Books

The past brings danger in three that thrill

“Fallout,” by Sara Paretsky. William Morrow, 448 pages.

An aging black film icon who is retracing the steps of her life disappears along with the young videographer who is chronicling the journey. Private eye V.I. Warshawski ventures out of Chicago and tracks them as far as Lawrence, Kansas, where the film star lived as a child and returned to join protesters at a nuclear missile silo in the 1980s.

Warshawski finds a couple of bodies, but not the ones she was hired to look for. And it’s clear that whatever happened to the protesters encamped around the silo in the 1980s is tied to the new deaths.

Sara Paretsky explores prejudice and secrecy, and the long-term effects of both on families and communities.

And speaking of long-term, I just have to say it’s amazing to think that V.I. has been lacing up those shoes for a run with the dog since 1982. Where does the time go?

“The Red Hunter,” by Lisa Unger. Touchstone, 368 pages.

In a standalone from Lisa Unger, one house means very different things to two women haunted by trauma.

A woman who was raped in New York City moves with her daughter into the rundown house in the New Jersey countryside and starts a blog about renovating it. A woman whose parents were killed in front of her in that same house now lives in the city and channels her trauma into revenge.

When one of the killers resurfaces and starts pressuring his brother to go back to the house and search for stolen loot they never found, Unger weaves the three story lines back toward an inevitable repeat of that terrible night. She is definitely in my Top Ten of writers I watch the shelves for.

“The Day I Died,” by Lori Rader-Day. William Morrow, 432 pages.

Single mother Anna Winger is struggling to reconnect with her teenage son, who’s starting to chafe at their nomadic lifestyle. Every time she thinks someone has guessed her secret, they pull up stakes and find a new town.

Then her profession, handwriting expert, involves her in the investigation of a murder-abduction that she finds hard to leave behind even when hints start arriving that her cover has been blown again.

Lori Rader-Day layers this seemingly simple story with detail and emotion in an oblique style that feels more like eavesdropping than plot exposition.

“Marshall’s Law,” by Ben Sanders. Minotaur, 352 pages.

Someone is gunning for a former cop who’s in witness protection. We hop from character to character in a crisp narrative that moves the story along and allows us to see through different eyes. Ben Sanders’ style is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard, colloquial and snappy, but with a more Tarantino-esque body count and moments of sheer poetry (“The street some graffiti dream in its night colors.”). This one’s a series, so if you like it you can go back and catch up on Marshall Grade’s adventures.

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