Latest O’Dell tale a seriously scary trip
IN the 11th Maggie O’Dell thriller, Stranded (Anchor Books, 414 pages, $10), the FBI special agent’s investigation of a series of very nasty murders — all of them apparently committed by the same person using highway rest stops as his means of acquiring victims — leads her to believe that the killer’s real target could be Maggie herself. The O’Dell novels, by Nebraska’s Alex Kava, are not what you might call gentle crime novels. The author doesn’t shy away from brutality and evil; she isn’t writing the kind of book that mixes crime with romance, there’s no comic-relief sidekick character, and if you haven’t read one of her books you should be prepared for some seriously scary stuff.
If you’re feeling bit less apocalyptic, check out Identical (Grand Central, 371 pages, $18), by legal-thriller maestro Scott Turow. A U.S. senator, Paul Gianis, is put in a difficult position when his twin brother, Cass, is released from prison after serving a sentence for murder — a crime Cass confessed to, but which Paul has always maintained he didn’t commit. Now the victim’s brother is determined to prove not only that Cass is a murderer, but that Paul has known it all along. He hires a couple of investigators to dig up dirt on Paul, but what they find is a whole lot more surprising than they’d counted on. From his first novel, the classic Presumed Innocent, Turow, who lives in the Chicago area, has combined smartly constructed mysteries with sharply realized characters and elegant prose. It’s difficult to say whether this is one of his best, since his books are consistently excellent, so let’s say that if you like legal thrillers, this one is an absolute must-read. Ah, Paris: what a delight. Not the city, which is surely spectacular, but the new novel by Edward Rutherfurd. Paris (Anchor Canada, 809 pages, $22), like the British author’s earlier novels — Sarum, London, New York, etc. — is full of history, spectacle and richly drawn characters. But ultimately, it’s the city itself that is the story’s main character. The author takes us back and forth through the city’s rich, convoluted history (Rutherfurd skips around in time, telling the story through shifting viewpoints and historical eras), showing us a Paris that is, like many of the book’s human characters, romantic, angry, frightening, anguished, desperate and triumphant. Aside from the late, great James A. Michener, nobody writes big, fat historical novels as well as Rutherfurd. In fact, Stranded is so scary that it makes The Remaining (Orbit Books, 405 pages, $6), the first instalment in a zombie-apocalypse series by American novelist D.J. Molles, look rather subdued. This is the story of a special-forces soldier who emerges from his protected bunker to face a post-apocalyptic world; because it’s the first in a series, the author spends a lot of time establishing his primary character (he’s heroic, but not a cardboard action hero) and his environment (a plague has swept the world, turning some people into mindless predators).
It’s purposefully subdued at first, so that when scary things do happen they come at us out of nowhere and shock us witless. It’s a fine novel in a genre that has, thanks to The Walking Dead, exploded in popularity in the last few years. Halifax, N.S., freelancer David Pitt’s column appears the first weekend of