It’s officially spring, Daylight Saving Time is in effect, so what better is there to do with that extra hour of evening light than crack open a few new books? Your to-be-read stack is only going to get bigger as summer approaches—may as well get a head start while you can. This month is predominantly about the return of beloved characters, some of them for the last time (like Nina Borg in Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis’s final installment in their excellent Danish crime quartet); it also sees a familiar author introducing readers to an exciting new heroine, as Lyndsay Faye does in Jane Steele. As usual, these picks span the globe. Even if you’re not leaving town for spring break, these five fantastic reads will take you everywhere you want to go.
The fourth and final installment of the Denmark-set series that began with 2011’s The Boy in the Suitcase, this latest adventure finds Red Cross nurse Nina Borg temporarily displaced from her home in Copenhagen while she cares for her sick mother in Viborg. Since this is Nina we’re talking about, things aren’t going to be easy; within the first few pages, she’s brutally assaulted in a parking garage by a man who whispers he’s sorry, all the while beating her and fracturing her skull. He also sends flowers—and Bible verses—to her hospital room. Along with her on-again-off-again police detective beau, Søren Kirkegard (no, not that Kierkegaard), who’s having issues of his own, the pair discover that Nina’s attacker is connected to a disaster in the Philippines where Nina volunteered (while on a vacation with her family—this did not bode well for her already floundering marriage). Never afraid to shy away from social issues, Kaaberbøl and Friis intersperse Nina’s story with that of her alleged Filipino attacker, his troubled life in his home country, and the corruption that runs dangerously rampant. A fitting end to a powerful series.
Sean Duffy, the wry Royal Ulster Constabulary police detective at the heart of McKinty’s long-running series set in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, is used to checking under his car for mercury tilt switch bombs. It’s a way of life 1980s in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. But his latest case isn’t so clear-cut: a dead woman found inside a locked castle. Did she jump from one of the high stone walls or did the caretaker, who swears by his innocence, kill her? There are unsettling connections between the death of journalist Lily Bigelow and another “locked-room” case Duffy investigated some years earlier, and he’s hard pressed to believe that one copper could have two such bizarre crimes during his career. When he digs into Lily’s recent projects, he finds out that she’s been researching a prominent group of Finnish businessmen who are considering setting up a manufacturing hub in the city, something that would bring much-needed jobs to the area, but there’s also more than a whiff of a potential scandal that reaches to the highest echelons of power. Duffy isn’t one to back away from a challenge, but those with secrets to keep are doing their damnedest to keep him off the scent. McKinty is one of the most powerful voices in Northern Irish crime fiction and this latest effort is no exception.
In this fifth installment in his popular Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere series, Laukkanen tackles the thorny and emotionally wrenching issues of teen suicide and Internet predators. Windermere, an FBI agent, joins forces once again with Special Agent Stevens of Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to look into a spate of teenage suicides, one of whom was the friend of Stevens’s daughter. This isn’t just an abnormal spike in unhappy high schoolers, but something far more deadly: someone is persuading these teens to take their own lives. Laukkanen lets readers in early on that fact, which only makes the ensuing thriller all the more unsettling and compelling. There are certainly parallels between real cases, with the perpetrator’s use of a webcam to record the victims’ deaths, as well as the persistent online bullying so many teenagers face today through social media. In a series that’s already won so much praise, this might be the best one yet. It certainly delivers a powerful gut punch.
Faye leaves behind the Victorian Gotham of her Timothy Wilde novels and turns instead to Jane Eyre. Except Faye’s Jane Eyre is an intrepid serial killer, a gutsy heroine taking 19th-century England by storm. By the time she’s twenty-four, she’s got a few murders—maybe they were accidents?—under her belt and is now pretending to be a governess at her ancestral home, hoping to figure out a way to prove that she can inherit the property. At the time, the rights of women in general were paltry, and the rights of women when it came to inheriting anything, let alone property, were almost nonexistent. While there, she meets the home’s new owner, the dashing Charles Thornfield, who still seems to be fighting the Anglo-Sikh war in some form or another against the greedy East India Company. It’s not only the intricate plotting that puts this new venture from Faye a cut above other historical novels; it’s her Jane’s relationship with the Brontë heroine, the interweaving of old fiction into new fiction, creating something wholly unique and wholly delightful.
Still recovering mentally not only from her husband’s death but more recently from the carnage she saw during the Spanish Civil War, Maisie Dobbs finally decides to return to England in this twelfth installment of Winspear’s consistently strong series. It’s 1938 and Europe is on the brink of war—again. Maisie is recruited by her old pals in the British Secret Service for a clandestine mission in Munich, where she’ll go undercover as the daughter of a British prisoner in the hopes of securing his release from the Germans. Winspear’s depictions of the Third Reich and the general sense of disquiet that gripped Europe as those in power uneasily weighed the threat of Hitler are spot-on, as are Maisie’s own trepidations over an assignment that brings up painful memories from her own past when she meets a former friend with ties to her late husband. As always, Winspear is able to balance an engaging mystery with a complex look at world affairs without ever sounding pedantic, and Maisie continues to shine as a tough, flawed heroine, even in the darkest of hours.