Missing You by Harlan Coben, Dutton, 400 pages, $32.95
Warning: under no circumstances do you skip to the ending of this superbly crafted novel. Yes, there is a twist – are several of them, in fact. And you have to work your way through all of them to relish the stinger on the final page. Kat Donovan is a New York cop, daughter of a cop, raised in the stiff Irish Catholic world of cops. Once, she almost escaped, to Columbia Law School and marriage to a highly eligible man. Everything collapsed when her father died, murdered on the job in a contract killing. The murderer confessed and went to prison for life, but the crime boss who commissioned the killing is still free and easy. Catching him is Kat’s obsession. Then one day, she goes on a dating website and, after 20 years, there’s the man who stole her heart and ran away with it. All that is just in the first few pages of this terrific book. The story sweeps in time and place and keeps moving. There’s a contemporary plotline too, the hunt for a missing woman that dovetails neatly into Kat’s obsessive search for the clue that will release her from her father’s death. One of Coben’s best ever.
Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson, Forge, 320 pages, $29.99
Toronto native Hilary Davidson also knows how to spin a tale. Blood Always Tells introduces the very dysfunctional Edgars family, brother Desmond and sister Dominique Monaghan. In a fit of revenge at a two-timing married lover, Dominique attempted a touch of blackmail that turned into kidnapping, and worse. When she calls on Desmond for help, the plot, already complex, goes in a very different direction. Davidson knows how to keep things in motion and she never lets the story get out of control. This is her best mystery yet.
The Red Road by Denise Mina, HarperCollins, 304 pages, $22.99
Few authors know meaner streets than Denise Mina. Her fictional Glasgow is a vicious and soul-destroying place and no victim is as chilling as fourteen-year-old Rose Wilson, prostitute and pimp murderer. Twenty-five years later, Detective Inspector Alex Morrow is faced with a new case, one that will reopen the Rose Wilson conviction and force D.I. Morrow to confront the ultimate dilemma of the ethical copper: when are justice and the law in conflict? One of Mina’s most complex works.
Destroyer Angel by Nevada Barr, Minotaur, 352 pages, $31
I love this series, set in America’s great national parks and featuring Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. At No. 18, the series is stretched, but Barr manages to keep things going by changing the tone and keeping the settings fresh. This time out, Anna is on a much-needed holiday with friends. They’re camping in the great Iron Range park in Minnesota. There are three women and two teenaged girls, one of whom is a paraplegic. They are in the back of the beyond when a gang of thugs attacks. How will Anna get them all out? This is a story of skill and survival told by a mistress of the plot line. Not her greatest (that was Firestorm) but definitely in the top 10.
Bad Wolf by Nele Neuhaus, translated by Steven T. Murray, Minotaur, 416 pages, $29.95
This is the second Nele Neuhaus crime procedural translated into English and it bodes well for the rest of the Pia Kirchhoff/Oliver von Bodenstein series of German bestsellers. The setting is Frankfurt and the victim is a brutally murdered girl of about 16. The surprise for the police is that no one comes forward to claim the body. She matches no description of a missing person. Weeks go by with not a shred of information to identify her. Then comes another, far more public event: A well-known television journalist is beaten, raped and locked in the trunk of her car. She survives and Kirchhoff and von Bodenstein are on the case. She can give only a few tangential clues, but those lead back to another even more sinister matter and into the very heart of corruption. If you missed Snow White Must Die, you’ll want that one too.
Whirlwind by Rick Mofina, Harlequin, 400 pages, $8.99
How do you piece together clues to a kidnapping in the midst of utter devastation from a tornado? That’s the puzzle Rick Mofina puts to readers in this slick thriller about a desperate mother and her missing child. It helps that the mother is also a dogged reporter who can follow the trail even when it’s blown sky-high. Former journalist Mofina knows what reporters really do and that, plus the fear of a frantic mother, gives this novel its punch. In the new world of crime fiction, there are worse crimes than murder.