Author du Jour: Deborah Crombie

GardenOfLamentations-small-HCGarden of Lamentations,” by Deborah Crombie

(William Morrow, pp 400, $15.99)

A new shipment from Texas transplant, Deborah Crombie, to the UK brings another powerful thriller featuring the Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. The most interesting aspect of Crombie’s novels, and this one (her 17th) does not fail to hit the high mark, lies in their characterizations. No two thriller-writers write alike, but two schools stand out. One that accentuates plots and actions, while the other emphasizes characterization and, indirectly, intimacy. We travel through life with the protagonists, outside of the investigation. We meet their families and evolve within their domestic spheres, their marriage, children and personal problems. It goes without say that this latter category makes for a different kind of reading and novel experience. Crombie is neither one nor the other, but a perfect balance between the two that few can achieve without falling into the traps of tediousness and formulas.

Garden of Lamentations,” takes us from the get-go on a double-spiral ride. The Kincaid-James team works separately. First Gemma is involved in the investigation of the murder of a young woman, whose body is discovered in one of Notting Hill’s private gardens. Suspicion does not lag; for this macabre discovery is located in one of London’s most select neighborhoods. When another victim meets the same dark forces, Gemma knows that there is something more at play. Meanwhile, Kincaid, who fears for his life, has moved away from Gemma James, to investigate a case involving members of the forces. Distrust reigns in the ranks, especially after an officer is violently assaulted. As a reader, you anticipate when these two stories are going to cross path. I will not tell you how but partially points you in the direction. While Gemma foresees a potential solution to her crimes, she becomes aware that a child’s life rests in her hands . . . and this makes for a psycho-haunting uninterrupted read, with Kincaid to the rescue.

Author du Jour: K. J. Howe

As the inauguration of our new president promises to take us into unchartered territory, I pondered on how this month selection could reflect the unknown of the coming months. Per chance many books finding their way to bookstores fail to find their way to readers, and this is where a perceptive book review can help.  This month selection offers a wide range of topics. We have a first timer riding side by side with worldwide spiritual celebrities, and, in between, uncanny voices of the present.

Howe-FREEDOM-BROKER-smallFreedom Broker” by K. J. Howe

(Quercus, pp 374, $ 26.99)

At “Books du Jour,” we pay special attention to first-timers. They are an important step to the continuity of the book business. Reviewing established authors calls for a safe stance. Taking risks on new voices entail careful scrutiny and measured endorsement. But most often than not, intuition rarely betrays. K. J. Howe is one of those safe bets. You know upon reading the first chapters of her novel, “Freedom Broker,” that you are in the presence of an enormous potential. The writing is brisk, the tone confident, and the story not only eye-popping original but also riveting. It is one of those (forgive the cliché) can’t-put-downers as you get enmeshed in the world of K&R. K&R said you? Yes, indeed, which stands for Kidnap and Rescue (though Ransom could have worked too). K &R is not an agency or an LLP, but the world revolving around a professional elite dealing with the kidnapping of hostages (estimated at 40,000 a year) and their rescue operations. Given the uncertainties around the globe, kidnapping has seen a huge increase over the last ten years and can target, not just the rich and famous, but anyone.

The hero of “Freedom Broker,” Thea Paris, the only woman kidnap negotiator in the field, is forced to live through a family tragedy, when her father, Christo, is kidnapped from his yacht off Santorini, and this while his crew get slaughtered in the assault. Thea sets to tasks to discover the who and why, investigating her father’s past and numerous enemies. But remember, when originality strikes, it does so with delightful surprises. In Howe’s novel, the kidnappers demand nothing. No ransom, no political prisoner exchange, except sending enervating Latin quotes . . . which, for Thea, initiate a perilous journey to settle long-standing family score. Be the first one to discover K. J. Howe.