Keen, absorbing crime novel with likable amateur detectives.

WINDFALL

A HENRY LYSYK MYSTERY

A recently fired soon-to-be divorcée stumbles upon a famous, decades-old cold case in Smith’s debut mystery.

Henry Lysyk’s new life starts in a small Vancouver apartment. His wife’s affair ended their marriage, and he lost his job as a risk manager at a bank, his former bosses declaring him a “fraudster.” But it’s not all bad. His beloved 13-year-old niece, Frieda, is staying with him for a week. Her bubbly personality easily earns her friends among Henry’s fellow tenants. Frieda is also the first to notice a stranger creeping around the apartment building; she astutely dubs him “Mr. Creepy.” Henry is convinced that someone has been stealing crosswords from his daily newspapers, and he thinks not only is Mr. Creepy the culprit, but he’s possibly been casing the area. When various shenanigans occur at the apartment building, Henry, Frieda, and comic-book-artist neighbor Tess Honma take a closer look at Mr. Creepy. It seems this stranger is part of an online forum—amateur sleuths trying to solve cold cases. He’s investigating a well-known robbery from 50 years ago, certain that someone in Vancouver has answers. As Henry, Frieda, and Tess try to put a real name to Mr. Creepy, they gradually piece together details on the unsolved robbery. While only readers know Mr. Creepy has blood on his hands, Henry and the others soon learn he’s mentally ill. There’s a chance they may actually solve a noted cold case, but that won’t mean much if they can’t find evidence to point cops toward Mr. Creepy, who’s now on their tails.

Readers will quickly warm up to Henry, who headlines this opening installment of a prospective series. His ex-employers’ fraud accusations, for one, stem from Henry’s saving numerous businesses from foreclosure. The book spotlights several wonderful characters as Smith gradually introduces the building’s tenants. These early scenes are lighthearted but affecting. For example, during an outing with Tess and Frieda, Henry imagines them as his wife and daughter—the family he feels he may never have. Henry’s niece is surely the best character. In one scene, Frieda stealthily follows Mr. Creepy on her own, which ultimately necessitates a taxi ride with a cabbie who, like everyone else, is instantly fond of the teen. In the same vein, the villain isn’t one-dimensional; his dark family history is integral to the main plot. Prose is concise and indelible: “They…weaved past numbered offices, unlabeled metal filing cabinets, and open workspaces equipped with printers and computer monitors due for upgrades. They rode the elevator to the fifth floor in silence and followed [the constable] deeper into the labyrinth. The doors here were nicer, unpainted, wood instead of metal. The corridor opened up into a waiting area the size of Henry’s bedroom.” The cold case of the novel is a real-life unsolved crime that Smith skillfully weaves into the narrative—just enough particulars to entice readers unfamiliar with it and not decelerate the story. The author clearly leaves room for a sequel, which Frieda will hopefully join.

Keen, absorbing crime novel with likable amateur detectives.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77532-262-7

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Shima Kun Press

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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