By Harlan Coben
Grand Central, 343 pages, $18.99
An appropriately named guy who goes by Wilde was abandoned as a child in the wilderness of New York-New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains. Super resourceful and unconnected for years to another human being, Wilde has survived through childhood and beyond largely on his own instinctive skills. Now, as an amazingly cool and sophisticated adult, he makes a DNA match with a man who is famous in the reality TV world. This is the second Coben book involving Wilde (“The Boy From the Woods” from 2020 being the first) and the new one, as well as tinkering in tantalizing fashion with Wilde’s murky background, puts him in the bad books of countless violent characters and deep into a murder case. All of this can be maddeningly elusive but remains, in the hands of Coben, the most wily of plot builders, irresistible.
Give Unto Others
By Donna Leon
Atlantic Monthly Press, 304 pages, $37.95
This is Donna Leon’s 36th book featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti of Venice. It is unarguably one of the most humane — and absorbing — of the series. The setting is the immediate present with the various pains and tragedies it keeps bringing. The pandemic has so reduced Venice that the locals even miss the tourists, and one character, an honorable senior citizen, suffers that most heartbreaking of diseases, a dementia that includes “devastation of memory, dignity, reason.” In the book’s plot, a friend from Brunetti’s childhood asks a favor of him. A relatively simple chore, the commissario decides, but inexorably the investigation involves him and his police colleagues in a circle of guilt in both legal and moral terms. The dilemmas demand the best of Brunetti, which is what he delivers.
The Lying Club
By Annie Ward
HarperCollins, 410 pages, $24.99
The setting is a community for the filthy rich in Colorado. The book’s action turns primarily on the teenage girls’ soccer team at the local private school. Two mothers — one the wealthiest woman in the state, the other just ordinarily well-heeled — are riding the soccer coach hard to get their girls accepted into a hot college sports program. In turn, the coach, a studly dude with a mysterious agenda, plays the rich ladies for all they’re worth. Observing these transactions is an ambitious and vaguely unhinged young woman who works in administration for the school. As masterfully handled by Annie Ward, a writer of clear prose and thoughtful plotting, the narrative sets up the principal characters and various peripheral figures on course for collisions. With maybe a suspicious murder or two?
By Peter Swanson
William Morrow, 336 pages, $34.99
Diving into the plot of a Peter Swanson novel is rather like getting involved, if not quite in a game of chess, then in a particularly sharp game of checkers. Swanson’s earlier bestselling “Eight Perfect Murders” qualified as a solid book of this type. “Nine Lives” is even better. The puzzle begins when nine people who live in different areas of the United States receive identical pieces of mail: a simple list of the nine recipients’ names. One of them is a woman who happens to be an FBI agent. Her curiosity about her is aroused. She gets even more concerned when one person from the list turns up dead, probably murdered. Does the agent start sleuthing? Of course, but this is, in effect, just the equivalent of one checker that gets moved in a plot of many more moves to come.
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