Somehow Meg Gardiner manages to take stock suspense plots — a dedicated and relentless FBI behavioural analyst pursuing an ingenious serial killer — and dress them up into the kind of pulse-pounding, irresistibly readable thrillers you can’t help but in inhale in one sitting.
In The Dark Corners of the Night, the third novel in the UNSUB series, Caitlin Hendrix targets a Los Angeles killer who breaks into houses late at night when the family is home, executes both parents, and leaves the children alive as witnesses. He calls himself The Midnight Man. And he might just be the most vicious murderer Caitlin and the FBI’s elite Behavioural Analysis Unit has ever faced. Until the sequel, you’d assume. Which can’t come soon enough.
This is a world class thriller by one of the world’s premier thriller writers. Meg Gardiner has turbocharged the thriller genre. If you need some edge-of-your-seat escapism — and who doesn’t right now — look no further.
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication date: 02/18/2020
This team-up between two of thriller-lit’s most enduring creations — Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent — is exactly what you’d expect it to be; nothing more, nothing less. Our heroes meet, inside Fort Knox, and become instant foes, before quickly forming a partnership that enables them to take on some bad dudes, and uncover a criminal ring operating inside the famous United States Army post. It’s bread and butter stuff from Child and Slaughter; a fun short-story-length aside, with an interesting connection to Reacher’s debut adventure, Killing Floor, with some amusing banter between the two leads, but ultimately, it reads more like a trailer for a full-size adventure we’re never actually going to see in print.
On Sale: 09/05/2019
Candice Fox brilliantly transmutes her distinct brand of crime fiction — action-driven mysteries anchored by dynamic, unorthodox characters, sprinkled with black humour — to Los Angeles in Gathering Dark, in what readers can only hope is the beginning of a brand new series.
The imperilled runaway daughter of her former cellmate reunites ex-con Blair Harbour with Sneak Lawlor. Harbour’s not looking for trouble — the convicted murderer, out on probation, is determined to win back custody of her son — but she owes Sneak for being her only friend on the inside, never mind the overriding guilt she would feel if something happened to Dayly. That their partnership quickly allies them with one of LA’s most feared underworld figures is only the beginning of Harbour’s problems.
Meanwhile, Detective Jessica Sanchez, is facing her own crisis. She’s just inherited a $7 million mansion as a reward for solving a cold case, making her public enemy number one within the LAPD. The last thing she needs is Blair Harbour — the woman she put behind bars ten years ago — knocking on her door, begging for help.
Fox adroitly shuffles this tangled cast towards an action-packed ending that is considerably tighter and more satisfying than your average whodunit. And while I miss her evocation of the Australian landscape, her Los Angeles feels authentic. With Gathering Dark, Fox has enlivened the standard police procedural with her customary supercharged offbeat characters, and whipcracking pace. More, please.
Published: 31 March 2020
Imprint: Bantam Australia
Format: Trade Paperback
Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1) | C.J. Sansom | Pan MacMillan UK | 2003 | RRP $19.99 | 9781447285830
In C.J. Sansom’s first Matthew Shardlake mystery, the hunchbacked lawyer is dispatched by Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister, to investigate the murder of Commissioner Robin Singleton at a Benedictine monastery in Scarnsea, Sussex, as the King’s disbanding of the monasteries gathers pace.
Executed with consummate skill, the novel’s blend of whodunit tropes and rich historical texture makes for fascinating reading. The monastery setting, filled with enigmatic characters, and dark, lingering shadows, is suitably spooky, and Shardlake’s exploration of its halls almost approaches horror. Some of the detective work is a tad plodding, but the pacing seems deliberate on Sansom’s part, as he gradually weaves a tapestry pockmarked with credible suspects, daring the reader to form their own conclusions.
Sansom’s recreation of sixteenth century England and his ability to lace his fiction into the confines of truth is remarkable. It’s as vividly presented as Rome in Robert Harris’ Cicero Trilogy. As a series opener, it inspires confidence. I’ve already got the next few on my stack.
Death in the East | Abir Mukherjee | Harvill Secker | 19 November 2019 | RRP $33.00 | 9781787300583
“…if the universe gave you a chance for redemption, you’d bloody well better take it, because second chances were rare and third chances were non-existent.”
Abir Mukherjee adds to his impressive slate of historical crime novels with Death in the East, the fourth mystery starring Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham and his Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee. The mastery of his craft is on full show here, as Mukherjee expertly entwines two murders 17 years apart and on different continents: one in 1905, London, when Wyndham was a young, inexperienced constable; the other in 1922 Assam, the ‘present day’ in the series continuity, where Wyndham has sought the aid of a sainted monk to help conquer his opium addiction.
Mukherjee’s interrogations have the rare quality of gradually illuminating and thickening characters, plot, and setting. Alongside an ingenious murder method, Death in the East is abrim with racial tension, methodical detective work, and the hero’s appealing struggle to balance a thirst for revenge with his desire for justice. This might just be Wyndham and Banerjee finest hour. Mukherjee should be celebrated for his sterling consistency. There is no better author of crime fiction writing today — this series is excellent.
The Godmother | Hannelore Cayre | translated by Stephanie Smee |Black Inc | September 2019 | RRP $28.00 | 9781760641610
“My fraudster parents had a visceral love of money. They loved it, not like you love an inert object stashed away in a suitcase or held in some account. No. They loved it like a living, intelligent being that can create and kill, that is endowed with the capacity to reproduce.”
Hannelore Cayre’s The Godmother arrived at the bookshop billowing a trail of hype, anticipation and acclaim behind it. Winner of the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, France’s most prestigious award for crime fiction, and adapted to screen, this bite-sized slice of French noir tells the story of Patience Portefeux, a widowed 53-year-old translator for the Paris drug squad, who lives meagerly, struggling to provide for her daughters and her aged mother’s care. When she comes into contact with the mother of a drug trafficker, she uses information gleaned from the police wiretaps she translates to secure a large quantity of hash. Under the alias the Godmother, she constructs a small criminal empire, thereby securing her financial future, and her family’s, and marinating over the moral implications of her decision.
It’s eminently readable, and efficiently translated by Stephanie Smee, but there’s a distinct lack of tension or excitement in The Godmother. It reads at a lackadaisical pace, which never threatens to become boring, but never got my blood boiling. It’s a fascinating portrait of a woman pushed to extremes, and her sardonic observations of French society are lacerating, but it faded in and out of my life with a glimmer rather than the explosion I was hoping for. I was never particularly anxious about Patience’s fate, and for a novel that’s fundamentally about a woman exposing herself to a city’s underworld and steeping herself in a corrupt world, that’s a real killer. It’s not bad; I just prefer my crime fiction with underlying menace.
“It would take me longer these days, because my pace is slower than it used to be. And it would take energy, of which I seem to have a finite supply.”
More than forty years since he debuted in The Sins of the Father, and almost a decade since he last appeared in The Night and the Music, unlicensed private investigator Matthew Scudder makes a return in a book that’s less of a mystery and more of a meditation on mortality.
By his own admission, Scudder is an old man now, retired, living a quiet life with his longtime partner, Elaine. He no longer chases trouble, and it rarely finds him. That is until Ellen, a friend of Elaine’s — a prostitute trying to quit the life — asks Scudder for help escaping an abusive client who can’t let her go. Scudder isn’t quite the man he was, but that doesn’t stop him getting involved.
This is a novel that thrives on the readers’ sense of nostalgia for one of crime fiction’s most enduring protagonists. I’ve read most of the series, and appreciated spending another couple hundred pages viewing New York from Scudder’s perspective as he laments the changing face of the city. The narrative engine is a tad too languid for my tastes, and made me miss the days of the younger, swashbuckling Scudder, who was full of blood and thunder. I love it when authors age their protagonists in real time, or semi-real time; Rankin’s done it perfectly with Rebus, and so has Connelly with Bosch; but some characters only work in their pomp, and maybe it’s best to let characters live their lives off the page.
Fans of Block or Scudder will inhale A Time to Scatter Stones in one sitting, and find much to enjoy; a final hurrah But newcomers should look elsewhere, and come back to this one later, when you’ll truly appreciate its nuances and callbacks.
Series: Matthew Scudder
Number Of Pages: 160
Published: 31st January 2019