Reviews: Crime fiction round up

Greg Fleming reviews the latest crop of crime fiction

The Travelers (Faber & Faber)
Chris Pavone $ 32.99

There's much to love in Pavone's globe-trotting third novel; elegant writing, a wry glimpse of the upper-middle class New York angst, some so-true-it-hurts digs at travel journalism - all wrapped up in a nifty spy story. There's plenty of five-star hotels, Parisian getaways, expensive French wines, Michelin star restaurants, trout fishing in Argentina, beautiful and willing Aussie freelancers - and that's just the first 100 pages. Our hapless, jaded 35 year-old hero Will Rhodes works for venerable, glossy travel mag Travelers. He packs light and often and is increasingly happy to hop a plane and escape a crumbling marriage and a difficult home-reno - indeed "people are often asking Will for directions in places he doesn't live, and he often knows the answer." It soon appears Travelers is a lot more than it appears, and that sexy Aussie freelancer (who makes his Argentinian stay memorable) starts a world of hurt. Part Jay McInerney, part Hitchcock, part Highsmith - Travelers is a slick, well-crafted novel, mixing novelistic flair, acerbic humour and thriller intrigue.

The Devil's Share (MacMillan)
By Wallace Stroby

I've been a long-time fan of this New Jersey writer and especially of his Crissa Stone series. Crissa's a professional thief and a good one; cautious, calculated and averse to unnecessary violence - a rare thing in the testosterone-heavy environment she operates in. The Devil's Share is the fourth in the series. Stroby's gift is portraying the criminal world in its work-a-day reality. This time out Crissa gets involved with one of her posse, the resourceful, ex-army Hicks (Crissa's longtime partner is still in prison). The heist involves a load of high-value sculptures stolen from Iraq - and seems a sure thing (a pre-arranged give-up) - until it doesn't - which sets up a thrilling post-heist narrative. Hicks, likewise, isn't quite what he seems - and soon he's leading a gang of ex-military thugs intent on cleaning up loose ends. He also proves to be a dab hand with an ice-pick.
Stroby enjoys a growing reputation Stateside and if you like your crime fiction blue-collar with a strong sense of character - George Pelecanos springs to mind - track down any of Stroby's seven novels (Amazon's your best bet or order in through your book shop) - you won't regret it.

Fool Me Once (Century)
By Harlan Coben $37.00

Coben's king of the twist and his 28th novel has a pretty good one. Chances are you'll devour it in one sitting - and if real life does get in the way - you'll be counting the hours till you get back to it. Maya Burkett is ex-special ops, home from the Middle East (a bungled mission) and suffering PTSD - so far, so predictable. Then Maya witnesses her husband's murder and, two weeks later, sees him on her nanny cam. You'd think having married into a wealthy and powerful family would make Maya's life easier, but you'd be wrong. Post nanny-cam Maya does what she does best - goes into battle mode. That search reveals long-buried family secrets. Maya's a determined, unrelenting character and - by his own admission - one of the most damaged Coben has written. She isn't maternal and hates the suburban, soccer-mom grind that has seen many of her wild, fun-filled friends "die of slow societal suffocation". Coben's challenge is keeping the reader rooting for the rather cold and distant Maya and, for the most part, he succeeds. Watch out for the film version - America's sweetheart Julia Roberts has just signed on to star and produce.

Stasi Child (Bonnier)
By David Young $32.99

This is the debut novel from Englishman David Young - an ex-journo who's a graduate of the London's City University MA Crime Writing course (no, I didn't know they existed either). But, if the success of Stasi Child is anything to go by, they work. On the back of this Young signed a three book, five figure deal and TV rights have been snapped up. It's communist East Germany, 1975 - a teenage girl's body has been found at the foot of the Wall; the thing is she was going the wrong way (West to East) or was she? Oberleutnant Karin Muller is a strong character - flawed, tough, dogged and Young captures the icy, authoritarian bleakness perfectly. A self-confessed obsessive (he's had many jobs and enthusiasms before settling on crime fiction) Young's period detail - what kind of tyre tracks Stasi official's cars left - is impressive. The plot does become unwieldy at times - although the alternate time line device is done with skill. Young keeps the book focused on the crimes at hand - there's not much le Carre cold war as metaphor - but the ending suggests there's lots more to come from Muller and Young's Stasi Child.

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- NZ Herald

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