February's hottest mystery releases include the latest historical from mother-son writing duo Charles Todd, bestselling British writer Sophie Hannah and more.
★ A Divided Loyalty
Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ian Rutledge, the central character of the wildly popular series by mother-and-son writing duo Charles Todd, embarks on his 22nd adventure in A Divided Loyalty. A murder victim has been discovered in the center of a stone circle. Another officer was originally assigned to investigate, but Rutledge is deployed to reopen the case after he successfully completes a separate investigation displaying some similarities to the stone-circle murder. The deeper Rutledge becomes involved in the investigation, the more likely it looks that a fellow officer was the perpetrator. Rutledge finds this troubling not only from a public relations perspective but also because he respects and likes the officer in question. But the evidence is damning and proceeds to become more so with each passing day. Rutledge is one of the most complicated and finely drawn characters in contemporary crime fiction. Suffering from shell shock after his experiences in World War I, he carries on regular conversations with a dead soldier from his command, a man who disobeyed orders while under fire and was executed by Rutledge for his disobedience. There’s not a weak episode to be found in Todd’s terrific series.
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Perfect Little Children
Picture this: You haven’t seen your friend Flora in a dozen years, nor her husband, Lewis, nor their kids, Emily and Thomas. Then, almost as if by accident, you see her step out of her silver Range Rover, and she looks exactly the same, no sign of aging whatsoever. OK, that could happen. Diet, exercise, perhaps a little nip-and-tuck surgery—those could do the trick. But then her kids step out of the car as well, and you overhear Flora speak to them: “Oh, well done, Emily. That’s kind. Say thank you, Thomas.” But the thing is, Emily and Thomas should be teenagers by now, and these children are preschoolers. This is the situation faced by Beth Leeson in Sophie Hannah’s latest thriller, Perfect Little Children, and she cannot wrap her mind around it. So she does what any red-blooded suspense heroine would do—she noses around a bit. And then a bit more. And with each new piece of information she acquires, she becomes more convinced that there is a crime to be uncovered, and that her former friend may be in mortal danger. This notion begins to border on obsession, and the reader gets to watch as it becomes more and more deeply rooted. So what on earth is going on? Genetic age manipulation? Some strange, dark mind game? Or is Beth simply losing her marbles, one by one? Whatever the case, this is another satisfying psycho-thriller from the queen of the genre.
Alone in the Wild
Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series continues in Alone in the Wild. Deep in the Yukon Mountains, the totally off-the-grid town of Rockton is a perfect escape for criminals and battered spouses alike. After being accepted by the council and paying a hefty fee, new residents say goodbye to any communication (electronic or otherwise) with the outside world. There’s only one firm rule in place: no townspeople under the age of 18. So when Detective Casey Duncan and her partner in both work and romance, Eric Dalton, stumble upon a murdered woman holding a barely alive baby, they feel no small measure of consternation about what to do with the child while launching an investigation into the murder. The denizens of Rockton are a motley crew and certainly not the preferred cross-section of society to be engaged in childcare. Armstrong has created a unique milieu for setting her suspense novels, which is no easy task nowadays. Read one, and you will want to read the rest.
The Good Killer
If you’re up for a first-rate page turner, look no further than Harry Dolan’s The Good Killer. Iraq vet Sean and his partner, Molly, have been living under the radar for years, harboring a virtually priceless secret and trying to remain invisible to a pair of dangerous enemies. Then, by sheer unfortunate happenstance, Sean uses his military training to take down a spree killer in a Houston mall. Sean makes a fairly clean getaway, but his face and license plate number are captured by mall security cams, and he becomes something of a reluctant celebrity. Meanwhile, Molly is attending a yoga seminar in Montana, where she is required to surrender her cell phone and renounce all contact with the outside world. Sean has no choice but to drive there and collect her before anyone else can. He heads north in an aging Camry with a faulty alternator, woefully under-armored vis-à-vis the opposing teams. The rest of the book is basically one long and harrowing chase scene, right up to the explosive climax. Block out sufficient time to read The Good Killer in one sitting. It’ll be hard to stop once you get started.