Friday, July 26, 2013
New Voices in Crime Fiction - 5 impressive debuts
by Roger Hobbs
"*Starred Review* A first novel comes along every few years that clearly separates itself from the field, like Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. This year's Secretariat is going to be Ghostman, a propulsive thriller that combines incredible detail and nonstoppable narrative drive. Jack White is the Ghostman, a pseudonymous loner living far off the grid who specializes in disappearing. After a high-level heist, he makes sure that all traces of the caper vanish. Only once, in Kuala Lumpur, did it all go bad. The organizer of that job, a master criminal named Marcus, blames Jack for the fiasco, so when Marcus penetrates Jack's deep cover, it clearly means trouble. But Marcus doesn't want to kill the Ghostman, at least not yet....
Comparisons to Lee Child are inevitable here, and surely Hobbs possesses a Child-like ability for first unleashing and then shrewdly directing a tornado of a plot, but he also evokes Elmore Leonard in the subtle interplay of his characters. A triumph on every level." - Booklist
The Twenty-year Death (M)
by Ariel S. Winter
"*Starred Review* Hard Case Crime originals are notable for capturing the feel of pulp classics without slavish imitation which makes this first novel somewhat unusual. Winter, a literary detective and former bookseller, tells an epic tale in the form of three novels written in the style of three different crime-fiction legends.
Book 1, Malniveau Prison, channels Georges Simenon as Chief Inspector Pelleter tries to deduce how a murdered prisoner escaped the prison walls. Book 2, The Falling Star, is the Chandleresque story of a private eye, Dennis Foster, who's hired to reassure a paranoid movie star and maybe take the rap for a murder. A recurring character in both books is Shem Rosenkrantz, an American writer who first seeks seclusion in France and then squanders his talents in Hollywood. In book 3, Police at the Funeral, Rosenkrantz takes over the narration with the voice of a washed-up Jim Thompson protagonist, and, as he unravels, we see how the stories are stitched together. This is audacious and astonishingly executed. Winter understands the difference between mimicry and interpretation and opts for the latter, capturing the writers' voices, not merely their vocal tics. What might seem at first like an amusing exercise for crime-fiction buffs becomes by the end immersive, exhilarating, and revelatory" - Booklist
The Next Time You See Me (M)
by Holly Goddard Jones
"Emily is a troubled 13-year-old, teased by the cutest boy in school and unable to rise above being the seventh-grade cipher. Her world is turned upside down when she stumbles across a body in the woods. Emily's teacher, Susanna, is worried about her problematic sister, Ronnie. Ronnie is a partier, a hard-drinking partier who loves a wild night out. But Susanna hasn't heard from Ronnie in weeks. Wyatt is an older man set in his ways who works at the local plant. All he has in his lonely life is his dog and his measly job. These characters and more all intersect in various ways under Jones's deft control, coalescing in a climactic ending.
VERDICT This first novel by award-winning Jones (Girl Trouble) is going to be hot. In the vein of Gone Girl, last summer's runaway smash, Jones's tightly written Southern thriller will be one of spring's sizzling titles. Jones brilliantly weaves together story lines from unexpected angles. Her writing is fluid and she keeps a pace that will have readers lacing on their running shoes. And what a suspenseful, emotional, addictive run it is! Buy it now, read it now, share it now" -Library Journal
The Thing About Thugs (M)
by Tabish Khair
"*Starred Review* The thing about Indian writer-educator Khair's first novel to be published in the U.S. is its deceptive simplicity. At first glance, this slim Victorian thriller seems no more than an expose of British imperialism wrapped in a Kill Bill plot. Khair uses a familiar Victorian literary frame (an unnamed narrator shares a supposedly true story) and formal, descriptive language to evoke the nineteenth-century setting and to create an atmosphere of eerie suspense. Night . . . crawls like a spider between the cobblestones. Soon the reader is enmeshed in stories within stories, in images outside common reality, and in bizarrely fascinating personalities.
This tale of an Indian cult assassin brought to England as a phrenological guinea pig; of m'Lord, whose fascination with head-reading becomes a focal point of the story as his minions search for the perfect Thing ; of London's invisible people prostitutes, opium dealers, immigrants, child spies, and so-called thugs begs the question, Who are the real villains? The changing narrative modes, obscure historical references, and nested plots may prove challenging to some, who might also find Khair's colloquial use of racial slurs offensive, but they help forge literary suspense that is authentic and deeply thought-provoking. Readers who enjoy Collins and Dickens will recognize their influence on Khair and revel in his creation." - Booklist
Foal Play (M)
by Kathryn O'Sullivan
"Wild horses are part of what makes North Carolina's Outer Banks such a popular tourist destination. But a dead body on the beach and a fatal arson house fire do not fit into the region's idea of Fourth of July festivities. Local law enforcement, including Sheriff Bill Dorman, is flummoxed. Fire Chief Colleen McCabe, Dorman's potential girlfriend, loves her work but can't resist a little amateur sleuthing on the side. Colleen ends up harboring an eccentric in her home and trying to puzzle out the arsonist on her own, with unpredictable results. Meanwhile, the beach victim might tie in with drug running, ratcheting the danger level a bit higher than this small town had bargained for.
VERDICT Winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, this promising series debut cozy showcases a strong sense of place and a likable cast of characters. The author's gutsy amateur sleuth heroine shows great potential for future installments. This makes a nice pairing with fellow newcomer Susan M. Boyer's Lowcountry Boil." Library Journal