"The Prime Minister's Secret Agent," by Susan Elia MacNeal. (Bantam, 320 pages, $15, July 1.)
It's 1941 and Maggie Hope has become a spy for the British. She's in a dark place after her last mission, and becoming an instructor at an agent training facility in Scotland has not tamed the "black dog" of depression. When a number of strange deaths occur in Glasgow, Hope is caught up in the conspiracies of spies and their secrets. She does her part so well it seals her fate for the rest of the war (and the next book in this stellar series). MacNeal has written an impeccably researched, wonderfully engaging story.
"No Safe House," by Linwood Barclay. (New American Library, 512 pages, $25.99, Aug. 5.)
In this slick suburban thriller, Terry Archer, his wife and their rebellious teenage daughter, Grace, have barely survived a deadly ordeal that fractured their lives. Against the backdrop of a double murder of neighbors, Grace sneaks out one night with her boyfriend and does something seriously stupid, dragging her family deeper into a world of hurt. Barclay's thriller is dialogue driven, cinematic in structure, with a plot punctuated with whiplash turns.
"The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair," by Joel Dicker. (Penguin, 634 pages, $18.)
With a Lolita-like affair as its dark heart and a slick page-turning plot about a famous writer as its crooked backbone, this is a highly entertaining mash-up of melodrama, metafiction and mystery. Marcus Goldman is a handsome young writer suffering from intellectual impotence, the result of sudden fame. He narrates most of this story that begins in 1975 when, at age 15, Nola Kellergan disappears in the woods off the coast of New Hampshire. Thirty-three years later her body is unearthed in novelist Harry Quebert's garden. Packed with plot twists, red herrings and pages of misdirection, this may be the most puzzling mystery of the summer.
"Prayer" by Philip Kerr. (Putnam, $26.95, 410 pages.)
Raised Roman Catholic in a Calvinist city, Glasgow-born Gil Martins is facing a crisis of faith and a righteous killer. He was assigned to the domestic terrorism unit in Houston, where guilt, doubt and extremists of every ilk tear his faith asunder. The final nail in his belief system is the discovery that because of him an innocent man has been executed. Meanwhile, someone is killing Houston's most "morally distinguished" citizens, and Martins begins to make troubling connections no one else sees. "Prayer" brilliantly explores the world of God, guns and the nature of goodness without sacrificing suspense or story.
"The Quick" by Lauren Owen. (Random House, 544 pages, $27, June 17.)
The streets of Victorian London are teeming with vampires, diabolical doctors and orphaned street urchins, but in Lauren Owen's creepy debut these elements come together in a thrilling tale. The full impact of the story reveals itself slowly, with its brooding narrative and lyrical prose, until you realize that she has crafted a retelling of many of the 19th century's most iconic Gothic tales. James Norbury moves to London to become a poet, and after he goes missing, his sister, Charlotte, scours the city for him. She finds herself inhabiting a world of the unnatural and the undead, one she fears will keep her from ever feeling warm again. This book will give you chills even on a hot day.
10 at a glance
"Suspicion" by Joseph Finder. (Dutton, 400 pages, $27.95.)
A struggling single dad discovers too late that his good intentions have put him on a road to hell paved with drug cartels and the DEA in this ingenious thriller, all to keep his only daughter in an elite private school.
"The Sea Grape Tree" by Gillian Royes. (Atria, 355 pages, $16.)
Shad Myers is Largo Bay's soulful bartender and unofficial sheriff in this vivid mystery set in the Caribbean. Shad's almost better equipped to handle the racial obstacles inherent in his culture than a love triangle that turns sour.
"The Good Suicides" by Antonio Hill. (Crown, 352 pages, $26, June 17.)
Plagued by his brooding existentialism and his wife's disappearance, Barcelona's brilliant Inspector Héctor Salgado faces a nightmare case involving executives at a cosmetics firm and a beauty secret that's killing them.
"Identity," by Ingrid Thoft. (Putnam, 464 pages, $26.95, June 26.)
Fina Ludlow is a literary sister to Lisa Lutz's Izzy Spellman, and she's my new favorite snarky feminist. Fina is an investigator for her family's blue-blood Boston law firm. Reluctantly, she agrees to find the identity of a sperm donor for a pro bono client, an investigation that leads to the donor's death.
"Herbie's Game," by Timothy Hallinan. (Soho, 400 pages, $26.95, July 15.)
In this smart, cynical comic mystery, Junior Bender, the best burglar in Los Angeles, is dragged into a conspiracy of crooks — all of whom have a connection to Junior's murdered mentor, Herbie.
"The Late Scholar," by Jill Paton Walsh. (Minotaur, 352 pages, $25.99, June 17.)
Harriet Vane and her aristocratic husband, Lord Peter Wimsey, return in this delightful reincarnation of Dorothy Sayers' beloved sleuths in a golden-age mystery set at Oxford University involving a rare manuscript and murder.
"City of Devils," by Diana Bretherick. (Pegasus, 464 pages, $25.95, July 15.)
A young Scotsman (I imagined Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert Louis Stevenson) travels to Italy at the cusp of the 20th century to study under a master criminologist whose controversial theories are under attack, including from a serial killer who may be taunting the teacher in this fascinating historical thriller.
"Ice Shear," by M.P. Cooley. (Morrow, 320 pages, $25.99, July 22.)
Ex-FBI agent June Lyons has relocated to Hopewell Falls, a small town in upstate New York, to recover from her husband's death. The discovery of a body impaled on an ice shear pushes June to the forefront of an investigation in this splendid debut that readers of Mary Higgins Clark will appreciate.
"Summer of the Dead," by Julia Keller. (Minotaur, 400 pages, $25.99, Aug. 26.)
County prosecutor Bell Elkins investigates the connection between "a publicity-shy New York City lawyer and a body on the floor of Tommy's Bar" in this evocative mystery set in West Virginia. I swear I could hear Patsy Cline on the jukebox and taste the "Mountain Dew and Pabst."
"The Ways of the Dead," by Neely Tucker. (Viking, 288 pages, $27.95, June 19.)
Readers of George Pelecanos will recognize the Washington, D.C., where investigative journalist Sully Carter unearths corruption behind a racially charged assault and murder in Tucker's stellar debut.
Carole E. Barrowman is a writer, book critic and professor in Milwaukee.