- ISBN-13: 9781616959401
- ISBN-10: 1616959401
- Publisher: Soho Crime
- Publish Date: August 2018
- Page Count: 304
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
Series: Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery #5
Whodunit: Can you tell who the good guys are?
Picture a counterculture movement that neatly splits the ideological difference between Occupy and Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, and you’ll have a good idea of the Massive Brigade, which plays a central role in Olen Steinhauer’s latest thriller, The Middleman. The organization started out as a nonviolent yet combative group against social injustice, but now they have become weaponized and are targeted by the FBI. But before the FBI can step in, leader Martin Bishop vanishes, taking with him 400-odd followers. Things escalate to a shootout—a bloodbath, actually—with the apparent “good guys” seizing the day. But the story is a long way from over, and it proceeds at a more frenetic pace than spy stories of old, largely because of the strange times we find ourselves in now, when right is wrong and lies are truth. Steinhauer masterfully taps into that vein of uncertainty and disaffectedness.
STRIP DOWN TO THE TRUTH
If you like a liberal dose of humor in your suspense fiction, then look no further than David Gordon’s clever new caper, The Bouncer. The protagonist, Joe Brody, is a bouncer at a gentleman’s club owned by Gio Caprisi, whom Joe has known since his Catholic school days and who is deeply connected with the Mafia. Joe has been at the other end of a bouncer’s baton himself, having been kicked out of Harvard some years back, and he is always up for a bit of petty (or grand) larceny, should the right opportunity present itself. Meanwhile, FBI agent Donna Zamora mans the terrorist phone-tip line at bureau headquarters, though she would strongly prefer to be out in the field. Are she and Joe going to meet? Oh, yes. And will the sparks fly? Yes again. Initially, there is not a lot of trust between the pair, as Zamora arrests Joe as part of a citywide terrorism sweep. Joe’s time in the holding cell affords him a golden opportunity for a bit of larceny, so the possibility of a big score could outweigh the need to save the country from terrorism. The Bouncer has “film adaptation” written all over it.
IF MEMORY SERVES ME
Caz Frear’s Sweet Little Lies has been generating a lot of buzz (it’s even been optioned for TV by Carnival Films, the producer of “Downton Abbey”), and with good reason: It is one of the best debuts I’ve read in some time. The story starts with a flashback to 1998, when young Cat Kinsella is on holiday with her family in Ireland. A glamorous young woman, Maryanne Doyle, goes missing under mysterious circumstances, and Cat cannot shake a nagging suspicion about her father’s hand in the disappearance. Fast forward 20-odd years, and Cat is now a detective constable with the London police. While investigating a murder, Cat receives a strange phone call that suggests a link between the present-day homicide and the disappearance of Maryanne. Is it a coincidence that Cat’s father still runs a pub not far from the site of the murder? Or is Cat conflating memories of her childhood with the too-easy coincidence of her estranged father’s proximity to this latest case? Cat is a bit of a troubled soul, which may call her judgment into question. That said, she is an engaging character who is worthy of her central place in this fine new series.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Dr. Siri Paiboun, everyone’s favorite spirit-channeling, semiretired Laotian coroner and sleuth, returns for the 13th book of Colin Cotterill’s critically acclaimed series, Don’t Eat Me. Grisly and hilarious in equal measure, not unlike the 1980s Vientiane milieu in which it is set, the narrative alternates between two parallel storylines. Under cover of darkness, Dr. Siri smuggles an expensive and rather huge movie camera across the Mekong River from Thailand. His ambitious plan is to create an epic Laotian film version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace—never mind that he has never written a screenplay, never operated a movie camera, has no access to professional actors and must secure permission from the notoriously repressive government. Meanwhile, a skeleton turns up at the base of the Victory Arch, a monument to those who died in the struggle for Laos’ independence from France. This skeleton, that of a young woman, appears to have been munched upon by animals, possibly while its owner was still alive. All the usual supporting characters are present and accounted for, including Dr. Siri’s wife, Madame Daeng, who takes no guff from anyone, particularly Dr. Siri. It is helpful but not entirely necessary to read the series in order; by the time you have accomplished that, hopefully installment number 14 will have hit bookshelves.