Bite-size reviews of books by Liane Moriarty, Oliver Harris and Joey Hartstone
Thriller: A Season in Exile by Oliver Harris Little, Brown, 336 pages, hardcover €20.25; e-book £9.99
Disgraced Detective Constable Nick Belsey is on the run but manages to get out of England before he’s arrested. Touching down in Mexico City with just a few pounds in his pocket and a bunch of dubious credit cards, he figures he’s got a new continent to work with and find a fresh beginning.
Reality is not that easy, but after a rocky start he finds an idyllic life in a remote coastal village. That good life is rudely interrupted when some seriously dangerous men turn up, men whose bosses seem to know exactly who Nick is.
Meanwhile back in London, it is Christmas week and high-flying Serious Crimes DI Kirsty Craik, a former colleague and, briefly, lover of Nick, gets an alarming 5am telephone call. Find out exactly where Nick Belsey is and let the caller know or she will be dead by Christmas. Just when she thought she was rid of him, he’s come crashing back into her already stressful life.
In Mexico, Nick has been captured by a ruthless cartel determined to take over the European cocaine trade. He manages to persuade its leader that he can ease their way, and finds himself on the way back to England via Belgium.
He manages to get a message to Kirsty, and both realise independently that the cartel’s inside information suggests they have an informer at the highest level in the Metropolitan Police.
A top-rank thriller that delivers non-stop action and intrigue from its explosive start to nail-bitingly tense conclusion.
Fiction: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Penguin, 512 pages, paperback €12.60; e-book £5.99
Every book Liane Moriarty writes seems to be a licence to print money. Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers sold by the truckload and were adapted as big-budget TV dramas. The Australian’s latest is the sort of highly readable, twisty thriller that will do similarly well.
The Delaneys, outwardly, seem to have it all. Joy and Stan are former tennis coaches who have just sold the family business and seem to have all the time in the world to relax and hit the courts. But when Joy disappears, their four adult children are forced to ask difficult question about their parents’ marriage and their family history. Is her disappearance related to their mysterious house guest from a year before?
Thriller: The Local by Joey Hartstone
Pushkin Vertigo, 321 pages, paperback €18.35; e-book £6.64
Marshall, Texas is small-town America, but in the world of intellectual property litigation, aka patent law, it happens to be America’s leading jurisdiction thanks to landmark decisions made by federal judge Gerald Gardner.
Local patent lawyer James Euchre makes a comfortable living representing clients who feel their ideas have been stolen by powerful corporate entities. But, to his dismay, he finds himself on the other side, drafted by his old mentor into defending Amir Zawar, a wealthy tech entrepreneur being sued for copyright infringement.
Undeniably brilliant, but hot-headed and impulsive, Zawar loses control when Judge Gardner rules against his motion to dismiss the case, causing an ugly scene in court, cursing the judge and threatening to kill him.
When, later that night, Gardner is fatally stabbed in the federal courthouse car park, Zawar is arrested and charged with his murder.
Despite having no criminal law experience and his close professional relationship with the accused, Zawar insists on having Euchre on his defence team, believing he will be more relatable to the local jury than the big money defence team recruited by his company from Silicon Valley.
His team consists of Layla Stills, a former high-flying prosecutor and a local highly unconventional female private investigator. Together they try to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and at the same time come up with a plausible alternate suspect.
This is screenwriter Joey Hartstone’s first thriller, but as one might expect from the man who created The Good Fight, the courtroom scenes are exciting and intellectually gripping and the characters utterly relatable.