“Glass Houses,” by Louise Penny. Minotaur. 400 pages.
The dominant image from this outing to the Canadian village of Three Pines is of a robed and masked figure (Darth Vader meets the Grim Reaper) standing in silent accusation on the village green.
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The troubling spectacle ends in death, and the story of that homicide investigation is told in flashbacks and testimony by Chief Superintendent Armand Gamache in a sweltering courtroom. We get hints that there’s more to this trial than meets the eye and that the stakes are high.
Meanwhile Inspector Gamache’s team at the Surete is playing a long game against the drug gangs, feigning incompetence in order to draw out the shadowy leader.
Louise Penny creates a fraught tension, relieved by baguettes and hot chocolate.
“Fast Falls the Night,” by Julia Keller. Minotaur. 304 pages.
How do you keep a series fresh, six books in? Julia Keller sets an entire book in one 24-hour period to change things up.
Keller drew on a real-life case in her own West Virginia hometown and the all-too-real opioid epidemic in rural communities. As calls come in about multiple fatal overdoses all within just a few hours, law enforcement tries to spread the word about a bad batch of heroin, while fighting the temptation to stop working so hard to keep addicts alive instead of just letting them self-destruct.
“The Good Daughter,” by Karin Slaughter. William Morrow. 528 pages.
Small-town lawyer Charlie Quinn is coincidentally on the scene when a shooting happens at the local middle school. It stirs memories of a trauma that cleaved her childhood 28 years earlier, when her family was attacked because of her father’s life mission of defending the indefensible in court. Now she shares office space with him, and based on her gut feeling about the mentally subnormal high-school student she saw holding the gun, she starts bending the rules to keep the media circus from leading straight to the lethal injection chamber.
Karin Slaughter delivers crisp pacing and characters with the full complement of human quirks and flaws. The stories from 28 years ago and from today layer new revelations one on top of the other, building expertly to a final twist.
“Sleeping in the Ground,” by Peter Robinson. William Morrow. 336 pages.
In a rainy mystery where the weather plays a part in the action more than once, Inspector Alan Banks is on the train home from the funeral of his college girlfriend when he gets word of a wedding party picked off by a sniper as they were leaving the church.
Police work quickly leads to a likely suspect, but he’s already dead and not the type for mass shootings, according to his neighbors. The puzzle of the motive sends the squad digging into his past and that of everyone in the wedding party. Sure enough, the seeds of the crime were planted many years ago.
It’s Peter Robinson’s usual winning formula, a blend of police procedural, audiophile playlist and Banks’ love life.