Fiction from Dazieri, Fox, Mackintosh, Margolin, O’Flanagan, and St. James, plus Debuter Hunter | Xpress Reviews

Week ending February 2, 2018

Dazieri, Sandrone. Kill the Angel. Scribner. Feb. 2018. 464p. tr. from Italian by Anthony Shugaar. ISBN 9781501174650. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501174674. F
There’s one place worse than prison—the Box, a concrete cube without windows. No one comes out alive, no one that is until the Girl, the silent one covered in blood. And then—who knows how much later or why?—a train from Milan arrives in Rome with a carriage full of dead passengers. ISIS claims responsibility, or so someone wants the police to think. Believing otherwise are Deputy Chief Colomba Caselli and her friend Dante Torre, kidnapped as a child and held for 13 years in a concrete silo (see Kill the Father, the first novel in the Caselli-Torre series), a man with a brilliant mind but always on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. Clues point to a vicious assassin suffering from Cotard delusion (in which the sufferer thinks he is already dead), an angel of death who kills in bulk to hide the intended victim.
Verdict Dazieri, author of numerous novels and screenplays, knows how to entertain, though sometimes the comic book effects, a bit Grand Guignol, occasion laughter. Damaged characters struggle amid blood, guts, and vomit to discover the truth behind horrific events dating back to the Cold War and Pavlovian experimentation. Will appeal to fans of Jo Nesbø and Italian noir.—Ron Terpening, formerly with Univ. of Arizona, Tucson

Fox, Candice. Crimson Lake. Forge. Mar. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780765398482. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765398505. THRILLER
This disturbing mystery is set in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, where Ted Conkaffey, a former Sydney cop, is accused of raping a 13-year-old girl and leaving her for dead. Because there is too little evidence, he is released from prison. Everyone abandons him, including his wife, who forbids him from seeing his baby daughter, so Ted moves to remote crocodile-infested Crimson Lake. For work, Ted’s lawyer refers him to ex-con Amanda Pharrell, who did time for killing a school friend. She’s rather eccentric but has the only PI business in town. She hires Ted to help investigate a complex case. Was local celebrity author Jake Scully murdered, did he have an accident, or did he commit suicide? It’s complicated because part of his body was found in a crocodile’s stomach! As the two delve into the case, they also surreptitiously probe each other’s crimes. Vigilantes and corrupt cops see Ted as a pedophile and harass him. The atmospheric setting adds a prevailing sense of menace as readers are privy to not one but three criminal investigations.
Verdict Those who enjoy a gritty, graphic mystery will most enjoy this offering by a Ned Kelly Award–winning author (Hades) and James Patterson coauthor (Never, Never). [See Prepub Alert, 9/25/17.]—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

Hunter, Cara. Close to Home. Penguin Pr. Mar. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780143131052. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524704841. MYS
[DEBUT] Eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappears from her parents’ middle-class Oxford home while they are hosting a barbecue to celebrate the end of the school year. By the time DI Adam Fawley is called in, most of the adults at the party have trampled the grounds and the surrounding neighborhood looking for the little girl and there is no evidence to show where she might have gone or with whom. It is almost as if she was never at the barbecue at all, and as the investigation gathers steam, evidence mounts that perhaps she never was and that nothing is as it first appears.
Debut author Hunter writes a multilayered British police procedural in which each layer that is peeled back reveals another secret to keep readers hooked to the very end. [A Judy and Richard Book Club Spring 2018 pick.]—Lisa O’Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg

Mackintosh, Clare. Let Me Lie. Berkley. Mar. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780451490537. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451490551. SUSPENSE
Anna’s parents committed suicide, a month apart from each other and in the exact same way. But one year later, Anna gets threatening notes that suggest her parents were murdered. She goes to the police to reopen the case, but as the truth is slowly uncovered, more questions arise. What really happened, who is involved, and is Anna in danger? Mackintosh (I Let You Go; I See You) spins readers into a web of deception and dysfunction in her newest thriller. Readers unravel the mystery through the perspectives of Anna and Murray Mackenzie, the retired detective–turned–civilian desk agent who investigates Anna’s claims. Strong characterization is one of the novel’s pleasures; even the secondary characters, especially Anna’s uncle, Billy, and Murray’s wife, Sarah, are well developed. Mackintosh’s segmented storytelling requires readers to turn the pages fervently to get to the end.
Verdict While not as gripping as Mackintosh’s previous books, there is an innate need in this novel to know what happens. Readers will also draw parallels to other authors famous for their plot twists, such as Ruth Ware and Gillian Flynn. [See Prepub Alert, 9/28/17.]—Natalie Browning, Longwood Univ. Lib., Farmville, VA

Margolin, Phillip. The Third Victim. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781250117502. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250117519. THRILLER
Margolin (Violent Crimes) opens this convoluted new series with a woman, bruised and battered, stumbling along a dark road in Oregon. The victim leads Det. Carrie Anders back to the cabin of prominent attorney Alex Mason, where, supposedly, he tortured her and murdered two prostitutes. Noted lawyer Regina Barrister, with her new assistant Robin Lockwood, agrees to defend him. Mason’s trophy wife, after divulging the particulars about how he gets into S/M sex, files for divorce. Despite Alex’s pleas of innocence, his DNA is found on a restraint used in the crimes, which leads to his conviction. In a seemingly unrelated case, a local pimp who threatened a prominent cop for beating up one of his prostitutes, winds up dead. The officer is also a plausible suspect in the double murders; however, Regina won’t pursue the case owing to conflict of interest issues. In addition, Robin realizes that her boss, although noted for her ability to cross-examine witnesses, has demonstrated consistent memory lapses that she’s unwilling to discuss. Robin seriously questions whether these facts might force a new trial for Alex.
Verdict Readers may find the complex plotlines and backstories in this uneven and boring novel confusing. Strictly for Margolin’s fans. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/17.]—Jerry P. Miller, Cambridge, MA

O’Flanagan, Sheila. The Missing Wife. Grand Central. Feb. 2018. 480p. ISBN 9781538760543. pap. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9781538760550. F
Irish author O’Flanagan’s (Someone Special; Yours, Faithfully) captivating novel unravels why Imogen would enact “The Plan” and leave behind her seemingly perfect life, with the beautiful house and handsome husband. Though to the outside world Imogen’s husband, Vince, treats her like a queen, no one knows the debilitating and confidence-killing emotional abuse she has endured over the years. Aware that she’s not the same person she was when they first married, and that she’s not the better for it, Imogen resolves to save herself by leaving and losing herself in France. Both Imogen’s and Vince’s points of view are shared, as well as the tension of a potential confrontation if she’s found and if her decision will stand resolute.
Verdict This essential women’s fiction read is a page-turner that does not disappoint. It will inspire readers contemplating grand and necessary life changes to find the courage to take the first steps. As well, the scenery, setting, and people of France add nicely to the plot.—Anne M. Miskewitch, Harold Washington Lib. Ctr., Chicago P.L.

St. James, Simone. The Broken Girls. Berkley. Mar. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780451476203. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780698198487. SUSPENSE
Idlewild Hall, a boarding school in rural Vermont, lies abandoned, a victim of economic downturns and rumors of its dark past. Murders took place there, students disappeared, and it’s purported to be haunted. Local journalist Fiona Sheridan’s sister Deb’s body was found on the grounds, and her boyfriend was convicted of her murder. When Fiona learns that the property has been sold and renovations are planned, she decides to investigate the school’s past for a magazine article and try to quell some of her own demons as well. Her research reveals the school was a dumping ground for unwanted and misbehaving daughters who were confined as much as educated. Fiona’s snooping uncovers suggestions of brutality and paranormal activity. She also finds links from her sister’s murder to those of others killed at the school, buried and intended to remain forgotten. Fiona’s detective work, assisted by her policeman boyfriend, suggests a modern-day Nancy Drew story for adults.
Verdict This modern Gothic tale by the author of The Haunting of Maddie Clare is a real page-turner and just creepy enough to keep readers satisfyingly on edge. Perfect for a dark and stormy night.—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

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