Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pierce’s Picks: “A Conspiracy of Faith”

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

A Conspiracy of Faith, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dutton):
What more tantalizing inspiration could there be for a criminal investigation than a message written in blood and secreted in a bottle? Unfortunately, that cast-off communication was discovered years ago and hundreds of miles away from Denmark, where it was dropped into the sea, and its lettering has faded badly since. In fact, the only really legible word is the first one: “Help.” But that’s enough to get Detective Carl Mørck and his eccentric colleagues from the Copenhagen Police Department’s cold-case division, Department Q, involved. Is this cry for rescue authentic, and if so, who sent it--and are they still alive? Once deciphered, the note suggests that children were kidnapped, and yet there were no reports of missing youngsters filed at the time and in the location it specifies. Further complicating matters, when Mørck & Co. finally determine who at least one of the absent youths must be, his parents stonewall the police rather than help them. Can Mørck and his two more energetic associates, Hafez el-Assad and Rose Knudsen, track down the first kidnap victims before their abductor snatches the next couple of children he’s targeted? Danish author Adler-Olsen’s first English-translated Department Q novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes (2001), earned him considerable attention, in part because enthusiastic readers of the late Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” were hungry for more Nordic crime fiction. Keeper’s sequel, The Absent One (2012), kept interest in Department Q high, and no doubt Conspiracy (which will be released in the UK in July as Redemption) will attract a comparably wide audience. Although these books can be frustratingly thin on nuance, as far as the development of some characters (particularly the “bad guys”) goes, their detection components are strong and their pacing is dramatic.

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Also new and worth finding a copy of this week is Tapestry (Mysterious Press/Open Road), Canadian author J. Robert Janes’ 14th novel featuring Chief Inspector Jean-Louis St-Cyr of the French Sûreté and his partner, German Detektiv Inspektor Hermann Kohler. Their latest adventure, set in Paris during an early 1943 blackout, finds them investigating a burglarized stamp collector’s shop, the brutal murder of a young man found naked, black-market dealings in improperly confiscated goods, and the rape of a woman--the spouse of a prisoner of war--whose nighttime attack may trace to her alleged willingness to accept other, Nazi companionship in her husband’s absence. The concluding pages of this work suggest Janes may actually have penned Tapestry prior to Bellringer, which was published last year; however, you needn’t read that earlier novel to enjoy this new one. ... And British shoppers should be on the lookout for The Dying Hours (Little, Brown), Mark Billingham’s 11th outing for Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. Here we find the oft-reprimanded and lately demoted Thorne seeing something more sinister than suicide behind the recent deaths of elderly Londoners. Naturally, none of his police colleagues take Thorne’s warnings of a serial slayer seriously, so he sets out on his own to find a killer who has nothing to lose. Billingham’s yarns are dark and frequently bleak, but they’re also pretty darn gripping. The Dying Hours is due out in the States in early August.

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