Every Wednesday, we here at Criminal Element will put together a list of Staff Picks of the books that published the day before—sharing the ones that we are looking forward to reading the most!
This week, we have an exciting new thriller from John Lescroart, a haunting true crime memoir by Claudia Rowe, and a psychological thriller by JP Delaney that are guaranteed to keep you on your toes. See what else the week brought for books!
Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey
If you’re loud and proud Floridian Serge A. Storms, how do you follow up your very own remake of Easy Rider? You shoot your own “episodes” of your favorite classic television show, Route 66!
With Coleman riding shotgun, Serge is rolling down the highway of his dreams in a vintage silver convertible Corvette just like the snazzy car Martin Milner drove. It doesn’t matter that the actual Route 66 didn’t pass through Florida, for Serge discovers that a dozen episodes near the series’ end were filmed (really!) in his beloved home state. So for Serge and the always toked and stoked Coleman, the Sunshine State is all the road you need to get your kicks.
But their adventure traveling the byways of the Sunshine State’s underbelly is about to take a detour. Someone is trying to tilt the odds in the state lottery amidst a conga line of huge jackpots spinning off more chaos than any hurricane season. With this much at stake, of course every shady character wants in. Crooked bodega owners, drug cartels laundering money through the lottery, and venture capitalists are all trying to game the system—and lining up to get their cut. They’re also gambling with their lives, because when Serge and Coleman get hip to this timely (and very lucrative) trip, there’s no telling whose number is up next.
Throw in Brooke Campanella, Serge’s old flame, as well as the perpetually star-crossed Reevis, and it’s a sure bet that the ever lucky Serge will hit it big. Winning has never been this deadly—or this much fun!
Check out Dirk Robertson's review of Clownfish Blues!
Fatal by John Lescroart
Kate loves her life. At forty-four, she’s happily married to her kind husband, Ron, blessed with two wonderful children, and has a beautiful home in San Francisco. Everything changes, however, when she and Ron attend a dinner party and meet another couple, Peter and Jill. Kate and Peter only exchange a few pleasant words but that night, in bed with her husband, Kate is suddenly overcome with a burning desire for Peter.
What begins as an innocent crush soon develops into a dangerous obsession and Kate’s fixation on Peter results in one intense, passionate encounter between the two. Confident that her life can now go back to normal, Kate never considers that Peter may not be so willing to move on.
Not long after their affair, a masked man barges into the café Kate is sitting in with her best friend, firing an assault weapon indiscriminately into the crowd. This tragedy is the first in a series of horrifying events that will show Kate just how grave the consequences of one mistake can be.
The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.
Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking
After several years of drifting between school and go-nowhere jobs, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth. The magnet is his beloved older sister, Grace: always smart and charismatic even when she was rebelling, and always his hero. Now she is a promising graduate student in psychophysics and the center of a group of friends who take “Little Brother” into their fold, where he finds camaraderie, romance, and even a decent job.
But it soon becomes clear that things are not well with Grace. Always acerbic, she now veers into sudden rages that are increasingly directed at her adoring boyfriend, John, who is also her fellow researcher. When Grace disappears, and John shortly thereafter, the narrator makes an astonishing discovery in their apartment: a box big enough to crawl inside, a lab rat, and a note that says This is the only way back for us. Soon he embarks on a mission to discover the truth, a pursuit that forces him to question time and space itself, and ultimately toward a perilous confrontation at the very limits of imagination.
The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe
“Well, well, Claudia. Can I call you Claudia? I’ll have to give it to you, when confronted at least you’re honest, as honest as any reporter…. You want to go into the depths of my mind and into my past. I want a peek into yours. It is only fair, isn’t it?” —Kendall Francois
In September 1998, young reporter Claudia Rowe was working as a stringer for the New York Times in Poughkeepsie, New York, when local police discovered the bodies of eight women stashed in the attic and basement of the small colonial home that Kendall Francois, a painfully polite twenty-seven-year-old community college student, shared with his parents and sister.
Growing up amid the safe, bourgeois affluence of New York City, Rowe had always been secretly fascinated by the darkness, and soon became obsessed with the story and with Francois. She was consumed with the desire to understand just how a man could abduct and strangle eight women—and how a family could live for two years, seemingly unaware, in a house with the victims’ rotting corpses. She also hoped to uncover what humanity, if any, a murderer could maintain in the wake of such monstrous evil.
Reaching out after Francois was arrested, Rowe and the serial killer began a dizzying four-year conversation about cruelty, compassion, and control; an unusual and provocative relationship that would eventually lead her to the abyss, forcing her to clearly see herself and her own past—and why she was drawn to danger.