Fiction: Mystery & Thrillers
| Top More than Just Swedes
By Peter Cannon
International bestseller Henning Mankell, who published his first Kurt Wallander novel in the U.S. in 1997, may not have captured the imagination of American readers in the same way as his fellow Swede, Stieg Larsson, later did with the Millennium trilogy, but fans of Swedish crime fiction will welcome what Mankell has announced will be the last in the detective series, The Troubled Man, about a retired Swedish naval commander haunted by an incident during the cold war.
British author Charles Cumming also mines the cold war in his fifth spy novel, The Trinity Six, which supposes that in addition to the "Cambridge Five" (Burgess, Maclean, Philby, et al.) there was a sixth man who betrayed his country to the Soviets during WWII and after. This breakthrough book ranks with the best of John le Carré.
Keigo Higashino won Japan's Naoki Prize for Best Novel for The Devotion of Suspect X, about the efforts of a lonely mathematician to save an attractive neighbor from being arrested for the murder of her abusive ex-husband. In this tale of miscarried human devotion, everyone suffers and no one can ever win.
Taylor Stevens draws on her experience of being raised in the Children of God cult for her debut, The Informationist, which takes a great new action heroine, androgynous Vanessa Michael Munroe, from Texas to Africa. Munroe doesn't have to kick over a hornet's nest to attract attention, though she shares the same fire as Larsson's Lisbeth Salander.
Still best known as the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, Marcia Clark makes her fiction debut with Guilt by Association, which introduces L.A. deputy DA Rachel Knight, whose appealing personality combines strength of character with compassion and all-too-human foibles.
Edward Conlon, the author of Blue Blood, his memoir of life in the NYPD, puts his police experience to fine use in his fiction debut, Red on Red, about a New York City police detective who investigates a suspected dirty cop. The pace may not be fast enough for the average thriller reader, but fans of such literary crime masters as George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Richard Price will be rewarded.
Now that serial killer Gretchen Lowell is safely behind bars, Portland, Ore., detective Archie Sheridan shows he can sustain the series on his own in Chelsea Cain's fourth crime thriller, The Night Season, which involves the real-life 1948 Vanport, Ore., flood.
The film of Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer, due for a March 18 release, is sure to give a boost to his fourth Mickey Haller novel, The Fifth Witness. Connelly has recently regained the movie/TV rights to his Harry Bosch character, who'll be returning in The Drop this fall.
Sugawara Akitada, the hero of I.J. Parker's mystery series set in 11th-century Japan, must contend with a demotion from senior secretary to junior secretary in the Ministry of Justice as well as defend himself from a murder charge in his eighth outing, The Fires of the Gods. Historical fans will discover that Parker keeps getting better with each book.
Colin Cotterill, the author of seven mysteries set in 1970s Laos, launches a new contemporary series set in southern Thailand in Killed at the Whim of a Hat. This traditional mystery should resonate with fans of Alexander McCall Smith. The title derives from a public statement made by President George W. Bush: "Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat." This and similar Bush quotations head each chapter.
-Pw's Top 10: Mysteries & Thrillers
The Troubled Man
Henning Mankell. Knopf, Mar.
The Trinity Six
Charles Cumming. St. Martin's, Mar.
The Devotion of Suspect X
Keigo Higshino. Minotaur, Feb.
Taylor Stevens. Crown, Mar.
Guilt by Association
Marcia Clark. Mulholland, Apr.
Red on Red
Edward Conlon. Spiegal & Grau, Apr.
The Night Season
Chelsea Cain. Minotaur, Mar.
The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, Apr.
The Fire of the Gods
I.J. Parker. Severn, Mar.
Killed at the Whim of a Hat
Colin Cotterill. Minotaur, July