Who is killing the young orphans? Where does the blame lie in the case of the brain damaged child? What is the connection between love and violence? Even the great Sherlock Holmes would have been just a sad violin playing druggie if he didn’t have crimes to solve.
Jean Zimmerman is an author who’s attracting a lot of attention, not to mention fans, with her debut novel, THE ORPHANMASTER. It’s 1663, and the little settlement of New Amsterdam, though a frontier town, in many ways foreshadows the bustling metropolis of New York City. Corruption is rife, and cash is king. Twenty-two- year-old Blandine van Couvering decides to investigate what’s been happening to the orphaned children who have been murdered, and those who have gone missing. Joining her is the dashing Edward Drummond, an Englishman who is secretly spying for the king. War between England and Holland for the possession of the New World looms just over the horizon. Both the search for the killer and the budding romance between Blandine and Edward are halted when she is accused of being a witch, and he is sentenced to hang for espionage.
Jumping from the past into the near future, the technology employed by Daniel Suarez in his new thriller, KILL DECISION, seems like pure science fiction but in fact, it’s all just around the corner. Linda McKinney is a myrmecologist; that is, she’s a scientist who studies the social structure of ants. When her research is used to control a drone army about to wreak havoc, Linda pairs up with an unlikely partner. Odin is a Special Ops soldier who’s an expert on drone warfare. What happens during war when the “kill decision” of the title is taken out of the hands of humans, and controlled instead by soulless machines? Is it too late to stop the carnage to come?
Alafair Burke relies on current technology, in the form of cyber bullying, in her suspense novel, NEVER TELL. The wealthy family of sixteen-year-old Julia Whitmire refuses to believe that she’s committed suicide, even though there’s a handwritten suicide that seems to contradict their conviction. NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher knows they’re wrong, but because of the clout wielded by legendary punk rock producer Bill Whitmire, she’s forced to investigate. Along with her partner, J.J. Rogan, Ellie discovers that Julia’s world encompassed not only her overmedicated classmates from the elite prep school she attended, but also the street kids who hang out in Washington Square Park. What at first seemed a cut-and-dried case turns out to be anything but. Burke’s experience as a criminal law professor and a one-time deputy D.A. gives her an insider’s knowledge into the way things work in our justice system.
Andrew W. Siegel is also an insider writing about a field in which he’s an expert. In SUZY’S CASE, Siegel employs the knowledge he’s gained as a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in New York to create Tug Wyler. Wyler is, to say the least, a different kind of lawyer, whose motto is “at least I admit it.” The title character is Tug’s client, Suzy Williams, a brain-damaged little girl with a very attractive mother. Author Siegel best describes his hero and his writing style, “…a rule-bending, high-tension conflict during the course of which you’ll laugh in spite of yourself…while never knowing what’s going to happen next. Like me, Tug’s the kind of street-smart, push-it-to-the-limit lawyer you’d want on your side when the worst has happened.”
Elizabeth Haynes has also written a noteworthy first novel, INTO THE DARKEST CORNER. Why do women stay in an abusive relationship? One answer is because they never start out that way. Catherine Bailey and handsome, charming Lee Brightman meet at a party in Lancaster, England. Catherine is living a loose and easy life, and her drunken hook-up with Lee is nothing unusual. She soon feels that this encounter may be the beginning of something really good, and all her friends agree. But his love for her soon becomes obsessive, smothering, and frightening. He becomes increasingly violent, and Catherine suffers the consequences. Lee is sent to jail, and Catherine assumes a new identity and flees. But everything comes to a roaring climax when Lee is set free, and Catherine is once again in fear for her life.
With any luck, all of these scary situations will stay in well-written, fast-paced books where they belong, and where we can enjoy them in the safety of our own cozy homes.
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Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com