Review: Run Away by Harlan Coben

9781780894263.jpgIn Harlan Coben’s capable hands, the familiar runaway daughter plot is revitalised and exacerbated, in a thriller replete with several truly sneaky twists and a haunting dénouement. Although Coben’s customary wit and banter is diluted — the repercussions of Simon Greene’s search for his daughter, Paige, doesn’t really allow for sass or wisecracks — Run Away is another masterful domestic thriller, and another impressive page-turner from one of my favourite writers.

When Simon, a successful Manhattan money manager, identifies his runaway college dropout (now junkie) daughter Paige playing guitar in Central Park, he approaches her, hoping to encourage her back into rehab, or at the very least a few nights away from her abusive boyfriend, Aaron. Things do not go well. Strung out on drugs, Paige barely seems to recognise her father — and their resulting confrontation results in Simon punching Aaron in the face, and becoming a viral sensation as a rich guy abusing the poor. Paige disappears, and for three months, Simon and his wife, Ingrid, hear nothing;  that is until Bronx Homicide Detective Isaac Fagbenle turns up at Simon’s office, asking questions about the murder of Aaron. The Greene’s are suspects, but Paige is the obvious one and she’s still missing. So Simon and Ingrid launch their own investigation, which brings them into the path of Chicago PI Elena Ramirez, hired to find the missing adopted son of wealthy Sebastian Thorpe III, and a murderous duo named Ash and Dee Dee, the latter of whom waxes lyrically about the Maine religious commune she belongs to. Somehow Coben manages to successfully connect these threads, building momentum until the very last page.

Fasten your seat belt for this roller-coaster ride through family hell.

ISBN: 9781780894263
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: Century
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 21-Mar-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

9781408711828“Newcomer” is the second Detective Kyochiro Kaga mystery translated from Japanese into English after “Malice, back in 2014. Having been demoted from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s elite Homicide Division, Kaga now finds himself working in the Nihonbashi Precinct; specifically a murder in Kodenmacho, where Mineko Mitsui, a woman with seemingly no enemies, was discovered strangled in her apartment.

Kaga’s investigation unfolds through the eyes of various inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The detective’s deliberations and observations are shrouded from the reader; we are mere witnesses to his brilliant deductions. It’s an interesting narrative choice, but without access to his thoughts and feelings, or any idea of what he does when he’s not hunting bad guys, there’s nothing to latch onto, no emotional connection to Kaga; he is too enigmatic to be a memorable protagonist, at least based on this novel alone.

As he interposes himself in the lives of the Kodenmacho locals, their stories start to intersect in unexpected ways. The beauty of their associations is that they’re neither far-flung or forced; there’s not some mass conspiracy among the shopkeepers in Kodenmacho tied to Mineko’s murder; they’re linked in the subtlest of ways. And just when you think Higashino is leading you to an a-ha! revelatory moment, or indeed a denouement, we learn it’s merely another red-herring or building block towards determining the true killer. If only the climactic revelation that establishes the killer’s motive was as ingenious as the preceding twists and turns. Rather than end with a thunderclap, “Newcomer” ends with a rumble. Still, there’s enough here to warrant a second visit to Keigo Higashino’s Tokyo.

ISBN: 9781408711828
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: Little, Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 20-Nov-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Kill Shot by Garry Disher

9781925773224Garry Disher is one of the most reliable practitioners in crime fiction, and his creation, Wyatt, one of the genre’s most enigmatic antiheroes. Like Richard Stark’s long-running Parker series — the chief inspiration for Wyatt — the joy of these books are the mechanics of the plotting and Disher’s ability to take resolutely unsympathetic characters and somehow make their journeys further into the depths of moral ambiguity (and in many cases, outright corruption) indelibly compulsive.

Wyatt is an analogue man operating in a digital world. In the modern age of high-tech security keypads, retina scans, CCTV professional thieves have the odds stacked even further against them. Lately Wyatt has stayed in the black thanks to a series of one-man burglaries, but he needs a bigger job, something with a better payoff. Sam Kramer — Wyatt’s fixer, working from inside prison, using his network of informants, lawyers, police and hard men — has identified just the target. Jack Tremayne is facing jail time for a Ponzi scheme, but has salted away close to a million in liquid assets Kramer’s source is certain he intends to use to skip the country. So the job is simple; conceptually, at least: nab Tremayne’s getaway fund before he has the chance to use it. Trouble is, Kramer and Wyatt aren’t the only ones interested in the funds, and violence quickly ensues as a parade of nasty men close in on the money.

Kill Shot is another winner from Disher, who, as ever, builds suspense without a shred of overstatement. Crisp, unsentimental, and deeply satisfying. If you’re looking for a crime writer to fill the void left by Peter Corris’ Cliff Hardy this summer, Garry Disher is your man.

ISBN: 9781925773224
Format: Paperback / softback (232mm x 154mm x 21mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: The Text Publishing Company
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Publish Date: 3-Dec-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

 

Review: Gone By Midnight by Candice Fox

9780143789154.jpgSince her debut, Hades, Candice Fox has consistently stretched and reshaped the Australian crime novel by creating in each of her books a deliciously chilling ambience and an aura of pervasive evil, alongside narratives that are so hard charging and irresistibly readable they demand to be read in a single sitting. Gone By Midnight is no different.

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, a young boy goes missing. Left alone with his three mates in the comfort of a lavish hotel room while his mother dines downstairs with her fellow parents, when Sara Farrow checks on the kids at midnight she discovers her child, Richie,  gone — without a trace, it seemed, as CCTV footage confirms he never left the building. With her wretched past, Sara knows the police will instinctively turn their gaze onto her, which will distract them from tracking down the true culprit. So she hires disgraced  cop Ted Conkaffey and convicted killer Amanda Pharrell — the unlikeliest of dynamic duos, who’ve starred in Fox’s stellar Crimson Lake and Redemption Point — to shadow the police investigation, follow their own leads, and  locate her child.

But unrelated factors threaten to derail Ted and Amanda’s enquiries: a rogue Crimson Lake cop has set her sights on Amanda, and will stop at nothing to see her dead and buried, and not at all painlessly; and two years after false accusation robbed him of his previous life as a respected detective and family man,  Ted’s daughter is staying with him — just in time to be in the crosshairs of Richie’s abductor.

The Conkaffey / Pharrell series continues to split focus between exploring the procedural conventions of the whodunit genre and developing its heroes. Fox, who loves her characters colourful, makes readers love them too, and it doesn’t much matter whether they’re naughty or nice, or some shade between. Indeed, the true pleasure of Gone By Midnight isn’t the mystery at its core — which is suitably labyrinth and gripping — but witnessing its brilliantly quirky cast interact: Ted desperately hoping to rebuild his life, tantalised by the prospect of a new romance; Amanda struggling to overcome the demons of her past, and constant flirtations with the darker underbelly of her soul.

Gone By Midnight is Candice Fox at her riveting best. In this golden era of Australian crime fiction, Fox should be identified as the writer who redefined the genre in terms of its form, content and style.

ISBN: 9780143789154
Format: Paperback / softback (233mm x 153mm x 31mm)
Pages: 400
Imprint: Bantam
Publisher: Transworld Publishers (Division of Random House Australia)
Publish Date: 22-Jan-2019
Country of Publication: Australia

 

Review: The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

ScholarDervla McTiernan came out swinging with The Ruin (2018), but The Scholar is a knockout. A relentlessly paced, bombshell-laden plot combined with sharply-drawn, empathetic characters make this is the whodunit that should put McTiernan in the same league as Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Denise Mina and Tana French.

Doctor Emma Sweeney’s discovery of a young female hit and run victim outside Galway University late one evening is the starting point for the second mystery featuring Detective Cormac Reilly —  although it’s a slight misnomer to label this singularly as a ‘Cormac Reilly’ novel; McTiernan has concocted a brilliant ensemble cast featuring the likes of Callie O’Halloran and Peter Fisher, whose interactions and banter are a real draw. Emma Sweeney works at Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcy Therapeutics, and her partner just so happens to be Cormac Reilly, who she calls immediately upon discovering the body, thereby compelling him to lead an investigation that otherwise would never have been assigned to him.

Even without his personal connection to the case, Reilly knows the case is going to be complicated and — worse — political when the victim is identified as Carline Darcy. As in, heir to Darcy Therapeutics Carline Darcy, whose grandfather is an incredibly influential figure, not just in Galway, but in all of Ireland. So the pressure for Reilly to close this investigation quickly, and if at all quietly, is extreme. But just as the case seems destined towards one conclusion, further evidence puts Emma Sweeney firmly in the investigator’s headlights.

McTiernan keeps every stage of the investigation clear, compelling and compulsive. Strong on atmosphere and suspense, with a vivid cast of major and minor characters, The Scholar is one hell of a read, and it’s going to take something very special indeed to deny it being my favourite crime novel of 2019. And I know, I know — I’m saying this in November 2018.

ISBN: 9781460754221
ISBN 10: 1460754220
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
On Sale: 01/03/2019
Pages: 400
List Price: 32.99 AUD

Review: The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

Sentence is DeathI was effusive in my praise for Anthony Horowitz’s 2017 novel The Word is Murder, calling it “one of the best and most compulsively readable mysteries of the year.” It’s a line I could repeat here for the second book in the Daniel Hawthorne series, The Sentence is Death. Quite frankly, there is no more bewitching stylist in crime fiction than Horowitz, who has delivered another slick, taut, inventive, and utterly engrossing whodunit. There’s no doubt about it: we’re in the presence of one of the masters of crime fiction.

The Word is Murder opened with a wealthy woman  found strangled in her home six hours after she has arranged her own funeral, a beguiling premise that demanded attention. The Sentence is Death presents another enigma: celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Pryce is discovered bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with an insanely expensive bottle of wine, which makes little sense, given Pryce was a teetotaller. Even more bizarre is the three-digit number painted on the wall beside the corpse. For Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his compatriot (and the tale’s narrator) Anthony Horowitz (newcomers to the series, don’t be alarmed by this meta element — just trust me, it works) there are almost too many suspects. Pryce, by the very nature of his profession, and as a consequence of his profession, was a man with many enemies. So who delivered the fatal blow  and why?

The Sentence is Death is the kind of book you’ll cancel a night out for and stay up until dawn reading. Horowitz has a gift for the blindside; nudging readers towards one conclusion before smartly pulling the rug out from underneath them, reformatting clues on the fly, presenting them from a different angle. Horowitz is Holmes, and the reader is a very obliging Watson. Even as you hurriedly turn the pages to find out what happens next, a part of you will be wanting to slow down; to savour and admire the seamless plotting mechanics. You won’t want it to end.

ISBN: 9781780897080
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 384
Imprint: Century
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 29-Oct-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Past Tense by Lee Child

9780593078198.jpgPast Tense is fuelled not by nerve-shredding tension or a confounding mystery, rather the tantalising inevitability of Jack Reacher’s collision course with a group of kidnappers who’ve abducted a young couple for an abhorrent purpose. It sticks to the trusted formula, and boasts the unpretentious, staccato prose Reacher’s legions of fans demand — and its insight into Reacher’s past makes it a worthy addition to the canon.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Jack Reacher, on his way no nowhere — well, the West Coast, if you must know — hitchhikes his way into a small, middle-of-nowhere town  Laconia, New Hampshire, in this instance  and steps right into trouble. It’s the archetypal setup for a Reacher thriller, and Lee Child has mastered its unfolding over more than two decades and twenty-three books. Past Tense follows suit, for the most part, with two slight variances: Laconia is the place where Reacher’s father, Stan, grew up, which means this time there’s a personal connection; a history that Reacher wants to explore, for no other reason than he may never pass through the town again. And meanwhile, not too far away, in a isolated motel, readers witness the terror facing a young Canadian couple who find themselves unwilling participants in a psychotic game.

Patty Sundstrom and Shorty Fleck are more than side-characters, or victims waiting to be saved by Reacher. They’re fully-formed, empathetic characters, whose storyline is actually more compulsive than Reacher’s. There’s an urgency to their plight, which doesn’t seep into Reacher’s enquiries until very late on in proceedings. And indeed, it’s fascinating, and exciting, awaiting the moment of intersection between these characters, which doesn’t last long, but is incredibly satisfying when it happens.

Reacher’s mortality has floated to the surface in recent books, so too his own personal realisation of his complete and utter loneliness. Reacher’s interest in his family history maintains this theme, but thankfully, Past Tense is unblemished by the slight melancholic feel that pervaded the finale of The Midnight Line. Come the end of Past Tense, you’ll be fist-pumping the air and awaiting Reacher’s next adventure. There is no doubt: Lee Child and Jack Reacher remain the most reliable entertainers in the genre.

ISBN: 9780593078204
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432
Imprint: Bantam Press
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 5-Nov-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom