CRIME. Roundups of crime novels by Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times Book Review.
A version of this article appears in print on June 10, 2018, on Page 9 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: No Safe Haven
There’s no mistaking a John Connolly novel, with its singular characters, eerie subject matter and socko style. All these flags are flying in THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS (Emily Bestler/Atria, $26.99), which finds Charlie Parker, the oddball private detective in this quirky series, thwarted by the broken link in a chain of safe havens for battered women. Normally, “they go in one end of the tunnel and come out the other, far away.” Except when one of them is caught — someone like Karis Lamb, whose body is found in a shallow grave in the woods shortly after giving birth. There’s no sign of her newborn child.
A man named Quayle, who may very well be “the devil himself,” and his “creature,” creepy Pallida Mors, commit some vividly depicted atrocities in their fevered hunt for a powerful ancient book, which they believe to be in Karis’s possession. Parker himself is no saint (“If there’s trouble, he’ll find it. If there isn’t trouble, he’ll make some”), and it’s best to stay away from him whenever he’s visited by the “black dog” of depression. But he’s a savior in a world that can be merciless to those without a champion.
All the kinky people in this novel, killers included, are readers.
Parker’s pal, Louis, who has eclectic tastes, is currently juggling Montaigne and Hemingway, and “when he wasn’t reading, he was contemplating what he’d just read.” Dobey, of Dobey’s Diner in Cadillac, Ind., is also a rare-book dealer who subscribes to The New York Times, The New Republic, National Review and The New Yorker. What makes this dedicated reader a mensch, however, is his covert work as a principal in the underground railroad for “frightened and abused women.”
Connolly creates a world, somewhat real but emphatically unnatural, in which the dead commune with the living in mysterious ways. Five-year-old Daniel, for one, is no longer answering his toy telephone; after receiving frequent calls from Karis’s uneasy ghost, “Daniel didn’t want to talk to dead people” anymore. Well, he can always talk to us. We’re right here by the phone, waiting.
“Get me out of here!”
Haven’t we all, at one time or another, wanted to escape into a brand-new, unencumbered existence? Better keep that cri de coeur to yourself, Charlton Pettus warns in EXIT STRATEGY (Hanover Square, $26.99), or somebody could whisk you off to a new life that might not be entirely to your liking. That’s what happens to Jordan Parrish, founder of a medical technology company, when his business and his marriage hit the rocks. As Jordan sees it, he can either swallow a stash of pills or call a service that will scrub away his old existence and relocate him to some not-too-hard-to-take destination like Tokyo or Paris.
While Pettus captures the excitement of waking up in a strange country with a lot of money in your pocket, the thrills are largely lost on Jordan, who could use a more unequivocal love of adventure, not to mention a keener sense of humor.
You can’t blame Charlie Donlea if the ending of his novel makes your jaw drop.
The title alone — DON’T BELIEVE IT (Kensington, $26) — is fair warning that his characters are no more to be trusted than are our initial impressions of them.
This much we do know:
In 2007, a vacationing medical student named Julian Crist was pushed to his death from the top of Gros Piton on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Julian’s girlfriend, Grace Sebold, has spent 10 years in prison for the murder when Sidney Ryan gets the green light to make a TV series about her called “The Girl of Sugar Beach.”
Now here comes the twist:
Sidney’s documentary will follow in real time her personal investigation of the murder and will end, she hopes, in Grace’s exoneration. But by the eighth installment of the show, which has been wildly successful, Sidney is beginning to suspect she’s been deceived, and that her great coup was actually a con job. On the one hand, her career could be mud; on the other hand, you can’t argue with those ratings.
Learn more about Charlie Donlea's DON'T BELIEVE IT. Available NOW in Hardcover, Paperback, and audio format. US and AU editions.
Baseball players with the Boston Red Sox are coming to no good in Pamela Wechsler’s new Abby Endicott mystery, THE FENS (Minotaur, $27.99), and while a missing ballplayer isn’t as serious a matter as losing the pennant to the Yankees, it still means war. Endicott, Boston’s chief homicide prosecutor and the novel’s narrator, is out and about in Back Bay with her boyfriend, Ty, when they’re accosted by a stranger toting a Glock and demanding drugs. Turns out, he’s an overzealous cop, which has Abby mentally writing an outraged newspaper headline: “African-American Male Attacked by Rogue Brookline Police Officer While Walking With Assistant District Attorney.” That’s the sort of thing Abby has to contend with in the “enlightened” metropolis she so diligently serves. But it’s nothing compared with the old-fashioned fury that sweeps through the city when Rudy Maddox, the starting catcher for the Red Sox, fails to show up at Fenway Park for opening day.
Abby has tackled other touchy cases in this lively series, but the Red Sox? Come on!
Marilyn Stasio has covered crime fiction for the Book Review since 1988. Her column appears twice a month. Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and Twitter, sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. And listen to us on the Book Review podcast.
A version of this article appears in print on June 10, 2018, on Page 9 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: No Safe Haven. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
CRIME. Roundups of crime novels by Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times Book Review. June 8, 2018
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