For three weeks in October 2002, snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo delivered death and dread to Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia during a random rampage that killed 10 people and gravely wounded three others.
Robert Pobi focuses on serial murders in “City of Windows” (Minotaur, $26.99, 400 pages), a viscerally alarming thriller set during a blizzard in New York City and featuring a brilliant but physically damaged protagonist.
Ten years ago, Lucas Page left the FBI after what he calls “The Event” cost him an arm, a leg and an eye. An astrophysicist, he’s now a university professor; he and wife, Erin, a pediatric surgeon, have taken in five children.
When a sniper dispatches Page’s former partner, the longtime head of the FBI’s NYC office recruits a reluctant Page to help find the killer. When the corpse count continues to rise—the second victim also worked in federal law enforcement—the killer’s motive seems to be transparent.
From there, Pobi tightens his grip on the reader as Page’s family is threatened and some victims fail to fit the apparent pattern.
A high-voltage thriller with a plot that terrifies and grips—and in which not a single character can be dismissed as a cardboard creation—“City of Windows” also offers a penetrating look at America and the dangers within that threaten the republic.
DIG INTO A BALTIMORE MURDER
In the beginning, Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz is a housewife with a boring husband and a sullen teenage son.
In the beginning, Cleo Sherwood is dead.
That’s where the journey starts in “Lady in the Lake” (William Morrow, $26.99, 352 pages), Laura Lippman’s latest stand-alone novel, set in Baltimore in 1966.
Unsatisfied with her life, Maddie leaves her husband and scrapes by financially. But when she and a friend find the body of a murdered child, Tessie Fine, she uses that discovery to land a clerical job with one of the city’s afternoon newspapers.
And she becomes fascinated by the murder of Cleo, a beautiful young woman who worked at a shady nightclub and whose corpse is discarded in a city park.
What follows is a nuanced tale—to which Cleo contributes from her afterlife—in which Maddie struggles to be taken seriously at the newspaper and longs to be hired as a reporter. To further her chances, she digs into Cleo’s case.
Lippman—a former reporter and an accomplished novelist—spins this yarn with depth and insight. She blends psychological suspense with the classic whodunit, invents scores of interesting and well-drawn characters, explores racism and sexism, depicts a bygone world with verve, and delivers a final shock that will defy the foresight of even the most devoted fans of crime fiction.
A triumph in every way, “Lady in the Lake” represents Lippman at her wise and literate best.
VIOLENCE IN AMISH COUNTRY
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, a country lane in Holmes County, Ohio, leads to a lethal end.
To learn why, savor “Shamed” (Minotaur, $26.99, 304 pages), the 11th installment in Linda Castillo’s series starring Police Chief Kate Burkholder of fictional Painters Mill, a Holmes County community in the Buckeye State’s Amish country.
When 60-year-old Amish woman Mary Yoder sets out with granddaughters Elsie Helmuth, 7, and Annie Helmuth, 5, to gather walnuts at an abandoned farm, she expects a pleasant outing. But horror ensues as Mary is brutally stabbed to death, Elsie is abducted and Annie is traumatized.
As Kate and her colleagues question the girls’ parents, Ivan and Miriam Helmuth—Miriam is Mary’s daughter—she realizes that she’s not hearing the whole truth.
Raised Amish, Kate left the faith when she was 18, studied law enforcement and eventually returned home to lead the Painters Mill police department. With secrets of her own, she knows when others are hiding information.
But she cannot foresee the volcanic violence that will erupt during her investigation, nor the tangled family connections that lead to answers.
Castillo, who grew up in Ohio’s Amish region, invests her novels with her knowledge; “Shamed” is no exception. And she uses her trademark assets—a superior plot, realistic characters and sharply drawn settings—to concoct first-class crime fiction.
With sensitivity and an eye for moral ambiguity, she challenges readers to examine the troubling questions she raises in each of her novels.
Jay Strafford, a retired Virginia journalist, now lives in Florida.