Based on true events, March’s crisply written debut combines fascinating historic details with a clever puzzle.

In colonial India, a fledgling sleuth probes the inexplicable deaths of two young women.

While recuperating in hospital from battle injuries in 1892 Poona, Capt. James Agnihotri, of the 14th Light Cavalry Regiment, becomes interested in the case of two young women who fell to their deaths from a university clock tower. A lifelong fan of Sherlock Holmes, Jim is moved by a letter published in the local newspaper from Adi Framji, the husband of one victim and brother of the other, pleading for justice. Maneck Fitter stood accused of causing the deaths, but the young man was released for lack of evidence. Leaving the army behind, Jim gets a job as a reporter for The Chronicle of India and soon finds Adi, who quickly becomes Watson to his Holmes. The eldest of six children, Adi lost his unworldly wife, Bacha, and secretive sister, Pilloo, to the killer. The investigative duo becomes a trio with the arrival from Liverpool of Adi’s sister, Diana, who adds feminine insight and a romantic interest for Jim. The investigation begins at the library near the tower, where the librarian verifies the story of Maneck arguing loudly with two black-clad men shortly before the tragedy. Like the last page of the medical examiner’s report on the victims, garments found under a library table have mysteriously disappeared. A pair of attacks convinces Jim that he’s closing in on the killer. When Jim finally talks to Maneck, who stayed mute during his trial, he expresses fears for his own safety and suggests that Jim dig deeper into the Framji family.

Based on true events, March’s crisply written debut combines fascinating historic details with a clever puzzle.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-25-026954-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020


Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

A woman’s life takes a stunning turn and a wall comes tumbling down in this tense Cold War spy drama.

In Berlin in 1989, the wall is about to crumble, and Anne Simpson’s husband, Stefan Koehler, goes missing. She is a translator working with refugees from the communist bloc, and he is a piano tuner who travels around Europe with orchestras. Or so he claims. German intelligence service the BND and America’s CIA bring her in for questioning, wrongly thinking she’s protecting him. Soon she begins to learn more about Stefan, whom she had met in the Netherlands a few years ago. She realizes he’s a “gregarious musician with easy charm who collected friends like a beachcomber collects shells, keeping a few, discarding most.” Police find his wallet in a canal and his prized zither in nearby bushes but not his body. Has he been murdered? What’s going on? And why does the BND care? If Stefan is alive, he’s in deep trouble, because he’s believed to be working for the Stasi. She’s told “the dead have a way of showing up. It is only the living who hide.” And she’s quite believable when she wonders, “Can you grieve for someone who betrayed you?” Smart and observant, she notes that the reaction by one of her interrogators is “as false as his toupee. Obvious, uncalled for, and easily put on.” Lurking behind the scenes is the Matchmaker, who specializes in finding women—“American. Divorced. Unhappy,” and possibly having access to Western secrets—who will fall for one of his Romeos. Anne is the perfect fit. “The matchmaker turned love into tradecraft,” a CIA agent tells her. But espionage is an amoral business where duty trumps decency, and “deploring the morality of spies is like deploring violence in boxers.” It’s a sentiment John le Carré would have endorsed, but Anne may have the final word.

Intrigue, murder, and vengeance make for a darkly enjoyable read.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-865-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022


Sharply drawn characters, a “locked-room” location, and a tension-filled WWII setting illuminate this wartime thriller.

During World War II, a female police officer investigates a spate of murders on a tiny island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Oren’s novel opens arrestingly with a local police captain discovering a fisherman’s unexpected catch of a human body. Then, an initial assessment of death by drowning goes distinctly south when it turns out that the man was strangled. Things only get trickier from there since it’s wartime, 1944, and the corpse is that of a prisoner of war: The island, along with its docks, trawlers, and cranberry bogs, includes a prison camp of Italian POWs and a U.S. military emplacement headed by a lieutenant who’d prefer to be on the front lines (his wealthy family ensures that he’s not). To complicate matters further—especially when another murder victim emerges—the police captain is Mary Beth Swann, who took over her husband’s law enforcement role when he shipped out to the South Pacific. Being a female police officer was already challenging enough; Mary Beth, originally from Boston, also has to tolerate the disrespect of the island’s inhabitants. What elevates this intriguing story—comparisons with television’s always engaging Foyle’s War are inevitable—are the wonderfully delineated specifics of the location and characters. This island may be fictional, but it’s drawn directly from the author’s experiences on Nantucket, and each of the characters sparkles with their own vitality, including the town’s brothel madam, the Acadian short-order cook missing two fingers, a visiting gangster, and the nearly 90 Italians waiting out the war in a remote corner of a foreign land.

Sharply drawn characters, a “locked-room” location, and a tension-filled WWII setting illuminate this wartime thriller.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-950539-60-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dzanc

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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