A polished, confident whodunit brimming with personality and the right amount of intrigue and mayhem.

DHARMA

A REKHA RAO MYSTERY

An amateur sleuth investigates the murders of her father and her university mentor.

The star of this debut mystery is Rekha Rao, an Indian American art history professor caught in the middle of a violent nightmare. The Southern California–based story opens with Rao being unceremoniously notified by police about the heinous murder of her mentor, archaeology professor Joseph Faust. He was bludgeoned to death with a Hindu goddess statue possibly absconded from his excavation site in India. Rao is asked to assist in supplying information on a possible motive for Faust’s murder, but she’s still reeling from the devastatingly traumatic effects of the senseless killing of her own father, a physician bludgeoned to death in his clinic just three years earlier. That homicide became even more complex after a janitor was arrested for the crime. But when Rao insisted the accused was innocent and that police reopen the case, they refused. When one of her students is brought in for questioning and then arrested in connection with Faust’s murder, Rao knows she needs to work fast to find answers as various suspicions, accusations, and suspects (including Faust’s wife and his cross-dressing son) begin orbiting the criminal inquiry. Rao also becomes increasingly frustrated with the general pace of the police-led investigation and, against Pasadena Police Detective Al Newton’s advice, begins her own amateur sleuthing, which puts her directly in harm’s way.

Rao is an instantly likable character whose respect for her family and her Indian heritage makes her a courageous, determined, reliable, believable, and humanitarian heroine for readers to cheer as she perilously attempts to piece together both crimes. “My goal to take care of all my dharmas was not a facetious one,” the protagonist reflects. Her undeniable attraction to the confident, handsome senior homicide detective creates some added romantic tension and another layer of intrigue to the narrative. Playing out over the course of just a few months, the story demonstrates Kumari’s uncanny knack for putting all of her characters and crimes in place and tying up loose ends in an economy of pages. Combining Hinduism, Hindu mythology, old jealousies and grudges, family melodrama, hidden secrets, and another death, the novel presents a winning recipe for an absorbing read. While the tale has many plot elements continuously spinning, the academic-turned–actress-and-author keeps a firm grip on the main plotline, which she skillfully and quite suspensefully brings to a boil once the perpetrator of Faust’s death is established and the race for justice moves into full swing. Though a newcomer to the mystery genre, Kumari establishes herself here as a writer with ingenuity. She presents a satisfying crime tale with appealing characters who embody vivid and unique cultural perspectives. Delivering a smoothly written, impressive series opener, the author is a new mystery writer to watch.

A polished, confident whodunit brimming with personality and the right amount of intrigue and mayhem.

Pub Date: March 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-938394-42-3

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Great Life Press

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A smart summer escape.

PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN

Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon novel is a bit of a throwback—in the best possible way.

One-time assassin and legendary spymaster Gabriel Allon has finally retired. After saying farewell to his friends and colleagues in Israel, he moves with his wife, Chiara, and their two young children to a piano nobile overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. His plan is to return to the workshop where he learned to restore paintings as an employee—but only after he spends several weeks recovering from the bullet wound that left him dead for several minutes in The Cellist (2021). Of course, no one expects Gabriel to entirely withdraw from the field, and, sure enough, a call from his friend and occasional asset Julian Isherwood sends him racing around the globe on the trail of art forgers who are willing to kill to protect their extremely lucrative enterprise. Silva provides plenty of thrills and, as usual, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the outrageously wealthy. In the early books in this series, it was Gabriel’s work as an art restorer that set him apart from other action heroes, and his return to that world is the most rewarding part of this installment. It is true that, at this point in his storied career, Gabriel has become a nearly mythic figure. And Silva is counting on a lot of love—and willing suspension of disbelief—when Gabriel whips up four old master canvases that fool the world’s leading art experts as a lure for the syndicate selling fake paintings. That said, as Silva explains in an author’s note, the art market is rife with secrecy, subterfuge, and wishful thinking, in no small part because it is almost entirely unregulated. And, if anyone can crank out a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Gentileschi, and a Veronese in a matter of days, it’s Gabriel Allon. The author’s longtime fans may breathe a sigh of relief that this entry is relatively free of politics and the pandemic is nowhere in sight.

A smart summer escape.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283485-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A rarity: a police procedural more deeply invested in the victims than either the killer or the police.

ABANDONED IN DEATH

June 2061 is a perilous time for women in a downtown Manhattan neighborhood who happen to resemble a violent kidnapper’s mother.

The killer doesn’t seem to be trying to hide anything except his own identity. Ten days after snatching bartender Lauren Elder from the street as she walked home, he leaves her body, carefully dressed and made up, with even the gash in her throat meticulously stitched up and beribboned, where it’s sure to be found quickly, along with the chilling label “bad mommy.” When Lt. Eve Dallas and Detective Delia Peabody realize that Anna Hobe, a server at a nearby karaoke bar who disappeared a week ago under similar circumstances, was probably another victim of the same perp, the clock begins ticking down even before they learn that assistant marketing manager Mary Kate Covino has gone missing as well. Dallas, Peabody, and the helpers who’ve made Robb’s long-lived franchise even more distinctive than its futuristic setting race to find the women or identify their kidnapper before he reverts once again to the 5-year-old abandoned by his mother many years ago. The emphasis this time is on investigative procedure, forensics (beginning with the Party Girl perfume and the Toot Sweet moisturizer the murderer uses on the corpses of his victims), and the broader danger women in every generation face from men who just can’t grow up.

A rarity: a police procedural more deeply invested in the victims than either the killer or the police.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7821-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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