In The English Girl (HarperCollins, 527 pages, $12), by Washington D.C.'s Daniel Silva, Gabriel Allon, the fella who divides his time between restoring art and risking his life, has a week to find a missing woman before she is murdered. Her secret could destroy the British government; her death could have global repercussions.
The Allon novels -- the series has been running, roughly one book a year, since 2000 -- are tightly plotted, well-crafted thrillers that rely as much on character as action to pull the reader in. Gabriel is a strong series lead, a sort of less flamboyant (and therefore more real) version of Jonathan Hemlock, the art professor/assassin star of Trevanian's classic thrillers The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction. If you've never read a Gabriel Allon novel, you're long overdue.
Bad Monkey (Grand Central, 386 pages, $18) is another near-perfect comic crime novel from Carl Hiaasen, whose novels are set in Florida, where he was born and raised. Florida comic crime fiction is almost a genre unto itself, with such writers as Laurence Shames, Tim Dorsey and Hiaasen turning out polished gems that offer as many laughs as they do suspense.
Andrew Yancy, a Florida cop whose career is on the skids, sees an opportunity to regain some of his professional respect -- all he has to do is prove that a man whose severed arm was found in shark-infested waters has been murdered. What he discovers is far more shocking than what he'd expected to find. Full of offbeat characters and weird plot twists, the novel is one of those books you wish would keep on going for another couple of hundred pages. Dive in.
Let's leap sideways now and see what's up with Los Angeles defence attorney Mickey Haller. In The Gods of Guilt (Grand Central, 400 pages, $18), the latest Lincoln Lawyer novel from Michael Connelly -- who lives, incidentally, in Florida -- Haller's new client is a man accused of murdering a professional colleague.
Here's the thing: the victim is a former client of Mickey's, a woman whose life Mickey helped turn around years ago. Determined to find out who killed her, Mickey discovers turning your life around can be even harder than he'd imagined -- and, if you're a regular reader of the Lincoln Lawyer novels, you know that Mickey's in serious need of some personal redemption. Connelly is one of the best mystery novelists, and Mickey Haller, while perhaps not quite as compelling as his half-brother, L.A. cop (and star of a long-running series of novels) Harry Bosch, is quickly becoming a mainstay of the legal-thriller genre.
In case your appetite for crime isn't completely sated, here's an assortment of true-crime stories. Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues (Prometheus Books, 304 pages, $20), by American writer Paul Martin, includes some famous names -- serial killer Ed Gein, the inspiration for Robert Bloch's novel Psycho; early 20th-century conman "Yellow Kid" Weil; notorious television pitchman Don Lapre -- but mostly it introduces less-familiar characters.
Martin tells us the stories of Burt Alvord, the Old West lawman-turned-bank robber; Emerich Juettner, a counterfeiter who deluded capture for a decade; Belle Sorensen Gunness, a serial killer who murdered so many people that the exact number of her victims remains unclear, even more than a century later; and a couple dozen more disreputable, depraved and despicable men and women. If true crime's your cup of tea, you'll probably finish this book in one long gulp.
Halifax freelancer David Pitt's column appears the first weekend of every month.