Qiu’s stylish hybrid is half fictional literary memoir and half crisp whodunit.

BECOMING INSPECTOR CHEN

Reinvigorated by a baffling murder puzzle, a veteran Chinese detective contemplates his past.

The title of Inspector Chen’s 11th case has a sly double meaning, introducing both a deep dive into the literary detective’s early life and an unexpected professional resurgence late in his career. On the verge of retirement and relegated to a peripheral post in the Shanghai Police Bureau, Chen reflects on the early years of his career and recalls his childhood in the 1960s amid the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. “Little Chen” is a budding man of letters who finds inspiration in a forbidden copy of Doctor Zhivago. He grows up just a few blocks away from the infamous Red Dust Lane. His literary career begins in the 1970s, as a poet and translator. Series fans will be rewarded by another elegant mix of recent history and literary embellishments and a richer Chen backstory, though newcomers may be impatient. In the present, Chen has earned the disfavor of Party Secretary Li, who orders him to translate an American police procedural booklet and freezes him out of important investigations. Chen is still writing poetry and translating The Unbearable Lightness of Being when a murder case involving Red Dust Lane piques his interest. He can’t resist circumventing Detective Ding, the arrogant young colleague in charge of the probe, to question witnesses in the death of Mr. Fu, an eccentric elderly widower. As Chen makes strides, Ding can only grumble. Though Chen unearths a handful of suspects, the vengeful police focus only on an ex–Red Guard member named Pei. What should Chen do?

Qiu’s stylish hybrid is half fictional literary memoir and half crisp whodunit.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7278-9044-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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