Perfect for fans of A.A. Fair’s brash contemporaneous Bertha Cool/Donald Lam franchise.

THE RAT BEGAN TO GNAW THE ROPE

The Library of Congress’ series of reprints of classic crime novels kicks off with a 1943 case by mystery writer Sue Grafton's father that sends a very junior lawyer nosing around among the dirty secrets of the well-heeled family that dominates Harpersville, Kentucky, in both good ways and bad.

Why would William Jasper Harper, approaching Ruth McClure only 10 days after her husband’s death in a car crash, offer her four times the listed value of John McClure’s hundred shares of Harper Products Company’s stock? His generosity to his old employee, which comes with significant strings attached, smells funny to Ruth and even funnier to Gilmore Henry, the attorney she retains to look into the offer. Even before Gil's arrival in Harpersville, someone shoots out a tire of the car he’s driving, leaving him wondering whether the intended target was him or James Mead, the senior partner whose car he borrowed, who turns out to be representing Harper Products. Ruth quickly sours on Gil; her adopted brother, Tim, punches him out; the local sheriff offers to arrest him if he doesn’t leave town on the next train; and that’s all before William Jasper Harper gets himself shot to death. The suspects include a neighbor whose policies about selling eggs make no sense, the accountants who handled Harper’s books, and, of course, the deceased’s invalid wife and daughter, who now stand much closer to millionaire status. There’ll be more murders, more attempts on Gil’s life, and many more wisecracks. Editor Leslie S. Klinger’s conscientious period footnotes contrast amusingly with Grafton’s headlong pace.

Perfect for fans of A.A. Fair’s brash contemporaneous Bertha Cool/Donald Lam franchise.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4642-1298-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A smart summer escape.

PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN

Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon novel is a bit of a throwback—in the best possible way.

One-time assassin and legendary spymaster Gabriel Allon has finally retired. After saying farewell to his friends and colleagues in Israel, he moves with his wife, Chiara, and their two young children to a piano nobile overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. His plan is to return to the workshop where he learned to restore paintings as an employee—but only after he spends several weeks recovering from the bullet wound that left him dead for several minutes in The Cellist (2021). Of course, no one expects Gabriel to entirely withdraw from the field, and, sure enough, a call from his friend and occasional asset Julian Isherwood sends him racing around the globe on the trail of art forgers who are willing to kill to protect their extremely lucrative enterprise. Silva provides plenty of thrills and, as usual, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the outrageously wealthy. In the early books in this series, it was Gabriel’s work as an art restorer that set him apart from other action heroes, and his return to that world is the most rewarding part of this installment. It is true that, at this point in his storied career, Gabriel has become a nearly mythic figure. And Silva is counting on a lot of love—and willing suspension of disbelief—when Gabriel whips up four old master canvases that fool the world’s leading art experts as a lure for the syndicate selling fake paintings. That said, as Silva explains in an author’s note, the art market is rife with secrecy, subterfuge, and wishful thinking, in no small part because it is almost entirely unregulated. And, if anyone can crank out a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Gentileschi, and a Veronese in a matter of days, it’s Gabriel Allon. The author’s longtime fans may breathe a sigh of relief that this entry is relatively free of politics and the pandemic is nowhere in sight.

A smart summer escape.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283485-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS

An ambitious young Italian woman makes her way among the émigrés of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood.

Maria Lagana has come to Los Angeles after her father is sentenced to confino—internal exile—for his anti-fascist advocacy in Mussolini’s Italy. Living with her mother in the Italian American neighborhood of Lincoln Heights—also home to a trio of no-nonsense great-aunts forever dressed in black—Maria finds work as a typist at Mercury Pictures International, working in the office of studio head Artie Feldman, a fast-talking showman with a collection of toupées for every occasion. In time, the letters from her father stop, and Maria becomes an associate producer, Artie’s trusted right hand, as well as the secret lover of Eddie Lu, a Chinese American actor relegated to roles as Japanese villains. When a young Italian immigrant turns up at her door introducing himself as Vincent Cortese, Maria’s past—and the mystery of what happened to her father—crashes into her present. Like the author’s earlier novels, the award-winning A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) and The Tsar of Love and Techno (2015), this one builds a discrete world and shows how its denizens are shaped—often warped—by circumstance. But the Hollywood setting feels overfamiliar and the characters curiously uninvolving. While the prose frequently sings, there are also ripely overwritten passages: At a party, the “thunking heels of lindy-hopping couples dimpled the boozy air”; fireworks are described as a “molten asterisk in the heavens to which the body on the ground is a footnote.”

The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-451-49520-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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