These creepy and compelling mystery books tackle everything from hackers to Hitler
|Toronto Star 19 Apr 2019 at 03:21|
It helps but isn’t absolutely necessary in absorbing this smart and speedy book if you’re on intimate terms with such activities and concepts as phishing, fracking and swatting, normcore, clickbait and sock puppets.
Like Downing’s deeply researched and convincing Second World War series featuring John Russell, the British journalist-spy, the new book deals with the war in thrilling fashion. (Soho Crime)
A hacking scandal uncovers dark truths about social media in Social Misconduct. (Simon and Schuster)
The plot gets rolling when a group of four longtime independently witness a sexual assault, which is apparently connected to a later murder. (HarperCollins)
The Better Sisiter uncovers the mysterious world of Manhattan’s elite — and, of course, murder. (HarperCollins)
The story takes us deep into the life and ambitions of Candace who is 26, pretty and anxious to nail a job in Manhattan’s social media industry. Alas someone hacks her phone, and the rest of the narrative is either a matter of Candace trying to get out from under the viciously embarrassing hack job or a revelation of Candace as just about the nastiest character you’ve met in recent crime fiction.
Whatever the truth, the portrait of Candace and assorted other characters in today’s social media are revelatory, entertaining and presented by S.J. Maher (who is actually male, Canadian and a journalist writing under a pseudonym) in a style that’s fresh and original.
Diary of a Dead Man on LeaveBy David DowningSoho Crime, 312 pages, $27.95
Here’s something a little different from David Downing. Like Downing’s deeply researched and convincing Second World War series featuring John Russell, the British journalist-spy, the new book deals with the war in thrilling fashion. But unlike the Russell novels, this one has much more of a domestic feel to it with the kicker that the setting places us in 1938 among the German citizens of the small Ruhr city of Hamm.
The narrator, the writer of the diary of the title, is Josef Hoffman, a spy working for the Russians. Hoffman has specific instructions from the Kremlin to organize a small cadre of operatives who will sabotage the Nazis when Hitler launches the inevitable war. But this side of the plot fades into the background in favour of the book’s real business, which is to present a picture of the way ordinary German citizens dealt with the machinations of their nation’s mad dictator.
The focus is mostly on the innocent and liberal-minded family that Hoffman lives with in Hamm, a group whose experiences alternate in moving ways between horror and heroism.
The Guilty PartyBy Mel McGrathHarperCollins, 398 pages, $23.99
When you learn early on in this creepy and well-crafted English thriller that four longtime friends in their early 30s — two men, two women — keep a scrapbook called the Big Black Book in which they record, complete with secretly-shot photos, intimate records of their sexual conquests, you know huge trouble is overdue to strike them.
The plot gets rolling when the four independently witness a sexual assault, which is apparently connected to a later murder. None of the four, who all come up a little short in the morality department, makes a move to help the assault victim or to ring in the cops.
Keeping in mind that people who have a Big Black Book in their lives are going to mess up, that’s what the four friends do with their information about the assault. They mess up. Badly and creepily.
The Better SisterBy Alafair BurkeHarperCollins, 320 pages, $26.99
Chloe is the toast of Manhattan, editor of a prize-winning women’s magazine. She’s married to Adam, a lawyer in a top-notch corporate firm. They have a son, 16-year-old Ethan, whose biological mother is the clever but ditzy Nicky, who is both Adam’s first wife and Chloe’s older sister. Then, out at Chloe and Adam’s East Hampton Beach house, someone stabs Adam to death.
Alafair Burke is crafty about dropping clues to the murderer’s identity as the story moves along. It’s not hard to make guesses at the whodunit person, but that would be a mistake because Burke’s notion of a clue never seems to match up with the reader’s suppositions. It’s better, to get maximum pleasure from the book, to go with the flow, which carries us in revelatory fashion through Manhattan’s high life, a neighbourhood that Burke seems to be intimately familiar with.