“Lavender House” by Lev AC Rosen (Forge) is a new version of a detective novel from the golden age. Its 1950s setting is richly cinematic, complete with gin martinis, nurturing bananas and a fantastical mid-century soundtrack. Lavender House is a large estate outside of San Francisco where the family and staff are queer; their home is the only place where they can live freely and openly. After the death of their matriarch, his widow hires a private detective to determine who among them is a murderer. Everything about the crime – the perpetrator, the victim, the motive – has a deeper meaning. After all, as one character puts it: “Everything we do is criminalized”.
Five new thrillers to kick off your fall reading
“You’re on the wrong side, sister,” a young man tells Detective Inaya Rahman after a clash with police, in Ausma Zehanat Khan”Blackwater Falls. Inaya is harassed by her fellow police officers and distrusts much of her town. But she wants to change the police from within and bring justice to Razan Elkader, a young Syrian refugee, who was murdered, her body arranged like a crucifixion. Khan expands this policing procedure to encompass war, border crossings, domestic terrorism and resistance. In a violent and divided city, Inaya is our moral center, with a tireless gaze. “Blackwater Falls” is a tense and propulsive read from start to its surprising and deeply sad final chapter.
In Wanda M. Morris”Wherever you run, two sisters are in danger as they flee their hometown in the Jim Crow-era south: one killed the man who attacked her, the other is single and pregnant. Separately, the two sisters leave Mississippi, relying on their own strength and wits to outwit brutal police officers and bigoted white business leaders, “monsters draped in seersucker suits and straw fedoras.” As the sisters attempt to move on from their past, the fast-paced narrative makes for a heart-to-throat reading; the reasons why they must flee unfortunately seem all too current.
A sprawling and absorbing saga, “Lady Joker Volume 2″ examines a vast network of characters affected by a case of kidnapping and sabotage in Tokyo. The action moves fluidly from news desks to corporate offices, as the police and press track down a shadowy criminal group calling itself Lady Joker. Yuichiro Goda, a policeman posing as a bodyguard, is an outsider in a kingdom of wage earners. A companion told him to shine his shoes, to fit in better: “Look at the shoes of the bigwigs of these corporations. The glow could blind you, you know what I mean? It shows the stronghold around their hearts. Kaoru Takamura is a famous detective writer in Japan, and “Lady Joker”, translated by Marie Iida and Allison Markin Powell, shows us why.
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In Catherine Steadman’s latest thriller,The family gamea woman betrothed to the eldest son of a wealthy and powerful dynasty receives a tape from the family patriarch describing a series of crimes. Is the tape a confession, a test or a game? During Thanksgiving, Krampusnacht and Christmas, Harriet Reed is drawn into a game of cat and mouse with the Holbeck family. Steadman, an actress who appeared in “Downton Abbey,” builds the glamorous world of family with wit and a discerning eye. “The Family Game” is both decidedly modern and timeless, with strains of King Lear, Dickens and the post-war holiday chillers of PD James.
Flynn Berry is the author of “Under the Harrow”, “A Double Life” and “Northern Spy”.
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