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Originally published Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 5:12 AM

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Crime fiction: Lupton's 'Afterwards' and Bazell's 'Wild Thing'

New crime fiction for April includes a thrilling new mystery by Rosamund Lupton, Josh Bazell's "Wild Thing," Chris Pavone's tale of expats in Luxembourg, and new books by Seattle authors Gary Alexander and Kevin O'Brien.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Crime fiction |

April showers are in the cards, but we can at least find plenty of good crime fiction to sustain us while indoors.

"Afterwards" (Crown, 383 pp., $25), by Briton Rosamund Lupton, is a bold, impossible-to-categorize, and riveting blend of psychological suspense, literary thriller and the paranormal.

Grace and her daughter Jenny have been caught in an arson fire at Jenny's school. They're both in hospital, unconscious and gravely injured, but their spirits are somehow able to move, trailing family members and physicians around the hospital's halls.

(How Lupton pulls this off, making it believable even to this skeptical reviewer, is a wonder.)

Like the author's remarkable debut, "Sister," a major subtext here is the all-powerful tug of family bonds. Grace is desperate to uncover the story behind the arson and absolve her son when he becomes a suspect — and her grieving husband is equally desperate to see his wife and daughter healed.

"Afterwards" proves that Lupton isn't just good — she's wickedly good.

Josh Bazell showed he could write madly entertaining fiction with his cheeky debut, "Beat the Reaper." "Wild Thing" (Little, Brown, 388 pp., $25.99) is equally audacious and unpredictable.

Pietro Brnwa, mob assassin turned physician, ditches a soul-draining gig as a medico aboard a cruise ship to accept the offer of a reclusive billionaire (known throughout as Rec Bill). Rec Bill teams Brnwa with a sexy and smart paleontologist to find a legendary monster said to be deep in the Minnesota woods.

Buy that premise, and you're in for one scurrilously funny and seriously odd trip.

As with his previous book, Bazell makes liberal use of brainy (if snarky) footnotes stuffed with bizarre medical facts. Bazell's an M.D., so he comes by this stuff honestly. His website (joshbazell.com) has even more crazy medical stuff — look under the heading "Sorry You Asked." Trust me, you will be.

In Chris Pavone's sure-footed debut, "The Expats" (Crown, 326 pp., $26), Kate Moore's husband has a new job with a bank in Luxembourg. Kate has become just another expat mom searching for ways to keep herself from being bored to tears in what is, according to Pavone, a tidy but rather dull country.

But Kate's life isn't completely monotonous. She has a secret, kept even from her husband: She's a retired CIA agent. And then there's the husband, who is awfully evasive about just what his job entails. Then factor in the American couple who seem awfully eager to make friends.

Anticipating the book's plot twists is a little easy, but Pavone has a nicely uncluttered style and a keen eye for the pleasures and frustrations of the expat life.

On the local scene: Gary Alexander's "Interlock" (Five Star, 255 pp., $25.95) extends his always zany series about Buster Hightower, a so-so stand-up comic but a genius at getting in hot water.

Buster's brother Butch needs help: He tried to counter terrible gambling luck by helping steal a zillion-dollar painting, then pulled a double-cross and kept it. Angry Russian gangsters, a determined insurance company and a very strange hit man are all after poor Buster, thus ensuring plenty of high jinks.

Gary Alexander will sign "Interlock" at noon May 5 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St. (206-587-5737 or www.seattlemystery.com).

Another local writer, Kevin O'Brien, has created a genuine page-turner in "Terrified" (Pinnacle, 550 pp., $9.99 paperback). A woman who faked her death and framed her abusive husband for it now lives under a new identity in Seattle. Just as her husband's about to get out of jail, creepy messages start appearing — someone knows who she is and what she did.

Adam Woog's column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.

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