High-quality, literate mysteries bound to please.

THE AGATHA PRINCIPLE AND OTHER MYSTERY STORIES

Elwood’s fourth short-story mystery collection revolving around the Beary family, written in the tradition of classic golden-age cozies.

This diverse collection of short stories features the Beary family of British Columbia: City Councilor Bertram and his acerbic wife, Edwina; their daughter Sylvia and her husband, Norton, both attorneys; their son, Richard, a detective inspector; their daughter Philippa, an opera singer and sometimes-actress who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Detective Bob Miller; and daughter Juliette and her husband, Stephen, singers and puppeteers; plus the family’s assorted children and dogs. Tales range from a murder that occurs in the snowy streets of Gastown while a production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is underway, to a child in peril at the 2010 Winter Olympics, to one set in the Old South, harkening back to the War of 1812. There’s even one involving a ghost of sorts set at the seaside. Although Elwood has been compared to Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, and those influences are clearly felt here, Christie’s prodigious body of work remains in print because her tales have unmatched complexity, depth and ingenuity; no successor threatens her crown. That being said, Elwood’s tales are well-written and engaging, and they feature an impressive array of puzzles. It’s unique that an entire family, rather than one amateur detective, dominates the stories; fortunately, they’re likable and worth following. Occasionally, a culprit may be telegraphed too loudly, but the clever plotlines and atmospheric backgrounds make for absorbing, delightful reading. Particularly delicious is the title story involving Philippa—who, like Elwood, is a soprano involved in theatrical productions—and Juliette, who shares Elwood’s background as a puppeteer.

High-quality, literate mysteries bound to please.

Pub Date: April 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475904451

Page Count: 266

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2012

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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