CITIZEN VINCE JESS WALTER
Vince Camden is 36, single, broad shouldered and thin, like a martini glass. He has made a new life for himself in Spokane, Wash.--where he has been stashed by the FBI's witness-protection program--running a doughnut shop and selling weed and credit-card numbers on the side. His contact in the Spokane Police Department assures him that the mobsters he ratted out back East are all dead or dying and don't care about him anymore. So why is there a contract killer in town looking to put a bullet through his eye? Camden will eventually get to the bottom of it, but not before he figures out who deserves his newly recovered vote in the Reagan-Carter election, which is just around the corner. In his third novel, which won this year's Edgar Allan Poe prize for Best Mystery, Walter has created what may be the most charming small-time hood since Elmore Leonard's Stick.
SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS PETER BLAUNER
A tough New York City cop, Francis X. Loughlin has a knack for getting bad guys to give it up in front of the one-way mirror. Julian Vega was 17 and "as fragile as an egg in a carton" when Loughlin nailed him for the claw-hammer murder of a young doctor. Twenty years later, Julian, now prison hardened, has been freed on a technicality and is bent on proving he didn't do it. Loughlin is equally convinced he got the right guy, but his eyesight is failing from degenerative tunnel vision, and the case has taken a bizarre twist: fresh traces of the dead woman's blood have turned up under a new victim's nails. Blauner, winner of the 1992 Edgar for Best First Novel, has written a taut psychological thriller with a pair of conflicted but compelling antagonists and a surprise ending you'll never see coming.
DEATH'S LITTLE HELPERS PETER SPIEGELMAN
"As a husband, he was a lying, selfish prick," says John March's latest client about the celebrity Wall Street analyst she wants him to track down--not because she misses the creep but because she and her lesbian lover need his child-support checks. The case leads March, a former sheriff's investigator with a dead wife and a shadowy past, into a snake pit of betrayal and double dealing--the paranoid underside of the dotcom boom. Spiegelman worked in financial services and software for more than 20 years before taking up fiction. He knows how thin the air is in New York City's office towers and what breathing too much of it does to your soul.
THE GIRL IN THE GLASS JEFFREY FORD
The Year is 1932, and Diego, 17, a Mexican orphan, has been adopted by a gang of Coney Island, N.Y., con artists. He has been rechristened Ondoo by his mentors and trained to incant Hindu mumbo jumbo during the séances they stage to bilk millionaires on Long Island's Gold Coast. But their scams turn sour when a young girl goes missing, leaving a trail that leads to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the dark chapter of its history that today's gene scientists don't like to talk about. Ford, who teaches literature at a New Jersey community college, studied Mexican repatriation and the eugenics movement to research this Depression-era period piece.
HIGHWAY 61 RESURFACED BILL FITZHUGH