On Monday, Sister Mary told us she will travel to France this June and July only via armchair reading. She is loath to leave Maine, paradise on earth during the summer. I'm thrilled to hear this, as I plan to visit Maine in my own vacation reading. I won't make it to fictional Cabot Cove, where Jessica Fletcher plays whack-a-mole with the village's many murderers, but I want to experience murder with "that certain down east flavor" (see Sister Mary's blog post here).
It seems to me a rendezvous in Maine with Paul Doiron's Mike Bowditch would be a good start. In the first book, The Poacher's Son (see review here), Bowditch is a rookie game warden. His no-good father, Jack, suspected of murdering two people in an ambush, escapes police custody and disappears into the forest. Bowditch knows Jack is a womanizing alcoholic, as well as a poacher, but he doesn't think Jack would stoop to murder. Bowditch attempts to clear Jack, risking his job and alienating people who love him, in this suspenseful book about the relationship between a son and his father.
In all of Doiron's books, we look at how people relate to each other and to nature. Doiron's characters are buffeted by the pressure of change. Maine locals see their traditional way of life threatened by the loss of jobs and the arrival of rich summer residents, while development whittles away at the wilderness and challenges its wildlife. Bowditch, a young man who hates the feel of pavement under his feet and takes his job too
seriously for some people's comfort, tries to figure out who he is and how he fits into the world. The sixth book, The Precipice (Minotaur, June 16), finds Bowditch vacationing with his biologist girlfriend, Stacey Stevens. Then they get an emergency call to participate in an enormous manhunt for a pair of hikers. Samantha Boggs and Missy Montgomery, recent college grads from Georgia, missed a scheduled phone check-in three days earlier and have disappeared into Maine's famous Hundred-Mile Wilderness, the most remote section of the Appalachian Trial. Doiron, an Edgar-nominated writer, knows his native state. He ratchets up the tension as rumors suggest the women have fallen prey to aggressive coyotes and searchers work to narrow down the location where they were last seen.
For when the sun goes down at the vacation cabin on the lake, I'm packing a book by Martin Clark. His crazy-ass southern legal thrillers, such as The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, about a substance-abusing and corrupt judge who accepts a bribe and goes on a road trip/treasure hunt with a bunch of fellow oddballs, are fun to read when you can relax with a drink. Clark, a Virginia circuit court judge, has been called "not only the thinking man’s John Grisham but, maybe better, the drinking man’s John Grisham" (The New York Times Magazine). Clark's writing meanders. His characters are eccentric even before they let their hair down and run wild. He treats the law with joyful dark humor. It's good stuff for summer reading.
Clark's The Jezebel Remedy (Knopf, June 9) features a married couple, Joe and Lisa Stone, who have practiced law together for 20 years in Martinsville, Virginia. One of their long-time clients, Lettie VanSandt, would be getting legal services for free, if filing many lawsuits and patent claims made one eligible for a clients' frequent flyer program. When a suspicious trailer fire kills VanSandt, the Stones mop up her affairs and discover one of VanSandt's claims may actually have legs. Their legal opponent is as wily as they are, but much better funded. As a consequence, the Stones find themselves ethically challenged.
After the legal shenanigans I anticipate with Martin Clark's book, I'll be in the mood for some civilized behavior. To me, this means look to Great Brain. I'm going to try a police procedural series set in London by Irish-born Jane Casey. I've heard Casey's DC Maeve Kerrigan is tough and ambitious and can hold her own against DI Josh Derwent, her charismatic but misogynistic superior. I've also heard the books are faster paced and grittier than Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mysteries. Because Casey has won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, I'll assume most of the violence happens off the page and there's an element of romance involved. I've been climbing out of a rut recently so I'm looking for something a little different from my usual read.
I'll begin with The Kill (Minotaur, June 2). Although it's the fifth in Casey's series (The Burning is the first), early reviewers say it can stand on its own. Metropolitan police are being murdered, one by one, perhaps to retaliate for the police killing of an unarmed teen. Compounding this difficult investigation are the professional and personal pressures on Kerrigan's boss, Supt. Charles Godley, and DI Derwent. Both of these men have secrets that affect them and therefore Kerrigan.
I love thrillers, but I'm a Goldilocks about them. They must be just right. Not so heavy on the gas pedal and skimpy on the characterization and plot that an hour after finishing I can't remember a thing about the book except for the fact I turned pages. After all, if all I want is a racing heart I can go to the track and run sprints. What I really want is a book I hate to put down because I need to know how it all ends for the characters. They don't have to be likable for me to want to know what happens to them (see Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men) although sometimes it feels good to root for the good guy, like FBI rookie Clarice Starling in Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs.
There is a sweet father/daughter type of relationship between a 12-year-old girl, Rachel, who has lost her memory, and an ex-Army Ranger, Sam Dryden, who has lost his wife and child, at the heart of Patrick Lee's conspiracy thriller, Runner (Minotaur, 2014) (see review here). Add Rachel's ability to hear people's thoughts up to a mile away and Sam's special ops skills and you have two very smart mice chased by a relentless and inventive cat in a pulse-pounding thriller.
Rachel doesn't appear but Sam is back in Lee's sequel, the upcoming Signal (Minotaur, July 7). By now, Sam should dread the middle of the night. The interruption to his life off the grid this time comes in the form of a last-ditch phone call for help from a former colleague, Claire Dunham. Claire and Sam rescue four girls held hostage and flee with them into California's Sierra Nevada foothills. Why is it then the FBI and police earlier found the girls and their kidnapper dead? Claire's employer has developed a machine that tells the future, giving those access to it a chance to see what's coming and do something about it, although with not always intended consequences. Of course, if this device falls into the bad guys' hands, the good guys and the whole world will be up to their eyeballs in trouble.
Some techno-thrillers are eye-crossing fare for everybody but the nerdiest one percenters. This doesn't look like the case for the character-driven The Fold (Crown, June 2), by Peter Clines. Clines is fresh off a post-zombie apocalypse/superheroes mashup series––but keep reading, thriller and mystery fans. Surely we're interested in the subject of perfect recall, like the memory possessed by Clines's Leland "Mike" Erikson. And we're definitely interested in the whole concept of teleportation, right? You know, travel à la "Beam me up, Scotty."
The Fold's Mike Erikson is a genius, but he's happy teaching at a small town high school in New England until his friend, Reggie, asks him to investigate a U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects workplace in the California desert. Scientists there have developed a device they call the Albuquerque Door. It shrinks distances so that with a single step, a traveler can travel hundreds of feet. This feature is a promising step toward the goal of teleportation. The scientists insist the Door is safe but there are problems behind the scenes and a fatal accident results. After that, things go to pot. Like writers Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos, Clines includes a lot of pop cultural references that enthusiastic early reviewers say enhance this sci-fi/thriller/horror/adventure plot and entertain the reader. I can't wait to read it.
More previews coming up.