(Julia Rothman/for The Washington Post)

A BANQUET OF CONSEQUENCES

By Elizabeth George (Viking)

In her latest Inspector Lynley book, Elizabeth George presents a wildly dysfunctional family. At its center is the mother from hell, Caroline Goldacre, a pathological liar who has damaged both her sons, driven one husband away and made the incumbent miserable. Set in London and two English villages, the story begins as Caroline’s troubled son Will kills himself; his girlfriend blames his domineering mother, who in turn blames the girlfriend. When someone is poisoned, the question is whether Caroline, who is clearly a monster, is also a murderer. Or, as she insists, was she the intended victim? George’s mystery shines with great psychological depth, finely drawn characters and gorgeous portraits of the English countryside. — Patrick Anderson

BRUSH BACK

By Sara Paretsky (Putnam)

V.I. Warshawski — the gritty P.I. who predates Lisbeth Salander and Stephanie Plum — returns in Sara Paretsky’s superb new novel. This time, the weathered investigator gets pulled into a case involving a former boyfriend’s mother who was convicted of beating his sister to death. As the plot — about crooked politicians and construction contracts — unfolds, V.I. finds herself nearly drowning in memories of her old Chicago neighborhood and missing the friends who didn’t make it out. Over the series, V.I. has been growing progressively darker in mood, but throughout her bleakest times, work has always been her salvation. This new novel’s uncompromising feminist message about aging for women is to ignore the pain and hang on to what gives you purpose and identity. — Maureen Corrigan


"A Banquet of Consequences" by Elizabeth George (Viking)

"Dark Corners" by Ruth Rendell (Scribner)

DARK CORNERS

By Ruth Rendell (Scribner)

In Ruth Rendell’s final novel, all is placid for 23-year-old antihero Carl Martin — until he makes a mistake. His late father took a great many alternative medicines, among them diet pills that Carl, always looking for ways to make money, sells to a female friend. She takes some of the pills and dies. Though ruled accidental, her death makes the papers. Afterward, Carl is tormented by his snooping, hostile tenant, Dermot. The wear and tear on Carl’s nerves is heavy. “This torment will go on for ever, for the rest of my life,” he complains. How Carl copes with that torment is the central question of “Dark Corners,” which Rendell, who died in May, narrates with seasoned expertise. — Dennis Drabelle

ROGUE LAWYER

By John Grisham (Doubleday)

Thirty novels into his nearly three-decade career, John Grisham still makes it look easy. In “Rogue Lawyer,” he introduces a new character, a so-called street lawyer named Sebastian Rudd. Rudd has rubbed so many different people the wrong way — gang members, the police, other lawyers, his ex-wife — that he works out of a bulletproof van, packs a pistol and changes motel rooms every few nights when he is arguing his (always controversial) cases. His clients are those no one else wants: a teenager accused of double murder, a crime lord on death row. The cases are riveting, yet the biggest mystery of “Rogue Lawyer” is how Grisham can still devise all these distinctive characters, tricky legal predicaments and roguishly cheating ways to worm out of them.— Maureen Corrigan

THE WHITES

By Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt (Henry Holt)

“The Whites” is a masterpiece, to stand with such earlier Price classics as “Clockers” and “Lush Life.” Its initial focus is veteran New York Police Department detective Billy Graves, who confronts two life-defining challenges, but “The Whites” is also about his wife, father and children, and the four cops who are his closest friends. The story expands to include the criminals they confront, the mean streets they patrol and the realities of America in the 21st century. That’s the vast landscape that Price takes us through with stylistic grace and pitiless honesty. — Patrick Anderson

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