Mulholland Books is a new imprint of Little, Brown that focuses on suspense fiction. So of course I took notice and looked through several of their titles. Today I’m reviewing two of their 2012 releases, one that’s already out and one that’s coming up this summer.
First up is The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi. The influx of European crime novels has been rising each year. It’s no longer just the Scandinavian writers that you see, they’re now from all over Europe. The Whisperer is by Italian author Donato Carrisi, and in Europe it’s as popular as Stieg Larsson’s novels. It’s not hard to see why. Carrisi has a great hook, strong characters and a plot that keeps you guessing right up to the end.
These days every crime novel has to start with a big hook and The Whisperer has a memorable one. After a string of kidnappings of young girls, police find 6 severed arms in a field. One problem: there were only 5 kidnapped girls.
When testing indicates one of the girls is still alive, police find themselves on a chase from body to body. Except the placement of each body is itself a clue to another, older crime. This killer seems to know a whole network of other killers and criminals but leaves few clues to his own identity.
Hunting for him is Mila Vasquez, famous for finding kidnapped children. Her uncanny intuition and her own troubled history make her very good at what she does. But this case challenges her like nothing before. Especially since she is joining Goran Gavila and his team, who have their own approach and aren’t always welcoming.
Mila and Goran are both the kind of troubled characters you often see in crime fiction, but I found them to be more than just the scarred, grizzled cops you normally see. The team relationships and their gradual adjustment to Mila make a good counterpoint to the crimes and the investigation itself.
I wouldn’t dare reveal the plot to you, but let me say that it is a constant road of twists and turns. Even when a pattern arises you never know what will be around the next bend. And the ending is a doozy.
While The Whisperer is a classic serial killer novel, The Demands by Mark Billingham is a more unusual situation.
Detective Helen Weeks is just stopping in to her neighborhood shop when she suddenly finds herself held hostage by the normally-friendly shopkeeper. He is Javed Akhtar and he isn’t asking for a ransom. Instead he demands an investigation into the death of his son, Amin, which was dismissed as a suicide.
Tom Thorne is put on the case and finds this is no ordinary investigation. Young Amin was in prison for manslaughter after he killed another boy who attacked him. He seems to have killed himself by overdosing on pills while in the prison infirmary but no one knows how he got access to them. The more Thorne looks, the more he’s convinced this is a murder, but the clock is ticking and the motive is hard to find.
What makes this novel unique is the point of view of Helen while she goes through the hostage situation in the shop. She feels both sympathy and fear towards Akhtar and watches as he gradually unwinds from day to day.
Reading the book does require some suspension of disbelief. It seems unlikely that the police would respond to a demand like Akhtar’s, but if you’re willing to set that aside, you’ll find The Demands to be a satisfying police procedural.
I look forward to see what else Mulholland Books has in store.
Thanks to Netgalley and Mulholland Books for allowing me access to e-galleys of these books. The Whisperer is available now. The Demands will be released on June 12, 2012.