Bruce Tierney

Find Me

Three women take center stage in Alafair Burke’s latest thriller, Find Me: NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher, attorney Lindsay Kelly and amnesiac Hope Miller, who remembers nothing of her life prior to a devastating car crash she survived 15 years ago—or so she says. Now, sans ID or history, Hope works under the radar for a real estate agent, getting paid under the table to stage houses for prospective buyers. Then, as often happens in novels about amnesiacs, a random aha! moment triggers a memory, and we’re off to the races. Hope disappears, blood is spilled and the DNA found at her last-known location matches that of unidentified blood found at an old crime scene halfway across the country. The crime in question is one of a spate of killings thought to be the work of a serial killer, and the case was supposedly solved 15 years ago. Lindsay, who has been Hope’s friend ever since her accident, begins to investigate her disappearance and eventually draws Ellie into the fray. Ellie’s father, who was also a cop, was assigned to the same serial killer case that’s somehow connected with Hope’s disappearance. The two women feverishly piece together the disparate parts of the story, and Burke’s masterful control over pacing and plot reveals will make readers just as anxious to uncover the truth. 

A Narrow Door

Joanne Harris’ darkly humorous and deliciously evil A Narrow Door is a quintessential and unputdownable English mystery. Rebecca Buckfast, headmistress of noted Yorkshire boarding school St. Oswald’s and one of the first-person narrators of this tale, is nothing if not straightforward. She recounts the steps she had to take to become the first female head of the school in its 500-year history. Rebecca doesn’t sugarcoat anything, including the two murders she committed (“one a crime of passion, the other, a crime of convenience”), and yet it is difficult not to respect her motivations and even like her. Sort of. Meanwhile, a parallel tale is offered up by St. Oswald’s teacher Roy Straitley, in the form of a diary that outlines the discovery of what appears to be human remains in a construction site on the school grounds. As Roy’s and Rebecca’s stories unfold, both of the narrators take satisfaction in the secrets they are hiding from each other—or, more precisely, the secrets they think they are successfully concealing. A Narrow Door is an exceptionally good novel, such a masterpiece of storytelling that when Rebecca likens herself to a modern-day Scheherazade, it doesn’t feel like hyperbole in the slightest.

Silent Parade

By all accounts, 19-year-old Saori Namiki was on track to become the next big thing in the world of J-pop music. And then, inexplicably, she vanished, and stayed missing until her remains were discovered three years later in a suburban Tokyo neighborhood. Another body is found at the same place: Yoshie Hasunuma, an unremarkable woman save for her stepson, Kanichi, who is widely believed to have skated away from a murder charge years ago and looks pretty good for this latest double homicide as well. In the same way that Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade often sought the assistance of supersleuth Sherlock Holmes, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Chief Inspector Kusanagi regularly summons brainiac physicist Manabu Yukawa, known as Detective Galileo, to consult on particularly difficult homicides. Keigo Higashino’s Silent Parade showcases the fourth such pairing, and is in many ways the most intricate. Detective Galileo must reconsider his theory of the crime again and again, tweaking it repeatedly until he is more or less satisfied with his assessment. He is a very clever man, smart enough to stay a step or two ahead of the police department, the perpetrator (or perpetrators?) and the reader, and that is no mean feat.

BOX 88

The title of Charles Cumming’s latest espionage thriller, BOX 88, refers to a fictional clandestine ops organization that is jointly operated by the United States and the United Kingdom. BOX 88 does not possess a license to kill a la James Bond, but the management certainly utilizes a “license to look the other way” on occasions when wetwork is required. BOX 88 begins a series starring Scottish spy Lachlan Kite, who in this book must come to grips with a very cold case: the 1988 downing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Close to half the narrative consists of flashbacks to immediately after the plane crash, when Lachlan was a green recruit. In the present day, Lachlan lets down his guard at the funeral of his old friend, with disastrous results. He is kidnapped by an urbane-seeming Iranian man who turns out to be anything but urbane when it comes to securing intelligence from a perceived enemy combatant. Worse yet, the kidnapper’s team has also captured Lachlan’s very pregnant wife. If torture will not get them what they want, perhaps threats to Lachlan’s family will do the trick. Despite his mistake at the funeral, Lachlan is a seasoned operative and, if anything, more dangerous to his captors than they are to him. Meanwhile, British intelligence agency MI5 is in hot pursuit, not to help Lachlan but rather to out him as an operative of a rogue agency. The suspense is palpable, the characters flawed but sympathetic in their own ways and the story gripping. In a month of really excellent reads, BOX 88 is a clear standout.

In a month overflowing with superb mysteries and thrillers, a deliciously evil boarding school-set thriller and a pitch-perfect espionage novel rise to the top.

The Left-Handed Twin

Edgar Award-winning author Thomas Perry returns with The Left-Handed Twin, his ninth novel featuring guide Jane Whitefield, a member of the Wolf clan of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The term guide does not entirely describe Whitefield’s job; she serves as a one-woman witness protection program, spiriting people out of life-threatening situations and into new and safer existences. This time out, she assists a young woman who testified against her boyfriend in a murder trial only to see him acquitted and bent on revenge. The first part of the task is fairly straightforward, utilizing the obfuscation skills Jane has honed over the years, but it all starts to go sideways when the ex-boyfriend enlists the help of the Russian mob, a group with an agenda of its own in locating Jane: extracting information from her about past clients who ran afoul of the mob. Suddenly, she finds herself on the run, and the safest places for her are the forests and fields of Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness, one of the ancestral Seneca territories where she holds the home-court advantage over lifetime city dwellers. Still, her Russian adversaries are nothing if not determined, and there are at least a couple of times when readers will wonder if this is the book where Jane’s story comes to an untimely end.

Bryant & May: London Bridge Is Falling Down

Spoiler alert: London Bridge Is Falling Down marks the final installment of Christopher Fowler’s beloved Bryant and May series. With each passing book, the Peculiar Crimes Unit, which solves murders that stump other branches of law enforcement, finds itself more critically threatened with closure. Both protagonists, cranky Arthur Bryant and the urbane and charming John May, are getting rather long in the tooth (in Bryant’s case, long in the dentures), and cases don’t present quite as frequently as they once did. So in hopes of postponing the inevitable, Bryant goes in search of a case and turns one up: Amelia Hoffman, age 91, whose death does not entirely fall into the catch-all of natural causes. Hoffman had something of a chequered (the English spelling must be used here) past, as it turns out, and before long the case develops into a full-blown conspiracy investigation. The narrative neatly straddles the blurry line separating espionage fiction from straight-up suspense, and adds for good measure a mean streets of London travelogue and more than a little laugh-out-loud but still dry British humor. Lovers of this series need not despair (well, not yet). Next year, we will see Bryant and May’s Peculiar London, a companion travelogue of sorts in which fan-favorite characters will hilariously dish on their home city while ambling about its streets, and there will be no dead bodies to be found anywhere.  

So Far and Good

For the better part of 30 years, I have counted myself as a major fan of John Straley’s sporadic series featuring Alaska-based PI Cecil Younger. From the outset, 1992’s Shamus Award-winning The Woman Who Married a Bear, the books have combined grittiness, social issues and introspection with whimsy and slapstick, as the hapless investigator moves from crisis to crisis, both business and personal. So Far and Good, the latest adventure, finds Cecil serving seven-plus years in prison for homicide, arguably a necessary one. His daughter, Blossom, visits him regularly, and this time she has an interesting tale to tell: Her best friend took a DNA test to surprise her mom with an ancestry-related gift and discovered that she and her “mom” were not in any way related. As it turns out, this friend was abducted as an infant, and the case has remained unsolved for the past 16 years. Should be a happy ending, right? Instead, it serves as the catalyst for a suspicious suicide, a near-homicide and assorted disappearances. And Blossom joins the missing, it will take all of his considerable savvy, not to mention a reversal of his inherent unluckiness, to set his world back in order (more or less) once again. 

★ War Women

The year that John Straley’s first Cecil Younger book appeared, 1992, also marked the debut of Martin Limón’s excellent series featuring George Sueño and Ernie Bascom, military police partners stationed in Itaewon, Korea, in the 1970s. Several plot lines wind around one another in the pair’s latest outing, War Women. First off, there is the disappearance of their best confidential informant, along with some particularly sensitive classified documents about impending military exercises. Then there is the nosy reporter who has acquired explicit, potentially career-ending photos of an Army general and the hasty cover-up attempts that spiral speedily out of control, the suspense building until the final, nerve-shredding shootout. But these events are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. A culture of abuse targeting female service members has permeated every level of the military hierarchy, and there are those who will kill to keep that culture thriving. Bascom and Sueño, while still their customarily smart-aleck selves, are more thoughtful this time around. They’re not overcome by the gravity of the situation, but they’re certainly affected by it. War Women is the most sobering of the series to date, while still being a book readers will want to devour in one sitting. 

Thomas Perry gives fans the gift of another Jane Whitefield thriller and a beloved series comes to an end in this month’s Whodunit column.

The Shadows of Men

Calcutta, 1923: Then, as now, the state of Muslim-Hindu relations evoked an image of a short-fused powder keg, awaiting only the striking of a convenient match. The murder of a prominent Hindu theologian provides said spark, setting the stage for Abir Mukherjee’s fifth novel, The Shadows of Men. Police Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee are tasked with unraveling the circumstances of the homicide before holy war breaks out in the streets and alleyways of West Bengal’s most populous city, Calcutta. Things take a complicated turn almost immediately, as Banerjee finds himself framed for the aforementioned murder and thus removed from the state of play, at least in any official capacity. But he and Wyndham have never been what you’d call sticklers for the rules, and this time will prove to be no exception. Their investigation, at times in tandem but more often in parallel, will carry them to Bombay, which is unfamiliar turf to both of them. There they will discover that there is more afoot than just age-old cultural and religious enmity, and that certain third parties may harbor a keen—albeit covert—interest in fanning the flames of mutual intolerance. The narrative is first-person throughout, switching from Wyndham’s perspective to Banerjee’s in alternating chapters, an unusual and clever approach that keeps readers dead center in the melee, while at the same time poised on the edges of their seats.

All Her Little Secrets

Wanda M. Morris’ debut novel, All Her Little Secrets, is a multilayered, atmospheric thriller with subplot atop subplot. In a 200-odd-word review, I can barely scratch the surface. The main characters are Atlanta corporate attorney Ellice Littlejohn, a Black woman who is the lead counsel for a thriving transport company; her brother Sam, a ne’er-do-well who skates very close to the edge of legality, and sometimes over the edge; her auntie Vera, once a ball of fire, now laid low by advancing episodes of dementia; and CEO Nate Ashe, a Southern gentleman who might be looking out for Ellice’s interests but who also might be a corrupt businessman attuned to the optics of displaying a minority woman in a position of power. Then there is a murder, and another, and it becomes next to impossible for Ellice to determine who is in her corner. Examinations of racism, sexism, ageism and classism (and probably other -isms I have forgotten about) abound, making All Her Little Secrets a very timely read, in addition to being one heck of a debut.

Psycho by the Sea

A handful of pages into Lynne Truss’ hilarious new installment in her Constable Twitten series, Psycho by the Sea, I found myself imagining it as a BBC TV series with an eccentric “Fawlty Towers” sort of vibe, perhaps with a screenplay penned by Graham Greene. The characters are delightfully overblown, the storyline whimsical (well, if a cop killer who boils his victims’ severed heads fits your notion of whimsy).The novel is set in 1957 in the English seaside town of Brighton, which is not the sort of place that jumps to mind as crime central. Still, a number of locals make a good living pushing the boundaries of the law, including Mrs. Groynes, the lady who makes the tea at the Brighton police station. Privy as she is to the daily departmental goings-on, she ensures that the constables will be conveniently far from wherever her crimes are set to take place. When the severed-head-boiling killer escapes from the psychiatric detention facility he has called home for several years, perhaps aided in that getaway by a staff psychotherapist, all manner of ghoulish things begin to take place in the otherwise somnolent resort. While Psycho by the Sea is not the most suspenseful story on offer this month, it is easily the funniest, the quirkiest and the most entertaining read of the bunch. 

★ Silverview

When John le Carré passed away in December 2020, he left a gift behind for his readers: Silverview, one last novel from the master of espionage. The story goes that le Carré began work on the book nearly a decade ago, but it was held for publication as the author “tinkered” with it (a sly nod to his 1974 book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?). The tinkering paid off. Silverview is one of his best works, an intricate cat-and-mouse tale in which just who is the feline and who is the rodent is up in the air until the final pages. When bookshop owner Julian Lawndsley meets Edward Avon, he is virtually bowled over by the larger-than-life demeanor of the elderly white-haired gentleman. Together they hatch a plan to expand Julian’s bookstore. Meanwhile, British intelligence has launched an investigation into a long-ago incident in Edward’s life, one that suggests he may still be in the spy game. If this is true, it’s anybody’s guess who his employer might be, for it is certainly not the home team. Not that the home team could even remotely be considered the good guys, mind you. But I suppose treason is treason, irrespective of the morality of the players. Perhaps even more world-weary in tone than the le Carré books that preceded it, Silverview will make readers look askance at the sort of things their countries do on the world stage.

The Shadows of Men Calcutta, 1923: Then, as now, the state of Muslim-Hindu relations evoked an image of a short-fused powder keg, awaiting only the striking of a convenient match. The murder of a prominent Hindu theologian provides said spark, setting the stage for Abir Mukherjee’s fifth novel, The Shadows of Men. Police Captain Sam […]

These masters of mystery prove they haven’t lost one ounce of their power to shock, thrill and enthrall.

Marked Man

I like Archer Mayor novels for much the same reason that I like Ed McBain novels: Both are populated by cops who are ever so slightly caricatures, with internecine feuds and barbed humor, but who come together as a unit when circumstances demand. In Vermont Bureau of Investigation agent Joe Gunther’s 32nd mystery, Marked Man, Joe and his team investigate the murder of a high-rolling restaurateur. The case comes to them in a most unusual way. Nine months back, the decedent passed away, seemingly due to natural causes, and donated his body to medical science. In the middle of a routine anatomical practice procedure, a medical student discovered that the corpse was likely a victim of a careful but very effective suffocation. One murder leads to another, and another, and the extended family of victim number one seems like the place to start looking for the killer or killers. If only it were that simple. Add a couple of bumbling, aging mobsters to the mix, and the fact that seemingly everyone has one deep dark secret worthy of extreme concealment measures, and it all gets very complicated very quickly. Marked Man is an excellent read, with a surprise ending and then one more surprise for good measure.

The Burning

I am not usually a fan of author duos, but I make exceptions for Charles Todd, Nicci French and the father/son team of Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman, all of whom have bottled the elusive genie of collaboration. This month, Kellerman père et fils return with The Burning, the latest installment in the saga of Bay Area coroner Clay Edison. In the midst of one of the worst Northern California wildfires in recent memory, Clay is summoned to the scene of a murder. The victim is a wealthy businessman, and among his many passions was caring for a garage full of automobile exotica, cars you might have heard of but have likely never seen in person. (Koenigsegg, anyone?) One rather pedestrian gherkin-green Camaro happens to catch Clay’s eye. It belongs to his ex-con brother, who, as it happens, has been AWOL for several days. Naturally, this makes Clay’s brother a person of interest (read: suspect) in the case. Major ethical dilemmas are posed for our hero, and let’s just say the dilemmas compound faster than loan shark interest. Beyond the mystery, the Kellermans touch on big themes here, from climate change and politics to the sometimes-tenuous yet surprisingly elastic bonds of family.

April in Spain

A criticism sometimes leveled at author John Banville is that his books can be a trifle on the slow side. There is some truth to this, but it is no bad thing. One does not, after all, gulp a fine Bordeaux or gorge on Godiva chocolate truffles. And so it is with April in Spain, a novel of slowly unfolding suspense. Banville rewards his readers with some of the finest prose in the mystery genre, a protagonist as cranky as Nero Wolfe and villains worthy of Agatha Christie’s poisoned pen. While on holiday in the Basque Country region of northern Spain, Dublin coroner Quirke runs into someone he recognizes, but he cannot remember where he knows her from. After some racking of the brain, Quirke arrives at an impossible conclusion: The woman is April Latimer, who was killed in Ireland several years earlier by her brother, who immediately afterward committed suicide by driving Quirke’s car over the edge of a high cliff. April’s body was never found. Complicating matters is the psychotic hit man sent to kill this woman in Spain. Whether or not she really is April is of little consequence to those who hired the hit man. And he’s not even the worst of the bad guys. . . . 

We Know You Remember

In the fall of 2020, Tove Alsterdal’s We Know You Remember was named Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year by the Svenska Deckarakademin (the Swedish Academy of Crime Fiction). Previous winners of this award include Camilla Grebe, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, and the runner-up list reads like a Who’s Who of Nordic Noir, so to say it is a big deal is something of an understatement. This month, the English translation hits stateside bookstores, and I don’t have to go very far out on a limb to predict that it will be one of the most talked-about suspense novels of the year. Twenty-some years ago, 14-year-old Olof Hagström was found guilty of raping and murdering a teenage girl; the circumstantial evidence was damning, but the body was never found. The incident forever changed the character of his small village, and when Olof returns to his familial home in the present day, there is no welcome mat awaiting him. Quite the opposite, actually: just a frantic dog and the dead body of Olof’s father, apparently a stabbing victim left to bleed out in the bathroom shower. Initially, of course, all fingers point toward Olof, but he provides what seems to be an ironclad alibi. Lead investigator Eira Sjödin was only 9 years old at the time of Olof’s consignment to a youthful offenders’ facility, but she soon begins to realize there are more connections between the cold case and the latest murder than immediately meet the eye. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and non-Swedes will be thankful they do not have to read the place names aloud, but don’t let that put you off. This is in every respect a world-class Scandinavian mystery, one that will be mentioned in the same breath with Smilla’s Sense of Snow, The Redbreast or the Millennium trilogy.

These masters of mystery prove they haven’t lost one ounce of their power to shock, thrill and enthrall.

Louise Penny has somehow outdone herself again with her latest Inspector Gamache mystery.

My Sweet Girl

Sri Lankan writer Amanda Jayatissa’s debut, My Sweet Girl, is a dark thriller of international deceit and murder, narrated in alternating chapters by 12-year-old Paloma, who is adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage by a wealthy American couple, and her adult self 18 years later. The Paloma of the present day is estranged from her parents and haunted by hallucinations (or are they?) of a strange woman who eats the faces of beautiful young girls. One evening, Paloma returns to her apartment and finds her roommate brutally murdered, after which she flees the scene and gets blackout drunk. By the time the police arrive, the scene has been sanitized, leaving no trace of any such killing, but how can that be? Paloma doesn’t know, and neither do we. As the story unfolds, the reader begins to recognize incongruities between the younger and older Palomas, incongruities that are not easily reconcilable and are increasingly unsettling. I thought I had twigged to the ending before the Big Reveal, and I was quite proud of myself. But I was way wrong. I love it when that happens.

Road of Bones

September, 1944. As James R. Benn’s 16th Billy Boyle novel, Road of Bones, opens, the U.S. Army investigator is hitching a ride to Ukraine aboard a B-17 bomber. And then all hell breaks loose: German fighter planes drive the bombers into ground fire range, and one by one the American airplanes fall, including the one carrying Billy’s friend, Big Mike Miecznikowski. Some of those aboard the disabled bomber parachute to an unknown fate below, but it is not clear whether Big Mike is among them. Billy’s airplane makes it safely through to Poltava air base in Ukraine, where he has been tapped to investigate the murder of a pair of soldiers, one Russian, one American. If the Russians have their way, it will be an American taking the fall. Optics are everything, right? Billy must balance his investigation with his personal need to learn the fate of his friend and also somehow placate the Russians at every turn—no mean feat. A fascinating subplot has Billy encountering the Night Witches, an all-female band of Russian fighter pilots who took stealth bombing to a new level by turning off their engines as they approached their targets, silently gliding in to deliver their deadly payloads. As always, Benn covers all his bases with a taut narrative, relatable characters and crisp dialogue. Road of Bones is another superlative installment in the best World War II mystery series on offer.

The Darkness Knows

Thirty years ago, a Reykjavik businessman named Sigurvin disappeared. A suspect, Hjaltalín, was arrested at the time but later released for lack of evidence. Now, thanks to climate change, the melting of an Icelandic glacier has exposed Sigurvin’s frozen body (surely the textbook definition of a “cold case”). Arnaldur Indridason’s latest novel, The Darkness Knows, finds retired police detective Konrád, the original investigator on the case, at loose ends. He has never entirely recovered from the death of his wife, and truth be told, he is somewhat bored with life nowadays. Konrád’s initial mandate is simply to re-interview Hjaltalín, who is now incarcerated for a different crime, but he continues to maintain his innocence. Konrád has no official standing, but the case nagged at him when he first worked on it, and he finds it beginning to nag at him once again. So he launches what is essentially a private citizen’s investigation, stripped of most of the tools of his trade. It is slow going, as might be expected of a decades-old case, and Konrád is not as spry as he once was. So if you are looking for explosive action and edge-of-the-seat suspense, it would be best to look elsewhere. The Darkness Knows is slowly and deliberately plotted. No stone is left unturned; indeed, no stone is left undescribed. But Indridason is a consummate storyteller, one of the cream of the Nordic noir crop, and if methodical police procedurals are your thing, you have come to the right place.

The Madness of Crowds

The Madness of Crowds is Louise Penny’s 17th novel featuring Sûreté du Québec Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The chief inspector is well known among his compatriots and readers alike for staring down ethical dilemmas, and this time he is facing a real conundrum. In Gamache’s Canada, there is a growing (or festering, depending on your viewpoint) movement dedicated to the idea of withholding care or outright euthanizing older and disabled people in order to preserve valuable resources for those likely to have better outcomes. The de facto leader of the movement is professor Abigail Robinson, a statistician whose numbers are more on target than her morality. The argument has polarized Canadians to the point of violence, and it falls to Gamache to provide security for Professor Robinson as she speaks to an unruly crowd of both supporters and naysayers. Gunshots ring out, and Gamache secures his charge, preventing tragedy. But then the professor’s assistant is brutally bludgeoned to death shortly afterward, in what was perhaps a case of mistaken identity. Gamache has personal feelings about this ethical dilemma, as one of his grandchildren has Down syndrome and would be affected if the laws that Robinson advocates for were implemented. Gamache’s decision to afford protection to a constituent who, even theoretically, threatens a family member isn’t one he takes lightly. The Madness of Crowds is not an easy read by any means, but it’s easily one of the best mystery novels (or novels of any genre) in recent memory.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Robert Bathurst narrates the audiobook edition of The Madness of Crowds.

Louise Penny has somehow outdone herself again with her latest Inspector Gamache mystery.

What do England, Sweden and France all have in common? In this month’s Whodunit column, it’s murder!

Island of Thieves

When freelance security consultant and former ace thief Van Shaw gets tapped to perform an art heist, ostensibly to test the security of a storage facility, he harbors some initial reservations. But the contract is ironclad, his duties are defined clearly and there is no danger of running afoul of the law. As Van philosophically notes, “Taking isn’t always stealing . . . Not if you’ve got permission.” The rousing success of that venture prompts his billionaire client, Sebastian Rohner, to secure Van’s services again, this time to guard an art installation during a gathering of entrepreneurs at Rohner’s private island. The title of Glen Erik Hamilton’s sixth Van Shaw thriller, Island of Thieves, is not the actual name of the island, but it might as well be, given the rather large proportion of the cast engaged in that heady pursuit. The security gig is merely a cover designed to draw attention away from the raison d’être of the meeting: corporate larceny that is breathtaking both in its scope and its audacity. And if all goes according to malicious plan, Van will be made the fall guy, while the bad guys gleefully divvy up their ill-gotten gains—but then someone goes and gets killed, and suddenly the plans are out the window. With every man for himself, the island of thieves is poised for a reenactment of Lord of the Flies. As ever, Van proves to be a wry, reliable guide through the relentless action of Hamilton’s always thrilling series.

Then She Vanishes

Claire Douglas’ Then She Vanishes is an English cold-case thriller that tells the story of three women: Flora, who disappeared years ago as a teenager; Heather, her younger sister, who now lies in a coma after allegedly killing an elderly mother and son in cold blood before turning the gun on herself; and Jess, a close family friend from back in the day who is now a reporter for a small local newspaper. At the outset, there appears to be no connection whatsoever between Heather’s crimes and Flora’s disappearance. But as often happens in small towns, old transgressions can come bubbling to the surface at inconvenient times, and Jess has the “nose for news” to uncover them. The question is, who is the culprit? Does Heather have anything in her history to suggest she could be guilty of such a violent act? Um, yes. Has Heather’s Uncle Leo, a middle-aged Lothario with a penchant for teenage girls, been keeping a guilty secret for all these years? Um, yes. And what do we make of the fact that Heather’s husband was seen bellowing at one of the decedents shortly before the double homicide but told the police he had never met either of them? Dodgy, that. And I am just scratching the surface here. If you are a fan of suspense, twists and more twists, Then She Vanishes should be right up your alley.

The Night Singer

Swedish author Johanna Mo’s English-language debut, The Night Singer, begins the saga of police detective Hanna Duncker, newly returned to her native island of Öland after years in Stockholm. It is a troubling milieu for her, in part because she is the daughter of Öland’s most infamous murderer, and her return is definitely rattling old skeletons that some people would prefer to leave in the closet. The story centers on the apparent murder of a 15-year-old boy, the son of Hanna’s best friend from high school. He was by all accounts a troubled youth, although there was nothing to suggest he’d be a candidate for murder. In the course of Hanna’s investigation, Mo explores themes of bullying, infidelity, familial violence, discrimination based on sexuality and gender—in short, many of the bugbears that plague 21st-century Western culture. The Night Singer is just excellent and the perfect setup for a sequel, which I hope is in the offing imminently.

The Coldest Case

While I am an avid fan of one-sitting, page-turner books (like the other three reviewed in this column), I am also quite taken with books that force me to pause every few pages or so to savor and reflect a bit before continuing—to enjoy a deft turn of phrase or imagine the smells and sounds of the locale. Martin Walker’s books fall squarely into the latter category, and his latest, The Coldest Case, is a prime example. The star of the series is Bruno Courrèges, chief of police of St. Denis, a small town in France’s Périgord region. This time out, he finds himself embroiled in a cold case of a young man bludgeoned to death 30 years ago, a time predating modern forensic procedures such as DNA testing and facial reconstruction identification. Deeper investigation sends Bruno free-falling down a rabbit hole that leads not only to the long-undetermined identity of the deceased but also to possible Cold War espionage connections that may have somehow survived into the present day. As is always the case in Walker’s Bruno books, food and wine regularly figure into the narrative, as well as French culture and history, love, equestrianship and basset hounds, but it’s all delivered with much more bonhomie and much less preciousness than you might expect. 

What do England, Sweden and France all have in common? In this month’s Whodunit column, it’s murder!

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