January Reads: Review of Girl on the Train and much more…

Review of Girl on the Train and much more…

Hopefully, one of your New Year’s resolutions is to read more books (shouldn’t that be a goal every year?). To help you start off the year right, here are six fresh titles from January 2015.

The Bishop’s Wife Mette Ivie Harrison (Soho Crime, December 30)

Technically a late December release, this crime fiction debut isn’t to be missed. Linda Wallheim, the titular bishop’s wife in the Mormon community of Draper, Utah, is the shoulder to cry on and the all-around problem solver. When Jared Helm shows up at the Wallheims’ door in the middle of night with his little girl, Linda is immediately suspicious, especially when Jared claims his wife just up and left the family. Harrison expertly explores a community that likely is as foreign to most as readers as another country, unpacking the complexities of gender roles—and how Linda both pushes and respects the boundaries of the Mormon faith—all while telling a complex whodunit.

The Hangman’s Song James Oswald (Mariner, January 6)

While this is American readers’ first taste of Oswald’s troubled Edinburgh-based Detective Inspector Tony McLean, he’s been enthralling audiences across the Pond since the 2012 publication of Natural Causes in the UK. In this installment, McLean’s attention is focused on the slow recovery of his crime scene photographer girlfriend, Emma, who was nearly killed in an earlier encounter with a murderer. On the job front, a rash of suicides begins to show chilling similarities, and McLean worries that there’s a killer on the loose, somehow goading lonely and gullible souls into taking their own lives. Departmental politics make it difficult for McLean to pursue the case—none of his superiors even believes there is a case to pursue—so McLean risks his career every time he digs deeper into the deaths. His relationship with Emma is stilted at best: she awakens from her coma with no memory of him, her surroundings, or her work with the police. Fans of Tartan Noir will eagerly welcome this new Scottish detective into the fold.

The Martini Shot: A Novella and Stories George Pelecanos (Little, Brown, January 6)

In his first story collection, Pelecanos reminds crime fiction readers (as if anyone had forgotten) why he’s one of the genre’s heavy hitters. Fans of Spero Lucas, the Iraq War vet who works as an investigator for a Washington, D.C., defense attorney in The Cut and The Double, will welcome the glimpse Pelecanos provides into his hero’s backstory in “Chosen.” In the novella of the title, Victor Ohanion—who, just like Pelecanos, is the writer and producer of a cable TV crime show—begins to show alarming similarities to his scripts after a set worker is murdered (readers can only assume that Pelecanos does not, then, decide to get even, as Ohanion does). This collection is the perfect intermission before Pelecanos’s next novel, which can’t come soon enough.

The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins (Riverhead, January 13)

Destined to become the next Gone Girl, Hawkins’s psychologically riveting debut is as complex as it is terrifying (careful readers may want to take notes in order to catch all the time jumps). Despite being an unemployed, divorced alcoholic, Rachel Watson continues to make the same daily commute from her shared flat outside London into the city, if only to hold on to the semblance of a routine. That and she’s developed a rich fantasy life about the couple living next to the home she once shared with her husband, Tom, who now lives there with Anna, his mistress-turned-wife. When Megan, the woman Rachel watches daily from the train, disappears, Rachel is determined to assist with the investigation, with disastrous, even deadly results. With its shifts in narrators and overlapping timelines, this is one of those books that will keep you reading late into the night and guessing until the very last page.

The Kings of London William Shaw (Mulholland, January 27)

Take a time machine back to swinging 1960s London in Shaw’s unsettling but darkly humorous sequel to She’s Leaving Home. Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen, who’s known throughout the station as “Paddy” because of his Irish ancestry, is tasked with investigating the death of Francis Pugh, whose charred corpse is discovered in a London flat. The son of a prominent politician, Pugh’s skin has been removed, which, Breen later learns, was done to mask the young man’s track marks. The 1960s saw a sharp increase in recreational heroin use throughout London, though some physicians still legally prescribed the drug. The straight-laced Breen and his more relaxed colleague, Detective Constable Helen Tozer—a glorified errand girl during these sexism-driven times—find themselves in the midst of the free-love movement as their investigation takes them into the depths of London’s art and music scene, and they discover that very powerful people will stop at nothing to keep certain secrets buried.

Vanished Elizabeth Heiter (Mira, December 30)

This is one more late December title that shouldn’t be missed when you’re making your reading list for the new year. In her sequel to Hunted, Heiter gives readers a glimpse into the dark past of her FBI profiler heroine, Evelyn Blaine, whose best friend, Cassie Byers, disappeared 18 years ago, the third in a series of abductions. The only clue, and something that’s tormented Evelyn all these years, is a nursery rhyme left at the scene that implies that Evelyn was the intended victim. Bringing a dormant serial killer back into the frame is a surefire way to ratchet up the suspense and so when the Nursery Rhyme Killer seems to strike again, snatching a girl in South Carolina, Evelyn is determined to catch him, regardless the personal cost. Heiter’s dark, gripping story, buoyed by a strong female lead, is the perfect book to curl up with as the last of the winter storms rage on outside.

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