Four new mysteries including Laura Lippman’s tribute to a noir giant

“Sunburn” by Laura Lippman. William Morrow, 304 pages.


A detective and the runaway wife he is investigating settle into jobs in the same small-town bar. Each of them is playing the other, but at some point the pretense becomes a genuine love affair, leading the detective to question whether he’s willing to turn her over to the man who hired him.

Laura Lippman pays tribute to her fellow Baltimorean, the noir giant James M. Cain, author of “Double Indemnity,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Mildred Pierce.” There are elements of all three stories in “Sunburn,” but the tribute is more to his style and subject matter – duplicity and love.

Incorporating elements of Cain’s work fits right in with Lippman’s deeply character-driven style. Enjoy!

“The Gate Keeper” by Charles Todd. William Morrow, 320 pages.

charles todd

Ian Rutledge, driving aimlessly after his sister’s wedding, happens across a murder scene in the wee hours. He welcomes the distraction of investigating, and starts his inquiries before Scotland Yard officially assigns him the case.

The murdered man, a bookshop owner in the village of Wolfpit, was admired by friends but hated by his family, particularly his mother. While Rutledge is puzzling over this, a second murder makes it clear there is more to the story.

“The Storm King” by Brendan Duffy. Ballantine Books, 400 pages.

brendan duffy

This is probably one of the plots I see most often: Former friends regroup when a secret kept for years comes to light, threatening the lives they have built.

jane harper

Brendan Duffy adds so many layers that those bare plot bones feel like an entirely new creature.

Nate McHale returns to his lakefront hometown to attend a funeral and also maybe answer a few police questions. We gradually learn that he and his friends were marauders in their teens, using storms as cover for damage that could pass as weather-related, always to people Nate decreed deserved it. Nate was the leader, the Storm King, channeling his rage over the deaths of his parents and brother in an accident he inexplicably survived.

Duffy weaves a powerful story from that fateful accident, the friendships that are the teens’ refuge from their damaged families, the fabulous wreck they use as a clubhouse – called the Night Ship – and the town legends of the Night Ship’s heyday as a den of vice. Fittingly, a powerful hurricane is the backdrop for the return of the Storm King.

“Force of Nature” by Jane Harper. Flatiron Books, 336 pages.

Jane Harper’s debut “The Dry” painted a vivid picture of a drought in Australia, and “Force of Nature” is another deadly trip into that country’s hostile wilderness.

A corporate team-building exercise goes wrong when one team gets lost and an executive who impatiently struck out on her own doesn’t make it back.

Over several days as a search goes on, Aaron Falk (who we first met in “The Dry”) and his partner try to determine whether the lost woman was targeted for her undercover work investigating the company’s business practices.