evil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley (Washington Square, $14). Set in 1940s Los Angeles, this great noir thriller features an African-American protagonist who has an outlook not seen before in the genre. A smart, valiant war veteran who defended his country but now has trouble landing a job, Easy Rawlins can go places a white policeman or detective can’t go. For this first Rawlins mystery, Mosley created an unforgettable supporting cast, led by a psychotic killer named Mouse.
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter (Vintage, $15). A terrific twist on the legal thriller. A young African-American professor learns that his recently deceased father, a former Supreme Court nominee, was not the man his son thought him to be. A story of satisfying complexity.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin’s, $8). Stephanie Plum is one of the most unlikely crime fighters you will ever meet. A former department store buyer, Plum becomes a reluctant bounty hunter. Evanovich’s great series/consistently combines humor and thrills.
Tell No One by Harlan Coben (Dell, $10). The first chapter of this book grabs you and doesn’t let you go. When a man finds a webcam video that seems to show that his murdered wife is not in fact dead, the reader can’t help but be freaked out. Coben is a master of grabbing the social zeitgeist and ramping it up to a new level of paranoia.
The Deadhouse by Linda Fairstein (Pocket, $8). A former New York City sex-crimes prosecutor, Linda Fairstein introduced a unique authenticity to contemporary crime fiction. This story, about a murder victim who had been studying the secrets of New York City’s Roosevelt Island, provides a real insider’s look at what goes on in the prosecutor’s office, and history lessons about the city to boot.
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson (Grand Central, $8). Alex Cross was and is one of the most original characters to come down the mystery/thriller pike in a long time. A psychologist turned detective working Washington, D.C.’s mean streets, he fights some of the most bizarre criminals this side of Batman.
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