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Pandora’s Boy (Flavia Albia Series) by Lindsey Davis, Minotaur Books, US $27.99, Pp 308, July 2018, ISBN 978-1250152688

Spymaster (The Scot Harvath Series) by Brad Thor, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, US $27.99, Pp 334, July 2018, ISBN 978-1476789415

Poisoned Pages (A Booktown Mystery) by Lorna Barrett, Berkley, US $26.00, Pp 306 July 2018, ISBN 978-0451489838

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott, Little, Brown and Company, US $27.00, Pp 344, July 2018, ISBN 978-0316547185

If you thought that ancient Rome was a quiet and orderly city as many books try to make it look, Lindsey Davis would prove you wrong. Pandora’s Boy is set in the first-century Rome where Flavia Albia is the lead private detective. When Laia Gratiana, the ex-wife of Flavia’s new husband, Tiberius Manlius Faustus, brings a case Flavia is not sure if she should take it. It was Laia who left Tiberius a decade ago. Laia wants Flavia to investigate the death of a teenage girl named Clodia Volumnia. The investigation will take Flavia to the other side of Rome, a long distance from Tiberius. But money is tight for Flavia who unwillingly agrees to meet Volumnius, the grieving father if he agrees to her terms. Clodia was recently killed over the Quirinal Hill and it looks that she was poisoned. The local witch, Pandora, is suspected to have supplied the poison. As Flavia investigates, she learns that Pandora is involved in the business of dangerous substances behind the smokescreen of her trade in herbal beauty products. Quirinal is full of all kinds of vices like loose morality and frequent betrayals. But when one of Flavia’s own friends is murdered in the similar fashion, she vows to uncover the betrayals. When Flavia overhears a group of rowdy young men who apparently knew Clodia, Flavia gets new ideas about who may have been behind the murder. When Tiberius arrives there unannounced, Flavia knows his help would be crucial in solving the murder mystery. She does solve the mystery, but only after a second sad murder. Pandora’s Boy is a historical mystery novel like no other. It is indeed a great historical mystery. Lindsey Davis’ vision of everyday life in ancient Rome is remarkable. The fact that Pandora’s Boy’s is set in ancient Rome makes it doubly entertaining as it brings ancient Rome to life.

Lindsey Davis is the author of the Roman novels beginning chronologically with The Course of Honour, the love story of Emperor Vespasian and Antonia Caenis. She is also the author of a new series, featuring Flavia, beginning in 2013. She has won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, the Dagger in the Library, and a Sherlock award for Falco as Best Comic Detective. She has also been awarded the Premio Colosseo for enhancing the image of Rome, and the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement as a mystery writer. Born in Birmingham, she lives in London.

*****

War clouds are hanging over the world once again. Russia has planned to draw the United States into another World War. One wrong move and we are in the Third World War. A Russia-backed secret organization is targeting diplomats across Europe. In Portugal, it is a sniper. In Spain, it is a car bomb. In Greece, it is a shooter. Three diplomats die in as many attacks. Russia is trying to draw the United States into war by attacking its NATO allies, pushing the NATO members to draw America into the conflict. The tactics of the organization remind us of the Red Brigades and the Red Army which were active in the 1970s. The terrorists seem to have the same motives. Is the new Russia-backed organization deliberately trying to deceive the world? The Carlton Group, a private group currently working on behalf of the CIA, discovers the Russian plan. Carlton is now headed by Lydia Ryan, the former deputy director of CIA. In Washington DC, an allied country asks for the identity of a top spy from the US Administration. They want him to track down the terrorists. Russians want to demoralize America and its NATO allies before the conflict even starts and win the conflict without even fighting it. To achieve their goal, they are spreading chaos, dissent, and destruction to the extent possible. But they are now facing a big obstacle in their way in the form of Scot Harvath. Counterterrorism expert Harvath has been dispatched to Europe to perform the task to do whatever it takes to save America and its European and NATO allies from the world war. If he is his own boss, he will also rewrite the rules of the game. Harvath and his team go on the hunt to track the assassins around the globe. Spymaster is full of action and suspense. Your eyes remain glued to the book as you read it breathlessly. Spymaster is one of those captivating and mesmerizing thrillers you finish in one sitting.

Brad Thor is the  #1 New York Times bestselling author of Use of ForceForeign AgentCode of ConductAct of WarHidden OrderBlack ListFull BlackThe Athena ProjectForeign InfluenceThe ApostleThe Last Patriot (nominated best thriller of the year by the International Thriller Writers Association), The First CommandmentTakedownBlowback (recognized as one of the “Top 100 Killer Thrillers of All Time” by NPR), State of the UnionPath of the Assassin, and The Lions of Lucerne. Visit his website at BradThor.com.

*****

Tricia Miles owns a mystery bookstore, ‘Haven’t Got A Clue,’ in the charming town of Stoneham in New Hampshire which has turned her into an amateur sleuth. She has also learned to cook in recent years. Cooking is sort of a hobby. When she throws a housewarming cocktail party in her new apartment, she cooks everything in her own kitchen instead of ordering the food from a caterer. Everybody is happy at the party until one of the guests is possibly food-poisoned and dies. Tricia cannot figure out what had gone wrong. Was something wrong with her cooking? Probably not. Was there a sinister plan? Maybe. If yes, what could be the motive? Either way, Tricia Miles is in trouble. This murder happens against the ominous background. She has already been accused of being involved in a murder in the past. If she is accused of another murder, her chances of winning the race for Chamber of Commerce president are doomed. The incumbent Chamber of Commerce president is her sister, Angelica. The victim is Angelica’s former colleague Frannie Armstrong’s date. In the electoral race, Tricia is pitted against two bitter rivals. In such a situation, she decides to find the killer before he/she succeeds in targeting another innocent victim which can be Tricia herself. The first time she was accused of a murder was when Bob Kelly was sentenced for a murder. Kelly accused Tricia Miles of the crime. Tricia’s proximity to the second murder puts her in deeper hot water. For Chief of Police Grant Baker, Tricia’s ex, this is a good reason to grind his ax. Threats and intimidation follow. Marshall Cambridge, the owner of the local porn bookshop, also turns his attention to Tricia as she tries to focus on her campaign. On the other hand, Angelica is being also blackmailed as someone is threatening to vandalize her store and even hurt her. Poisoned Pages is a gripping and entertaining mystery that will surely delight mystery fans. It has vibrant characters and a suspenseful plot.

Lorna Barrett is the New York Times bestselling author of the Booktown Mysteries, including A Just Clause and Title Wave.

*****

Kit Owens and Diane Fleming first met in their high school. Kit Owens was an average student and did not particularly care for her studies and career. Diane Fleming was a brilliant student who inspired several fellow students, particularly Kit Owen. Diane Fleming was continuously trying to achieve excellence in studies. Soon, the two of them became close friends. Kit Owen found Diane Fleming a little too mysterious but she was not able to figure out why Diane Fleming was the way she was. Diane Fleming had a troubled past but she guarded it as a secret. One night, Diane Fleming came to Kit Owen and shared her well-kept secret. Diane Fleming thought that would strengthen their friendship but that changed everything between them. Ten years later, Kit Owens thinks that she has left Diane Fleming behind forever. Kit Owens is following the scientific dreams Diane Fleming had awakened in her. She is a member of Dr. Severin’s lab. She is now competing for a new position on a team that will do ground-breaking research on the premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Everybody is pretty sure she will win it. But, soon her past comes back to haunt her when Dr. Severin announces that Diane Fleming, a researcher from Harvard, will soon join their team. When Diane walks through the lab door the next day, the two former friends become locked in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that may destroy them both. Give Me Your Hand is a psychological thriller that explores the female psyche. Megan Abbott is a gifted storyteller who shows how easily a friendship can become dissolved into a rivalry. Ambitions and morality rarely coexist. Give Me Your Hand is an extraordinarily engrossing novel. You will not be able to put it down easily.

Megan Abbott is the award-winning author of nine novels, including You Will Know MeThe FeverDare Me, and The End of Everything. She received her Ph.D. in literature from New York University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times MagazineThe Guardian, and The Believer. Currently, she is a staff writer on HBO’s new David Simon show, The Deuce. She lives in New York City.

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