A frothy retro cocktail with a whodunit chaser.


A carefree cadre of Australian artists probe a shocking murder in war-torn 1935 Shanghai.

Despite his status as the family’s renegade, suave Sydney artist Rowland Sinclair is tapped by his starchy elder brother, Wilfred, to go to Shanghai to handle international wool negotiations for Sinclair Holdings. Intrigued by the city’s vibrancy and turmoil, Rowland’s friends—poet Milton Isaacs, artist Clyde Watson Jones, and sculptress and model Edna Higgins—accompany him and take up residence in the posh Cathay Hotel. Gentill opens each chapter with a short news item from the time, adding welcome context to the story by describing the dangerous encroachment of Japan, the threat of Communism, and the influx of Russian refugee women and German Jews, weaving each development into the story. Making lively banter and diving into local culture are high on the visitors’ agenda. On a night out at The Jazz Club, Rowland dances twice with beautiful Russian Alexandra Romanova, and they make a date for tea the following afternoon. The next day, he’s horrified to discover Alexandra’s corpse in his suite. Grim Inspector Randolph regards him as the prime suspect. Rowland's peril, coupled with the deep grief of Alexandra’s brother, Sergei, prompts the party to investigate, leading to even more elaborate explorations of Shanghai. A subplot that should delight series fans brings Rowland and Edna within a whisker of progressing from the friendship zone to unabashed romance.

A frothy retro cocktail with a whodunit chaser.  

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4642-1361-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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

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This high-stakes drama grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

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Secrets, lies, and revenge permeate this taut international thriller.

The recently married Ariel Pryce wakes up one morning in a Lisbon hotel room, expecting her husband, John Wright, to be in bed beside her. He isn’t. She looks for a note, tries calling him, queries hotel staff, all to no avail. She calls Portuguese police and then the American Embassy, who wonder at first if Ms. Pryce isn’t some crazy lady wasting everyone’s time. But a lot happens muito rápido: Ariel receives a ransom demand for 3 million euros to be delivered within 48 hours for John’s safe release by unknown captors. The CIA knows that John is not who he claims to be and thinks that Ariel "must be more important than she’s letting on.” For one thing, she changed her name from Laurel Turner in her adulthood. A nosy American reporter starts poking around. Moving between past and present and among the viewpoints of Ariel and her several observers, Pavone uses short scenes to build fast-paced tension. Who is behind the kidnapping, and why? Ariel isn’t rich, and there’s only one way—blackmail—to come up with the dough. She and her extortee can inflict great harm on each other, and in fact one of them had a head start years earlier. So will she get the cash and rescue John? Then suspicious polícia stop Ariel from boarding a flight to the U.S., the CIA monitors her calls, at least one CIA observer ponders the value of having her whacked, and a relentless, coke-sniffing reporter is convinced he smells a blockbuster scoop. Surprise builds on surprise, and although the reader may sense where the complicated plot is headed, the twists keep coming. Two nights in Lisbon sound like a fun vacation as long as someone isn’t trying to uncover a horrible secret from your past.

This high-stakes drama grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3746-0476-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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