By Mitchell Zuckoff. (Twelve, 328 pages, $28)

Want an insiders' view of a controversial overseas tragedy? Mitchell Zuckoff's "13 Hours" delivers.

It's the story of what happened on Sept. 11 and 12, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, when John Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to that African country, and three others were killed. The deaths came during attacks by unknown militants on the Special Mission Compound where Stevens was staying, and later on a nearby CIA station called the Annex.

Providing details for the book are five of the six security force contractors — one was killed — based at the Annex. All six, known as operators, were Americans with military backgrounds, working in a difficult situation, where telling friend from foe alone was a challenge.

Stevens died in a burning building after the security operators at the Annex were delayed from trying to rescue him for more than 20 minutes by their supervisors, who said the local militia could handle the intruders.

Finally, after a radio plea for help — "We're going to die" — the security operators left for the nearby compound without orders.

"13 Hours" is a jarring narrative at times, but well-flowing. It dwells mostly on the six security operators, who they were, how they prepared for their jobs and how they reacted in a crisis and depended on one another.

Three of them allowed Zuckoff to use their real names in the book, which they all wanted written to record for history, as accurately as possible, what happened.


Sports copy editor


By A.J. Rich (Scribner, 273 pages, $26)

This twisty crime thriller by Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment, writing as A.J. Rich, opens with a bang, or maybe a fang, as young Morgan Prager discovers a nasty, brutish crime scene in her Brooklyn apartment. The prime suspects in the killing of Bennett, a man she had been dating, are her three dogs, two pit bulls and a Great Pyrenees. They are thrown into doggy jail, and Morgan, a student of criminal pathology, sets out to vindicate them and discover what really happened.

Things move swiftly. The deceased's deceits pile up like cars on an icy freeway. Did Bennett fake his own death? And what about those other women in his past who keep popping up, alive and dead? As characters emerge and clues unfold, Morgan becomes an admirable, if not entirely likable, protagonist.

She is procrastinating on her thesis about criminal predators and the psychological profiles of the types upon whom they prey. Her research, blending with her own experience, leads her to wonder about herself. She is not above going on a bender or seeking random hookups as she pursues the painful truth about her ex and her own past.

The well-paced, suspenseful story never pauses overlong. Morgan travels to Boston, Connecticut and elsewhere to track down key players. She hires a freelance hacker to uncover e-mails between Bennett and a mysterious bossy person known as Libertine. Dog love and animal welfare are recurring side themes that threaten to sidetrack the action at times, but they are key to the plot at beginning and cinematic end.


Senior metro editor, nights