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Whodunit: A ghostly tale on a Swedish island
In the wake of the Stieg Larsson phenomenon, publishers scrambled to dust off all manner of earlier works by suspense writers hitherto unknown outside their Northern Lights homelands, in hopes of cashing in on the latest craze in suspense fiction, Scandinavian noir. This would have been kinda cheesy and more than slightly venal on their parts, were it not for a single critical fact: The books have been unrelentingly excellent, and Camilla Läckberg’s The Lost Boy doesn’t let the team down. In the manner of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books, Läckberg’s tale weaves a particular event (in this case, the murder of a recently returned native son) with the evolving narrative of a community, the singularly unpronounceable Fjällbacka, Sweden. To further beat the Penny comparison into the ground, Läckberg’s prose is similarly well crafted (and sensitively translated by Tiina Nunnally). There is also an overlay of a ghost story here, which will appeal to fans of T. Jefferson Parker’s Charlie Hood series or John Connolly’s well-loved Charlie Parker series. The only downside for the reader, albeit one that will make the author happy and wealthy, is that it would be helpful, although not strictly necessary, to read the series in order. (The Lost Boy is number seven.) This will be a pleasure, not a hardship.
Two story arcs, set 11 years apart yet inextricably woven together, form the narrative for Anna Snoekstra’s clever debut novel, Only Daughter. Rebecca Winter disappeared more than a decade ago, with precious little in the way of clues for the police to follow. Now, 11 years later, an impostor has appeared, claiming (with some rather convincing, if totally bogus, evidence) to be the missing girl. “Reunited” with her family and friends from her younger life, she tries to blend in as seamlessly as possible. And so both story arcs move forward, one resolving at the time of “real” Rebecca’s disappearance, the other—um, you’ll have to find out for yourself. You’re probably thinking that the premise is a bit far-fetched, and it is. But Snoekstra handles the details well, and she is quite good at distributing red herrings and plot twists. The dual narratives, one in first person, the other in third, do a fine job of heightening the suspense by offering up obscure clues for the savvy reader to chew on.
WILL TRENT RETURNS
Basketball star Marcus Rippy is having a busy couple of weeks. He has just managed to skate on a rape charge, and now a dead body has been found in his derelict nightclub. Author Karin Slaughter wastes little time in setup or backstory; instead, she jumps right into the here and now in her gripping new suspense novel, The Kept Woman. Rippy has been in the crosshairs of Georgia Bureau investigator Will Trent for quite some time, but the basketballer has proved to be a slippery customer. And when Will’s new sweetie Sara Linton, the forensic investigator assigned to the case, discovers that the bulk of the blood found at the crime scene does not belong to the victim, it quickly becomes apparent that there is an altogether more compelling mystery afoot, a mystery in which Rippy seems to be a key figure. Fans of this well-regarded series have been patiently waiting for the eighth installment for the better part of three years, during which time Slaughter published two standalone novels. The Kept Woman is well worth the wait.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Marry the intuition and problem-solving skills of Lincoln Rhyme with the action-figure street smarts and stunts of Jack Reacher, and you’ll come up with someone very close to NYPD Detective Kathy Mallory. Carol O’Connell’s 12th novel in the popular series, Blind Sight, finds Mallory looking into the possible kidnapping of two rather unlikely abductees: an ex-hooker turned nun and a 12-year-old boy who has been blind since birth. Things go from bad to worse early on, when the nun’s body is found sans heart and in the company of three other dead bodies in varying states of decay. They are discovered on the front lawn of Gracie Mansion, home to the sitting mayor of New York City. Still no sighting (pun unintended) of the blind boy, however. Shortly afterward, the missing hearts turn up at City Hall, an unprecedented event from at least a couple of standpoints. Despite the fact that the hearts of the victims have been surgically removed, Mallory doesn’t buy the conventional police wisdom that the killer is collecting trophies. A bit of a sociopath herself, she thinks something rather darker is at play (and hey, you have to go some distance to find something darker than a killer who surgically removes the hearts of his prey). As long as O’Connell keeps pumping out crime fiction like this, she will have a faithful reader in me.