Bored out of your skull yet with the coronavirus-induced stay-home lockdown? If so, support your local, independent bookstore by ordering these new crime stories — or anything else that appeals — to get lost in a few new cases.
In “The Last Trial” (Grand Central, $29), Scott Turow — arguably the godfather of the modern legal thriller — returns to Kindle County, the fictional Illinois setting of nearly a dozen of his books. Turow’s longtime protagonist, defense attorney Alejandro “Sandy” Stern, is aging — now in his 80s, he’s having physical and mental problems — but is still a formidable presence.
Kiril Pafko, a revered scientific researcher, stands accused of covering up deaths resulting from a cancer treatment he developed — and of insider stock trading before those deaths became public. Stern and his law partner and daughter, Marta, are defending their longtime friend.
Seasoned pro that he is, Turow keep Palko’s culpability uncertain until the last moments, ratcheting up the tension while considering the implications of deceit, finance, Big Pharma and the physical and mental trials of aging.
With “Three Hours in Paris” (Soho, $27.95), Bay Area writer Cara Black ventures into new territory: World War II-era espionage.
It’s 1940, and Kate Rees, a young American who recently lost her British husband and baby in a bombing raid in Scotland, has been recruited by British intelligence. The job: assassinating Hitler. She’s chosen for this seemingly suicidal mission because of her superb rifle skills, learned as a girl in Oregon. Furthermore, she speaks French and — not insignificantly — feels, in her grief, that she has little to live for.
Rees parachutes into occupied France and finds Hitler as he makes a brief appearance on the steps of Paris’ Sacré-Coeur. But her shot — her only chance — goes wrong, and the Fuhrer orders his troops to find the sniper within three days.
With no clear exit strategy, Rees has to find her own way back to London along a heart-stoppingly dangerous route, hoping to connect with the underground French Resistance. This new book shows Black can ratchet up the tension many notches, even when she depicts her beloved Paris in a different time and vastly different circumstances than her popular Aimée Leduc books.
In “Death in the East” (Pegasus, $25.95), Abir Mukherjee (a young Scottish author of Bengali descent) takes us to a time and place of unusual interest: India in 1922. The British Empire still controls the region, but there are strong rumblings of the coming freedom movement.
Police Captain Sam Wyndham (the hero of three previous books) has entered a remote ashram to kick his opium habit. His solitude is broken by two murders — of another ashram resident and a nasty British bigwig.
The narrative toggles between that setting and London in 1905, providing backstory about Wyndham’s early police days. Mukherjee’s settings, which eventually merge, are vivid and his characters well rounded — particularly Wyndham’s sergeant, Surendranath “Surrender-Not” Banerjee, whose late arrival in the story proves crucial.
The book is marred by the author’s tendency to telegraph big plot twists far in advance, but this is nevertheless an absorbing and evocative slice of history, a lesson in the horrors of racism and oppression — and a ripping good tale.