After killing off the most interesting character early on, Rinehart (1876-1958) keeps the pot simmering, though not boiling.

THE WALL

A quiet summer retreat on a fashionable New England island is wrecked, and in the end pretty much defined, by murder in this reprint originally published in 1938.

Ever since purchasing her brother Arthur’s half interest in Sunset to finance his divorce from his grasping first wife, Juliette Ransom, Marcia Lloyd has been the sole owner of the family’s bucolic manse, and she intends to spend the summer in peace. But Juliette has other ideas. First she turns up on the island demanding to be taken in as a guest until the time is ripe for her to make her pitch to Marcia: a lump sum of $100,000 to get out of Arthur’s life forever. Arthur, an attorney still struggling to make his alimony payments and take care of his second wife, Mary Lou, and their 4-year-old, Junior, is desperate—but not nearly as desperate as he grows when Juliette has the temerity to get herself murdered. County sheriff Russell Shand dutifully makes the rounds of the gossipy neighbors, all of whom were evidently either enamored of Juliette or married to men who were. But it’s clear that he’s got his eye on Arthur. Then, suddenly, he doesn’t, because the evidence points to local golf pro Fred Martin, who’s arrested, then released when someone else emerges with an even stronger motive rooted in a fatal car crash years ago. The killer, meanwhile, has moved on from Juliette to declare open season on the locals and their summer visitors, though none of their deaths makes nearly the splash that hers does.

After killing off the most interesting character early on, Rinehart (1876-1958) keeps the pot simmering, though not boiling.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61316-210-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: American Mystery Classics

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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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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