Such a small cast makes it hard to generate much suspense, but Skalka’s brisk pace keeps the pages turning.

DEATH CASTS A SHADOW

A wealthy widow seeks help for her love-struck niece.

Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak has a lot on his mind. His impending first trip back to his hometown of Chicago with his teenage son, Joey, is sure to bring a host of complicated memories. It’s just after Thanksgiving, which means that winter weather is coming to this isolated Wisconsin peninsula. But when he sees a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce pulling out of his driveway, he learns the true depth of his problems. Regina Malcaster has called on Cubiak’s wife, Cate, to ask a favor. She’s concerned for her niece, Lydia Malcaster, a widow who's being romanced online by an old friend of her late husband’s. Regina smells a rat but can’t get Lydia to listen. After putting it off as long as he can, Cubiak visits Lydia and immediately understands Regina’s concern: Lydia’s never even seen James Dura, her online suitor, in person, but she’s already plunked down more than $40,000 for her share of an around-the-world cruise with him. Before the sheriff can check out Dura’s bona fides, Lydia’s found dead after what looks like a fall down the stairs. His worry grows when Tracey Fells, Lydia’s housekeeper, disappears along with her brother, Bobby. Investigating what might not even be a crime isn’t the sheriff’s forte, but he follows his gut to get his man.

Such a small cast makes it hard to generate much suspense, but Skalka’s brisk pace keeps the pages turning.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-29933-870-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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