Up Next: DOUBLE EXPOSURE by Ava Barry (Pegasus)

BarryA-DoubleExposureUSHCLong-time readers of CR will know how much I enjoy crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. Especially novels from those genres set in Los Angeles — there’s just something about the City of Angels that lends itself to a whole swathe of crime/mystery fiction.

Last year, I read Ava Barry‘s debut novel, Windhall, which turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year (review here). After learning that the author had a new novel on the way — Double Exposure — I cheekily reached out to the publisher, in the hope of receiving a review copy. A little time passed, and a hardcover arrived in the mail! I waited until I’d finished up with a long work project, but I’ve decided to get started with it tonight.

In this heart-pounding tale of deception, a young P.I. must unravel the secrets behind the murders of a Los Angeles heiress’s parents.

Four years ago, a beautiful young heiress survived an attack that claimed the lives of both of her parents. The crime made headlines all over Los Angeles, both for the vicious nature of the killings and the seemingly random nature of the attack: nothing was stolen, and the van Aust family had no obvious enemies. Melia van Aust fled the city soon after the murders – which were never solved – but her brother Jasper has not been seen since.

After a childhood spent in the shadow of her famous parents, Rainey Hall understands the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. She still hasn’t recovered from a tragedy that tore her own family apart six years before. It’s part of the reason why she started her own private investigation agency—to aid victims of crimes that might otherwise go unsolved.

When Melia returns to Los Angeles and moves back into her family home, someone begins sending her increasingly violent messages that allude to the killing of her parents. She hires Rainey to track down the culprit and find her missing brother. Touched by the similarities between their lives, Rainey feels compelled to protect Melia, even when it becomes clear that their relationship has become more than professional.

Soon, Rainey finds herself falling down the rabbit hole of Melia’s life. Her quest to find Melia’s stalker will bring her in contact with disgraced royals, seedy neighbors, violent ex-boyfriends and former staff, each one with their own set of secrets. As the threats against Melia escalate and the two women are drawn together, it’s only a matter of time before another victim turns up.

Ava Barry‘s Double Exposure is due to be published by Pegasus Books, on October 4th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Instagram

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

Upcoming: BLACK WOLF by Kathleen Kent (Mulholland/Head of Zeus)

KentK-BlackWolfUSHCNext year, there will be a new, stand-alone (thus far) espionage thriller from Kathleen Kent, the author of the excellent Detective Betty Rhyzyk series. Black Wolf sounds really interesting: an espionage thriller set during the final years of the Cold War thriller, it stars a CIA agent with a particular and peculiar skill: she is a “super recognizer”. Here’s the synopsis:

A new spy thriller about a female CIA agent whose extraordinary powers of facial recognition lead her into the dangerous heart of the Soviet Union — and the path of a killer that shouldn’t exist.

It is 1990 when Melvina Donleavy arrives in Soviet Belarus on her first undercover mission with the CIA, alongside three fellow agents — none of whom know she is playing two roles. To the prying eyes of the KGB, she is merely a secretary; to her CIA minders, she is the only one who can stop the flow of nuclear weapons from the crumbling Soviet Union into the Middle East.

For Mel has a secret; she is a “super recognizer,” someone who never forgets a face. But no training could prepare her for the reality of life undercover, and for the streets of Minsk, where women have been disappearing. Soviet law enforcement is firm: murder is a capitalist disease. But could a serial killer be at work? Especially if he knew no one was watching? As Mel searches for answers, she catches the eye of an entirely different kind of threat: the elusive and petrifying “Black Wolf,” head of the KGB.

Filled with insider details from the author’s own time working under the direction of the U.S. Department of Defense, Black Wolf is a riveting new spy thriller from an Edgar-nominated crime writer, and a biting exploration of the divide between two nations, two masterminds, and two roles played by a woman pushed to her breaking point, where she’ll learn that you can only ever trust one person: yourself.

Kathleen Kent’s Black Wolf is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America (February 14th) and Head of Zeus/Aries in the UK (February 16th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: RED LONDON by Alma Katsu (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

KatsuA-RW2-RedLondonUSHCAlma Katsu‘s Red Widow is one of my favourite thrillers from last year, so when I saw that its sequel, Red London was on the way, I immediately added it to my Must Read list. Given Katsu’s background actually working for CIA, it’s a series that readers can be confident has plenty of verisimilitude. Also, because Katsu’s an excellent author, Red Widow was a gripping story, populated by engaging and well-drawn characters. I have no doubt that Red London will provide more of the same. Here’s the synopsis:

CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan has a new asset to turn, in order to prevent the most calculated global invasion of our time. But will their blossoming friendship get in the way?

After an explosive takedown of a well-placed mole within the CIA, agent Lyndsey Duncan has been tasked with keeping tabs on her newest Russian asset, deadly war criminal Dmitri Tarasenko. She arrives in London fully focused on the assignment at hand, until her MI6 counterpart, Davis Ranford, the very person responsible for ending her last mission overseas after they were caught in a whirlwind affair, personally calls for her.

After a suspicious attack on a powerful Russian oligarch’s property on Billionaires’ Row in the toniest neighborhood in London, Davis needs Lyndsey to cozy up to the billionaire’s aristocratic British wife, Emily Rotenberg. Lyndsey’s job is to obtain any and all information related to Emily’s husband, Mikhail Rotenberg, and his relationship with the new Russian president, whom CIA and MI6 believe is responsible for the sudden mysterious disappearance of his predecessor, the Hard Man. Fortunately for Lyndsey, there’s little to dissuade Emily from taking in a much-needed confidante. After all, misery needs company.

But before Lyndsey can cover much ground with her newfound friend, the CIA unveils a perturbing connection between Mikhail and Russia’s geopolitical past, one that could dangerously upend the world order as we know it. As the pressure to turn Emily becomes higher than ever, Lyndsey must walk a fine and ever-changing line to keep the oligarch’s fortune from falling into Russian hands and plunging the world into a new, disastrous geopolitical reality.

Red London is a nuanced, race-against-the-clock story that at times feels eerily set against today’s headlines, a testament to author Alma Katsu’s 30-plus career in national security. It’s a rare spy novel written by an insider that feels as prescient as it is page-turning and utterly unforgettable.

Alma Katsu’s Red London is due to be published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in North America and in the UK, on March 14th, 2023.

Also on CR: Interview with Alma Katsu (2013); Review of Red Widow

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: HELL BENT by Leigh Bardugo (Flatiron/Gollancz)

BardugoL-AS2-HellBentUSHCThe first book in the Alex Stern series, Ninth House was the first of Leigh Bardugo‘s novels that I read.  (I’ve since also watched the Shadow & Bone TV series, which I very much enjoyed.) As a big fan of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series, the “dark academia” aspect caught my attention. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so after finishing I naturally tried to figure out when the sequel would be out — at the time, there wasn’t much information available. A few weeks ago, though, the cover and title were finally unveiled! Hell Bent, due out early 2023, is one of my most-anticipated novels. Check out the synopsis:

Alex Stern returns in another tale of murder and dark magic set among the Ivy League elite.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of hell — even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale. But Alex is playing with forces far beyond her control, and when faculty members begin to die off, she knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if Alex is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent is due to be published by Flatiron Books in North America and Gollancz in the UK, on January 10th, 2023.

Also on CR: Review of Ninth House

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Excerpt: DECEMBER ’41 by William Martin (Forge Books)

MartinW-December41USHCToday, we have an excerpt from December ’41, the new historical thriller from William Martin. Perhaps best known for his Peter Fallon mystery series (Back Bay, etc.), in his latest novel he turns his pen towards World War II and the hunt for an assassin hoping to turn the tide of the war. Really looking forward to reading this. Check out the synopsis:

A WWII thriller as intense as The Day of the Jackal and as gripping as The Eye of the Needle. In December ’41, Martin takes us on the ultimate manhunt, a desperate chase from Los Angeles to Washington, D. C., in the first weeks of the Second World War.

On the day after Pearl Harbor, shocked Americans gather around their radios to hear Franklin Roosevelt declare war. In Los Angeles, a German agent named Martin Browning is planning to kill FDR on the night he lights the National Christmas Tree. Who will stop him? Relentless FBI Agent Frank Carter? Kevin Cusack, a Hollywood script reader who also spies on the German Bund of Los Angeles, and becomes a suspect himself? Or Vivian Hopewell, the aspiring actress who signs on to play Martin Browning’s wife and cannot help but fall in love with him?

The clock is ticking. The tracks are laid. The train of narrow escapes, mistaken identities, and shocking deaths is right on schedule. It’s a thrilling ride that will sweep you from the back lots of Hollywood to the speeding Super Chief to that solemn Christmas Eve, when twenty thousand people gather on the South Lawn of the White House and the lives of Franklin Roosevelt and his surprise guest, Winston Churchill, hang in the balance.

Now, read on for an excerpt from the novel…

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Excerpt: THREE MILES DOWN by Harry Turtledove (Tor)

TurtledoveH-ThreeMilesDownUSHCToday, we have an excerpt from Harry Turtledove‘s latest historical sci-fi mystery, Three Miles Down. Specifically, we have chapter two — if you’d like to read chapter one before reading this excerpt, that is over on The Tor/Forge Blog. Here’s the synopsis:

It’s 1974, and Jerry Stieglitz is a grad student in marine biology at UCLA with a side gig selling short stories to science fiction magazines, just weeks away from marrying his longtime fiancée. Then his life is upended by grim-faced men from three-letter agencies who want him to join a top-secret “Project Azorian” in the middle of the north Pacific Ocean — and they really don’t take “no” for an answer. Further, they’re offering enough money to solve all of his immediate problems.

Joining up and swearing to secrecy, what he first learns is that Project Azorian is secretly trying to raise a sunken Russian submarine, while pretending to be harvesting undersea manganese nodules. But the dead Russian sub, while real, turns out to be a cover story as well. What’s down on the ocean floor next to it is the thing that killed the sub: an alien spacecraft.

Jerry’s a scientist, a longhair, a storyteller, a dreamer. He stands out like a sore thumb on the Glomar Explorer, a ship full of CIA operatives, RAND Corporation eggheads, and roustabout divers. But it turns out that he’s the one person in the North Pacific who’s truly thought out all the ways that human-alien first contact might go.

And meanwhile, it’s still 1974 back on the mainland. Richard Nixon is drinking heavily and talking to the paintings on the White House walls. The USA is changing fast — and who knows what will happen when this story gets out? Three Miles Down is both a fresh and original take on First Contact, and a hugely enjoyable romp through the pop culture, political tumult, and conspiracies-within-conspiracies atmosphere that was 1974.

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