Two unknown women, one murdered and left in a ditch, the other slain and discarded in an open grave meant for someone else. And two Scotland Yard detectives, whose assignments and lives intersect.
“A Divided Loyalty” (William Morrow, $27.99, 336 pages)—the 22nd entry in Charles Todd’s series featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge—opens in the bleak midwinter of 1921.
Rutledge is assigned to the case in Shropshire, where he identifies the victim and arrests the killer.
In Wiltshire, Chief Inspector Brian Leslie, shocked when he recognizes the dead woman, reports his inability to find the killer.
And in London, Rutledge—still slowly recovering from the shell shock brought on by his service in World War I—is directed to take another look at Leslie’s case but worries that his superiors are setting him up for failure.
Todd—the pen name of a mother-and-son writing team—creates another character-focused installment in a stellar series that examines, with compassion and decency, the damage that war inflicts and the struggles of those on whom it leaves enduring trauma.
When combined with an imaginative plot, understated but elegant prose and a vivid portrait of a somber era, “A Divided Loyalty”—the title carries a dual purpose—offers not only a superior example of crime fiction but also a thoughtful meditation on the emotional battles that veterans of war often must endure when peace breaks out.
A REPORTER ON EDGE
Can a newspaper reporter cover a murder while being stalked by a murderer?
That’s the question for Harper McClain in “Revolver Road” (Minotaur, $27.99, 304 pages), the third installment in Christi Daugherty’s series featuring the intrepid police reporter for the Savannah Daily News.
When newly famous singer Xavier Rayne disappears from his home on nearby Tybee Island, his housemates—actress girlfriend Cara Brand, keyboardist Hunter Carlson and backup singer Allegra Hanson—assure Harper that he often goes away but always returns.
But when a fishing boat spots his body—complete with two bullet holes—the case shifts from missing person to homicide.
Meanwhile, Harper can’t forget the phone call during which a man told her, “The person who killed your mother is looking for you. He’s been in prison for a long time and he’s about to get out. And he’s going to come for you.”
Harper, while fearing for her life, remains dedicated to her work—even though her newspaper is failing as its self-absorbed owner orders more layoffs as she spends lavishly on herself.
Daugherty, a former crime reporter, draws on her experience in the entire series, and especially in this entry. With perfect pitch for plot and characters, she elevates the tension to nearly unbearable levels until the explosive double climax that concludes both major plotlines.
An adroit blend of whodunit and thriller, “Revolver Road” further displays Daugherty’s immense talent in all aspects of this gripping, moving and satisfying novel.
KILLER STALKS SMALL TOWN
Had enough of serial killers and the cops who pursue them?
Before you say “yes,” give Beverly Long a chance in “Ten Days Gone” (Mira, $7.99, 384 pages), the first in her projected series featuring police Detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan of fictional Baywood, Wis.
Four women have been murdered in 40 days in the small city—and each killing took place 10 days apart. As McKittridge and Morgan search for any link among the four victims, they repeatedly come up short—until they find a petition that each had signed supporting the restoration and repurposing of a shabby, but formerly elegant, hotel.
Using their discovery, they determine the identity of the next target, Tess Lyons, a title company employee with a daughter in college. And Tess—who recently lost part of her left arm to a shark while surfing in California—also suffers from the resulting depression and its byproduct, an initial reluctance to help the cops.
But her will to live kicks in as McKittridge and Morgan’s investigations lead them to a particularly disturbed killer with an equally unsettling motive and method.
Long, whose previous novels run a limited gamut from romance to paranormal romance to romantic suspense, scores well in her transition to hard-boiled thriller. But she does not neglect her roots, as she delves into the personal lives of her detectives, including marital and offspring issues.
Fast-paced but never rushed, “Ten Days Gone” offers entertaining escapism and proves Long capable of deft genre shifting.
Jay Strafford, a retired Virginia journalist, now lives in Florida.