Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best Books of 2011: Crime Fiction, Part II

This is the second crime fiction segment of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2011 feature. You can see other sections as follows: Best Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, Best Art & Culture, Best Biography, Best Books for Children and Young Adults, Best Cookbooks, Best Science Fiction/Fantasy and Best Crime Fiction (part I).

The Gentlemen’s Hour by Don Winslow (Simon & Schuster)
Although Winslow’s follow-up to 2008’s The Dawn Patrol has been out in England for several years now, it was a wise move for Simon & Schuster to hold it until after the release of Savages (2010). Why? Because that grenade of a novel proved that Don Winslow is a madman who will go there. That makes this sequel all the more compelling, because we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Winslow will kill off the characters we know and love -- from laid-back surf detective Boone Daniels to 12-toed Hang Twelve -- if it serves the story. That makes The Gentlemen’s Hour one of the most gripping books of the year -- including a 75-page tour de force that will have you turning pages with both fright and delight. Winslow continues to challenge our assumptions of what a detective series can -- and should -- be. Challenge is the wrong word: Dude takes a sledgehammer to them. -- Brendan M. Leonard

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward (Putnam)
In this co-authored novel, plot points are discarded and later brought back, the authors -- who used to date each other -- bicker in footnotes and in between chapters, the characterizations of certain players seem to change periodically, characters die and then spring back to life (in one instance, more than once), big events take place but are ignored for ages (a plane crashes, and nobody seems to care) and after Lutz contends that Hayward is writing too “smart,” he takes revenge in the next chapter he composes (the authors alternate) in a hilarious way. The results of all these efforts are brilliant. Heads You Lose is a meta-love letter to the art of writing and what a bad idea it can be when friends decide to pen a book together. It’s great satire, and I was dying to know what horrible crime against literature would happen next. We all know, from her novels about the dysfunctional Spellman family, that Lisa Lutz is a delightful writer, so the real discovery here is that David Hayward has a real gift for composing dialogue. I hope Hayward has a novel or three left in him. If Donald E. Westlake were still alive, he would embrace Hayward and Lutz and give them a standing ovation for this comic masterpiece. Bravo, I say. -- Cameron Hughes

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur)
In his second outing (after last year’s The Complaints), Detective Inspector Malcolm Fox and his team from Professional Ethics and Standards find themselves in the coastal town of Kirkcaldy, north of Edinburgh, investigating some of their own. Days earlier, Detective Constable Paul Carter had been found guilty of misconduct. What made the case unusual is that the complaint was lodged by that copper’s uncle Alan, himself a retired officer. In the wake of Detective Carter’s conviction, several fellow officers find themselves suspected of helping to mount a cover-up, and Fox and his team get the predictable runaround from everyone at the station. Fox decides to speak with Carter’s uncle, running him to earth at his remote cottage. Their meeting isn’t all that helpful, but not long afterwards Alan Carter is found shot. The locals chalk it up to suicide, but Fox isn’t buying it: the senior Carter had been working on a cold case involving a lawyer who’d been killed in 1985. Assumed to be the victim of a car crash on a lonely rural road, a bullet hole had been found in the lawyer’s head once he reached the hospital. There are too many coincidences here to please Fox. His investigation will take him back to a different era, in which paramilitary groups were plotting Scottish independence, and carry forward again to the present day, when people have moved on, established other lives and are prepared to kill so that the past remains the past. Plotting is one of Rankin’s many strengths, and The Impossible Dead is like a Chinese puzzle in 3D, intricate and layered and as good as it gets. As Fox works his way through a labyrinth of lies and deception, he teases out the relationship between a gun that should not exist and a young woman who was never alive. Once again, Rankin demonstrates how a novel with nuanced characters and a finely paced plot can hold its own against stories boasting nonstop, mindless violence any day. -- Jim Napier

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton)
Anybody who thinks fictional detectives from Scandinavia must be suicidal or homicidal, and inevitably sacrifice parts of their souls with each new case, has not yet enjoyed Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen’s series of crime thrillers about Department Q, the first of which -- The Keeper of Lost Causes (originally published in 2007 as Kvinden i buret, or The Woman in the Cage) -- was released this year in an English translation. (The UK edition is titled Mercy.) Yes, the central crime here is grim, but the book’s tone is not irredeemably dark. Adler-Olsen has written two non-fiction books about American film comedian Groucho Marx, which may have given him a taste for outrageous characters and situational humor, both of which enliven Keeper. The star here, if you can really call him that, is Copenhagen homicide detective Carl Mørck, who has recently survived a violent episode that left his partner paralyzed and soured Mørck on the police work he’s done so well for so long. All he wants to do now is find a quiet corner where he can run out his time with the Copenhagen constabulary unmolested by responsibilities. So it’s fitting that he should be appointed to head up an entirely bogus new unit -- Department Q -- that is supposedly charged with closing cold cases, but is actually just a convenient pocket into which politicians with tough-on-crime credentials in need of burnishing can toss government money. Only one problem: among the cases Mørck’s handed is one involving a young former member of the Danish parliament, Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago and is presumed dead. Goaded by his new assistant, Hafez el-Assad, a curiously able immigrant from the Middle East, Mørck embarks on an investigation that may prove he hasn’t lost his cop’s touch entirely, and may save a life nobody even knew was still savable. The villains in The Keeper of Lost Causes are shallowly reprehensible, but Adler-Olsen’s exposition of clues is captivating as well as credible, and the more we see of Mørck and Assad the better. -- J. Kingston Pierce

Liar’s Kiss by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano (Top Shelf)
Rumpled stud Nick Archer may not be much of a private eye, but he sure can be a dick in Liar’s Kiss, an effort that marks the full-length graphic-novel debut of both writer Skillman and artist Soriano. Nick’s got a sweet deal going: he’s been hired by a jealous rich man with more money than sense to keep an eye on his hot cha-cha trophy wife. The problem is that Abbey is a little too easy on the eyes -- and almost as horny as Nick is. Together, the bored babe and the morally flexible gumshoe cook up a plot -- between torrid blasts of slap-and-tickle -- to string the old coot along. And then, like a zillion other tawdry pulp tales and noir films, murder rears its ugly little head. When hubby assumes permanent room temperature, Abbey is the prime suspect. Except ... she was in bed with Nick at the time. Or was she? The tangled plot offers up at least a few head-spinning coincidences that may or may not be coincidences after all, and some unexpected hops that fully utilize the form of the graphic novel (and will reward sharp-eyed readers). The author, an art director responsible for many of the Criterion Collections’ finest DVD covers, conjures up a deliciously tawdry noir tale of greed, lust and hidden agendas that would be right at home in a RKO crime flick from the ’40s, but feels decidedly, thoroughly modern. He also sure knows how to pick artists. Jhomar Soriano’s sketchy, rough-but-right black-and-white artwork is reminiscent at times of José Sampayo and José Muñoz’s classic P.I. comic, Alack Sinner, making Liar’s Kiss more than just a stunning debut; it’s one of the most satisfying noir tales -- in any medium -- this year. -- Kevin Burton Smith

Perfect People by Peter James (Macmillan UK)
This is not a crime novel per se, but a topical international techno-thriller, and a remarkable one to boot. Author and filmmaker James, best known for his highly successful Brighton-based police procedurals featuring Detective Roy Grace, started his writing career penning thrillers and horror fiction; Perfect People expands his horizons further, being a cautionary tale of genetics and madness. It opens in the United States, where we find Californians Dr. John Klaesson and his wife, Naomi, getting over the loss of their 4-year-old child to a rare genetic condition, and planning for another child. Since they are both carriers of that deadly genetic condition, these two fear the odds of it striking again. So they turn to the mysterious geneticist, Dr. Leo Dettore, who offers a gene-screening process to prevent the unthinkable taking place once more. Because of the complexity of laws and ethics that make genetic manipulation a minefield, Dettore performs his “technique” aboard a ship in international waters. Dettore’s procedure offers an added dimension -- the ability to “design” their offspring, and we’re not talking about just sex and hair color here. There are many moral and ethical dilemmas to overcome, not only for the Klaessons, but also for readers. The debate over the rights and wrongs of “designer babies” provides an interesting dimension to this thriller, and one that attracts the attention of a millennial religious cult. Dettore soon dies in a helicopter tragedy, and with Naomi pregnant, husband John realizes that their own lives are at risk, so the Klaessons flee America for Great Britain. The pace of this yarn is ratcheted up further when the couple discover they’re expecting twins, a boy and a girl. But once those children are born, the Klaessons’ problems really begin, because their babies are not what was expected. Endowed with unearthly intelligence, the Klaesson children are “more than human,” and soon the dangers facing John and Naomi are far closer to home. A surreal journey of ethics, science and religion -- and as far away from the dark alleyways of Roy Grace’s Brighton as one could get -- Perfect People is a blindingly hot read set at the edges of our reality and making clear that James can carve a thriller as twisty as DNA’s double-helix. -- Ali Karim

Ranchero by Rick Gavin (Minotaur)
I love a great first novel that sticks with me and shows me promise in a young writer. I love the discovery and wonder, and then I love bothering all my friends and acquaintances by putting a book in their hands and saying, “Read this. It’s special. Thank me later.” Ranchero is such a book. Its story takes place in the Mississippi Delta region and stars repossession agent Nick Reid, who goes out on the seemingly simple job of retrieving a flat-screen TV from a white-trash couple. (I just love “repo men” as protagonists, whether in Joe Gores’ DKA novels or other works of fiction. My dad was in that same business in San Diego, California, back in the 1970s and ’80s. It’s easy to get a plot going with repo men.) Naturally, things go wrong for Nick. He’s hit over the head with a fireplace shovel and the couple take their television and escape in the mint-condition, 1969 hot-pink Ranchero that Nick had borrowed for this assignment from his elderly landlady. Together with his huge black friend and fellow repo man, the fast-food-loving Desmond, Nick gives chase. He wants that Ranchero back, if nothing else. I’m a big fan of road-trip novels, especially those taking in scenery with which I am not familiar. Author Gavin proves to be a great tour guide, talking in these pages about the beauty and horror of the Mississippi Delta. The Bush recession hit that area hard, emptying many of its towns and leaving them vulnerable to thieves. I learned from this book, as well, that the Delta is quite ethnically diverse, because after slavery was outlawed in the United States in the 19th century, plantation owners in that northwestern corner of Mississippi still needed workers, so they hired foreign immigrants, who started families -- and the rest is history. Gavin can be a really funny writer, in addition to being skilled. He’s given Nick Reid a tremendous voice, one part Truman Capote and one part Jason Lee’s protagonist from the 2005-2009 TV show My Name Is Earl. Gavin manages to locate the hidden depths of characters and lay them bare for all to see. His work reminds me a lot of what Texas novelist Joe R. Lansdale (Devil Red) has offered over the years. Rick Gavin is the real thing. I’m eager to see what he can come up with next. -- Cameron Hughes

The Retribution by Val McDermid (Little, Brown UK)
Building on her compelling British TV series, Wire in the Blood (2002-2009), in The Retribution author McDermid confronts forensic profiler Dr. Tony Hill with a former nemesis. Jacko Vance is a brutal psychopath who murdered 17 girls and a police officer years earlier, and Hill helped put him in prison. Facing a lifetime behind bars with no chance of parole, Vance promised himself he would escape. Now he has made good on his word, and is looking to take revenge on Hill and DCI Carol Jordan for locking him up. Putting Vance in prison deprived him of the one aspect of his twisted life that gave it meaning: kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing young girls; and it made him utterly dependent on the decisions of others. Finally sprung, the manipulative psychopath is determined to exploit the vulnerabilities of the people who were responsible for his incarceration. Factor in the inevitable screw-ups, a crime reporter determined to get a scoop, and obstructive senior officers more interested in departmental budgets and image than keeping the streets safe, and you have a lethal mix. The Retribution is a finely layered, textured tale, as good as or better than any crime thriller since Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. It’s an exquisite blend of pure thriller and evocative storytelling, a tale of the nuanced relationship between Hill and Jordan, who cannot put to rest the differences -- and attractions -- between them, even as their lives are on the line. As we have come to expect from this accomplished author, the characterizations are spot-on, the dialogue is utterly believable and the plotting is intense, with enough suspense to satisfy even the most jaded thriller fan. The Retribution is a riveting tale by a master of the genre. -- Jim Napier

The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen (Mulholland)
This weird political espionage thriller is a disturbing mix of George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, with a sprinkling of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and hints of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island or Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Nothing in these pages can be taken at face value. We start out with an “agent” from the future named Zed (who uses the alias Troy Jones), sent back to our time period to watch over world events and ensure that all known disasters occur as history has recorded them. Zed’s role, and that of his fellow agents with the Department of Historical Integrity, is to guarantee that nothing in the past alters the “perfect world” of his future. However, extremists from his own time -- the “hags” -- have also discovered time-travel technology and want nothing more than to upset the past. So Zed plays cat and mouse with his fellow time travelers, simultaneously struggling to justify -- at least in his own mind -- the tasks with which he’s been entrusted. Those include his latest assignment: to ensure that an upcoming “event,” which will decimate Earth’s population and leave only a small contingent alive to help craft his perfect world, takes place on schedule. Now add into the storytelling mix Leo, a disgraced former CIA operative who works as a private contractor, watching over political dissidents, including the youthful anarchist “T. J.”; his friend, the corporate lawyer Tasha, who’s grieving over her dead brother, killed in military combat; and Sari, a Korean diplomat’s housekeeper. How the paths of all these characters cross with Zed’s is somewhat fantastic. And there are rumors that Zed/Troy is not what he seems, because perhaps the future is not as perfect as he has been lead to believe. In a world were reviewers bemoan books devoid of originality, this is a noteworthy exception. The kicker is that the ambiguity of The Revisionists’ ending forces the reader to re-think what he’s just witnessed, to question the reliability of the book’s narrator. There’s a lot of story here, and a lot of ideas raised. Author Mullen delivers everything with a disturbing intensity that may cause you to reach for Valium at the end of each chapter. -- Ali Karim

San Diego Noir edited by Maryelizabeth Hart (Akashic)
Akashic continued its eclectic and engaging Noir series this year with a bevy of books that compiled crime and mystery stories set in new locations. Among them was San Diego Noir, one of the publisher’s most consistent titles yet. There wasn’t a bad story among them, and the tales ranged from funny to heartbreaking to thrilling. Standouts included Don Winslow’s period, kitchen-sink drama, “After Thirty”; Gar Anthony Haywood’s disturbing revenge-of-the-nerd tale, “Like Something Out of a Comic Book”; Debra Ginsberg’s sad “The New Girl”; and January Magazine contributor Cameron Pierce Hughes’ “Moving Black Objects,” which, full-disclosure aside, is the best blend of nutty and believable. -- Brendan M. Leonard

The Sentry by Robert Crais (Putnam)
Joe Pike is the ultimate tough guy. If you’re Wilson Smith getting the crap beat out of you by two gangbangers in a small Los Angeles store, you might thank your lucky stars that Pike has decided to intervene. This is the inciting incident to the third Joe Pike book, The Sentry. But Smith has plenty to hide and Pike has just made it worse by stepping in. In a novel that keeps shifting gears and presents things that are not as they seem, the reader can hang his hat on the broad, tattooed shoulders of Pike to see it all work out OK by the end. Well, sort of. Pike is a brute-force warrior wrapped in a Buddhist-type ethereal calm, but when he meets Smith’s niece, Dru Rayne, he is smitten. Like everything else in The Sentry, however, Rayne is not who she says she is. Although our hero soon realizes that Rayne has played him, by that time she has earned his undying loyalty. When she and Smith subsequently disappear, Pike suspects foul play and immerses himself and his partner, Elvis Cole, in an increasingly Byzantine case involving East L.A. gangbangers, Mexican cartel types, suspicious and creepy FBI agents and neighbors who know perhaps too much. There is plenty of meat in this tour de force tale, and the backbone of it all is the guy with the red arrow tattoos. For a mix of P.I. story and action-adventure, you can’t beat Crais. -- Anthony Rainone

Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn (Morrow)
This tense debut novel, written by a former MI6 field operative, opens in New York City’s Central Park, where British agent Will Cochrane and his team of covert MI6 men try to protect an Iranian “asset” from a hit squad. Things go very wrong very fast. The British agents are shot by the “hostiles,” forcing Cochrane to put a bullet into his asset’s skull -- a brutal but humane act (as opposed to a death by torture that would have been the alternative for the asset if captured by the hit men). Although wounded while escaping, Cochrane is rescued by a CIA team headed by the mysterious “Patrick,” who makes sure our hero’s wounds are patched up and that he returns to London. Back home, Cochrane is reunited with his SIS handler, “Alistair,” who is upset at the Central Park fiasco. Cochrane’s next assignment is to round up an über-terrorist, the Iranian Megiddo, who -- backed by his nation’s regime -- is plotting a violent outrage to occur either on the American mainland or somewhere in the British Isles. (Or is he? This information, after all, was intercepted amid communications from a secret and not wholly trustworthy source.) What the Anglo-U.S. alliance headed by Cochrane needs is some sort of lure to draw Megiddo from his protective shadows out into the open, where he can be compelled to pay for his past deeds and prevented from committing new atrocities. The best bait, Cochrane believes, is an Arab woman named Lana, who was once Megiddo’s lover. But the agent must gain her trust in order to bring Lana into the scheme ... and as we all know, trust in espionage circles is not easily secured. Our hero has to hope that the old adage about “a woman scorned” is true, and that Lana’s own hunger to bring down Megiddo will benefit him in capturing the terrorist. The cat-chasing-mouse part of Spycatcher (published in Britain as Spartan) begins as Cochrane enlists a quartet of tough sidekicks to help him protect Lana, while they dangle her enticingly in front of Megiddo. A series of letters sent back and forth between Lana and Megiddo serves to lure the prey, and leads to assorted varieties of surveillance games. So easy is it to become caught up in Dunn’s story, that at one point in my reading I seriously considered finding a first-aid kit, in case any stray bullets came flying my way out of this book’s pages. Spycatcher is a remarkable thriller by someone obviously very familiar with his subject matter. -- Ali Karim

Thick as Thieves by Peter Spiegelman (Knopf)
Heist novels are like magicians’ tricks. The goal is to entertain the audience and hold their attention, but make them look away at critical moments so you can wow them with the big finish. By those standards, ex-financial wizard and author Spiegelman is a magician of the highest caliber. In Thick as Thieves, former CIA agent Carr and his crew are similar to Robin Hood and his Merry Men, in that they rob from the corrupt and affluent. However, this thieving band gives to themselves, partly just to line their own pockets, but also to fund their next big score. Their latest “mark” is a former hedge fund manager named Curtis Prager, who went to the slammer for all the reasons so familiar from newspaper reports of the last few years. Now free, he splits his time between Florida and the Caymans, and is a sort of accountant for the elite criminal scum of the world, with access to their illicit treasures. Carrying off this crime might be the stuff of another typical day of work for Spiegelman’s company of purloiners, except that several people died during their last job, and Carr’s suspicions about those who survived are growing by the minute. Be patient with Thick as Thieves as Spiegelman introduces his characters, the world they live in and their pasts, and finally the heist. Trust that Spiegelman is a great magician. -- Cameron Hughes

The Thieves’ Labyrinth by James McCreet (Macmillan UK)
I somehow missed spotting the first two titles in this series -- The Incendiary’s Trail (2009) and The Vice Society (2010) -- when they were originally published. Thankfully, I didn’t also miss the third of McCreet’s novels set in 1840s London, because it’s a real corker. This tale begins on a fog-wrapped night (totally appropriate!), when a man comes stumbling off a Thames River bridge, his throat cut, and promptly expires. Before long, eccentric investigator Eldritch Batchem, hired by the bridge company, shows up, pokes around the meager clues and finally announces that a suicide, not murder, has been committed. But that incident is followed closely by the retrieval of a corpse from the river, the theft of a woman’s silver bracelet outside a theater and the disappearance of a four-masted brig, along with half its crew and the entirety of its valuable cargo. This sudden concentration of illegalities leaves the still-young Metropolitan Police Force hopping and convinces the police commissioner, Sir Richard Mayne, to call for help -- off the books, of course -- from two crime-fighting rivals: arrogant Inspector Albert Newsome, who has been exiled to river-policing duties as a result of his recent conduct; and George Williamson, a widowed former police detective who’s been forced to find other security work since departing the force under a cloud. As an incentive, Sir Richard promises these two that whichever of them can get to the bottom of the recent outrages first will be reinstated in his detective branch. Newsome has cunning and determination on his side, while Williamson benefits from his association with a resourceful lawbreaker, Noah Dyson. However, that russet-capped amateur, Batchem, is pursuing the same investigative path, and may in the end eclipse both professionals. McCreet employs a formal and rather old-fashioned prose style that fits splendidly with the time period of his yarn, and takes his competing sleuths -- and his readers -- into enough bizarre and fearsome corners of Victorian London to keep them on their toes. The conclusion of The Thieves’ Labyrinth leaves no doubt that another entry in this series is on its way, but I want to go back and read the preceding two first. -- J. Kingston Pierce

13 Million Dollar Pop by David Levien (Doubleday)
Screenwriter Levien’s detective thrillers have been gathering strong acclaim, including a Shamus Award nomination from the Private Eye Writers of America in 2010. One reason for the popularity of these books is their protagonist, Frank Behr, a troubled former cop who’s now scratching out a living as a private eye in Indianapolis, Indiana. Following the release of Levien’s City of the Sun (2008) and its follow-up, Where the Dead Lay (2009), there was a three-year gap, but the wait for the third entry in this series, 13 Million Dollar Pop, was worth it. The author’s screenwriting background is evident in this novel’s Spartan prose, which propels the story forward with the momentum of a movie script, rather than the slow burn evident in some literary work. That rapid-fire plotting is present from the book’s beginning, when Behr takes what appears to be a straightforward bodyguarding job, protecting businessman Bernard “Bernie Cool” Kolodnik, only to wind up in the crossfire of a shoot-out. It appears that Kolodnik’s politics are not shared by some figures in the darkness. Striated across this novel with grim subtlety is the backdrop of the economic reality facing us all these days. Behr is no exception. He has moved in with his pregnant girlfriend, Susan, and finds himself worrying about America’s out-of-control health-care costs as he’s embroiled in intrigue and gunplay. To make ends meet, the former free agent has also taken a job with the Caro Group of private investigators and personal security advisers. But this only leads him into uneasy situations, as Midwestern politics become as dangerous to Behr as the conspiracy he finds himself tackling. Perhaps protecting Bernie Cool was not the plum job it appeared. Contributing further to his woes are hit man Waddy Dwyer and the escort girls and euro-trash in Behr’s path. Blocking Behr’s path is never a smart thing, but the consequences of those turns make this novel well worth recommending. -- Ali Karim

White Heat by M.J. McGrath (Viking)
Only part of the appeal of McGrath’s debut novel lies in its plot. Yet that plot is of considerable merit and intrigue. Set in northern Canada’s sparsely populated and Inuit-dominated Nunavut territory, White Heat focuses on the escapades of Edie Kiglatuk, a half-white, half-native former polar bear hunter who, at 33 years old, is a mostly recovered alcoholic with an ex-husband, a strong appetite for sugary tea and a reluctance to let sleeping dogs lie. After a white hunter she’d been guiding across the ice is killed under suspicious circumstances, she tries pushing local authorities to investigate, but the mayor of her tiny Ellesmere Island community -- wary of bad press (like all fictional mayors, it seems, since Larry Vaughan in Peter Benchley’s Jaws) -- puts a quick end to such talk. Soon after, though, Edie’s beloved stepson, nurse-in-training Joe Inukpuk, dies in the aftermath of a second expedition gone wrong. It’s thought that Joe killed himself, but Edie doesn’t believe he had cause to do such a thing, and sets out to prove it. In the course of her nosing around, she confronts corrupt Russians and greedy energy companies, learns a few things about meteorites and her own ancestry, and puts her hard-won sobriety at risk. Had the basic elements of McGrath’s plot been applied to a novel set in, say, northern California rather than the Canadian Arctic, they might have been appealing. But it’s the bleak, cold, wind-ravaged setting of White Heat that really makes this book stand out. McGrath knows the region and its inhabitants well. We learn here that the Inuit “considered knocking [on somebody’s door] an insult, an acknowledgement that the visit might not be wholly welcome.” We’re invited to share in Edie’s appreciation of maktaq, “thick, chewy whale skin underscored with a layer of creamy, slightly sour fat.” And we gain perspectives on ice that aren’t available to those of us living below the 76th parallel (“Locals often said the difference between Inuit and southerners was that southerners thought of ice as frozen water, whereas the Inuit knew that water was merely melted ice”). White Heat is supposedly the start of a new crime-fiction series. We should be so lucky ... -- J. Kingston Pierce

You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz (St. Martin’s Press)
There aren’t many writers better than Gregg Hurwitz at portraying the common man going up against malicious forces. The sense of desperation and courage under fire elevate You’re Next to page-turner status. Mike Wingate is a successful land developer married to the beautiful Annabel and the father of young daughter Kat. Wingate’s life goes to hell when two old-school henchmen, William and Dodge, show up with their twisted psyches and a ball-peen hammer. Their reason for targeting Wingate and wreaking havoc on his family seems tied into the developer’s difficult past. Abandoned at age 4 by his parents, Wingate was reared in an orphanage and left wondering who his parents were, and why they gave him up. Indications are they had no choice. Revisiting the orphanage he once knew so well, Wingate becomes fast friends with Shep White, a dangerous man in his own right, but one with a loyal heart. Seeing his past collide up against greedy political machinations, the tortured Wingate is determined that his present-day nuclear family will not meet the same fate as his former one. Amateur sleuth or not, Wingate would make any detective proud. -- Anthony Rainone

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Anonymous Maryelizabeth said...

Thanks -- great company for SAN DIEGO NOIR!

Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 11:07:00 AM PST  
Blogger Norman Conquest said...

Right on the money, HEADS YOU LOSE is a winner. Great post, great picks.

Friday, December 23, 2011 at 11:37:00 AM PST  
Blogger leesvrouw said...

I'm very happy to find Jussi Adler-Olsen on your list, but I miss some other great Scandinavian crime writers...

Monday, January 9, 2012 at 10:13:00 AM PST  
Anonymous kamagra said...

This is another great hit from one of my favorite authors. Awesome list!

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 2:14:00 AM PDT  

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