CrimeReads: 10 New Books Coming Out This Week ‹ CrimeReads. https://crimereads.com/10-new-books-coming-out-this-week-february-14-2022/
CrimeReads: Bad Love, Good Sex: The Best Thirst Traps in Crime Fiction. https://crimereads.com/bad-love-good-sex-the-best-thirst-traps-in-crime-fiction/
The Guardian: The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jan/14/the-best-recent-and-thrillers-review-roundup
But alas, life isn’t always so easily wrapped up in a happy ever after ending and poor Jessica has to deal with those darn witches again in The Ice Coven, the second novel published in English by Finnish author Max Seeck. His first, Witch Hunters, made the New York Times Bestseller list.
It’s only been six months since Jessica and the Helsinki police were able to breathe a sigh of relief and deal just with everyday crime. But now as they hunt for two popular social media influencers who have disappeared, it slowly becomes apparent that there’s again a supernatural force at work against them. Seeck has the ability to interweave complicated plots and tie them all neatly together at the end. In The Ice Coven, the police are facing a case with a wide range of weird stuff that includes human trafficking, frog toxin, bizarre murders, and somnophilia—an odd sexual obsession of those who like to watch people sleep.
Interestingly, Seeck’s interest in writing Nordic Noir stems from the mid-1990s when he watched Agatha Christie movies with his grandmother including those featuring her famed detective Hercule Poirot. It seems like a large leap between those gentile English mysteries and a series of violent killings and witchcraft. But Seeck views it all—both Christie and his own stories—as similar.
“It was magical—the mystery, the tension, and finally the solution to the case,” is how he describes those days of binging on Agatha Christie. And indeed, there’s lots of tension as we worry about what will happen next. Even Seeck is on edge as he writes.
“I like a blurry, icy scene, a setting where eerie figures are looking at you,” he says as we chat on Skype—he in Helsinki and me in the Midwest. “The fictional characters are afraid. So am I. And so, I hope is the reader.”
I tell him not to worry about the latter. At least this reader was very afraid and yet compelled to keep turning the page.
Setting his novels (there’s a third Jessica book coming out in 2022) in Helsinki is reflective of Seeck’s ability to “think cinematically.”
“There are two sides to Helsinki as there are in any city,” he says. “In the summer it is a beautiful and exciting city, full of life and full of people who enjoy life. However, in the winter, it is very dark and cold, making it a terrific location for dark and icy thrillers.”
No one believed Frankie Elkin when she said Lana Whitehorse was at the bottom of the lake, and for a moment, as Frankie swam through the cloudy waters, oxygen almost gone and unable see the truck Lana had been driving on the night she disappeared, she wondered if maybe they’d been right.
But no, there were the remains of Lana, her truck upside down in the muck, her blonde hair floating in the water.
Now that Frankie has found Lana, a deed she did without expectation of pay, she returns to the internet looking for another missing person. She has no training, no detective license and no connection to the person she is looking for. She doesn’t even have a home or friends. Her next choice is Angelique Lovelie Badeau, a Haitian teenager who lived with brother and aunt in Mattapan, a crime-ridden neighborhood in Boston.
One day, Angelique, a sweet girl and good student, didn’t come home. Later her school bag and cell phone were found hidden in the bushes outside of her school. Her family hopes she’ll be home soon but that was almost a year ago.
Frankie hopes if she locates Angelique the ending will turn out differently than it has with the other 16 people she has found — all of whom were dead.
“There are people out there like Frankie who spend their time looking for missing people,” said Lisa Gardner, author of “Before She Disappeared” (Dutton 2021; $27). “There are dog handlers who volunteer to have their dogs search for missing people for free, pilots who fly their planes over areas where someone has gone missing, and those who use their computer and social media skills to help — all for free.”
Gardner, a New York Times best selling crime novelist, goes deep on the web when looking for true crime plots on which to base her mysteries.
“I like to think of it as research, not procrastination,” said Gardner, who has written more than 30 novels, four of which have been made into movies.
This time, instead of choosing a criminal case to turn into fiction, Gardner’s inspiration came about after reading about Lissa Yellowbird-Chase, who grew frustrated by the number of women going missing on tribal lands and the lack of resources, or even interest, in finding them. Yellowbird-Chase founded the citizen-led Sahnish Scouts, which is dedicated to finding justice for missing people and their families.
“The idea that one person, without any special training or background, can make such a difference amazed me,” she said. “And it’s what brings recovering alcoholic Frankie Elkin to Mattapan, where a Haitian girl went missing 11 months ago. I had no idea the surveillance that goes on in a big city, so 11 months later I realized what this is was almost a closed room case: How does anyone disappear in a city?”
Gardner said she is not a plotter, instead she introduces her characters and then as she writes their personalities take over to tell the story. It was trying to determine what made Frankie tick that got her out of bed each morning to start the day’s writing.
“Before She Disappeared” is Gardner’s first standalone novel in more than 20 years.
“But I’ve failed at writing standalone,” she said, “because I’m already writing the next book about Frankie.”
Life hasn’t been kind to Wyatt Branson in the last decade but there’s always Trumanell, his older sister, homecoming queen and once the prettiest girl in the small Texas town where they live who is always there for him. So when Wyatt brings home an abandoned young girl he found lying out in the hot sun alongside a road and brings her home, Trumanell understands his need to keep her safe.
But there’s a problem here and it’s not the young girl who Wyatt calls Angel as she refuses to talk, not even to give her name. The big trouble is that Trumanell disappeared ten years ago on the same evening their abusive father also vanished. That was also the night Wyatt’s girlfriend Odette was in a car accident and lost her leg.
So begins Julia Heaberlin’s newest mystery thriller “We Are All the Same in the Dark” (Ballantine 2020) Heaberlin, who worked for two decades as a journalist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Detroit News started reading thrillers when very young. Her favorite authors included Stephen King, Tana French, Thomas Harris, Daphne du Maurier, Edgar Allan Poe and Patricia Highsmith. Writing a novel was always her dream but it never seemed to happen.
“My husband encouraged me to take a chance,” says Heaberlin.
And so she did.
“I was very lucky,” she says, noting that she had struggled with how to write fiction, often getting stuck when outlining. “Then I read Stephen King’s book on writing. He says go with the character and so I did to the point that sometimes I don’t know what’s going to happen next when I’m writing.”
Her novels include “Black-Eyed Susans” and “Playing Dead,” each, as she describes them, an ode to Texas, her beloved home state.
Heaberlin likes writing about strong, resilient female characters, women like Odette, who hasn’t let the loss of a limb slow her down and is now the youngest police detective in town. Hearing that there’s a young girl at Wyatt’s house, she stops by to see what’s happening. Resistant at first, Odette starts the bonding process after noticing Angel is missing an eye and immediately shows she’s missing a leg. That starts their friendship, one where Odette, like Wyatt, wants to protect Angel and is afraid a state agency might send her back to her abusive father.
Because she is strong, Odette has found the courage to go on with her life despite losing her leg. But Wyatt has not. Suspicion has always surrounded him because of his missing family and it only increases when a pseudo-documentary mixes facts and fiction to make it look like he’s murdered them.
For Odette, saving Angel again involves her in the mystery of what happened the night Trumanell disappeared. Unfortunately, as she begins digging deeper into the past, someone is working equally hard to keep her from learning the truth.
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