Four Crime Novels, Brimming With Venom and Dread


Both strands will be resolved not in the bustling, Before-Time Los Angeles where all four reside but in a hideaway nestled in the desert, where the living mingle with the afterlife, and where fractured threads will knit themselves anew in unexpected ways.

Disabato is after bigger thematic game than mere paranormal mystery-romantic comedy. The texts Eve sends and receives — and the ones she doesn’t — are the means for her to cope with and repress her grief at the compounding losses in her life, and the self-destructive behavior that ensues when medicating herself with alcohol and cocaine stops working. Rather than flatten emotion via text, Eve’s plaintive missives heighten her brokenness, injecting an aching pathos as she searches out her deepest self within the wreckage of the selves she has abandoned.

My No. 1 life rule is that you should never hire a hit man, because it’s certain to result in catastrophe. In FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT (Minotaur, 359 pp., $26.99), her first mystery for adults, Elle Cosimano takes this rule to heart. The plot is frequently outlandish, but the main character is so endearing that it’s easy to surrender to the ridiculous.

A freshly divorced, deeply indebted single mom, Finlay just wants to write romantic suspense novels and make a living at it, something that’s eluded her so far. A fraught conversation with her literary agent at a crowded suburban Panera is misunderstood in gargantuan fashion, and the next thing she knows, Finlay has a $50,000 assignment — in cash — to kill a stranger’s husband. A payday that’s more than 10 times her average book advance.

Things turn screwball, naturally, as if Craig Rice had rewritten “Home Sweet Homicide” with social media in mind. Finlay, poor decisions aside, has a promising future in killing for sort-of hire. Her books might garner more commercial success, too. After all, as her babysitter-turned-sidekick reasons, if landing an agent had 10,000-to-1 odds, and landing a book deal is tougher still, “Getting away with murder had to be easier than that, right?”


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