by Bruce TierneyFebruary 2012
Atoning for sins of the past
You have to love a title like All I Did Was Shoot My Man, Walter Mosley’s latest work featuring pragmatic Big Apple P.I. Leonid McGill. Indeed, although Zella Grisham may have shot her man eight years before, she had nothing to do with the $58 million heist a week before the murder, despite the fact that some of the purloined loot turned up in her storage space. McGill knows exactly how the stolen funds found their way into Grisham’s possession, and it is a guilty secret that has eaten at him ever since she went to jail for both crimes. Now Grisham has done her time, and she wants to reconnect with the young daughter she hasn’t seen since she went to prison. Problem is, the girl has been adopted, and the adoptive parents seem to have dropped off the face of the earth. Re-enter Leonid McGill, P.I., to expiate some of his prior sins—pro bono. As is always the case with Mosley novels, All I Did Was Shoot My Man bridges the broad river between genre fiction and elegant literature, combining the best elements of both: gritty first person narrative; complex familial relationships; and themes of greed, revenge and the things we do for love.
THE LIFE OF A LAWMAN
Stetson-brimmed U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, the eponymous hero of Elmore Leonard’s Raylan, hails from Harlan County, Kentucky—which was coal-mining country back in the day. Now that the mines have shut down, many of the locals have turned to marijuana for their source of income. A few have taken a more deviant path—the harvesting and sale of human organs—and nobody’s organs are safe, not even Raylan’s. The tale unfolds in true Leonard fashion. It’s not so much a story with a beginning, a denouement and a resolution, but rather a snapshot of a few days in the life of a lawman. Included therein are many storylines which might connect—or not; a plot resolution or two firmly planted in the middle of the narrative; and the droll commentary of both the author and his chief characters. (When challenged to a parking lot fight, Raylan responds: “You don’t see me right away, practice falling down until I get there.”) As usual, Leonard’s story is part Western, mystery and farce—a genre-transcending romp guaranteed to please new readers and long-time fans alike.
CHAOS IN CAIRO
Although there are many suspense novels set in ancient Egypt, it is uncommon to find a mystery set in modern-day Cairo, especially one like Parker Bilal’s The Golden Scales, in which the detective protagonist is a displaced police inspector on the lam from war-torn Sudan. Hired by corrupt entrepreneur Saad Hanafi to find missing soccer star Adil Romario, P.I. Makana is plunged into a world of Russian gangsters, jihadists and the machinations of Cairo’s power elite. At the center of this desert whirlwind is a desperate English mom, back in the Egyptian capital after years of enforced exile, seeking any sort of information on the fate of her missing daughter, by now a young woman. When the Englishwoman is brutally murdered in her seedy hotel room, Makana is forced to confront his own ghosts in ways he could never have predicted. The first in a new series, The Golden Scales is one of those rare books in which the setting serves as a character itself: Cairo is portrayed as a living, breathing entity whose very existence shapes the lives of those residing within its confines.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
What is a parent’s worst nightmare? The quick answer, I imagine, would be the loss of a child. Author William Landay takes the question one step further in his latest thriller, Defending Jacob. What if your child is accused of murder, and you think there is the slimmest possibility he might be guilty? Andy Barber, assistant D.A. for a suburban Massachusetts county, is a devoted family man. Raised in a broken home, he vowed early on to bring love and stability to his wife and son. For the most part, that plan has worked out pretty well. Except now, when a young neighbor lies dead in the nearby park, and Andy’s son Jacob looks good for the murder. The incontrovertible evidence: Jacob’s bloody fingerprint on the dead boy’s jacket. For perhaps the first time in his life, Andy finds himself “batting for the other team”—on the side of the defense rather than the prosecution. As his family crumbles under the pressure of the trial and its mounting evidence, Andy struggles to find a balance between objectivity and loyalty. All the while, there is this tiny nagging doubt . . . . Defending Jacob is one of the most disturbing books of the year, and soon to be one of the most talked-about.