Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 408 pages.
This is my favorite find for September. Based on a real trial in 1915, it’s the story of three sisters who run afoul of a thuggish factory owner and then are terrorized in their farmstead.
Author Amy Stewart fleshes out the brief facts available with charming characters and lavish period detail. Among the period detail, of course, is that a household of three women in that day and age was constantly reminded that they needed a husband, father or brother to speak for them. The heroine is Constance Kopp, who became a law officer herself after the events in this book.
Those We Left Behind, by Stuart Neville. Soho Crime. 352 pages.
A young man is released eight years after confessing to the murder of his foster father, a confession many suspect was made to protect his older brother. We follow his progress as he transitions into regular life and is stalked by the son of the murdered man.
In Stuart Neville’s Belfast, the police are not icons of virtue, just less flawed than the criminals they are trying to help. Neville creates a sense of menace that jumps off the page, but with an underlying poetry that keeps you hoping innocence will prevail.
Hollow Man, by Mark Pryor. Seventh Street Books. 272 pages.
In keeping with the new trend of “unreliable narrators,” the Hollow Man of the title is a sociopath. A prosecutor in Austin, Texas, he narrates to the reader how he carefully fakes normalcy with the help of a charming British accent, but “there are some people who see past the mask, people who are immune to the charm and wit ... It’s like I’m hollow. I can hide that from most people, but some seem able to hear the emptiness.”
One of those people proposes a robbery scheme, and with debts and a yen to quit his day job to be a full-time musician, our hero plans a heist. Who doesn’t love a good caper story? And hiding his condition adds a level of deception that makes it a satisfyingly twisted tale.
The Gates of Evangeline, by Hester Young. Putnam. 410 pages.
A grieving mother begins to have visions of children in trouble, and one such vision sends her to a Louisiana estate to try and unravel the mystery of a child’s disappearance 30 years earlier.
This one strays a bit into Gothic romance territory, and it’s distracting to have the Southern accents depicted phonetically, like dialect. But the story is engaging and kept me reading.
The Drowning Game, by LS Hawker. Witness Impulse. 384 pages.
I read this in one sitting and loved the concept of a young woman, trained in Sarah Connor style by a survivalist dad, suddenly on her own in the world and on the run from a predatory sheriff. It seems to only be available on Kindle, for $1.99, so enjoy!