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On the case: Five new crime novels worth a read

No Safe House

By Linwood Barclay, Doubleday Canada, 464 pages, $22.95

No Safe House, Linwood Barclay's 13th novel, thematically returns to his break-out of several years ago. Terry Archer, hero dad of No Time to Say Goodbye, is back, with his wife Cynthia and his daughter, Grace. When last seen, the Archers were reunited in their leafy suburban home, ready to forget the horrors they'd endured. Seven years on, the Archers haven't left behind the nightmares of the past. Grace, now a budding teenager, wants to walk on the wild side. Cynthia, obsessing over her family's safety, throws down rules, challenges petty infractions, insists on rigid accountability. It all leads to confrontation, separation, and, in the way of teenaged girls, bad boys. Grace accompanies a boy hoping to "borrow" a Porsche for a joyride. What begins as petty crime turns into burglary and possible homicide and the gun was in Grace's hand. That's just the opening run for Oakville's own Barclay. As Terry attempts to save his kid, restore his family and avoid unhappy visits from the police, this leads him to places, people, and, ultimately, actions he never anticipated or wanted. There's a twist ending that no one will see coming in this, one of his best.

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Back Channel

By Stephen L. Carter, Knopf, 464 pages, $33

Back Channel comes with all Stephen Carter's usual panache. There's his beautiful oratory prose and his perfect historical reconstruction. This time, we're in the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Carter does a good job of conveying the era's scary atmosphere as the Kennedy brothers (J.F. and R.F.) worked to keep the brinksmanship down. Where Carter slips is with his central character. Margo is smart, polished, and sophisticated – maybe too much so. In the age of Mad Men, even extremely intelligent young women might have had several second thoughts before taking on the task put before Margo. I believed every paragraph of the historical plot, but Margo just didn't match it.

Those Who Wish Me Dead

By Michael Koryta, Little, Brown, 400 pages, $29

Stuck in the city over the long weekend? Read this terrific chase thriller set in a dense forest, and be relieved that you're saved from nature's wrath. A young boy who has seen a savage crime is placed in witness protection at a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The men who want to kill him are clever hunters. The only thing between the boy and a dreadful death are the owners of the wilderness camp and their skills, plus the eagle eye of a forest-fire spotter. This one has a thrill a page.


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By Lorenzo Carcaterra, Ballantine, 301 pages, $29.95

Lorenzo Carcaterra has had some good novels since his dazzlingly plotted Sleepers, but nothing quite as arresting as that original tale. Wolf, though, is very nearly as good. This is the inside story of Vincent Marelli, head of an international criminal enterprise, victim of a terrorist attack that kills his wife and child. Now he's going to war in ways that nobody, including the terrorists, can imagine. Don't start this one until you have the time to read it in one go.

Fatal Enquiry

By Will Thomas, Minotaur, 304 pages, $29.99

A perfect cottage book, taking us away from the cries of loons to Victorian London, along with a side trip to the Boxer Rebellion in China. This latest edition of the excellent Thomas Llewellyn and Cyrus Barker series takes us to Barker's past in China, where he encountered evil in the form of one Sebastian Nightwine. Years later, Nightwine is in London and he snares Barker and Llewellyn in a trap that has them fighting for their lives. This is a near-perfectly plotted historical thriller with great characters and wonderful atmosphere.

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