Abir Mukherjee’s sweeping, emotional and epic Hunted proves the terrorism thriller isn’t dead.
Abir Mukherjee’s sweeping, emotional and epic Hunted proves the terrorism thriller isn’t dead.
A Black woman discovers the internet’s latest obsession dead in her vacation home in Missing White Woman. Plus, excellent new entries from Will Thomas, Anne Hillerman and Jean-Luc Bannalec in this month’s Whodunit column.
A Black woman discovers the internet’s latest obsession dead in her vacation home in Missing White Woman. Plus, excellent new entries from Will Thomas, Anne Hillerman and Jean-Luc Bannalec in this month’s Whodunit column.
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What happens in Vegas . . . never stays in Vegas. It’s no secret that the bright lights of Sin City just barely disguise a dark legacy of bad deals, gangsters and buried bodies. What happens when post-COVID craziness and cryptocurrency fads come on the scene, fatalities pile up and two estranged sisters are caught in the middle? Chris Bohjalian’s The Princess of Las Vegas is a thrilling symphony of royal impersonators, teenage hackers and run-down casinos with multiple mysteries at its core.

Actor Crissy Dowling has found her calling in the form of a long-dead princess. Her Diana Spencer cabaret act is the toast of the Buckingham Palace casino, and she enjoys every perk: a complimentary suite and cabana, a close friendship with her “Charles” and all the free avocado toast she can eat. So what if her pill-popping and bulimia make daily cameos, and her politician lover has gone back to his wife? But then Crissy’s bosses are both found dead, supposedly by suicide. At the same time, Crissy’s sister, Betsy, a wild child turned social worker, moves to Las Vegas to follow her new boyfriend into what promises to be a bright future in cryptocurrency, her newly adopted teenage daughter in tow. To make it out alive from the chaos that ensues, Crissy must evolve beyond the glamour girl persona she’s adopted on and offstage—and reconnect with the sister she blames for their mother’s tragic demise.

New York Times bestselling author Bohjalian is no stranger to quirky folks in increasingly twisted situations, as fans of his 2018 novel, The Flight Attendant, which was adapted into a buzzy, darkly hilarious HBO series starring Kaley Cuoco, already know. In Crissy, whose reverence for Diana has escalated into full-blown obsession, and Betsy, who strives to save everyone while also obtaining her own personal prosperity, Bohjalian has created two distinctively fascinating narrators that he then places in a setting where anything can happen, including copious violence. The Princess of Las Vegas will leave the reader with both a yearning for Sin City excitement and a deep sigh of relief at being exactly where they are.

Chris Bohjalian’s latest thriller, The Princess of Las Vegas is a thrilling symphony of run-down casinos, teenage hackers and royal impersonators with multiple mysteries at its core.
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Veronica Speedwell, Deanna Raybourn’s lepidopterist turned sleuth, returns for the ninth time with all of her signature wit, wry observations and keen detective work.

A Grave Robbery finds Veronica and her lover, Stoker, faced with a strange and unsettling case on their home shores of England. When their patron, a collector of natural wonders and (occasionally) unnatural curiosities, acquires a lifelike wax model, he assigns Stoker the task of inserting a clockwork mechanism into his “Sleeping Beauty” so that she will appear to breathe. Much to their horror, Stoker and Veronica discover that the model is not a waxwork at all, but a meticulously preserved cadaver: a young woman who was pregnant at the time of her death. The pair embark on a quest to discover Beauty’s true identity, ascertain the means of her demise and determine if foul play could have been involved.

As with the other novels in her series, Raybourn revels in the minutiae of the Victorian era, this time providing readers with an ever-fascinating study of the period’s rituals—and technological advances—regarding mourning and the preservation of the dead. Nods to Mary Shelley as well as Burke and Hare compliment the macabre subject matter, which lends a darker spin to the proceedings this time around.

Longtime readers of the series will be pleased, and perhaps relieved, to find Veronica and Stoker in lockstep in this installment, with any romantic conflict set aside for the time being. As in prior books, their relationship offers a delightful counterpoint to the tension of the central mystery. An abundance of secondary characters, including fan favorites like J.J. Butterworth and Lady Rose, make frequent appearances (which may overwhelm readers who haven’t started from book one). Raybourn also introduces a young mortician named Plumbtree, who may become a series regular from hereon.

Fans of the Veronica Speedwell series certainly won’t be disappointed with this latest, more gothic mystery—and they’ll be thrilled to see Veronica and Stoker happily in love.

Fans of the Veronica Speedwell mysteries certainly won’t be disappointed with this latest, more gothic installment—and they’ll be thrilled to see Veronica and Stoker happily in love.
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STARRED REVIEW

March 12, 2024

9 true crime-inspired mysteries and thrillers

With the huge boom in true crime books, podcasts and documentaries has come a parallel wave of mysteries and thrillers that examine the pleasures and pitfalls of the genre. These books form a literary hall of mirrors, turning the voyeuristic gaze of true crime back upon the reader. You may not like what you find.

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Book jacket image for Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

Bright Young Women

Jessica Knoll’s Bright Young Women is a primal scream for women past and present.
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Book jacket image for Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead by Jenny Hollander

Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead

Engagingly twisty with a memorable cast of characters, Jenny Hollander’s Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead explores the aftermath of a journalism school massacre.
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Book jacket image for Rabbit Hole by Kate Brody

Rabbit Hole

Kate Brody’s debut novel, Rabbit Hole, is both a suspenseful mystery and a provocative portrait of a broken family.
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Book jacket image for Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera

Listen for the Lie

The snarky and complex Listen for the Lie is riveting all the way through to its jaw-dropper of a resolution.
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Recent Features

These books turn the voyeuristic gaze of true crime back upon the reader. You may not like what you find.
STARRED REVIEW

Our top 10 books for March 2024

The best new books of the month include highly anticipated follow-ups from Sloane Crosley, Sasha LaPointe and Juan Gómez-Jurado.
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Book jacket image for 49 Days by Agnes Lee

49 Days is an unusual, profoundly moving graphic novel whose elegance belies its complexity and whose emotional impact only grows upon rereading.

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Book jacket image for All That Grows by Jack Wong

In All That Grows, Jack Wong evokes the soft haze of childhood summers where a small stand of trees might be seen as a huge

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Book jacket image for Black Wolf by Juan Gomez-Jurado

The Antonia Scott series is hands-down the best suspense trilogy to come along since Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

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A lushly crafted tale of a Maine fishing village cursed by a mermaid, The Moorings of Mackerel Sky is a debut to submerge yourself in.

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Book jacket image for Mrs. Gulliver by Valerie Martin

In Mrs. Gulliver, Valerie Martin offers us an idyll, perhaps even a comedy. All’s well that ends well. We hope.

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Book jacket image for The Phoenix Bride by Natasha Siegel

Natasha Siegel’s beautifully written The Phoenix Bride pushes readers to reconsider what happily ever after looks like.

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Book jacket image for Thunder Song by Sasha LaPointe

Thunder Song is an essay collection full of sensitive meditations and powerful observations from Coast Salish author Sasha LaPointe.

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Book jacket image for The Unclaimed by Pamela Prickett

Gripping and groundbreaking, The Unclaimed investigates the Americans who are abandoned in death and what they tell us about how we treat the living.

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Book jacket image for The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez

Cristina Henriquez’s polyvocal novel is a moving and powerful epic about the human cost of building the Panama Canal. It’s easy to imagine, in these

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Novelist, essayist, humorist and critic Sloane Crosley shows a remarkable willingness to face the dark questions that follow a suicide.

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The best new books of the month include highly anticipated follow-ups from Sloane Crosley, Sasha LaPointe and Juan Gómez-Jurado.
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Ian Moore’s culinary cozy mystery Death and Fromage brings readers back to the picturesque Vallée de Follet in France, where murder is on the menu.

British expat Richard Ainsworth enjoys a quiet life running a bed-and-breakfast in Vallée de Follet, Moore’s peaceful stand-in for the Loire Valley. A middle-aged film scholar, Richard prefers the slow pace of the French countryside and the company of his beloved hens. But his tranquil life is challenged when a culinary scandal explodes involving feuding Michelin-starred chefs, cheese sabotage, nasty reviews and a possible murder. Valérie d’Orçay, a beautiful and mysterious return guest at the B&B, decides to investigate and asks for Richard’s help, bringing perhaps too much excitement to the expat’s life. As the bodies pile up, Valérie and Richard uncover a decades-old betrayal that’s about much more than cheese.

In the second installment of his Follet Valley series, Moore captures the beauty and drama of life in a small town. Richard is an unconventional hero: He’s unassuming and quick to deploy self-deprecating humor. Valérie, his lodger and investigation partner, fits the sleuth bill much better. She’s beautiful, brave and an exceedingly competent bounty hunter. They’re an unlikely pair, but they work well together while unraveling the many mysteries that surround them. 

Moore’s wry humor is a highpoint of Death and Fromage, as Richard’s self-deprecating British wit is often at odds with his French neighbors to great comedic effect. Secondary characters like the dogged commissaire Henri LaPierre and Richard’s estranged wife, Clare, provide both tension and laughs as they circle Richard and the investigation. Clare is a hilarious force of nature, often steamrolling Richard to get what she wants. 

The series would benefit, however, from deepening the characters of Valérie and Richard. It would be nice to see Richard come into his own, rather than following the lead of others, and while Valérie is an entertaining femme fatale, she has potential to be so much more. Hopefully, both characters will grow in future installments of this charming series.

In his second Follet Valley cozy mystery, author Ian Moore captures the beauty and drama of life in the French countryside.

Careful listening and watchful waiting are essential to every investigator’s toolkit, and the characters in award-winning Dublin Murder Squad author Tana French’s suspenseful, slow-burning thriller The Hunter elevate those skills to an art form—not just former Chicago detective Cal Hooper but also his neighbors in Ardnakelty, a tiny village on Ireland’s west coast.

Since readers met Cal in 2020’s The Searcher, he and 15-year-old villager Trey Reddy have established a close rapport and started a carpentry business. Cal is also dating Lena, who’s conflicted about remaining in her hometown: Ardnakelty is lovely, but the shadow of the mountain often feels foreboding, and its residents revel in gossip and grudges. 

The village can be a bit of a pressure cooker, and is especially so this summer: It’s exceptionally hot and dry, and the locals are edgy about the prospect of crop failure and financial hardship. The farmers are getting bored, and as Cal’s amusingly insouciant yet vaguely menacing neighbor Mart tells him, “Boredom makes a man’s mind restless, and then he tries to cure the restlessness by doing foolish shite.”

That’s when Trey’s father, Johnny, reappears after four years away doing who-knows-what. He’s quite charming, wholly unreliable and has a proposition for the farmers: There’s gold in the mountain, and some has washed down to the land—perhaps their land. Would they like to invest in a plan to extract that gold, as led by Johnny and his business partner, a Londoner named Cillian Rushborough? The farmers are intrigued, while Cal, Lena and Trey are skeptical. Their trepidation intensifies as the planning process stirs up hostility among the townspeople, and rises to a fever pitch when a man is found murdered. Who among them did it? And who might be next? 

The Hunter’s finely crafted internal monologues and nerve-wracking dialogues ably convey the unique tensions of living in a remote small town, especially when one is uncertain which neighbor (or neighbors) might’ve committed a crime. It’s an immersive, thought-provoking tale that revels in the quiet moments—whether that of conversational gaps more revealing than spoken words, or a place of natural beauty that offers respite but never promises peace.

Tana French’s immersive, thought-provoking The Hunter revels in the quiet moments, but knows true peace is elusive.

Podcasts, subreddits and social media: There are countless ways to feed constantly hungry true crime fanatics. But where does lore end and truth begin?

Lucy Chase is an Angeleno with a deadly secret . . . that she can’t even remember. The snarky antihero of Amy Tintera’s Listen for the Lie has spent years away from her small, less-than-charming hometown of Plumpton, Texas, where one night after a wedding, her best friend, Savannah “Savvy” Harper, was found dead in the woods. Lucy was found on the side of the road covered in blood and bruises, Savvy’s skin under her fingernails. Everyone thinks Lucy did it—even her parents—but so far no one’s been able to prove it, though Ben Owens hopes to find answers with his popular true crime podcast, “Listen for the Lie.” After Lucy reluctantly returns to Plumpton to attend her beloved grandmother’s 80th birthday party, she’s determined to avoid Ben and his probing questions, her nice-guy ex-husband, Matt, and the voices in her head urging her to kill. There’s just one problem: Ben is incredibly persuasive and exceedingly attractive. Will Ben’s interviews with Lucy and the citizens of Plumpton lead her to finally remember what happened to Savvy—and to herself? 

Tintera is both a New York Times bestselling young adult author and a Texas native, and her adult debut features a protagonist who’s as laugh-out-loud funny as she is complex. Little does her family know, Lucy is a successful pseudonymous author of romantic comedies who’s worried that her burgeoning career will be damaged if she’s unmasked as a potential murderer. Skillfully alternating between Ben’s podcast transcripts and Lucy’s compelling narration, Listen for the Lie grabs ahold of the reader from its first line—“A podcaster has decided to ruin my life, so I’m buying a chicken.”—and doesn’t let go until the jaw-dropper of a resolution.

Unlike Lucy, Theodora “Teddy” Angstrom of Kate Brody’s Rabbit Hole still lives in her hometown; she even teaches at her old high school. A decade after Teddy’s wild child of an older sister, Angie, left for a party when she was 18, never to be seen again, Teddy’s father intentionally drives off a bridge, leaving Teddy and her now thrice-widowed Irish immigrant mother to reckon with their complicated and tragic family history. What begins as a casual glance at Reddit threads about Angie’s disappearance leads Teddy down the titular rabbit hole—and to speculation that Angie is, in fact, still alive. Does Teddy’s estranged half brother hold the key? What about Angie’s teenage crush, Bill, now a local handyman and conspiracy theorist whom Teddy becomes romantically involved with? And why is Reddit user and local college student Mickey almost too eager to help Teddy find answers? 

Brody’s debut novel is both a suspenseful mystery and a provocative portrait of a broken family. Teddy is a sharply intelligent and rather cinematically flawed heroine—with her weaknesses for alcohol, junk food and, eventually, firearms—who readers will nonetheless find themselves rooting for. Cases involving young, pretty missing women are veritable catnip for the online true crime community, who can and do project endless speculations, theories and questions that often damage more than they resolve. Teddy’s story urges readers to consider the real people behind the clickbait, who often hunger for closure to no avail.

Two female-driven mysteries explore our cultural fascination with tragedy.
STARRED REVIEW

Top 10 books for February 2024

Beloved and buzzy authors such as Tia Williams, Francis Spufford and Katherine Arden took new and exciting directions in February!
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The author of the marvelous Winterlight trilogy makes her grand return to historical fantasy with this haunting tale set during World War I. Former nurse

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Book jacket image for A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams

Tia Williams broke out in a big way in 2021 with her emotional second-chance romance, Seven Days in June, and her follow-up novel sounds like

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Book jacket image for The Last Stand by Antwan Eady

Antwan Eady, author of the lovely Nigel and the Moon, unites with Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey! The acclaimed sibling duo wrote and illustrated This Old

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Book jacket image for Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar

It’s a special gift when a favorite poet writes a novel. Martyr! is Kaveh Akbar’s fiction debut, after poetry collections Calling a Wolf a Wolf

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In 1911, 12 Black men were delivered to the forest in rural Maryland and began building their new residence, the State Hospital for the Negro

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Award-winning author Amber McBride teams up with acclaimed poets Taylor Byas and Erica Martin to curate an electric, extraordinary lineup of contemporary and classic Black

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Book jacket image for City of Laughter by Temim Fruchter

Temim Fruchter’s remarkable debut novel is a book full of belly laughs, intergenerational wonder, queer beauty, Jewish history and storytelling that reshapes worlds.

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Book jacket image for Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford

Visit an alternate America where European colonization never took place in this intricately plotted police procedural from Francis Spufford.

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Book jacket image for The Gardener of Lashkar Gah by Larisa Brown

Larisa Brown’s The Gardener of Lashkar Gah tells the harrowing story of the Afghan aid workers that NATO left to their fates when the Taliban

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Book jacket image for The Cancer Factory by Jim Morris

Jim Morris’ urgent, heartbreaking The Cancer Factory traces how a known toxic chemical destroyed the health, happiness and lives of Goodyear factory workers.

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Recent Reviews

Beloved and buzzy authors such as Tia Williams, Francis Spufford and Katherine Arden took new and exciting directions in February!
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Suppose, just for a moment, that the European colonizers of America hadn’t brought a whole host of diseases that wiped out a majority of the Indigenous population, and that Natives had thrived, rather than been decimated. What would Prohibition-era America have looked like, politically, economically and culturally?

In the alt-universe police procedural mystery Cahokia Jazz, Francis Spufford takes this premise and runs with it. It’s as if Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle met up with Tony Hillerman’s Skinwalkers in a 1922 speakeasy. 

Apart from the setting—the state of Cahokia, carved out of eastern Missouri and surrounding states—the story starts off in familiar, if somewhat gruesome, territory. Two detectives, Joe Barrow and Phineas Drummond, are investigating a murder in which the victim has had his heart cut out. On his face, the word bashli (from Anopa, the city’s Native lingua franca, meaning hit or cut) has been scrawled in blood. 

At first, the murder seems to have possibly been some sort of Aztec ritual sacrifice, but as the investigation progresses, it’s discovered that the deceased had links to the Ku Klux Klan, who very much want to replace Cahokia’s Native power structure with one of their own. 

The book’s debt to the likes of Raymond Chandler is evident throughout, as Detective Barrow steps into the hallowed role of the untarnished, unvarnished romantic who makes his way doggedly down these mean streets. And on occasion, Spufford’s language equals that of noir masters of yore: “He had opened the box at the city’s heart, and found it contained a secret, and a dark one, a grim sacrifice, but not a snake or a scorpion, not anything beyond the reach of the hope that every morning upholds hearts and cities. And now he was free to go. The city was done with him.”

There’s a bit of a learning curve for the reader, as unfamiliar language and culture weave through the intricately plotted narrative, but Spufford propels the Jazz Age action to a climax that is at once unanticipated and seemingly inevitable.

Visit an alternate America where European colonization never took place in this intricately plotted police procedural from Francis Spufford.

Dark academia is a hot aesthetic for a reason: A lot of bad behavior can play out behind ivy-covered walls, especially if it involves student-teacher power dynamics or competition for the best grades, internships and career opportunities. But what happens after graduation, when diplomas are conferred and jobs taken, but copious scars remain? Jenny Hollander’s Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead explores the aftermath of a journalism school massacre, and competing quests to find out what really happened . . . or cover it up.

A Londoner living in New York City, Charlotte “Charlie” Colbert is engaged to the handsome heir of a publishing magnate and conquering the media world as editor-in-chief of a trendy magazine. Like most New Yorkers, Charlie’s in therapy. Only in her case, it’s to process a nearly decade-old trauma, when Charlie survived a Christmas Eve attack at the prestigious Carroll University graduate school of journalism. Charlie’s satisfied with her slow progress in therapy and keeps her guard up elsewhere in her life. But then her former classmate Steph Anderson, the first person to discover the carnage and now a network news anchor, announces her participation in and financial backing of a feature film that will supposedly reveal the secrets of that fateful night. Charlie is determined to prevent the production at all costs—because she knows what actually went down on “Scarlet Christmas,” and that public revelation could destroy everything she’s built.

The director of content strategy at Marie Claire and a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, debut author Hollander is uniquely equipped to probe the minds of ambitious and extremely stressed young reporters. Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead is a tautly paced thriller that’s not short on emotion as it deftly explores tight friendships, fledgling romances and constantly shifting alliances among young 20-somethings and the media professionals they become. Engagingly twisty with a memorable cast of characters, this one-sitting read is best experienced with a strong drink on the side.

Engagingly twisty with a memorable cast of characters, Jenny Hollander’s Everyone Who Can Forgive Me Is Dead explores the aftermath of a journalism school massacre.
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Tracy Sierra’s debut novel is so terrifying that it can easily be considered horror-adjacent. A claustrophobic examination of the “freeze” response to trauma (as opposed to “fight” or “flight”), Nightwatching follows a mother desperate to protect her two young children amid unthinkable circumstances.

We open with an unnamed single mother half-asleep during a blizzard, listening for signs that her sleepwalking daughter may be wandering their old farmhouse. What she hears instead is an intruder ascending their creaky staircase, and the next several scenes unfold with horrifying slowness. Our main character can barely see the intruder in the dark, but feels an eerie sense of familiarity with him. With exquisite care, she manages to smuggle her two young children downstairs and into a secret compartment built into the old house, where they wait like cornered animals.

We never learn the name of our narrator, but she pulls the reader into the story with a point of view so close it nearly lapses into stream of consciousness. As she waits silently, comforting her petrified children and trying to keep them quiet, we see flashes of her life. In the past, she has always responded to shock and crisis with silence, making herself smaller, invisible. When she’s startled by a college boyfriend playfully tackling her from behind, she collapses, unable to make a sound. When her abusive father-in-law slaps her while in a rage, she’s unable to sever their relationship, instead trying to find fault in herself.

Sierra argues that there is value and bravery in the freeze response, showing how her protagonist’s ability to stay small and quiet protects her children with as much valor as a confrontation. But when she’s pushed beyond her limits, our heroine goes to extraordinary lengths to protect her family and advocate for herself, even when the police later question her story. Gaslighting and misogyny, evidenced not only by law enforcement but by the broader society around her, threaten the narrator’s family almost as much as the intruder, who vanishes as mysteriously as he came. Convinced he will return, she tries to make the police see and believe the threat against her and her children, despite her wavering voice.

Nightwatching is best suited for the thriller reader with nerves of steel—while rarely violent, it is a truly scary book. The intense plunge into the main character’s traumatic experience feels incredibly real and immediate, and the suspense doesn’t let up until the last moments of the novel.

Nightwatching is best suited for the thriller reader with nerves of steel—while rarely violent, it is a truly scary book.
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STARRED REVIEW

February 6, 2024

Two thrilling new takes on noir

Grab your trenchcoat and a stiff drink—you’ll need it.

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By the time she was 12, Ámbar Mondragón knew how to treat bullet wounds. When she turned 13, her father, Victor, gave her a sawed-off shotgun plus shooting and hot-wiring lessons. And as Nicolás Ferraro’s My Favorite Scar opens, 15-year-old Ámbar is tending to her father’s latest injury: He’s returned from a night out with a bullet hole in his upper chest and his murdered friend Giovanni’s body in the passenger seat of his car.

To Ámbar, this horrifying turn of events isn’t all that shocking. Rather, it’s just another terrible moment in the life she’s lived since the age of 9, when Grandma Nuria, who cared for Ámbar after her mother abandoned her, had a fatal heart attack. Dad came to get her, and Ámbar since adjusted to an existence rife with violence and loneliness, one where she wonders if she’ll ever feel happy or secure. After all, while the titular “favorite scar” refers to Dad’s tattoo bearing her name, “He might carry my name on his skin, but he never held me in his arms. He chose my name, but he was never around until he didn’t have any other choice.”

Now, Ámbar has to tag along as Dad embarks on a singularly vicious road trip, determined to exact bloody revenge on those who betrayed him and Giovanni. My Favorite Scar is a nihilistic road novel of unrelenting bleakness that takes readers on a hair-raising tour of Argentina’s criminal underworld. The duo stop at bars, burial sites and hideout shacks where Dad delivers interrogations, warnings and beatings as Ámbar plays lookout or getaway driver, often with sawed-off shotgun in hand.

As in Cruz, his first novel translated into English, Ferraro explores the effects of criminals’ choices on children who become unwitting and/or unwilling accomplices. His deftly created suspense builds with every mile driven, every fake ID used, every drop of blood spilled. Will the cycle of violence ever end? Will Ámbar ever be anything but “what other people have left behind”? My Favorite Scar is a pitch-black coming-of-age tale that reverberates with oft-poetically expressed pain and sadness—and maybe, just maybe, a hint of hope.

Nicolas Ferraro’s My Favorite Scar is a nihilistic, hair-raising road trip through Argentina’s criminal underworld.

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Grab your trenchcoat and a stiff drink—you’ll need it.
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The Clinic

Celebrities in rehab: Newsworthy, if not especially surprising. Celebrities dying in rehab: front page, above the fold for at least a day, maybe even a week. But what about celebrities murdered in rehab? That’s the “what if” at the center of Cate Quinn’s deft new thriller, The Clinic. Let’s start with The Clinic itself, which is easily the creepiest setting for a suspense novel since the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. The luxurious rehab center is set atop a remote oceanside cliff somewhere along the Oregon coast, awash in salt mist and mystery. When pop star Haley Banks dies of a heroin overdose at the facility, her sister, Meg, doesn’t believe the official story. Meg is a casino cop of sorts and, after some soul-searching, decides to launch an investigation of her sister’s death by posing as a patient seeking treatment. This will not be much of a stretch for Meg, as she is addicted to both alcohol and Oxycontin. If she is wrong about Haley’s death, she may get clean; if she is right, she may get killed. The story is told in the first-person perspectives of two different narrators: the aforementioned Meg and Cara, the manager of The Clinic. As they alternate chapters, Quinn tightly ratchets up the suspense. And the big reveal? I never saw it coming.

The Wharton Plot

Before starting Mariah Fredericks’ The Wharton Plot, I decided to read up a bit on Edith Wharton. I knew she had been the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize, for her 1920 novel The Age of Innocence. Still, I had essentially written her off as the poor man’s Dorothy Parker, sharp of tongue but lacking in humor. But The Wharton Plot showed me how very wrong I was. Fredericks’ mystery reads like a story from an earlier time, as it should. It conjures up the ghosts of American aristocracy in much the same manner as an F. Scott Fitzgerald or a Nathanael West novel, and is filled with historical figures such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and his extended family, and muckraking writer David Graham Phillips, whose real-life murder is investigated by Wharton in the novel. It may take a chapter or two to settle into the narrative, which is written a la one of Wharton’s own novels, but once that hurdle is cleared, the book is simply unputdownable. And as with a healthy meal, at the end you feel a sense of accomplishment, as you have done something good for yourself.

The Busy Body

It is, I think, not the easiest thing for a man to write a story from the perspective of a woman. That said, author Kemper Donovan has done that so well in his fun and entertaining mystery The Busy Body that I was totally convinced he was a woman until I read his bio. (I get it that as a male reviewer, I am not the definitive authority on the accuracy of his portrayal, so I will simply say that I never questioned it. Not even once.) The story begins with Dorothy Gibson, a former senator who has arranged for a ghostwriter to pen her autobiography. While they are together at Dorothy’s home in Maine, a neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances, and the politician and her ghostwriter (who is an engaging and offbeat character, even though she is never given a name) launch an amateur investigation into the death. There are overtones of Agatha Christie and Knives Out, both in the unlikeliness of the mystery and the cleverness of its solution. This is, I guess, no surprise as Donovan hosts the podcast “All About Agatha.”

The Ghost Orchid

Psychologist Alex Delaware is back, along with his sidekick, Los Angeles cop Milo Sturgis. Their arrangement is somewhat odd in that it is exactly the opposite of the typical setup in which a cop is the central character and a specialist serves as foil for the heroics. But boy, does it ever work. Author Jonathan Kellerman has created one of the most enduring and acclaimed series in suspense fiction, the latest installment of which is The Ghost Orchid. The tony LA enclave of Bel Air provides the setting for the story, which begins with the murder of Gio Aggiunta, a wealthy Italian high-society ne’er-do-well, and Meagin March, his older—and married—mistress. Both have been shot, and the police cannot determine whether one was the primary target, or if it was just a burglary gone wrong. Nothing seems to be missing, so initially they fixate on March’s husband, a multimillionaire investor, because hey, it’s always the husband, right? But as it turns out, Gio has been the “correspondent” in several affairs with married women, which raises the question: If it is the husband, which husband? Kellerman’s prose is fast-paced without being in any way hurried or abrupt, and Delaware and Sturgis play off one another exceptionally well. The characters are as comfortable as old slippers, fictional friends whose company and adventures readers have enjoyed for decades. The Ghost Orchid is another excellent addition to a series full of excellent editions.

Mariah Fredericks’ new historical mystery turns the magisterial author into a gumshoe and the latest Alex Delaware novel wows our mystery columnist.

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There’s no going back in this apocalyptic home-invasion thriller

Praised by horrormeister Stephen King, Paul Tremblay’s shocking new novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, is an often graphic account of one family’s ordeal when their vacation is shattered in a cult-like home invasion. We asked Tremblay about the book’s origins, its dark path and his inner fears that helped forge the novel.

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