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- Her Last Breath
John Russell works for both Stalin's NKVD and the newly created CIA, trying his best to cut himself loose from both before his double-agency is discovered by either. As tensions between the great powers escalate, each passing day makes Russell's position more treacherous. He and his Soviet liaison, Shchepkin, seek out one final operation--one piece of intelligence so damning it could silence the wrath of one nation and solicit the protection of the other. It will be the most dangerous task Russell has ever taken on, but one way or the other, it will be his last.
Paths converge in the Stockholm underworld
Count on Swedish writer Jens Lapidus to drag you straight into the action from page one. Forget about introductions, a lengthy plot setup or any other such coddling. Simply git-on-board and hang on for dear life. In Never Fück Up, Niklas, who lives with his mother after a tour in Iraq, and Mahmud, who’s in deep with some Turkish mobsters, are thrown together by a violent act not of their doing. Thomas is a somewhat bent cop, padding his retirement fund with a bit of graft here, a little discretionary theft there. When a brutal murder takes place in Niklas’ apartment complex and the evidence is deliberately tampered with by police higher-ups, Thomas launches himself into a world of hurt by continuing the investigation on his own time, not realizing that he has ventured into the very sensitive arena of hush-hush global politics. It goes without saying that Niklas, Mahmud and Thomas will cross paths; the question will be which one, or ones, will survive the experience. Last year’s Easy Money was the first volume of Lapidus’ Stockholm Noir trilogy, and fans will positively champ at the bit for the final episode.
I started reading Timothy Hallinan’s books several years back and was drawn into his series featuring adventure travel writer Poke Rafferty. Read ’em all, loved ’em all, reviewed most of ’em for BookPage. So I was a bit concerned when Hallinan started a new series featuring Junior Bender, occasional burglar and full-time go-to guy for those who need a bit of private investigation that strays outside the fine lines of the law. My worries were unfounded: Hallinan is three-deep into the new series, and the books are every bit as good as their forebears—with the added attraction of some Hiaasen-esque comic tone. This time out, in The Fame Thief, Bender is summoned to the palatial home of Irwin Dressler, one-time mob boss who has gone more or less straight. It seems Dressler wants our hero to investigate a crime that dates back more than 60 years—a true iceberg of a cold case—in which the career of a promising starlet was torpedoed by malice and innuendo. But vendettas die hard, and what was once barely a blip on the Hollywood radar will come full circle in present day, a payback with usurious compound interest.
CHASING A GHOST
“Who the hell is Big Whitey?” This is the question you will ask yourself—indeed, it will be the pressing question of your life—for the first 200-some pages of Unseen, Karin Slaughter’s latest thriller featuring GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) detective Will Trent. Trent is working undercover, piloting his Harley down the mean streets of Macon, seeking out an arch-criminal known only by the nickname Big Whitey. Trouble is, despite Trent’s ongoing efforts in pressuring Macon’s lowlife population for information, he remains unable to identify the (possibly mythical) crime boss. Meanwhile, Trent’s inamorata, Dr. Sara Linton, receives some devastating news: Her stepson, motorcycle cop Jared Long, has been shot during a home invasion and is hanging onto life by the thinnest of threads. Linton will receive little comfort from Trent, as he can be in touch only sporadically, else he risks blowing his cover. What neither realizes is that their two separate situations share some points of commonality that will threaten both their relationship and their lives. Slaughter is the consummate novelist: Her characters are finely chiseled, the action is relentless and she saves a surprise or two for the final pages, guaranteed to trip up even the jaded mystery reader.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
When BookPage interviewed author David Downing last year, he said, “I’m working on what will probably be the last of the [John] Russell series, Masaryk Station. Still no idea how to end it.” In the intervening months, Downing not only figured out how to end it but did it with a bang. And that is all I am prepared to tell you about the ending, largely because I am still processing the notion that this fine series has (“probably”) drawn to a close. The Station books—from 2007’s Zoo Station to the latest, Masaryk Station—are without a doubt some of the finest espionage novels these days, easily inviting comparison to the legends of the genre like John le Carré, Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy. In Masaryk Station, set in 1948 Berlin, protagonist John Russell, an American agent doing double duty for the Soviets, has to tread carefully. He’s hoarding information to dispense judiciously to his handlers in both camps, and one false move will bring charges of treason, assuming he lives long enough to answer for his crimes. If he’s lucky, he will come out of it with his freedom, his family and his life intact. If not, he will at least go down fighting. I stand by the assertion that it would be a good idea to read these books in order. You won’t want to read anything else until you have devoured the entire series.