. But things do not go as planned, and soon the friends are separated. It will be decades before they speak again. Eventually Frances takes a job as a secretary in Naval Intelligence. There she is introduced to Ainslie Conway, a charming agent who is much more than he seems. At the behest of their superiors the two are married and sent to the Galapagos for a mission of dubious importance. What they discover is a world both forbidding and enticing, and a complex web of secrets that may never see the light. Enchanted Islands is not only the perfect book for summer, but a layered exploration of life, friendship, and of course, the early days of American espionage. It’s also an absolute joy to read! If you’re looking for something a little lighter in tone, but no less fascinating, this is it.
Walker, Martin, Fatal Pursuit: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel. Alfred A. Knopf.
Martin Walker's descriptions of the pastoral beauty of the Dordogne and its food and wines make this part of France seem like a paradise. But this is a mystery series, not a guidebook, no doubt about that. And Bruno has got quite a lot on this plate in this one. Just as the annual fete and classic car exhibit is getting underway, an elderly researcher dies in his home, seemingly from a heart attack. Called to the scene, Bruno’s suspicions arise when he realizes the research work is missing. Meanwhile, Bruno is occupied by a number of other things: he tries to help a troubled teen, he gets talked into taking part in a car rally, an old romance returns to ask for help in an investigation into a terrorist money-raising scheme, a new romance arrives trying to settle a family feud over land, and, in a plotline I found particularly interesting, he sets out in search for a classic car worth tens of millions of dollars, a Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic, one of only four of its kind, lost during WWII. It's a wonder Bruno has time to throw a Lean Cuisine into the microwave, never mind coming up with some of the dishes he dreams up. This is the ninth book of this wonderful series.
To be signed. $25.95.
What if everything you knew in your life was suddenly turned upside down? What if the people you thought were your friends couldn’t be trusted after all?
In Alan Furst’s A Hero of France, the Reich and the Vichy government in Occupied France are battling the Resistance. One of its operatives is, under the nom de guerre Mathieu, helping along with others to smuggle downed pilots out of France and into Great Britain where they may resume flying for the allies. With his network of fellow Resistance fighters, they battle on as best they can, while the reader is left caring for their fates and rooting for them and against the turncoats and collaborators. Shifting identities, uncertain loyalties, having to abandon meeting places when compromised, constantly looking over one’s shoulder for danger lurks around every corner--life in an occupied land!
Even though the outcome is long since engraved in the history books, Furst weaves a topnotch spy thriller that will have you alternately shouting and squirming. It’s no spoiler to suggest that, after the Germans realize that the Vichy regime is never going to bring the oppressed population to heel, the Gestapo moves in and cracks down even harder, while the various operatives scatter to the winds, hopefully to fight another day. Not one for cut and dried solutions or tidy endings, Furst does leave a glimmer of hope for the future, and he has really rung up a winner this time!
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