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- The Doll's House
M. J. Arlidge
He calls himself Ulf as good a name as any, he thinks and the only thing he s looking for is a place where he won t be found by Oslo s most notorious drug lord: the Fisherman. He was once the Fisherman s fixer, but after betraying him, Ulf is now the one his former boss needs fixed which may not be a problem for a man whose criminal reach is boundless. When Ulf gets off the bus in Kasund, on Norway s far northeastern border, he sees a flat, monotonous, bleak landscape . . . the perfect hiding place. Hopefully.
The locals native Sami and followers of a particularly harsh Swedish version of Christianity seem to accept Ulf s explanation that he s come to hunt, even if he has no gun and the season has yet to start. And a bereaved, taciturn woman and her curious, talkative young son supply him with food, the use of a cabin deep in the woods, a weapon and companionship that stirs something in him he thought was long dead.
But the agonizing wait for the inevitable moment when the Fisherman s henchmen will show the midnight sun hanging in the sky like an unblinking, all-revealing eye forces him to question if redemption is at all possible or if, as he s always believed, hope is a real bastard. "
Whodunit: One last con, one final mark
Nicholas Searle’s debut novel, The Good Liar, is a convoluted tale of an octogenarian confidence man in search of one final score to see him through what he anticipates will be his last decade. He has it pretty well sussed out: He has charmed a younger widow, and soon they will comingle their bank accounts to allow for some complicated investment strategies that will enrich him and impoverish her. By the time his unsuspecting sweetheart notices anything amiss, he’ll be in the wind. There’s one small fly in the ointment, however: Her grandson doesn’t care for this new interloper in his grandmother’s life and seems determined to undermine the plan at every turn. Probably because I read about a million suspense novels a year, I twigged the signature plot twist a bit earlier than the author likely intended, but it was a good twist nonetheless, with another, later surprise that I didn’t see coming. If you like Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley books, The Good Liar offers a suggestion of what a character of that ilk might look like in the twilight of his career. This is an excellent debut indeed.
Tim Flannery’s The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish deftly channels humorous English writers of the early postwar era (think P.G. Wodehouse or Kingsley Amis) in a hilarious romp set in and around a natural history museum. In 1930s Sydney, researcher Archibald Meek has just come back from several years studying the natives of remote Venus Island, somewhere in the vast South Pacific. He has dutifully collected specimens of flora and fauna, kept detailed journals about daily life and customs and has even gotten a rudimentary tattoo in a rite of passage into the tribe. Now that he’s back, he has made a rather disturbing discovery: The Venus Island skull fetish in the museum collection appears to have had some skulls recently replaced, and the new skulls appear to belong to missing museum curators. There is murder afoot in the halls of history, and it’s up to Archie and his onetime love, Beatrice, to bring the miscreant(s) to justice. But Archie is no Sam Spade, and Beatrice is certainly no Miss Marple, so mishaps abound, often with mirth-filled results.
HIDE AND SEEK
You’d think that a tiny village north of the Arctic Circle would be a good place to lay low if you were on the lam. A gunman coming to get you would stand in stark relief against the snowy fields surrounding your small cottage, where the sun never sets for six months of the year—which, incidentally, provides the title for Jo Nesbø’s latest thriller, Midnight Sun. And you’d be wrong—as is Ulf, who got crosswise with his boss, the shadowy underworld figure known only as the Fisherman. When Ulf shows up in said small village, ostensibly to do some hunting but without a gun and before hunting season opens, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows—particularly in a town populated by adherents of an especially fundamentalist brand of Christianity, one in which lying is a grievous sin. Ulf is a blue-collar sort of fellow, and his first-person narration is a distinctly different voice from that of Harry Hole, Nesbø’s best-known character. It’s but one measure of Nesbø’s talent that he can jump seamlessly from persona to persona and, in every case, craft a first-rate thriller.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
In Ausma Zehanat Khan’s The Language of Secrets, a mosque in suburban Toronto is said to host a zealot, a handsome and charismatic man with dreams of jihad. And there’s a training camp in the deep forest outside Toronto, suspected to be a jihadi training camp, although there’s insufficient evidence to warrant a search. But now that news is spreading of a murder nearby, tensions are rising. Answers won’t come easy, because unbeknownst to anyone outside a small circle, Mohsin Dar, the dead man, was living a dual life as a jihadi and as an undercover agent for INSET, Canada’s version of the Department of Homeland Security. If this detail leaks, months of investigative work will go down the tubes. Enter Esa Khattak, police investigator and erstwhile friend of the deceased. Khattak heads up the Community Policing Section, a cross-agency unit charged with the coordination of investigations of culturally sensitive crimes. And the killing of Mohsin has all the earmarks of a culturally sensitive crime, whether personal, political or in the name of religion. If you haven’t read Khan’s excellent debut, The Unquiet Dead, the second in the series will place this powerful new storyteller on your radar.