56 Booklist September 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
anxiety-ridden as the earlier Klein novels,
this entry offers series-shifting character development as emotionally reserved Frieda
ponders her relationships while observing
her friends court danger for her sake. This series’ mix of psychological suspense and social
commentary makes it a great shelfmate for
Scandinavian thrillers, like those of Camilla
Lackberg and Karin Fossum. —Christine Tran
By Howard Owen.
Oct. 2016. 246p. Permanent Press, $28
Willie Black of Richmond, Virginia, is
balding, fat, fiftyish, and fond of Knob
Creek bourbon. He’s also a newspaperman,
but a disaffected one. The giveaways? He’d
rather talk than listen, and he rants about
pinhead editors and reptilian publishers. But
then a black child is murdered and Willie’s
friend, the gentle owner of a child-rescue
house, is hauled to jail. Next, a rescue-house
benefactor dies. Willie must investigate, and
he learns that a number of young ones have
vanished over the decades, “like the ground
swallowed them up.” The first half of Owen’s
novel jumbles Willie’s problems with work,
family, women, and the twenty-first century,
and readers who may begin wondering what
became of the crime novel in all this will
be nicely surprised. Suddenly the narrative
acquires a stronger pulse, turning Willie’s
search for the killers into a tense narrative. He beats the TV types, “the good-hair
people,” to the murderers, but what he does
when he finds them is another matter altogether. A strong entry in the reporter-sleuth
subgenre. —Don Crinklaw
The Hanging Club.
By Tony Parsons.
Nov. 2016. 384p. Minotaur, $25.99 (9781250052711).
Parsons’ first two novels— The Murder Man
(2014) and The Slaughter Man (2015)—
taught readers what to expect: a narrative
that hits on all cylinders, a likable detective
hero, and a deceptively unadorned prose
style that carries terrific emotional force. Parsons again chooses a subject—this time it’s
vigilante justice—that’s in danger of being
overworked, and then forces us to reconsider
that position. Three evil people who escaped
punishment are kidnapped and hanged. Videos of their excruciating deaths are placed
online, and the public’s response is predictable: “I hope they get away with it.” Standard
plot fodder so far. But then the son of a London cop is mutilated by a punk the law can’t
touch, and Detective Constable Max Wolfe
finds himself seeing revenge-fueled violence
in a new way. Parsons helps the readers see
it, too, by allowing the vigilantes to express
their “bottomless sadness and a grief that’s
never-ending.” Any novel that ends with the
words, “What’s wrong with a bit of revenge?”
can be expected to generate some strong feelings, but Parsons is never strident and always
thought provoking. —Don Crinklaw
By Will Thomas.
Oct. 2016. 304p. Minotaur, $25.99 (9781250077950);
e-book, $12.99 (9781466890282).
Thomas tries his hand at a manor-house
mystery—in which characters are menaced
by a killer in an isolated setting, usually at a
country mansion—with mixed results. In
the eighth in the Barker & Llewelyn series, a
clandestine conference between English and
French government officials takes place on a remote island off Cornwall. Cyrus Barker and his
hapless partner, Thomas Llewelyn, agree to act
as security. A weeklong house party will theoretically provide smokescreen for the meeting.
Lord Hargrave, host of the party, is killed by
a sniper’s bullet, which is just the beginning,
as guests and members of the host family die
suddenly and in surprising ways, for no apparent reason. Barker is stumped—a situation
unusual in the extreme—and is peremptorily
dismissed, although, of course, he never stops
working the case. For fans, this somewhat predictable historical mystery assuredly builds on
Barker’s character and the partners’ relationship, but it may prove disappointing for those
who expect a more creative, intricate plot.
Compares to Agatha Christie’s And Then There
Were None and P. D. James’ The Lighthouse,
both also set on secluded islands. —Jen Baker
The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars,
Desperate Drivers, and Dark Roads.
By Michael Connelly and others. Ed. by
Oct. 2016. 352p. Little, Brown/Mulholland, paper, $15.99
(9780316394864); e-book, $9.99 (9780316394857).
Know what a “blown heavy” is? No matter.
Most of these 15 crime-on-wheels stories are so
good the reader can skim the car talk and enjoy
what is a fine collection of short crime thrillers. C. J. Box’s “Power Wagon” offers a creepy
take on the home-invasion theme. The killers
are after a vehicle, but the exchanges among the
invaders and their victims create a tension that
the ending doesn’t totally dissipate. The sleeper
here is Kelly Braffet’s “Runs Good,” which
manages to make a ho-hum theme—a teenager’s longing for a car—into the grounding for a
tense tale that proves impossible to put down.
Equally satisfying is Joe R. Landsdale’s hillbilly
howl, “Driving to Geronimo’s Grave.” Sympathize as the heroine, helping to move a smelly
corpse, asks the Lord to “have mercy on all his
children, especially me.” The biggest names on
the table of contents are Michael Connelly and
George Pelecanos, though their efforts here do
not represent their best work. —Don Crinklaw
By D. W. Buffa.
Oct. 2016. 352p. Polis, $26.95 (9781943818280); e-book
As in Buffa’s The Grand Master (2010), young
senator Bobby Hart must turn investigator to
prevent a scandal that could rock D.C.—if not
the world. President Robert Constable dies in
bed with a woman not his wife. To avoid an of-
ficial inquiry, the Secret Service quickly covers
up the presence of the lady and the fact that
the president was poisoned. Still, the murder of
a president demands a solution, so First Lady
Hillary Constable asks Hart to investigate. As
he tries to figure out who would have the most
to gain, one name keeps coming up. The Four
Sisters is a secretive French banking institution
with investments around the world. Could
some of the president’s campaign contributions
have come with some very dangerous strings?
Are those strings being pulled by the bank’s last
living heir, a man who wants to see a twenty-
first-century crusade against all those who
oppose Christianity? Of course, there’s also an
ambitious wife who may find some political
capital in being so tragically widowed. A Dan
Brown read-alike tailor-made for an election
year. —Karen Keefe
By Harlan Coben.
Sept. 2016. 400p. Dutton, $28 (9780525955108).
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Myron Bolitar in his own story (Live Wire, 2011), though
he’s continued to appear in Coben’s YA series
featuring Bolitar’s nephew. Technically, this
isn’t really Myron’s story; he’s here helping out
his mysterious and rakish best friend, Win,
whose young nephew, Rhys, was kidnapped 10
years ago, along with a neighbor boy. Win has
been determined to bring the boys home ever
since. When he gets a strange message telling
him that the boys have been spotted in London, Win enlists Myron to get to the bottom
of things. But nothing is as it seems; things get
quite grisly; and there are plenty of red herrings
along the way to the neat (too neat?) conclusion. Series fans will be happy to see Myron,
Win, Esperanza, and other recurring characters, but those new to the Bolitar books may
find their interplay distracting from the action.
Still, given the size of Coben’s audience, this
one is sure to be popular. —Rebecca Vnuk
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With five
years since the last Bolitar novel, expect holds.
YA: Teens who read Coben’s YA series
featuring Mickey Bolitar will get a kick
out of the teen’s role in this story. RV.
By Ed Lin.
Oct. 2016. 336p. Soho, $26.95 (9781616957339);
e-book, $14.99 (9781616957346).
Family is important in Taiwan, so Jing-nan
can’t refuse a request from his uncle Big Eye,
a powerful figure in the underworld of central
Taiwan. Jing-nan, who runs the Unknown
Pleasures food stall that he inherited from his
parents in Taipei’s Shilin Night Market, is a
minor celebrity himself, thanks to his deflection of an assailant’s bullet with a cast-iron pot
he calls Little Fatty. Big Eye needs Jing-nan to
keep tabs on his 16-year-old daughter, Mei-ling, to keep her away from an undesirable
biker boyfriend, a task Jing-nan takes seriously. He arranges an internship for her, escorts
her home at night, and gradually encourages
her aspirations as a singer-songwriter. But
Mei-ling has a secret, and she adroitly gives