Quick Review: EVERYBODY KNOWS by Jordan Harper (Mulholland)

HarperJ-EverybodyKnowsUSHCA fearless black-bag publicist exposes the belly of the L.A. beast…

Welcome to Mae Pruett’s Los Angeles, where “Nobody talks. But everybody whispers.” As a “black-bag” publicist tasked not with letting the good news out but keeping the bad news in, Mae works for one of LA’s most powerful and sought-after crisis PR firms, at the center of a sprawling web of lawyers, PR flaks, and private security firms she calls “The Beast.” They protect the rich and powerful and depraved by any means necessary.

After her boss is gunned down in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel in a random attack, Mae takes it upon herself to investigate and runs headfirst into The Beast’s lawless machinations and the twisted systems it exists to perpetuate. It takes her on a roving neon joyride through a Los Angeles full of influencers pumped full of pills and fillers; sprawling mansions footsteps away from sprawling homeless encampments; crooked cops and mysterious wrecking crews in the middle of the night.

Jordan Harper writes superb neo-noir novels, and Everybody Knows is a perfect example. It’s an incisive, gritty examination of how the Hollywood business can erode a person’s morals and standards, all in service to The Beast. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE INVESTIGATOR by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SandfordJ-LD1-InvestigatorUSHCLetty Davenport steps into the spotlight, and into danger, in this first novel in a great new spin-off series

By age twenty-four, Letty Davenport has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals. Now a recent Stanford grad with a master’s in economics, she’s restless and bored in a desk job for U.S. Senator Colles. Letty’s ready to quit, but her skills have impressed Colles, and he offers her a carrot: feet-on-the-ground investigative work, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

Several oil companies in Texas have reported thefts of crude, Colles tells her.  He isn’t so much concerned with the oil as he is with the money: who is selling the oil, and what are they doing with the profits? Rumor has it that a fairly ugly militia group might be involved. Colles wants to know if the money is going to them, and if so, what they’re planning.

Letty is partnered with a DHS investigator, John Kaiser, and they head to Texas.  When the case quicky turns deadly, they know they’re on the track of something bigger.  The militia group has set in motion an explosive plan… and the clock is ticking down.

Letty is the adopted daughter of Lucas Davenport, the main character in Sandford’s bestselling Prey series. Letty first appeared in Naked Prey (2003), and had been slowly getting more page-time in the series as it progressed. Now, in The Investigator, she gets her first solo outing; and luckily, it’s a solid start to a new series, one that certainly justifies many more. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: SING HER DOWN by Ivy Pochoda (MCD)

PochodaI-SingHerDownUSHCIn May 2023, MCD is due to publish the highly-anticipated new novel by Ivy Pochoda: Sing Her Down. Pochoda’s previous two novels — Wonder Valley and These Women — are superb, dark and thought-provoking literary thriller novels, and I have very high hopes for Sing Her Down, which has a very intriguing premise:

Florence “Florida” Baum is not the hapless innocent she claims to be when she arrives at the Arizona women’s prison—or so her ex-cellmate, Diosmary Sandoval, keeps insinuating.

Dios knows the truth about Florida’s crimes, understands the truth that Florence hides even from herself: that she wasn’t a victim of circumstance, an unlucky bystander misled by a bad man. Dios knows that darkness lives in women too, despite the world’s refusal to see it. And she is determined to open Florida’s eyes and unleash her true self.

When an unexpected reprieve gives both women their freedom, Dios’s fixation on Florida turns into a dangerous obsession, and a deadly cat-and-mouse chase ensues from Arizona to the desolate streets of Los Angeles.

With blistering, incisive prose, the award-winning author Ivy Pochoda delivers a razor-sharp Western. Gripping and immersive, Sing Her Down is a spellbinding thriller setting two indelible women on a path to certain destruction and an epic, stunning showdown.

Really looking forward to this. Ivy Pochoda’s Sing Her Down is due to be published by MCD in North America on May 23rd, 2023.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: A SECRET ABOUT A SECRET by Peter Spiegelman (Knopf)

SpiegelmanP-ASecretAboutASecretUSHCA murder at a secluded research institute unveils decades of secrets

Looming high above the cliffside along a remote coastline, Ondstrand House is the headquarters of the shadowy biotech firm Ondstrand Biologic. When the body of the organization’s most gifted young scientist, Allegra Stans, is discovered in a walk-in refrigerator — her neck has been broken — Agent Myles is called in to investigate. Myles works for Standard Division, the most feared element of a vast state security apparatus, and he’s been dispatched to the brooding manor, a massive stone campus that once housed a notorious boarding school, to do what Standard Division agents do best — complete the task at hand.

As his investigation proceeds, Myles discovers that “gifted scientist” is only one thread in the complicated fabric of Allegra’s life. There are darker strands as well — of ambition, manipulation, and bitter grievance — all woven into a pattern of secrets, each presenting a reasonable motive for murder. It appears everyone has something to hide, including Allegra’s colleagues, lovers, and former lovers — even the very halls of Ondstrand House itself.

Questions continue to pile up: What interest does Standard Division, an organization best known for intelligence gathering and clandestine international operations, have in this seemingly straightforward case? Could the killing have anything to do with the sprawling estate’s sordid past? And what, exactly, is this research facility researching? Before long, another murder is discovered, and Myles finds himself an increasingly unwelcome presence in an ever more hostile landscape with few allies and fewer answers.

Peter Spiegelman’s Dr. Knox was one of my favourite reads of 2016, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating his new novel ever since it was announced. A Secret About a Secret is another satisfying read, one that offers a different take on the crime/mystery genre than did the aforementioned Dr. Knox. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE LAST GIRL TO DIE by Helen Fields (Avon Books)

FieldsH-LastGirlToDieUKPBToday, we have an excerpt from The Last Girl to Die, the new novel by Helen Fields. The latest mystery from the author of the D.I. Callanach series, this appears to be a stand-alone. Due to be published by Avon Books tomorrow, here’s the synopsis:

In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

Now, on with the excerpt…

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Quick Review: THE RESEMBLANCE by Lauren Nossett (Flatiron Books)

NossettL-ResemblanceUSHCA mysterious hit-and-run, a dedicated detective, and the many secrets of the privileged

Never betray the brotherhood

On a chilly November morning at the University of Georgia, a fraternity brother steps off a busy crosswalk and is struck dead by an oncoming car. More than a dozen witnesses all agree on two things: the driver looked identical to the victim, and he was smiling.

Detective Marlitt Kaplan is first on the scene. An Athens native and the daughter of a UGA professor, she knows all its shameful histories, from the skull discovered under the foundations of Baldwin Hall to the hushed-up murder-suicide in Waddel. But in the course of investigating this hit-and-run, she will uncover more chilling secrets as she explores the sprawling, interconnected Greek system that entertains and delights the university’s most elite and connected students.

The lines between Marlitt’s police work and her own past increasingly blur as Marlitt seeks to bring to justice an institution that took something precious from her many years ago. When threats against her escalate, and some long-buried secrets threaten to come to the surface, she can’t help questioning whether the corruption in Athens has run off campus and into the force and how far these brotherhoods will go to protect their own.

A detective with deep roots in the university community comes face-to-face with the worst of campus tradition and life, in this intriguing and engaging debut mystery from Nossett. The author keeps the reader guessing, raises the stakes nicely throughout the book, and delivers a satisfying mystery. I enjoyed this a lot. Continue reading

Quick Review: DO NO HARM by Robert Pobi (Minotaur/Hodder)

PobiR-LP3-DoNoHarmUSHCLucas Page returns as a killer stalks medical professionals — including his wife!

A series of suicides and accidental deaths in the medical community are actually well-disguised murders and only Lucas Page can see the pattern and discern the truth that no one else believes.

Lucas Page is a polymath, astrophysicist, professor, husband, father of five adopted children, bestselling author, and ex-FBI agent — emphasis on “ex.” Severely wounded after being caught in an explosion, Page left the FBI behind and put his focus on the rebuilding the rest of his life. But Page is uniquely gifted in being able to recognize patterns that elude others, a skill that brings the F.B.I. knocking at his door again and again.

Lucas Page’s wife Erin loses a friend, a gifted plastic surgeon, to suicide and Lucas begins to realize how many people Erin knew that have died in the past year, in freak accidents and now suicide. Intrigued despite himself, Page begins digging through obituaries and realizes that there’s a pattern — a bad one. These deaths don’t make sense unless the doctors are being murdered, the target of a particularly clever killer. This time, the FBI wants as little to do with Lucas as he does with them so he’s left with only one option — ignore it and go back to his normal life. But then, the pattern reveals that the next victim is likely to be… Erin herself.

Lucas Page returns. Even more banged up than he was at the start of each of the previous novels in the series, his mind nevertheless remains as intact and sharp as ever. His personality, also, remains rather sharp… As a series of suspicious deaths inches closer to home, Page finds himself back in the FBI’s orbit hunting a devious killer. Do No Harm is another fast-paced, gripping thriller from Pobi. Continue reading

Quick Review: RIGHTEOUS PREY by John Sandford (G. P. Putnam’s Sons)

SandfordJ-P32-RighteousPreyUSHCLucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers return, and take on a powerful vigilante group

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored… and very rich. They target the worst of society — rapists, murderers, and thieves — and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable Bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full — the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, The Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, two of the best investigators in Minnesota (and sometimes Wisconsin) team up again to bring a dangerous, exceedingly well-funded group of self-styled vigilantes to justice. As with all Sandford novels, I was quickly swept up by the story, and was gripped from start to finish. One of the most reliable crime authors writing today.
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Quick Review: CITY ON FIRE by Don Winslow (William Morrow)

WinslowD-1-CityOnFireUSHCAn excellent start to a new, final trilogy

Two criminal empires together control all of New England.

Until a beautiful woman comes between the Irish and the Italians, launching a war that will see them kill each other, destroy an alliance, and set a city on fire.

Danny Ryan yearns for a more “legit” life and a place in the sun. But as the bloody conflict stacks body on body and brother turns against brother, Danny has to rise above himself. To save the friends he loves like family and the family he has sworn to protect, he becomes a leader, a ruthless strategist, and a master of a treacherous game in which the winners live and the losers die.

From the gritty streets of Providence to the glittering screens of Hollywood to the golden casinos of Las Vegas, two rival crime families ignite a war that will leave only one standing. The winner will forge a dynasty.

I’m a relative newcomer to Don Winslow’s novels, having started with The Force (2017). Since then, I’ve eagerly anticipated each new book, as well as gone back and read some of his older novels. He recently announced that the trilogy that City on Fire starts will be his last — he is retiring from writing to focus on political activism. Based on this novel, it looks like he’s going to be going out on quite a high — City on Fire is an excellent start to a series, and one that hooked me pretty much from the get-go. Continue reading

Quick Review: PORTRAIT OF A THIEF by Grace D. Li (Tiny Reparations)

LiGD-PortraitOfAThiefUSHCDiaspora, History, Heists, and Ennui

History is told by the conquerors. Across the Western world, museums display the spoils of war, of conquest, of colonialism: priceless pieces of art looted from other countries, kept even now.

Will Chen plans to steal them back.

A senior at Harvard, Will fits comfortably in his carefully curated roles: a perfect student, an art history major and sometimes artist, the eldest son who has always been his parents’ American Dream. But when a mysterious Chinese benefactor reaches out with an impossible — and illegal — job offer, Will finds himself something else as well: the leader of a heist to steal back five priceless Chinese sculptures, looted from Beijing centuries ago.

His crew is every heist archetype one can imag­ine — or at least, the closest he can get. A con artist: Irene Chen, a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything. A thief: Daniel Liang, a premed student with steady hands just as capable of lockpicking as suturing. A getaway driver: Lily Wu, an engineering major who races cars in her free time. A hacker: Alex Huang, an MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer. Each member of his crew has their own complicated relationship with China and the identity they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but when Will asks, none of them can turn him down.

Because if they succeed? They earn fifty million dollars — and a chance to make history. But if they fail, it will mean not just the loss of everything they’ve dreamed for themselves but yet another thwarted at­tempt to take back what colonialism has stolen.

Who doesn’t like a heist story? I love them, so when I had the chance to read and review Grace D. Li’s debut novel, I jumped at the chance. Five amateur thieves thrown together by a wealthy benefactor, on a mission to retrieve stolen Chinese antiques. This had a lot of promise, and I’m happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. I very much enjoyed this.
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