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

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.

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

KatsuA-RW2-RedLondonUSHCThe New Cold War continues, as CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan travels to London, and infiltrates the world of the Russian Oligarchs in Britain

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.

In Red London, the highly-anticipated sequel to Red Widow, CIA agent Lyndsey Duncan has been stationed in London to help out with an evolving situation involving a Russian oligarch who may or may not be on the outs with the new president. One of my most-anticipated novels of the year, I’m happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. Continue reading

Quick Review: DOUBLE EXPOSURE by Ava Barry (Pegasus)

BarryA-DoubleExposureUSHCA 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.

Windhall, Ava Barry’s 2021 debut novel, was one of my favourite reads of that year. Ever since Double Exposure was announced, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the chance to read it. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy, and I’m happy to report that it is another very good read. Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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).

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