Skin Game (Dresden Files Series #15) by Jim Butcher
Library Journal –
Butcher (Cold Days) brings back wizard Harry Dresden for his 15th adventure fighting a rogue's gallery of supernatural villains, but this time in a caper story. Harry has recently taken on the mantle of the Winter Knight, servant to Mab, the Faerie Queen of Air and Darkness, and she has a job for Harry. Mab has a debt to pay to Nicodemus Archleone, Knight of the Blackened Denarius, so she is loaning him Harry's assistance. As holders of one of Judas's pieces of silver imbued with a fallen angel, the Knights are very bad news. Worse for Harry is that the job Nicodemus plans is a raid on the vault of Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Dresden is no cream puff himself, but something of an amalgam of his own intelligence and cunning mixed with Harry Potter-like devotion to his friends and the cause of good. VERDICT This is urban fantasy par excellence, with magical action, moral dilemmas, and a wonderful cast. Series fans will love this, and there is enough backstory for newcomers.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids
The Smoke at Dawn by Jeff Shaara
Publishers Weekly –
Shaara's third volume of four focusing on the "‘Western' theater of the Civil War," after 2013's A Chain of Thunder, is a top-notch war novel. As in his previous books, whether about the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, or the two World Wars, he manages to make the minutiae of troop deployments and battlefield tactics absorbing even for the non-buff. This series is especially appealing for its look at an obscure yet crucial juncture: the 1863 "campaign around Chattanooga," which here is portrayed as a bellwether of the Confederacy's ability to prevail in the wider conflict. Along well-known figures such as Grant and Sherman are involved, Shaara primarily enables the reader to experience the hell of war through the lower ranks, such as sniper Fritz Bauer. As with the best historical war novels, knowing the ultimate outcome of the bitter fighting is not a bar to engagement.
Sniper's Honor (Bob Lee Swagger Series #9) by Stephen Hunter
Kirkus Reviews –
In his latest Bob Lee Swagger adventure, Hunter (The Third Bullet, 2013, etc.) sends the indefatigable warrior into the Carpathian Mountains. Swagger's 68 now, retired to the Cascades, his sniper heroics in Vietnam and thereafter left to history books. When long-time friend and veteran reporter Kathy Reilly calls to question him about firearms, Swagger learns that she's investigating Ludmilla Petrova, a blonde beauty known as the White Witch, a World War II Russian sniper. Petrova, despite heroics at Stalingrad, Kursk and elsewhere, has disappeared from postwar records. Reilly's curious. Swagger's intrigued. He's also willing to help, even if it means flying to Russia. With eight Swagger adventures on the books, Hunter knows his hero like a brother: righteous character firmly set, crafty intelligence thoroughly hidden, stone-cold willing to take the shot if a bad actor must die. Swagger and Reilly end up in Ukraine, thwarting evildoers ranging from an off-the-reservation U.S. clandestine operator to a mobbed-up anti-Semitic Russian oligarch with family connections to Nazi-sympathizing WWII double agents. In the Carpathian wilderness, Swagger's sniper instinct helps Reilly uncover Petrova's WWII exploits, from Kursk, where she went rogue during the massive tank battle, to tiny, isolated Yaremche, Ukraine, where she was sent on a suicide mission to kill an Obergruppenführer named Groedl. Swagger displays mighty tradecraft, employing a British Enfield sniper rifle secreted in a Carpathian Mountain cave since 1944. Hunter adds an exotic bad guy, Yusef Salid, SS-trained cousin of Jerusalem's grand mufti, who leads Serbian Nazis into the killing fields, but Hunter doesn't forget the "good Germans"—a decimated squad of paratroopers trying to do the right thing in spite of the "nutcase paperhanger from Austria." Despite a not-wholly-related narrative thread highlighting Mossad's mad skills in frustrating Russian-Iranian anti-Israel machinations, Hunter loads up a whole magazine of action, double-dealing and gun porn.
The Son by Jo Nesbo
Kirkus Reviews –
A deftly plotted novel that probes the deepest mysteries: sin, redemption, love, evil, the human condition. After he seemingly brought Harry Hole back from the dead in his last novel (Police, 2013), Norway's Nesbø gives his popular protagonist a breather, shelving the detective in favor of a stand-alone novel that plunges deeply into the religious allegory that has frequently framed his work (The Redeemer, 2013). In fact, the symbolism might initially seem laid on pretty thick for readers looking to solve a satisfying whodunit. Sonny Lofthus, the son of the title, is introduced as a prisoner with "healing hands," one who was "prepared to take your sins upon himself and didn't want anything in return." Like Christ, he suffers for the sins of others and offers redemption. He is also a hopeless junkie. His back story suggests that Sonny was a boy of considerable promise, a champion wrestler and model student, proud son of a police officer. Then, when he was 18, he was devastated by the suicide of his father, who left a note confessing his corruption as the mole within the department, and the subsequent death of his heartbroken mother. After Sonny turned to drugs, he found himself in a web of evil; if he would confess to murders he hadn't committed, the corrupt prison system would keep him supplied with heroin. Then a fellow prisoner comes to him for confession and reveals a secret that turns Sonny's world upside down, inspiring him to kick his habit, plot an ingenious escape and turn himself into an "avenging angel," delivering lethal retribution. The inspector obsessed with the case had a complicated relationship with Sonny's father, and it remains uncertain until the climax (in a church, naturally) whether he wants to be Sonny's captor or his collaborator. It's a novel in which one character muses on "how innocence walks hand-in-hand with ignorance. How insight never clarifies, only complicates." One of Nesbø's best, deepest and richest novels, even without Harry Hole.