Julia Keller’s eighth yarn featuring West Virginia crime fighter Bell Elkins is a heartbreaking blues song of a novel, employing beauty to evoke despair while reminding readers that even in the darkest of days, there might also be light.
The plot of The Cold Way Home gets rolling when Elkins stumbles onto a body near the overgrown ruins of an old mental hospital. The roots of the case sink deep into local family histories and the horrors that were once routine in the almost forgotten institution. The murder and the reasons behind it are revealed as ghastly, but Elkins manages to achieve some measure of justice in her economically depressed, meth-infested little town.
To read the full text of my review for the Associated Press, please click here.
After losing her law enforcement job following a tumultuous serial killer investigation in Paradise Valley, Cassie Dewell resurfaces as a struggling private detective in C.J. Box’s new crime novel, The Bitterroots.
Hired to examine what appears to be an open and shut case against a creep charged with raping his 15-year-old niece, she ventures into the mountains of western Montana to talk to the local sheriff, review the case file, and interview witnesses. There, she is met with hostility by nearly everyone in town. The tale unfolds in a landscape thick with smoke from forest fires, the gloom serving as an apt metaphor for the evil she encounters.
Box’s characters are well developed, his writing is vivid, the tension runs high, and the plot unfolds at a rapid pace. To read the full text of my Associated Press review, please click here.
In T. Jefferson Parker’s new Roland Ford thriller, The Last Good Guy, the search for a missing girl leads the private eye to a mysterious date farm with military-grade security, a security firm owned by a racist billionaire, a decommissioned nuclear plant, and a charismatic evangelist who may or may not be a pedophile.
Along the way, Ford begins to suspect that the girl’s disappearance may have a connection to a looming terrorist plot.
Although all of this may seem wildly unlikely, Parker does a fine job of pulling the threads together and maintaining the tension. Best of all, Parker tells the tale in tight, vivid prose that at times borders on the lyrical.
To read my full Associated Press review of the novel, please click here.
Joe Pike is about to climb into his Jeep on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile when he sees a man force a young woman into the back seat of a waiting car. When the car pulls away from the curb, Pike follows, catches the car at a stoplight, smashes the driver’s side window, drags the driver and his accomplice out, and roughs them up enough to give one of them a concussion.
But when the young woman is promptly kidnapped a second time, it’s apparent something more than a simple abduction is at work.
This is the 17th Cole and Pike novel by Robert Crais, putting it well past the point that many crime fiction series become repetitive or otherwise lose their steam. But A Dangerous Man — suspenseful, fast-paced, tightly written and peopled with compelling characters — is one of Crais’ best.
To read the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.
Surrogacy — in which a woman agrees to carry a baby for another person or couple — is a legal swamp in America, and in this, veteran crime novelist Stuart Neville, writing under the pen name Haylen Beck, has found the makings of an emotionally wrenching psychological thriller.
Lost You toys with readers’ emotions, leaving them uncertain until the very end about who — if anyone — is in the right. The story unravels at an anxiety-inducing pace, and shocking twists appear around every corner.
For the full text of my review for The Associated Press, please click here.
I didn’t find anything to like about The Russians, the new thriller by Ben Coes, but I WAS amused by his petulant temper tantrum over my review for the Associated Press.
I rarely write negative book reviews. I think life is too short to waste hours reading a bad book, so if I’m not enjoying one, I usually toss it away after a few chapters. But The Russians is such a train wreck that couldn’t tear my eyes away. You can read the text of my review by clicking on this link
Meanwhile, here, for your enjoyment, is the email he sent me about it last night:
“I just read your review. Thanks for spelling my name right.
“You should have passed on the review. What if someone were to critique your silly little books as if they were fact as you seemed to have done? They’re fiction you silly looking poseur. Fortunately not a lot of people read your books and hopefully that carries over to your reviews!
“You come from a mill town ‘where analogies were as rare as truffles’ or whatever your asinine bio says and have the gall to opine on my writing? I have more talent in my left testicle than you will ever have.
Perhaps next time he should let his left testicle do the writing.
Deep Dive, the new crime novel by Chris Knopf, is suspenseful, fast paced, and peopled with well-drawn characters. Knopf’s prose goes down so easily that the novel isn’t so much read as inhaled.
In the end, the protagonist, Sam Acquillo, exposes an unspeakable conspiracy involving some very wealthy people. As Sam puts it in a moment of reflection, “the rich can achieve a level of depravity and hate both invisible and incomprehensible to the rest of us.”
To read the full text of my book review for the Associated Press, please click here.
America’s war on drugs is well-trod territory in crime fiction, and T. Jefferson Parker’s Ronald Ford series and Don Winslow’s border trilogy have set a high bar for those who dare to follow.
But J. Todd Scott’s 20-year career as a DEA agent infuses his work with realism, and his writing chops will make readers wonder why he waited so long to launch his literary career.
This Side of Midnight is suspenseful, action-packed, literary, and thought-provoking.
To read the full text of my Associated Press review, please click here.
When Willie Black was 15 months old, his father Artie Lee was killed in an apparent automobile accident. That’s all Willie — police reporter for a Richmond, Virgina, newspaper — knows about his dad. But in “Evergreen,” he decides to find out, and of course, it leads to trouble.
Readers seeking the thrills of most popular crime fiction won’t find it here. Instead, they will find a textured, emotionally charged tale about coming to terms with growing up biracial in America.
To read the full text of my Associated Press review, please click here.
To learn more about the author and his work, please click here.
In nine previous crime novels, Paul Doiron’s protagonist, Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, has made more than his share of friends and enemies. Now, in Almost Midnight, two friends featured in earlier books return, and both are in desperate need of help.
As usual in a Doiron crime novel, the characters are well drawn, the Maine landscape is vividly portrayed, and Bowditch pursues his passion to protect the innocent and bring evil doers to justice regardless personal cost.
You can read the full text of my Associated Press review by clicking here.
You can learn more about Doiron and his work here.