The new year is almost here! Here are the books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for January (it’s a helluva month for suspense!!) Enjoy (all synopsis are from B&N or Amazon)
Uncle Janice by Matthew Burgess (Knopf-Jan 6th)
Synopsis-24 year-old Janice Itwaru is an “Uncle”—NYPD lingo for an undercover narcotics officer—and the heroine of the most exuberant and original cop novel in years.
On any given day, Janice Itwaru might be found trolling the streets of Queens for drugs. Janice is an “uncle”—an undercover narcotics officer—trying to meet the impossibly high quota of drug busts needed to make detective, or be sent back down to uniformed patrol. So Janice is out there in her secondhand hoochie skirt, trying to get potential drug dealers—criminals, addicts, dumb kids, whomever—to commit a felony on her behalf. Other days are spent in the “Rumpus Room” at the precinct, trying to keep up with the bantering lies and inventively cruel pranks of her fellow uncles while coping with the insane demands of the big bosses. With an ailing mother at home, her cover nearly blown, four more buys to get her gold shield and rumors circulating that Internal Affairs has her unit under surveillance, Janice is running very short on luck as her quota deadline approaches. Now she has to decide which evil to confront: the faceless bureaucrats at One Police Plaza, or the violent drug dealers who may already be onto her identity. Bursting with the glorious chaos of the streets of New York, Uncle Janice is an uproariously funny portrait of how undercover cops really talk and act, and a compelling story of their crazy, dangerous and often nonsensical lives.
Ostland by David Thomas (Quercus-Jan 6th)
Synopsis-Based on a horrifying true story of one of the Holocaust’s worst Nazi war criminals comes a crime thriller that combines a police procedural, courtroom thriller, and a fast-paced war-time narrative. In Ostland David Thomas confronts the question of how does one man charged with eradicating evil become one of its greatest perpetrator.
In wartime Berlin the brilliant, idealistic young detective Georg Heuser joins the Murder Squad in the midst of the biggest manhunt the city has ever seen. A serial killer is slaughtering women on S-Bahn trains and leaving their battered bodies by the tracks. Heuser must confront evil eye-to-eye as he helps track down the murderer. Soon after, Heuser is promoted by the SS and sent off to oversee the systematic murder of thousands of Jews in the new empire the Nazis call Ostland. Years after the end of the war Heuser thinks his diabolical past has been forgotten. Yet, an enterprising young lawyer, Paula Siebert, searching through Soviet archives, discovers Heuser and his fellow officers’ crimes.
Siebert is haunted by one question: how could a once decent man have become a sadistic monster? Desparate to cover his tracks, Heuser uses his training as a lawyer and years as a police detective to distance himself from his co-conspirators and escape justice. Ostland is a gripping detective thriller, a harrowing account of the Holocaust and a thought-provoking examination of the human capacity for evil.
Descent by Tim Johnston (Algoquin-Jan 6th)
Synopsis-The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, a young family from the plains taking a last summer vacation before their daughter begins college. For eighteen-year-old Caitlin, the mountains loom as the ultimate test of her runner’s heart, while her parents hope that so much beauty, so much grandeur, will somehow repair a damaged marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic, as suddenly this family find themselves living the kind of nightmare they’ve only read about in headlines or seen on TV.
Synopsis-Mr. Heming loves the leafy English village where he lives. As a local real estate agent, he knows every square inch of the town and sees himself as its protector, diligent in enforcing its quaint charm. Most people don’t pay much attention to Mr. Heming; he is someone who fades easily into the background. But Mr. Heming pays attention to them. You see, he has the keys to their homes. In fact, he has the keys to every home he’s ever sold in town. Over the years, he has kept them all so that he can observe his neighbors, not just on the street, but behind locked doors.
Mr. Heming considers himself a connoisseur of the private lives of others. He is witness to the minutiae of their daily lives, the objects they care about, the secrets they keep. As details emerge about a troubled childhood, Mr. Heming’s disturbing hobby begins to form a clear pattern, and the reasons behind it come into focus. But when the quiet routine of the village is disrupted by strange occurrences, including a dead body found in the backyard of a client’s home, Mr. Heming realizes it may only be a matter of time before his secrets are found out.
A brilliant portrait of one man’s obsession, A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan is a darkly funny and utterly transfixing tale that will hold you under its spell.
The Revenant by Michael Punke (Picador-Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes turned warlike over the white men’s encroachment on their land, and other prairie foes—like the unforgiving landscape and its creatures. Hugh Glass is among the Company’s finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive.
The Company’s captain dispatches two of his men to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies, and to give him the respect of a proper burial. When the two men abandon him instead, taking his only means of protecting himself—including his precious gun and hatchet— with them, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge.
With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out crawling inch by inch across more than three thousand miles of uncharted American frontier, negotiating predators both human and not, the threat of starvation, and the agony of his horrific wounds. In Michael Punke’s hauntingly spare and gripping prose, The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession, the human will stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton (Grand Central Publishing-Jan. 6th)
Synopsis-After witnessing the death of his younger brother in a terrible home accident, 14-year-old Kevin and his grieving mother are sent for the summer to live with Kevin’s grandfather. In this peeled-paint coal town deep in Appalachia, Kevin quickly falls in with a half-wild hollow kid named Buzzy Fink who schools him in the mysteries and magnificence of the woods. The events of this fateful summer will affect the entire town of Medgar, Kentucky.
Medgar is beset by a massive Mountaintop Removal operation that is blowing up the hills and back filling the hollows. Kevin’s grandfather and others in town attempt to rally the citizens against the ‘company’ and its powerful owner to stop the plunder of their mountain heritage. When Buzzy witnesses the brutal murder of the opposition leader, a sequence is set in play which tests Buzzy and Kevin to their absolute limits in an epic struggle for survival in the Kentucky mountains.
Redemptive and emotionally resonant, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is narrated by an adult Kevin looking back on the summer when he sloughed the coverings of a boy and took his first faltering steps as a man among a rich cast of characters and an ambitious effort to reclaim a once great community.
Synopsis-You don’t remember her–but she remembers you.
On the face of it, Emma and Nina have very little in common. Isolated and exhausted by early motherhood, Emma finds her confidence is fading fast. Nina–sophisticated, generous, effortlessly in control–seems to have all the answers.
It’s easy to see why Emma is drawn to Nina. But what does Nina see in her?
A seemingly innocent friendship slowly develops into a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Nina eases her way into Emma’s life. Soon, it becomes clear that Nina wants something from the unwitting Emma–something that might just destroy her.
Bred to Kill by Franck Thilliez (Viking -Jan. 8th)
Synopsis-In the shocking sequel to runaway international bestseller Syndrome E, Lucie Henebelle and Inspector Sharko have reunited to take on the case of the brutal murder of Eva Louts, a promising graduate student who was killed while working at a primate research center outside Paris. But what first appears to be a vicious animal attack soon proves to be something more sinister. What was Eva secretly researching? Was she tracking three fanatical scientists who control a thirty-thousand-year-old virus with plans to unleash it into the world?
With his unmatched ability to inject cutting-edge science into his novels, Thilliez draws on genetics, paleontology, and the dark side of human nature to create this smart, adrenaline-fueled thriller. Bred to Kill moves from the rain-slicked streets of Paris to the heart of the Alps to the remote
Amazon jungle as Lucie and Sharko work to solve the murder—before whoever killed Eva comes for them.
The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi (Touchstone -Jan. 16th)
Synopsis-In the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife, The Devil You Know is a thrilling debut about a rookie reporter, whose memories of the murder of her childhood best friend bring danger—and a stalker—right to her doorstep.
The year is 1993. Rookie crime beat reporter Evie Jones is haunted by the unsolved murder of her best friend Lianne Gagnon who was killed in 1982, back when both girls were eleven. The suspected killer, a repeat offender named Robert Cameron, was never arrested, leaving Lianne’s case cold.
Now twenty-one and living alone for the first time, Evie is obsessively drawn to finding out what really happened to Lianne. She leans on another childhood friend, David Patton, for help—but every clue they uncover seems to lead to an unimaginable conclusion. As she gets closer and closer to the truth, Evie becomes convinced that the killer is still at large—and that he’s coming back for her.
From critically acclaimed author Elisabeth de Mariaffi comes a spine-tingling debut about secrets long buried and obsession that cannot be controlled.
“Gripping, enthralling—a top-notch thriller and a compulsive read.”—S. J. Watson, New York Timesbestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.
Amnesia by Peter Carey (Knopf -Jan. 13th)
Synopsis-The two-time Booker Prize winner now gives us an exceedingly timely, exhilarating novel—at once dark, suspenseful, and seriously funny—that journeys to the place where the cyber underworld collides with international power politics.
When Gaby Baillieux releases the Angel Worm into Australia’s prison computer system, hundreds of asylum-seekers walk free. And because the Americans run the prisons (let’s be honest: as they do in so many parts of her country) the doors of some five thousand jails in the United States also open. Is this a mistake, or a declaration of cyber war? And does it have anything to do with the largely forgotten Battle of Brisbane between American and Australian forces in 1942? Or with the CIA-influenced coup in Australia in 1975? Felix Moore, known to himself as “our sole remaining left-wing journalist,” is determined to write Gaby’s biography in order to find the answers—to save her, his own career, and, perhaps, his country. But how to get Gaby—on the run, scared, confused, and angry—to cooperate?
Bringing together the world of hackers and radicals with the “special relationship” between the United States and Australia, and Australia and the CIA, Amnesia is a novel that speaks powerfully about the often hidden past—but most urgently about the more and more hidden present.
Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh (Crown -Jan. 13th)
Synopsis-New York is toxic—decimated by a dirty bomb years ago. The limnosphere is a virtual safe haven—if you’re rich enough to buy in. Spademan is a hit man—box-cutter at the ready.
His latest job is to snuff out Lesser, a lowlife lurking around other people’s fantasies. As Spademan is about to close the deal, Lesser comes back from the limn with a wild claim: terrorists are planning to attack New York. Again. This time from the inside out.
The warning sends Spademan down a dark path full of unsavory characters and startling revelations. A shadowy political fixer tells him of a long-running power struggle that goes all the way to City Hall. A brilliant Egyptian radical brings Spademan to the mysterious far-reaches of the limn. And a beautiful nurse holds the secret to what, and who, is behind these attacks—and she seems to want to help Spademan stop them. But he works best alone. Or so he thinks.
Spademan has always had his share of enemies, but now they’re coming at him from all sides and it’s impossible to know whom to trust. To stay sharp, his only option might be the one thing he swore he’d never do again.
See How Small by Scott Blackwood (Little, Brown -Jan. 20th)
Synopsis-One late autumn evening in a Texas town, two strangers walk into an ice cream shop shortly before closing time. They bind up the three teenage girls who are working the counter, set fire to the shop, and disappear. SEE HOW SMALL tells the stories of the survivors–family, witnesses, and suspects–who must endure in the wake of atrocity. Justice remains elusive in their world, human connection tenuous.
Hovering above the aftermath of their deaths are the three girls. They watch over the town and make occasional visitations, trying to connect with and prod to life those they left behind. “See how small a thing it is that keeps us apart,” they say. A master of compression and lyrical precision, Scott Blackwood has surpassed himself with this haunting, beautiful, and enormously powerful new novel.
Glow by Ned Beauman (Knopf -Jan. 20th)
Synopsis-South London, May 2010: foxes are behaving strangely, Burmese immigrants are going missing, and everyone is trying to get hold of a new party drug called Glow. A young man suffering from a rare sleep disorder will uncover the connections between all these anomalies in this taut, riveting new novel by a young writer hailed by The Guardian as “playful, arresting, unnerving, opulent, rude and—above all—deliciously, startlingly, exuberantly fresh.”
Twenty-two-year-old Raf spends his days walking Rose, a bull terrier who guards the transmitters for a pirate radio station, and his nights at raves in warehouses and launderettes. When his friend Theo vanishes without a trace, Raf’s efforts to find him will lead straight into the heart of a global corporate conspiracy. Meanwhile, he’s falling in love with a beautiful young woman he met at one of those raves, but he’ll soon discover that there is far more to Cherish than meets the eye.
Combining the pace, drama, and explosive plot twists of a thriller with his trademark intellectual, linguistic, and comedic pyrotechnics, Glow is Ned Beauman’s most compelling, virtuosic, and compulsively readable novel yet.
Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Graham Purdy (Mulholland -Jan. 20th)
Synopsis-A serial killer stalks the streets of 1950s Boston–and two friends take it upon themselves to bring him down.
Post-war Boston is down on its luck and looking for change. A year after the Great Brink’s Robbery–the largest robbery in the history of the United States–Boston is known more for its seedy underbelly than for its rich, historical past. The winter of 1951 is the worst in recent memory, and the Bruins are suffering another losing season.
Like Boston itself, lifelong residents Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper are struggling to find their identities after World War II. Cal has built a mildly promising life for himself as an employee of a company providing private security, whether to an honorable businessman who needs a night watchman or to an Irish mafioso who needs to have someone’s legs broken. Dante is everything Cal is not. A heroin addict trying and failing to stay clean, Dante feels the call to do good after he discovers that his sister-in-law was the latest victim of a serial killer targeting disadvantaged women.
Woefully unqualified, but determined to help, Cal and Dante take it upon themselves to track the killer–but their daunting quest takes on dangerous consequences when the trail leads them to the highest ranks of city government. There are a few well-placed men who don’t want Cal and Dante to solve this case.
An absorbing mixture of history and suspense, told with a meticulous eye for detail and character, Serpents in the Cold is a moving exploration about two men battling for second chances.
Munich Airport by Greg Baxter (Little, Brown -Jan. 27th)
Synopsis-An American living in London receives a phone call from a German policewoman telling him the nearly inconceivable news that his sister, Miriam, has been found dead in her Berlin apartment-from starvation. Three weeks later the man, his father, and an American consular official named Trish find themselves in the bizarre surroundings of a fogbound Munich Airport, where Miriam’s coffin is set to be loaded onto a commercial jet and returned to America.
Greg Baxter’s bold, mesmeric novel tells the story of these three people over the course of three weeks, as they wait for Miriam’s body to be released, grieve over her incomprehensible death, and try to possess a share of her suffering–and her yearning and grace.
With prose that is tense, precise, and at times highly lyrical, MUNICH AIRPORT is a novel for our time, a work of richness, gravity, and even dark humor. Following his acclaimed American debut, MUNICH AIRPORT marks the establishment of Greg Baxter as an important new voice in literature, one who has already drawn comparisons to masters such as Kafka, Camus, and Murakami.
Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (Viking -Jan. 22nd)
Synopsis-On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely.
Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity. With echoes of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith, Rebecca Scherm’s mesmerizing debut is sure to entrance fans of Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl, and Donna Tartt.
London, November 1968. Detective Sergeant Breen has a death threat in his inbox and a mutilated body on his hands. The dead man was the wayward son of a rising politician and everywhere Breen turns to investigate, he finds himself obstructed and increasingly alienated. Breen begins to see that the abuse of power is at every level of society. And when his actions endanger those at the top, he becomes their target. Out in the cold, banished from a corrupt and fracturing system, Breen is finally forced to fight fire with fire.
William Shaw paints the real portrait of London’s swinging sixties. Authentic, powerful and poignant, The Kings of London reveals the shadow beyond the spotlight and the crimes committed in the name of liberation.
The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham (Sheep Street Books-Jan. 29th)
Synopsis-British author, Harry Bingham, blew critics and readers away with his crime debut, Talking to the Dead. His second novel, Love Story, with Murders, established DC Fiona Griffiths as the most compelling heroine in crime fiction. With this, the third novel in the series, comes Fiona’s darkest, strangest and most challenging assignment yet . . .
It started out as nothing much. A minor payroll fraud at a furniture store in South Wales. No homicide involved, no corpses. Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths fights to get free of the case, but loses. She’s tasked with the investigation.
She begins her enquiries, only to discover the corpse of a woman who’s starved to death. Looks further, and soon realizes that within the first, smaller crime, a vaster one looms: the most audacious theft in history.
Fiona’s bosses need a copper willing to go undercover, and they ask Fiona to play the role of a timid payroll clerk so that she can penetrate the criminal gang from within.
Fiona will be alone, she’ll be lethally vulnerable – and her fragile grip on ‘Planet Normal’ will be tested as never before …
Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman (Minotaur-Jan. 20th)
Synopsis-It’s hard to recognize the devil when his hand is on your shoulder. That’s because a psychopath is just a person before he becomes a headline….Psychopaths have preferences for Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, denim or linen, Dickens or…well, you get the point.
Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn has seen more than her share of psychopaths. She is ready to put all that behind her, building a new life in Tucson with a husband, friends, and some nice quiet work as a private investigator. Sure, she could still kill a man half her age, but she now gets her martial arts practice by teaching self-defense at a women’s shelter.
But sometimes it isn’t that simple. When her sister-in-law dies, Brigid take in her seventeen-year-old niece, Gemma Kate. There has always been something unsettling about Gemma-Kate, but family is family. Which is fine, until Gemma-Kate starts taking an unhealthy interest in dissecting the local wildlife.
Meanwhile, Brigid agrees to help a local couple by investigating the death of their son—which also turns out not to be that simple. Her house isn’t the sanctuary it used to be, and new dangers—including murder—seem to lurk everywhere. Brigid starts to wonder if there is anyone she can trust, or if the devil has simply moved closer to home.
Becky Masterman’s Fear the Darkness is the masterful follow-up to the Edgar Award and CWA Gold Dagger finalist Rage Against the Dying.