Reporter Troy Chance is taking pictures on a frozen lake near Lake Placid, N.Y., when she discovers a body in the ice. It turns out to be her roommate’s boyfriend. Some people think the roommate killed him. When her reporting doesn’t mention that, they smell cover-up. Then the victim’s sister arrives in town to discover the truth about his death. Henry tells the story from the reporter’s perspective, tracing her steps as she researches the victim’s life, uncovers secrets that brought him to upstate New York, and turns those discoveries into newspaper articles. The frozen landscape is a fitting setting for a story about family estrangement.
Irish police investigate the brutal stabbing deaths of a husband and two children, as the wife clings to life. The crime takes place in a remote housing development full of cheap tract houses in various stages of completion. Murder squad detective Michael Kennedy and his detectives search the shoddily built house for clues to the slayings and the troubled lives of the victims. Meanwhile Kennedy’s personal life begins to crumble as his mentally ill sister breaks down and his personal code of conduct fails. French writes about people pressed on all sides by economic and psychological pressures. It’s a gritty police procedural and novel of psychological suspense with strong and sometimes obscene language.
Bell Elkins could have escaped from Acker’s Gap, W.Va., a small town on the way down. Instead she came back with a law degree and teenage daughter. She’s a tough-on-crime district attorney, waging war on drug dealers selling Oxycontin and meth. Then her daughter witnesses the shooting in a local restaurant of three old men. Keller captures the details of family and small-town life, showing the corrosive effect of big-city crime in hamlets not equipped to deal with it. Some characters use bad language and do bad things, and others courageously fight to maintain their community when many are ready to quit.
Stella Rimington, former director general of Britain’s intelligence agency, MI5, pens spy thrillers featuring female MI5 agent Liz Carlyle. In this seventh in a series, a Russian intelligence agent approaches Liz with news that a mole has penetrated a top-secret British-American drone project. She has to convince the skeptical Americans and Brits, and then track down the mole. Meanwhile, through family connections, Liz learns about an anarchist commune in southern France that threatens to become violent. Rimington’s characters come from different social classes and countries, and she depicts well the tensions that arise even among allies. Solving the case requires cloak-and-dagger, quiet interrogation, and computer wizardry—all accomplished without an R-rated vocabulary.
The novel Congo Dawn by Jeanette Windle (Tyndale, 2013) features a plucky protagonist who finds herself deep in a dangerous situation she barely understands. Former Marine Robin Duncan, deployed in Afghanistan until a serious injury sent her home, now works as a translator for a private security firm, going wherever remunerative contracts take her. When her firm offers big money to help restore order near a valuable mine in Congo, Duncan willingly goes. There she meets a medical missionary—a man she once loved—who tries to convince her that strife over the mine is more complicated than she understands. Windle turns detailed reporting, gospel understanding, and a suspenseful plot into a story that will keep you turning pages and thinking more deeply about God’s love and human suffering.