Black Horizon, the 11th book in James Grippando’s popular series featuring Florida attorney Jack Swyteck, opens with the two most important words of the lawyer’s life: “I do.” (Ha, ha—you thought I was going to say, “Not guilty.”) The beach wedding in scenic Key Largo goes wildly awry when an epic storm arises in the Gulf, launching manifold repercussions for Swyteck and his new bride. One of the victims of the storm is a young Cuban oil rig worker whose wife emigrated to the U.S. ahead of him. He had planned to follow, but the deadly combination of high winds and an explosive oil spill have put paid to those plans forever. Now his wife would like Swyteck to file a wrongful death suit against the Chinese/Russian/Venezuelan/Cuban consortium that owns the oil rig. This is no easy feat, since the rig is in Cuban waters, and the only tenuous tie to the U.S. legal system is the wife’s residency in Key West.
The situation is volatile; the adversaries are lethal; and the backdrop is a toxic oil slick poised to slime the Florida coast. Black Horizon is timely, relentlessly paced and a thrill ride of the first order.
Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency stories calved a new genre, splitting the difference between hardboiled detective novels and cozies. Martin Walker nails it precisely with his latest Bruno, Chief of Police novel, The Resistance Man. This time out, Bruno investigates the death of a veteran of the French Resistance and discovers papers linking the man to a famous WWII train robbery. Detective fiction is often plot-driven, but the Bruno books are character-driven and, perhaps even more so, locale-driven. Set in the fictional village of St. Denis in the Perigord region of France, The Resistance Man evokes all the history, culture, romance and fine food and drink you might expect of French village life, and yet there is still the opportunity for a heinous crime or two to spice things up from time to time. The series is endlessly charming, funny, warm and clever, with a hero evocative of John Mortimer’s Rumpole or Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Siri. The Resistance Man is sure to satiate Walker’s many fans and win him lots more in the bargain.
Leif GW Persson’s Free Falling, As If in a Dream, the final volume in his acclaimed Story of a Crime trilogy, requires a certain amount of commitment on the part of the reader. For starters, it comes in at a whopping 608 pages. Also, it would make sense to read the two preceding volumes beforehand. That said, these books will be among the most fascinating 1,600-odd pages of Scandinavian crime fiction you will likely ever read. Persson borrows little from his Midnight Sun compatriots (Larsson, Nesbø, et al.) in terms of style; his novels read rather like a documentary, perhaps even more so because the storyline follows a 2007 investigation into the 1986 murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, a real-life crime that, to date, has not been solved.
Lead investigator Lars Martin Johansson, soon to retire, would like to cap off his career with a win. Self-described as “allergic to unsolved cases,” he directs his team through thousands of pages of text and testimony in search of a thread that might begin to unravel the two-decade cold case. As you might imagine with a work of this magnitude, subplots, double dealings and red herrings abound, so be prepared to form and reform opinions again and again. This is a fine wrap-up to a highly regarded series.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
I have been a huge Kem Nunn fan since his 1984 debut novel, Tapping the Source, essentially established a whole new genre of crime fiction, “Surf Noir,” a genre he last revisited in 2004’s Tijuana Straits. However, there are no sun-dappled waves in his latest novel, Chance. It is instead an ink-dark psychological thriller about a Bay Area neuropsychiatrist and his beautiful, damaged patient, a woman with secrets powerful enough to destroy both their lives. Their chemistry is fascinating to observe: She apparently suffers from dissociative disorder, fragmenting into personalities—either composed or overtly sexual—to suit her interpretation of the situation; he is in the process of a divorce, at times thoroughly professional, at other times lonely and at loose ends.
It has been 10 years since Nunn’s last novel, and Chance was well worth the wait.
It is only a matter of time until “lonely” collides with “sexual,” and the sparks begin to fly. Add a jealous husband (a cop!), some shady Romanian thugs, an elderly antiques dealer and his sociopath assistant, and you have a recipe for mayhem and murder. A small spoiler alert: Many suspense novels offer up a denouement, after which loose ends are wrapped up tidily. Not so with Chance. That satisfying moment does not arrive until the very last sentence. It won’t help to page ahead to the end, though; the sentence is meaningless without every other sentence preceding it. It has been 10 years since Nunn’s last novel, and Chance was well worth the wait.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a 7 questions interview with Kem Nunn for Chance.