Suspicion by Joseph Finder
Kirkus Reviews –
Following two Nick Heller novels (Vanished, 2009; Buried Secrets, 2011), Finder gives us a stand-alone in which Boston writer Danny Goodman gets in treacherously over his head after borrowing a large sum of money from a fabulously rich man who isn't what he seems. Since his wife died from cancer two years ago, Danny has been struggling—emotionally, because his teenage daughter, Abby, still blames him for not telling her that her mother was dying; and financially, because he had Abby transferred to the city's most exclusive private school, where her best friend, Jenna, goes. When the school threatens to kick her out for lack of tuition payments, Jenna's father, Tom Galvin, loans Danny $50,000, saying his formerly troubled daughter's current happiness depends on her continuing to have Abby as a classmate. Tom, who is married to the daughter of a prominent Mexican businessman, also values his burgeoning friendship with Danny, a fellow Bostonian with working-class roots like his. But no sooner has Danny deposited the money than DEA agents are all over him, informing him that Galvin works for a top Mexican drug cartel and unless Danny spies on him for them, he will go to prison as an accessory—or even worse, be targeted by the murderous cartel. Danny's nail-biting exploits include breaking into Galvin's locker during a game of racquetball to drain data from his cellphone. Is Tom onto him? Is he being so warm and generous to Danny only to set him up? The characters don't break any molds; we've seen even the likes of the cartel's sadistic "angel of death," Dr. Mendoza, before. But the plot is so smartly put together, expertly paced and unpredictable that neither Danny's shallowness nor Finder's limitations as a prose stylist keep this from being an irresistible page-turner. This is another winner from Finder, who, as ever, builds suspense without a shred of overstatement.
Terminal City (Alexandra Cooper Series #16) by Linda Fairstein
Publishers Weekly –
The area of Midtown Manhattan around Grand Central Terminal, with its host of landmark buildings, serves as the backdrop for bestseller Fairstein’s gripping 16th novel featuring ADA Alexandra “Coop” Cooper (after 2013’s Death Angel). An unidentified young woman lies dead in a luxury suite on a high floor of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, with “lines that appeared to have been sliced by a sharp instrument into her upper thighs.” With the U.S. president scheduled to arrive at the Waldorf in just a few days, Coop teams with Special Victim Unit detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, the highest-ranking African-American in the squad, in a race against the clock to track down the deranged individual responsible for this and subsequent brutal murders with the same m.o. Meanwhile, a complicated and evolving romance between Mike and Coop muddles the pursuit, as the detective’s shady recent past puts Coop on edge. The tour of Midtown, both above and below ground, is alone worth the price of admission.
Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum Series #21) by Janet Evanovich
Janet Evanovich’s TOP SECRET TWENTY-ONE promises to follow the first 20 Stephanie Plum novels to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Her latest addition is complete with firebombs, feral Chihuahuas, a “freakazoid polonium assassin,” a hamster named Rex, a 1953 powder blue and white Buick Roadmaster, and quirky characters, including two feuding grandmothers.
Avid fans look forward to reading Stephanie’s exploits because they’re interested in knowing what’s happening in the lives of her cast of recurring characters. Evanovich doesn’t disappoint in TOP SECRET TWENTY-ONE.
Evanovich dishes up more than crime in the 21st installment of her numerically titled Plum series. Romantic encounters keep her readers turning the pages. She describes her relationship with Ranger: “The panther stalking the gazelle, keeping all the other predators away. He enjoys the hunt. And I enjoy being the gazelle, although truth is I’m more prairie chicken than gazelle.” Readers love Stephanie because she’s flawed, like us, struggling to be a good person in an imperfect world.
In contrast to her description of the dark, mysterious Ranger, Stephanie describes her relationship with Italian cop Joe Morelli as her “kind of dessert.” He’s a bad-boy hero with a scary grandmother and a drooling dog named Bob.
In TOP SECRET TWENTY-ONE, conflicts arise between the two lovers when Morelli finds out that Ranger has put Stephanie in danger.
As always, tasty descriptions enable the reader to visualize settings as she takes us along for an adventure ride: “It was an older hotel that had been expanded, given a fresh coat of badly applied stucco, and painted to resemble a birthday cake. The interior décor was also birthday cake with a splash of Easter basket.”
As she is wont to do, Evanovich weaves setting, family, romance and crime to pull the plot of TOP SECRET TWENTY-ONE forward. Does Stephanie capture Poletti? Does Ranger survive his battle with Vlatko? Enjoy the thrilling journey with Stephanie for yourself.
Kirkus Reviews –
Straub refreshes a conventional plot through droll humor and depth of character. By now, the premise is so familiar it seems like such a novel could write itself, but it wouldn't write itself nearly as engagingly as Straub has (Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, 2012, etc.). Starting with the somewhat generic title, she has all the predictable elements in place: family and close friends gathering at an exotic remove from their daily lives, reveal secrets (and articulate unacknowledged truths), learn how well they know each other and how well they don't, discover which relationships will endure—even strengthen—and which will dissolve. At the end of the idyll—in this case two weeks on the Spanish island of Mallorca—all will return transformed. The reason for this group gathering is the 35th anniversary of Jim and Franny and the high school graduation of their daughter, Sylvia. Franny is a successful journalist, specializing in travel pieces, and Jim had a career at a GQ-style magazine until he lost his job as editor for reasons that threaten their marriage. Sylvia is the novel's most perceptive character, with a single goal for the vacation—losing her virginity. Joining them are their older son, Bobby, and his older girlfriend, whose lives in Florida are something of a mystery to the New York family, as well as Franny's lifelong friend Charles and his husband, Lawrence. From the periphery, Lawrence observes that "[o]ther people's families were as mysterious as an alien species, full of secret codes and shared histories." Yet even those who share that history remain enigmas to each other, as Franny discovers about Jim: "What did anyone know about anyone else, including the person they were married to?" Ultimately, the reader will savor the novel's illumination of these characters, who are neither good nor evil but all too human. Will Jim and Franny stay together? Will Sylvia achieve her goal? A novel that is both a lot of fun to read and has plenty of insight into the marital bond and the human condition.
Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander Series #8) by Diana Gabaldon
Kirkus Reviews –
Of haggis, gigged frogs and succubi: Continuing her Outlander series, Gabaldon (An Echo in the Bone, 2009, etc.) again pushes the boundaries of genre fiction. Sensitive readers new to the series will want to know that Gabaldon’s leads are fond of dropping f-bombs, sometimes even in the clinical sense: “Damn you, neither one of us was making love to the other—we were both fucking you!" They’ll also want to know that, as those characters cross time and space, they’re given to the basest treacheries as well as the profoundest loyalties, which may help explain the preceding quotation. The action now takes place across the water in revolutionary America, where Jamie Fraser, one-time Jacobite rebel, now commands 10 companies of Continental militia, when, he worriedly notes, “he’d never led a band of more than fifty.” Lord John, his old Brit friend and sometime bugaboo, figures in the mischief, of course. There are twists aplenty, one of them Jamie’s Lazarus-like return from the great beyond to find—well, different domestic arrangements. Meanwhile, his child, having long since learned that it’s possible to enter “a time vortex with a gemstone” and come out safely in other eras, now has good reason to want to be not in the 20th century but back in the 18th, where, if things are just as complicated, she at least has trustworthy kin. Confused yet? With willingly suspended disbelief, it all makes sense in the end. Gabaldon’s themes are decidedly grown-up, as the in-joking chapter titles (“Frottage,” “Frannie’s Frenulum”) suggest, but the basic premise is a dash of juvenile fantasy, a jigger of historical fact and heaping helpings of counterfactuals. If you’re a Gabaldon fan, the Scottish dialect, laid on with a spade, and all those naughty asides will be a familiar pleasure. If not—well, this overly long book isn’t likely to make converts, at least not without several thousand pages of catch-up to figure out who’s who, who’s doing what, who’s doing whom, and why. Gabaldon works a successful formula, with few surprises but plenty of devices. And yes, there’s room for a sequel—or 10.