By Jeffery Deaver. (Grand Central, 464 pages, $28.)

Jeffery Deaver is a mainstay on New York Times bestseller lists, so it's no surprise that with "Solitude Creek" he delivers another meaty and complicated thriller. But this book comes with an unusual twist: a killer who doesn't dispatch people with knives or bullets, but by turning people's fears against themselves, inducing deadly panic and deaths with only sound effects, phone calls and gossip that spreads like wildfire.

In fact, it takes a keen investigator, Kathryn Dance, to even discover the first stampede at a local roadhouse isn't an accident but was manufactured by Antioch March. The cat-and-mouse game that results provides a driving force in this page-turner — but the book also has several interesting subplots, including Dance's investigation of a drug cartel, and trouble on the homefront with two teens who suddenly seem to have secrets of their own.


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By Stephen Kurkjian. (Public Affairs, 272 pages $25.99.)

Whodunits are irresistible, partly because readers can't wait to find out whether the theories they develop along the way jibe with the ultimate conclusion. Through that lens, "Master Thieves" doesn't deliver; the "who" remains tantalizingly unclear. But that's OK, and even heightens the sense of criminal mastery.

Kurkjian, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, has a clear suspect, yet the paintings stolen from a Boston museum in 1981, valued at $500 million, never have surfaced. What's most revelatory is that stolen paintings rarely are sold on underground markets or enjoyed as private illicit possessions, as many presume.

Instead, they're often used as bargaining chips by gangs (read: Mafia) to gain early releases or lower sentences for their arrested or imprisoned buddies. Who knew? Such insights into criminal motivations drive this book.


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