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crime fiction

Detail from the cover of “Snow White Must Die”

Snow White Must Die
By Nele Neuhaus, translated by Stephen T. Murray, Minotaur, 352 pages, $28.99

This superb police procedural is German writer Nele Neuhaus's American debut, and it should put her instantly in the company of with such foreign-language writers as Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell. The story is dense, the plot riveting and the deduction letter-perfect.

The plot revolves around the old Grimm's fairy tale of Snow White. This isn't the prettified Disney version, but the old gory tale with its refrain of "white as snow, red as blood." It begins 12 years earlier, when two young girls, both chosen to play Snow White in a community pageant, go missing from a village called Altenheim.

Evidence is scarce, but circumstance is heavy. Tobias Sartorius, a local lad, is charged and convicted of murdering the two girls.

Skip to today. Tobias returns to Altenheim, having served 10 years of his sentence. His family is broken. His life is gruelling. Then the bones of one of the missing girls turn up and Detective Inspector Pia Kirchhoff and Sergeant Oliver von Bodenstein think that Tobias may not have murdered her at all. But before they can marshal the evidence, another girl dies and the villagers decide to take punishment into their own hands.

Neuhaus does a great job of investing the village with all the overtones of the Grimms' tales, full of mystery and hidden secrets, silence and cover-ups. This book is a major bestseller in Europe, and it's sure to be one here, too.

By Stuart Neville, Soho, 354 pages, $26.95

The best thrillers usually have the protagonist in a moral dilemma, and the dilemma here is a doozy: Your conscience or your country?

The time is 1963 and the setting is Ireland. President John F. Kennedy is en route to visit his ancestral lands, and the world will be watching. The murder of a businessman at a seaside hotel would ordinarily go to homicide, but this is the third case in which the victim was a German who was given asylum at the end of the Second World War. All were Nazis. The last corpse has a note directed to Otto Skorzeny, one of Hitler's favourites: "We are coming for you."

Lt. Albert Ryan of the Irish intelligence service has the task of protecting Skorzeny, but also of making sure that no one discovers Ireland's nasty secret. This thriller is a brilliant character study of a man of real honour.

Shadow Creek
By Joy Fielding, Doubleday Canada, 367 pages, $22.95

The latest from Fielding is a gift to her legion of fans. The setting – the Algonquin wilderness – is perfect for hiding a machete-wielding sociopath. Off the trail is a motley crew of Manhattanites: mom, her edgy daughter, her ex-husband, the ex's new girlfriend, a gal pal and, trailing, the daughter's boyfriend. The plot line has the group heading into the hands of the killer, but it's the interplay within the group that holds the reader. Fielding's forte is the snarls and bites of the privileged and this one doesn't disappoint.

Rosie O'Dell
By Bill Rowe, Flanker, 400 pages, $24

Bill Rowe, a Newfoundland lawyer and politician, is best known to readers for his political memoir Danny Williams: The War With Ottawa, but his mystery debut, Rosie O'Dell, shows that he has more than one arrow in his literary quiver. This is a terrific story that hinges on a woman who is like quicksilver, running through all the cracks. Rosie is at once a victim and a schemer, a woman who uses anyone she can and a frightened girl in search of safety. Lawyer Tom Sharpe has loved her for a long time, and, as a teenager, joined her in vengeful mayhem. Thirty years later, she's leading him into danger again.