Upcoming: THE DISAPPEARING ACT by Catherine Steadman (Ballantine/Simon & Schuster)

SteadmanC-DisappearingActUSA little while ago, I spotted The Disappearing Act in a catalogue: the latest novel by best-selling author and actress Catherine Steadman, it’s about a British actress who heads to Los Angeles to try to find her big break. But, of course, things go quite wrong after a chance encounter. Given my fondness for novels (especially crime/mystery) set in Los Angeles, this one caught my attention. Here’s the synopsis:

A British actress discovers the dark side of Hollywood when she is the only witness to the sudden disappearance of a woman she meets at an audition…

Once a year, actors from across the globe descend on the smog and sunshine of Los Angeles for pilot season. Every cable network and studio looking to fill the rosters of their new shows enticing a fresh batch of young hopefuls, anxious, desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to make it. Careers will be made, dreams will be realized, stars will be born. And some will be snuffed out.

SteadmanC-DisappearingActUKBritish star Mia Eliot has landed leading roles in costume dramas in her native country, but now it’s time for Hollywood to take her to the next level. Mia flies across the Atlantic to join the hoard of talent scrambling for their big breaks. She’s a fish out of water in the ruthlessly competitive and faceless world of back-to-back auditioning. Then one day she meets Emily, another actress from out of town and a kindred spirit. Emily is friendly and genuine and reassuringly doesn’t seem to be taking any of it too seriously. She stands out in a conveyor-belt world of fellow auditionees. But a simple favor turns dark when Emily disappears and Mia realizes she was the last person to see her, and the woman who knocks on Mia’s door the following day claiming to be her new friend isn’t the woman Mia remembers at all.

All Mia has to go on is the memory of a girl she met only once… and the suffocating feeling that something terrible has happened. Worse still, the police don’t believe her when she claims the real Emily has gone missing. So Mia is forced to risk the role of a lifetime to try to uncover the truth about Emily, a gamble that will force her to question her own sanity as the truth goes beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

The Disappearing Act is due to be published by Ballantine in North America (June 8th) and Simon & Schuster in the UK (June 24th). Really looking forward to reading this.

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Upcoming: SLEEPING BEAR by Connor Sullivan (Atria/Emily Bestler Books)

SullivanC-SleepingBearUSI’ve been a fan of the political thriller genre since I discovered Kyle Mills and Vince Flynn (many years ago). I am always, therefore, on the look out for new authors to try. Connor Sullivan‘s debut novel, Sleeping Bear, has caught my attention this year. The novel “follows a former Army veteran seeking solitude in the Alaskan wilderness after her husband’s death — only to find herself a pawn in a deadly game with Russia” — crazy as it sounds, I haven’t noticed many books in the (sub-)genre that feature a female protagonist. Coupled with a compelling premise, I’m really looking forward to giving this a try. Here’s the synopsis:

After her young husband’s untimely death, Army veteran Cassie Gale decides to take a few days of solitude in the Alaska wilderness before she starts her new job. But when she fails to show up on her first day and her dog is discovered injured at her wrecked campsite, her father knows that this is much more than a camping trip gone awry.

As it turns out, Cassie’s not the first person to disappear without a trace in Alaska’s northern interior. Bears. Wolves. Avalanches. Frostbite. Starvation. There are many ways to die in here. But not all disappearances can be explained. Cassie’s is one of them, along with a number of other outdoor enthusiasts who have vanished in recent years.

Regaining consciousness in a Russian prison, Cassie finds herself trapped in a system designed to ensure that no one ever escapes alive. It will require all her grit and skills to survive. Meanwhile, her father rushes to outrun the clock, scouring thousands of acres, only to realize she’s been taken by a far more nefarious adversary — one with the power of the Eastern Bloc behind it. Ties to his past life, one full of secrets, threaten to surface. He knows there’s a price to be paid, but he’s determined it won’t be his daughter.

Sleeping Bear is due to be published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books in North America and in the UK, on July 6th, 2021.

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Upcoming: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides (Celadon/W&N)

MichaelidesA-MaidensUSThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides has been getting a fair amount of pre-publication buzz. It’s the author’s second novel (his debut was The Silent Patient). The synopsis suggests an intriguing campus thriller, and certainly piqued my interest:

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike-particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

MichaelidesA-MaidensUKMariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything-including her own life.

Alex Michaelides’s The Maidens is due to be published by Celadon Books in North America (June 15th) and W&N in the UK (June 10th). Looking forward to reading this.

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Books on Film: WITHOUT REMORSE by Tom Clancy

WithoutRemorse2021-PosterTom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst-turned-action-hero-turned-president has had a storied fictional career. The star of 12+ novels (and a secondary character in many more), he has also been the subject of a number of movie adaptations. He was first portrayed on film by Alec Baldwin, in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October — a movie that gave us Sean Connery’s portrayal of Marko Ramius, the only Soviet submarine captain to ever have a thick Scottish accent. In 2018, the character got his first TV adaptation, with Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan (two seasons are available now, with a third apparently slated for this year). A major supporting character in Clancy’s novels and the movie adaptations is John Kelly/Clark: a former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran, he is a black ops specialist frequently called in to help out Ryan, to do the unsavoury things in the dark that Ryan can’t or won’t do.

On screen, the character first appeared in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger — in which Ryan (Harrison Ford) gets tangled up in the drug war — and was portrayed by the ever-excellent Willem Dafoe. In The Sum of All Fears (2002), he was portrayed by Liev Schreiber — a quieter version of the character, perhaps, but no less capable. He was more “spy” than Dafoe’s action-man-in-the-jungle version. He was more Schreiber, really.

This year, we’re getting an adaptation of Clancy’s novel that put Clark front-and-centre: Without Remorse (1993). This time, the character will be portrayed by Michael B. Jordan (one of the best young actors today). Continue reading

Quick Review: POSSESSION by Katie Lowe (St. Martin’s Press)

LoweK-PossessionUSA true-crime podcast inches perilously close to the truth for Hannah…

The past haunts her. The present hunts her.

Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was brutally murdered in their home, and she (conveniently) doesn’t remember a thing about that night. But the police charged someone else—a stranger—and put him away for life. And Hannah packed up her six-year-old daughter and left London behind.

But now her hard-won countryside peace is threatened. Conviction, a viral true crime podcast known for getting cases reopened and old verdicts overturned, has turned its attention to Hannah’s husband’s murder for its new season. They say police framed the man who was found guilty, and that Hannah has more suspicious secrets than just her memory loss: a history of volatility; citations at the clinic where she worked as a psychiatrist; dependencies on alcohol and pills; and a familicidal grandmother, locked away in a Gothic insane asylum until her death. As Hannah loses the trust of everyone she loves, the only person she feels she can confide in is a former colleague, Darcy, who’s come back into her life—but who may have motives of her own. But Hannah can’t tell even Darcy her deepest secret: that she’s still tormented by the memory of her husband and the crater he carved through her life.

Possession is the new novel by the author of the much-buzzed-about The Furies. I thought it looked interesting, and I’ve been seeing a fair number of suspense/crime novels that feature a true-crime podcast at its centre. While I haven’t listened to many, my partner loves My Favorite Murder and a couple of others, so I thought it might be interesting to see how Lowe incorporates that cultural phenomenon into the novel. Turns out, the author does it very well. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE PACKAGE by Sebastian Fitzek (Head of Zeus)

FitzekS-PackageUKNext week (February 4th), Head of Zeus are due to publish the latest novel from Sebastian Fitzek in the UK: The Package.

Fitzek is one of Germany’s most successful and popular thriller/suspense novelists, with a growing fanbase around the world. This latest novel, translated by Jamie Bulloch, sounds particularly interesting and chilling. Here’s the synopsis:

All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.

Emma’s the one that got away.

The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the barber’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.

Or she thinks she was.

The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.

Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.

And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.

She has no idea what she’s let into her home.

The Package is due to be published by Head of Zeus on February 4th in the UK. The excerpt begins after the jump.

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Continue reading

Upcoming: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Doubleday/Harper Collins UK)

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUSBest known as one of the most charismatic, capable, and compelling American politicians of the day, Stacey Abrams is also an author of fiction, and has been for quite some time. I haven’t had a chance to read any of her novels, yet, but While Justice Sleeps — due out later this year — looks very interesting. I’m really looking forward to reading this one:

Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together — excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn — the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases — has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court — a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUKAs political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps is due to be published by Doubleday in the US and Canada (May 11th), and Harper Collins in the UK (May 27th).

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Upcoming: NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH by Cassandra Khaw (Tor Nightfire)

Nothing But Blackened 4c.inddCassandra Khaw is going to have a pretty busy 2021, it seems. In addition to the print/eBook edition of Walk Among Us, and The All-Consuming World, the author’s creepy-looking Nothing But Blackened Teeth will also arrive just in time for Halloween. The awesome cover was unveiled earlier today, and it certainly looks like the perfect novel to read (with the lights on):

A gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is due to be published by Tor Nightfire in North America and in the UK, on October 19th, 2021.

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Very Quick Review: THE LAW OF INNOCENCE by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown/Orion)

ConnellyM-MH7-LawOfInnocenceUSMickey Haller, murderer?

On the night he celebrates a big win, defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a former client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is immediately charged with murder but can’t post the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to represent himself and is forced to mount his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles. All the while he needs to look over his shoulder — as an officer of the court he is an instant target, and he makes few friends when he reveals a corruption plot within the jail.

But the bigger plot is the one against him. Haller knows he’s been framed, whether by a new enemy or an old one. As his trusted team, including his half-brother, Harry Bosch, investigates, Haller must use all his skills in the courtroom to counter the damning evidence against him.

Even if he can obtain a not-guilty verdict, Mickey understands that it won’t be enough. In order to be truly exonerated, he must find out who really committed the murder and why. That is the law of innocence.

Just wanted to post a very quick review of Michael Connelly’s latest thriller. I read it in two late-night sittings, on tenterhooks: I just had to know how Mickey Haller was going to get himself out of his latest predicament. If you’re a fan of Connelly’s novels, then you’ll no doubt have already picked up/read this one. If you still haven’t given Connelly’s thrillers a try, then I can’t recommend them highly enough. Gripping, well-paced, and another excellent read, The Law of Innocence did not disappoint. Continue reading

Upcoming: ISLAND REICH by Jack Grimwood (Michael Joseph)

GrimwoodJ-IslandReichUKI’ve been a fan of Jack Grimwood‘s writing for some time. I enjoyed his  Assassini series (an atmospheric horror/vampire trilogy), and was intrigued when he decided to move into historical thrillers. His first Cold War thriller/mystery, Moskva was great, and introduced readers to Tom Fox (who also appears in Nightfall Berlin). This year, Penguin are due to publish a new stand-alone World War II mystery, Island Reich, which also sounds really interesting:

An unlikely spy.

July 1940. As Britain braces itself for invasion, ex-Tommy and safecracker Bill O’Hagan is glad to have escaped the battlefield. But when a job goes wrong, he finds himself forced to serve his country once more.

A former king.

Spurned by his government and fearing for his life, the Duke of Windsor flees to Portugal with the woman for whom he abdicated the throne, Wallis Simpson. As a web of Nazi trickery threatens to ensnare him, his fate and the fate of Britain rest on one man.

The fate of a nation in their hands.

Dropped on an occupied Channel Island without backup, Bill must crack an enemy safe and get its contents to safety. Failure will devastate any hope Britain has of winning the war.

But with the layers of deception and intrigue drawing ever more tightly around them, Bill and the Duke both learn they aren’t the only players in this game. And Berlin – which has the Duke in its own sights — is plotting its greatest move yet…

Jack Grimwood’s Island Reich is due to be published by Penguin in the UK, on May 27th, 2021. (Couldn’t find any information about a North American release, at the time of writing.)

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