The Sandman by Lars KeplerWhat it's about: A terrifying, manipulative serial killer imprisoned in a high-security psychiatric ward may hold the key to saving the life of a young woman believed dead for 13 years.
Is it for you? Blood-soaked and fast-paced, this 4th in the series starring Det. Insp. Joona Linna highlights his intuition and strategic sense -- and his willingness to dangle his colleagues as bait.
For fans of: Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter.
Sirens by Joseph KnoxWhat it's about: While deep undercover in Manchester's club scene and attempting to infiltrate the hostile drug empires active there, disgraced cop Aidan Waits is asked to look for a politician's runaway daughter, who has fallen in with the dangerous leader of one of those organizations.
Is it for you? Though it's somewhat leisurely paced, this noirish debut novel is also brutally violent, with flawed characters who loom larger than life.
Look for: a sequel, The Smiling Man, available through U.K. sources in March; the rest of us will have to wait a little longer.
The Innocent Wife by Amy LloydStarring: Dennis Danson, a high-profile death row inmate convicted of killing a teenager in his hometown 20 years ago. And British schoolteacher Samantha, who has fallen in love with Dennis -- and has traveled to the U.S. to meet and ultimately marry him.
What it's about: Released after someone else confesses, Dennis and Sam return to the Danson family home, where they deal with hostile locals, vandals, and an unsympathetic police force. And Sam starts wondering if Dennis really is as innocent as she'd believed.
Chicago by David MametAuthor alert: Though better known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright or an Oscar-nominated screenwriter (take your pick), this is not David Mamet's first novel -- just his first in nearly 20 years.
What it's about: Set in 1920s Chicago and featuring a whole crew of unsavory gangsters, the novel stars former WWI pilot Mike Hodge, who's now a reporter. When his girlfriend is gunned down in his own home, he's immediately on the hunt for those responsible.
Read it for: real-life gangsters; evocative dialogue; fast-paced action.
Barbed Wire Heart by Tess SharpeWhat it's about: In Northern California, 22-year-old Harley McKenna wants to get out of the family business, and if that means igniting a blood feud between her drug-kingpin father and his rivals, so be it.
Why you might like it: With flawed but likeable Harley at the helm, this hard-bitten crime novel is both intense and affecting; there's plenty of violence as well as an intriguing father-daughter dynamic.
For fans of: the atmosphere and star character in Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone.
Books You Might Have Missed
The Beautiful Dead by Belinda BauerWhat it's about: When television reporter Eve Singer arrives at the scene of a savage, fatal stabbing in a London office building, she attracts the attention of the serial killer behind it, who's staging his murders to look like artwork.
Why you might like it: With multiple perspectives (Eve's, the killer's, and even some victims) this gripping novels blends the details of a police procedural with the intensifying strain of a psychological suspense novel.
It's Always the Husband by Michele CampbellWhat it's about: The events that led to the death of a friend will always link the three very different former college roommates featured in this twisty debut. As adults, they find themselves thrown together once more -- and the result is yet another death under suspicious circumstances.
Reviewers say: The "edge-of-your-seat pace and dark atmosphere" (Booklist) and depiction of complex female friendship will appeal to fans of domestic suspense novels like Rebecca Drake's recent Just Between Us.
Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri; translated by Antony ShugaarBook buzz: Bestselling Italian author Sandrone Dazieri made his U.S. debut with this series opener (it's followed by Kill the Angel), a disturbing, violent tale of murder and captivity starring an Italian police detective and a traumatized missing-persons consultant.
Read it for: the complex and captivating plot, the Italian setting, and the dynamic relationship between the two damaged main characters.
Reviewers say: "original and brutal" (The Times of London); "outstanding" (Booklist).
You Belong to Me by Colin HarrisonWhat it's about: Immigration attorney Paul Reeves wants a rare, priceless map of 19th-century Manhattan; his deepening obsession with it turns him into an accessory to abduction and throws him into the path of some angry hit men.
Why you might like it: Obsession is the primary motivator, not just for Paul but for the rest of the characters in this action-packed, noirish crime drama. The New York City setting provides plenty of well-drawn atmosphere, too.
The Believer by Joakim Zander; translated by Elizabeth Clark WesselTopics of note: the privatization of police forces, the radicalization of young Muslim men, neighborhood violence in Stockholm spurred on by outsiders, and a vast conspiracy that connects all three.
Starring: Three Swedes -- human rights researcher and functional alcoholic Klara Walldéen (first seen in The Swimmer), trendspotter Yasmine Ajam, and her depressed, radicalized brother, Fadi.
What reviewers say: "Impressively complex characters and stark atmospherics" (Publishers Weekly).
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