Sunday, August 25, 2019

Anne Perry Addict? Good Choice! Here's Her 2019 Title ... TRIPLE JEOPARDY

[originally published in the New York Journal of Books]

Triple Jeopardy shows emphatically that Perry’s best writing exhumes the motives of the human heart.”

Last year Anne Perry introduced her third crime fiction series set in England, and Triple Jeopardy is its second title, set in 1910. The book features Daniel Pitt, the son of investigators Charlotte and Thomas Pitt from one of her earlier series. Acting as what Americans would call a defense attorney, Daniel’s caught up in an international scandal that involves his sister Jemima and her husband Patrick.

One of Jemima’s friends from her years in America suffered an attempted sexual assault there, and the theft of a personally important necklace. The blame falls on British diplomat Philip Sidney and migrates with all of the group to England. Daniel’s original plan, to yield to his sister’s wishes and defend Sidney only far enough to force revelation of the assault, goes out the window when one of the witnesses is murdered and an underlayer of profit and loss begins to be revealed.

Soon Daniel is compelled to seek direction from his direct superior, the estimable Mr. Kitteridge:

“‘The murder must be part of the whole business, but if Thorwood framed Sidney, and he’s innocent of the assault and the embezzlement, how does the murder of Morley Cross fit in with that?’

‘God, you’ve got a devious mind, and you want to understand everyone!’ Kitteridge said, but it was awe he expressed, not denial. ‘I see why you’re going all shades of pale,’ he went on. ‘What is Patrick Flannery’s part in this? … Could Morley Cross have attacked Rebecca?’ Kitteridge said with disbelief. ‘Then he set up Sidney with the embezzlement change?’

‘I hadn’t even thought of that,’ Daniel admitted, a wave of nausea coming over him.”

Perry’s adroit handling of matters of law and crime creates an intriguing skein of tangled motives and court case potential in this fast-paced and likeable novel. In addition, she spikes the action with a slowly growing attraction and daring whiff of romance between Pitt and his other boss’s brilliant daughter, forensic expert Miriam fforde Croft. When Pitt and fforde Croft follow a hint of evidence out to the Channel Islands, the entire set of available motives shifts in a heartbeat. All Daniel Pitt will have to do is maneuver the progress of the legal case to force the unlikely admission of the crimes involved.

“The judge looked exasperated. ‘Mr. Pitt, my patience is not endless, and you have tried it further than most. I hope you know what you are doing?’

‘Yes, sir,’ Daniel replied. He hoped more than anyone else that, indeed, he did. They all seemed to be here. His parents, Patrick and Jemima, Miriam, all those he cared about. This was going to be a triumph … or a disaster. He could feel his heart beating, as if it were trying to break out of his chest.”

Anne Perry’s long career has labeled her as an “English author of historical detective fiction.” But Triple Jeopardy shows emphatically that her best writing exhumes the motives of the human heart. This is, in the long run, the finest characteristic of well-written fiction, and sets readers looking for more from this promising new series.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

Espionage Thriller With Bioengineered Female Lead: Karen Robards Pulls It Off in THE FIFTH DOCTRINE

[Originally published in the New York Journal of Books]

"The trouble with being a sort of Wonder Woman is, once people know you exist, they either want to force you to do their jobs, or kill you. Or both."

Wonder Woman. Nancy Pelosi. Michelle Obama. Although Americans haven’t yet elected a woman as President, there’s a clear cultural curiosity about what a strong and powerful yet honest and enjoyable woman leader might be like.

Into this vacuum has stepped Karen Robards, taking the espionage thriller into the terrain of a bioengineered super-strong female lead: the determined and yet oddly vulnerable Bianca St. Ives. Aware that she’s a genetically modified creation of a government researc lab, and well past her due date for termination and destruction, Bianca’s hiding out in The Fifth Doctrine as a private security entrepreneur in Savannah, Georgia, assisted by just a couple of people she trusts—but who don’t know her dark secret. Robards ramps the threat level to red as Bianca confronts the only international spy who’s come close to penetrating her defenses (in every sense). And to escape the pressures that Colin Rogan’s immediately applying, Bianca may lose her business, her friends … and her privacy.

Because the trouble with being a sort of Wonder Woman is, once people know you exist, they either want to force you to do their jobs, or kill you. Or both.

Bianca’s determination to protect her allies leads her to contemplate just disappearing. But (as revealed in the two previous books in this series, The Ultimatum and The Moscow Deception) Bianca already knows that “they found her in Macau, they’d found her Moscow, and now they’d found her in Savannah.” While she works to revamp her own defenses, she’ll have to tackle Rogan’s mission for her, one that requires her to transform into another woman who’s already an international operative.

Rogan directs her, “By the time we leave for the airport in the morning, you will be Lynette Holbrook and Operation Fifth Doctrine will be up and running.” What’s the name stand for? Rogan explains that the US military has five domains of war, and this one, the fifth, is information. “Kind of gives that whole ‘war of words’ thing a brand new meaning,” Rogan cracks.

Hot topics from today’s news cycle hiss and crackle in The Fifth Doctrine: Korean treachery. The spread of atomic weapons. Terrorist attacks and traitors motivated by money or bizarre loyalties.

Robards writes with fast scenes and the equivalent of a car chase every couple of chapters. Her special seasoning is a pulse-racing tide of attraction between Bianca St. Ives and Colin—balanced with logical mistrust, physical assertiveness, and a strand of growing respect between two people who would have liked to be colleagues instead of enemies. But could that ever happen in their world?

Series readers be warned, Bianca’s past includes more threats than Colin, and some of them are even closer to her heart. Brace for an exhilarating ride, and a finale that assures the series is far from over.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Victim or Murderer? A Tango of Turmoil in THE THIRD MRS. DURST, Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre leaves behind her twists of speculative fiction to craft a more straightforward "marriage to murder" plot in her new crime novel THE THIRD MRS. DURST, released today from Midnight Ink. A twisty and satisfying plot of teen model Marlena Altizer's rise to become the latest wife of a fabulously rich and powerful man, the book turns the classic "abused spouse" narrative upside down -- because Marlena is no wimp, and her intimate friendships on the side (carefully hidden from Michael Durst!) give her the strength and courage to take drastic steps and make a daring plan.

The book's opening is slow and not at all suspenseful. But when chapter 4 opens, Marlena warns readers clearly that, as in the best thrillers, all is not as it seems:
Maybe I'd end up doing real runway shows and get my face in Vogue. If anyone in Barrettville saw, they'd be so surprised. In retrospect, I can see now that was the turning point. If I'd said no, if I hadn't gone to Germany, my life would've been so different.

I chose the road that looked prettiest from a distance, but I didn't know then—sometimes the horizon is bright because it's on fire.
Marlena's rebellion starts its own fire, as soon as the bonds of spousal control begin to tighten around her. And the beating she suffers, the old life brutally severed, the cruelties of her new marriage only serve to enflame her determination further.

Aguirre tells the tale in first person, which shows off the book's two problems: Marlena doesn't actually change much, despite her circumstances, and the prices she pays along her way to crime don't wound her deeply. Although "Mr. Durst" commands her obedience and recovery, there's no leash on her spirit, so her actions don't pull her into growth. Yet this is a quickly spun and lively thriller after the opening chapters, and has the feel of a "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" in a slinky dress. Your kind of read? Enjoy!

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.