A powerful political family faces a potentially devastating scandal.
Ho-hum, you say? Kelsea Rae Dimberg will prove you diametrically wrong with her début thriller, “Girl in the Rearview Mirror” (William Morrow, $26.99, 384 pages).
Finn Hunt works as a nanny for Amabel, the 4-year-old daughter of Philip and Marina Martin of Phoenix. Philip is a former Arizona State University football star, a restaurateur and the son of longtime U.S. Sen. James “Jim” Martin. Marina is the director of the Native American Art and Artifacts Center. Then there’s Bryant Dewitt, a top aide to the senator—and Finn’s lover.
Enter Iris Jamison, who seems to stalk Finn and Amabel. When Finn confronts her, Iris says she’s carrying Philip’s child. And Dimberg’s story, laden with intelligence, shocks and arresting prose, soars.
As Dimberg reveals the secrets and lies that animate her tale, and as a river of death runs through it, even the most astute readers of suspense fiction will find themselves engulfed by multiple stunners, including an explosive and unforeseen conclusion.
Dimberg, who holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of San Francisco and is a former editor-in-chief of Lux, the literary magazine of Barrett Honors College of Arizona State, set out to write a novel that places morality —or its absence—at the heart of the story.
She succeeds with verve and intensity—and her initial effort foreshadows a brilliant future.
A COZY WHODUNIT
The strife is over, the victory won.
But in 1946, Britons mourn their many losses as they confront shortages, rationing and the passing of an era.
To fashion new lives, two women found the Right Sort Marriage Bureau in London. Iris Sparks is brassy, smart and a veteran of vital and secret war work; Gwendolyn Bainbridge is an upper-class war widow with a young son and a mother-in-law who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Mother Teresa.
They’re the stars of “The Right Sort of Man” (Minotaur, $26.99, 336 pages), Allison Montclair’s first mystery and the opener in a projected series. When one of their clients, Matilda “Tillie” La Salle, is murdered, the man with whom the bureau set her up, Richard “Dickie” Trower, is arrested—and Scotland Yard closes the case.
Iris and Gwen believe Dickie is innocent and set out to prove it. They turn amateur sleuths, investigate other possibilities and find themselves in peril from London’s thriving underworld as they try to clear Dickie’s name and save their fledgling business.
Montclair’s début sparkles with excellence as the author devises a first-rate plot, invests her heroines with depth and charm, paints an atmospheric portrait of postwar London and provides a bit of romance.
A cozy whodunit with heart, “The Right Sort of Man” will have fans of superior British whodunits rightfully impatient for the next case in which Iris and Gwen can use their prodigious talents.
A FATEFUL FLIGHT
You close your eyes. You try to read. You turn away. But that annoying seatmate on a long flight won’t shut up in Ellen LaCorte’s first novel, “The Perfect Fraud” (Harper, $26.99, 304 pages).
That, however, will be the least of Claire Hathaway’s problems. Claire, who works as a psychic, is flying home to Sedona, Ariz., from her father’s funeral in suburban Philadelphia. Her newly widowed mother, Madeline, has the psychic “gift.” But Claire, although an intuitive, skillful pretender, does not.
Meanwhile, seated with Clair are chatty Rena Cole and her chronically ill 4-year-old daughter, Stephanie. Mother and daughter are traveling from New Jersey to consult a new doctor, this one in Phoenix, in an attempt to find the cause of Stephanie’s debilitating stomach problems.
LaCorte alternates Claire and Rena chapters as she builds her story. Canny readers will quickly realize what’s happening, but that doesn’t spoil the fun: learning how Claire and Rena will reconnect after going their separate ways upon landing, and how that intersection of their lives will end. The intriguing world of the psychic adviser adds an unusual ingredient to the story.
A steady pace soon gives way to a heart-throbbing climax as LaCorte adroitly plays her cards and reveals a chilling possibility that not even those previously shrewd readers will see coming.
Jay Strafford, a retired Virginia journalist, now lives in Florida.