With its narrow take on what it means to be American, Sandford’s collection seems determined to make the genre great again.

THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2017

Sandford, creator of the action-packed Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers franchises, reprints 20 tales of murder and mayhem in the latest entry of this Penzler-curated series.

Although he would like to engage in “an intellectual tour of the history or theory of short-story writing,” what Sandford really has on offer is a highly masculinized exploration of fairly recent concerns. Fifteen of these stories are by white men, the remainder by white women. Their themes include pursuit and intrusion. A hit man stalks his prey in Gerri Brightwell’s “Williamsville.” A driver pursues a motorcyclist in Wallace Stroby’s “Night Run.” An olfactorily-challenged serial killer seeks his next victim in Peter Straub’s “The Process Is a Process All Its Own.” Men also defend what they see as theirs. An injured boxer looks for the lucky shot that will keep a Mexican upstart from making inroads against his Irish family’s franchise in Doug Allyn’s “Puncher’s Chance.” A pot grower finds a way to keep poachers off his land in Dan Bevacqua’s “The Human Variable.” A rural farmer defends his pregnant wife against intruders in C.J. Box’s “Power Wagon.” And Jim Allyn combines flight and intrusion in “The Master of Negwegon,” a tale of military buddies who team up to catch the fourth member of their crew who’s killed a teenager for despoiling his pristine forest. Readers will find the occasional relationship story. A mobbed-up transplant to California forms an unlikely friendship with an elderly Italian horse-whisperer in Steven Popkes’ “The Sweet Warm Earth.” Joyce Carol Oates offers a tale of love gone wrong in “The Woman in the Window.” And relationships can grow out of intrusion, as the protagonist of K. McGee’s “Dot Rat” discovers.

With its narrow take on what it means to be American, Sandford’s collection seems determined to make the genre great again.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-94908-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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