February Reads: Reviews of the Forgotten Girls and Nobody Walks
With threats of more crippling blizzards still hovering on the horizon, what’s better than stockpiling a bit of extra reading material? For this month’s list, all the selections will not only transport you out of your snow-snarled surroundings but across multiple time zones. Here are five February reads from five fabulous international authors. The Forgotten Girls Sara Blaedel, translated from the Danish by Signe Rød Golly (Grand Central, February 3)In Blaedel’s fourth series installment to be published in the US, following 2012’s Farewell to Freedom, Detective Inspector Louise Rick, now head of Copenhagen’s Special Search Agency, is confronted with a grisly new case. Rick and her colleagues have no luck identifying a dead woman who’s been found in the forest, despite her distinctive facial scarring. When they turn to the public for help, a woman comes forward and tells police that the body is that of Lismette, a young woman who was a patient decades earlier at Eliselund, a psychiatric facility. Turns out that Lisemette was actually two people: Lise and her twin sister, Mette. Instructed by her boss to move on now that Lise has been identified—there’s another, potentially more dangerous killer on the loose—Rick can’t let it go and keeps digging. If you’ve ever read any Scandinavian crime fiction, let alone any of Blaedel’s earlier books, you’ll know that dark times are ahead for Rick, particularly once she opens up about a certain secret from her own past.
Nobody Walks Mick Herron (Soho Crime, February 17)
Herron returns to the constantly shifting world of British intelligence, a place he knows well from 2010’s Slow Horses and 2013’s Dead Lions. This time the spook in question is Thomas Bettany, a former undercover specialist who came undone following his wife’s death and now works at a slaughterhouse in Europe. Bettany is estranged from his family, including his grown son, Liam, but when Liam takes a header off his balcony in London, supposedly while under the influence of a new street drug called muskrat, Bettany returns home to find out what really happened. His investigation leads him to Liam’s boss, Vincent Driscoll, who heads a software design firm, as well as Dame Ingrid Tearney, head of the Intelligence Service, who knows more than she’s letting on about muskrat. No one—including MI—is happy to hear that Bettany is back in town but he doesn’t care whose toes he has to step on, or worse, to get the answers he wants. In the end, it’s clear that even if you turn your back on your old life, nobody really walks away.
Doctor Death Lene Kaaberbøl, translated from the Danish by Elisabeth Dyssegaard (Atria, February 17)
Though she’s well known in her native Denmark for her own work, American readers are most familiar with Kaaberbøl when she’s writing her Nina Borg series with Agnete Friis. The latest installment, Death of a Nightingale, was published by Soho Crime in 2013. This new series, set mainly in provincial France, introduces the feisty 20-year-old Madeleine Karno, who wants to be a pathologist just like her father (his profession earns him the unfortunate nickname “Doctor Death”). However, it’s 1894 and autopsies are not only considered men’s domain but are also thought to be particularly unpleasant, even ungodly. Madeleine’s career aspirations are scandalous. When 17-year-old Cecile Montaine is found dead in the snowy streets of Varbourg, her parents won’t consent to an autopsy, leaving Madeleine and her father with only one clue: in one of Cecile’s nostrils, they discover a parasite normally found only in dogs. As Madeleine begins her investigations, those connected to Cecile start turning up dead, and the young detective must look in strange and mysterious places for clues. Readers can only hope this is the first of many Madeleine installments.
The Burning Gates Parker Bilal (Bloomsbury, February 24)
In his fourth installment (after 2014’s The Ghost Runner) featuring Makana, a Sudanese, former political-refugee-turned-low-rent-PI in Cairo, Bilal pairs his sleuth with a wealthy new client, a shady art dealer known as Kasabian. Tasked with tracking down a painting that went missing during the US invasion of Iraq, Makana doesn’t have much to go on, only that the piece was smuggled into Egypt by an Iraqi war criminal who, shockingly, doesn’t want to be found. More accustomed to Cairo’s underbelly of dark alleyways and shady streets, Makana soon discovers that the art world is just as dangerous, especially when those connected to the case start dying in particularly gruesome ways. The new life he’s built for himself is threatened as memories of war bubble back to the surface.
The Life I Left Behind Colette McBeth (Minotaur, February 24)
In her sophomore effort, following 2013’s chilling Precious Thing, McBeth returns with another tale of psychological suspense. Six years earlier, Melody Pieterson had been attacked and left for dead. Her close friend and neighbor, David Alden, was tried and convicted of the crime, which left Melody feeling betrayed and unable to trust her own judgment; her life is now governed by strict rules and high-tech security systems. When David is released from prison—an unlikely scenario had McBeth set her book in the US rather than the UK—a second woman, Eve Elliot, is attacked in an eerily similar manner and dies. The crime pulls Melody out of her secluded life and forces her to confront her past, including new evidence that leads her to believe that perhaps David isn’t guilty after all. Narrated alternately by Melody and Eve’s ghost, McBeth’s tale is a taut whodunit about two women bound together by the most terrible of circumstances.