In Alex Finlay’s high-energy EVERY LAST FEAR (Minotaur, 362 pp., $26.99), Matt Pine, a student at N.Y.U., wakes up one morning to some awful news: His parents and two younger siblings have all died while on vacation in Tulum, Mexico. It looks as if they were the victims of a gas leak. Actually, the F.B.I. informs Matt, it looks as if they were the victims of a deliberate gas leak. Perhaps they were murdered.
The family has not been without its troubles. Matt’s beloved older brother, Danny, is languishing in prison, having been convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend in a drunken haze while still in high school. He has always denied it, and a TV documentary has turned his case into a cause célèbre. In a scenario that seems plucked straight from the news, his father and sister have devoted themselves, somewhat obsessively and quixotically, to collecting obscure scraps of evidence in hopes of proving Danny’s innocence.
It’s a lot to take in, told at a quick pace that never lags, and none of it is straightforward. Finlay expands the puzzle and ratchets up the action by interspersing the present-day narrative with scenes flashing back and forth in time, following the Pine family’s sometimes unexpected activities.
Is the family’s demise connected to Danny’s case and possibly to the past romantic history of Matt’s mother? Can the F.B.I. agent assigned to the case, Sarah Keller, figure this one out? Who are the shadowy figures that keep turning up and adding menace to Matt’s life? And can he keep it together long enough to avoid getting killed?
Femi Kayode, the author of LIGHTSEEKERS (Raven Books, 415 pp., $28), trained as a clinical psychologist in his native Nigeria before turning to writing. This is his first novel, and a delight it is. It introduces us to Dr. Philip Taiwo, an “investigative psychologist” whose specialty is delving into criminal motivations. He looks for the “why” rather than the “who.”