Monday, 25 March 2024

The Truth About the Devlins by Lisa ScottolineThe Truth About the Devlins
by Lisa Scottoline
G.P. Putnam's Sons, March 2024, $29.95

In her latest novel The Truth About the Devlins, Lisa Scottoline introduces a dysfunctional family that really puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional.” Yeah, that sounds pretty cliché, but it fits. Oh, does it fit! This family is really something else and Scottoline explores those deliciously screwed-up family dynamics with gusto.

The Devlins are a prominent family of attorneys in Philadelphia. There’s Paul, the no-nonsense patriarch and head of the powerful law firm Devlin & Devlin, who’s a respected man in the community; there’s Marie, his wife, also an attorney, and peacemaker; there’s John, the eldest son and golden boy who’s very driven and wants to take over the firm once Paul retires; there’s Gabby, a crusading attorney who takes on pro bono cases and is a staunch champion of the downtrodden.

Finally, there’s the black sheep of the family: TJ, the youngest child. TJ is on parole and a recovering alcoholic who can’t get a job anywhere else but at his family’s law firm, where he’s an investigator. Really, a sinecure. Paul makes it clear that he’s ashamed of TJ. John is not shy about lording his success over him, either.

The book begins with John turning to TJ—now two years sober—for help. John confides to TJ that he accidentally killed an accountant named Neil Lemaire, one of Devlin & Devlin’s clients, in self-defense after confronting Neil with proof of embezzlement. The brothers race to the scene of the crime, only to find Neil’s body is gone. It’s discovered later and his death is ruled a suicide.

John wants to let it go and move on like nothing happened. TJ won’t let it go, however. As a result, John throws TJ under the bus, telling the family he’s relapsed and undermining what little credibility TJ has with Paul and the rest of his family. Then the police get involved. Knowing he’s on parole, TJ has no choice but to cooperate.

With his back against the wall, TJ still continues looking into the murder as a way to redeem himself in the eyes of his family, only to discover a hotbed of corruption, kickbacks, and corporate greed that may well spell the end of Devlin & Devlin—if he doesn’t get himself killed first.

Scottoline creates a flawed yet likable protagonist with TJ. He’s a man who knows he’s an alcoholic and and understands he deserved to go to prison, but feels he’s paid his debt to society. In short, he took full responsibility for himself and his actions. Now thrust into an untenable situation, he’s determined to prove himself to his family all the while fighting the urge to relapse.

Part family drama, part legal thriller, Scottoline proves once again why she’s a master of the genre. You’ll burn through this book in no time flat.

Review: "The Truth About the Devlins" by Lisa Scottoline
Kurt Anthony Krug
Sunday, 10 March 2024

I am sad to report that John Pugmire, Publisher of Locked Room International (LRI), passed away on March 7, 2024, in New York City.

Originally from the United Kingdom, John relocated to Manhattan in the 1980s after a successful executive career at IBM. His interest in locked-room and other impossible crimes was stimulated in 1991 when he learned about Paul Halter, a rising young French writer. Being bilingual in French and English, John read and enjoyed Halter's books so much that he tried to interest publishers in translated versions. Eventually Wildside Press agreed to publish Night of the Wolf (2006), a collection of Halter's short stories, translated into English by Pugmire and noted impossible crime expert Robert Adey.

In 2010, John founded Locked Room International, dedicated to publishing translations of mystery novels featuring impossibilities. At first LRI focused on French mysteries, especially those by Halter, and were all translated by John himself. Later, LRI expanded to publishing mysteries from other languages, including Japanese, Swedish, and Chinese. In addition, LRI published an omnibus edition of Derek Smith's English locked-room mysteries, an English language anthology of locked-room mysteries, The Realm of the Impossible, edited by Pugmire and myself, and a revised edition of Adey's seminal Locked Room Murders bibliography. John's online publication "A Locked Room Library" has been a valuable guide to new readers of impossible mystery fiction, and he was an early proponent of Shin Honkaku, a literary movement in Japan that focusing on the writing of new mystery novels in the classic or Golden Age style.

John was a generous soul, a fine drinking companion, and a good friend.

John Pugmire, Publisher, Translator
Brian Skupin
Friday, 08 March 2024

The New Couple in 5B
by Lisa Unger
Park Row, March 2024, $28.99

On the heels of her novella, Christmas Presents, Lisa Unger delivers another thriller to will keep you up past your bedtime with The New Couple in 5B—a novel that has earned the praise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself: Sarah Michelle Gellar!

The novel follows a struggling New York City couple Chad and Rosie Lowan, who inherit luxury apartment at the historic Windermere in Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood. As they get settled into their new digs, Chad and Rosie are welcomed with open arms by their neighbors. Yet they soon discover a dark underbelly to their new home—many brutal crimes have happened there, which piques crime writer Rosie’s curiosity. Then there’s the ghost of a boy Rosie encounters in the basement and a seemingly ubiquitous doorman who gives off a creepy vibe. Once fellow tenants end up dead, Rosie takes it upon herself to get to the truth.

Unger has a rich imagination and command of the written word; she is able to describe every minute detail in a scene, as well as what is going on inside a character’s head, yet still keep the story moving forward. She also knows how to inject just the right amount of angst into her novels—one of her trademarks. On top of that, she knows New York City quite well and it shows.

A heady cocktail of Rosemary’s Baby, 666 Park Avenue, Only Murders in the Building (sans the comedic aspects), and Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door, Unger demonstrates what a master of suspense she is by subverting many tropes and keeping readers guessing. The twist she pulls at the end is worthy of Hitchcock himself. And then she pulls another one while you’re still processing the first! She brings it all to a satisfying conclusion that remains long after you finish.

"The New Couple in 5B" by Lisa Unger
Kurt Anthony Krug