Keen, absorbing crime novel with likable amateur detectives.



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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Fans of Gardner’s Tessa Leoni, D.D. Warren, and Flora Dane will embrace her new heroine's grit and empathy.


Gardner introduces Frankie Elkin, a tough, street-smart survivor who has found her calling searching for missing persons.

Frankie is an alcoholic who considers herself responsible for the death of the man she loved. As penance, she travels around the country, volunteering to locate missing people for whom there may be no new leads. She knows that not everyone believes in her gifts or trusts her motives, but she cannot back down from the opportunity to find answers for these grieving families. When she comes to Boston to investigate the disappearance of Angelique Badeau, she takes a cheap apartment and a bartending job at a scruffy neighborhood bar, sticking out like a sore thumb but determined to make headway in a case that has baffled the police. Teenagers go missing and teenagers run away, but not Angelique. She and her brother survived the earthquake in Haiti to live with their aunt in America, taking advantage of opportunities to work hard and get a good education. Frankie discovers that Angelique is not the only teenage girl to have disappeared in the neighborhood; a few months after her, another girl went missing. This girl’s family, torn apart by gang violence and poverty, may have been reason enough to run away, but Frankie has been around the block enough to know: There are no coincidences. Then Angelique passes a message to her brother: proof of life, but no hint as to where she’s being held. With the help of a ruggedly handsome detective, Frankie digs relentlessly into the case—until people start dying. Now in a race against time, she must discover why these girls have been kidnapped—and why they might be running out of time. Gardner is a pro at writing tough-as-nails, wiseass, broken-yet-steely female characters, and Frankie does not disappoint. Plus, it’s a pretty solid mystery.

Fans of Gardner’s Tessa Leoni, D.D. Warren, and Flora Dane will embrace her new heroine's grit and empathy.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4504-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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