A limited but highly proficient exercise in deduction by a forgotten author: a welcome rediscovery.

VULTURES IN THE SKY

Murder strikes a Pullman coach bound for Mexico City from San Antonio, and then strikes again and again in this reprint from 1935.

The third of six adventures featuring U.S. Treasury agent Hugh Rennert finds the trip already underway after agent Edgar Graves has apparently fainted (he’s actually been given a lethal injection of nicotine) on the departure platform back in the San Antonio train station. Hardly have the bland characters—cotton mill owner Jackson Saul King, albino William Searcey, novelty salesman Preston Radcott, journalist Ed Spahr, French political activist Paul Xavier Jeanes, unflappable Trescinda Talcott, San Antonio realtor Eduardo Torner, and Long Island socialite Coralie Van Syle—introduced themselves to Rennert and each other that one of them is treated to another dose of nicotine. Rennert is businesslike but so self-effacing that you have to wonder if he’ll finish questioning the suspects before the next victim dies. The murders are clearly connected to the kidnapping of 3-year-old Antonio Montes, who was found dead in a burning car crash soon after being taken from his wealthy father, and they may well be connected to a mysterious speech King’s wife, who he says got off the train earlier even though the porter never saw her leave, overheard back in San Antonio. Downing (1902-1974) doles out Mexican local color in small but expertly teasing doses, gets excellent mileage out of a cheap stickpin and several other physical clues, and produces a surprisingly varied chain of incidents in the course of whittling down the passenger list.

A limited but highly proficient exercise in deduction by a forgotten author: a welcome rediscovery.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61316-179-1

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Penzler Publishers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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The lavish food descriptions and appended recipes are the best parts of this anemic mystery.

CANDY SLAIN MURDER

Christmas is coming, but so is trouble for South Lick, Indiana.

Robbie Jordan, owner and chief cook at Pans ’N Pancakes, returns from solving a murder in California just in time for the holiday rush, which is complicated more than most Christmastimes by a number of surprises that disrupt her circle of friends. First, her assistant, Danna Beedle, gets a visit from Marcus Vandemere, a young biracial man claiming to be her half brother, an assertion that thrills Danna despite the doubts of some friends and relatives. Next comes a fire that nearly destroys the home of anesthesiologist Dr. William Geller, a racist whose wife, Tina, reportedly left him years ago. When a skeleton turns up in the attic, the not-so-esteemed doctor has some explaining to do. Robbie’s nemesis, Detective Octavia Slade, who recently married Robbie’s former boyfriend, is more willing than usual to accept help from Robbie, who has a knack for finding things out. The next to die is Tina’s twin, Toni, who knew Marcus from karate classes. Toni’s husband is the prime suspect, but Robbie’s convinced the fatalities are connected. With help from her boyfriend and her network of friends, she attempts to clear things up before the killer spoils her holiday by adding her to his list.

The lavish food descriptions and appended recipes are the best parts of this anemic mystery.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4967-2317-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Quirky characters add depth to a romantic mystery that explores cultural divides.

LEMON DROP DEAD

A small Ohio town where both Amish and "English" people live attracts tourists, babies, and killers.

Bailey King is not Amish, but the grandmother with whom she runs Swissmen Sweets is, so she has a foot in both camps in Harvest. She also has a cable television show filmed in New York and a busy boyfriend in Deputy Aiden Brody, whom she’s helped solve several murder cases. Long ago, when her assistant, Emily Keim, was a teenager, the girl's family forced her to give up a baby she bore out of wedlock. Now that Emily’s pregnant again, her friends decide to have a baby shower, something Esther Esh, Emily’s grumpy sister, would never have thought of on her own. Soon after a stranger approaches Emily and says she’s looking forward to Emily’s baby meeting her older sibling, the stranger’s found dead in the family pretzel shop Esther runs. Bailey knows that she must investigate to protect Emily. A threatening letter from Esther that Aiden finds on the body identifies the stranger as Rosemary Weiss, from nearby Wooster. Although Bailey’s shaken by a job offer Aiden’s received from Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which would take him away from Harvest, she soldiers on. Tracking down Emily’s daughter, Hannah, is the easy part of her quest for the truth. The hard part is choosing the most likely suspect from among the many Rosemary’s past provides before the guilty party strikes again.

Quirky characters add depth to a romantic mystery that explores cultural divides.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4967-2204-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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