Would you rather wake up next to a corpse or find out that your best friend might be a serial killer?
Lie Beside Me
The two faces of Louise are as follows: Sober Louise is a classical harpist, insecure, mousy and willing to go along to get along. Drunk Louise is a whole other story. She’s flirtatious, physical (both amorously and pugilistically) and something of a tabula rasa the following morning. And so it is when she wakes up next to the corpse in her bed, the sheets tacky with drying blood. Any idea who the dead man is or how he got there? Nope and nope. Although Gytha Lodge’s Lie Beside Me is nominally a police procedural, much of the narrative is delivered in the first person by Louise, who is arguably not the person best positioned to offer an unbiased account. As Louise rehashes memories and attempts to fill in her blank spaces, the story also follows the investigators and forensics team who are putting their case together and beginning to single out Louise as the prime suspect. But the case will become a fair bit more complicated before its resolution, and another decent suspect or two will present themselves. Lie Beside Me is clever, entertaining and peppered with the sorts of twists and turns that routinely propel suspense novels to the top of bestseller lists the world over.
One Half Truth
In Eva Dolan’s sixth entry in her cracking good Zigic and Ferreira series, One Half Truth, Detective Inspector Zigic and Detective Sergeant Ferreira are called upon to investigate the apparent execution of Jordan Radley, a young journalist who was shot at close range and left by the roadside. It bears the hallmarks of a gang-related slaying, but further investigation suggests that Jordan had been working on some sort of exposé, subject matter unknown due to the fact that someone, presumably the murderer, broke into Jordan’s home and made off with his laptop, phone and anything else that might provide a clue. What Zigic and Ferreira do know is that Jordan was researching the now-defunct Greenaway Engineering company; his article was presumably going to take a critical look at the devastating effects of its closure on the community. And now, seemingly everywhere the police look, the ghost of Greenaway looms large. This series’ central investigative team has morphed over the course of six books, with personalities and relationships changing and growing as one might expect in real life. That said, each book is a true standalone volume, with backstory provided where needed. Dolan’s style is evocative of Mark Billingham or Peter Robinson. One Half Truth is a no-nonsense police procedural with purposeful plotting, compelling characters and the requisite twist or two to keep the reader guessing.
We Were Never Here
In the mood for an eerie psychological thriller? Look no further than Andrea Bartz’s We Were Never Here. Meet Emily and Kristen, longtime friends who live halfway around the world from one another. Emily’s in Milwaukee, Kristen’s in Australia, but they meet annually for a girls trip to far-flung ports o’call: Vietnam, Uganda, Cambodia and, this year, a trip through the mountains and valleys of central Chile. The first two trips were idyllic, but things went sideways in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, when Emily was assaulted by a sadistic South African backpacker. Kristen came to her rescue, brandishing a handy floor lamp like a Louisville Slugger and connecting squarely with the attacker’s head to land an instant death blow. The police were never called because the two women were terrified by perennial horror stories of being locked up abroad. After a year of nightmares, Emily has more or less recovered her equilibrium. But now, the unthinkable: History repeats itself in Chile, and another backpacker lies dead on another hotel room floor at the hands of Kristen. Creepy, right? It’s about to get creepier. When Kristen suddenly moves back to Milwaukee, their relationship begins to show more cracks. The further Emily withdraws, the more obsessive Kristen becomes. And then things go very dark indeed. Of all the books I have read recently, this is the one that has “film adaptation” writ large upon it, with alluring locales, Hitchcockian tension and possibly the best pair of female leads since Thelma and Louise.
★ Moon Lake
Joe R. Lansdale has long been on my “must read ASAP (as soon as published)” list. His latest, Moon Lake, is a standalone thriller, although there is wiggle room for a series should readers demand it. Back in the 1960s, the East Texas town of Long Lincoln was intentionally submerged into Moon Lake, its residents moved to higher ground. Daniel Russell was a teenager at the time, with a ne’er-do-well father and a mother who’d recently gone missing. One night, Daniel’s father inexplicably bundled him into the family Buick and deliberately jumped a bridge guardrail, plunging the car into Moon Lake. Daniel barely survived, and his father and the car disappeared. Ten years later, Daniel receives news that the Buick has been located, along with his father’s remains and some unidentified bones in the trunk of the car. Those bones may well be his mother, who has still never been found, so Daniel returns to Long Lincoln to claim his father’s remains and to research his family’s disturbing history. When his questions intrude on the nefarious doings of the town’s elite, Daniel quickly becomes persona non grata, and it appears likely that he is destined for a second plunge into Moon Lake. Lansdale nails the storyline, nails the suspense, seriously nails the dialogue and has created yet another character worthy of a series.