It’s not breaking news that the Seattle area is a hotbed of crime fiction writers, as evidenced by these new additions to the local-author shelf.
“A Choir of Crows” (Crème de la Crime, $29.99) makes an even dozen entries in Candace Robb’s excellent historical series about Owen Archer, a one-eyed bailiff and spy in medieval York, England. Here, it’s 1374 and Archer is concerned about uncertainty over who will succeed the ailing Edward III, to whom he is loyal.
Archer suspects that a series of deaths — possibly caused by a mysterious woman disguised as a man — might be connected. Complicating matters are the security measures needed for the upcoming enthronement of York’s new archbishop. Adding devastation to an already volatile situation: one of the plague’s periodic visits.
Deeply researched and written with flair and nuance, Robb’s books — like historical fiction as a whole — are welcome balms in these times … despite that subplot about the plague.
Glen Erik Hamilton sets his addictive, Edgar-nominated thrillers in Seattle, and his latest, “A Dangerous Breed” (Morrow, $27.99), is a doozy. (Hamilton abandoned his hometown for Southern California, but his bio says he visits often; we’ll call that local enough.)
Van Shaw, a tough former Army Ranger, was raised by his grandfather, a career criminal. As a kid, Shaw learned a few tricks that prove useful in his own, current career as a thief.
A deeply unpleasant couple are central to this tale. The man is dying, and his wife, recovering from cancer, is sterile. They blackmail Shaw into breaking into a biotech firm’s high-security office on Lake Union to steal the wife’s frozen eggs.
Meanwhile, Shaw searches for his unknown father, a quest that leads him into the midst of a dangerous arms deal. Hamilton provides some excellent local flavor and a colorful cast of supporting players, but the book’s meat is its shrewd pacing and exploration of Shaw’s complex personality.
“The Bad Sister” (Pinnacle, $9.99 paperback) is the latest from Kevin O’Brien. A sequel to “The Betrayed Wife,” it centers on two wildly different half-sisters, Hannah and Eden. Though there’s no love lost between them, they’re reluctant housemates attending the same small Illinois college.
Soon after the young women move into a bungalow, with a creepy rich girl as a third housemate, a series of grisly murders occurs, eerily mimicking earlier deaths on the same spot. Then, to the peril of all, a curious professor starts to dig around. O’Brien expertly keeps the suspense ratcheted up throughout.
Allen Wyler’s “Deadly Odds 3.0” (Stairway, $14.95 paperback) is the third in the retired neurosurgeon’s series about Arnold Gold, a stone-cold computer genius and hapless geek, now living in Hawaii following the destruction of his Seattle home.
Startled by an unnerving phone call from a woman, Gold soon realizes that he’s a target of revenge — she holds Gold accountable for, among other things, several deaths and her husband’s incarceration. Gold and his canine sidekick go on the run.
The action moves from Honolulu to Seattle and back, with chapters alternating our point of view between hunter and prey. The author, an expert in high-tech matters, takes care to include plenty of details on that subject while maintaining his fast-paced story.