Early on in Steve Mosby’s serial killer thriller, The Murder Code, Detective Inspector Andy Hicks makes this observation about murder: “It does help to think of it like a building. You have the boardroom, the bedroom, the bar and the basement. Murder always originates in one of those rooms. Always. People kill each other for money; they do it out of jealousy or desire; they get angry and lose control. Every once in a while, a killer has something wrong with him underneath it all—down in the basement—and grows up malformed.” All signs point to a “basement” serial killer this time around, and the only commonality from one murder to the next is the savage disfiguring of each victim’s face. A taunting note to the investigation team suggests that there is a code—one that could lead them straight to the killer. Hicks thinks the note may be a fake, as there is nothing in it that could not have been gleaned from news reports, but when the second note arrives with images of mutilated bodies stacked like cordwood, there is no longer any doubt. Not for the faint of heart or stomach, but for the rest of you, The Murder Code heralds the American debut of a major new voice in crime fiction.
James W. Hall’s longtime protagonist, Thorn, grows more crotchety with each passing adventure. At this juncture of his life in Going Dark, he wants nothing more than to live off the grid, tying fancy and expensive fishing flies for sport fishermen. It is not to be, however, as Thorn is drawn into an eco-terrorist plot involving two people he cares about strongly: a young woman he befriended back when she was a troubled teenager, and his newly discovered son, the result of a fleeting liaison 20-some years back. It quickly becomes evident that the eco-warriors are operating on wildly different agendas: One faction wants only to demonstrate how woefully inadequate security measures are at a South Florida nuclear facility; the other is perfectly amenable to blowing the place sky-high, a disaster to outstrip both Chernobyl and Fukushima. It will be down to Thorn to put a monkey wrench into their plans and to save his son—no easy feat with his hands cuffed behind his back and a bullet in his thigh. Going Dark has cinematic action all the way through and a couple of fine surprises saved for the final few pages. Nicely done, indeed.
There is so much going on in Donato Carrisi’s latest thriller, The Lost Girls of Rome, I scarcely know where to start. Three disparate plotlines open the book: First, paramedics arrive at the home of a middle-aged coronary victim. When they open his pajamas to massage his heart, they are shocked to see the words “Kill Me” carved into his chest. A further chilling discovery in the room leads one of the paramedics to strongly consider following that directive. Second, a pair of Vatican investigators look into the disappearance of a college girl, a possible harbinger of the return of True Evil to Rome. And third, a young forensic expert burns the midnight oil following the tragic death of her reporter husband. After a cryptic phone call from an Interpol investigator, she begins to believe that his death was no accident and launches a clandestine investigation. The intersection of these plotlines is a given; the seamless manner in which they do so is masterful. With each chapter, The Lost Girls of Rome jumps from one plotline to the next, back and forth between the present and one year ago. Carrisi uses this device to full advantage, building suspense to almost unbearable (and perhaps supernatural) levels, all the way to a truly surprising ending.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
“Lincoln Lawyer” Mickey Haller is back in Michael Connelly’s superb new legal thriller, The Gods of Guilt. Haller is in fine fettle from the get-go, engineering a slick maneuver to force a mistrial of his indubitably guilty client. He barely has time to bask in the afterglow of this success before receiving a call to represent a murder suspect, an Internet pimp who puts a new twist on the second-oldest profession. Andre La Cosse designs websites for call girls, arranges their assignations and collects a tidy fee for his services. Now he stands accused of having murdered one of his clients, a woman from Haller’s checkered past. It should be a conflict of interest, but Haller is not the sort of lawyer to let a thing like that stand in the way of a fat fee—especially when paid in gold bars. Haller’s modus operandi is to bite off more than he can chew, and he does so in short order, mixing it up with a defrocked lawyer even shadier than Haller himself and a violent drug lord with a vendetta to pursue, a vendetta in which Haller figures prominently. Connelly has been BookPage’s Top Pick in Mystery pretty much every time he has put pen to paper, and with 400 pages of nonstop suspense, The Gods of Guilt is guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.