Beauty queen Nicole is the most gorgeous girl at her New Jersey high school – until someone squirts acid over half her face. In Paul Griffin’s BURNING BLUE (Text, $26), Nicole then befriends loner Jay, who has his own problems, including epilepsy. Since the police seem unable to catch the assailant, Jay uses his hacking skills to try to track down the attacker before he or she can strike again. This beautifully written book covers teenage friendship and love, bullying, marriage break-ups, self-mutilation and much more, all with tenderness and subtle humour. The cryptic teenage dialogue is a delight and in spite of its serious content it is a remarkably readable novel, a gem.
John Grisham, a former lawyer, has a low opinion of the American legal system. “Now a trial is a contest in which one side will win and another side will lose,” his narrator Malcolm Bannister writes in THE RACKETEER (Hodder & Stoughton, $49.99). “Each side expects the other to bend the rules or to cheat, so neither side plays fair. The truth is lost in the melee.” Bannister falls foul of this system, sentenced to 10 years after overenthusiastic prosecutors charge him with racketeering because he had inadvertently done work for a criminal. After a federal judge is murdered, Bannister – feeling no compunction about ripping off the flawed system – tells the authorities he knows who killed him, putting into action a brilliant and entertaining plan to turn his life around.
Curses seem to have killed two healthy people connected with a museum in King’s Lynn, England. One curse is associated with the opening of the coffin of a medieval bishop, the other with Aboriginal bones and skulls held in the museum. Elly Griffiths’s A ROOM FULL OF BONES (Quercus, $27.99) does a lovely job of balancing rational science, in the person of forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, with mysticism, exemplified by druid Cathbad and visiting Aborigine Bob Woonunga. Strange goings-on at a racing stable add to the mystery, and extra drama comes from the relationship between Ruth and Detective Inspector Nelson – the married father of her one-year-old child, Kate. Don’t let the druid put you off; this is a great read.
In the continual quest by thriller writers to come up with ever more grotesque crimes, Sebastian Fitzek has produced THE EYE COLLECTOR (Corvus, $36.99). Someone in Berlin is murdering mothers, abducting their children, killing the children 45 hours later and removing the children’s left eyes before disposing of the bodies. A sensational premise indeed, but intelligent writing (and translation) make it seem all too real, even when the story features a blind psychologist who has visions of the crimes. Alexander Zorbach, a former cop who became a crime reporter after a traumatic incident, charges into the fray – with the aid of the psychologist and his young sidekick, Frank – trying to save twins before the 45 hours expire.
Schizophrenic Thomas covers his walls with maps and spends his days at his computer using Whirl360 (software like Google street-view), going virtually through the streets of the world’s cities. He believes he is working for the CIA and has phone conversations with Bill Clinton, sometimes without a phone. In Linwood Barclay’s TRUST YOUR EYES (Orion, $36.99), Thomas one day sees what appears to be a murder at the window of a New York building. He gets his brother Ray to investigate the crime, which would have happened some time earlier, and they unwittingly attract the attention of some extremely unpleasant people – people for whom dirty politics can even include murder. Suitable for holiday reading.
Bernard Carpinter is a journalist.