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The Son

By Jo Nesbo, translated by Charlotte Barslund; Random House, 416 pages, $29.95

Why is Jo Nesbo one of the hottest names in current crime fiction? Read this brilliant standalone thriller and you'll know. Nesbo's Harry Hole series is great but his standalones are even better. The Son is one of his best books yet.

Sonny Lofthus is quietly rotting away in prison for the crime of murder. He was 18 when he was convicted and, after another 18 years, he's now an old con. He has a limitless supply of heroin and, in his daze, he's the man to whom soon-to-be-released cons confess their crimes. Sonny is known for his "healing hands" and his blessing means a man leaves prison with his sins forgiven.Then one day someone confesses to a crime that stole Sonny's life. Sonny's first and only thoughts are of escape and revenge. That's a simple plot synopsis but The Son is about a lot more. The theme is redemption and salvation. Sonny's story begins in despair and degradation and leads to a twist end that will leave readers blinking. You won't stop reading this one to the final sentence and you'll be thinking about it days later.

The Lincoln Myth

By Steve Berry, Ballantine, 448 pages, $30

I love Steve Berry's thrillers based on historical arcana. From the lost Amber Room of St. Petersburg to mysteries of Charlemagne, he digs deeper than Dan Brown ever has. In the past, Berry has sometimes sacrificed a great idea for mindless action. So it's a treat to say that The Lincoln Myth has it all in place. Cotton Malone, a former Justice Department operative, is peacefully selling books in Denmark when he's called into action. The site of a famed massacre of Mormon settlers has been uncovered in Utah. Meanwhile, a document that influenced Abraham Lincoln's actions in the early days of the Civil War has haunting consequences for America today. This is the best book Berry has ever written.

Before You Die

By Samantha Hayes, Century, 400 pages, $22 (paper)

Samantha Hayes is a new British writer for me and, if Before You Die is any indication, she's bursting with talent. Her fourth novel is set in rural England in a village recently faced with a spate of teenaged suicide. Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher is visiting her sister and nephew when another teen dies, note in hand. Is the horror about to begin again? There are signs that the local police didn't investigate thoroughly. Then Fisher's nephew disappears and things become very personal. This is a fine psychological suspense novel from a writer to watch.

In The Morning I'll Be Gone

By Adrian McKinty, Seventh Street Books, 315 pages,

$17 (paper)

If you're not already a fan of McKinty's Troubles Trilogy, of which this is the third, you should begin at the beginning with The Cold Cold Ground. It's not essential to the plot, but McKinty's style and wit are so fine, you'll want the whole story of Sean Duffy, Belfast cop-turned-MI5 investigator. The plot is tight, the characters unforgettable and the action rousing. Not to be missed.