Nothing in Knopf’s reflective, quietly loopy Hamptons mysteries starring Sam Acquillo and Jackie Swaitkowski (Ice Cap, 2012, etc.) will have prepared his fans for this taut, streamlined tale of a man investigating his own murder.
The hit man who invades the Cathcarts’ upscale home in Stamford, Conn., tells Florencia Cathcart that if she doesn’t write down the answers to five questions, he’ll kill her husband. When she complies, he shoots them both anyway. Florencia dies, but Arthur merely hovers in a coma for months. Convinced upon his return to life that his killer’s been monitoring his progress with a view to finishing him off, he persuades his neurologist sister, Evelyn, to have him declared dead. She agrees, although she’s signing on to a long list of potential charges for conspiracy and insurance fraud, and Arthur, once he’s erased from the grid, is free to assume the identity of one Alex Rimes and go after the hit man and his employer. He tires easily, he limps badly, and his vision is poor, but his skills as a freelance researcher turn out to be surprisingly useful, though he can’t imagine why anyone would order the execution of either himself or Florencia, who owned a successful insurance agency. The trail to the killers leads through a wary arrangement with a retired FBI agent, an elaborate precious-metals scam and a society party to die for before Arthur finally confronts his quarry in a sequence that manages both to satisfy readers’ bloodlust and to point toward a sequel.
An absorbing update of the classic film, D.O.A., that finds its author so completely in the zone that not a word is wasted, and the story seems to unfold itself without human assistance.
If good fences made good neighbors, ad writer Jaine Austen (Pampered to Death, 2011, etc.) would need the Berlin Wall to cope with the nutty crew that surrounds her South Beverly Hills rental.
No, she doesn’t want to hand out campaign flyers for Lila Wood, running for town council on an anti-development platform. Nor does she want to referee the constant fights between Helen and Harold Hurlbutt across the street. Or look at pricey condos in realtors Matt and Kevin Moore’s his-and-hers BMWs. (Despite her manly name, Kevin’s a she.) So how does Jaine get roped into planting petunias for crabby old Eleanor Jenkins, whose 15 minutes of fame as Cryptessa Muldoon in the one-season series I Married a Zombie would be long gone if everyone didn’t keep calling her Cryptessa? Probably because a hungry look from Jaine’s cat, Prozac, sends the actress’ beloved parakeet, Van Helsing, to bird heaven, and Jaine’s a pushover for anything that punches her guilt button. She’s also a pushover for Snickers bars, cinnamon raisin bagels and the cleft on the chin of her newest neighbor, literary agent Peter Connor. Jaine’s bud Lance Venable’s gaydar tells him that Lance isn’t a gene-pool candidate, but Jaine thinks Peter may be close to hitting on her. So she rents a cute flapper outfit for Peter’s Halloween party, only to find that Lance has switched it out for an ape suit—the very same costume Emmeline Owens sees on whoever sticks a “No Trespassing” sign through Cryptessa’s tiny heart. Now Jaine has two puzzles to ponder: Is Peter available or isn’t he, and who’s trying to frame her for murder?
Levine’s latest finds her at her witty and wacky best.
A San Francisco attorney’s determination to take on unusual cases is driving her parents crazy.
In 1882, Oscar Wilde has come to town to read his poems and extol the benefits of the recently created aesthetic movement. After Sarah Woolson and her brother, Samuel, visit the Telegraph Hill home of newspaper publisher Mortimer Remy to hear and meet Wilde, Samuel is shot and badly wounded as they walk back down the Hill. Annoyed by the restrictions put upon women, Sarah resolves to investigate the shooting a lazy police officer writes off as an accident. Despite the protests of her parents and Robert Campbell, the attorney in love with her, Sarah returns to the Hill, which is home to a wide assortment of people, from wealthy Mrs. Montgomery to the poor and lazy writer whose wife just died in childbirth. While she’s nosing around, Sarah is shot at herself but luckily escapes with scratches. Meanwhile, she’s become involved in a case for the ASPCA, which is trying to prevent a wealthy Mexican from building a bullring in San Francisco. As both the pressure and the deaths mount, Sarah risks her life to find the answers.
Tallman continues to surround her plucky, intelligent heroine (Scandal on Rincon Hill, 2010, etc.) with historical tidbits and a strong mystery.
The Little Detective Agency can’t afford to turn down a case, because financial problems continue to dog them.
Bernie Little may be a clever detective, but he can’t handle money and has a bad habit of destroying Porsches. Chet, a canine school dropout, is a loyal partner who thinks Bernie is the greatest. Luckily, Bernie and Chet are just picking out their latest used Porsche when they’re offered a new job. The mayor’s office of their small California town hires the pair to keep watch over Thad Perry, the star of a locally made movie that the mayor hopes will turn the area into a little Hollywood. Thad has a wild-child reputation, a drug habit and a bodyguard who’s as loyal as Chet but a lot bigger. Before Bernie’s reporter girlfriend, Suzie, moves to Washington, D.C., for a new job, she passes on a rumor that Thad has a history in the area. When people start to die, Bernie starts digging into the past to determine whether Thad is involved in crimes past or present. Dealing with three murders, blackmail, drugs, crooked cops and the need to keep Thad showing up for work every day is more than enough work for the clever pair, but they must end the carnival of crime as well.
Chet, who continues as narrator in this exciting fifth installment of the series (The Dog Who Knew Too Much, 2011, etc.), often struggles to understand what the humans are up to but always gets it right in the end.
Ellie Quicke (Murder My Neighbor, 2011, etc.) takes a break from redecorating to help the family of her daughter’s fiance escape death.
Now that her husband Thomas’ family is due to arrive from Canada in a scant two weeks, Ellie dithers over how to house them in the rambling mansion she inherited from her Aunt Drusilla. But her musings over whether to mend or replace the dining room drapes are interrupted by her daughter Diana’s announcement that she’s pregnant with Evan Hooper’s child and plans to wed the real estate mogul as soon as he can shake loose of his third wife, 20-something underwear model Angelika. The divorce has been delayed by the deaths of Fiona, Evan’s daughter by his second wife, in a treadmill accident, and of Evan and Angelika’s toddler Abigail, who was stricken by anaphylaxis after gobbling down a peanut-laced treat. Ellie worries that the two are connected, but of course the police pooh-pooh her fears. Even when Evan’s second wife, Fern, dies of an insulin overdose, they insist all three deaths are accidents, leaving Ellie to take matters into her own hands. She swoops Angelika and Evan’s remaining daughter, Freya, into her protective custody and asks former housekeeper Vera to come on board, behavior-disordered son Mikey in tow, to ride herd on the grieving brood. And when the Hoopers’ house burns down, sending a concussed Evan to the hospital, Ellie feels time running out before a killer strikes again.
Ellie’s 12th is right on the money, with the heroine giving as good as she gets in her tangles with the boneheaded local constabulary.
Who could have killed the mercurial young man with no enemies...and no friends?
An anonymous young man dresses carefully, goes to a Reykjavík bar, and hits on a young woman wearing a "San Francisco" tshirt who vaguely remembers him. The next morning, a man is found dead in his home, throat slit and wearing a "San Francisco" T-shirt too small for him. With Inspector Erlendur on an unexpected leave of absence, the case falls to Detective Elínborg. The victim is Runólfur, young and single. Near the body is found a condom and, in his jacket pocket, several pills of the date-rape drug Rohypnol. Runólfur seems to know many people casually and no one well. Everyone Elínborg interviews is a possible, though unlikely, suspect. Runólfur's mother, Kristjana, who lives in a village far from the city, confirms her son's eagerness to escape the village and live in the city but offers little useful information. The evidence points to Runólfur as a possible serial rapist; the closest thing he has to a friend, the socially awkward young Edvard, may be his accomplice. The case takes a baffling new turn with the discovery that Runólfur himself had ingested a large quantity of Rohypnol shortly before his murder. In the midst of what's probably the most important case in her career, Elínborg struggles with the work-life balance and the increasing aloofness of her elder son Valthór, who's addicted to his computer. As if her stress level weren't high enough, she gets word that Erlendur seems to have vanished.
Another deftly modulated murder puzzle from Indridason (Hypothermia, 2010, etc.), with terrific character portraits, many twists and a satisfying "aha!" moment.
Autumn brings a major new headache for Jesse Stone, police chief of that summer hot spot, Paradise, Mass., along with two supporting headaches.
One of the cases seems so modest it’s hardly worth mentioning. Busybody spinster Belva Radford and nursery owner Renzo Lazzeri insist they’re being charged more money on their water bill even though their consumption hasn’t changed. But when Jesse mildly confronts meter reader Oscar LaBrea and his diminutive boss, William J. Goodwin, they shut up and lawyer up. The second case is annoying but routine. After spoiled debutante Courtney Cassidy’s texting causes a serious auto accident, Jesse keeps citing her for other phoning-while-driving violations, and her wealthy parents keep shielding her from their consequences—until a judge gives her six months’ community service at the police station. The meatiest case revolves around starlet Marisol Hinton, in town to shoot A Taste of Arsenic, who tells Jesse she’s scared of her drugged-up estranged husband, nothingburger actor Ryan Rooney. In between bedtime rounds with the film’s line producer, Frances Greenberg, Jesse persuades Frankie to hire his friend Wilson "Crow" Cromartie as Marisol’s bodyguard. When trouble predictably arrives, Crow plays a refreshingly unexpected role.
Though one of the three cases shows Jesse at his most annoyingly sensitive, the other two both reveal welcome and unexpected complications. Not bad for Brandman, who’s only on his second installment of the Paradise franchise (Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues, 2011).
Lippman (The Most Dangerous Thing, 2011, etc.), who specializes in tales of feckless parents and their luckless kids, puts a madam at the center of her latest dysfunctional family.
At first, nothing could be more conventional than the Lewis family saga. Helen’s father, already married with two children to his credit, knocks up her mother, Beth, a 19-year-old carhop. He moves in with Beth but hangs around his ex-wife Barbara enough to give Helen a half sister, Meghan, only six months younger. As Beth and Barbara tussle over worthless Hector, he focuses on tormenting Helen, telling her that she has “a nothing face,” breaking her record albums and forcing her to get a job that interferes with her schoolwork. It’s while waitressing at Il Cielo that she meets Billy, the owner’s stepson, who lures her to Baltimore with promises of marriage. Instead, he turns her out, making her earn money to feed his drug habit by doing lap dances at a local strip club. That’s where she meets Val Deluca, whose red hair matches his fiery temper. Val offers Helen a nice house and a better class of client, all for doing what she’s already doing. He also gives her the chance to be something she’d never dreamed of: a mother. That’s when Helen’s tale goes off the beaten path. Before he learns about Helen’s delicate condition, Val is jailed for murder, and Helen reinvents herself as Heloise Lewis, running the business at a level Val had never achieved. She recruits college girls with delicately worded ads for escorts and serves clients who include state legislators, all while presenting herself as a lobbyist for the Women’s Full Employment Network. But when another suburban madam turns up dead, Heloise realizes that the safe, comfortable life she’s crafted for herself and her beloved son, Scott, in affluent Turner’s Grove is at risk.
Like Mary Cassatt, Lippman studies families with a different eye than her male contemporaries, showing the heartbreaking complexity of life with those you love.
Does the dark past of three characters justify their present actions?
When Officer Brian Kirlane meets lost child Humaby—an unfortunate contraction of “hump baby” coined by her abductors—he’s immediately charmed by the fact that she’s worked to rescue a baby abducted by the same kidnappers. Crime photographer Connie Miller, brought in to record the evidence, feels the same way. So when Humaby’s parents can’t be located, both Brian and Connie put in with the Department of Children and Families as potential foster families. Unfortunately, the caseworker assigned to Humaby decides the best interests of the girl demand that she live with newly minted child psychiatrist Stefan Lazarus, who’s overwhelmed by his own experience. Years later, Humaby has become Faith, searching for the baby she helped rescue when she was a child, her own place in the world and escape from the Lazarus family. Around the same time, Natalie “Tally,” freed from prison, drives east to nowhere in particular, hoping for a new beginning. In Connecticut, she strikes up a friendship with local Hayward “Hay” Baines, and the two feel an immediate connection that transcends the short time they’ve known each other. When Faith realizes that her story intersects with Hay’s and Tally’s, the three allow their shared past to dictate actions that may jeopardize their futures.
Inspired by real events, Vale-Allen (Parting Gifts, 2001, etc.) invents a compelling back story for her characters that makes for a real page turner.
Three children survive wholesale homicide, and Rizzoli and Isles (Silent Girl, 2011, etc.) have to find out how.
The Wards, the Yablonskis and the Clocks—what did they have in common, aside from being virtually wiped out in the same year? Not much, insists Detective Darren Crowe. Moreover, he’s quick to point out, only one of those decimated families merits attention from the Boston PD since the last time he looked, neither New York nor New Hampshire was in its jurisdiction. A fair point, Detective Jane Rizzoli has to acknowledge, much as she dislikes her cocky, ever overconfident colleague. And yet, maybe it’s just the fact that in all three cases a lone child is the escapee that niggles so persistently at the mother gene in Jane: two boys and a girl who—she can’t shake the feeling—might once again become targets in whatever unfathomable game seems to be afoot. Meanwhile, medical examiner Maura Isles is on her long-planned visit to Julian Perkins, the brave and resourceful teenager she’d bonded with recently under extreme, near-fatal circumstances, and to whom her attachment has been ongoing. Here, too, the mother gene is in play. The reunion site is a special school named Evensong, designed to serve as a harborage for children traumatized by violence. Tucked away in a remote corner of Maine, surrounded by woods, it’s further protected by a sophisticated security system. Not surprising, really, that Claire Ward, Will Yablonski and Teddy Clock should wind up under its beneficent wing. Nor is it surprising that someone clever, someone with malign intent, should also figure out Evensong’s attraction. Suddenly, even with Rizzoli and Isles on hand, that which made Evensong a haven is reversed into a potential trap.
Purplish prose and a wildly baroque ending won’t deter a devoted fan base.
The internationally popular detective series by the Norwegian author builds to a blockbuster climax.
The Nesbø phenomenon has transcended “next Stieg Larrson” status. In practically every comparison except books sold (and, with millions to date, Nesbø’s catching up), he’s superior to his late Swedish counterpart: more imaginative, better plotting, richer characters, stronger narrative momentum, more psychological and philosophical depth. No, he doesn’t have an androgynously attractive tattooed girl, but he does have Harry Hole: long an Oslo detective who specialized in (increasingly gruesome) serial killers, now a recovering alcoholic involved in some shadowy pursuits in Hong Kong while trying to reclaim his soul. Only the most powerful lure could bring Harry back to the dangers and temptations he faces back home, and that lure is love. Readers of earlier books (and some back story is necessary to feel the full impact of this one) will remember his doomed relationship with Rakel and the way he briefly served as a surrogate father to her son, Oleg. That innocent boy has now become a junkie and an accused murderer in a seemingly open-and-shut case, with Harry the only hope of unraveling a conspiracy that extends from a “phantom” drug lord through the police force to the government. The drug is a synthetic opiate called “violin,” three times stronger than heroin, controlled by a monopoly consortium. The murder victim (whose dying voice provides narrative counterpoint) was Oleg’s best friend and stash buddy, and his stepsister is the love of Oleg’s life. As Harry belatedly realizes, “Our brains are always willing to let emotions make decisions. Always ready to find the consoling answers our hearts need.” As all sorts of father-son implications manifest themselves, the conclusion to one of the most cleanly plotted novels in the series proves devastating for protagonist and reader alike. Hole will soon achieve an even higher stateside profile through the Martin Scorsese film of Nesbø's novel The Snowman (2011), but those hooked by that novel or earlier ones should make their way here as quickly as they can.
Where earlier novels provide a better introduction to Hole, this one best takes the full measure of the man.
Australia-based writer Robotham’s insightful psychologist Joe O’Loughlin once again tackles a tough case involving crimes that, at first blush, do not seem related.
Two young girls from a small English village disappear one night after attending a local funfair. Gorgeous, promiscuous Tash and quiet, athletic Piper had little in common, but became fast friends. Tash was brilliant, but underachieving. Her lower-middle-class family was troubled, and she attended a prestigious private school on scholarship, while Piper’s mismatched former-model mother and wealthy banker father lived in the area’s toniest neighborhood. While their disappearance initially sparked teams of searchers and outrage from the local citizenry, it simmered down once the police become convinced the girls were runaways. Three years later, the girls are still missing. In the meantime, O’Loughlin and his teenage daughter are trying to rebuild their fractured relationship, damaged by his estrangement from his wife. While attending a conference, police seek out the savvy profiler and ask for his help in solving a terrible double murder. As investigators wade through the blood bath of a crime scene, they learn that the home is connected to the girls’ disappearances. In fact, while the couple killed was no relation to Tash, the home in which it occurred was where she’d lived before she vanished. While police puzzle through the homicide, another body is found, but this time it’s an unidentified young woman found frozen in the ice of a nearby pond. O’Loughlin wants no part of either case but is soon sucked into helping police while racing against the clock to prevent another tragedy. Robotham’s writing ranges from insightful to superb and he has no qualms about burdening his hero, O’Loughlin, with not only a broken personal life, but also a broken body courtesy of a case of Parkinson’s, making him not only more human, but more likable.
Subtle, smart, compelling and blessed with both an intelligent storyline and top-notch writing, this book will grab readers from page one and not let go until the final sentence.
A chance encounter in a supermarket involves a member of a Michigan chocolate-making family in murder.
Lee McKinney Woodyard’s protective instincts are aroused when she hears someone threatening a young woman in the Warner Pier supermarket. The woman is Sissy Smith, who most area residents think murdered her husband, Buzz. The threatener is Sissy’s father-in-law, Ace, whose military-consulting company (think Blackwater) has recently been investigated by Congress. Ace is trying to get custody of his grandson by fair means or foul. Sympathetic to her new friend, Lee offers Sissy a job as a bookkeeper at the TenHuis Chocolade and becomes embroiled in her problems, which only increase when Sissy discovers the body of Ace’s snoopy housekeeper. This time, the investigation is run by police Chief Hogan Jones, Lee’s uncle by marriage, who’s more open-minded about Sissy’s innocence or guilt than the county sheriff, who thinks Sissy got away with murder despite her excellent alibi. What doubles Ace’s enmity toward Sissy is that she lives with her grandmother, Wildflower, a holdover from a hippie group who lived in the area in the ’60s. Ace, who retired from the army at a high rank, can’t forget Wildflower’s demonstrations against the Vietnam War. As Lee continues to poke her nose where many think it doesn’t belong, she’s stalked and attacked in the woods near Wildflower’s home. But the episode only makes her more determined to discover the truth.
The latest in Carl’s long string of chocoholic mysteries (The Chocolate Cupid Killings, 2009, etc.), complete with chocolate trivia and a recipe, keeps you guessing all the way to the end.
The demonic evil that first became apparent in St. Adrian’s Academy for Boys spreads further in this sequel to Waking Hours (2011).
When a resident of Westchester County’s High Ridge Manor is 102, it’s not exactly surprising to find her dead. But no one can figure out just how archivist and author Abigail Gardener died—not county Medical Examiner Baldev Banerjee, not forensic psychiatrist Danielle Harris, not even Dani’s ex-fiance, neurochemist Quinn McKellen. One thing that seems certain is that Abbie’s passing follows from the murder of Julie Leonard, even though the death of Julie’s presumed killer, sociopathic St. Adrian’s student Amos Kasden, might have seemed to close that case for Detective Philip Casey of the East Salem Police Department. Another thing that seems equally certain is that there’s more than a whiff of sulfur and brimstone around St. Adrian’s. The place so reeks of infernal possession that Dani and her boyfriend, private eye Tommy Gunderson, try to snoop electronically on Dr. Adolf Ghieri, the school’s psychologist. Their failure to bug the sinister Ghieri’s computer kicks off another round of demonic manifestations, fueled this time by a warning angelic messengers deliver separately to Dani and Tommy: “Someone is going to betray you. Someone you trust.” As the intrepid pair, afraid to confide in each other, struggle to discern who the trusted betrayer is, the authors can’t resist spilling the beans to the gentle reader, cutting the mystery without significantly increasing the suspense.
Since Wiehl (Eyes of Justice, 2012, etc.) and Nelson’s pulp Armageddon runs into all the usual middle-of-trilogy problems—an ill-defined beginning, a cliffhanger ending and endless, relatively shapeless conflict in between—readers are advised to start with Waking Hours before entering this door to East Salem.
A hot, new drug whose developer has run unauthorized clinical trials provokes another round of anguish, soul-searching and corpses for Philadelphia homicide detective Mike Coletti.
Andrea Wilson is determined to give her pro bono client, heroin addict Tim Green, the best possible defense against the charge that he murdered off-duty police officer Jon Harris, whose corpse he robbed to get money for his next fix. She’s absolutely fearless in court against prosecutor Derrick Bell, even though they’re conducting a torrid affair that dishonors both their marriage vows. Derrick’s wife isn’t much of a presence here, but Andrea’s husband, Paul, head of development at Beech Pharmaceuticals, is such a strong presence that Andrea keeps on having vivid experiences of his guiding presence even after she wakes up in a pool of his blood and the cops come after her for murder. The cops in this case are Coletti, whose hopeless love for Andrea led him to take the rap for a shooting she committed 20 years ago. These days, though, no one would waste any time with a perp charged with only a single homicide—not when someone who calls himself Channing is terminating mob boss Salvatore Vetri’s nephew, Vincenzo, the accused Tim Green, several members of Paul Wilson’s research team, and apparently every witness and accomplice who might imperil his pursuit of Mentasil, the wonder drug that’s not ready for FDA approval but is perfectly ready for the black market.
As fast and furious as Coletti’s earlier cases (The Gravedigger’s Ball, 2011, etc.), though Channing’s blood-soaked pursuit of Mentasil is less interesting than the effects of the drug itself, and Coletti’s detective and rescue work are less interesting still.
Posing as a couple has two special agents all confused, since the most complicated thing they are used to dealing with is their supernatural gifts.
Telekinetic Beatrice Alexander never wanted to be a freak, much less a member of F.R.E.A.K.S., the Federal Response to Extra-Sensory and Kindred Supernaturals Squad that the national government has been running almost since it was founded. For the past two months, Bea’s been working with the F.R.E.A.K.S., and so far the only upside is the relationship she’s been working on with werewolf Will. Her Operation Lovebirds has taken a hit since Will’s gone off to a camp to get in touch with his inner wolf, and Bea’s hopes to keep a low profile are ruined when she’s given a special assignment with ladies’ man—well, ladies’ vampire—Oliver Montrose. Now Bea’s stuck in a vamp-friendly hotel in Dallas, posing as Oliver’s wife and trying to infiltrate a local cabal of vampires that may be behind several recent missing persons cases. The case heats up fast, as do Oliver’s attentions to Bea. Eventually, “Trixie,” as Oliver insists on calling Bea, isn’t sure if she’s more annoyed by her supposed husband’s relentless flirting with Marianna, the mistress of the hotel, or the fact that she’s bothered by it. Bea only hopes they can solve the case and get out of there before she has time to figure it out.
The second in Harlow’s F.R.E.A.K.S. series (Mind Over Monsters, 2011) reads like an homage to Harris’ tales of Sookie Stackhouse, though Bea seems to take herself a little less seriously.
An Indiana photographer whose life revolves around her dog becomes a reluctant bloodhound.
Janet MacPhail and her Australian shepherd, Jay, are competing at an obedience trial near their Fort Wayne home when Abigail Dorn, a respected but not very well-liked woman, collapses and dies. Janet helps out by taking Abigail’s award-winning border collie, Pip, home with her while Greg Dorn waits with his stricken spouse. What at first seems to be an allergic reaction turns out to be a poisoning. The police are initially suspicious of Janet, who has not only Pip, but all of Abigail’s stuff, including some leftover food containers she’s unfortunately run through her dishwasher. But police Detective Jo Stevens, who doesn’t really think Janet is a murderer, relies on her to explain the minutiae of dog breeding and showing. Greg emerges as the main suspect, since he may have been having an affair with Suzette Anderson, whose border collie, Fly, is number two behind Pip. Janet must deal with her mother’s descent into dementia and her attraction to Tom Saunders, who’s showing a Labrador retriever named Drake. In between these problems, she digs up dirt on a breeder who may have falsified breeding records and another dog person who’s obsessed with Greg. Even Tom is a suspect because his mother was left out when Abigail’s side of the family inherited a fortune, and he’s a college professor with expertise in poisonous plants. When Janet starts receiving threats and her cat is kidnapped, she redoubles her efforts to find the truth.
Boneham’s debut, which supplements its menagerie of human suspects with oodles of information on obedience trials, will delight dog fanciers.
As the Great War rages on, a corpse dumped in the Thames ends up in the bailiwick of Divisional DI Ernest Hardcastle and his colleagues at the Cannon Row station.
Hardcastle can’t help wishing that the late Ronald Parker, shot in the head and tied up in a sack, had floated past Waterloo Pier into someone else’s jurisdiction. There are no obvious suspects or motives, and Hardcastle’s sergeant, Charles Marriott, and his men (Hardcastle’s Obsession, 2011, etc.) have plenty of other business to attend to. But things pick up with the news that Parker’s mistress, Daisy Benson, neglected to tell him that she’s been a widow for a year; that Parker himself, whose wife, Mavis, said he was about to leave for Holland to avoid conscription, had already been notified of his medical exemption from military service; and that Mavis Parker, a dayworker at the Sopwith Aviation paint shop, is quite the queen bee. Dogging the widow’s footsteps, Hardcastle’s coppers link her to Capt. Gilbert Stroud, dodgy corset salesman Lawrence Mortimer and actor Vincent Powers. In the fullness of time, Hardcastle realizes that this quiet wartime murder is politically sensitive—a realization that’s confirmed when he and his ham-handed squad are rebuked by Superintendent Patrick Quinn, who warns them off Special Branch’s patch. Nothing daunted, Hardcastle, passed over for promotion in favor of a younger and less qualified colleague, ends up earning wry congratulations from the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate: “You seem to be making a habit of charging people with murder, Inspector.”
A middling procedural that’s also a pleasingly efficient tour of 1918 London.
Paralegal Odelia Grey (Twice as Dead, 2011, etc.) lands in hot water when her shaky law firm merges with another struggling firm.
When the economy threw a curve at Wallace, Boer, Brown & Yates (known affectionately to its employees as “Woobie”), a merger with Hamlin-Hawke seemed just the ticket to keeping both law firms afloat. Merging staffs means cutting jobs, however, and soon layoffs are the order of the day. After 20 years at Woobie, Odelia sees a target on her back. Her snotty new boss, Erica Mayfield, gives her practically no work, shunting all the billable hours to Mark Baker, the paralegal Erica brought with her from Hamlin. Worse yet, she puts Odelia on Sesame Street duty, leaving her three-year-old niece, Lily Holt, coloring in Odelia’s office day after day. When Lily arrives one day with a suitcase, Odelia puts her foot down, only to find that Erica’s disappeared. Left no choice, Odelia takes the preschooler home, where she charms Odelia’s husband, Greg, her best friend, Zee Washington, and Zee’s lawyer husband, Seth. But a midnight foray to Erica’s house ends when Odelia discovers the dead body of Lily’s mother, Connie, and the paralegal needs legal help herself. Seth gets Odelia out of the slammer, but she realizes it’s only a matter of time before whoever killed Connie comes after her daughter. So she takes time off from her job to track down Connie’s killer, wondering all the while whether she’ll have a job to come back to.
Despite Jaffarian’s flirtations with vampires and ghosts, her original series is still her best. Odelia takes no nonsense from anyone and stops at nothing to give the bad guys what they deserve.
Prolific Pulitzer Prize winner Butler (A Small Hotel, 2011, etc.) casts his net in distinctly shallower waters when he follows the adventures of a brash American journalist in 1914 Mexico.
Revolution is raging, as usual, when Christopher "Kit" Marlowe Cobb arrives in Mexico to interview Gen. Victoriano Huerta. Preoccupied with the rebels Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza, el Presidente declines to speak with the press after all. By that time, however, an international incident is brewing between Mexico and the U.S., and Kit figures there’ll be plenty of work of one sort or another for him and his Underwood. So he’s already on the alert when oompah band musician Gerhard Vogel suddenly reveals himself as an American spy who shares Kit’s interest in the question of why the German ship Ypiranga has disgorged sinister “businessman” Friedrich von Mensinger and a number of his countrymen and loosed them on Vera Cruz. Tearing himself from his abortive pursuit of Luisa Morales, who washes his clothes but refuses to provide other services, Kit joins Vogel in his investigation of Mensinger only to find himself working alone when Vogel’s throat is cut. Acting with more decisiveness than prudence, Kit pinches the passport from Vogel’s corpse and prepares to follow Mensinger to Coahuila, where strongman Pancho Villa reigns supreme. There’ll be more subdiplomatic shenanigans, more violence (Kit ends up killing four men), and, yes, more romance before Kit, home again in Chicago, receives a letter from President Wilson that sends him back to Mexico for a coda that seems oddly tacked on.
Kit is such an ingratiating narrator that you almost forget how unthrilling his larky debut is. Maybe the planned series can provide him with adventures more worthy of his steel.
The murder of a friend propels a Parisian bookseller once more out of his store and into the streets to investigate.
The summer of 1893 is hot and Parisian tempers short. As is their habit, Victor Legris and his assistant, Joseph Pignot, work busily in Legris' bookshop while discussing various items in the newspapers: today, an odd jewelry store robbery in which only some smoking supplies were taken. Could this theft be related to two more serious crimes that follow, the fatal stabbing of enamellist Léopold Grandjean and the death of bookbinder Pierre Andrésy in a raging fire at his shop? Both Victor and Joseph, who knew Andrésy well, are shaken by the killing. So, despite his promise to his fiancee, Tasha, to give up his amateur sleuthing, Victor feels compelled to investigate. In the uproar surrounding Andrésy's death (political motives are suspected) and Grandjean's unsolved murder (the police investigation is tracked almost daily in the press), little attention is paid to the discovery of the remains of Guy de la Brosse, founder of the city's natural history museum, in an abandoned cellar. When Joseph reads a funeral notice for Andrésy in Le Figaro that predates the killing, it's confirmation of first-degree murder. A Victor Hugo poem is one of several pieces of period art woven into the mystery's clever solution.
Psudonymous Izner's fifth Legris whodunit (The Assassin in the Marais, 2011, etc.) bubbles charmingly along courtesy of lively banter and larger-than-life Parisian characters.
A curator is happy to be loaned out to investigate an old lighthouse, until her trip turns from a treat into a nightmare.
Chloe Ellefson is not on the best terms with her boss at Old World Wisconsin. So, a trip to an uninhabited island to do research on a lighthouse that’s under restoration sounds like fun despite the misgivings of Roelke McKenna, her police officer boyfriend. Chloe arrives without incident on Rock Island, which has been designated a state park despite the efforts of developers. She meets park manager Garrett Smith. She settles in at Pottawatomie Lighthouse. But her peace is shattered when she goes to the beach and discovers the body of a dead woman. The unknown girl is far from the first victim of the dangerous waters of Lake Michigan. In addition, Chloe quickly learns that there’s always been tension between commercial and sport fishermen and the authorities who must enforce the ever-changing rules. She becomes intrigued with the life and times of Emily Betts, assistant keeper to her husband, William, in the 1870s. Chloe has the unwelcome gift of exceptional sensitivity to things in the past, and she has bad feelings about an area of the island, formerly a fishing village, that an archaeologist is now exploring. The story cuts back and forth between the troubles and privations of the early settlers and the present day, where a murderer lurks. It falls to Chloe to marry past and present and find a killer who can’t stop at just one.
Chloe’s third (The Heirloom Murders, 2011, etc.) combines a good mystery with some interesting historical information on a niche subject.
A North Carolina private eye and his psychic pal combine their talents to solve a murder.
David Randall, who’s in love with his fellow boarder, Kary, a college student who wants to help with his detective work, awaits his mother’s Christmas visit with mixed feelings because he knows she’ll want to talk about the death of his daughter in a car crash. In the meantime, his landlord, Camden, finds his friend, Jared Hunter, who’s been released from jail after his conviction for his part in a local museum break-in, dead in a pool of blood. Violent flashbacks make Cam feel that he’s connected to the killer. In addition to investigating the murder, David is vexed by a series of robberies that proceed apace despite the appearance of a clumsy superhero who calls himself the Parkland Avenger. Ambitious reporter Brooke Verner of the Parkland Herald, whose editor’s institutionalized son had served time along with Jared, is on the case of the Avenger. Branching out on his own, David discovers that the thieves are using a network of tunnels under the old part of town. As his mother continues her efforts to get David to talk about his sorrows, Kary joins a local superhero group that denies that the Avenger is a member, and Cam continues to have debilitating psychic revelations. Will David solve the murders and robberies in time to provide a merry Christmas?
Randall's second appearance (Stolen Hearts, 2011) combines a solid mystery with a plethora of suspects and quirky regulars.
A mathematician born in Britain and raised in America adds spying to her resume.
Maggie Hope has left her job as a secretary to Winston Churchill to enter MI5’s school for spies. Although her grades are stellar, she doesn’t do well enough on the physical tests to be sent to France. Instead, MI5 finds a job for her as maths tutor to the Princess Elizabeth so that she can keep an eye on Elizabeth, fondly known as Lilibet, who, as heir to the throne, may be a Nazi target. Maggie arrives at Windsor Castle with a lot on her mind. Her boyfriend has been shot down over Germany, and the father she had long thought dead is working at Bletchley Park—and may be a German spy. Maggie soon becomes a favorite of Lilibet and her younger sister, Margaret, if not their beloved Corgis, and bonds with the large and varied castle staff, both upstairs and downstairs, despite their understandable fears following the recent murder of a friend of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. As she pokes around, Maggie begins to suspect one of the snobbish ladies of Nazi leanings. Taken under the wing of Lord Gregory Strathcliffe, a badly disfigured RAF pilot, Maggie soon discovers several disquieting things after someone else is killed on the castle grounds. It’s good that Maggie is willing to risk her life to protect Lilibet, but will things indeed come to such a pass?
Maggie’s second adventure (Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, 2012) is a romantic thriller detailing the life of the royals during the perilous times of World War II.
Hide the good china: Sullivan (Triple Cross, 2009, etc.) launches a new series with even more helter-skelter action than his stratospheric average.
After Robin Monarch quit the CIA when he realized that his mission to tap into an Al-Qaida computer for information about what turned out to be the sinister Green Fields project had been hopelessly corrupted, he went back to his roots. For Robin, orphaned young in Buenos Aires and raised by a community of thieves, that meant stealing stuff. Now, Constantine Belos, a pillar of the Russian Mafia who’s been following Robin’s career, wants him to find and steal a nuclear trigger before Belos’ Mafia rival, Omak, can purchase it from weapons dealer Boris Koporski, who moonlights, or daylights, as the President of Transdniestra. When Robin politely declines Belos’ offer of $5 million for the trigger, Belos detains his girlfriend, London editor Lacey Wentworth, and demands that Robin deliver the device for free within the next two weeks. Stung into action, Robin reassembles the team of forgettable professionals who worked with him on Green Fields and goes hunting for the trigger. But the team’s success in tracking it down is only the prelude to an endless series of bullet-laced confrontations, betrayals and rounds of torture that make it clear that in Robin’s world, even an offer you can’t refuse can always be renegotiated. The corruption, you’ll be happy to know, leads from the Mafia to the very highest levels of the CIA and the U.S. Senate. Makes you wonder.
Sullivan, who most recently co-authored Private Games (2012) with James Patterson, has long since mastered the art of purging every bit of scenic or psychological interest from his exercises in can-you-top-this plotting. The closest analogies are summer movies from Entrapment to the Mission: Impossible franchise.
Norway’s 123news reporter Henning Juul’s continued search for the man he’s convinced set the fire that killed his son, Jonas, two years ago entangles him in a web of more recent crimes.
Once Tore Pulli fixed on rival enforcer Jocke Brolenius as the killer of Tore’s friend, Vidar Fjell, the manager of the Fighting Fit gym, it was only a matter of time before Jocke followed Vidar into the great beyond. Now, Tore is in jail for Jocke’s murder, and he wants to talk to Henning Juul. Not simply to proclaim his innocence—he’s already told that to everyone in Oslo—but to intimate that he’s got new evidence about the fire in Henning’s flat. As the two men play cat and mouse during Henning’s visit to prison, one can’t help thinking of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. But Enger is already laying the groundwork that will take his story in a dramatically different direction by following TV2 cameraman Thorleif Brenden, who’s suddenly threatened with the deaths of his long-term lover, Elisabeth Haaland, and their two children if he doesn’t do the bidding of an anonymous gangster who looks as if he’s right out of The Sopranos. The eventual collision of these two newsmen is still further complicated by Henning’s reluctant alliance with Iver Gundersen, the 123news reporter who’s now living with Nora Klemetsen, Henning’s ex and Jonas’ mother. The shifting relationships among the nominal heroes leave the obvious suspects—hired killer Ørjan Mjønes and the crew of bodybuilders who hang around the Fighting Fit pumping iron—fighting for attention, and after building to a tense climax, the tale continues with an investigation into still another murder that feels like one too many.
Even so, this dark and resourceful tale is a distinct improvement on Enger’s murky debut (Burned, 2011).
The death of a television reporter provides the newest case for a scrapbooking amateur sleuth.
New Orleans entrepreneur Carmela Bertrand, of the French Quarter scrapbooking shop Memory Mine, may be a great designer, but it’s sleuthing that provides the excitement in her life, much to the displeasure of her boyfriend, Detective Edgar Babcock. In the midst of Mardi Gras madness, Carmela’s waiting her turn to be interviewed by Kimber Breeze. When she steps out onto the balcony, she finds Kimber hanging from the railing. Although as usual, Babcock warns her off, Carmela and her fashionista sidekick, Ava, start to investigate, looking for a clue in Kimber’s life that led to her death. She starts to find postcards of cemeteries with cryptic warnings and even has her apartment smoke bombed. Furious, she keeps investigating Kimber’s boyfriend, her boss, the assistant who’s thrilled to take her place, and the subjects of some of the stories Kimber had proposed. Deeply connected to the New Orleans social scene through her wealthy ex-husband, Carmela is invited to all the best parties. She eats and drinks her away around town as she digs for motives.
Carmela’s eighth (Skelton Letters, 2011, etc.) delves deeply into the Big Easy’s food, culture and fashion scene. The mystery is upstaged by the appended recipes and scrapbooking tips.
Will reaching over the Mexican border to recover a possibly visionary child bring answers to emotionally damaged female investigator Del Shannon (Nazareth Child, 2011)?
Mexican drug lord Santos De La Cal believes that his niece, Aurea Lara, is a modern-day profeta, a prophet who can foretell the future even though she’s only 6 and mute. Convinced that the pictures Aurea draws can help him find safe passage for leaders of his cartel from Mexico to their U.S. contact, he kidnaps Aurea in order to harness her supposed powers. Meanwhile, Randall Willingham, owner of Desert Sands Covert, Tuscon’s own missing persons recovery agency, is concerned about his favorite employee, Del Shannon, who’s been depressed by the murder of her former lover, Detective Ed Jeski. When Aurea’s relatives come to the agency beseeching Del’s help to recover their niece, she isn’t sure why they want her in particular until she sees Aurea’s latest work: newsprint cutouts of her face and Ed’s. The hope of getting answers about Ed’s death encourages Del to take the case, which instantly plunges her into the dangerous Mexican drug culture. Deep in enemy territory, Del finds a friend, and maybe more, in Francisco Estrada, leader of the resistance. Since even Nesto Parra, the captain of Federal Police, is owned by Santos and his men, she’ll need all the help she can get to recover Aurea safely.
Although Del is a powerful and competent woman, the constant descriptions of her physicality by male characters shadows this Western-meets–mystical mystery.
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night can keep postmen from their appointed rounds. But how about murder?
The tony Connecticut enclave of Dorset has been pummeled by snow, with blizzard number three still on the way. Although the drifts make the village look Christmas-card perfect, merchants are despondent, and stores and streets are empty except for a shoplifter of pricey Ugg boots and a thief who’s taking the Christmas tips—cash and cookie treats meant for the stalwart postal carriers—from residential mailboxes. And now it seems that mail-order drug prescriptions may be missing too. Is a branch of the Castagno crime family to blame? Several competing jurisdictions feel a need to weigh in on the question, seriously complicating things for resident state trooper Des Mitry, who also must sidestep the amateur sleuthing of her interracial lover, movie critic Mitch Berger. Problems escalate when Josie the life coach’s husband, Bryce, perennial black sheep of the Peck family, OD’s and leaves a suicide note, and part-time mail carrier Hank, who is married to Paulette the postmistress and serves as a grudging mentor to her ne’er-do-well son, Casey, dies after affixing a hose to his car’s tailpipe. Another suicide? Not likely, says Des, who ties Josie to both the deceased but makes no further headway until she finds out where Mitch disappeared when he was supposed to be driving a retired postmaster home. Happily, Des is up to the task, locating Mitch before he succumbs to frostbite and identifying the brains behind Hank’s demise as well as the mailbox heists.
Fans of Des and Mitch (The Blood Red Indian Summer, 2011, etc.) will giggle as Mitch decorates his Hanukkah bush with her teeny weeny yellow bikini. Others may think it’s all bah, humbug.
When Johnny comes marching home from the Civil War, someone murders him.
Four boys, friends since the childhood they shared in the tiny Vermont town of Jerusalem’s Landing—Jubal Foster, Abel Johnson, Josiah Flood, and Johnny Harris—suddenly find their backwater lives disrupted. Full to the brim with idealism and innocence, they march off to fight in a good war, the War Between the States, that turns out to be the bloodiest in American history. When the shooting stops at last, one is dead, another has lost an arm, and Johnny comes marching home to Jerusalem’s Landing to find an enemy as implacable as any of the gray-clad warriors he’s been up against for four years. There’s one difference, though: This enemy is successful in his battle with Johnny. As newly appointed deputy constable in Jerusalem’s Landing, one-armed Jubal Foster must solve his old friend’s murder. But things have changed drastically after four years of brutalizing war. Jubal now knows a dark, even monstrous side of his old friend Johnny that makes him almost sympathetic to his killer. Still, Jubal is a man of unassailable integrity. He understands the dictates of the job, and he’ll get the answers, even if he hates what they imply, even if they bring him disturbingly close to the young woman he loves.
Heffernan (The Dead Detective, 2010, etc.) swings his vivid tale back and forth between past and present, war and peace—a neat tour de force he pulls off with admirable assurance.