Coben's Pick of the Month, Plus Adler-Olsen, Boyle, Chung, James, Raybourn, & Others | Mystery & Suspense

When it comes to Coben's work, fans of complex heroes caught up in world-changing events will relish this latest from a master storyteller

Adler-Olsen, Jussi. Victim 2117: A Department Q Novel. Dutton. (Department Q, Bk. 8). Mar. 2020. 480p. tr. from Danish by William Frost. ISBN 9781524742553. $28. THRILLER
In Adler-Olsen’s eighth "Department Q" story (after The Scarred Woman), the team races against time to thwart two terrorist plots—one domestic, one international. It begins on a beach in Cyprus, where hundreds of Syrian refugees wash ashore from a capsized escape vessel. The death of an unidentified refugee—the titular Victim 2117—sparks an investigation by Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold case division. Meanwhile, a reclusive teenager is threatening to murder his parents and anyone else who crosses his path as soon as he hits a milestone death count in his favorite video game, and a terrorist cell of suicide bombers are bent on sowing chaos across Germany and Belgium. Both seemingly unrelated cases are connected to Assad, one of Q’s own members, and their investigations force him to reconcile with his secret past.
VERDICT There’s not a lot in the way of rich descriptions or subtle character development in this plot-driven page-turner, but fans of the series will cheer to once again ride along with this band of Danish police. [See Prepub Alert, 8/19/19.] —Iris S. Rosenberg, New York
 

Bartz, Andrea. The Herd. Ballantine. Mar. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781984826367. $27. SUSPENSE
Bartz’s second novel (after The Lost Night) focuses on four friends: a pair of sister protagonists, Hanna and Katie; and Hanna’s two best friends from their Harvard days, Eleanor and Mikki. Eleanor is the star of the group, having first started a cosmetics company and then the Herd, an all-female coworking space in New York City. Mikki is an artist who does graphic design for Eleanor as a freelancer, and Hanna is a part-time publicist for the firm. Katie, Hanna’s little sister, is a journalist who has just moved back to the city. When Eleanor goes missing on the day of a mysterious big announcement, the friends grieve and support one another. Each character has secrets she is keeping from everyone else until the whole thing unravels and the truth comes out. Bartz packs in plenty of twists, with a deliberate pace that picks up speed at the end.
VERDICT Surprises and suspense married with themes on the nature of womanhood and sisterhood make this ideal for fans of Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train or Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. [See Prepub Alert, 8/25/19.] —Nancy H. Fontaine, Norwich P.L., VT
 

Bolton, Sharon. The Split. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781250300058. $27.99. SUSPENSE
British scientist Felicity Lloyd studies icebergs on South Georgia Island, off the coast of Antarctica. She lives in fear that her husband, Freddie, will find her, and when she sees his name on the passenger manifest of an incoming ship, she heads to a remote outpost of the island. The story then moves to Cambridge, nine months earlier, where Felicity meets with a therapist, Joe Grant. She needs a clean bill of mental health in order to take her dream job, but he’s concerned about what she describes as episodes of missing time and her fear that someone is stalking her. Dr. Grant does outreach with the local homeless population and something about Felicity’s stalker sounds familiar. Homeless people are disappearing, being attacked, and, in some cases, killed. Back in the present, Felicity is fighting for her life, pursued by Freddie on an unstable glacier as Joe and his police officer mother give chase.
VERDICT Readers will tear through Bolton’s (The Craftsman) latest to find out how the disparate threads connect. While the plot resolves tidily, some readers may be unsettled by the fact that Felicity and Joe are romantically involved after she is his patient. [See Prepub Alert, 9/30/19.]—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal
 

redstarBoyle, William. City of Margins. Pegasus Crime. Mar. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781643133188. $25.95. M
Boyle’s latest (after A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself) is another slice of gritty urban noir set in the claustrophobic neighborhoods of Brooklyn in the 1990s and revolves around a ensemble full of big hopes and dashed dreams that wouldn’t be out of place in an early Scorsese film. Ex-cop Donnie Parascandolo, who makes ends meet by doing muscle work for the local mob, is rudderless, grieving the loss of his only child, who died by suicide several years ago. His ex-wife, Donna, listens to records alone in her apartment and searches for a connection in life to replace what she lost. Rosemarie Baldini, a widow whose late husband owed money to the mob, frets for her son, Mikey, a schoolteacher who dreams of someday writing a screenplay that will propel him out of the neighborhood and into the big time.
VERDICT The author’s exquisitely drawn characters soon uncover secrets and make connections with each other that echo those of a Greek tragedy, with similar results. Boyle comfortably stands next to literary crime favorites like Don Winslow, Richard Price, and Lou Berney. —Gregg Winsor, Johnson Cty. Lib., Overland Park, KS
 

Chung, Maxine Mei-Fung. The Eighth Girl. Morrow. Mar. 2020. 480p. ISBN 9780062931122. $28.99. SUSPENSE
DEBUT In this stunning and disturbing first novel, psychotherapist Chung hurls readers into the mind of a young woman suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder—multiple personalities. Alexa Wú is Nest Builder to the Flock, what she calls her alternate personalities. The Flock took residence when she was nine, when her father visited her in bed at night, after her mother died by suicide. Alexa used to have control over the Body, but now members of the Flock "step into the light" at will, trying to protect Alexa and the Body from the danger at the Electra nightclub and the human traffickers who run it. Psychiatrist Daniel Rosenstein realizes he’s ill equipped to handle the anarchy of her different selves as he tries to save Alexa and prevent the Flock from taking total control.
VERDICT Chung’s compelling debut plumbs the depths of trauma and its long-lasting effects on the human psyche. [See Prepub Alert, 8/25/19.] —K.L. Romo, Duncanville, TX
 

Farrell, Richard. The Falling Woman. Algonquin. May 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781616208578. $26.95. SUSPENSE
DEBUT National Transportation Safety Board investigator Charlie Radford gets his big break investigating the explosion of a passenger jet mid-flight over Kansas. But rumors of a lone survivor—the falling woman—might undermine his success. Erin Geraghty receives surprisingly good news about her cancer treatment, but cheating death—or at least postponing it—has not left her as elated as one might expect and she leaves her family to spend time at a cancer survivor retreat to think about her options. When she cheats death a second time by surviving a plane crash, she decides not to be found, and to die in peace. As Charlie seeks the truth, Erin works hard to avoid it. But maybe the two have more in common than they realize.
VERDICT Former pilot Farrell’s skillfully written story of hope, love, and regret contemplated amid a fast-paced, high-pressure major airline accident investigation will appeal to readers who enjoyed Michael Crichton’s Airframe, Gregg Hurwitz’s The Survivor, and Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall. —George Lichman, Rocky River, OH
 

Harris, Oliver. A Shadow Intelligence. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780358206651. $25. THRILLER
After three notable crime novels featuring morally compromised detective Nick Belsey (most recently The House of Fame), British author Harris tries his hand at the spy genre, featuring a morally compromised double—possibly triple—agent. Elliot Kane, who possesses less James Bond suavity and more George Smiley world-weariness, has changed identities and cover stories so often that when MI6 suddenly removes him from a botched operation to civilian life, he doesn’t know how to adjust. Before long, Elliot becomes ensnared in a mystery that will send him off the grid to Kazakhstan: uncovering the whereabouts of fellow agent and one-time lover Joanna Lake. What he discovers about Joanna’s reason for being in this landlocked country perched precariously between China and Russia puts him in play with several competing intelligence organizations both national and private. The narrative is dense, and juggling the ­various plots and identities can be tough. Still, this is a thoroughly modern, sophisticated espionage novel for the 21st century, concerned with data encryption and the dark web, AI-­generated deep fakes, and up-to-date Central Asian geopolitics.
VERDICT ­Recommended for fans of Olen Steinhauer’s spy novels and Terry Hayes’s I Am Pilgrim. —Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ
 

Hart, John. The Unwilling. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781250167729. $27.99. M
In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, Gibson "Gibby" French is about to graduate from his North Carolina high school. Both of Gibby’s older brothers have been to war. Robert was killed in action; Jason returned—but as a shattered man who descended into a life of drugs and violence. After being released from a 27-month prison term, Jason, against the wishes of their parents, seeks to reconnect with Gibby. They spend a day together enjoying some whiskey and the company of two women, Tyra and Sara. But shortly afterward, Tyra is found brutally murdered. Jason is arrested for the crime and sent back to prison. Gibby is determined to prove his brother’s innocence, but he must grapple with powerful forces that are targeting Jason. When Sara disappears, Gibby looks to save her and find the true killer.
VERDICT Edgar Award–winning Hart ( The Hush) offers another propulsive crime novel that features fully realized, multifaceted characters and a strong sense of place. [See Prepub Alert, 11/25/19.] —Andy Northrup, Eugene P.L., OR
 

redstar James, Rebecca. The Woman in the Mirror. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781250230058. $26.99. SUSPENSE
Winterbourne Hall is a large, imposing manor in Cornwall, England. In 1947, Alice Miller is the family’s newest governess, charged with taking care of two children, Constance and Edmund de Gray, who are still grieving the loss of their mother, Laura. When Alice discovers a painting in which the subjects do not remain static and an old mirror that beckons her, she turns to Jonathan, the children’s enigmatic father, for answers. His counsel is misleading, and Alice finds herself on an unexpected path. Meanwhile, Rachel Wright, a gallery curator in modern-day New York, learns that she is a descendant of the de Grays. She heads to the estate and discovers the same painting and that wonderfully seductive mirror that has been ignored for ages. Determined to solve the mystery of her heritage, Rachel learns that more than one entity has a claim to her inheritance.
VERDICT  Pseudonymous author James pens a delectably creepy tale. If Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre had a baby, it would be this well-crafted Victorian gothic mystery. —Tina Panik, Avon Free P.L., CT
 

Jones, Darynda. A Bad Day for Sunshine. St. Martin’s. (Sunshine Vicram, Bk. 1). Apr. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781250149442. $27.99. M
After Sunshine "Sun" Vicram moves back to her hometown of Del Sol, NM, she’s elected as the new sheriff in a race she never entered, thanks to her well-meaning parents. While Sun faces her first day on the job, her 14-year-old daughter Auri starts at the local high school, where she is soon targeted by bullies. Events rapidly deteriorate for the new sheriff, with a missing deputy, an escaped prisoner, and an abducted teen. With the help of various deputies and other law enforcement officers, and Auri, Sun must unravel all the mysteries and find the missing teen. As the investigations continue, Sun is also forced to face her own history and tell her daughter the truth about their past. Jones (Summoned to the Thirteenth Grave) departs from her usual paranormal fiction and creates a smart and sassy mother-daughter team in a small-town setting where anything can happen. VERDICT Though readers may find it difficult to keep track of the minor characters, this series opener provides plenty of action. Recommended for fans of Linda Castillo and J.A. Jance. —Margaret Bentley, Shiawassee Dist. Lib., Owosso, MI
 

O’Mara, Tim. The Hook. Severn House. (Raymond Donne, Bk. 5). Mar. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780727889188. $28.99. M
Maurice Joseph, aka MoJo, is fatally shot with a bow and arrow on the roof of the school where he tends hydroponic plants. Raymond Donne, a former policeman and the dean sponsoring MoJo, a recovering addict, discovers the body and immediately calls police detective Royce, with whom he worked in the past. There are traces of heroin laced with fentanyl in MoJo’s blood, yet his wife, Lisa, insists he was clean. Among MoJo’s possessions, they discover high-tech surveillance equipment, including videos of a white supremacist group for whom MoJo was apparently doing security work as well as videos of executives of the rehab center MoJo attended. A wide-ranging investigation ensues. With several additional deaths—and the kidnapping ofDonne’s reporter girlfriend, Allison—the tension remains high throughout this fifth in O’Mara’s series (after Nasty Cutter). ­ VERDICT The dynamic among Royce, Donne, and Allison is reminiscent of Spenser, Hawk, and Susan Silverman from Robert B. Parker’s "Spenser" novels. Fans of Parker and Ace Atkins will appreciate the smartly paced action the surprising denouement. —Edward Goldberg, Syosset P.L., NY
 

redstarRaybourn, Deanna. A Murderous Relation. Berkley. (Veronica Speedwell, Bk. 5). Mar. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780451490742. $26. M
Veronica, an unconventional lepidopterist, and Stoker, an aristocratic taxidermist, take on a case at the request of Lady Wellie in October, 1888. Prince Eddy, Queen Victoria’s eldest grandson, has been terribly indiscreet, gifting Madame Aurore, owner of a private pleasure house, with expensive jewelry—including a diamond that could be traced back to the royal family. Meanwhile, London is reeling from the gruesome attacks by Jack the Ripper, and Lady Wellie is also worried that the Prince could be involved. Veronica and Stoker aim to retrieve the diamond and go undercover to investigate the killings before scandal erupts. From the quirky beginning, where a tortoise wedding is being planned, to the salacious sex club escapades to the death-defying denouement, the pair of amateur detectives work together to avert royal disgrace, all while navigating the increasing sexual tension between them. Raybourn’s (A Dangerous Collaboration) combination of late Victorian history, well-drawn characters, romance, and humor keep the pages turning.
VERDICT Fans of the author and Victorian mystery lovers will enjoy this romp and eagerly await another Veronica and Stoker adventure. [See ­Prepub Alert, 8/19/19.] —Barbara ­Clark-Greene, ­Westerly, RI
 

Rosenfelt, David. The K Team. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781250257192. $27.99. M
In this first in a new series by the author of the "Andy Carpenter" mysteries, Andy’s wife, retired cop Laurie, her partner Marcus, and retired K9 officer Corey and his dog buddy, Simon Garfunkel, form an investigative unit: the K team. Their first case comes from a local judge, known for his rectitude in the courtroom and in his private life. For reasons unknown, someone is trying to blackmail him. The K Team swings into action (with occasional assistance and sarcasm from Andy), but very soon people involved in the case begin dying. When the judge himself is found dead of an apparent suicide, the case becomes increasingly dangerous and complex. As a dark conspiracy begins to emerge, the K Team uses creative methods to solve the case, determined to see justice done.
VERDICT Fans of the "Andy Carpenter" series will find much to enjoy here, including some cameos from Carpenter himself. [See Prepub Alert, 8/19/19.] —Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
 

redstarWendelboe, C.M. The Marshal and the Mystical Mountain. Five Star: Cengage. (Nelson Lane Frontier, Bk. 3). Apr. 2020. 234p. ISBN 9781432868369. $25.95. M
Yancy Stands Close lost his job with the Wind River Tribal Police due to Great Depression budget cuts, but he brings a missing-person case to the attention of Wyoming U.S. Marshal Nelson Lane. Freelance journalist Jesse Maddis was writing a story about Mystical Mountain, a secretive lodge on 8,000 acres—and he hasn’t been heard from in several days. It’s rumored that wealthy investors purchased the property a year earlier, and, for a $1,000 trespass fee, people can stay there and hunt. But, Jesse’s sister Sally says she and other girls have been paid to party there with everyone from politicians to Al Capone. When Lane tries to investigate, he’s blocked and threatened by a private security force, though he’s still able to uncover evidence that several of the girls may have been murdered on the property. Bodies and shootings add up until Lane sends a deputy undercover and gathers a small group of allies to take down a group of hired killers in this compelling historical mystery. VERDICT After 38 years in law enforcement in South Dakota and Wyoming, Wendelboe’s expertise shows in his third violent frontier mystery (after The Marshal and the Sinister Still), which should appeal to fans of Westerns or the work of Craig Johnson or Margaret Coel. —Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

 

Cozy Corner
 

Childs, Laura. Lavender Blue Murder. Berkley. (Tea Shop, Bk. 21). Mar. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780451489661. $26. M
Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning and her tea sommelier, Drayton Conneley, are guests at a hunting party at the Creekmore Plantation. Gunshots are firing fast as firecrackers around them when Theodosia is alarmed by a sound that is suspiciously closer than it should be. She finds plantation owner Reginald Doyle lying gravely injured in a neighbor’s lavender field. Doyle succumbs to his injuries, leaving behind his wife, Meredith. She begs Theodosia and Drayton to stay the night and help solve the murder. Both agree only to awaken in the wee hours of the morning to the smell of smoke—the plantation house is burning around them. Theodosia doesn’t think the events are coincidental, so she agrees to investigate, only to end up with numerous suspects and secrets.
VERDICT Newcomers should find this a great entry point to Child’s established series (after Broken Bone China) and enjoy the charming Charleston, SC, setting, while longtime fans will relish the return of the sassy characters they love. [See Prepub Alert, 8/19/19.] —Bill Anderson, Scott Cty. P.L., Scottsburg, IN

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