Today's lesson is taken from the epistle of St. Roy of Orbison, who generously promised that "anything you want, anything you need, anything at all -- you got it."
Because of an unprecedented late summer outpouring of new titles from brand-name writers, I can fulfill St. Roy's promise of abundance for all sorts and conditions of mystery readers. Hardboiled? You got it. Espionage thriller? You got it.
Police procedural? You got it. Forensic? Traditional British? Serial killer killing other serial killers? You got it. You got it. You got it.
Florida writer Randy Wayne White, who each September unleashes his volatile marine biologist/sleuth Doc Ford as reliably as the African coast unleashes tropical systems, is right on schedule with "Dead Silence" (Putnam, 354 pages). This time Ford, in Manhattan briefly to meet an old friend, witnesses the botched kidnapping of a U.S. senator.
Ford's intervention thwarts that kidnapping, but the bad guys make off instead with the senator's companion, a Minnesota school kid in town to receive a scholastic award. At the guilt-ridden senator's behest, Ford joins the FBI to find the boy, whom his captors promise to kill unless the senator turns over top secret documents stolen from the Cuban government on file in her committee.
As the chase moves to his stomping grounds on the Florida Gulf Coast, Ford ditches the feds and goes commando to save the kid. In the process, Ford uncovers some potentially destructive secrets about his closest friend, his country's clandestine activities and the lethal consequences of his own past choices. The outcome of the breathless finale may transform this durable, entertaining series forever.
If espionage fiction is your cup of cyanide, Dan Fesperman's "The Arms Maker of Berlin" (Knopf, 367 pages) and Daniel Silva's "The Defector" will make you wish you were still on vacation.
In Fesperman's intricately plotted story, a renowned American professor of German history is enlisted by the FBI when his estranged academic mentor is arrested for stealing secret German archives relating to the anti-Nazi resistance during World War II. As he examines the documents, Professor Nat Turnbull discovers that four of the most sensitive are missing, and he thinks the mentor has hidden them. Why?
The question becomes more pressing when the mentor is murdered and the trail leads Turnbull to Berlin, where he uncovers the aging, titular arms dealer who will, as we say, stop at nothing to prevent information about his hidden war-time Nazi sympathies from coming to light. Fesperman's engrossing tale avoids all the cliches and keeps you turning pages well past bedtime.
Silva presents the latest in a reliable series featuring Gabriel Allon, whose masterful art restoration work is cover for his real job as Israel's top spy. "The Defector" follows last year's "Moscow Rules," in which a Russian KGB agent heroically saved Allon's life as he overturned a Russian weapons dealer's plot to sell nukes to rogue nations. This time, six months later, the KGB agent has defected to London but has been kidnapped by the vengeful arms merchant with help from Russian agents.
Feeling honor-bound to rescue his rescuer, Allon sets in motion an elaborate scheme to win his release and, in defiance of orders, once again journeys into Russia's snowy expanses. There is sufficient exposition here for readers who missed the previous book, and devoted Silva fans who did read it will find exciting resolution to what was left hanging last time.
The accomplished mother-and-son team (the mother lives in North Carolina) writing as "Charles Todd" has temporarily abandoned its dour, damaged WWI-era hero, police Inspector Ian Rutledge, in "A Duty to the Dead" (Morrow, 329 pages), a new series introducing army nurse Bess Crawford. While convalescing in England from injuries sustained when her hospital ship is sunk in 1916, Bess determines to deliver a dying soldier's message to his family.
When she arrives at the family's estate in Kent and recounts the dead man's secret to his brother, she finds herself inextricably caught up in a complex and sinister drama involving, she thinks, a long-suppressed murder. Some devotees of the Rutledge mysteries may find Bess' first-person narration a bit melodramatic and sentimental. But they will find her detective's intuition -- and the dark saga of guilt and duplicity she uncovers -- in every way the equal of Rutledge's most intriguing exploits.
Kathy Reichs, another writer with a North Carolina connection, delivers "206 Bones" (Simon and Schuster, 308 pages), her 12th thriller spotlighting Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist attached to the Quebec police. This time we begin with the feisty Tempe, the inspiration for the popular TV series "Bones," in another fine mess, bound and gagged in a dark, tomblike space.
Through a series of lengthy flashbacks, we learn that someone has been trying to impugn her reputation, and perhaps do even worse, by suggesting she mishandled the autopsy of a wealthy heiress whose remains have recently been found near Quebec. When the bodies of other murdered elderly women start to turn up, Tempe begins to see a pattern.
Like a crime scene, "206 Bones" (the number in a human body) is so deliciously puzzling and diverting, you have to be there. A brief plot summary won't do. But Reichs' latest adroitly mixes lots of occasionally yucky forensic trade-craft with a stalwart scientific detective who has gotten herself in a dilly of a pickle.