Monday, May 28, 2007

Summery Judgment 2007 III

Summer is still a month away, but I’ve already started reading those half-dozen books I had set aside for simmering days at various Long Island and Connecticut beaches, or afternoons on the grassy slopes of Cedar Hill in Central Park, or nighttime lounging on my balcony above the evening throngs that pulse up and down Second Avenue in Manhattan. Why the rush? It’s probably due to the fact that these books look so good, and they’re by some of my favorite writers, that I simply can’t wait.

In no particular order:

Alex Kava takes a break from her FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell series (A Necessary Evil) to pen a new standalone thriller, Whitewash. With a setting alternating from Tallahassee, Florida, to Washington, D.C., Whitewash tackles themes of corporate corruption, government conspiracy, terrorism, and environmental issues. This novel should prove to be classic Kava--a powerhouse of fast-paced action--but with a touch of humor. Look for it next month.

Megan Abbott is a spectacular talent. Following her Edgar, Barry, and Anthony-nominated novel, Die a Little (2005), and this year’s The Song Is You, Abbott’s Queenpin only looks to solidify her growing reputation. Told in first-person, Queenpin is the story of a young female grifter working in a seedy nightclub, who’s taken “under the wing” of Gloria Denton, a woman with legs “a hundred feet long.” Queenpin has all the markings of a classic hard-boiled novel in the Hammett/Chandler/Thompson tradition. Another June release.

Crime Writer, by Gregg Hurwitz, bears a strong endorsing blurb from Robert Crais (The Watchman). Hurwitz has written seven previous novels, and this new one has an intriguing premise. Drew Danner wakes up in an L.A. hospital accused of murdering his ex-fiancée, but with no memory “of the days leading up to her death,” and no idea if he’s innocent or guilty. The summer looks to be a hot one, and so does this book. Coming in July.

Jason Starr’s novels are always a thrill for me, and I’m really looking forward to reading The Follower. In this novel (to be released in August), Katie Porter is looking for love in New York City, but finds an obsessive stalker, instead. This is a dark character study by Starr, who has been called a “leader in the new noir movement” (George Pelecanos) and “a fearless, pitiless writer” (Laura Lippman). I call him one of my favorite thriller writers, and hey, he sets his books in my home turf. Yo.

Kindness Goes Unpunished is the new Walt Longmire novel by Wyoming author Craig Johnson. If you haven’t read the two previous installments in this series (The Cold Dish and Death Without Company), go rustle them up now. I harbor a fascination with small-town sheriff departments, and Longmire is a standout. With that said, Kindness Goes Unpunished finds our hero in Philadelphia on a trip, where he becomes embroiled in a political cover-up. Longmire has to inflict a little Western justice. Kick ass, pard.

If you’re one of those suckers who believes that the private eye novel is dead, then pick up Songs of Innocence, by Richard Aleas (aka Charles Ardai), and join the rest of us who know better. This sequel to the Edgar and Shamus Award-nominated novel Little Girl Lost again features New York City P.I. John Blake. At the story’s outset, Blake has given up being a gumshoe. That is, until he’s asked to investigate the suicide of a Columbia College student he had known. This is dark, hard, violent--done the way Hard Case Crime likes ’em. There is great compassion in these pages too, though, and an internal musing about the ironies of life. Aleas-Ardai is an exceptional talent; his short story “The Home Front” won this year’s Edgar Award for Best Short Story--and Songs of Innocence delivers big time. Scheduled to reach bookstores in July.

The following two books won’t be out until the fall, but I have advance reader copies, so they’re going into the summer stack:

Night Work is Steve Hamilton’s upcoming standalone thriller. I’m a huge fan of Hamilton’s private eye series featuring Alex McKnight (A Stolen Season), set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and I’m expecting no less from this new book. Protagonist Joe Trumbull is a juvenile probation officer locked in a life-and-death battle with a “faceless man.” Told in first-person, the novel is set in upstate New York, where Hamilton lives. I’ve read the first few pages, and I’m thinking Hamilton’s fans will be forgiving in his leaving McKnight at home. This book is captivating. Due out in September.

I read police procedurals more than any other subgenre, and Theresa Schwegel’s Person of Interest ranks high on my list of those books awaiting my attention. Winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel (for 2005’s Officer Down), Schwegel returns to the Chicago Police Department in her new novel. This time, however, she examines the trials of the job through the eyes of a cop’s wife. Schwegel packs everything--the nuances and the factual aspects of police life--into her tough, compelling yarns about the “blue brotherhood.” Due out in November.

READ MORE: Stephen Miller’s Summer 2007 Reading Picks; J. Kingston Pierce’s Summer 2007 Picks; Linda L. Richards Summer 2007 Picks.

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