If a magical incantation were to switch all the place names in Benjamin Blackâ€™s suspenseful new novel, Holy Orders, from Dublin and Inishowen to Barcelona or Avignon, and swap the surnames from Flynne and Oâ€™Connell to Schwartz or Yamazaki, youâ€™d still know within 20 pages that you were reading a novel set in Ireland. It is something about the brooding tone, the competing influences of the church and the bottle, the relentless bad weather and the pervasive atmosphere of despair. Whatever the secret, Holy Orders has it in spades. Early on, a long-standing character from the Quirke series is killed off, his battered body discovered in a Dublin canal by a trysting couple. Medical examiner Quirke is summoned to the scene, and he realizes with a start, â€śI know this person.â€ť His investigation quickly lands him in conflict with the organization that, behind the scenes, essentially runs 1950s Ireland: the Catholic Church. Quirke and the Church have had an ongoing adversarial relationship since his youth, much of which was spent in a priest-run orphanage. This latest case will do nothing but add fuel to that particular fire in ways neither he nor the reader will anticipate. Troubling and thought-provoking on many levels, Holy Orders is one of those rare mysteries that truly transcends the genre.
MISSING AND UNKNOWN
While we are on the subject of â€śtroubling and thought-provoking,â€ť those words would apply equally well to Pierre Lemaitreâ€™s Alex, a peculiar tale of a kidnapping that is anything but what it appears to be. The title character, Alex PrĂ…Â˝vost, is snatched, seemingly at random, from a Parisian side street. Her abductor trusses her up, dumps her into the back of a nondescript tradesmanâ€™s van and spirits her away to an abandoned warehouse. Well, not entirely abandoned: There are ratsâ€”a multitude of hungry, red-eyed rats. And with each hour that passes, the rats grow hungrier and bolder. Investigating the crime is Camille Verhoeven, a police inspector whose diminutive stature belies his oversize investigatorâ€™s brain. But even a brilliant investigator needs clues. Early on, there isnâ€™t the slightest indication of the identity of the abductee, and there is only the word of a witness to suggest that the crime even took place at all. And then, inexplicably, the clues that do appear suggest that the kidnapped woman is not entirely the hapless victim she first seemed; indeed, she may be quite the predator in her own rightâ€”or not. And that is the beauty of Alex: You donâ€™t really know until the jarring conclusion. Lemaitreâ€™s American debut is clever, deliciously twisted and truly not to be missed.
By now everyone has heard of the ubiquitous Nigerian Internet scams in which a mark is emailed by someone claiming to have access to a fortune he (or occasionally she) needs assistance in retrieving. The mark is offered a huge chunk of change for his help in what promises to be a simple banking transaction; needless to say, the huge chunk of change actually moves out of the markâ€™s bank account, not into it. The name for this scam, 419, serves as the title of Will Fergusonâ€™s riveting global tale of one womanâ€™s revenge on the scammers who precipitated her fatherâ€™s financial ruin and suicide. What sets 419 apart from the typical sting novel is that it is told from the perspectives of all the players: the family of the mark; the police investigating the suicide; the Nigerian Internet wizards who troll chatrooms and blogs in search of likely marks; and the wealthy Lagos crime bosses who take a big piece of every ill-gotten dollar funneled through their city. Surprisingly, the reader is led relentlessly toward a certain sympathy for each of the factions involved, a testament to Fergusonâ€™s prodigious skills as a storyteller. Oh, and follow the moneyâ€”where it ends up is beyond startling!
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Louise Pennyâ€™s 2012 novel The Beautiful Mystery ended as something of a cliffhanger, with SĂ…ÂľretĂ…Â˝ du QuĂ…Â˝bec Chief Inspector Armand Gamache left to preside over a seriously gutted homicide department, and his right-hand man, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, left to battle addiction demons on his own. There will be some resolution to these issues and more in Pennyâ€™s latest Gamache novel, HowÂ theÂ LightÂ GetsÂ In, but not necessarily in the way you might thinkâ€”or for that matter, in the way you might hope! Gamacheâ€™s investigation into a murder will take him once again to the small, snow-covered QuĂ…Â˝bec village of Three Pines, where the last remaining member of a once-famous family of quintuplets planned to visit before someone broke into her Montreal home and clubbed her to death. This would be a worthy plotline in and of itself, but it quickly becomes subsumed in something larger, with repercussions that will be felt all the way up the Provincial hierarchy and beyond. Ambitiously plotted, sensitively staffed and beautifully written, How the Light Gets In handily elevates Pennyâ€™s already lofty bar.
This follow-up to the Agatha Award-winning The Beautiful Mystery finds Chief Inspector Gamache and the Homicide Division that he has created at his beloved SĂ»reté du Québec at their lowest ebb. His formerly top-notch division is tatters, his crack agents have scattered to other units, and his cherished lieutenant, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, has been set on a path of addiction and destruction by Gamache's greatest enemy, the head of the SĂ»reté. It appears that Gamache is being herded toward retirement by the forces arrayed against him. In the middle of this corrupt bureaucratic war, there is one more murder involving Gamache's friends in the village of Three Pines. And as Gamache works tirelessly to solve the crime, he uses the cover of routine police work to show his friends, his remaining allies, and, most of all, his loyal readers that he might appear down, but he is never out. VERDICT Penny's mysteries are really character studies. There is police procedure being followed, but the forensics take second place to Gamache's absolutely fascinating probe into the characters of every single person involved in the investigation: the police, the witnesses, and especially the suspects. He cares passionately about each person and makes the reader care. Highly recommended for mystery lovers, readers who enjoy character-driven mysteries, and those who like seeing good triumph and evil get its just desserts. [300,000-copy first printing.]--Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.[Page 61]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Complex characterizations and sophisticated plotting distinguish Agatha-winner Penny's masterful ninth novel (after 2012's The Beautiful Mystery). The devastating conclusion to the previous book saw Jean-Guy Beauvoir abandon his mentor, Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Quebec SĂ»reté, and return to substance abuse. Things have never looked bleaker for the unassuming and empathic Gamache. A corrupt superior has gutted his homicide department, and the agents he now supervises treat their cases with blatant indifference. Amid all this personal and professional turmoil, Gamache lands a strange murder case. There's no obvious motive for why somebody killed elderly Constance Ouellet--the only living member of a set of quintuplets who were national celebrities in their youth--by striking her in the head with a lamp. Fair-play clues lead to a surprising solution to the murder, while Gamache's battle to save his career unfolds with subtlety and intelligence. Once again, Penny impressively balances personal courage and faith with heartbreaking choices and monstrous evil. First printing of 300,000; author tour. Agent: Patty Moosbrugger, Teresa Chris Literary Agency. (Aug.)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC