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Wild Fire: A Shetland Island Mystery by Ann Cleeves, Minotaur Books, US $26.99, Pp 416, September 2018, ISBN 978-1250124845

The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, US $37.50, Pp 816, Harper, September 2018, ISBN 978-0062668691

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason, Little, Brown and Company, US $28.00, Pp 336, September 2018, ISBN 978-0316477604

When Helena Fleming visits Inspector Jimmy Perez, he is a little puzzled. Helena is a well-known designer of garments featuring Shetland wool and has recently moved to the Shetland Islands. The local man who sold the house to Helena and her husband is found hanged in the barn. He was facing serious financial problems. It is apparently a suicide. The local community is quite outraged because of this incident. Helena Fleming visits Inspector Jimmy Perez because she has received little images of gallows and hanged men. She fears that this will likely have a very negative effect on his autistic son, Christopher. Helena and her husband had moved to the remote Shetland Islands only to give a better life to their autistic son. She tells Inspector Jimmy Perez that these images are written on pieces of graph paper. Jimmy Perez feels sympathetic to Helena because his dead girlfriend was an artist and he also looks after her daughter. But, when a friend’s nanny is also found dead in the Flemings’ barn outside their house, strangled and hung, Inspector Jimmy is called in to investigate this case also. The local people start pointing fingers at Helena and her husband. Jimmy accelerates his investigations. This coincides with the return of Jimmy’s boss, Willow Reeves, from the mainland. Willow reveals that she’s pregnant by Jimmy. Jimmy is unable to accept it and their already complex relationship takes a new turn.  He busies himself in investigating Emma’s strangling. Inspector Jimmy finds out that the possessive mother of Emma’s boyfriend hated her. Moreover, Helena’s husband was also infatuated with Emma who apparently welcomed it. As the detectives investigate Emma’s unfortunate past and those of their suspects, the case becomes even more difficult to solve. Jimmy learns that he is actually investigating a fractured family. Wild Fire is simply brilliant. It is mesmerizing from start to finish. It is an engrossing thriller you will not be able to put down before you finish it.

About the author

Ann Cleeves is the multi-million copy bestselling author behind two hit television series―the BBC’s Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall, and ITV’s Vera, starring Academy Award Nominee Brenda Blethyn ―both of which are watched and loved in the US. The first Shetland novel, Raven Black, won the CWA Gold Dagger for the best crime novel, and Ann was awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger in 2017. She lives in the UK.

*****

The Labyrinth of the Spirits is the last of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books novels by bestselling author Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is set in the same imagined world he had created in his earlier novels — The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven — with the addition of a sexy and seductive new heroine Alicia Gris who investigates the dark history of Franco’s Spain. Alicia is helped by bookseller Daniel Sempere Gispert and his family to uncover a most shocking conspiracy. Bookseller Sempere Gispert actually plays one of the key roles from the beginning to the end of the story. Twenty-nine-year-old Alicia Gris has been working for Spain’s secret police in Madrid for the last ten years but now plans to leave the service after resolving one last case of the mysterious disappearance of Spain’s Minister of Culture, Mauricio Valls. The only clue she and her partner — policeman Juan Manuel Vargas — have been able to find is a rare book by the author Victor Mataix. Valls had hidden it in his office. She learns that Valls was the director of the notorious Montjuic Prison in Barcelona during World War II where several writers were imprisoned, including David Martín and Victor Mataix. Alicia and Vargas sense that the disappearance of Valls and the book are somehow linked. They decide to travel to Barcelona and meet these writers. During their mission in Barcelona, Alicia and Vargas meet with several booksellers, including Sempere is ready to help them. As Alicia and Vargas find more tips that can help them recover Valls, they also discover a large web of kidnappings and murders under the Franco regime. As Alicia and Vargas make progress in their investigations, their lives come more and more under threat. This is where their friends come and snatch them from the jaws of their enemies. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a gifted storyteller who knows how to capture his readers’ attention. Packed with suspense, The Labyrinth of the Spirits is a gripping edge-of-your-seat thriller. As you read this chilling thriller, you feel as if your pounding heart is missing a beat.

About the author

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the author of two critically acclaimed and internationally bestselling novels, The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game. He is one of the world’s most-read and best-loved writers. His work, which also includes prizewinning young adult novels, has been translated into more than fifty languages and published around the world, garnering numerous international prizes and reaching millions of readers. He divides his time between Barcelona and Los Angeles.

*****

Set in Vienna at the beginning of World War I, The Winter Soldier is a unique mystery story that revolves around two lovers. Born in Vienna to a well-to-do Polish family, LuciusKrzelewski is a twenty-two-year-old medical student in 1914. He has a very romantic — but imagined — idea of working in field hospitals in the war zones. He decides to enlist and expects to be sent to an organized field hospital. Contrary to his expectations, the field hospital he is sent to is a makeshift facility set up in a church tucked away high in a high valley of the Carpathian Mountains in Lemnowice in Eastern Europe. Under freezing temperature, the area is ravaged by typhus. The other doctors and para-medical staff have fled the place before his arrival. Only a mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete — a nurse from the Sisters of St. Catherine — remains. At twenty-one, Lucius has yet to handle a surgeon’s scalpel. But now he has to treat and amputate severely wounded soldiers. As the war rages, Sister Margarete tutors him the complex medical procedures. As he perfects how to treat wounded soldiers, he falls in love with the woman who helps him learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. As the two of them start a romantic life, life under war becomes less stressful. One day, when they bring an unconscious soldier, Lucius finds his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. Apparently, the soldier cannot be saved. Lucius makes a fateful decision to save his life that would change the lives of the doctor, the patient and the nurse forever. But, one day Margarete leaves the field hospital unannounced.  When Lucius returns to normal life after the war, he briefly marries but gets out of it soon as he is not happy. He decides to look for and find Margarete but, as he goes on his mission to find his lost love, he has to solve a mystery.Daniel Mason has weaved a great story by combining a war story and romance into a mystery novel. Mason takes you from Imperial Vienna to the battlefields in the frozen forests where the difference between life and death blurs. The Winter Soldier is war fiction without actual fighting but is filled with suffering soldiers and those who sacrifice their happiness for them.

About the Author

Daniel Mason is a physician and author of the novels The Piano Tuner and A Far Country. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages and adapted for opera and theater. A recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, he is currently a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, where he teaches courses in the humanities and medicine. He lives in the Bay Area with his family.

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