Murder Book
By Frank F. Weber. (North Star Press, 265 pages, $15.)

It’s always refreshing to find an author who knows his material. Minnesota writer Frank Weber has stayed close to home with his crime thriller about a freshman investigator with the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The BCA agent, Jon Frederick, grew up in Pierz, Minn. (as did the author), a small community of farmers, big Catholic families and, evidently, all of the pent-up suspicions and baggage a small town can offer.

Weber is a forensic psychologist who studies homicidal suspects and sexual predators and pieces together information to help with cases. The lead character, as a BCA investigator, does the same.

The tale threads together a 10-year-old unsolved murder — for which Jon was wrongly accused — with the case he’s now investigating: dozens of dead women who have been unceremoniously dumped into a cistern on an abandoned property in southern Minnesota. The investigation escalates with the number of bodies, and it brings Jon back into contact with his childhood love, Serena Bell.

The story is filled with references to Minnesota that readers of John Sandford and other local authors will devour — almost street-by-street descriptions and intimate details of communities.

And, of course, there is a monstrous killer on the loose.

It’s a suspenseful read that picks up substantially in the final chapters.


 Do Not Become Alarmed
By Maile Meloy. (Riverhead, 342 pages, $27.)

The premise at the heart of Maile Meloy’s “Do Not Become Alarmed” seems a stretch at first: Two families go on a cruise together, and somehow the children end up missing. But the story unfolds skillfully, building one circumstance upon another — a minor car crash during a day trip, a flirtation, a nap — until the parents are left with the unimaginable: Their children are gone.

The search for the missing children becomes more than that, straining long-standing friendships, and marriages, to nearly the breaking point. Although the tone at the start seems to foretell a light escapade, the harrowing circumstances of the children’s time away and Meloy’s unflinching look at family dynamics deliver a dark and absorbing tale — one that will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished the last page.