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book review

Maiden Lane
By Michael Januska, Dundurn, 336 pages, $17.99

The second in Michael Januska's Border City Blues series is as slick as his debut. We are in Windsor/Detroit in the winter of 1923. Prohibition is making fortunes for bootleggers and other criminals. Graft flourishes. Police Detective Campbell eases his psychic wounds with long walks. On one of them, a body lands at his feet. He asks his forensic friend, Dr. Laforet, to assist in the investigation. Across town, bootlegger Jack McCloskey has been summoned to renew his underworld ties to defend against a gang known as The Guard. He, too, stumbles across a body, but this one holds a key that he hopes will lead to the proverbial pot of gold. As Campbell and McCloskey's clues converge, they lead to a mysterious medium who claims to channel the dead which, in 1923, with millions of widows, orphans and parents grieving, was a boom industry. This is deftly worked into the plot, which twists satisfyingly to the end. One minor cavil: Januska assumes readers have read his first novel, Riverside Drive, and doesn't spend much space on back stories. New readers may want to get both books to follow Campbell's twists and turns.

Little Black Lies
By Sharon Bolton, Bantam, 308 pages, $24.99

"I believe just about anyone can kill. In the right circumstances, given enough motivation. The question is, am I there yet?" That's the opening line of this brilliant novel of psychological suspense set in the remote Falkland Islands. Catrin Quinn has lived there all her life, insulated by the cozy British colonial community in the capital, Stanley. Her best friend all her life was Rachel Grimwood, right up until Rachel killed Catrin's two sons. It was, of course, a tragic accident. They were in Rachel's car. She stopped just for a second to do an errand, and, in that second, the car rolled off a cliff. And Catrin's life was altered forever. Now, children gone, marriage finished, she cruises by Rachel's house at night, imagining Rachel enjoying her three children, her perfect life and thinking of vengeance. This is a perfect summer novel, with superb characters, a fascinating out-of-the-way setting and the kind of pounding suspense that will keep you reading long into the night.

The Other Son
By Alexander Soderberg, translated by Neil Smith, Knopf Canada, 368 pages, $32

I was one of many reviewers who loved Soderberg's first crime novel, The Andalucian Friend. Now he returns with the sequel, which is the second in a planned trilogy. It's good and solid, but it's the second of three, which means that it's basically a bridge and, despite hot action from the very beginning, it's still the middle. Friend ended with Sophie Brinkmann's acceptance into the crime family of her lover Hector Guzman. Other Son opens a few months later. Hector is in a coma. Hector's right-hand man, Aron Geisler, is in charge until his recovery and part of his charge are Sophie and her son. From the very first, her life is in danger. She barely escapes assassination in Istanbul and all vestiges of her past normal life are gone. But what if Hector never wakes up? Then the second Guzman son is murdered. This is a fast-paced, well-written book that takes us up to date on Sophie's predicament, but it's the bridge and those who want the end will have to wait.

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