A thoughtful but unevenly executed whodunit.

SHOULD GRACE FAIL

In Paton’s philosophical mystery series installment,two cops diligently work to solve the murder of a man found in a dumpster.

Detective Erik Jansson of the Greater Metro Investigative Unit in St. Paul, Minnesota,finds himself mesmerized by the murder victim, who readers later learn is an ex-cop named Dan Routh, as if “this was personal not just to the victim, but to Erik himself. A premonition that despite serving the greater good, his ultimate fate could be mean and lowly, his existence soon forgotten.” Erik’s work partner, Deb Metzger, is equally intrigued by the mystery. She, like Routh, has been working to break up human-trafficking rings, and she and Erik interview a plethora of intriguing characters in their investigation—including young women who Deb worries might be at risk of being trafficked themselves. Opioid abuse abounds, and various people whom Erik and Deb meet struggle to stay clean, including Jalyn Dudek, a young pianist whose ex-boyfriend Joseph “Josh” Miller hovers on the edge of a relapse. As the case intensifies, nearly all the characters face further danger. This is an ambitious mystery that tackles heavy themes, such as the darkness of addiction and the fragility of human existence. Paton adroitly crafts engaging sentences that immediately hook the reader’s attention, such as “They lie when they say there’s a clean death” and “Erik saw his own death. Scratches gouged from eyes to chin, shirt ripped open, baring his chest, teeth clamped. All self-inflicted.” However, the novel’s large cast makes keeping track of everyone’s relationship to one another a tricky task. As Paton herself writes, in another context: “Keeping everybody straight—Retta, Ramon, Gran, Aunt Lyndsay, Gabe—had become Jaylyn’s full-time job.” Although this clutter of characters, in some ways, fits the hard-boiled detective plot, it also slows the pace and makes it overly difficult to discern which details are important and which are superfluous.

A thoughtful but unevenly executed whodunit.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60381-768-4

Page Count: 223

Publisher: Epicenter Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more