With the holiday weekend approaching, what better way to celebrate Independence Day than with some fireworks on the page rather than in the sky? Not that you can’t enjoy some colorful pomp and circumstance in the real world, but this month’s new reads offer up plenty of explosive plot twists to keep you busy long after the reds, whites, and blues fade into the night. With new installments from genre stalwarts like Sara Paretsky and Kathy Reichs to exciting sophomore efforts from emerging talents like Lori Rader-Day and Roger Hobbs, July is shaping up to be a great month for crime fiction readers.

Vanishing Games

Roger Hobbs (Knopf, July 7)

In this intense, violent sequel to Hobbs’s Edgar-nominated Ghostman, professional thieves Jack and Angela find themselves caught up in the smuggling of a shipment of rare uncut sapphires, a transaction that is hijacked by pirates in the South China Sea. Hobbs sets much of the action in Macau, where corruption seems to run through everyone’s veins. It’s handy, then, that Jack and Angela are freakishly adept at the art of disguise, easily able to transform themselves into other people, complete with new accents and mannerisms. This allows them to slip in and out of the world of the super-rich in both Macau and Hong Kong—and to do their share of killing. Jack’s fondness for The Odyssey and Greek mythology adds depth to an already rich—in more ways than one—story that’s a fast, addictive read.

Down Among the Dead Men

Peter Lovesey (Soho Crime, July 7)

Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond returns in his fifteenth Bath-set adventure (after The Stone Wife), and this time he’s tasked with helping his boss on a sensitive internal matter. Turns out that back in 2007, a Chichester senior detective conveniently never pursued a lead during a homicide investigation that could have implicated his niece in the crime. It’s up to Diamond to reexamine the case and he’s soon convinced that there’s something afoot besides personal feelings that potentially cloud an investigating officer’s mind during a murder inquiry. Lovesey not only spins a satisfying whodunit—there’s a contemporary case as a subplot, too—but continues to develop the complicated, intriguing relationship between Diamond and his boss, Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore.

Taking Pity

David Mark (Blue Rider Press, July 7)

Following the vicious attack in 2014’s Sorrow Bound that injured his wife and daughter and forced them into unofficial witness protection, Humberside Det. Sergeant Aector McAvoy wants nothing more than to take down the criminal organization known as the Headhunters. His boss in the Serious and Organized Crime Unit, Det. Superintendent Trish Pharaoh, has her orders from London to do whatever it takes to bring down the Headhunters, but she worries that McAvoy isn’t fit for duty yet so she grudgingly assigns him a cold case—investigating a brutal homicide the Home Office fears could be appealed. In 1966, Peter Coles murdered four members of the Winn family at their farm and since then he’s been locked away in institutions, having never stood trial. The deeper McAvoy digs, the more inconsistencies he finds with what’s far from an open-and-shut case, as he and Pharaoh also continue to conduct their own investigation into a criminal organization that makes the American mob look like amateurs.

Little Pretty Things

Lori Rader-Day (Seventh Street Books, July 7)

In this follow-up to Rader-Day’s multiple-award-nominated The Black Hour, a former high school runner is stuck in a dead-end job in a dead-end motel in, you guessed it, a dead-end Indiana town. Juliet Townsend was always second best to the beautiful, talented Maddy Bell and she’s resigned herself to a humdrum life cleaning up after other people and occasionally filching random objects (the “little pretty things” of the title). When glamorous Maddy returns to town after a ten-year absence and is promptly murdered, Juliet starts sifting through her painful memories in an attempt to make sense of not only the current crime but also the reason her former best friend’s life and her own took such wildly different paths. Shot through with black humor and fully fleshed characters, Rader-Day’s second novel will leave you breathless.

Speaking in Bones

Kathy Reichs (Bantam, July 21)

Amateur websleuths try and match wits with Dr. Temperance Brennan, who, in her eighteenth outing, has a bit of an advantage when it comes to solving crimes. The bones in question this time are thought to belong to eighteen-year-old Cora Teague, who disappeared three years earlier from her home in rural North Carolina. Thing is, no one actually reported Teague missing, especially no one in her extremely unfriendly family, who want nothing to do with Brennan or Hazel Strike, the most vocal of the online sleuths dedicated to solving cold cases. The Teagues are members of a fringe Pentecostal church that’s wary of outsiders and, in Brennan’s estimation, up to something other than worshipping the Lord. She discovers that the boy Cora supposedly left town with is also missing and he has some shocking family secrets of his own. Reichs doesn’t devote the whole book to the dead, leaving ample time to explore the complex relationship between Brennan and Québécois detective Andrew Ryan, a maybe-union between stubbornly strong-willed people that’s become a backbone of the series.

Brush Back

Sara Paretsky (Putnam, July 28)

The past comes roaring back for Chicago private eye VI Warshawski in Paretsky’s eighteenth installment after 2013’s Critical Mass. Warshawski’s fierce love for her hockey star cousin Boom-Boom, who was murdered in 1984’s Deadlock, was always unwavering and so when a case from her old neighborhood brings Boom-Boom’s reputation into question, she’s shaken to the core. Once upon a time, she briefly dated Frank Guzzo, who never left their old stomping ground, even after his mother, Stella, murdered his sister, Annie. Now Stella’s out of prison and making claims about the Warshawskis that force the detective to look into a cold case—and a family—she never wanted to revisit. The deeper she digs, the more she realizes that Annie’s murder may just be the tip of an iceberg and uncovering it could sink the whole Chicago political machine. As Warshawski finds out the hard way, there are people who will do anything to make sure some secrets stay buried. Warshawski is one of crime fiction’s most enduring champions and this is Paretsky at her very best.

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