"The Lady Upstairs," by Halley Sutton
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.”
"The Law of Innocence," by Michael Connelly
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.
"A Spy in the Struggle," by Aya de Leon
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.
Richard Lipez writes the Don Strachey PI novels under the name Richard Stevenson.