“Robicheaux” by James Lee Burke. Simon & Schuster, 464 pages.
I know, I know – I had you at “Robicheaux,” right?
If you’re a fan of James Lee Burke’s philosopher poet, you don’t need a tempting plot summary, which is good, because this one resists summarizing. It involves amoral politicians, a righteous assassin, a murder Dave Robicheaux can’t remember whether he committed, rape accusations and film rights to a Civil War story, plus the usual cast of characters and their personal demons. The story is just the trellis that supports Robicheaux’s grim musings on love, loss and redemption as he navigates the ruined landscape of his South, accompanied by his inescapable ghosts.
This is the only mystery I read this month that moved me to tears, and I will bet good money it’s the only one featuring a character who is also a real person who also has a mystery novel coming out this month, Burke’s daughter Alafair (“The Wife,” Harper; 352 pages).
“Anatomy of a Scandal” by Sarah Vaughan. Emily Bestler Books/Atria, 400 pages.
This legal thriller about power, privilege and sexual assault is straight from the headlines. A staffer accuses a government minister of rape, and the barrister who is prosecuting has a particular interest in seeing the man convicted. We see the story from several viewpoints, not least that of his wife, who has tolerated his dalliances since they were students together at Oxford, when he and the now-Prime Minister were part of a wild group called the Libertines.
The “gilded youths whose gilt has worn thin” are still sticking together, but we get hints throughout the book of some terrible episode in their university years.
“The Woman in the Window” by A.J. Finn. William Morrow, 448 pages.
There’s a lot of buzz about “The Woman in the Window,” and it’s totally deserved. It grabbed me in the first two sentences (“Her husband’s almost home. He’ll catch her this time.”) and did not let go, with a chatty tone and a crystalline writing style that seems to drop all the unnecessary verbiage and just keep the interesting words.
Child psychiatrist Anna Fox is housebound with agoraphobia after a terrible car accident. She plays online chess, counsels other agoraphobes in chat rooms, watches black-and-white suspense films and, in an homage to “Rear Window,” watches her neighbors with the telephoto lens on her camera. When she sees a murder and reports it, she’s not believed, and as in the Hitchcock classic, her condition keeps her from leaving her house to investigate.
And quickly, three other January releases I enjoyed: “The Weight of an Infinite Sky” by Carrie La Seur (William Morrow, 272 pages): Hamlet, played out on a Montana ranch. “Lullaby Road” by James Anderson (Crown, 320 pages): The second in a series about a tractor-trailer driver who runs one stretch of isolated desert highway, and his eccentric clientele. “Light It Up” by Nick Petrie (Putnam, 400 pages): War veteran Peter Ash returns, this time working security in the cash-heavy legal marijuana industry.