by Bruce TierneyOctober 2010
Racing against the clock
The detective duo of Bill Smith and Lydia Chin are back, hot on the heels of the 2009 Dilys Award-winning The Shanghai Moon, in S.J. Rozan’s latest thriller, On the Line. Actually, I should say that Bill Smith is back, because Lydia Chin’s whereabouts (and even her existence) are a matter of some conjecture, courtesy of a deranged gamesman/kidnapper with a vendetta against Smith. Rozan trumps Lee Child’s latest, 13 Hours, by compressing all of the action into a minuscule 12 hours, featuring a mad dash across both New York City and cyberspace. Help arrives from an unexpected quarter: Chin’s computer-geek nephew, Linus, and his post-punk girlfriend, Trella, who provide wheels and insight into modern information systems to Smith (who is, sadly, rooted firmly in the Phone Age). The plot is a bit forced, and there are some lucky breaks that stretch belief a bit, but On the Line is good fun nonetheless—a tense and action-packed one-sitter of a read.
CRACKING THE CASE
If you are one of Michael Connelly’s legions of fans (and who isn’t?), you’ll be familiar with defense attorney Mickey Haller, who does the bulk of his (ever so slightly shady) business from the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car. Haller takes on a very different sort of assignment, however, in Connelly’s latest, The Reversal. He is drafted by the district attorney to prosecute a case, a political hot potato of a murder trial, in which newly examined DNA evidence overturned a previous guilty verdict. Second chair will be filled by Maggie McPherson, a seasoned prosecutor known to her admirers and detractors alike as “Maggie McFierce,” who also happens to be Haller’s ex-wife. In the spirit of keeping things in the family, prosecution investigations will be handled by LAPD cop (and longtime Connelly protagonist) Harry Bosch, who is Haller’s mostly estranged half-brother. At the defense table are Jason Jessup, free on bail (and relishing every moment) after some 20 years, and defense attorney Clive Royce, easily Mickey Haller’s equal when it comes to manipulation of the law for one’s own ends. It seems that pretty much everybody thinks Jessup did it; the question is, can they stop him from doing it again? Plot, nuance, characters, dialogue—as usual, Connelly delivers it all, and brilliantly.
AN UNLIKELY ALLIANCE
Gerry Fegan, the anti-hero of Stuart Neville’s critically heralded The Ghosts of Belfast, returns for an encore engagement in Collusion. Fegan has made good his escape from the troubles of Northern Ireland, to an under-the-table construction job in New York. He has, for the most part, put his violent past behind him, but there is one element of his history that refuses to lie quietly: Bull O’Kane. O’Kane is afraid of no man—save Gerry Fegan, and he intends to preside over Fegan’s imminent demise, a plan that Fegan will do his best to thwart. Fegan will have help from an unlikely ally, police detective John Lennon (Jack to his friends), with whom he shared the attentions of a young woman some years back (not at precisely the same time, but close enough to cause discomfort for all concerned). Moving together and separately, the pair must cut through the deceit, the machinations and the blatant disregard for human life displayed by O’Kane and his henchmen, for the lives of a mother and daughter hang in the balance. Violent, edgy and convoluted—just the thing for a chilly autumn evening of reading.
MYSTERY OF THE MONTH
When you think of suspense novel locations, Canada is not usually the first place to cross your mind. L.A., New York, London, even Bot-swana . . . but Canada? Yet there are some fine writers hailing from our neighbo(u)r to the North, including Giles Blunt, Barbara Fradkin and Louise Penny, who has generated quite a following for her Inspector Gamache series, the latest of which, Bury Your Dead, is our Mystery of the Month. The book is set not in Gamache’s home stomping grounds of Three Pines, Quebec, but rather in Quebec City at the time of the legendary Winter Carnival. When a prominent eccentric historian is found murdered in an English library, Gamache is summoned from his enforced holiday to lend an informal hand to the investigation. What is at stake is a matter of Canadian (and particularly French-Canadian) national pride—the body of explorer Samuel Champlain, whose remains disappeared mysteriously centuries ago, and have been the subject of ardent searches pretty much ever since. But is this something worth killing over? Depends, I guess, on which side of the Quebec Separatist issue you might stand on; if history teaches us anything, it is that seemingly small affronts have started wars.Bury Your Dead has received more pre-release praise than any suspense novel in recent memory; I was a little skeptical at first, but I am here to tell you that it is well deserving of every word. And then some!