Kane delivers yet again for fans of fine art and whodunits.

AUTOMAT

Lily Sparks is back in this latest mystery installment, tracking down a killer inspired by Edward Hopper’s paintings.

Ex-attorney Lily is the conservator of paintings at the Denver Art Museum, which is gearing up for a major Hopper exhibit. To gin up excitement before the opening, the museum staff plans a series of tableaux vivants of selected paintings at venues around the city, but with a twist: The static scenes with actors will each transform into a short playlet in the spirit of the painting. The first, “Automat,” is a great success—until Lily finds the actor backstage with her throat cut. Who did it? And should the three remaining tableaux still go on? Lily wants to cancel them but she’s overruled, which means that each one will be an invitation for the murderer to strike again. As Lily tries to narrow down the possible suspects, she also tries to get her erstwhile boyfriend, FBI agent Paul Reilly, to come back to Denver from Washington, D.C.—and hopefully, back into her life. Soon, another actor is killed, and one of Lily’s friends gets pushed in front of a car. For the final tableau, Lily makes herself the bait, leading to a tense climax and a conclusion that’s a bit far-fetched but certainly apt. Kane knows how to build suspense, and she’s adept at scattering red herrings throughout the narrative. This new outing is very similar to her previous book, A Perfect Eye (2019), in some ways; it not only features the same cast of characters, but also portrays a sick villain who’s drawn to the works of a particular painter, and it reuses the shtick of occasionally providing the killer’s interior monologues. That said, the latter device is still chilling, and it still works. Readers may also learn a lot about Hopper, as well—a contained man whose paintings speak volumes about solitude and, often, desperation. Over the course of this book, those paintings are shown to be as much an intellectual as an aesthetic experience.

Kane delivers yet again for fans of fine art and whodunits. (acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 157

Publisher: COLD HARD PRESS

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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