Leave it to Thomas Pynchon to capture what is exhilarating as well as truly frightening about the Internet. His Bleeding Edge (Penguin Press, $28.95) is set in New York City in 2001, where Maxine Tarnow is a gun-toting fraud-investigator and the mother of two young boys. She’s not sure of the status of her relationship with her ex-husband, Horst (Facebook has yet to define it for her), but her world begins to unravel when she investigates a suspicious computer-security firm and its brilliant but troubling CEO. Guided by her own code and a lot of quick thinking, Maxine makes her way through one of the most entertaining portraits of Gotham to hit a novel in decades. With Bleeding Edge, Pynchon makes a welcome return to the realm of mystery and the ridiculous, delving into the far reaches of the Web and the subway system with equal abandon.
Dropping the legend that is 007 into post-colonial Africa, William Boyd delivers a story as intoxicating as a Vespar martini. Solo (HarperCollins, $26.99) carries on the Ian Fleming legacy, but the Bond found in this novel is a more mature version of Fleming’s—he’s a man beginning to cross the line into middle age and watching his demons catch up to him. But he’s got plenty of the young, dynamic Bond in him—continuing his usual adventures into dark, romantic, and tragic lands as the beautiful girl falls for him while bombs detonate around him. Our hero here is still Bond, James Bond—as he always will be.
Combining sharp social critique with a classic whodunit plot and the dark whimsy that made Harry Potter so irresistible, Robert Galbraith (known to friends, and now to everyone else, as J.K. Rowling), has created a wonderfully flawed, bright, and hardworking detective in Cormoran Strike. Having survived a stint in Afghanistan, Strike is about to lose all he cares about when the distraught brother of a late supermodel and tabloid star walks into his floundering agency. Strike and his new, skeptical assistant, Robin, venture into London’s dark underbelly, investigating a murder no one wants to admit actually happened. The Cuckoo’s Calling (Mulholland, $26) will take its place among Britain’s classic detective stories, while Strike sidles up to a bar and shares a drink with Philip Marlowe—and you get to enjoy every minute of it.