February 1, 2017 Booklist 27 www.booklistonline.com
fascinating character and some first-rate historical writing. —David Pitt
Seconds to Midnight.
By Philip Donlay.
Mar. 2017. 336p. Oceanview, $26.95 (9781608092284);
Part Stone Barrington, part Dirk Pitt (though
a happily married version), Donovan Nash
leads the scientific research organization
Eco-Watch into another thrilling adventure
(following Pegasus Down, 2016). While flying
over northern Canada to gather information
about solar flares, Nash and his team see a
Boeing 737 attempt to make an emergency
landing. They then rescue the crash’s lone-survivor from the icy waters. In and out of
consciousness, the woman whispers to Nash,
“Don’t let them know I’m alive—they’ll kill
everyone.” Never one to shy away from a
challenge, Nash races to get to the bottom
of the crash. Arms dealers, spies, sex traffickers, and Russian nationalists are all somehow
tied to this woman, to what happened on
that plane, and to the fate of the world as
we know it. A fast, splashy adventure with
tons of gadgets, fake IDs, and last-minute,
life-saving bolts through the doors of the
American embassy. —Karen Keefe
A Simple Favor.
By Darcey Bell.
Mar. 2017. 304p. Harper, $25.99 (9780062497772).
Emily and Stephanie become best friends,
despite their differences, after their five-year-old sons, Nicky and Miles, bond in
kindergarten. Emily—married to Sean, who
works on Wall Street—handles public relations
for a high-style Manhattan
designer, while Stephanie,
a widow, is a stay-at-home
mom who writes a blog for
other moms. When Emily
has an emergency at work,
she asks Stephanie for a simple favor: to pick up Nicky
at school, along with Miles,
and take him home until she can get him later
that evening. Except that Emily doesn’t come
home—not that night, or the next day, or for
weeks after. Sean is initially nonchalant, thinking Emily is traveling on business, until he,
too, gets worried. Stephanie’s blog posts, asking other moms for assistance or advice, are
interspersed with chapters from the viewpoints
of each of the three principal adults, as secrets
are revealed, and the plot takes one twist after another to its final pages. Debut-novelist
Bell ramps up suspense with authority in this
domestic thriller, in which actions seem as inevitable as they are chilling. The audience that
made Gone Girl a publishing sensation is likely
to take to this one, too. —Michele Leber
A Single Spy.
By William Christie.
Apr. 2017. 400p. Minotaur, $25.99 (9781250080813);
e-book, $12.99 (9781466892651).
Alexsi Ivanovich Smirnov is a Soviet double
agent who, posing as a Nazi, has infiltrated the
Nazi Party intelligence service. Really, though,
Alexsi is a kind of triple agent; his only true
allegiance is to himself and to the tricky job
of staying alive. Perfectly content as a thief in
1930s Russia, he is arrested and refashioned
as an agent. Alexsi rises in the ranks, always
taking the next assignment, no matter how
dangerous, to avoid a more immediate peril
(knowing the Germans are set to invade Rus-
sia, he agrees to go to Berlin rather than being
sent to the Eastern Front). But now his strat-
egy seems about to backfire: the head of the
SD (Nazi intelligence agency) has concocted a
harebrained scheme to assassinate Stalin, Roo-
sevelt, and Churchill when they gather for the
1943 Tehran Conference. Alexsi, of course, is
the designated assassin. Christie effectively lay-
ers on the historical detail as the absurd scheme
plays itself out. Alexsi may be a superspy, but
he gloriously lacks all convictions except self-
preservation, and in that way he belongs in the
grand tradition of antiwar heroes like Jaroslav
Hašek’s Schweik and Joseph Heller’s Yossarian.
By Eliot Pattison.
Mar. 2017. 320p. Minotaur, $25.99 (9781250067623);
e-book, $12.99 (9781466876095).
Like every policeman holding together a
rural backwater, Constable Shan must pay
lip service to outsiders’ whims while navigating local realities. But if the backwater is in
remote Tibet and the bosses are in China,
the stakes are quite a bit higher than usual.
Shan is just trying to keep his head down,
but then he is led to a tomb that has been
emitting a strange noise and, when opened,
reveals a mummified saint who has company.
The constable discovers that Chinese influence on his village has been more devastating
than he knew, and his hapless, long-impris-oned son is far from the only victim of the
conquerors. This ninth in Edgar Award–
winner Pattison’s Inspector Shan Tao Yun series
is slow in parts but offers a satisfying tale of
murder mixed with historical detail, family love, and 1984-like political inanity that
will keep readers tuned in. Though Pattison’s
work is more literary than Dan Brown’s,
readers who enjoyed the religious elements
of The Da Vinci Code might want to give this
one a try. —Henrietta Verma
The Third Squad.
By V. Sanjay Kumar.
Mar. 2017. 240p. (9781617755101); Akashic, paper,
The euphemistic term “extrajudicial kill-
ings,” currently most often applied to the
Philippine president’s war on drugs, was sanc-
tioned by police in Mumbai in the very
recent past, and the practice is at the heart
of Kumar’s gripping thriller. The novel’s
primary character, Karan, has a mild form
of Asperger’s syndrome, and a police of-
ficial charged with developing a new squad
of police “encounter” specialists senses that
traits manifested by “Aspies” will produce
successful, disciplined killers. Karan also
demonstrates peerless marksmanship and
proceeds to dispatch dozens of crime boss-
es, warlords, and hit men until he begins
to question his actions. Kumar has created
some thoroughly intriguing characters, in-
cluding Karan, of course, and Nandini, his
wife, but also a psychologist who is an expert
on “Aspies” and who is getting rich from a
porn website he created. But the most fas-
cinating of Kumar’s characters is Mumbai
itself—enormous, crowded, hyperactive,
roiling, stunningly rich and grindingly poor,
and teeming with almost unfathomable en-
ergy. International-crime fans should flock
to this one. — Thomas Gaughan
A Twist of the Knife.
By Becky Masterman.
Mar. 2017. 336p. Minotaur, $25.99 (9781250074515);
e-book, $12.99 (9781466886223).
Retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn, from Fear
the Darkness (2015), returns home to Ft.
Lauderdale to visit her critically ill father and
finds herself embroiled in a Hail Mary attempt to overturn the conviction of Florida’s
most notorious death-row inmate. Marcus
Creighton was convicted of his wife’s murder,
allegedly aiming to marry his mistress, and
his three children have been missing since
the night of the crime. Influenced by the
pleas of an old friend, Brigid uses her connections to get Creighton’s team access to the
remaining forensic evidence. Despite Brigid’s
initial skepticism, her instincts point toward
Creighton’s innocence. So, when their efforts
to stop Creighton’s execution fail, Brigid is
determined to find the truth, especially after
a killer begins hunting key witnesses. Masterman deftly layers in Brigid’s family story, as
Brigid’s investigation into Creighton’s failing
marriage forces the agent to confront long-suppressed realities from her own childhood.
This page-turner, which tackles the rising tide
of false death-row convictions and the long
arm of family secrets, should be perfect for
Lisa Gardner fans. —Christine Tran
The Weight of This World.
By David Joy.
Mar. 2017. 272p. Putnam, $27 (9780399173110); e-book,
If there’s a trailer on the cover, someone’s
snorting meth inside, or cooking it—or, here,
making it via the “shake ’n’ bake” method and
proving the author didn’t do his research by
watching Breaking Bad. Joy ( Where All Light
Tends to Go, 2015) sets his second novel in
the hills around Little Canada, North Carolina, among people and places he evidently
knows well. Aiden and Thad are mid-20s
ne’er-do-wells damaged by early tragedy and
parental neglect: Aiden is out of chances and
trying to flee, while Thad, psychically scarred
by service in Afghanistan, seems willing to
self-destruct right where he is. The plot focuses on some suddenly and horrifically
acquired meth, cash, and pseudoephedrine,