Best new thriller books this month

Los Angeles has never been more unalluring than in this bleak, racy and hard-to-put-down piece of neo-noir by first-time novelist Halley Sutton, who’s a kind of #MeToo Jim Thompson. Antiheroine Jo works for a “staffing agency” that’s actually a “honeypot brothel” specializing in extorting large sums from its clients, “Hollywood’s richest scumbags.” When a sting goes all wrong and corpses pile up, Jo, already in debt to the shadowy “lady upstairs” who’s her boss, aims for a big final payoff involving dirty cops and a slithery mayoral candidate. She even allows herself a modicum of “hope. That thing for suckers.”

In the sixth Mickey Haller Lincoln Lawyer courtroom thriller, the Los Angeles defense attorney who operates out of a Lincoln Town Car (his business cards once read “Reasonable Doubt for a Reasonable Fee”) is himself charged with the murder of a onetime client, a sociopathic con man known as “The Most Hated Man in America.” Haller’s pretrial time in the lockup is a horror: a merciless beating, endless bologna sandwiches, “prison rash,” Fox News on the TV. “Bleeding the beast,” a scam involving government biofuel subsidies, must be exposed to exonerate Haller, and he’s aided by first ex-wife Maggie “McFierce” McPherson and by half brother Harry Bosch, Connelly’s other mainstay in some of our era’s finest crime fiction.

The author of the four Justice Hustlers novels — mysteries with a heightened leftist social awareness — has produced a passionately felt stand-alone with an affecting personal story at its center. Yolanda Vance was the token Black person at her all-girl prep school and had always felt she was “from everywhere and nowhere.” As a young lawyer working undercover for the FBI in a San Francisco Bay area “extremist” group that’s fighting a ruthless corporate spreader of toxins, Vance finds a satisfying connection to some gutsy neighborhood kids and in an affair with a good man who also happens to be — it’s a problem — an FBI “subject.” (Available Dec. 29)

“V2,” by Robert Harris

British ex-journalist Robert Harris’s fluent and deeply researched historical novels have taken readers from ancient Rome to the mid-20th century. “V2,” set during five tense days in November 1944, and then at war’s end, isn’t just a knockout thriller; it’s a primer on the history of modern rocketry. Kay Caton-Walsh is part of a team of slide-rule-equipped Women’s Auxiliary Air Force officers dispatched to Belgium to track deadly German V2 rockets so that RAF Spitfires can attack the launch sites. Rudi Graf is a German engineer slowly growing a conscience. The real Werner von Braun shows up, too, playing Nazi generals “as skillfully as he played his cello,” a knack the rocketry pioneer nimbly redeploys at the end of the novel.

Best thriller and mystery novels

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