Never Coming Back
Vanessa Orr

When Emily Kane arrives at her sister Carrie’s house to find the door open, dinner still on the table, and the family of four missing, she turns to investigator David Raker, her former boyfriend, after the police turn up no leads. Raker’s investigation of the case leads him from an abandoned English fishing village to the casinos of Las Vegas, where he uncovers secrets some powerful people would prefer remain unearthed.

Raker is dealing with a number of his own demons, including the fact that he has not recovered from losing his wife to cancer, or from a stab wound that caused his heart to stop for seven minutes in an incident that also resulted in the death of a fellow police officer. His ex-girlfriend Liz tells him, “You’re trying to plug holes in the world because you know what it’s like to lose someone, and you think it’s your job to stop anyone else suffering the same way.” While this makes him an extremely driven investigator, it also casts a shadow on any relationships that he tries to have, making the book’s title an apt description of Raker’s own tortured journey.

While it took a bit of time for the story to really get underway, once it got moving, I found it almost impossible to put down. Thinking that I had figured out the crux of the novel, I was feeling pretty smug—that is, until Weaver blindsided me with a plot twist that I never saw coming.

Weaver also does a good job of giving readers a sense of place, whether it’s in a loud, crowded casino bar in “the bulletproof city” of Las Vegas, or among the abandoned homes nestled within the eerie cliffside English village washed away by a rogue wave. When Raker does finally resolve the case, it isn’t the clean ending that you might expect—though with this writer, you should expect anything. The only thing that is not a surprise is that Weaver’s previous thrillers have been extremely popular in the UK; something that I expect will happen here with this first introduction of David Raker to American audiences.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:12:22

When Emily Kane arrives at her sister Carrie’s house to find the door open, dinner still on the table, and the family of four missing, she turns to investigator David Raker, her former boyfriend, after the police turn up no leads. Raker’s investigation of the case leads him from an abandoned English fishing village to the casinos of Las Vegas, where he uncovers secrets some powerful people would prefer remain unearthed.

Raker is dealing with a number of his own demons, including the fact that he has not recovered from losing his wife to cancer, or from a stab wound that caused his heart to stop for seven minutes in an incident that also resulted in the death of a fellow police officer. His ex-girlfriend Liz tells him, “You’re trying to plug holes in the world because you know what it’s like to lose someone, and you think it’s your job to stop anyone else suffering the same way.” While this makes him an extremely driven investigator, it also casts a shadow on any relationships that he tries to have, making the book’s title an apt description of Raker’s own tortured journey.

While it took a bit of time for the story to really get underway, once it got moving, I found it almost impossible to put down. Thinking that I had figured out the crux of the novel, I was feeling pretty smug—that is, until Weaver blindsided me with a plot twist that I never saw coming.

Weaver also does a good job of giving readers a sense of place, whether it’s in a loud, crowded casino bar in “the bulletproof city” of Las Vegas, or among the abandoned homes nestled within the eerie cliffside English village washed away by a rogue wave. When Raker does finally resolve the case, it isn’t the clean ending that you might expect—though with this writer, you should expect anything. The only thing that is not a surprise is that Weaver’s previous thrillers have been extremely popular in the UK; something that I expect will happen here with this first introduction of David Raker to American audiences.

By Any Means
Eileen Brady

Detective Sergeant Ash Rashid of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department sometimes thinks the world would be better if humanity never existed. After reading author Chris Culver’s newest Ash Rashid thriller, By Any Means, you might agree with him, given that the plot involves the human trafficking of young women. It begins when Ash, on his way home to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, comes across what he initially thinks is a car accident. He discovers two people shot dead in the front seat of the Mercedes and learns that the nurse and good Samaritan Rebecca Cook, who stopped to offer help a few minutes before, has been kidnapped by the killer.

The situation turns into a cat-and-mouse game when a ransom for Rebecca is demanded with Ash making the money drop. But who is the cat and who is the mouse? Each chapter reveals another layer in this tense and complex story. As the day progresses, Ash tries to continue his all-day fast in accordance with his religious beliefs, fighting his own body to stay mentally focused. Good writing and an interesting character in detective Ash Rashid will keep your interest until the bitter end.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:15:30

Indianapolis detective sergeant Ash Rashid tackles the dark world of sex trafficking in the latest thriller from Chris Culver.

The Antiquarian
Robin Agnew

This first novel by Gustavo Faverón Patriau, a Bowdoin professor, does have a crime within its pages, but it’s not really a mystery, it’s more of a think piece. Some of the things I cherish as a mystery reader—narrative, setting, character development—are not necessarily Mr. Patriau’s main interests, so I tried to look at the book on his terms and not on my own.

I always prefer a setting that is “real,” and while I imagine this novel is set somewhere in South America, Mr. Patriau is far more concerned with the metaphor of his setting, a crumbling and decaying place coiled in upon itself like a seashell. The nameless city is populated with a high number of bibliophiles and book dealers, and it’s central character, Daniel, is a book dealer who is in a mental hospital after murdering his wife. His best friend, Gustavo, is astonished that Daniel is capable of murder, and so disturbed by it that he’s stayed away until Daniel makes a request to see him.

The book is told though a series of fantastical stories that have the feel of fables or fairy tales, which illustrate the points the author wishes to make through metaphor, rather than direct narrative. Like the layout of the city, the stories curl back upon themselves with various elements relating to one another until they begin to weave together to form a semblance of a coherent narrative.

Patriau’s main concerns seem to be twofold: one, that no one’s life or experiences seem real until they are retold and described to another human being; and two, the world of books. He constructs within his story edifices of paper and books and ephemera that surround every character. Many, if not all of the characters, are damaged physically or mentally or are ill with bizarre diseases. They are being eaten alive by what ails them, which Patriau seems to imply is simply life itself. The author also implies that books and stories stave off or distract us from the damage and illness that life can inflict.

As Daniel tells his story, Gustavo struggles, as the reader does, to discern Daniel’s meaning buried within a forest of words. While this book is well written it isn’t always well told. I often felt adrift in a sea of words set in a nameless location, and I longed for the author to swoop in and set things to rights and make things clearer. He instead leaves the reader, along with Gustavo, to puzzle things out.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:18:00

This first novel by Gustavo Faverón Patriau, a Bowdoin professor, does have a crime within its pages, but it’s not really a mystery, it’s more of a think piece. Some of the things I cherish as a mystery reader—narrative, setting, character development—are not necessarily Mr. Patriau’s main interests, so I tried to look at the book on his terms and not on my own.

I always prefer a setting that is “real,” and while I imagine this novel is set somewhere in South America, Mr. Patriau is far more concerned with the metaphor of his setting, a crumbling and decaying place coiled in upon itself like a seashell. The nameless city is populated with a high number of bibliophiles and book dealers, and it’s central character, Daniel, is a book dealer who is in a mental hospital after murdering his wife. His best friend, Gustavo, is astonished that Daniel is capable of murder, and so disturbed by it that he’s stayed away until Daniel makes a request to see him.

The book is told though a series of fantastical stories that have the feel of fables or fairy tales, which illustrate the points the author wishes to make through metaphor, rather than direct narrative. Like the layout of the city, the stories curl back upon themselves with various elements relating to one another until they begin to weave together to form a semblance of a coherent narrative.

Patriau’s main concerns seem to be twofold: one, that no one’s life or experiences seem real until they are retold and described to another human being; and two, the world of books. He constructs within his story edifices of paper and books and ephemera that surround every character. Many, if not all of the characters, are damaged physically or mentally or are ill with bizarre diseases. They are being eaten alive by what ails them, which Patriau seems to imply is simply life itself. The author also implies that books and stories stave off or distract us from the damage and illness that life can inflict.

As Daniel tells his story, Gustavo struggles, as the reader does, to discern Daniel’s meaning buried within a forest of words. While this book is well written it isn’t always well told. I often felt adrift in a sea of words set in a nameless location, and I longed for the author to swoop in and set things to rights and make things clearer. He instead leaves the reader, along with Gustavo, to puzzle things out.

Silver Totem of Shame
Betty Webb

When Allistair, a gifted young totem pole carver, is murdered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Meg Harris and her new husband Eric, an Algonquin Indian, find themselves thrust into a crime that has its roots in a centuries-old dispute between the encroaching Europeans and the local Haida tribe.

Told in alternating points of view by Meg, a recovering alcoholic, and a mysterious Haida carver seemingly bent on revenge, Silver Totem of Shame gains great depth as it plumbs the history of the Haida. This sad history becomes personal when Eric learns that the murder victim is related to him by adoption. As a child Eric had been adopted by a white family, and in turn, his wealthy adoptive sister had likewise adopted Allistair. This practice—intended to “stamp out the Indian” in native children—was not without its repercussions. Chief among them was the severing of family and tribal ties. Meg and Eric, their new marriage directly impacted by this clash of cultures, find themselves swept up in the woes of the local Haida bands. Author Harlick delivers a series of three-dimensional characters, each and every one filled with love and rage as they attempt to work their way through the bad hand history dealt them. The expertise with which Harlick paints the tribes and their adversaries would be reason enough to pronounce this a superior mystery, but she doesn’t stop there. She also treats their long-abandoned villages as characters in and of themselves, to such an extent that we can almost hear Haida ghosts murmuring down through the ages. By showing both sides of the Indian-versus-European cultural dispute, she wisely avoids the trap of painting one side’s history as pure evil, the other’s as sinless. This even-handedness brings complexity and depth to what could have been a mere diatribe. Instead, we get a superb novel that lends itself to reread after reread.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:21:34

harlick silvertotemofshameWhen a gifted young totem pole carver is murdered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Meg Harris and her new husband Eric, an Algonquin Indian, find themselves thrust into a crime that has its roots in a centuries-old dispute between the encroaching Europeans and the local Haida tribe.

A Dark and Twisted Tide
Robin Agnew

Sharon Bolton, also known as S.J. Bolton, remains one of the more interesting and original writers working in crime fiction at the moment. Some of her notable earlier standalones such as Sacrifice and Awakening are some of my very favorite gothic mysteries. Bolton’s new series features a long-suffering London police officer Lacey Flint, who has stepped down as a detective after traumas endured on previous cases. Lacey is now serving on the River Police and living in a houseboat on the Thames.

The river and it’s many tributaries and sewer tunnels, sets the tone for this watery, atmospheric book. The story opens with a young woman being forcibly drowned and dumped into the river. The second chapter finds Lacey “wild swimming” in the Thames, where she discovers the girl’s body, wrapped in a curious linen shroud and strapped to a pier.

While Lacey is no longer a detective, she has a detective’s instincts and can’t help giving her input to the officers working the girl’s case, an operation headed up by Dana Tulloch, a recurring series character. The several threads of the story involve girls being smuggled into the UK from abroad. It’s these girls whose bodies are being discovered—and of course the body Lacey discovers is neither the first nor the last.

Two things run through all Bolton’s books, almost without exception: one is an unusual, creepy setting; the other is her creation of weirdly damaged—often physically damaged or even handicapped—female characters. These characters often prove to be incredibly compelling. While Lacey is the main protagonist and wears her damage on the inside rather than the outside, Bolton also provides readers of this novel with wheelchair-bound Thessa. I couldn’t get enough of her.

The taut suspense of the book is balanced by Lacey’s visits to Thessa, an herbalist who lives in a secluded house on the river with her brother. Thessa’s advice to Lacey is so sound and her herbal remedies so appealing, I found myself wanting to take notes.

As Bolton draws all the threads of her story together, the suspense does not let up. Like many beautifully crafted things, this novel is at once complex and very simple. Bolton’s tricky storytelling turns the narrative first one way and then another, forcing the reader to examine previous assumptions made while reading. This is a wonderfully intelligent book, with memorable characters and an incredible setting. Like most of Bolton’s other work, it’s also hard to forget.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:24:35

Sharon Bolton, also known as S.J. Bolton, remains one of the more interesting and original writers working in crime fiction at the moment. Some of her notable earlier standalones such as Sacrifice and Awakening are some of my very favorite gothic mysteries. Bolton’s new series features a long-suffering London police officer Lacey Flint, who has stepped down as a detective after traumas endured on previous cases. Lacey is now serving on the River Police and living in a houseboat on the Thames.

The river and it’s many tributaries and sewer tunnels, sets the tone for this watery, atmospheric book. The story opens with a young woman being forcibly drowned and dumped into the river. The second chapter finds Lacey “wild swimming” in the Thames, where she discovers the girl’s body, wrapped in a curious linen shroud and strapped to a pier.

While Lacey is no longer a detective, she has a detective’s instincts and can’t help giving her input to the officers working the girl’s case, an operation headed up by Dana Tulloch, a recurring series character. The several threads of the story involve girls being smuggled into the UK from abroad. It’s these girls whose bodies are being discovered—and of course the body Lacey discovers is neither the first nor the last.

Two things run through all Bolton’s books, almost without exception: one is an unusual, creepy setting; the other is her creation of weirdly damaged—often physically damaged or even handicapped—female characters. These characters often prove to be incredibly compelling. While Lacey is the main protagonist and wears her damage on the inside rather than the outside, Bolton also provides readers of this novel with wheelchair-bound Thessa. I couldn’t get enough of her.

The taut suspense of the book is balanced by Lacey’s visits to Thessa, an herbalist who lives in a secluded house on the river with her brother. Thessa’s advice to Lacey is so sound and her herbal remedies so appealing, I found myself wanting to take notes.

As Bolton draws all the threads of her story together, the suspense does not let up. Like many beautifully crafted things, this novel is at once complex and very simple. Bolton’s tricky storytelling turns the narrative first one way and then another, forcing the reader to examine previous assumptions made while reading. This is a wonderfully intelligent book, with memorable characters and an incredible setting. Like most of Bolton’s other work, it’s also hard to forget.

Third Rail
Kevin Burton Smith

Eddy Harkness is an absolute whiz at finding hidden evidence, much to the amazement of his fellow Boston cops. Drugs, guns, cash, bodies—you name it and “Harky” can find it.

What he can’t seem to find these days is a break.

Once an up-and-coming detective assigned to Narco-Intel, a cutting edge task force, his big-city plainclothes career ground to a halt a few years ago after he was blamed for the death of an over-exuberant Red Sox fan. In sports-mad Boston, the mistake is tantamount to treason, and the hotshot was sent packing back to his white-flight hometown of Nagog, just west of Boston, where he was lucky to land a job with the hopelessly small-town local force—back in uniform, emptying parking meters.

The fall from grace eats at Eddie. He’s drinking too much, hanging around questionable bars, sleeping with even more questionable women. Like his “slippery girlfriend” Thalia, an artsy punkette who has trouble written all over her. Following a woozy night of sex and booze, Eddie wakes up in Thalia’s bed. She’s there, but his police issue Glock is missing.

Already on the outs with most of his townie colleagues, Eddie sets out to find his weapon alone (packing a toy gun in the meantime), but the increasingly frantic search unearths a string of peculiar fatalities possibly connected to the use of Third Rail, a new designer drug hitting the streets. Teaming up with an old Narco-Intel buddy, Eddie begins an off-the-books investigation, with hopes of getting his old life back—until the trail of corruption starts leading him to places he’d rather not go.

But, as his pal cautions him, “There’s worse things than giving a shit.”

Rory Flynn may pile on the tropes a little high, but he’s found a fresh, compelling hero with which to shore them up, making this a wobbly but promising debut, and the series, with its throbbing, cocksure prose, one to watch. But mostly because Eddie, for all his faults, does give a shit. In the bleaker-than-thou pissing contest that is neo-noir, a little heart can go a long way.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:28:18

Eddy Harkness is an absolute whiz at finding hidden evidence, much to the amazement of his fellow Boston cops. Drugs, guns, cash, bodies—you name it and “Harky” can find it.

What he can’t seem to find these days is a break.

Once an up-and-coming detective assigned to Narco-Intel, a cutting edge task force, his big-city plainclothes career ground to a halt a few years ago after he was blamed for the death of an over-exuberant Red Sox fan. In sports-mad Boston, the mistake is tantamount to treason, and the hotshot was sent packing back to his white-flight hometown of Nagog, just west of Boston, where he was lucky to land a job with the hopelessly small-town local force—back in uniform, emptying parking meters.

The fall from grace eats at Eddie. He’s drinking too much, hanging around questionable bars, sleeping with even more questionable women. Like his “slippery girlfriend” Thalia, an artsy punkette who has trouble written all over her. Following a woozy night of sex and booze, Eddie wakes up in Thalia’s bed. She’s there, but his police issue Glock is missing.

Already on the outs with most of his townie colleagues, Eddie sets out to find his weapon alone (packing a toy gun in the meantime), but the increasingly frantic search unearths a string of peculiar fatalities possibly connected to the use of Third Rail, a new designer drug hitting the streets. Teaming up with an old Narco-Intel buddy, Eddie begins an off-the-books investigation, with hopes of getting his old life back—until the trail of corruption starts leading him to places he’d rather not go.

But, as his pal cautions him, “There’s worse things than giving a shit.”

Rory Flynn may pile on the tropes a little high, but he’s found a fresh, compelling hero with which to shore them up, making this a wobbly but promising debut, and the series, with its throbbing, cocksure prose, one to watch. But mostly because Eddie, for all his faults, does give a shit. In the bleaker-than-thou pissing contest that is neo-noir, a little heart can go a long way.

’Til Dirt Do Us Part
Sheila M. Merritt

Edith Maxwell’s ’Til Dirt Do Us Part, the sequel to the author’s A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die, once again puts the former software engineer turned organic farmer Cam Flaherty in mortal danger. When the body of Irene Burr is found in a pigsty, partially eaten by pigs, the townsfolk are shocked. The denizens of Westbury, Massachusetts, are shaken by how Irene died, but aren’t too surprised to discover she was murdered. Burr’s pushy attitude and plans to turn the Old Town Hall into a textile museum alienated many. Cam itches to ferret out Irene’s murderer, but gets distracted in the process by pressing concerns that include the abduction of her cat, the acquisition of malnourished chickens, shifts in her love life, cut brake lines, and threats at gunpoint.

Integrated throughout are details about the long hours, intense physical exertion, and financial instability of the farming life.

While the murder element is present, it simmers on the back burner. The focus is on the emotionally evolving protagonist and her relationships. And while ending the tale on a romantic cliffhanger is a definite lure to read the next book in the series, more attention to solving the mystery would have been an added positive.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:31:27

Edith Maxwell’s ’Til Dirt Do Us Part, the sequel to the author’s A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die, once again puts the former software engineer turned organic farmer Cam Flaherty in mortal danger. When the body of Irene Burr is found in a pigsty, partially eaten by pigs, the townsfolk are shocked. The denizens of Westbury, Massachusetts, are shaken by how Irene died, but aren’t too surprised to discover she was murdered. Burr’s pushy attitude and plans to turn the Old Town Hall into a textile museum alienated many. Cam itches to ferret out Irene’s murderer, but gets distracted in the process by pressing concerns that include the abduction of her cat, the acquisition of malnourished chickens, shifts in her love life, cut brake lines, and threats at gunpoint.

Integrated throughout are details about the long hours, intense physical exertion, and financial instability of the farming life.

While the murder element is present, it simmers on the back burner. The focus is on the emotionally evolving protagonist and her relationships. And while ending the tale on a romantic cliffhanger is a definite lure to read the next book in the series, more attention to solving the mystery would have been an added positive.

Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot
Kevin Burton Smith

I confess I initially had my doubts about Ace Atkins being able to nail the glib, rat-a-tat-tat voice of Parker, a man who basically redefined and rejuvenated the entire shamus game in the ’80s with his novels featuring beloved Boston private eye Spenser.

I was wrong. It was clear from the first book, Lullaby, that Atkins was more than some farmhand hired to milk the (cash) cow. At the time, Atkins copped to the huge influence Parker had had on him both personally and professionally, and that gratitude and respect showed through. Plus, he has the writing chops and vision to give Spenser a task worthy of his talents. And so we have Spenser back in a third outing by Atkins, hired by Kinjo Heywood, star linebacker for the Patriots, whose bookish nine-year-old son Akira has been kidnapped. Atkins brings out all the moral, ethical, and situational conflicts that made Parker’s series so compelling. Of course, just to be on the safe side, Atkins doesn’t skimp on the wisecracks, the sexually charged banter between Spenser and Susan, the clenched-fist prose, the terse action, the beer, or the doughnuts. Atkins gets it.

Toss in conflicting law enforcement agencies (and the NFL) bickering over the high-profile case, a couple of motor-mouthed “analysts” from local sports talk radio, Kinjo’s bitter ex, a trophy wife with a troubled past, an unsolved NYC nightclub shooting from a few years earlier that the superstar was involved in, a band of kidnappers apparently making it up as they go, and Kinjo’s own loose cannon anger, and you’ve got a satisfyingly tangled mess that Spenser—with the aid of Hawk and Zebulon Sixkill, Spenser’s “apprentice”—will have to sort out if they want to save Akira.

The action falters a bit at the end, seemingly sucker punched by its own final plot twist. But in this often-rousing novel’s closing, Atkins leaves us with a few lines about what a hero can mean to someone. In this unabashed love-letter of a book, it’s a fitting coda.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:34:08

I confess I initially had my doubts about Ace Atkins being able to nail the glib, rat-a-tat-tat voice of Parker, a man who basically redefined and rejuvenated the entire shamus game in the ’80s with his novels featuring beloved Boston private eye Spenser.

I was wrong. It was clear from the first book, Lullaby, that Atkins was more than some farmhand hired to milk the (cash) cow. At the time, Atkins copped to the huge influence Parker had had on him both personally and professionally, and that gratitude and respect showed through. Plus, he has the writing chops and vision to give Spenser a task worthy of his talents. And so we have Spenser back in a third outing by Atkins, hired by Kinjo Heywood, star linebacker for the Patriots, whose bookish nine-year-old son Akira has been kidnapped. Atkins brings out all the moral, ethical, and situational conflicts that made Parker’s series so compelling. Of course, just to be on the safe side, Atkins doesn’t skimp on the wisecracks, the sexually charged banter between Spenser and Susan, the clenched-fist prose, the terse action, the beer, or the doughnuts. Atkins gets it.

Toss in conflicting law enforcement agencies (and the NFL) bickering over the high-profile case, a couple of motor-mouthed “analysts” from local sports talk radio, Kinjo’s bitter ex, a trophy wife with a troubled past, an unsolved NYC nightclub shooting from a few years earlier that the superstar was involved in, a band of kidnappers apparently making it up as they go, and Kinjo’s own loose cannon anger, and you’ve got a satisfyingly tangled mess that Spenser—with the aid of Hawk and Zebulon Sixkill, Spenser’s “apprentice”—will have to sort out if they want to save Akira.

The action falters a bit at the end, seemingly sucker punched by its own final plot twist. But in this often-rousing novel’s closing, Atkins leaves us with a few lines about what a hero can mean to someone. In this unabashed love-letter of a book, it’s a fitting coda.

Watching You
Oline H. Cogdill

London-based psychologist Joe O’Loughlin makes his eighth appearance in this chilling thriller—but his latest patient may have problems beyond therapy.

Marnie Logan has barely been making ends meet since her husband Daniel disappeared more than a year ago. It’s bad enough that she’s two months behind in rent and has had to sell even the TV to feed her children, but Daniel had a gambling problem and the gangsters he was in debt to are forcing her to work as an escort to pay back what he owed. Marnie is as fragile emotionally as she is financially. She is convinced that someone has been stalking her for years and she has occasional blackout-like “mind slips.”

In trying to help his patient, Joe and retired detective Vincent Ruiz look into Daniel’s disappearance. Instead, a different side of Marnie emerges as they discover a pattern of vindictive behavior targeting anyone who has tried to cross her that goes back to her childhood. Is this the same meek woman whom Joe has been treating?

In Watching You, Australian author Michael Robotham again shows his mastery at psychological thrillers that twist and turn right up to the shocking finale. While his psychologist is the hero of his series, Robotham skillfully shows Joe not as a super sleuth but as a compassionate doctor concerned about his patient.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:38:26

London-based psychologist Joe O’Loughlin makes his eighth appearance in this chilling thriller—but his latest patient may have problems beyond therapy.

Marnie Logan has barely been making ends meet since her husband Daniel disappeared more than a year ago. It’s bad enough that she’s two months behind in rent and has had to sell even the TV to feed her children, but Daniel had a gambling problem and the gangsters he was in debt to are forcing her to work as an escort to pay back what he owed. Marnie is as fragile emotionally as she is financially. She is convinced that someone has been stalking her for years and she has occasional blackout-like “mind slips.”

In trying to help his patient, Joe and retired detective Vincent Ruiz look into Daniel’s disappearance. Instead, a different side of Marnie emerges as they discover a pattern of vindictive behavior targeting anyone who has tried to cross her that goes back to her childhood. Is this the same meek woman whom Joe has been treating?

In Watching You, Australian author Michael Robotham again shows his mastery at psychological thrillers that twist and turn right up to the shocking finale. While his psychologist is the hero of his series, Robotham skillfully shows Joe not as a super sleuth but as a compassionate doctor concerned about his patient.

Someone Else’s Skin
Eileen Brady

A safe house for abused women in Finchley, North London, becomes the violent scene of a stabbing witnessed by several of the residents. The killing of Leo Proctor by his wife Hope seems to be a clear-cut case of self-defense—until inconsistencies from the five witnesses point Detective Inspector Marnie Rome in a different direction.

Award-winning short story writer Sarah Hilary has crafted a tight, nasty mystery. Someone Else’s Skin shakes up any preconceived notions you might have regarding domestic abuse. The women at the shelter are a diverse group: Hope, blond and fragile looking; Simone, beautiful despite her broken nose; Ethiopian teenager Ayana, blinded in one eye at the hands of her own brothers; Shelley, full of bravado; and toothless Mab “the magpie” compelled to steal anything she can. As we learn more about each of them, the reader also discovers what drives resourceful detective Rome. She has demons of her own that she tries to hide from her partner Detective Sergeant Noah Jake and Ed Belloc, a victim support worker who cares deeply about her. (Her parents were murdered by her foster brother an she still doesn’t understand why).

This debut novel by British author Hilary is gripping and full of graphic details about the lives and psychology of her characters, both abusers and their victims. You might be surprised at the end to learn which is which.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:41:56

A safe house for abused women in Finchley, North London, becomes the violent scene of a stabbing witnessed by several of the residents. The killing of Leo Proctor by his wife Hope seems to be a clear-cut case of self-defense—until inconsistencies from the five witnesses point Detective Inspector Marnie Rome in a different direction.

Award-winning short story writer Sarah Hilary has crafted a tight, nasty mystery. Someone Else’s Skin shakes up any preconceived notions you might have regarding domestic abuse. The women at the shelter are a diverse group: Hope, blond and fragile looking; Simone, beautiful despite her broken nose; Ethiopian teenager Ayana, blinded in one eye at the hands of her own brothers; Shelley, full of bravado; and toothless Mab “the magpie” compelled to steal anything she can. As we learn more about each of them, the reader also discovers what drives resourceful detective Rome. She has demons of her own that she tries to hide from her partner Detective Sergeant Noah Jake and Ed Belloc, a victim support worker who cares deeply about her. (Her parents were murdered by her foster brother an she still doesn’t understand why).

This debut novel by British author Hilary is gripping and full of graphic details about the lives and psychology of her characters, both abusers and their victims. You might be surprised at the end to learn which is which.

A Better World
Betty Webb

Reading the second book in a dystopian trilogy when you haven’t read the first can be a challenge. Knowing this, author Marcus Sakey wisely takes great care in A Better World by bringing new readers up to date through a series of flashbacks that summarize the plot of the terrific Brilliance, the trilogy’s first installment. Earth is now divided between the mutated “abnorms” and the more average “norms,” and the abnorms—or “brilliants,” as they are also called—are being targeted by a paranoid norm populace. The abnorms appear to be fighting back through steadily increasing terrorist attacks.

Accordingly, the United States finds itself in the midst of an ugly civil war, one which has left cities decimated and children orphaned among the ruins. Trying to stem the increasing tide of terrorism is federal agent Nick Cooper. Cooper, an abnorm himself, finds himself torn between the two warring sides while tracking the abnorm terrorists’ leaders.

This intraspecies war is an exciting premise, and the author handles it with skill. But in this second installment of the trilogy, Cooper comes across as a fairly flat character, leaving the reader more drawn to the difficulties of scientist Ethan Park and his family. Park’s wife Amy has just given birth to baby Violet, but because of physical problems, Amy is unable to nurse the girl. The few stores that remain open have run out of milk, which leaves the stressed scientist begging neighbors for cans of condensed milk. That Park will go to any lengths to feed his young family gives his chapters an emotional resonance not always found in other sections of the book.

The chapters featuring Cooper make A Better World read more like a high-octane political thriller, which can present a problem for the non-politically-inclined reader. As Cooper attempts to stem the tide of terrorism while also dealing with duplicitous politicians, we wade through a sea of acronyms, such as the MOI (Monitoring Oversight Initiative), a law requiring all abnorms to be micro-chipped, and the DAR (Department of Analysis and Response), a federally funded anti-terrorist organization. As a result, the “human-ness” of the national emergency frequently gets lost in the shuffle. The final chapters of the novel are problematic, too, leaving the reader to await the third installment in the trilogy to find out what happens. Unresolved plot points can be tempting stratagems for series authors, who often believe such omissions help sell the final book in a series. But frankly, readers deserve better.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 01:44:34

Reading the second book in a dystopian trilogy when you haven’t read the first can be a challenge. Knowing this, author Marcus Sakey wisely takes great care in A Better World by bringing new readers up to date through a series of flashbacks that summarize the plot of the terrific Brilliance, the trilogy’s first installment. Earth is now divided between the mutated “abnorms” and the more average “norms,” and the abnorms—or “brilliants,” as they are also called—are being targeted by a paranoid norm populace. The abnorms appear to be fighting back through steadily increasing terrorist attacks.

Accordingly, the United States finds itself in the midst of an ugly civil war, one which has left cities decimated and children orphaned among the ruins. Trying to stem the increasing tide of terrorism is federal agent Nick Cooper. Cooper, an abnorm himself, finds himself torn between the two warring sides while tracking the abnorm terrorists’ leaders.

This intraspecies war is an exciting premise, and the author handles it with skill. But in this second installment of the trilogy, Cooper comes across as a fairly flat character, leaving the reader more drawn to the difficulties of scientist Ethan Park and his family. Park’s wife Amy has just given birth to baby Violet, but because of physical problems, Amy is unable to nurse the girl. The few stores that remain open have run out of milk, which leaves the stressed scientist begging neighbors for cans of condensed milk. That Park will go to any lengths to feed his young family gives his chapters an emotional resonance not always found in other sections of the book.

The chapters featuring Cooper make A Better World read more like a high-octane political thriller, which can present a problem for the non-politically-inclined reader. As Cooper attempts to stem the tide of terrorism while also dealing with duplicitous politicians, we wade through a sea of acronyms, such as the MOI (Monitoring Oversight Initiative), a law requiring all abnorms to be micro-chipped, and the DAR (Department of Analysis and Response), a federally funded anti-terrorist organization. As a result, the “human-ness” of the national emergency frequently gets lost in the shuffle. The final chapters of the novel are problematic, too, leaving the reader to await the third installment in the trilogy to find out what happens. Unresolved plot points can be tempting stratagems for series authors, who often believe such omissions help sell the final book in a series. But frankly, readers deserve better.

Don’t Ever Look Back
Matt Fowler

Buck Schatz is the 88-year-old, gun-toting, skull-cracking, and nursing-home-bound retired cop in Daniel Friedman’s Don’t Ever Look Back. The story line centers on one of Buck’s former adversaries, a master thief, who has returned in hopes of attaining the elderly protagonist’s help. Buck, not so happily settled in his independent living home, accepts the solicitation, and hijinks ensue for a man who struggles to move without a walker but adamantly insists on packing heat wherever he goes.

With characters as good as Buck Schatz the plot is beside the point, though it must be noted Friedman is skilled in pushing the story along while still leaving space for hilarious one-liners. In his second book in the series, the author strings together a loose narrative filled with all the detective clichés found on a procedural cop show. It is these formulaic constraints that allocate the main character the freedom to shine. The novel is at its best when the reader shadows Buck as he struggles and refuses to conform to a quickly evolving world that he doesn’t feel part of. Buck’s fight to survive in the new millennium filled with Internet and smartphones is equal parts funny and poignant.

The fact that Buck takes up so much of the novel’s real estate is only unfortunate as it relates to the rest of characters. Though the reader has a strong understanding of who the protagonist is as person, the cast of characters he interacts with all pale in comparison. It’s a revolving door of Who will Buck outshine? in every new scene he is put in. However, in a detective novel that relies so heavily on the likability of the sleuth, this is a good problem to have.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 14:52:48

Buck Schatz is the 88-year-old, gun-toting, skull-cracking, and nursing-homebound retired cop in Daniel Friedman’s Don’t Ever Look Back. The story line centers on one of Buck’s former adversaries, a master thief, who has returned in hopes of attaining the elderly protagonist’s help. Buck not so happily settled in his independent living home accepts the solicitation, and hijinks ensue for a man who struggles to move without a walker but adamantly insists on packing heat wherever he goes.

With characters as good as Buck Schatz the plot is beside the point, though it must be noted Friedman is skilled in pushing the story along while still leaving space for hilarious one-liners. In his second book in the series, the author strings together a loose narrative filled with all the detective clichés found on a procedural cop show. It is these formulaic constraints that allocate the main character the freedom to shine. The novel is at its best when the reader shadows Buck as he struggles and refuses to conform to a quickly evolving world that he doesn’t feel part of. Buck’s fight to survive in the new millennium filled with Internet and smartphones is equal parts funny and poignant.

The fact that Buck takes up so much of the novel’s real estate is only unfortunate as it relates to the rest of characters. Though the reader has a strong understanding of who the protagonist is as person, the cast of characters he interacts with all pale in comparison. It’s a revolving door of who will Buck outshine in every new scene he is put in. However in a detective novel that relies so heavily on the likability of the sleuth, this is a good problem to have.

The Watcher
Hank Wagner

When an older woman living alone at the top of a high-rise building is killed, it stuns the entire community. When another woman living in isolation is killed in the same manner, fear sets in. When yet another murder occurs, this time of a male citizen, police see potential links to the homicides, but none which will lead to closure. Grasping at any lead, the police focus on two local men, one a slightly creepy, socially awkward unemployed man, who has taken to observing (some might say stalking) his neighbors to fill the empty hours, the other an ex-cop once accused of sexual harassment. What’s so horrible about the situation is that both leads are especially flimsy, potentially leaving a killer free to strike again without fear of real pursuit.

A bestselling author in her native Germany, Charlotte Link only recently cracked the US market with 2013’s The Other Child, also set in England and the recipient of much critical praise. The Watcher will likely earn similar high marks. Working in the tradition of Ruth Rendell, Link renders complex, psychologically rich portraits of her characters, which resonate with readers, luring us into a false familiarity. Link relies on that to shock, surprise, and mislead her audience, keeping us in rapt suspense until all is finally revealed. As translated by Stefan Tobler, Link is a writer who merits your attention. Hopefully, The Watcher will sell well enough to justify publication of further English translations of her extensive backlist.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 14:57:01

When an older woman living alone at the top of a high-rise building is killed, it stuns the entire community. When another woman living in isolation is killed in the same manner, fear sets in. When yet another murder occurs, this time of a male citizen, police see potential links to the homicides, but none which will lead to closure. Grasping at any lead, the police focus on two local men, one a slightly creepy, socially awkward unemployed man, who has taken to observing (some might say stalking) his neighbors to fill the empty hours, the other an ex-cop once accused of sexual harassment. What’s so horrible about the situation is that both leads are especially flimsy, potentially leaving a killer free to strike again without fear of real pursuit.

A bestselling author in her native Germany, Charlotte Link only recently cracked the US market with 2013’s The Other Child, also set in England and the recipient of much critical praise. The Watcher will likely earn similar high marks. Working in the tradition of Ruth Rendell, Link renders complex, psychologically rich portraits of her characters, which resonate with readers, luring us into a false familiarity. Link relies on that to shock, surprise, and mislead her audience, keeping us in rapt suspense until all is finally revealed. As translated by Stefan Tobler, Link is a writer who merits your attention. Hopefully, The Watcher will sell well enough to justify publication of further English translations of her extensive backlist.

The Marathon Conspiracy
Sharon Magee

It’s 459 BC in Athens, Greece, and 21-year-old Nicolaos is one of a few sleuths in the city. Nico’s work comes from Pericles, an Athenian wise man and politician, who hires him to solve crimes, but conveniently forgets to pay him.

In The Marathon Conspiracy, the fourth in Gary Corby’s Athenian mystery series after last year’s Sacred Games, two young girls, who attend a private school for the daughters of wealthy Athenians, find a skull and a scroll case in a cave. It’s determined that both the skull and the scrolls belong to Hippias, the Last Tyrant of Athens, who was thought to have died in Persia. One of the girls is killed by what appears to be a bear, but there have been no wild bears in the area for years. Then the other girl disappears as does one of the scrolls. Nico and his cohorts, the feisty priestess Diotima who also happens to be his fiancée, and his pesky but logical 12-year-old brother Socrates are called upon to investigate.

Corby has taken what could be a dull subject and presented it with humor and a solid plot. He gives readers a mix of historic and fictional characters that blend seamlessly. By “The End” the reader has received an education in ancient history, including the Battle of Marathon, along with a lesson in the social and cultural mores of the day. The use of modern-day language and touches gives the story the humorous edge it needs. (Imagine a merchant who owns a Rent-A-Slave business.) Nico’s struggle to bring the independent Diotima to heel as befits the proper Athenian wife she will soon be, and her complete disregard of his feeble attempts to rule her, will have readers rooting for them both.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:01:01

It’s 459 BC in Athens, Greece, and 21-year-old Nicolaos is one of a few sleuths in the city. Nico’s work comes from Pericles, an Athenian wise man and politician, who hires him to solve crimes, but conveniently forgets to pay him.

In The Marathon Conspiracy, the fourth in Gary Corby’s Athenian mystery series after last year’s Sacred Games, two young girls, who attend a private school for the daughters of wealthy Athenians, find a skull and a scroll case in a cave. It’s determined that both the skull and the scrolls belong to Hippias, the Last Tyrant of Athens, who was thought to have died in Persia. One of the girls is killed by what appears to be a bear, but there have been no wild bears in the area for years. Then the other girl disappears as does one of the scrolls. Nico and his cohorts, the feisty priestess Diotima who also happens to be his fiancée, and his pesky but logical 12-year-old brother Socrates are called upon to investigate.

Corby has taken what could be a dull subject and presented it with humor and a solid plot. He gives readers a mix of historic and fictional characters that blend seamlessly. By “The End” the reader has received an education in ancient history, including the Battle of Marathon, along with a lesson in the social and cultural mores of the day. The use of modern-day language and touches gives the story the humorous edge it needs. (Imagine a merchant who owns a Rent-A-Slave business.) Nico’s struggle to bring the independent Diotima to heel as befits the proper Athenian wife she will soon be, and her complete disregard of his feeble attempts to rule her, will have readers rooting for them both.

The Red Room
Oline H. Cogdill

The prolific Ridley Pearson’s action-packed espionage thriller begins with a photograph that on the surface seems innocuous. It shows importer and security agent John Knox finishing up a business deal. What has John most concerned is where he is shown the photo—in the Rutherford Risk’s Red Room, a highly secure, private security company’s underground bunker.

David “Sarge” Dulwich, John’s contact at Rutherford Risk, wants him to track down a black market antiquity that is not supposed to exist. Posing as an art broker isn’t far from John’s work as an importer, but the job is more involved than most of his assignments. John reunites with Grace Chu, a forensic accountant and former Chinese army intelligence agent, to navigate a murky underworld of spies and terrorists in Istanbul.

Pearson—whose oeuvre includes suspense and children’s books—again proves his skill at creating tense spy thrillers that rely on equal measures of intelligence and violence. It would be too easy to think that the very manly John always supplies the brawn while the seemingly delicate Grace is the brains, more at home behind a computer screen. Pearson makes Grace and John equally lethal and intelligent.

An evocative sense of place imbues this series, in which Pearson has taken John and Grace to Shanghai (The Risk Agent) and Amsterdam (Choke Point). In The Red Room, Istanbul is more than place on a map. It’s a city at the crossroads of international politics, religion, and terrorist cells.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:05:01

The prolific Ridley Pearson’s action-packed espionage thriller begins with a photograph that on the surface seems innocuous. It shows importer and security agent John Knox finishing up a business deal. What has John most concerned is where he is shown the photo—in the Rutherford Risk’s Red Room, a highly secure, private security company’s underground bunker.

David “Sarge” Dulwich, John’s contact at Rutherford Risk, wants him to track down a black market antiquity that is not supposed to exist. Posing as an art broker isn’t far from John’s work as an importer, but the job is more involved than most of his assignments. John reunites with Grace Chu, a forensic accountant and former Chinese army intelligence agent, to navigate a murky underworld of spies and terrorists in Istanbul.

Pearson—whose oeuvre includes suspense and children’s books—again proves his skill at creating tense spy thrillers that rely on equal measures of intelligence and violence. It would be too easy to think that the very manly John always supplies the brawn while the seemingly delicate Grace is the brains, more at home behind a computer screen. Pearson makes Grace and John equally lethal and intelligent.

An evocative sense of place imbues this series, in which Pearson has taken John and Grace to Shanghai (The Risk Agent) and Amsterdam (Choke Point). In The Red Room, Istanbul is more than place on a map. It’s a city at the crossroads of international politics, religion, and terrorist cells.

The American Mission
Eileen Brady

If you’ve ever wondered what really goes on in some American embassies abroad, the debut novel, The American Mission, by Matthew Palmer will both enlighten and horrify you. Written with authority by a 20-year veteran of the US Foreign Service, this fiction reads more like fact. Former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine K. Albright even writes a blurb for the cover.

Alex Baines, a career diplomat, witnesses a horrifying massacre at the Riad refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he's stripped of his security clearance. Since then, he’s been demoted to a mind-numbing job of granting visas, or more often, not granting visas, in Conakry, Guinea, where only “qualified” applicants receive a tourist visa—and “qualified” usually means rich. Opportunity arrives when Ambassador to the Congo Howard “Spence” Spencer, an old friend, offers him a job in Kinshasa as his political counselor, the number three position at the embassy. Along with the chance to help shape US Policy and work with local leaders, Baines’ security clearances will be restored.

Baines soon learns the true purpose of his new job is to negotiate a hostage release with the terrorist Joseph Manamakimba and his private army, the Hammer of God. At stake are the lives of a survey team from Consolidated Mining, which includes six Americans and geologist Marie Tsiolo, the daughter of a Luba tribal chief. Was Alex ever meant to succeed in their release? Is a rare mineral to blame for the abduction?

This book should be required reading for students of foreign affairs and anyone interested in world politics. The American Mission, without question, is the most compelling book I’ve read this year.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:08:41

If you’ve ever wondered what really goes on in some American embassies abroad, the debut novel, The American Mission, by Matthew Palmer will both enlighten and horrify you. Written with authority by a 20-year veteran of the US Foreign Service, this fiction reads more like fact. Former Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine K. Albright even writes a blurb for the cover.

Alex Baines, a career diplomat, witnesses a horrifying massacre at the Riad refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he's stripped of his security clearance. Since then, he’s been demoted to a mind-numbing job of granting visas, or more often, not granting visas, in Conakry, Guinea, where only “qualified” applicants receive a tourist visa—and “qualified” usually means rich. Opportunity arrives when Ambassador to the Congo Howard “Spence” Spencer, an old friend, offers him a job in Kinshasa as his political counselor, the number three position at the embassy. Along with the chance to help shape US Policy and work with local leaders, Baines’ security clearances will be restored.

Baines soon learns the true purpose of his new job is to negotiate a hostage release with the terrorist Joseph Manamakimba and his private army, the Hammer of God. At stake are the lives of a survey team from Consolidated Mining, which includes six Americans and geologist Marie Tsiolo, the daughter of a Luba tribal chief. Was Alex ever meant to succeed in their release? Is a rare mineral to blame for the abduction?

This book should be required reading for students of foreign affairs and anyone interested in world politics. The American Mission, without question, is the most compelling book I’ve read this year.

The Ways of the Dead
Robin Agnew

Neely Tucker’s first novel reflects his long career as a journalist and is an insider-type look at the communication that exists between journalists, cops, lawyers, and politicians. Set in DC, it features a somewhat-disgraced journalist at the center of the story, Sully Carter, who is better at playing the street angles than the ones in the higher up corridors of power and influence.

The book kicks off with the terrible killing of a young girl buying a snack at a convenience store where she’s hassled by three young men. When she’s found dead in an alley dumpster the next day, the three men are the obvious suspects. Sully’s street contact, a gang lord named Sly, assures him that they aren’t guilty. Sully moves forward working on that assumption, trusting Sly more than his bosses at the paper, the cops, and especially the girl’s grieving father, a senior judge destined for the Supreme Court.

Using the 1996 Princeton Place murders as an inspiration, Tucker sets his book in 1998. The time frame allows Sully to be a veteran war correspondent back from Bosnia, with a backstory that’s teased out through the book. It gives him his outsider street cred, but his bosses at the paper don’t always buy into it, demanding that he work through more regular channels than using his underground connections.

While I was interested enough in the story of the dead girl and who might have killed her, what really interested me in this book were the connections: Sully uses his connections and his own history to manipulate his editor; he uses street smarts to get in to see the dead girl’s father (who has a longstanding grudge against him) and to talk to a medical examiner off the record; he uses his street connections to uncover facts that the cops can’t get to; and uses a police connection to get a tip when he needs it on an arrest.

All of these connections fall into the category “the way things work”—something I always find fascinating. This book is an explication of how a veteran journalist might cover a high-profile murder case. The details are very specific and their specificity makes it interesting.

Tucker creates a story that brings in race and economic advantage and disadvantage, but as a novelist Tucker has a bit more work to do—if he’d ended this book one chapter sooner it would have been an almost-perfect noir. He instead adds a brief epilogue which, while tying up loose ends, breaks the noir mood he took pains to establish throughout the novel. Even so, his unusual and obviously informed take on journalism makes this an interesting and compelling read.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:12:02

Neely Tucker’s first novel reflects his long career as a journalist and is an insider-type look at the communication that exists between journalists, cops, lawyers, and politicians. Set in DC, it features a somewhat-disgraced journalist at the center of the story, Sully Carter, who is better at playing the street angles than the ones in the higher up corridors of power and influence.

The book kicks off with the terrible killing of a young girl buying a snack at a convenience store where she’s hassled by three young men. When she’s found dead in an alley dumpster the next day, the three men are the obvious suspects. Sully’s street contact, a gang lord named Sly, assures him that they aren’t guilty. Sully moves forward working on that assumption, trusting Sly more than his bosses at the paper, the cops, and especially the girl’s grieving father, a senior judge destined for the Supreme Court.

Using the 1996 Princeton Place murders as an inspiration, Tucker sets his book in 1998. The time frame allows Sully to be a veteran war correspondent back from Bosnia, with a backstory that’s teased out through the book. It gives him his outsider street cred, but his bosses at the paper don’t always buy into it, demanding that he work through more regular channels than using his underground connections.

While I was interested enough in the story of the dead girl and who might have killed her, what really interested me in this book were the connections: Sully uses his connections and his own history to manipulate his editor; he uses street smarts to get in to see the dead girl’s father (who has a longstanding grudge against him) and to talk to a medical examiner off the record; he uses his street connections to uncover facts that the cops can’t get to; and uses a police connection to get a tip when he needs it on an arrest.

All of these connections fall into the category “the way things work”—something I always find fascinating. This book is an explication of how a veteran journalist might cover a high-profile murder case. The details are very specific and their specificity makes it interesting.

Tucker creates a story that brings in race and economic advantage and disadvantage, but as a novelist Tucker has a bit more work to do—if he’d ended this book one chapter sooner it would have been an almost-perfect noir. He instead adds a brief epilogue which, while tying up loose ends, breaks the noir mood he took pains to establish throughout the novel. Even so, his unusual and obviously informed take on journalism makes this an interesting and compelling read.

Cop Town
Robin Agnew

What makes a good thriller stand out from the pack? Most thrillers have a good plot, so it’s not just plot. To my mind it’s specificity. Karin Slaughter’s writing has always had this in spades. She has great narrative skills, wonderful characters, and she always makes her stories very specific. In Cop Town two things make the story pop: the time period, 1974, and the place, a very gritty and authentic Atlanta.

This is a story about cops.

The Lawson family boasts two: golden boy Jimmy, who opens the story carrying his soon-to-be-dead partner on his back to the hospital; and Maggie, one of the first female cops in a male-centric and very sexist system. The women on the force are relegated to a tiny dressing room with no bathroom; they aren’t allowed on the big cases or promoted to detectives; and they are treated, in every way, like pieces of meat by the men on the squad.

Thrown into this mix is raw recruit Kate Murphy, the widow of a Vietnam vet who comes from, as far as cops are concerned, the wrong side of the tracks. Her family is both wealthy and Jewish. She turns up on her first day in the too-big uniform they’ve assigned her, she’s fondled by the men on the way in, and razzed by the women in the locker room. Initially, Jimmy is assigned as Kate’s partner on what becomes the most terrible day of his own life but, by a turn of events, Kate ends up with Maggie as her partner instead as she’s thrown into the fire her first day out.

Everyone is assuming Jimmy’s partner was killed by the “Shooter” who has already killed six cops. The police force is out for blood and they are not interested in newbies and especially not in newbie women. Slaughter’s telling of what is basically a gripping serial killer story—complete with a first-person insight into the mind of the killer—is fleshed out and made meaningful by her larger thematic concerns of how women adapted to this particular workplace and the resistance and hostility of the men who were seeing the world change around them, despite their best efforts to prevent it.

Within that broader concern—again, Slaughter is specific—she’s interested in the ways people can adapt and demonstrate not just two faces to the world, but many more. Obviously the killer does this, but as the story goes on, Kate begins to assume different personas. She’s a different woman in a shootout, for example, than when she’s talking to her grandmother—and more specifically, she asks her grandmother, “How can awful people be good?”

Her grandmother’s response alone makes reading the book worthwhile, but you can also enjoy this wonderful book on the merits of its storytelling power. It has many sides, just like Kate Murphy.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:14:48

What makes a good thriller stand out from the pack? Most thrillers have a good plot, so it’s not just plot. To my mind it’s specificity. Karin Slaughter’s writing has always had this in spades. She has great narrative skills, wonderful characters, and she always makes her stories very specific. In Cop Town two things make the story pop: the time period, 1974, and the place, a very gritty and authentic Atlanta.

This is a story about cops.

The Lawson family boasts two: golden boy Jimmy, who opens the story carrying his soon-to-be-dead partner on his back to the hospital; and Maggie, one of the first female cops in a male-centric and very sexist system. The women on the force are relegated to a tiny dressing room with no bathroom; they aren’t allowed on the big cases or promoted to detectives; and they are treated, in every way, like pieces of meat by the men on the squad.

Thrown into this mix is raw recruit Kate Murphy, the widow of a Vietnam vet who comes from, as far as cops are concerned, the wrong side of the tracks. Her family is both wealthy and Jewish. She turns up on her first day in the too-big uniform they’ve assigned her, she’s fondled by the men on the way in, and razzed by the women in the locker room. Initially, Jimmy is assigned as Kate’s partner on what becomes the most terrible day of his own life but, by a turn of events, Kate ends up with Maggie as her partner instead as she’s thrown into the fire her first day out.

Everyone is assuming Jimmy’s partner was killed by the “Shooter” who has already killed six cops. The police force is out for blood and they are not interested in newbies and especially not in newbie women. Slaughter’s telling of what is basically a gripping serial killer story—complete with a first-person insight into the mind of the killer—is fleshed out and made meaningful by her larger thematic concerns of how women adapted to this particular workplace and the resistance and hostility of the men who were seeing the world change around them, despite their best efforts to prevent it.

Within that broader concern—again, Slaughter is specific—she’s interested in the ways people can adapt and demonstrate not just two faces to the world, but many more. Obviously the killer does this, but as the story goes on, Kate begins to assume different personas. She’s a different woman in a shootout, for example, than when she’s talking to her grandmother—and more specifically, she asks her grandmother, “How can awful people be good?”

Her grandmother’s response alone makes reading the book worthwhile, but you can also enjoy this wonderful book on the merits of its storytelling power. It has many sides, just like Kate Murphy.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone
Sarah Prindle

When famous 18-year-old artist Addison Stone dies mysteriously by falling off a bridge, her family, friends, and boyfriends are left with more questions than answers. There is suspicion one of her ex-boyfriends pushed her. There is speculation she took her own life—as she had once attempted to do. Others guess she has fallen by accident while painting on the bridge. But all the speculation in the world fails to shed light on Addison’s death, which is as mysterious as she was.

Addison was a talented artist, yet she struggled with depression, mania, and hallucinations. Author Adele Griffin shows it all: from Addison’s stint in a mental hospital to her unexpected fame as a new artist in New York City. Addison’s story is told exclusively through interviews with those who knew her—her longtime best friend Lucy Lim, her estranged parents, her wealthy ex-boyfriend Zach Fratepietro, and her newest boyfriend Lincoln Reed. All of these characters have different versions of Addison’s art, relationships, loves, and what they think happened the night she died. The Addison readers learn of through interviews and biographical information from others is flamboyant, flawed, sympathetic, and tragic.

As readers learn more about Addison’s life, struggles, and the night she died, they will be pulled in by her story and be left with the sense that maybe the biggest question isn’t what happened the night Addison died…but who Addison really was. A moving story of art, fame, and tragedy, The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is a fine example of young adult literature.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:33:12

When famous 18-year-old artist Addison Stone dies mysteriously by falling off a bridge, her family, friends, and boyfriends are left with more questions than answers. There is suspicion one of her ex-boyfriends pushed her. There is speculation she took her own life—as she had once attempted to do. Others guess she has fallen by accident while painting on the bridge. But all the speculation in the world fails to shed light on Addison’s death, which is as mysterious as she was.

Addison was a talented artist, yet she struggled with depression, mania, and hallucinations. Author Adele Griffin shows it all: from Addison’s stint in a mental hospital to her unexpected fame as a new artist in New York City. Addison’s story is told exclusively through interviews with those who knew her—her longtime best friend Lucy Lim, her estranged parents, her wealthy ex-boyfriend Zach Fratepietro, and her newest boyfriend Lincoln Reed. All of these characters have different versions of Addison’s art, relationships, loves, and what they think happened the night she died. The Addison readers learn of through interviews and biographical information from others is flamboyant, flawed, sympathetic, and tragic.

As readers learn more about Addison’s life, struggles, and the night she died, they will be pulled in by her story and be left with the sense that maybe the biggest question isn’t what happened the night Addison died…but who Addison really was. A moving story of art, fame, and tragedy, The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is a fine example of young adult literature.

Hell With the Lid Blown Off
Vanessa Orr

With all of the instant information that we have at our fingertips today, it’s hard to imagine life when you couldn’t get news, especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster. But in Hell With the Lid Blown Off that’s exactly what happens when a big twister touches down in Boynton, Oklahoma, in the summer of 1916, leaving those who live in the rural town wondering whether their loved ones are dead or alive.

One of the unlucky is Jubal Beldon, a cruel man who was known for using the townspeople’s secrets against them. When it is discovered that it wasn’t the tornado that killed him, a number of people look like good suspects. As Sheriff Scott Tucker and his deputy Trenton Calder try to unravel the mystery, they discover that Jubal, in some ways, caused as much damage as the storm.

While the murder investigation plays a role in the story, I was personally more interested in following the travails of the large Tucker clan, headed by patriarch Alafair Tucker, as they tried to regroup after the storm. In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to imagine not being able to find out if your children survived a devastating storm when they live only miles away; yet this is the load that Alafair bears.

Donis Casey does an admirable job of keeping all of the characters’ story lines moving forward, which, considering that there are ten Tucker children, numerous grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, is quite an undertaking. Even more impressive is the fact that she is able to define each character well enough that the reader cares deeply about their survival.

While the Tuckers are stoic as they face the rigors of living in rural Oklahoma, the warmth that they share as a family is reflected on every page, making this book a pleasure to read. Even when times are tough, the depths of the family’s bond gives hope to the reader that they, and the rest of this hardscrabble frontier town, will come out stronger on the other side of the storm.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:38:30

With all of the instant information that we have at our fingertips today, it’s hard to imagine life when you couldn’t get news, especially in the aftermath of a natural disaster. But in Hell With the Lid Blown Off that’s exactly what happens when a big twister touches down in Boynton, Oklahoma, in the summer of 1916, leaving those who live in the rural town wondering whether their loved ones are dead or alive.

One of the unlucky is Jubal Beldon, a cruel man who was known for using the townspeople’s secrets against them. When it is discovered that it wasn’t the tornado that killed him, a number of people look like good suspects. As Sheriff Scott Tucker and his deputy Trenton Calder try to unravel the mystery, they discover that Jubal, in some ways, caused as much damage as the storm.

While the murder investigation plays a role in the story, I was personally more interested in following the travails of the large Tucker clan, headed by patriarch Alafair Tucker, as they tried to regroup after the storm. In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to imagine not being able to find out if your children survived a devastating storm when they live only miles away; yet this is the load that Alafair bears.

Donis Casey does an admirable job of keeping all of the characters’ story lines moving forward, which, considering that there are ten Tucker children, numerous grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, is quite an undertaking. Even more impressive is the fact that she is able to define each character well enough that the reader cares deeply about their survival.

While the Tuckers are stoic as they face the rigors of living in rural Oklahoma, the warmth that they share as a family is reflected on every page, making this book a pleasure to read. Even when times are tough, the depths of the family’s bond gives hope to the reader that they, and the rest of this hardscrabble frontier town, will come out stronger on the other side of the storm.

Those Who Wish Me Dead
Sharon Magee

Michael Koryta never fails to give readers chills. Those Who Wish Me Dead, his tenth thriller, after 2012’s The Prophet, proves this trend is not changing anytime in the near future.

Thirteen-year-old Jace Wilson is a carefree kid concerned only with fitting in with his peers. Then he witnesses a murder by the morbidly fascinating Blackwell brothers, killers with pale blue eyes and robotic speech patterns. Witness protection is out of the question—the bad guys have informants on the inside. Jace’s parents decide to get him off the grid by hiding him in the Montana mountains with Ethan and Allison Serbin, a couple who conduct wilderness survival training for troubled youths. To protect him further, he’s given a new name, Connor Reynolds, and not even the Serbins know which of the six boys in their training group Jace is.

Even with these precautions, the Blackwells aren’t far behind. They’ll do anything—torture, arson, murder—to find him. When Jace realizes they’re closing in, he makes a break for the wilderness, using the survival training he’s received from Ethan. However, not only the Blackwells are threatening. A forest fire is raging out of control. Enter Hannah Faber, an ex-firefighter and a lookout in a desolate fire tower, who is haunted by the ghost of a young boy she could not save. When Jace appears at her tower, she vows she will not lose another boy in her care, be it to killers or fire.

No longer considered an up-and-comer, Koryta has arrived, and at the tender age of 31 has become the consummate thriller writer. In Those Who Wish Me Dead, not only do readers get a top-notch thriller with a delicious twist, but they receive a well-researched education on forest fires and firefighting as well.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:46:56

Michael Koryta never fails to give readers chills. Those Who Wish Me Dead, his tenth thriller, after 2012’s The Prophet, proves this trend is not changing anytime in the near future.

Thirteen-year-old Jace Wilson is a carefree kid concerned only with fitting in with his peers. Then he witnesses a murder by the morbidly fascinating Blackwell brothers, killers with pale blue eyes and robotic speech patterns. Witness protection is out of the question—the bad guys have informants on the inside. Jace’s parents decide to get him off the grid by hiding him in the Montana mountains with Ethan and Allison Serbin, a couple who conduct wilderness survival training for troubled youths. To protect him further, he’s given a new name, Connor Reynolds, and not even the Serbins know which of the six boys in their training group Jace is.

Even with these precautions, the Blackwells aren’t far behind. They’ll do anything—torture, arson, murder—to find him. When Jace realizes they’re closing in, he makes a break for the wilderness, using the survival training he’s received from Ethan. However, not only the Blackwells are threatening. A forest fire is raging out of control. Enter Hannah Faber, an ex-firefighter and a lookout in a desolate fire tower, who is haunted by the ghost of a young boy she could not save. When Jace appears at her tower, she vows she will not lose another boy in her care, be it to killers or fire.

No longer considered an up-and-comer, Koryta has arrived, and at the tender age of 31 has become the consummate thriller writer. In Those Who Wish Me Dead, not only do readers get a top-notch thriller with a delicious twist, but they receive a well-researched education on forest fires and firefighting as well.

Invisible City
M. Schlecht

A woman’s naked body, her head shaved, is found in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood on a wintry day in a scrapyard along its ever-foul canal. New York Tribune newbie Rebekah Roberts, a young freelance reporter fresh from the University of Central Florida, is at the scene trying to keep her hands warm with burnt deli coffee. What starts off as routine tabloid fodder becomes a more compelling story when Rebekah begins to investigate the dead woman’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish family and community in South Brooklyn.

In part because of her own Jewish background (her estranged mother is Hasidic), Rebekah manages to speak with a few sources who knew the deceased, Rivka Mendelssohn. NYPD officer, Saul Katz, working as a liaison in Orthodox neighborhoods, also offers his assistance. They learn that Mendelssohn had been a loving mother and a role model for young women. She was also questioning some of the strict rules of her faith before she was beaten to death. And then Rebekah’s first big story becomes personal when Katz reveals that he knew her mother, who came from the same closed and close-knit community as Rivka’s.

Author Julia Dahl is herself a journalist with a background in crime reporting and the life of a smart, ambitious tabloid reporter is convincingly portrayed, from dealings with the news desk to rookie mistakes made in the field. In uncovering the truth of Rivka’s death, Rebekah begins to uncover a hidden half of her own family history and her complicated feelings about the mother she never really knew. As the title of Invisible City suggests, it’s also a fascinating chance to explore a community that outsiders often look at but don’t really see.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:50:15

A woman’s naked body, her head shaved, is found in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood on a wintry day in a scrapyard along its ever-foul canal. New York Tribune newbie Rebekah Roberts, a young freelance reporter fresh from the University of Central Florida, is at the scene trying to keep her hands warm with burnt deli coffee. What starts off as routine tabloid fodder becomes a more compelling story when Rebekah begins to investigate the dead woman’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish family and community in South Brooklyn.

In part because of her own Jewish background (her estranged mother is Hasidic), Rebekah manages to speak with a few sources who knew the deceased, Rivka Mendelssohn. NYPD officer, Saul Katz, working as a liaison in Orthodox neighborhoods, also offers his assistance. They learn that Mendelssohn had been a loving mother and a role model for young women. She was also questioning some of the strict rules of her faith before she was beaten to death. And then Rebekah’s first big story becomes personal when Katz reveals that he knew her mother, who came from the same closed and close-knit community as Rivka’s.

Author Julia Dahl is herself a journalist with a background in crime reporting and the life of a smart, ambitious tabloid reporter is convincingly portrayed, from dealings with the news desk to rookie mistakes made in the field. In uncovering the truth of Rivka’s death, Rebekah begins to uncover a hidden half of her own family history and her complicated feelings about the mother she never really knew. As the title of Invisible City suggests, it’s also a fascinating chance to explore a community that outsiders often look at but don’t really see.

The Hollow Girl
Betty Webb

In Reed Farrel Coleman’s ninth Moe Prager mystery, a blogger known as the Hollow Girl vanishes, and her frantic mother hires Prager to find her. Because the Hollow Girl (real name Sloane Cantor) once faked an online suicide, the ex-cop-turned-PI is initially hesitant to take the case. But after making a few inquiries, he follows up on the real possibility that Sloane has been kidnapped by a former admirer seeking revenge for being “catfished,” or lured in by the blogger’s fake online antics. Prager finds himself uncertain what’s real and what’s fabricated, a confusion made worse by the fact that Prager—never perfect—has been drinking heavily and can hardly tell up from down.

Ever since his debut in Walking the Perfect Square, Prager has been a troubled man helping troubled people, and here the ante is upped. He finds himself mired in a slimy morass of S&M devotees, entertainment industry has-beens, and mega-wealthy Hamptonites going to seed in their garish Long Island mansions. Prager’s personal imperfections make him more Everyman than superhero, which is why he is such a sympathetic protagonist. In an environment ruled by professional liars, he holds fast to the truth, no matter the cost—and the cost here is enormous, both to Prager and Sloane.

But as grim as The Hollow Girl can get, it is leavened by bursts of dark humor. When catfisher Sloane reappears on the Internet naked, bound, bloody, and ostensibly being held for ransom, the media responds by critiquing the shocking images as performance art. Author Coleman gives us two critiques in full: the calmer one from Newsday, which wags a judgmental finger at what the newspaper sees as Sloane’s continuing manipulations; the more sympathetic critique comes from BitterArt- Bitches.com, which likens the rope binding Sloane as a symbol of “male desperation,” and Sloane’s blood as “the blood of a martyr.” Riotous stuff, to be sure.

Basically, though, The Hollow Girl is an enormously compassionate novel, one which continues to hold out hope for the most hopeless, the most wounded—and sometimes, even the most despicable. The rare ability to do that is what makes Coleman not just a good writer, but an increasingly great one.

Teri Duerr
2014-06-25 15:53:11

In Reed Farrel Coleman’s ninth Moe Prager mystery, a blogger known as the Hollow Girl vanishes, and her frantic mother hires Prager to find her. Because the Hollow Girl (real name Sloane Cantor) once faked an online suicide, the ex-cop-turned-PI is initially hesitant to take the case. But after making a few inquiries, he follows up on the real possibility that Sloane has been kidnapped by a former admirer seeking revenge for being “catfished,” or lured in by the blogger’s fake online antics. Prager finds himself uncertain what’s real and what’s fabricated, a confusion made worse by the fact that Prager—never perfect—has been drinking heavily and can hardly tell up from down.

Ever since his debut in Walking the Perfect Square, Prager has been a troubled man helping troubled people, and here the ante is upped. He finds himself mired in a slimy morass of S&M devotees, entertainment industry has-beens, and mega-wealthy Hamptonites going to seed in their garish Long Island mansions. Prager’s personal imperfections make him more Everyman than superhero, which is why he is such a sympathetic protagonist. In an environment ruled by professional liars, he holds fast to the truth, no matter the cost—and the cost here is enormous, both to Prager and Sloane.

But as grim as The Hollow Girl can get, it is leavened by bursts of dark humor. When catfisher Sloane reappears on the Internet naked, bound, bloody, and ostensibly being held for ransom, the media responds by critiquing the shocking images as performance art. Author Coleman gives us two critiques in full: the calmer one from Newsday, which wags a judgmental finger at what the newspaper sees as Sloane’s continuing manipulations; the more sympathetic critique comes from BitterArt- Bitches.com, which likens the rope binding Sloane as a symbol of “male desperation,” and Sloane’s blood as “the blood of a martyr.” Riotous stuff, to be sure.

Basically, though, The Hollow Girl is an enormously compassionate novel, one which continues to hold out hope for the most hopeless, the most wounded—and sometimes, even the most despicable. The rare ability to do that is what makes Coleman not just a good writer, but an increasingly great one.

Macavity Award Nominations
Oline Cogdill

The nominations for the Macavity Awards have been announced. These awards are nominated and voted on by members and friends of Mystery Readers International.

Winners will be announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in Long Beach, Calif., on November 13. Congratulations to all nominees.

Best Mystery Novel
Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
Dead Lions by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur Books)

Best First Mystery
Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books) Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books)
Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (Faber & Faber)
A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books)

Best Mystery Short Story
“The Terminal” by Reed Farrel Coleman (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer)
“The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan)
“The Dragon’s Tail” by Martin Limon (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books)
“The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
“Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)
“The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)

Best Nonfiction
The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo (William Morrow)
Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard by Charles J. Rzepka (Johns Hopkins University Press)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)

Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award
A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur Books) Saving Lincoln by Robert Kresge (ABQ Press)
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (Little, Brown)
Ratlines by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

Oline Cogdill
2014-06-26 01:51:19

The nominations for the Macavity Awards have been announced. These awards are nominated and voted on by members and friends of Mystery Readers International.

Winners will be announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in Long Beach, Calif., on November 13. Congratulations to all nominees.

Best Mystery Novel
Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press)
Dead Lions by Mick Herron (Soho Crime)
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books)
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur Books)

Best First Mystery
Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing)
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books) Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books)
Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (Faber & Faber)
A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books)

Best Mystery Short Story
“The Terminal” by Reed Farrel Coleman (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer)
“The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan)
“The Dragon’s Tail” by Martin Limon (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books)
“The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press)
“Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)
“The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013)

Best Nonfiction
The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo (William Morrow)
Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard by Charles J. Rzepka (Johns Hopkins University Press)
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books)

Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award
A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur Books) Saving Lincoln by Robert Kresge (ABQ Press)
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books)
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (Little, Brown)
Ratlines by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

Story Behind Tom Rob Smith’s the Farm
Oline Cogdill

smithtomrob_thefarm
The question of where do you get your ideas comes up at just about every author’s book signings.

At least the ones I attend.

But the answer is never simple. Ideas for novels come from myriad sources—from the news, from an idea sparked by an incident in the supermarket and, sometimes, from an author’s own life.

Even if it is a painful part of one’s life.

Tom Rob Smith borrows something from his past for the plot in his latest novel The Farm.

In The Farm, an adult son learns that his Swedish mother, Tide, and British father, Chris, no longer trust each other. His father says that his mother is psychotic, which his mother denies.

Throughout the 29-year-old’s life, his parents’ marriage had seemed to near perfect, with any sign of discontent concealed from their son. Chris tells Daniel that his mother has vanished following a breakdown. Then Tide shows up at Daniel’s apartment, claiming her husband has been trying to gaslight her. She’s armed with a briefcase full of evidence and a lifetime of resentment.

Who should he believe? And who should the reader believe?

Smith, best known for the Cold War-era series Child 44, used his experience with his own mother’s mental illness for The Farm.
Like his protagonist, Smith also didn’t know who to believe—his father who was obviously upset about his wife’s mental state or his mother who insisted she was fine.

Smith’s true story has a happier ending, which he wrote about in an essay published in the London Times: “The doctors have been so impressed with my mum's recovery that she now gives talks to other women on the nature of her experience. My parents are together and, if anything, closer than ever - a team again. In the same way, I also feel closer to both of them. Part of growing up is relearning who your parents are and being there for them in a way that they were for you, as a child, on countless occasions.”

Smith’s essay about his parents can be accessed here.

The Farm has been receiving positive reviews, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly and glowing quotes from Mark Billingham and Jeffery Deaver.

Smith’s novels in his Child 44 trilogy were New York Times bestsellers, as well as international best sellers. Child 44 won the International Thriller Writers 2009 Thriller Award for Best First Novel and the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award.

The film adaptation of Child 44, starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and Gary Oldman, is due for international release in October.

BBC Films and Shine Pictures have purchased the film rights to The Farm.

Oline Cogdill
2014-06-29 01:21:44

smithtomrob_thefarm
The question of where do you get your ideas comes up at just about every author’s book signings.

At least the ones I attend.

But the answer is never simple. Ideas for novels come from myriad sources—from the news, from an idea sparked by an incident in the supermarket and, sometimes, from an author’s own life.

Even if it is a painful part of one’s life.

Tom Rob Smith borrows something from his past for the plot in his latest novel The Farm.

In The Farm, an adult son learns that his Swedish mother, Tide, and British father, Chris, no longer trust each other. His father says that his mother is psychotic, which his mother denies.

Throughout the 29-year-old’s life, his parents’ marriage had seemed to near perfect, with any sign of discontent concealed from their son. Chris tells Daniel that his mother has vanished following a breakdown. Then Tide shows up at Daniel’s apartment, claiming her husband has been trying to gaslight her. She’s armed with a briefcase full of evidence and a lifetime of resentment.

Who should he believe? And who should the reader believe?

Smith, best known for the Cold War-era series Child 44, used his experience with his own mother’s mental illness for The Farm.
Like his protagonist, Smith also didn’t know who to believe—his father who was obviously upset about his wife’s mental state or his mother who insisted she was fine.

Smith’s true story has a happier ending, which he wrote about in an essay published in the London Times: “The doctors have been so impressed with my mum's recovery that she now gives talks to other women on the nature of her experience. My parents are together and, if anything, closer than ever - a team again. In the same way, I also feel closer to both of them. Part of growing up is relearning who your parents are and being there for them in a way that they were for you, as a child, on countless occasions.”

Smith’s essay about his parents can be accessed here.

The Farm has been receiving positive reviews, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly and glowing quotes from Mark Billingham and Jeffery Deaver.

Smith’s novels in his Child 44 trilogy were New York Times bestsellers, as well as international best sellers. Child 44 won the International Thriller Writers 2009 Thriller Award for Best First Novel and the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award.

The film adaptation of Child 44, starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and Gary Oldman, is due for international release in October.

BBC Films and Shine Pictures have purchased the film rights to The Farm.