Poppet, by Mo Hayder. Atlantic Monthly Press. 382 pages.
If theres anything better than being poleaxed by a book, its turning to the also by this author page and seeing EIGHT previous books that you can dive into, including one Edgar winner.
Mo Hayder knows whats scary. Insanity is scary. Malevolent dwarfs in nightgowns are scary. Motionless, faceless beings standing in your yard watching your bedroom window at night scary. She balances all this with comforting earth-mother characters who make jam from wild fruit and dish out fabulous breakfasts at any hour of the day or night.
Asylum administrator AJ LeGrande and series detective Jack Cafferty are working at seemingly separate puzzles involving deaths of inmates at asylums, but their puzzles eventually entwine. Story and character get equal weight as LeGrande and Cafferty work through the clues surrounded by a cast of very real personalities, at a pace that lets us absorb a plot point and then move on to the next. Lots of people to like in this book, especially the kind-hearted LeGrande.
Close to the Bone, by Stuart MacBride. Harper Collins. 528 pages.
If there were a prize for creative cursing, Stuart MacBride would be a shoo-in for that along with his CWA Dagger in the Library and his Barry Award for best first novel. Cops, robbers, victims, witnesses: just about everyone swears a constant blue streak, making this possibly the crowning example of the Scatological Scots genre.
Detective Inspector Logan Macrae dodges harassing calls and visits from his wildly inappropriate boss as he tracks a murderer who appears to be a fan of a novel about witch-hunters that is being turned into a film in the area.
Silent Voices, by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur. 314 pages
Is it a blessing or a curse for fans when a series gets turned into a TV show? Brenda Blethyn seems too pretty to play hard-drinking, glowering Northumbria Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, and I hear she makes the character more frantic than firm. So Ill stick with Ann Cleeves original.
Vera finds a murder victim in the steam room at her health club, and the investigation unearths all sorts of unhealthy connections with an old child murder. Cleeves, as always, finds all the drama she needs in everyday family life, nowhere more than in Veras own internal monologue in the cruel voice of her father.
Angel Baby, by Richard Lange. Mulholland. 288 pages.
No one is 100 percent good or 100 percent bad in this story of an abused wife on the run from a powerful drug kingpin, but there are definitely characters to root for and against.
It moves along fast as we see Luz put into motion the plan she came up with after a first, drug-addled escape attempt that failed painfully. Nearly everyone she encounters has a price, whether its in cash or in family hostages to fortune, so it could be a depressing story except for a few redemptive acts that rescue the reader from Luzs grim reality.