Monday, March 23, 2009

Better and Brighter

Have I said that 2009 is shaping up as a crime fiction bonanza? Two more sterling examples:

BAD THINGS HAPPEN, by Harry Dolan (Putnam)

"is a very smart, well- written roller coaster ride that is always threatening to hurl the reader out into roaring empty space. Go along for the thrill ride!” says James Patterson. Adds Karin Slaughter, “A tense read that keeps you tightly in its grip until the very last page. Harry Dolan has written an incredibly rich, smart read reminiscent of A Simple Plan or Presumed Innocent — not to mention that it’s just a damn good story.”

The man who calls himself David Loogan is leading a quiet, anonymous life in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, working as an editor and writer (and very believable as both) for a crime magazine called Gray Streets. He’s hoping to escape a violent past he would rather forget. But his solitude is broken when he finds himself drawn into a friendship with Tom Kristoll, the publisher of the magazine -— and into an affair with Laura, Tom’s sleek blond wife. What Loogan doesn’t realize is that the stories in Gray Streets tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.

Elizabeth Waishkey is a single mother. She’s also the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department. But when Tom Kristoll turns up dead, she doesn’t know quite what to make of David Loogan. Is he a killer, or an ally who might help her discover the truth? Loogan suspects his friend’s death is part of a much larger puzzle, and he’s not going to wait for someone else to put the pieces together.

PALOS VERDE BLUE: A Jack Liffey Mystery, by John Shannon. (Pegasus)

Some brilliant critic for the Chicago Tribune once said that John Shannon was the best California crime writer to tip his fedora in decades. His last book, THE DEVILS OF BAKERSFIELD, was a dark delight -- and his newest is even better. Liffey, at 60, still specializes in finding lost children -- as his ex-wife, Kathy, asks him to find Blaine “Blue” Hostetler, her best friend’s missing teenage daughter. Smart and attractive, Blue was involved in such causes as preserving the habitat of the endangered butterfly, the Palos Verdes Blue, and aiding illegal immigrants. Brilliantly told in part through letters written by a young Mexican immigrant and others written by a scared teenage surfer to his dad, this fine work shows off Shannon's best quality: the ability to sharply render subtle shades of right and wrong.

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