“Safe Houses” by Dan Fesperman. Knopf, 416 pages
A new Dan Fesperman has a guaranteed spot in the bedside to-be-read pile. He always delivers a high level of storytelling and wordsmithing.
“Safe Houses” begins in a Berlin CIA safe house in 1979, when men ruled the espionage roost and women could only rise as far as a supporting staff role. A young woman overhears two encounters that turn her underused talents toward uncovering crimes within the agency.
This alternates with a story of a young woman looking for answers in the deaths of her parents in 2014. Her brother has shot their parents to death, an act totally out of character. She finds she is not the only one interested, and that her brother had made a new friend in the days preceding the murder.
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Fesperman’s story of women at a workplace disadvantage is on point for the age of #MeToo, and a good reminder of the ground we have gained – not all that long ago, really – and now must try to hold.
“It All Falls Down” by Sheena Kamal. William Morrow, 336 pages.
Have I mentioned how much I love a protagonist who’s not just flawed but downright broken? (Just kidding. I know I constantly mention it.) Nora Watts is therefore irresistible to me. Sheena Kamal has put this poor woman through all sorts of family hell for my entertainment.
Nora’s mother walked out when she was young, and her father later committed suicide. A cryptic encounter with a stranger who claims to have known her father during his time in the military sends her to Detroit to see if there is more to the story that sent her and her sister into foster care and down a dark path.
“Baby’s First Felony” by John Straley. Soho Crime, 336 pages.
“Baby’s First Felony” is the primer that public defenders David Ryder and Cecil Younger have cobbled together to help their possibly impaired, sleep-deprived and mentally challenged clients remember a few important do’s and don’ts. For example, “during field sobriety tests for your third drunk driving offense, do not tell the cops, ‘I can’t even do this when I’m sober.’ ” or “Do not wear the shoes you stole to court.”
These tips are mentioned as Cecil tells a legal panel the long story of how he came to be jailed right alongside some of those clients, after pulling an epic crime with some of them and getting himself nearly killed several times in the process. It’s a bloody, violent tale, but a hilarious one, with a fond view of the local criminal set that keeps things light.
“Stay Hidden” by Paul Doiron. Minotaur, 352 pages.
Maine game warden Mike Bowditch is investigating a fatal shooting on an isolated island, with a dense fog keeping all other law enforcement away for the time being.
When the victim of the shooting walks off the next morning ferry. Mike’s investigation changes focus, from hunting accident to possible murder.