Ignoring her husband’s warning that she’s developing an unhealthy obsession with Flora and her family, Beth keeps snooping into her friend’s life and eventually blunders into dangerous territory. Why haven’t the children grown, she wonders, and why is there no sign of the third child, Georgina? Hannah builds on her suspenseful premise with well-placed clues and a superb sense of timing, all the way to a crash-and-burn ending that will either thrill or infuriate you.
What’s a mother to do when she finds photos of her teenage daughter on some creep’s creepy blog? In MASKED PREY (Putnam, 406 pp., $29), the latest entry in a long-running and totally addictive series by John Sandford, Senator Roberta Coil turns to Lucas Davenport, a deputy U.S. marshal known as “somebody who can take care of business quietly and effectively.” Here, the business at hand is a conspiracy to threaten the children of powerful politicians, forcing their parents to cough up outrageous ransoms — not in cash, but in political influence.
Sandford always delivers rousing action scenes, but this time he’s especially good on character, too. The naïve teenagers are as persuasively drawn as the professional goons stalking them, and the language presents an amusing exercise in the fine art of dialogue. There’s enough violence to satisfy bloodthirsty tastes, enough information on neofascism to give us a chill, and enough sly humor to make both American teenagers and their would-be killers sound as if English were their second language.
So, what do you think? Would it constitute a conflict of interest if you had slept with the husband of a potential client? Personally, I would call that a no-brainer; but Nora Trier, a forensic accountant and the dauntless protagonist of Mindy Mejia’s STRIKE ME DOWN (Emily Bestler/Atria, 337 pp., $27), finds a way to rationalize it. After all, the celebrity client is Logan Russo, the superstar kickboxer and owner of Strike, the nation’s primo urban gym, with thousands of members and venues in 29 major cities. Besides, the job itself — tracking down $20 million in prize money that has gone missing from the company coffers — is both challenging and dangerous.
Mejia finds ingenious ways of making this sleazy corporate crime sexy and hazardous. An athletic tournament called the Strike Down plays out like the final game in a tied World Series. (The packed stadium erupts into “deafening” cheers.) And Nora exhibits uncommon grit when she’s thrust into the ring of a virtual boxing match. Honestly, the things a person has to go through to play the protagonist in what is essentially a carefully plotted but highly unorthodox financial mystery.