Fiction from Lawson, O’Reilly, Rhoades, and Robb, plus a U.S. Debut | Xpress Reviews

Week ending January 23, 2015

starred review starCross, Mason. The Killing Season. Pegasus Crime. Feb. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781605986906. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605987439. F
killing season012315A chance last-ditch escape for death row prisoner Caleb Wardell, known as the Chicago Sniper, begins a six-day spree of random killings. The FBI is on the case, along with Carter Blake, who is called in to assist in the manhunt. Much like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Blake is a military-trained loner, with skills that rival those of the agents of the bureau. Add feisty special agent Elaine Banner, and the scene is set for plenty of action and suspense that culminate in a surprise ending.
Verdict British author Cross makes a spectacular U.S. debut with this harrowing thriller. The gripping, intense pace and the intriguing characters will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Hope for a sequel!—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

Lawson, Anthea. Mistress of Melody. Fiddlehead. (Music of the Heart, Bk. 2). 2014. 268p. ISBN 9781680130614. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781680130607. $4.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Jessamyn Lovell, the Gypsy Violinist, entrances London’s upper crust, but surely a careful listener can hear the sadness underscoring the lively music. She and her sister are beholden to their uncle, who has other motives for keeping them. Morgan Trevethwick, Earl of Silverton, knows he must find a bride soon, but he is distracted by his role in helping Scotland Yard find the mysterious Mr. Z, who is blackmailing his friends, not to mention the musician who is distracting him in an entirely different way. As intrigue swirls around them, Jessa and Morgan are drawn to each other. But will Jessa and her sister be thrown to the winds while Morgan submits to a loveless yet suitable marriage?
Verdict This riveting mystery from Lawson (Sonata for a Scoundrel) highlights a sweet fairy tale; a perfect companion to a cup of tea on a wintry Saturday.—Emily Thompson, Univ. of Tennessee at Chattanooga

O’Reilly, Paddy. The Wonders. Washington Square: Atria. Feb. 2015. 280p. ISBN 9781476766362. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781476766379. F
In a modern take on the carnival sideshow, Rhona Burke is the ringmaster of a performing troupe of three medical marvels. There is the Aussie, Leon, who has a clockwork heart; Kathryn, who is covered in black wool; and Christos, who has mechanical angel wings surgically attached to his back. These extraordinary but broken people live in a secluded compound in Vermont with several rescued circus animals and a large staff. O’Reilly tells the story from Leon’s perspective, and the reader learns the most about his backstory. As the three performers get to know one another, they form a close-knit family unit, but tension builds as the troupe becomes more popular and is subject to threats from crazy fans and critics alike, with violent results.
Verdict The idea of a contemporary circus act is intriguing, but the plot is not always compelling and the characters do not feel fully fleshed out. A disappointment after Australian author O’Reilly’s excellent sophomore effort, The Fine Color of Rust.Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. Syst., TX

Rhoades, J.D. Devils and Dust. Polis. Feb. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781940610177. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940610481. F
Seemingly retired bounty hunter Jack Keller is drawn back into action in Rhoades’s fourth series installment (after Safe and Sound). Jack is living quietly in the Southwest, working in the same bar as his love interest, when Angela, an old flame and former boss, seeks him out to help find her missing husband. Unable to resist the adventure that goes along with bounty hunting, Jack is soon involved with tracking down a human trafficking ring seemingly connected to an extreme group of white supremacists. At the same time he’s chasing down those behind the disappearance of his friend, he’s also forced to deal with his feelings for Angela while balancing his past and present.
Verdict Jack is a fun character to root for and more than a little reminiscent of Jack Reacher. Rhoades doesn’t waste time with unnecessary dialog, preferring instead to let the action speak. This is a fast and fun read, one that will appeal to fans not only of Keller but also to readers of Lee Child and other act first, ask questions later tough guys.—Craig L. Shufelt, Fort Erie P.L., Ont.

starred review starRobb, J.D. Obsession in Death. Putnam. Feb. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9780399170874. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698161443. F
In this 40th entry (after Festive in Death) of Robb’s “In Death” series, a serial killer is leaving Lt. Eve Dallas fan mail along with the corpses of Eve’s supposed enemies. The killer is organized enough (or has enough insider knowledge) to leave no clues behind, though, and Eve is forced to think of all the people now in her life who might become the next target. When the noose tightens on the killer, Eve is stunned to realize that the culprit is someone she should recognize but doesn’t until it is nearly too late.
Verdict Robb’s take on the thriller trope of the obsessed fan is chilling and well done. A treat for series fans, this suspenseful novel, set in a near-future New York City, also provides enough backstory for newcomers. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 8/11/14.]—Marlene Harris, Reading Reality, LLC, Duluth, GA