Saturday, November 28, 2009


2009 has turned out to be a great year for crime fiction, and it isn’t over yet. Here’s one novel that would make a perfect stocking stuffer--if people still stuff books into footwear in the Age of the Kindle.

The Semantics of Murder, by Aifric Campbell (Serpent’s Tail). Gaelic Noir lives, with help from a fine female practitioner. “Campbell shows a light and conciliatory touch ... She is excellent on the symptomatic one-upmanship of academia ... she clearly has a talent for direct and uncompromising character portrayal,” enthuses The Irish Times. “Written in glistening prose ... a major talent,” agrees the Irish Independent. In The Semantics of Murder, Jay Hamilton lives a comfortable life in London as a psychoanalyst, but the darker recesses of his own psyche would not stand up to careful examination. Furthermore, he’s been using his clients’ case studies as fodder for his secret fiction writing. Then his older brother, Robert, a brilliant professor of mathematical linguistics at UCLA, is killed and Jay is the first person on the scene. When Robert’s young biographer endeavors to dig beneath to surface of her subject’s life, she discovers Jay’s secrets as well--including his decision to allow a patient’s breakdown to accelerate dangerously.

Two more goodies due out in the coming months:

The Bricklayer, by Noah Boyd (Morrow). Ex-FBI agent Steve Vail is more than happy to leave the Bureau behind, but the folks there aren’t through with him yet. A group called the Rubaco Pentad is killing human targets one by one unless the FBI can give them buckets of cash, with the amount and the body count escalating each time the agency doesn’t pay up. The feds are stumped. Some signs point to a corrupt agent, while others lead to completely dead ends. Vail has built a reputation for being able to find anybody anywhere. Now, with no official ties, he’s the perfect choice for the sort of under-the-radar investigation the FBI needs. But as Vail well knows, going after people who use killing as a bargaining chip is asking for the worst kind of trouble. To be released on January 26.

The Poacher’s Son, by Paul Doiron (Minotaur). Anyone who enjoys C.J. Box and Nevada Barr should relish this one. Set in the wilds of Maine, The Poacher’s Son is an explosive tale about an estranged son who’s thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive--his own father. Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father, Jack, a hard-drinking womanizer who makes his living illegally poaching game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: They are searching for the man who killed a beloved local cop the night before--and his father is their prime suspect. Jack has escaped from police custody, and only Mike believes that his tormented father might not be guilty. Due in bookstores by April 27.

All of this makes me rather sad that my two-year stint as a judge on the crime-fiction panel for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes is approaching its end.


JournoMich said...

Included your interesting recommendations in my Sunday post:


Dick Adler (aka Ivan Davis) said...

Many thanks. More to come