Nadelson's successful debut mixes police procedural with political intrigue. When an unknown assailant murders a KGB general-turned-author on a TV talk show, one of the first to investigate is family friend Artie Cohen, a New York cop who grew up in Moscow. Although on leave, Artie competes with federal agents and others as he scours Brighton Beach's Russian migr community for clues. Attacks and warnings serve only to strengthen his resolve, which finally takes him back to Moscow in pursuit of "atomic gangsters." Fast-moving action, a scary scenario, and hidden backgrounds make this a good choice for most collections.
Once again, Wickham (A Desirable Residence, 1997, etc.) uses a favorite, and sometimes effective, formula: throw a large group of people together and see what mischief comes. In this case, the mischief turns tragic: At the annual charity swim at the Delanys' English manor house, little Katie hits her head on the diving board, putting her in a coma with probable brain damage and putting the villagers at odds with each other when Katie's family decides to sue for negligence. But it's not Louise and Barnaby (Katie's separated parents) who first propose suing their old friends, it's the duplicitous Cassian Brown, a social-climbing lawyer besotted with Louise's political pedigree (daughter of MP Lord Page). Cassian convinces Louise that suing is imperative to Katie's future, and, anyway, the insurance will pay. But when they find that venerable old Hugh and his dotty but well-meaning wife Ursula aren't properly covered, the novel's moral dilemma develops: Is Katie's comfort worth the ruin of Hugh and Ursula, especially since they weren't at fault? The community divides, and the town busybodies fan the fire, but for Louise and Barnaby, all that matters are Katie's slow recoveryþand the court case. Meanwhile, Wickham trots out a series of secondary concerns: a romance between young Daisy, new to the village, and the much older Alexis, counsel for the defense, who recently snubbed Meredith, surrogate daughter to Hugh and Ursula. It's all a bit soapy, but Wickham salvages (just) her weakness for melodrama with page-turning pacing that quickly brings the reader to a satisfying, albeit predictable, end. Just as Katie miraculously recovers, Hugh suffers a heart attack,bringing into question not only the integrity of the court case but the possibility of a reconciliation between Louise and Barnaby. As before, Wickham is adept at creating a random mix of likable people, but the lack of substance and depth here makes it more guilty pleasure than literary treasure.