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Notable Books | Four new mysteries

Issue: "Medical care circus," Feb. 25, 2012

The Queen

A fast-paced thriller featuring Patrick Bowers, an FBI investigator whose specialty is spatial analysis. He gets sidetracked from his hunt for a serial killer when the FBI director sends him off to work on another case involving a missing snowmobiler whose wife and daughter have been murdered. Steven James fills the book with interesting characters and subplots-a stepdaughter who can't sleep after shooting a man, a brother whose drinking and anger create a combustible mix, an assassin who has a soft spot for women and children, and eco-terrorists who want to send a nuclear message. James weaves themes of guilt, anger, regret, and forgiveness into a high stakes plot with strands that extend from wintery northern Wisconsin to Jerusalem.

The Hunter

John Lescroart's San Francisco-based novels feature a recurring cast of characters who age from book to book. The series overlap, with characters from one crossing over into the other. Here Wyatt Hunt, a private investigator with a background in child protective services, investigates his own past. After learning his birth mom was murdered and two juries were unable to convict his birth dad, he needs to find the real killer. As he pursues the 40-year-old case, he discovers his mother had a connection to cult leader Jim Jones. Continual revelations take a toll on his mental health. Lescroart's page-turner touches on issues of adoption and abandonment while not losing track of the mystery at the novel's heart. Warning: some language.

All Cry Chaos

Leonard Rosen makes his protagonist a descendant of, and names him after, famous mathematician Henri Poincaré: That signifies this mystery is about more than figuring out who blew up a brilliant mathematician in an Amsterdam hotel room. As Poincaré investigates the bombing and becomes involved in a subplot involving a Serbian war criminal, he grapples with understanding the dead mathematician's work on fractals and what that means about the underlying design of the universe. A less credible subplot has some end-of-the-world Christian cultists plotting mayhem in the belief that God awaits our violence to usher in the Kingdom. (Note to author: Check out some Iranian Muslims.) Still, this philosophical mystery raises questions about love, meaning, good and evil, and the nature of the universe. Warning: some language.

The Blind Spy

As the CIA and MI6 monitor events leading up to Ukrainian elections, looking for evidence of Russian meddling, the well-funded, private intelligence service Cougar believes something bigger is afoot. Alex Dryden again features Russian defector Anna Resnikov, an employee of the private intelligence agency, and her wily boss Burt Miller. They develop an audacious plan to spirit her back into the Ukraine, in the hopes that she can discover what the Russians are up to. When Russian intelligence operatives attack her, she realizes that someone in the United States has leaked her plans. Bombings, double-agents, ambushes, and all kinds of blindness fill the pages of Dryden's well-crafted page-turner. Warning: some language.

Spotlight

Faye Kellerman and Elizabeth George are both talented writers who pen crime potboilers that make the bestseller lists. After giving them up years ago, I decided to take a look at their most recent books to see if they had changed. They haven't.

Kellerman's new book, Gun Games, features LAPD detective Peter Decker, an orthodox Jew, who investigates murder. Its main plot involves a gang of mean kids at a posh high school and apparent teen suicides. A subplot revolves around the budding romance (that quickly turns sexual) between a 15-year-old piano prodigy who lives with the Deckers and a 14-year-old sheltered Iranian Jewish girl.

George's latest, Believing the Lie, has a page-turning plot: When a man dies in the Lake District of northern England, his wealthy uncle wants Scotland Yard to investigate quietly to make sure it was an accident. The investigation uncovers lots of dirt, which George describes in graphic detail. A subplot involving child pornography is also graphic.

Listen to Susan Olasky discuss these mystery novels on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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