All that I want
By Darcey Bell
Atria books, 272 pages, $23
A smart young married couple from Manhattan — he’s a Broadway producer, she’s a part-time art teacher — buy an old mansion with a spooky story just an hour’s drive north of town. From this beginning, with her slight hint of something ominous, nervous author Darcey Bell sets up several conventional detective story plots that her story might follow. Maybe the husband is cheating on the wife. He might even plan to get rid of the woman. Or, turning things around, does the wife fall in love with the handsome builder doing some repair work on the mansion? Each looms as a deadly possibility, but Bell sees bigger, bolder than the familiar standards of psychological thrillers. What she imagines is a bold new way of working to the climax of a particularly delicate narrative.
Mouth to mouth
By Antoine Wilson
Avid Reader Press, 192 pages, $35
Middle-aged and well-to-do Jeff Cook sits in the first-class lounge at JFK airport, telling a long story to a distant acquaintance, the narrator of the book. It begins with Jeff, years earlier before sunrise one morning, saving the life of a man floating unconscious in the Pacific off a beach in Santa Monica. Although the man is unaware of Jeff’s role in his rescue, Jeff is curious enough to insinuate himself into the day-to-day happenings of the man he kept alive. This lucky man is an American art dealer by the name of Francis Arsenault, intelligent, tough, abrupt and extremely successful. As the story continues, told in compelling prose, it gives off only the faintest whiff of a shaggy dog tale. But Antoine Wilson is too committed a storyteller for that and we get, as Cook and Arsenault play their parts, not one, but two fiendish manipulations.
By Alafair Burke
Harper, 304 pages, $26.99
Alafair Burke’s detective novels have a sense of deliberate spontaneity, as if the events they contain – the deaths, the detectives – just happened to Burke. It’s a trait that can lead to plot confusion, something Burke made a career out of sneaking around. The new book, set in and around New York, begins with a missing woman. Who is she? No one, including the woman herself, knows. She first surfaced in a New Jersey town decades earlier, suffering from severe memory loss. Now two women go looking for her, a Manhattan defense attorney who had befriended her and an NYPD detective named Ellie Hatcher who is a familiar central character to Burke. The two find a clue, a piece of DNA that emerged from an unsolved serial murder case in Wichita, Kansas. The cop who unsuccessfully worked on this case was Ellie Hatcher’s late father. If you feel confused, you can relax. Burke has it all covered.
By Mark Billingham
Hatchet, 390 pages, $24.99
The central figure in prolific English writer Mark Billingham’s new standalone thriller has all the opposite qualities of his usual hero, the brilliant and expert London DI Tim Thome. The female cop in the room is DC Alice Armitage, and she’s a mess. Suffering from PTSD, she is a patient in a psychiatric hospital. When an unknown person or persons begin murdering patients, Armitage’s detective instinct kicks in. Will she nail the killer first or will he take him out? It’s all gripping, and while the story, as the book’s title suggests, owes something to ‘Alice in Wonderland’, it also has more than a hint of ‘Flight Over a Bird’s Nest’. cuckoo”.