by Bruce TierneyNovember 2010
Searching for justice—and vengeance
All Ash Levine ever wanted was to be a cop, yet several months back, he turned in his badge at the Los Angeles Police Department, devastated over the killing of a witness he had sworn to protect. When a fellow police officer is murdered, Levine is asked to rejoin the force, at least temporarily, to head the investigation; he agrees, with apparent reluctance, which allows him to both name his own terms for his return and regain access to the files of the now-cold case that precipitated his early departure from the force.
That’s the basic setup for Miles Corwin’s debut thriller, Kind of Blue, but it only hints at the intricacy of plotting, characters and dialogue to be found between the covers. Levine is a complex character, not averse to breaking the rules, particularly when it comes to dubious fraternization with members of the fairer sex (even ones related to his investigation, a distinct procedural no-no). Twists and turns abound, and the resolution should come as a surprise even to longtime mystery aficionados.
Kind of Blue may be Corwin’s first thriller, but he’s no stranger to the world of the LAPD. Formally a crime reporter for the the Los Angeles Times, he is also the author of two behind-the-scenes looks at the LAPD: The Killing Season and Homicide Special.
ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE
Prior to reading Dead Spy Running, British author Jon Stock was an unknown quantity to me, but not to fans such as Lee Child and Meg Gardiner—both of whom waxed poetic about his characters and relentless take-no-prisoners pacing. In the time-honored Shakespearean tradition of using all the world as a stage, Stock takes the reader on a clandestine whirlwind trip from London to Poland, and then all the way to India, with the good guys (who are really the bad guys, sorta) in hot pursuit of the bad guy (who is, for the most part, a good guy). Confused yet? Hey, it’s a spy novel, you’re supposed to be puzzled until the final pages, and it is a pretty safe bet that you will be.
Protagonist Daniel Marchant is the perfect post-Bond spy: cynical, a bit world-weary and jettisoned by the Service during an internal investigation into his loyalties. He is, however, in love, which may be his salvation or his undoing, as his girlfriend is also a spy (and possibly for the opposing team). Move over, Jason Bourne, there’s a new kid in Spyville!
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
As Bill Pronzini’s The Hidden opens, Shelby and Jay Macklin are not getting along; in fact, they are at the brink of divorce. Jay has recently lost his job, and the attendant financial burdens have weighed heavily on the couple. Now, thanks to a sympathetic friend, they have the opportunity to spend Christmas week at a seaside cabin, a luxury otherwise unthinkable in their reduced circumstances. Murphy’s Law is hard at work with respect to the Macklins, however, and before their first night has passed, they will lose their heat, their power and one of their Toyota Prius’ windshield wiper blades in the worst storm to hit the California coast in years. And then the murders begin.
Bill Pronzini is an old-school craftsman, whose books are always well plotted and staffed, and the tension grows stronger with each passing page.
MYSTERY OF THE MONTH
Lee Child can always be counted on for a good read, and his latest Jack Reacher novel, Worth Dying For, is no exception. Good enough, in fact, to be our Mystery of the Month. Hard on the heels of the best-selling 61 Hours (June’s Mystery of the Month), which left the reader wondering whether Reacher had survived the explosive cliffhanger of an ending, Worth Dying For finds our hero once more on the move—battered, but still alive and kicking. This time out, he can be found in the deep nether reaches of Nebraska, minding his own business as usual, when he happens upon a situation that seems to require his white-knight attention: a badly beaten housewife, a drunken doctor scared witless (to the point of being unwilling to treat the bleeding woman) and two generations of bullies who have terrorized a small farm town for much too long. Mix in a group of Vegas hoods, an Iranian underworld contingent and a violent group of Cornhusker wannabes, and you have a recipe for violence that will test Reacher to his extreme outer limits.
If your taste in books runs to nonstop action, and particularly if you are partial to fisticuffs, look no further; Reacher may be getting older, like the rest of us, but unlike the rest of us, he shows no signs of letting up.