The Unquiet Dead
By Ausma Zehanat Khan, Minotaur, 352 pages, $29.99
This is Canadian-born Khan's first novel and what a debut it is! The setting is Toronto, in all its highly touted diversity. The story begins with a detective at his evening prayers, kneeling on his family rug made in Peshawar. It moves to a seemingly accidental death and then to investigation of a citizen very nearly beyond suspicion and then to crimes against humanity during the Bosnia War. This whodunit is layered into events as recent as the Maher Arar affair or Toronto's fears of "homegrown" urban terrorists. Khan, who holds a Ph.D. in international human-rights law, knows her subject, knows her hometown, and knows how to keep the suspense building. This is a writer to watch.
The Weight Of Blood
By Laura McHugh, Spiegel & Grau, 336 pages, $19
The Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri are spots where legends hide. Long before the Walton billions, Jesse James and his gang came. Laura McHugh sets her debut novel in this land of tales of gold hoards, meth labs, snake-handling preachers, and hard-eyed women with machine pistols in their handbags. The Weight of Blood, which was published in hardcover last March and is out in paperback this month, is the perfect title. Lucy Dane's mother vanished without a trace when she was a child. Now, as Lucy turns 17, another girl has vanished but her body is found, murdered in a spectacular fashion. Lucy sets out to uncover mysteries connected to a murder and discovers a world beneath the small mountain town she's lived in all her life. This marks a fine new talent.
The Wolf In Winter
By John Connolly, Atria, 432 pages, $32
Charlie Parker is back in one of Connolly's best books ever. If you're not already a devoted fan of this excellent series, you can start here and work backward because "Bird" Parker is one of crime fiction's finest.
The setting is Prosperous, Maine, a town that lives up to its name. The inhabitants are safe, comfortably rich, and they guard their town from strangers. At the centre of Prosperous is a fine old church, imported from England and rebuilt stone by stone. When a homeless man is murdered in Prosperous and his daughter disappears, Charlie Parker heads for that ancient church, which may be a talisman of something evil. Connolly never lets the pages rest. You'll be up late reading this one straight through.