Books

Mysteries that grab your attention and keep it

“A Twist of the Knife” by Becky Masterman. Minotaur, 336 pages.

Retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn flies home to Florida because her father is in the hospital, but while she’s in town she agrees to help a former colleague who’s trying to exonerate a death row inmate.

Brigid only agrees to help because of the debt she owes Laura Coleman, who was injured saving Brigid’s life. But as she helps with legwork, she starts to see that there really are cracks in the case, including iffy fingerprint evidence and questions about a blown alibi.

Coincidentally, I read some of this book sitting in a hospital room with my parents, so Becky Masterman gets full marks for capturing my attention through that experience, from “Jeopardy!” on the TV to the maddening medical bureaucracy to the “listless hospital patter.”

Humanity and police procedure are nicely balanced and Masterman expertly builds both the family story and the detective story to unexpected revelations and redemption.

“The Fall of Lisa Bellow” by Susan Perabo. Simon & Schuster, 352 pages.

Two middle school girls are ordered to the floor during a robbery. The most popular girl in school, Lisa Bellow, is taken by the robber when he leaves; the other girl, Meredith Oliver, is left behind.

Susan Perabo follows Meredith’s journey from ordinary middle-schooler to a traumatized survivor who suddenly starts dressing like the taken girl and sitting in her spot in the school cafeteria, and the struggle of Meredith’s family to help her process the trauma while also dealing with their own fallout.

Meredith is not telling because she knows she would sound crazy, but she has clear visions of Lisa in her new surroundings. Did the shared trauma, staring directly into each other’s faces while waiting for the ordeal to end, create a psychic connection?

Perabo has a finely tuned sense for emotion and nuance, whether showing us the world through a 13-year-old’s eyes or a parent’s.

“The Day of the Lie” by William Brodrick. The Overlook Press, 384 pages.

William Brodrick takes us on a deep dive into fascism and resistance with this story of 20th-century Poland and one woman’s suffering for her role in the struggle.

Lawyer-turned-monk Father Anselm is approached to help right a decades-old wrong. Secret police interrogator Otto Brack, who tortured Róza Mojewska and murdered her husband, has promised he’ll submit to arrest and trial if Róza can persuade Brack’s secret informer to go public.

Book jacket blurbs tend to invoke the name of John le Carré on stories about espionage. The comparison is more true for Brodrick because the plot is driven by the places where his characters are broken, not whiz-bang spycraft.

“Mississippi Blood” by Greg Iles. William Morrow, 704 pages.

The conclusion of Greg Iles’ massive trilogy about racial injustice in Mississippi starts a tad slowly because of some recapping, but livens up when we get to the central courtroom story. If you have followed it, you know to expect grim KKK scenes and family drama, and – at 704 pages – lots of both.

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