Reviews of the Week with Chris Pavone, Rory Power, Leah Hager Cohen, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

A welcome return to form for a globe-trotting couple constantly facing danger; a horrific scourge that keeps a group of young students quarantined; a murder committed in a top-secret Soviet weapons lab; an ever-growing wedding event in a small town, and the family secrets that threaten the whole affair; a search for life’s mysteries in the eyes of a young girl with Manhattan at her doorstep. Thrilling, bizarre, and life-affirming revelations abound in the Reviews of the Day from the third week of Mystery Month, all posted between May 13–May 17, below.

Monday, May 13

The Paris Diversion, by Chris Pavone

Pavone delivers another thoroughly immersive, stylish, and intelligent thriller (following The Travelers, 2016). In a move that is sure to please fans of The Expats (2012), he returns here to the lives of Kate and Dexter Moore, now living in Paris after former CIA agent Kate managed to extract her cyberbanker husband from a trap into which he had been lured by two artists of the long con, Julia and Bill. Pavone again unspools a tightly wound plot in which the levels of deception keep multiplying. It starts with a terrorist in front of the Louvre holding a dirty bomb. As the standoff continues, Kate, who is back with the agency in a shady, off-the-books capacity, starts digging into what’s going on, hoping to solidify her position with her superiors, and soon discovers that Dexter may be fiddling on the fringes of cybercrime again, out to profit from the downfall of an arrogant financier. And what’s with Julia and Bill turning up in Paris, seemingly ready to bury the hatchet? But burying it where?

Tuesday, May 14

Wilder Girls, by Rory Power

It’s been a year and a half since the Raxter School for Girls was ravaged by the Tox, a sickness that crept in slowly through the woods before distorting the bodies of the teachers and students in vicious ways, leaving them wilted and blackened when it was finished. Left with the promise of a cure, the quarantined girls watch out for one another. That’s precisely what Hetty is doing when her friend Byatt disappears, and together with her friend Reese, she breaks quarantine to penetrate the wild beyond the fence to find her. At the same time, they navigate their fragile, maybe even brittle, relationship that’s strained by the complicated, desolate circumstances. Power’s mesmerizing novel is touched with eerie moments of body horror—a stitched-up eye with something lurking underneath, a second protruding spine, animals growing three times their size. Those moments pale in comparison to the savagery of the Tox, however: “It made them stick each other in the main hall during dinner, made them watch themselves bleed dry.”

Wednesday, May 15

Black Sun, by Owen Matthews

Beginning with The Day of the Jackal (1971), Frederick Forsyth, investigative journalist, ace RAF pilot, and sometime spy, helped redefine the modern thriller and set the standard for lightning-pace action, supercool characters, and authentic details, no doubt culled from his personal experiences. His endorsement of fellow journalist Matthews’ totally immersive debut for its “fearsome authenticity” raises the reader’s expectations, and Matthews delivers. To call the novel chilling is an understatement. It’s set in 1961, in the depths of the Cold War, in the brutal winter of a remote Russian top-secret research city, with scientists working on a bomb that, ironically, could set the world’s atmosphere on fire. KGB officer Major Alexander Vasin arrives to investigate the murder of one of the key men working on the project, on the orders of Soviet leaderNikita Khrushchev. If you think you already know about the Soviet drive for world dominance via nuclear supremacy and the extent to which it was enforced by brutality, secrets, and surveillance but foiled by ideological conflict and a corrupt Politburo, think again.

Thursday, May 16

Strangers and Cousins, by Leah Hager Cohen

The Blumenthals are hosting a wedding in a few short days at their old family home in upstate New York. The bride-to-be is camping out in the yard, more relatives are arriving by the day, and Great-Aunt Glad is wandering mentally between past and present. To top it off, Walter and Bennie Blumenthal are harboring two secrets from the rest of the family. And the simmering protest among long-standing town residents to the increasing presence of an Orthodox Jewish community threatens to divide the Blumenthals into opposing factions. Cohen perfectly captures the chaos of a big family event, with all the personalities and baggage that come with the territory, adeptly mixing humor and sentiment to create an intoxicatingly rich story that bursts off the page with life.

Friday, May 17

All the Greys on Greene Street, by Laura Tucker

Ollie’s parents are artists. Her mother is an innovative sculptor; her father, along with his friend and partner, Apollo, does meticulous restoration work. But to Ollie’s distress, neither of them are present at the moment. Her father has disappeared, perhaps to France with his new girlfriend, on some obscure mission. Her mother, as she did once before, has taken to her bed, too depressed to eat, wash, or focus on her daughter’s worries. That leaves Ollie, an artist in her own right, free to roam a pregentrified Manhattan Soho with friends Alex and Richard, seeking clues to her father’s whereabouts. The story isn’t much of a mystery in the traditional sense. By the time readers discover what’s happened to him, key elements about his disappearance are almost forgotten. As Ollie herself notes about mysteries, the clues in books are all “tidy arrows pointing toward a logical conclusion.” But not in meandering reality.



About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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