Heaven, My Home (Mulholland, $27), by Attica Locke, is the second book in the Highway 59 series and it’s sure to wow you as much as its predecessor, Bluebird, Bluebird did. We’re back again with Texas Ranger Darren Matthews. His assignment is to find a kidnapped child; however, this child is linked to a well-known family of white supremacists. Though Darren is dedicated to his job, as a Black man, this fact plagues him. If the child is still alive, will he grow up to be a racist and wreak havoc, like the rest of his family? Is Darren able to put his personal feelings aside to do his job well and bring the kid home? As a fan of Locke’s work, I found this to be one of her best books to date. Heaven, My Home can easily be given to the mystery reader on your holiday list or anyone looking for an entertaining read with an engaging plot and a host of characters they’ll never forget.
Australian novelist Jane Harper is on a roll, having now produced three magnificent psychological thrillers in fairly quick succession. Her latest, The Lost Man (Flatiron, $27.99), introduces new characters (the first two books featured a detective protagonist named Aaron Falk), but still relies on the author’s familiar themes of family hardship, resilience, and survival. The harsh, desolate terrain of Queensland provides the backdrop for the story, which begins with the mysterious death of one of three brothers, whose car, and body, are found miles apart for no explicable reason. Geographic and social isolation, as well as family secrets, all emerge to offer clues to solving the mystery. Harper, a former journalist, is an expert at sowing false leads in her readers’ minds, creating doubts about what sort of deceptions could have led to a man dying of dehydration in an area he knew well, and weaving together strands of evidence as the story becomes more tangled. Her greatest gift: You never figure out what happened until the very end. At least I didn’t.
John le Carré has been our greatest chronicler of spycraft in the Cold War era—its intricate rituals, its bureaucratic infighting, and its life-and-death gamesmanship. Agent Running in the Field (Viking, $29) is an up-to-the-minute portrait of a spy in the age of Brexit and Putin. Our narrator is Nat, almost forty-seven, an experienced agent runner, who’s returned to London after many postings, ready to move on—or to reluctantly accept one more job. He agrees to “remodel” a substation, “a dumping ground for…fifth-rate informants.” The only promising asset is Florence, who’s building a case against a Ukrainian oligarch. He’s also adjusting to home life: reconnecting with his wife, Pru, a hardworking lawyer, and playing weekly badminton with Ed, a solitary and disaffected media drone, always ranting against Trump and Brexit. As with all le Carré, the set pieces and dialogues are masterful, mixing humor and menace: particularly memorable are a visit with an old triple agent; a long inter-office interrogation; and a ski-lift conversation where Nat reveals his job to his daughter. This is classic le Carré.