A worthwhile investment for those interested in whodunits, social justice, and the work of Giuseppe Verdi.

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THE LABYRINTH IN WINTER

The rarified worlds of high finance and grand opera collide in this complex murder mystery.

New York City is in the midst of a cold snap, but things heat up quickly for Devlin Wolfe, a Federal Securities and Exchange Commission investigator, after he happens upon a dead body floating in the Harlem River while rowing one morning. The “distinguished looking” stabbing victim wearing a $2,000 suit is identified as Guillaume Marchand, a financial analyst for Endicott Technologies. Things immediately get more complicated when Marchand’s $7 million estate in Westchester County is burned to the ground and his artist wife goes missing on the eve of an important gallery exhibition. Bixby Endicott, the victim’s former boss, has political ambitions and “the conviction [that] he was set apart by destiny to guide the great American experiment by reason of his ability to amass wealth.” An unexpected subplot provides an intriguing wrinkle in what could have been a cut-and-dried conspiracy thriller; it involves the mounting of a production of the opera Aida with a sensational young French diva who’s giving her debut performance in the United States. Bixby, it turns out, is a late-in-life opera convert who’s transfixed by “the impossible beauty, the unattainable grasped, at the infinite realized.” Blair, the author of Sudden Rivers (2014), writes a novel that exudes a palpable rage against dark money and ruthless puppet masters in pursuit of power. Devlin, his investigator protagonist, is certainly no fan of the rich: “Business was simply the pursuit of profit without the slightest hint of conscience...or any of the qualities that distinguished the civilized from the barbaric.” Over the course of the book, the author also does his best to make financial terms and practices accessible to the lay reader. Thierry Reynard, a police officer, acts as the reader’s surrogate as Devlin explains such concepts as “short selling.” Some of the more florid poetic passages don’t pay off as well, however: “Eidolons travel in the night: they streak above the cirrus clouds between where humans walk and phantoms linger.”

A worthwhile investment for those interested in whodunits, social justice, and the work of Giuseppe Verdi.

Pub Date: March 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9894896-8-3

Page Count: 347

Publisher: Novabook Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

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This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

THE SCORPION'S TAIL

Past and present collide on a trail of death in the second in the authors’ Nora Kelly series, begun with Old Bones (2019).

When a local sheriff investigates the illegal activity of relic hunters in an abandoned, middle-of-nowhere New Mexico gold-mining town called High Lonesome, he discovers a mummified corpse and a fabulous cross of gold. The discovery is on federal land, so the FBI gets involved. Special Agent Corrie Swanson would have liked a juicier assignment than checking out some old bones in the high desert, but she has a degree in forensic anthropology, and she’s a rookie. She persuades a reluctant Dr. Nora Kelly, senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to help puzzle out what happened to the man, as it’s unclear whether a crime has been committed. Forensics determine that the gold is slightly radioactive, and there’s a pack animal skull with a bullet hole. And by the looks of the decades-old corpse, the poor man suffered a horrible death. High Lonesome is on the Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Journey, the bleak and dismal trail that connected Mexico City and Santa Fe during Spanish colonial rule. The authors are expert plotters and storytellers with smart, engaging characters—Kelly is an experienced pro who thinks Swanson “looked very much the rookie.” Newbie Swanson had barely passed her firearms qualification, and being a lousy shot may bring tragic consequences and a guilty conscience. Luckily, Sheriff Watts has practiced his quick draw since he was a preschooler. Meanwhile, some of those relic hunters are dangerous men searching for an object—not the gold—unknown to Kelly and Swanson. To a descendant of the dead man, “most people would have thought his precious item fit only to line a henhouse with.” Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay.

This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4727-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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