"Buried Prey" by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $27.95) When Lucas Davenport takes an interest in a case, it's "like Sherman's March on Atlanta," a charge so intense it lays waste to anything in its path. In "Buried Prey," the plot marches across the decades from Davenport's "first case in plain clothes" -- the abduction of two missing girls -- through the beginnings of his partnership with Del and his shifting relationship with Marcy, to the present day when the bodies of the girls are discovered. This is Sandford's 21st Prey novel. It's one of the best, galloping to a gobsmacking ending.
"Started Early, Took My Dog" by Kate Atkinson (Reagan Arthur, $24.99) The novel's title may be from Emily Dickinson, but the clever plotting, the cast of distinctive characters and the dark humor are all pure Atkinson. The kaleidoscopic action bursts outward from a singular moment in a Yorkshire shopping mall when a junkie manhandles her daughter. A retired police officer buys the child from her abusive mother. Meanwhile, Jackson Brodie, Atkinson's literate and unassuming detective, rescues a stray dog while on a quest to discover his past and finds that in love and death we're all connected -- all things to which the Dickinson poem alludes.
"Bent Road" by Lori Roy (Dutton, $25.95) In this stunning debut, the 1967 riots in Detroit drive Arthur Scott and his family back to his childhood home in Kansas, a place of bristling tumbleweeds and festering secrets. A young girl is missing, and Ruth, Arthur's surviving sister (another sister died mysteriously years earlier), believes her husband, Ray, is involved. The truth about the family's past is revealed in simmering details and pointed barbs that build suspense like snow piling up on the Scotts' porch roof, until the present can't take the weight of it anymore.
"Missing Persons" by Clare O'Donohue (Plume, $15) The novel's heroine, Kate Conway, is a freelance television producer for a true-crime show. Kate is not quite hard-boiled, but she's no softie, either. Unapologetic about what she does for a living -- seeking out "pain and vulnerability" and getting it on camera -- Kate's ironic sensibility and pragmatic point of view drive this brisk, engaging mystery. With Chicago as her backdrop, Kate profiles a missing-persons case for a new reality show in an attempt to distract her from the sudden death of her ex-husband. When Kate discovers he was murdered, she realizes meeting this deadline may be her last.
"The Ranger" by Ace Atkins (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $25.95, June 9) Johnny Stagg comes from "moonshiners and dirt farmers who were unfit for society," yet he's controlling things in Quinn Colson's hometown of Jericho, Miss. With Johnny Cash playing on his pickup's radio, Colson, an Army Ranger on leave, follows a "steady ribbon of blacktop" deep into the hills of Mississippi, where he runs into crooked lawyers, strung-out preachers, meth dealers and Stagg, who wants Colson's land. Fans of "Justified's" Raylan Givens will find Colson a similar cool cowboy and "The Ranger" a killer read.
"Among the Missing" by Morag Joss (Delacorte Press, $25, June 21) The crime at the heart of this eloquent and moving novel set in Scotland has to do with creating a second chance and the consequences of taking it. The novel shifts between the points of view of two trapped women, one trying to "overlook the disenchantment of a late and incongruous marriage," the other an illegal worker, and a man, ostracized because of a crime in his past. A terrible accident -- a bridge collapse eerily similar to the I-35 tragedy in Minneapolis -- sets the lives of these three people on a tragic trajectory. "Events," notes one of the women, "must reach forward to meet their consequences, consequences must throw backward in time," like bridges linking them.
"Fallen" by Karin Slaughter (Delacorte, $26, June 21) A Code 30 call (officer needs assistance) begins this gripping thriller when Special Agent Faith Mitchell charges into a hostage situation in her mother's bedroom. But her mother, "a 63-year-old retired cop with her share of secrets," isn't the hostage. In fact, her mother has disappeared. Faith's assistance comes from Dr. Sara Linton and Will Trenton, a Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Slaughter's thrillers are always exciting, but it's her compelling characters that really make them page-turners.
- Carole E. Barrowman teaches Engish at Alverno College in Milwaukee and blogs at www.carolebarrowman.com.