One of the joys of reading crime fiction is the way it presents us with new worlds, or a different perspective on worlds we think we know.
Here are four new and upcoming crime books that intrigue me this fall. Each promises to illuminate life and crime in Los Angeles and the West.
“The Night Fire” by Michael Connelly. I’m excited that veteran detective Harry Bosch teams up again (after 2018’s “Dark Sacred Night”) with Hollywood Division’s Renée Ballard, a much younger detective who battles the LAPD’s alpha male-dominated culture. Relentless on their own, Ballard’s and Bosch’s combined skills in “The Night Fire” could be combustible. But I read Bosch novels these days with a sense of trepidation because Connelly decided early on to allow Bosch to age in real time. Now retired from the LAPD, at the beginning of “The Night Fire,” Bosch — using a cane after total knee replacement — is attending the burial of his mentor, John Jack Thompson, and feeling his generation’s mortality. Thompson was a legendary homicide detective whose wife gives Bosch a murder book her husband took with him upon retirement. It’s an unsolved case that Bosch takes to Ballard for them to work together, giving him an opportunity to pass along Thompson’s sage advice: “Take every case personally and you get angry. It builds a fire. It gives you the edge you need to go the distance every time out.” With Bosch, Ballard, and a significant plot line involving Bosch’s half-brother, attorney Mickey Haller, “The Night Fire” offers more than a few incendiary surprises. (Oct. 22)
“The Night Fire” is a Los Angeles Times Book Club selection.
“Land of Wolves” by Craig Johnson. If you didn’t like the idea of Sheriff Walt Longmire retiring at the end of “Longmire’s” TV run, you’ll relish “Land of Wolves,” the 15th mystery in the long-standing series. Back in Absaroka County after the harrowing recovery of his kidnapped daughter in Mexico, the sheriff must overcome his slow-healing wounds to investigate the slaughter of a sheep attributed to an aged lone wolf who may or may not have done the deed. Not far away, Longmire stumbles upon the apparent suicide of Miguel Hernandez, a Chilean shepherd, immigrant and purported political dissident who advocated for the decent treatment of nomadic tradesmen like himself. The scope of the case encompasses characters familiar to fans of the series, and there’s a complex story involving wealthy Basques who employed Hernandez and had a long-ago beef with the town’s former sheriff. I’m reading “Land of Wolves” for the plot but it’s Johnson’s prose that draws me in, like this description of the winds that reign over the Wyoming landscape in the opening pages: “Needled courtesans — the lodgepole pines, Douglas firs, and Engelmann spruce — stand at the edge of the great park like wallflowers awaiting the beseeching hand of the wind to invite them to the dance floor.” (Sept. 17)
“A Dangerous Man” by Robert Crais. How did the summer slip by without me reading “A Dangerous Man” until now? P.I. Elvis Cole and his partner, the enigmatic ex-cop Joe Pike, are the yin and yang of crime fighting — Elvis is always good for a sardonic wisecrack while Joe speaks with his fists, his military and police training equipping him to assess a situation and kick butt when necessary. That’s exactly what’s needed when Pike’s instincts tell him Izzy, his regular teller at a Mid-City bank, has been abducted before his very eyes on her way to lunch. Joe being Joe, he neutralizes the would-be kidnappers and rescues the grateful young woman. But after the two perpetrators are murdered and Izzy goes missing again, Pike calls on Cole to aid in the search, and mayhem ensues. It’s no mean feat to sustain quality storytelling over a long-running mystery series (this is the duo’s 18th outing and the seventh to feature Pike). My favorites are the ones told from Pike’s taking-no-prisoners point of view; he’s my kind of dangerous man. (Aug. 6)
Paula L. Woods is a book critic, editor and author of several mystery novels.