All thrills, no filler this week. You want smuggling, you want entrapment, you want murder? Check, check, check.
This week’s fiction features legal suspense in small-town Texas, a Spanish murder mystery that bends the genre’s rules, an homage to classic noir that follows the rules. Before you can even catch your breath, we’re off to sell a stolen gemstone, to peddle some counterfeit handbags, to hunt for a mysterious figure in the future and to scramble for espionage secrets after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Even the two works of nonfiction this week keep the pulse racing: a study of the Lincolns, the Booths and the spirit world; and an inside look at the world of timber poaching.
In this terrific legal thriller, set in the insular criminal-justice community of a small East Texas town, a patent attorney finds himself in the middle of a murder case. The plot is gripping, and Hartstone, a veteran screenwriter, sketches his characters with real verve and affection.
Doubleday | $28
A murder case opens this first novel of a trilogy by the Spanish writer Cercas, who bends the rules of the conventional whodunit by diving deep into the investigating detective’s past. With nods to “Les Misérables,” the book alternates between the protagonist’s troubled early years in Barcelona and his present quest for truth in a rural county called Terra Alta.
Nieh’s second novel, a sequel to 2019’s “Beijing Payback,” is a thriller for the global age, with characters entangled in cross-border conflicts and international intrigues as they try to find a buyer for the rare gemstone they stole from a storage locker.
Ecco | $28.99
Did Abraham Lincoln, like his assassin, find solace in the prospect of an afterlife? Probably not — but Alford’s slim, meticulously referenced account, teased from the footnotes of history, is a page-turning pleasure.
Chen’s entertaining novel is a con artist story, a pop feminist caper and a fashionable romp about a pair of friends who team up on a clever scheme involving handbags.
William Morrow | $27.99
In this homage to classic noir (namely the film “Chinatown”), a lonely, misanthropic lawyer plays detective when a wealthy young woman hires him to entrap her husband, a rare-books dealer. The novel, set in mid-aughts New York, takes an early turn when the lawyer finds out that his client isn’t who she says she is.
Viking | $26
The scramble for the secrets of the Stasi, East Germany’s Cold War intelligence service, provides the backdrop for this historical thriller, set in the chaotic months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After a colleague turns up dead, a disillusioned Stasi agent wants out, and he has information to sell if he can stay out of harm’s way.
Davis’s new novel is a queer noir about the hunt for a mysterious figure, X, in a near-future fascist society filled with violence and sexual deviance in which the authoritarian government is encouraging undesirables to leave the country.
Catapult | Paper, $16.95
Bourgon’s engrossing study of timber poaching reveals it to be full of mixed motives and gray areas, mustering sympathy for both sides.
Little, Brown Spark | $28