Espionage must surely be one of the most difficult fields from which to make a career change. If novels can be believed, spies either meet their ends in a spectacularly gory fashion; get promoted into intelligence admin; or treasonously go to bat for the opposing team. Milo Weaver, the reluctant protagonist of Olen Steinhauer’s An American Spy, opts for none of the above. He wants simply to be left alone, to enjoy the pleasures of family life and to work at some nonlethal sort of livelihood. Alas, it is not to be. When Weaver becomes aware that his family is in danger, he solicits the help of his diplomat father. Upon returning to his New York apartment, however, Weaver finds his father dead on the living room floor and his family missing without a trace. There are a number of agents in play, any of whom had motive and opportunity to orchestrate the murder and kidnapping, and it is nigh impossible for the reader to determine who is on whose side until the final pages have been turned. Serious, gripping and lightning-paced, An American Spy should be required reading for fans of espionage fiction.
I have long held that Scandinavian mystery novels are among the finest on the planet, and Leif G.W. Persson’s police procedural, Another Time, Another Life, strongly supports that assertion. The novel begins in 1975, when a group of terrorists take over the West German Embassy in Stockholm. Their plan literally blows up in their faces and the siege ends badly—both for the suspects and for two hostages. Fourteen years later, a high-profile murder rocks Stockholm. Detectives Anna Holt and Bo Jarnebring are assigned to the case, but it is grossly mishandled by the powers that be, and the case disappears into the annals of unsolved crimes. Fast forward once again, to 1999, and the shelved investigation is reopened; newly unearthed papers implicate the 1989 murder victim in the West German Embassy case, and once again Holt and Jarnebring are brought aboard. It would be impossible to summarize the complexities of this story here, but I’ll say this: If you enjoy Scandinavian mysteries, this one will be right up your alley. If you haven’t been hooked by the subgenre, Another Time, Another Life should do the trick.
Irish author Gerard O’Donovan is back with the much-anticipated follow-up to The Priest, entitled Dublin Dead. O’Donovan has only improved upon his strengths, developing the characters of National Drugs Unit cop Mike Mulcahy and his sidekick, reporter Siobhan Fallon (with whom Mulcahy has a convoluted and strained relationship, to say the least). This time out, the pair find themselves working on parallel investigations: Mulcahy on a huge cocaine discovery, and Fallon on a missing-persons case that has the look of murder about it. The two storylines give the appearance of meeting as they approach the novel’s climax, and indeed, there is a commonality of “usual suspects” in the twin investigations. So, reluctantly, Mulcahy takes Fallon into his confidence, and together the two begin to tie up loose ends. Problem is, the loose ends aren’t cooperating at all. A quick note: Those who have read The Priest will undoubtedly be queued up to purchase Dublin Dead on release day. If you haven’t read The Priest, I recommend starting there to provide backstory for O’Donovan’s latest.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
As Michael Robotham’s Bleed for Me opens, 14-year-old Sienna Hegarty stands accused of patricide. She has denounced her father—a decorated ex-cop—as a pedophile, but she insists that she had nothing to do with his killing. On the other hand, she was covered with his blood, and she has no memory of the time surrounding the event. Or so she says. Hegarty is the best friend of the daughter of clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin—who doesn’t have it easy, either. O’Loughlin suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and every day he can feel the disease increasing its grip on his life, his limbs stage-managed against his will by some malevolent puppeteer. His wife has left him, seemingly taking their family and most of their friends with her as spoils of the separation agreement. But O’Loughlin is drawn to Sienna’s case. Along with retired policeman Vincent Ruiz, he tries to make sense of a convoluted and lethal investigation, with collateral damage at every turn. Bleed for Me works on many levels, combining the insights of a trained psychologist; the savvy street smarts and irreverent observations of a retired cop; and intricate plotting from a first-rate author.