Leaning more toward fictional conundrums and mysteries then, say, scares related to public health? We have you covered — dive into these three new crime books out in July.
Samantha Downing’s “He Started It” (Berkley, $26) is a deliciously snarky and funny/scary road trip with a terrific setup. Three grown siblings (and two spouses) are forced to drive cross-country with their grandfather’s ashes in the trunk. If they want his sizable estate, according to the old guy’s will, they must deliver his remains to a specific spot.
That’s odd enough, but then things get really strange. The trip re-creates one their grandfather took the kids on 20 years earlier, and they must make certain stops along the way, including some deeply goofy and/or creepy tourist attractions.
Bickering, backstabbing and secret agendas abound, not to mention the ominous black pickup truck following them. Meanwhile, dark flashbacks slowly reveal the reasons behind the journey. Although the climax feels rushed, Downing has a sure sense of pacing overall. Not to mention a knack for detailing sibling rivalries; I’m hoping for a sequel called “Nuh-Uh!” or possibly “I Know You Are, But What Am I?”
Talk about unreliable narrators! In “His & Hers” (Flatiron, $27.99), Alice Feeney doubles down on this trusty literary device — or does she?
The story, skillfully doled out with slivers of information and sleight of hand, is told by two (possibly) fishy voices, plus occasional input from what may be a third voice (it’s complicated). The result is absurdly absorbing psychological suspense with a wicked sting at its tail.
Little can be revealed about the plot beyond the bare bones. A BBC news reporter, Anna Andrews, is assigned to cover a murder in Blackdown, her quiet Surrey hometown. Police detective Jack Harper, another Blackdown native, is also down from London and on the case. The two are bitterly divorced, and each also has a deep connection with the victim, Rachel Hopkins. For their own reasons, Andrews and Harper are reluctant to recuse themselves from the case.
The vividly rendered supporting characters include Andrews’ cameraman, Harper’s naïve but loyal assistant, and (in flashbacks) the mean girls at Andrews’ old school. More grisly murders follow, and circumstantial evidence points at various times to virtually everyone — a crowd that very much includes both narrators. Are they lying, or delusional, or just not forthcoming?
“House Privilege” (Atlantic, $26) is Seattle-area author Mike Lawson’s 14th absorbing thriller about Joe DeMarco, a disarming but resourceful fixer for a powerful Congressman, John Mahoney. Lawson understands well the mechanics of politics in Washington, D.C., although DeMarco sometimes handles situations farther afield.
Such is the case here as Cassie Russell, Mahoney’s teenage goddaughter, is the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed the rest of her wealthy Boston family, and DeMarco heads there to look after her until Mahoney’s kindhearted wife can take over. But DeMarco realizes the lawyer in charge of the family’s affairs is seriously bad news: She’s an ice-cold thief intent on scooping up whatever she hasn’t already embezzled.
DeMarco swings into action — as best he can, anyway, considering he has zero knowledge about how to deal with a grieving and willful teenage girl.
Side note: One character here is a formidable Irish mob boss named Mike Kelly. Naming a bad guy after yourself? Cool idea!