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June 25, 2021

George Ernsberger, Columnist
Posted 6/25/21

All suspense fiction this week. Something about the season?

Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza (Putnam). Outstanding first crime novel, set in a suburb, but a pretty distant one, where a mix of New …

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June 25, 2021

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All suspense fiction this week. Something about the season?

Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza (Putnam). Outstanding first crime novel, set in a suburb, but a pretty distant one, where a mix of New York sophistication (not all of it sinister) and country simplicity (never as simple as you’d expect—this one is racially mixed, and that figures in significantly) really can be found, if you’re looking for it, and Nicieza has clearly been looking for it. (It’s a real town, and he lives there.) The author is a creator of the comic film superhero Deadpool, and his feel for pacing and action are well honed, and the general intelligence (deeper than cleverness) and wit are unsurprising; but there are no superheros, here. A very pregnant soccer mom, brainy and a little restless—she used to be an FBI profiler—stumbles on a murder scene and can’t resist poking around along with the local police “force”; but she finds a harder-edged local partner, too, a busted-out writer. This is, pretty much from page 1, fast-moving, scary, and at moments hilarious. No announcement that this will be a series, and it’s the farthest thing from a waste of time if it’s a one-off, anyway; but here’s hoping.

The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French (Morrow). Paperback reprint of one of this team’s very first novels (if not the first—I’m not quite sure), and to tell the truth, really mostly for Nikki French completists (we got their new one just a couple of months ago). They’ve never once been anywhere near bad, and completeness can be very satisfying, so. . . .

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine (Harper). Another team; a relatively light, very fast, complicated but not a struggle to follow, domestic suspense novel by the author(s) of, among others, the near classic The Last Mrs. Parrish.

A Distant Grave by Sarah Stewart Taylor (Minotaur). Second novel of this already elite series: this is the Long Island police detective, Irish, whose cases, both of them so far, have a way of requiring her to spend time in Ireland. They’re good, tough crime novels, but so lovely line for line, and so vivid in their realizing of both locations and peripheral characters (more in America this time), that they’d probably satisfy a reader of literary-style travel books.

Dream Girl by Laura Lippman (Morrow).  This novel is, in the great Lippman’s own words, a tour of a writer’s mind, and not so much a mystery as a book of horror (though there are psychological-suspense elements). The central character is a writer unlike Lippman—brainy and witty, well off because of the great success of an early book, but unproductive, now, and generally a grouchy misfit in life. (An inside joke for regulars: the writer is turned down when he tries to hire a private detective—Lippman’s own Tess Monahan; we haven’t seen her for a while, have we?)

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