CRIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINARA

A Tuscan cooking school spikes its marinara with murder.

New cooking school owner Nell Valenti isn’t very nervous when food tour operator Manny Manfredi drives his Cucinavan up to the Villa Orlandini, outside picturesque Cortona, Italy, and deposits the first group of tourists to sample Chef Orlandini’s unique blend of culinary instruction and chaos. After all, how difficult can it be to shepherd five budding Barefoot Contessas—a Baltimore barista, an outdoor educator from New Jersey, a middle-aged Florida couple, and a waiter from Brooklyn—through five days of Marinara Misteriosa, a course on red sauce? And if Chef chooses to rearrange Nell's agenda each day, upending the planned meals and sending the students into the woods to forage for wild mushrooms, what does it really matter? If Chef’s olive-grower nephew, Pete, who’d been warming nicely to Nell before the students’ arrival, suddenly becomes irritable when the Brooklyn waiter turns out to be a little too suave for his taste, is that any reason to panic? These troubles are all antipasti. Nell needs to save her panic for the main course, when one of her charges ends up dead. Now she has to act, and her investigation, unlike those of so many female sleuths, is as sharp as Chef’s knives. No bumbling around confronting witnesses, antagonizing the local carabinieri, or daring the killer to try to stop her—just some daring leaps of logic based on first-timer Cole’s carefully planted clues.

Worth a second visit.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593097-81-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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: 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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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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