Dead Letters: A Novel by Caite Dolan-LeachPsychological Suspense. Irresponsible Zelda Antipova has apparently died in a barn fire, but her twin sister Ava doesn't really believe it -- especially not after she starts receiving cryptic messages from Zelda and discovering the clues her sister seems to have purposefully left behind. Their relationship a complicated one, Ava (who has her own issues) embarks on a scavenger-hunt-like quest to figure out what actually happened, hampered by her alcoholic, dementia-addled mother, her estranged father, and her hyper-critical grandmother. If you like twisted, manipulative games full of red herrings, you'll devour Dead Letters.
Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-GoshenPsychological Suspense. After exposing corruption in his Tel Aviv hospital, neurosurgeon Eitan Green was rewarded with a crummy posting in dusty Beersheba, in the Negev desert. Driving home after a long shift, he hits a man on a deserted road and flees the scene, leaving incriminating evidence behind. The very next day, his victim's widow shows up with a proposition: if he offers free medical treatment to Eritrean refugees, she won't turn him in. He agrees, but must lie to his wife about his whereabouts -- and she just happens to be the detective assigned to the fatal hit-and-run. With a complex social dynamic underlying this tense read, it's a good bet for readers interested in a fictional take on refugee politics, racial intolerance, and moral dilemmas.
Spook Street by Mick HerronSpy Fiction. This one's a tough one to talk about without giving too much away. But if you're unfamiliar with the Slough House series (this is the 4th entry), you should know that it's about English spies who have been forcibly desk-bound. Not content to just fade away, they manage to get involved in plenty of escapades (start with Slow Horses if you want to get in at the beginning). Here, failed spook River Cartwright is worrying about his grandfather's increasing senility and paranoia (it's causing him to spill secrets from his own -- spectacular -- career as a spy). Dark humor and engaging characters abound in both this book and the series as a whole.
The Loving Husband by Christobel KentPsychological Suspense. Nathan and Fran Hall have left crowded, dirty London to create a new life for their children on a farm in Nathan's hometown. But when Fran finds Nathan dead -- and is unable to answer any questions the local police have for her -- she struggles with both the isolation and the slowly earned knowledge that her marriage to Nathan wasn't what she thought it was. With a powerfully rendered, bleak environment that highlights the gaps in Fran's understanding of what actually happened, The Loving Husband is a "truly, chilling read" (Kirkus Reviews).
Shining City by Tom RosenstielPolitical Thriller. Political fixers Peter Rena and Randi Brooks have been hired by the U.S. president to vet his nominee for the Supreme Court, Roland Madison. It turns out that in the 1960s Madison was involved in some radical activities, spurring his critics to denounce him, but this problem is soon overshadowed when someone starts killing people connected to Madison. Rena and Brooks must now not only find out who's behind the murders (and why), but also protect the president from any political backlash. A veteran political journalist, debut author Tom Rosenstiel has filled this novel with plenty of Washington insight.
Sharp Objects: A Novel by Gillian FlynnPsychological Suspense. Dysfunctional family relationships, long-buried secrets, and manipulative women lie at the heart of this compelling novel. After eight years away, reporter Camille Preaker has returned to her hometown to investigate the recent murders of two young girls. Haunted by memories of her long-dead sister, she must also deal with a Lolita-like half-sister and their mother, who may have caused Camille's childhood illnesses. As Camille investigates, she uncovers horrible family secrets and relives the childhood that led her to self-mutilation. Though you likely know author Gillian Flynn from the bestselling Gone Girl, this debut won both the Steel Dagger and the New Blood Dagger awards in 2007. The HBO television series based on this book (with Amy Adams in the lead role) is filming now and will premiere in 2018.
The Coldest City by Antony Johnston; illustrated by Sam HartSpy Fiction/Graphic Novel. Communism is collapsing and the Berlin Wall is starting to crumble when MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton is sent to Germany to retrieve an incredibly important list of all the spies operating in Berlin (on all sides). Paired with an older agent who doesn't really trust the young woman, Lorraine soon finds she's stepped into a web of double crosses. Told mostly in flashback after the mission implodes, and drawn in ominous tones of black and white, this graphic novel will be on big screens this summer, renamed Atomic Blonde and starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy.
The Dinner: A Novel by Herman KochPsychological Suspense. Over the course of an evening at a fashionable Amsterdam restaurant, two couples move from small talk during the appetizer to weightier issues as the meal continues. Brought together by their sons -- who have done something awful -- we learn more about what ties the families together, and what seems to be a skewering of upper-class values turns into something far darker. It will be interesting to see how the literary prose, taut suspense, dark humor, and unlikeable, unreliable narrators translate to screen next month. (Interestingly, author Herman Koch refused to attend the post-premiere reception.)
Live by Night by Dennis LehaneHistorical Crime Fiction. During the heady days of Prohibition, Boston cop's son Joe Coughlin defies his strict upbringing and chooses instead to "live by night": from trading in narcotics and bootleg booze in Boston to life as a respected Mafioso in Florida and Cuba, he loves and lives dangerously. Live by Night, which is the 2nd in a loosely planned trilogy that began with The Given Day and is followed by World Gone By, was released as a feature film this past November. With only a 35% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you might be better off with the utterly compelling novel instead, which won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel in 2013.
Red Sparrow: A Novel by Jason MatthewsSpy Fiction. Former ballerina Dominika Egorova serves Vladimir Putin's regime by seducing, then spying on, enemies of the state. CIA officer Nate Nash has been reassigned to Helsinki after nearly blowing the cover of a highly valuable Russian mole, and this is where Dominika latches on, determined to learn the mole's identity. But Dominika is more than a pretty lady -- she's smart, and her synesthesia allows her to tell when someone is lying. As they try to outwit and out-spy each other, readers are treated to vivid, authentic details of spycraft; author Jason Matthews worked for the CIA for more than 30 years, and there are shades of John le Carré in his writing. This one you'll have to wait a while before seeing -- Joel Edgerton and Jennifer Lawrence are set to star, but it won't be in theaters until November.
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