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Review: New crime fiction from Don Easton, Sarah Pekkanen and Michael Koryta

A Delicate Matter

By Don Easton

Dundurn, 406 pages, $11.99

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Now that Jack Reacher has turned into Tom Cruise, it's time for a new tough guy in town. Mountie Jack Taggart is more brains than brawn, but he's still a worthy candidate. This 10th Taggart is a terrific action book as our hero goes up against his old nemesis, Damien Zabat, national president of the Satan's Wrath motorcycle gang. Easton, from Victoria, is an ex-Mountie, so he's quite knowledgeable about the intricacies of undercover work and investigation. He weaves the back story of Taggart's tangled history with Zabat into a very up-to-date plot involving drugs, but he also brings in Zabat's imminent retirement from crime and the rise of his son, Buck. Taggart can send Buck to prison but he strikes a devil's bargain with the father that takes both Zabat and Taggart down a dark and dangerous road.

The Perfect Neighbors

By Sarah Pekkanen

Washington Square Press, 342 pages, $22

This women's mystery novel is no cliché. My mother adored Mary Roberts Rinehart (and so do I) with the horrid hiding under the ordinary and the debutante with the nose for death. That's the world Sarah Pekkanen brings back so beautifully in The Perfect Neighbors. Newport Cove is a perfect little slice of suburbia. The homes are spacious but not monstrous; the lots are large enough for flower gardens to shine; the people are ever so nice. There is, of course, no crime. This is one of the top-20 safest neighbourhoods in the United States. Three residents of Newport Cove, all women, all close friends, are at a point of change. Kellie has gone back to work after a decade at home, and there are temptations she didn't anticipate. Gigi's husband is running for Congress. Is she the ideal political wife? Then there's Susan, the successful businesswoman whose husband left her for a younger woman. All of them are on the cusp of something dangerous. And then the new neighbours arrive, one of whom, Tessa, joins the group. Hidden secrets become deadly. This is great fun.

Rise The Dark

By Michael Koryta

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Little, Brown and Co., 400 pages, $31.50

Private investigator Mark Novak returns in this superb psychological thriller by Michael Koryta, set in Montana and with a villain no fan should miss. There's a spooky village full of psychics, a man emerging from a cave, and a cult that plans to start a holy war against Islam. And that's just the opening. "Rise the dark" are the last words written by Lauren Novak before she was murdered in the odd little town of Cassadaga, Fla. To the investigating police, it was just a doodle but her husband, Mark, knows better. For him, the words lead right to her killer, Garland Webb. Webb, just out of prison, flaunts his freedom in Novak's face and leads him to the scene of Lauren's death. Novak follows Webb to Red Lodge, Mont., where Webb has joined a cult bent on taking down the American electrical grid and blaming it on Islamic terrorists. It seems a crazy cult but Webb is no mental case, and then he abducts another woman and Novak knows just how that will end. Along with the murder and abduction, Novak's own family emerges in all their eccentric glory. This is one novel in which the back story is as good as the murder plot.

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