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Free Fall

By Rick Mofina, Mira, 448 pages, $11.99

It's an act of faith to fly in an airplane. Once aloft, passengers and crew are in a metal tube at the mercy of weather, instruments and evils ranging from shoe bombers to geese flying in the engine. So when a New York commuter jet and a British liner crash, thousands of kilometres and countries apart, it seems at first like random bad luck. Journalist Kate Page, one of Rick Mofina's best characters, is back in this high-paced novel with a scary theme. The FBI and the NTSB are on the case in search of error or terror, but then someone contacts Kate claiming to be the perp and – worse – claiming that this is just the beginning. Even more catastrophes are coming. Mofina is at his best here with technical knowledge and a solid investigation underpinning a plot that we can all connect to. Do not read this one before getting on a plane.

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The Paris Librarian

By Mark Pryor, Seventh Street Books 270 pages, $17

The sixth Hugo Marston novel has it all: a Paris setting, a locked-room death that may or may not be murder, a beautiful actress who was a spy for the French resistance during the Second World War and a dead Nazi. Add in Marston, an American security specialist, and you have the perfect summer holiday book. It's Paris in August; the town is deserted except for tourists. Time slows. Hugo Marston, chief of security for the American embassy, is taking it easy and enjoying his rare book collection when his friend Paul Rogers calls to tell him of a possible new acquisition. But Rogers ends up dead in a locked room in the American Library. The police call it suicide; Marston isn't convinced. As he digs into events, he discovers in the library collection a controversial set of letters from Isabelle Severin, now 90 years old and sinking into dementia. But these are only part of Isabelle's correspondence, and a biographer is convinced there are more important ones in the old woman's possession. What did this have to do with Paul Rogers's death? Marston follows the clues in a finely structured plot that's one of Pryor's best books yet.

Betrayals

By Kelley Armstrong, Random House Canada, 420 pages, $29.95

Kelley Armstrong sure knows how to spin a yarn. If a good old mystery plot needs some tweaks, she adds fangs and fur and comes up with the hit books that became the TV series Bitten, among other titles. Betrayals, Armstrong's best book yet, is the fourth novel set in the otherworldly town of Cainsville. Someone is murdering street kids in Chicago. Ricky, the boyfriend of ex-socialite Olivia Taylor-Jones, is implicated. Working to clear Ricky's name, Olivia finds that she and Ricky will have to discard their own walls of distrust and fear to do so. Purists who hate the mixture of mystery and fantastic fiction can skip this series but you're missing something good. Along with the supernatural, Armstrong knows her ratiocination.

Wishful Seeing

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By Janet Kellough, Dundurn, 300 pages, $11.99

Every summer weekend needs a beach read and Wishful Seeing is a good one. It's a grand little historical mystery set in Southern Ontario in the summer of 1853. The saddlebag preacher Thaddeus Lewis and his bright and sassy granddaughter, Martha, are out to solve a murder. A dead woman is found on the appropriately named Spook Island in the middle of Rice Lake. Witnesses saw her alive wearing a vivid blue dress. When that dress turns up in the washtub of Ellen Howell, a local woman whose husband has abandoned her, Thaddeus finds himself drawn to both the case and the woman. But there's far more than a whodunit here. This is the year of the opening of the Cobourg-to-Peterborough railway line and the dead woman may have been a cog in a far larger and more dangerous machine. Great evocation of the era, excellent historical research and Thaddeus and Martha are two to watch.

Salvage

By Stephen Maher, Dundurn, 224 pages, $14.99

The second novel by journalist Stephen Maher is long on setting – the coast and seas of Nova Scotia – and action but sadly short on character. That said, this is an interesting work by a writer of talent and, for the sailing enthusiast, a fun read. Peter Scarnum is sailing along Nova Scotia's south coast when he finds an abandoned lobster boat on the rocks. He manages to haul it in and tow it to his friend's dock. He's hoping for a big salvage fee (and there is one) but before it can be paid out, a dead body washes up. The fisherman who took the lobster boat out has been shot. Scarnum is an obvious suspect and the RCMP investigators have questions about him and the dead man's widow. Just what the lobster boat was carrying at the time of its crash is evident when a couple of very well-armed Mexican cartel soldiers show up in search of a hundred kilos of pure cocaine. Worse, Scarnum's ex-girlfriend is in danger. And so it goes. The characters are flimsy in the extreme –particularly the women – and the action never stops to breathe but there's a good story here. Maher has room to grow.

Die Of Shame

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By Mark Billingham, Sphere, 418 pages, $22.99

Mark Billingham's DI Thorne novel plots typically combine character-driven narratives with solid police investigations. Die Of Shame departs from the cop shop and dives headlong into the characters. And in true Billingham style, it's brilliant. Tony Da Silva is a therapist specializing in addiction. He believes that addictions rise from childhood events that have led to a sense of shame and he wants his clients (never "patients") to dig deeply. His group is a motley collection of deeply unhappy people: a bereaved anesthesiologist, a damaged overeater, a teenaged male prostitute and a cast-off wife. All pick and poke and gouge each other and each has a backstory cleverly revealed as the novel proceeds. When one client is killed, DI Nicola Tanner is sent to investigate. There's a twist at the end, and the required denouement, but Billingham is far better than that. This is a read-till-you-drop psychological mystery driven by some of the most intriguing characters you'll meet.

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