The Last Good Guy By T. Jefferson Parker. (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 352 pages, $27.)
White supremacists seem destined to be the new ISIS in thrillers — i.e., widely despised villains — and they make a good case in this third novel about private investigator Roland Ford. T. Jefferson Parker's dozens of L.A.-set crime novels exist in the shadow of Michael Connelly's better-known books, but the Ford series achieves separation because, unlike Connelly's work, the police are barely involved.
Ford's latest case starts with a mystery woman who asks him to find her runaway daughter. The tough guy suspects the woman is lying about most of the details of her story, which turns out to be true, and Parker unravels the lies at a briskly entertaining pace. It's too bad an editor didn't steer Ford away from a few weird generalizations ("He had the Hispanic flair for understatement," Ford says of a colleague. Huh?) but when the plot kicks in, involving a cult, a kidnapping and those white supremacists, Parker doesn't waste a single word.
The Girl From Berlin By Ronald H. Balson. (St. Martin's Press, 384 pages, $27.99.)
At the heart of "The Girl From Berlin" sits a simmering property dispute involving an idyllic home in Tuscany where Gabriella Vincenzo sometimes plays a violin in the early morning as the sun rises over a small vineyard.
But the disagreement over who owns the farm spans generations and countries and touches on some of the most significant horrors of the 20th century — Jewish life in Nazi Germany, wartime atrocities, refugees. It touches on the very nature of family. And it turns out that being able to prove your right to the land where you found peace is complicated indeed.
When Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart decide to take the case at the behest of an old friend in Chicago, they are forced to transplant themselves to Tuscany in an attempt to untangle the threads of the case. In "The Girl From Berlin," bestselling author Ronald H. Balson creates a fascinating mystery that will stick with readers for weeks. His characters are empathetic and interesting, and the unwinding of the tale strikes just the right balance between page-turner and historical fiction.