not-dead-yetIn Not Dead Yet, the incomparable Peter James is back with Brighton Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who intends to spend the weekend with his pregnant partner, Chief Mortician Cleo Morey. Coping with preparation for a major trail looms for Grace, but the couple hope to steal some together before their infant is born.

That notion comes to an abrupt halt with the finding of a torso embedded in chicken excrement under the gridded steel floor at an East Sussex chicken farm. Other than some bits of clothing and a multitude of flies, the head and all four limbs are missing.

Grace’s team are stressed, too, between illness and divorce, and all take their toll on Grace’s worry, even as he waits for the papers to come through that will declare his wife, Sandy, legally dead, after her disappearance ten years ago.

All Grace needs now is the call he receives from the Chief Constable, and despite the cases he’s dealing with, he’s handed an unwelcome assignment: setting up a security strategy for rock singer and actress Gaia Lafayette.

Gaia is a Brighton native, arriving back home to star in an historical film about King George the Fourth and his mistress. Significant scenes will be filmed on location at Brighton’s jewel, The Royal Pavilion.

But threats against Gaia’s life follow her from California where an assistant has been murdered, and Grace is tasked with coordinating several teams to assure the star’s safety. The star arrives with her young son in tow and a multitude of Hollywood types whose mere presence adds to Grace’s stress and workload.

Add to these worries a Brighton villain Grace put away who has been released, and the maniac fans who follow Gaia around, and Grace’s pressure is rising. Then Cleo’s car is vandalized and all bets are off as he races between caring for her and saving Gaia’s life, while his own literally hangs in the balance.

How the cases intersect is a prime example of the intricate plotting that is the hallmark of this entertaining and rewarding series. An extra twist at the end will stop your heart for a moment. This series just keeps getting better and better with its overarching plot points keeping readers eager for the next installment.

 

Award-winner S. J. Bolton had several stand-alone successes before bringing back DC Lacey Flint, a most unusual character who is on leave from the ordeal she suffered in Dead Lost Scared, after being introduced in Now You See Me.

In this outing, Lost, the title refers to any number of characters in this thrilling ride as a serial killer terrorizes young boys, draining their blood and leaving their bodies to be found.

Bolton cleverly tosses in narrated sections a psychiatrist’s sessions with an unnamed client at the same time as she realistically gets inside the head of Lacey’s young neighbor, 11-year old Barney. He and his friends are affected by the gruesome murders with fearsome results.

Despite his father’s efforts to create some kind of home life for the two of them, Barney is desperate to find the mother who abandoned him and enlists Lacey in his search.

Readers also enter the points of view of Lacey’s former boss, DI Dana Tulloch, saddled with the task of tracking down this heinous killer, and Lacey’s colleague DI MArk Joesbury, whom Lacey may have let get too close to her.

As Lacey struggles with the aftermath of her last case and tries to decide if her future lies in the police force, Barney realizes he may have a personal connection to the murderer. With trust gone, he has no one he can trust except Lacey.

This is part police procedural, part thriller as the suspense escalates and the violence continues until it gets out of control in this beautifully written tale of one young courageous lad and his friendship with the very wounded and fragile Lacey Flint.

 

16045062Crossing the pond to New England and the world of Martha’s Vineyard, A. X. Ahmad brings readers into the world of Sikh culture with his mesmerizing debut The Caretaker.

Ranjit Singh is coping with a military career gone horribly wrong and has fled with his family from India to Boston, living first with his wife’s family until he starts his own landscaping business in the posh neighborhoods of the Vineyard.

But summer’s jobs have faded with the onset of winter and Singh is desperate for work, which lands in his lap when the beautiful wife of a popular Senator hires him to be a caretaker for their closed summer home. This soon leads to other similar positions and a sense that he may make a new life for himself and his family.

He watches as his wife and young daughter try to assimilate into American culture and just as he thinks they may all thrive, he finds himself caught up in an unwanted scheme that brings him perilously close to losing everything and everyone he loves.

Ahmad’s thriller is filled with action, as Singh becomes the man of action he used to be in the Indian Army before his fall from grace. As he tries to safeguard his family, he becomes inexplicably entwined with the comely Senator’s wife, a longtime Vineyard resident, and falls prey to the machinations of the powerful Senator whose rise from poverty is the stuff of legends.

Themes of class and race, culture and above all, a man forced to face his own morality all come to bear in this tale that is lovingly crafted. There are scenes filled with grace and others with surprise and intrigue, all graced with the haunting prose and deep personal reflection. A sensational newcomer not to be missed.

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