Cruel Mercy

CRUEL MERCY is the fifth novel in the series featuring Scottish Detective Sergeant Aector MacAvoy, written by David Mark, and in a series that can be somewhat hit or miss, this one falls mostly in the “miss” category. The first slight misstep, and it is very slight, is that this book is set in New York City not Yorkshire. It would have been a disaster if the author had excluded two of the strongest female characters in detective fiction, MacAvoy’s gypsy wife Roisin and his boss, Trish Pharaoh. Thankfully, these two do make multiple appearances between phone calls, text messages and Skype sessions.

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The Passenger

passengerpbLisa Lutz forsakes the comic-crime ambiance of her popular Spellman Family series for her noticeably more serious stand-alone novel, THE PASSENGER, newly available in trade paperback. While the protagonist is intriguing and first-person narration assured, the story unfortunately doesn’t venture far from its opening premise.

Forty-eight hours after finding her husband dead at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois quickly gathers what cash she can pull together, dyes her hair, and flees town. Thus begins her cross-country odyssey of different temporary residences, jobs, and identities. All the while she insists her innocence in the death of her husband.

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Blood on the Tracks

bloodontracksBarbara Nickless’ debut novel BLOOD ON THE TRACKS is a big thunking book, coming in at over 400 pages, and exploring the meaningful ground of soldiers adapting back into civilian life after facing the horrors of war, all while setting the crime in the underused world of the railroad cop. The military stress and the focus on PTSD may be slightly overdone, but the plotting, characterization and believability are generally strong and we may be seeing the birth of an interesting new mystery series.

Railroad Police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell is an ex-Iraq war vet, who spent some difficult years in the service. Her lover, Doug Ayers, was killed over there and the only two things she has left to remember him by is his signet ring, and much better, Clyde, a specially-trained Belgian Malinois service dog that she uses in her work. Though she doesn’t handle homicides, she is called out to the scene of an especially grisly attack because there are hobo signs painted on the wall.

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The Girl on the Train

girlontrainPaula Hawkins’s debut novel – which established a near-permanent residency at the top of the national best-seller list since its publication last year – is now available in paperback. Not surprisingly the new cover promotes the movie adaptation, due to hit theater screens shortly after the time of this posting.
 
At heart, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is a mystery novel – a fact often overlooked by all the hype. But its character-driven plot and changing perspective give the story a literary gloss; perhaps the reason for its phenomenal appeal. Long-time mystery readers will likely be impressed, but probably not overwhelmed.

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A Time of Torment

atimetormentJohn Connolly brings private detective Charlie Parker back for his 13th novel. A TIME OF TORMENT has all the usual characteristics expected from the series. But Connolly readers may be disappointed by the noticeable lack of Parker himself in this latest outing.

Jerome Burnel was once considered a hero. But then he was suddenly arrested for a crime he swears he never committed and sent to prison. In prison he was first ignored, then brutalized by fellow inmates. Now, with his prison term completed and a free man once again, Burnel seeks out P.I. Charlie Parker to tell his story.

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Ascension

ascensionAlvise Marangon, a tour guide and translator, and his friend the gondolier Bepi, await the arrival of tourists in mid-18th-century Venice, Italy. A likely English pair, Mr. Boscombe, a young man on the Grand Tour and his tutor Shackleford, appear briefly, but another pair of sinister men pay off Bepi and try to take charge of the newcomers. Marangon senses fraud and intervenes. Not wishing to cause a scene, the others allow Marangon and Bepi to take Mr. Boscombe and his tutor under their wing, but they are none too happy about it.

And then no one is happy when the tutor is found with his throat cut.

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The Black Widow

blackwidowDaniel Silva’s latest, his 16th novel featuring Israeli spymaster Gabriel Allon, makes for difficult reading. Not because of any imperfections in the style or plot; but rather because the terrorism depicted in the novel is so uncomfortably close to current events happening throughout the world.

Silva confesses, in his brief Forward, that he was tempted to put the manuscript aside when he saw how it resembled recent acts of violence committed by ISIS. “I take no pride in my prescience,” he says. “I only wish that the murderous, millenarian terrorism of the Islamic State lived solely on the pages of this story.” Fortunately he completed the novel, and THE BLACK WIDOW stands as perhaps the most relevant and unsettling title of the entire series.

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The Last Days of Night

lastdaysofnightThe fictionalization of the history of electrification in the United States. Starring a young, inexperienced lawyer who has no scientific background. In a legal battle that revolves completely around 19th-century patent law. Snoozer. Borrr-inggg. And yet.

And yet. Somehow Graham Moore makes THE LAST DAYS OF NIGHT an unbelievably thrilling adventure. I stayed up late into the night reading, rallying with the upticks in the success of lawyer protagonist Paul Cravath, and grumbling frustrated at his minor failures as he attempted to wade through the legal morass caused by two giants of the field: Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.

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The Travelers

travelersThe main character in THE TRAVELERS, Chris Pavone’s third espionage novel, is a writer for a travel magazine. This allows Pavone to indulge in his knowledge of various far-flung locations. Sadly, however, the awkward pace and abundance of distracting secondary characters robs the narrative of its intended suspense.
 
Will Rhodes is a correspondent for Travelers Magazine. That means he often spends several days away from his wife Chloe and their New York home flying to both popular and little known destinations to inform his readers of the sights and experiences in countries all over the world.

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Scratch a Thief / House of Evil

scratchathiefJohn Trinian is an enigma partly of his own making. We learn from the short biography on the back cover of Stark House Press’ SCRATCH A THIEF / HOUSE OF EVIL twofer that he adopted the name Zekial Marko as his preferred name, but published seven novels as “John Trinian” before establishing a career writing television scripts under his Marko name for such shows as THE ROCKFORD FILES, THE NIGHT STALKER and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE before his death in 2008.

Trinian spent his formative years hanging out with the Beat writers in San Francisco in the 1950s. But unlike the semi-autobiographical works of Jack Kerouac or the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, Trinian chose instead to write genre-based pulp fiction. These two reissued novels demonstrate his talent at depicting memorable characters while involving readers with engaging plots.

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