4 mystery novels filled with puzzles, collisions and irresistible twists


The game

By Harlan Coben

Grand Central, 343 pages, $18.99

An aptly named guy named Wilde was abandoned as a child in the wilderness of the Ramapo Mountains of New York and New Jersey. Super resourceful and unrelated to another human being for years, Wilde survived childhood and beyond largely on his own instinctive skills. Now, as an incredibly cool and sophisticated adult, he makes a DNA match with a famous man in the world of reality TV. This is Coben’s second book involving Wilde (“The Woodland Boy” of 2020 being the first) and the new one, in addition to tantalizingly tinkering with Wilde’s troubled past, puts him in the bad books of countless violent characters and deep into a murder case. It can all be maddeningly elusive but remains, in the hands of Coben, the most cunning of plot builders, irresistible.

give to others

By Donna Leon

Atlantic Monthly Press, 304 pages, $37.95

This is Donna Leon’s 36th book featuring curator Guido Brunetti of Venice. It’s unquestionably one of the most human – and absorbing – of the series. The setting is the immediate present with the various pains and tragedies it keeps bringing. The pandemic has shrunk Venice so much that even locals miss tourists, and one character, an honorable elderly person, suffers from the most heartbreaking of illnesses, a dementia that includes “the devastation of memory, of dignity, of reason”. . In the plot of the book, a childhood friend of Brunetti asks him for a favor. A relatively simple chore, decides the commissario, but inexorably the investigation drags him and his fellow police officers into a circle of guilt both legally and morally. Dilemmas demand the best from Brunetti, that’s what he delivers.

The Lying Club

By Annie Ward

HarperCollins, 410 pages, $24.99

The setting is a community for Colorado’s filthy rich. The book’s action mainly revolves around the local private school’s teenage girls’ football team. Two mothers – one the richest woman in the state, the other usually well-heeled – ride the football coach hard to get their daughters accepted into a popular college athletic program. In turn, the coach, a studious guy with a mysterious agenda, plays rich women for all they’re worth. Observing these transactions is an ambitious and vaguely deranged young woman who works in school administration. As masterfully handled by Annie Ward, a writer with clear prose and thoughtful plot, the narrative sets the main characters and various peripheral figures on a collision course. With maybe a suspicious murder or two?

nine lives

By Peter Swanson

William Morrow, 336 pages, $34.99

Diving into the plot of a novel by Peter Swanson is a bit like embarking, if not quite on a game of chess, at least on a particularly sharp game of checkers. Swanson’s previous bestseller, “Eight Perfect Murders”, was considered a solid book of this type. “Nine Lives” is even better. The puzzle begins when nine people living in different parts of the United States receive identical mail: a simple list of the names of the nine recipients. One of them is a woman who happens to be an FBI agent. His curiosity is aroused. She worries even more when someone on the list turns up dead, probably murdered. Does the agent start investigating? Sure, but it is, in fact, just the equivalent of a pawn being moved in a plot of several other moves to come.


Jack Batten is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor to The Star.


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