Page-turning thrillers to keep the chills in your books

The dark hours Michael Connelly (Small, Brown, 388 pages) It’s New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles and chaos is mounting. Renée Ballard works the cemetery crew and she knows it’s going to be loud when LA revelers fire their guns at midnight. Just wait for the air to clear and hope things calm down. A few seconds after midnight, she receives the call she doesn’t want. An auto shop owner was shot and killed during a massive block party. Accident or worse?

Ballard quickly determines that this bullet was intentional and related to an unsolved case that Harry Bosch is already working on. She entrusts the investigation to Harry while she tracks down two vicious men who terrorize women and get away, leaving no clues. They are nicknamed the Midnight Men for their favorite attack time. New Year’s Eve is no exception,

With a murder and several assault cases on his list, Ballard wants to catch the culprits and, as usual, it’s hard work. The LAPD is beset externally by COVID and social unrest and internally by its own history of racism and misogyny. His only trustworthy ally is Bosch, himself a retired relic, and together they begin to dig up what few clues they have. One of Connelly’s best and it says a lot about the man who wrote, among other marvels, The Concrete Blonde.

Autopsy, Patricia Cornwell (Morrow, 398 pages) It’s been five years since Kay Scarpetta’s last novel, and with political changes and COVID, it feels like a lifetime. So having Scarpetta come back — to his native Virginia, become a medical examiner, and set off on the hunt for a possible serial killer — is just awesome.

A woman was lacerated and murdered and her body laid out on local train tracks. Scarpetta is on the trail and seems to be leading uncannily close to his old neighborhood. Then the White House calls. There’s been a disaster at a top-secret lab in space. What happened and why is pivotal and Scarpetta is part of a team to find the answers. Forensic investigation in space is a whole new kind of science and Cornwell, always a science nerd, does it with panache.

Back on earth, the trail of the dead seems to lead to a dangerous serial killer but Scarpetta is not convinced. Science, as readers know, will tell. Yes, this book is crushed by a hundred pages and Cornwell drifts in the ether a bit, but it’s still golden star Scarpetta at work and I loved it.

All her little secrets, Wanda M. Morris (William Morrow, 384 pages) There was a lot of attention paid to The other black girl this fall and, in the hoo-ha, this very beautiful start is somewhat overlooked. It’s a shame because Wanda Morris, lawyer and author, has written a superb debut novel focused on the things that separate Americans in this critical time and the limits that people will go to in order to survive and thrive.

Ellice Littlejohn is one of Atlanta’s top lawyers, the only black associate in the legal department of Houghton Transportation, a prestigious and very white firm in Atlanta. On paper, Ellice is Mrs. Perfection, a graduate of a prestigious boarding school, an Ivy League law school, a woman with no mistakes. To complete the picture, she is having an affair, just sex, without commitment, with her white boss. She shows up at the office for a meeting and finds him dead, possibly a suicide.

Ellice does not call death. She closes the door and walks away. Let someone else find it. Ellice has things to hide, things that will ruin her carefully constructed life. She grew up in a poor Georgia town, went to school on a scholarship, and has a brother in and out of prison.

This decision taken, Ellice finds herself legal manager at Houghton, a black woman in a city that is still quite racist. There’s no shortage of people who want her to fail, and there’s no shortage of story that could bring her down. It’s a terrific novel in a brilliant new voice. Morris has the credentials that make this book believable. Do not miss.

under her skin, CS Porter (Vagrant Press, 224 pages) In a season of 500+ page behemoths, this little book can be overlooked. It’s a shame because it’s a difficult and carefully constructed mystery with a beautiful setting and an excellent detective. In short, for a start, it is a sure winner and worthy of attention.

The story takes place in rural Nova Scotia in an idyllic setting where a particularly cruel murder has occurred. Big city homicide detective Kes Morris is called in to lead the case. Kes is a multi-faceted woman, few of whom are silent. In addition to intelligence and courage, she has major anger issues. What drives her to succeed is part of the plot, and since it’s clear the author intends to make a series, not all questions are answered,

Before Kes can reassemble her team, there’s another gruesome murder and it’s clear the killer has no intention of stopping. Kes begins to analyze the method and the mind of the murderer and to dig into the secrets of the city. Soon it is clear that these deaths are recent manifestations of horrific crimes dating back decades. What happened and to whom? This question will keep readers glued to the page until the end.

With a solid story, I don’t think we need the extra “mystery” of who CS Porter is. Man? Female? We do not care? Let’s just hope he, she, they have another Kes Morris book in the works.

ex-husband, Karen Hamilton (HarperCollins, 346 pages) A cruise sounds so nice. Perhaps a trip around the islands or a descent along the South American coast. Simply put, it was nice, until COVID upended the easy way of life by trapping tourists on board and cities refusing to let them land. That, plus a staff shortage that makes all these amenities so luxurious. Now Karen Hamilton is taking us to a private engagement event on a superyacht sailing to the Bahamas. The problem is that someone is trying to kill her.

There are a few cringe bits to the plot but it mostly works. It seems Karen and her ex-husband, Sam, were a pair of con artists dipping the rich for their extra money. Karen insists no one really vulnerable was hurt but she stopped anyway. Now she’s an event planner for the mega-rich and she’s happy to leave Sam and the past behind. But it seems that someone was not so spared from these small inconveniences. Not only do they want Karen and Sam to pay, but they want public accounting, which will expose the couple for the crooks they were. Meanwhile, Hamilton spares no description of life on a superyacht and glorious time in the Bahamas. Not as good as a cruise but much safer.

my darling husband, Kimberly Belle (HarperCollins, 344 pages) my darling husbandThe story begins with former celebrity chef Cam Lasky in an interview. Lasky’s nadir was his connection to a disgraced pharmaceutical entrepreneur who bought the rights to essential drugs and then skyrocketed prices (Martin Shkreli, we’re thinking of you). The stench of scandal has derailed Cam’s career, but there’s a lot more to the disaster and Cam is ready to tell the whole story.

Once upon a time there was the perfect family. The celebrity chef was on his way to stardom and he had the lovely wife, Jade, and two adorable kids. Then one day he arrives home and finds a stranger holding his family for ransom. He has very little time to raise a ransom of exactly $734,296. The number obviously has a meaning, but for whom? And what does this have to do with Cam?

There are, of course, many secrets hidden in the perfect life of this perfect family. Belle reveals them slowly and with maximum suspense so, while we know Cam made it out alive (after all, he’s being interviewed), his reputation and, possibly, his marriage, weren’t. . It’s a great weekend read when you’re tired of baking and ready to sit down and eat all those cookies.

The replacement wife, Darby Kane (HarperCollins, 416 pages) There are a few problems with this novel by Kane, pseudonymous novelist/attorney. It’s a bit slow and the ending is a bit contrived but the plot is so good it’s worth reading anyway.

We have the usual unreliable narrator and the lovely family, but this time it’s brother-in-law Josh who is the problem. Looks like he just can’t hang on to a woman. First it was his wife, Candace, who fell, hit her head and died. Then his fiancée Abby disappeared the day before the wedding. Josh blames the cold feet but his sister-in-law Elisa isn’t convinced. Why didn’t Abby contact her family? Or Elisa, supposedly her best friend. Seven months later, there’s Josh’s last love, Rachel, who’s been around a lot longer than anyone knew.

Elisa is sure Josh is responsible for Abby’s disappearance and possibly Candace’s death. The problem is, no one takes her seriously because Josh is so likeable, and what’s more, she has PTSD from a shooting at the hospital where she worked. She is prone to panic attacks and has reactions to the strong medications she takes. But Elisa is convinced that she must save Rachel and so begins to delve into Josh’s story. Despite the slowdowns, this plot works and Elisa was a solid character to carry the story.

Pity, David Baldacci (Grand Central, 406 pages) Baldacci fans know to expect the unexpected and this fourth book in the Atlee Pine series is no exception. Is this the end? Will FBI agent Atlee Pine finally find out what happened to his twin sister who disappeared 30 years ago, forcing Atlee’s parents to abandon her? Atlee is an excellent investigator and her free time is spent on the case of her missing sister. Atlee is convinced she’s still alive, but how did she survive being kidnapped and escape? And where and how does she live now?

These are the big questions that ran through the previous three books. Now we meet a remarkable woman who just might have the answers. Where is the answer? Baldacci has a knack for combining interesting characters with somewhat gritty plots and then giving readers a twist. I’m not giving this one away because it’s too good looking. Atlee may be on the trail, but there’s more than one case to solve in this complex novel about very interesting women. One of Baldacci’s best.

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