|In this Article|
|Debut of the Month|
Amateur detectives make a strong showing this season, venturing into all sorts of dark corners and evil dens. Of course, these sleuths are professionals in other areas, most notably psychology. Dennis Palumbo’s Pittsburgh psychologist‚ turned‚ police consultant gets more action than he bargained for in Fever Dream. And it’s a wonder how psychologist Liz Cooper can ever meet with patients when she is in over her head with a voodoo curse in Rochelle Staab’s playful debut ( Who Do, Voodoo? ).
Then we have the art historians and curators‚ married couples in both of these cases. Take time to savor Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden’s sumptuous Murder in Lascaux. Or dip into Amy Patricia Meade’s humorous venture into the backwoods, Well-Offed in Vermont.
Politicians‚ it almost goes without saying‚ will be corrupt in a mystery, but it’s always intriguing to try to figure out the details. Palumbo finds that politics are pretty dirty, as does Alan Orloff in Deadly Campaign.
There’s also room in these pages for hit men, aging Vietnam vets, psychics, and Russian mobsters!
OUT AND ABOUT
This year’s New England Crime Bake (www.crimebake.org), to be held November 11‚ 13 in Dedham, MA, is quite the hopping‚ and sold-out‚ conference. Troll the website for author leads and upcoming events. Guests of honor are Nancy Pickard and Barry Eisler.
Nonfiction stalwart Prometheus Books ventures further into the fiction world. Word has it that its new mystery/thriller imprint will launch its first titles late in 2012. Seventh Street Books is named after the Philadelphia street on which Edgar Allan Poe once lived. Sounds promising.
Poisoned Pen Press isn’t new to libraries, of course, but you might revisit its website (www.poisonedpenpress.com). Author contributions make for a lively and varied blog.
Draine, Betsy & Michael Hinden. Murder in Lascaux. Terrace: Univ. of Wisconsin. Nov. 2011. c.272p. ISBN 9780299284206. $26.95. M
When art historian Nora Barnes and her husband scored a coveted tour of France’s famed Lascaux cave, they hadn’t bargained for a murder at the site. Deeply shaken, they proceed to the ch√¢teau for their cooking school vacation, joined by the other couple from the tour. Police investigators suspect the four outsiders, which worries Nora and Toby. Nora’s research is tied to this particular home, and as she learns more of its history, she senses that the murderer is among the guests.This densely written and marvelously detailed excursion through the Dordogne will leave you dreaming of castles, ch√¢teaus, and caves. But it’s haunted with 20th-century history involving World War II atrocities and theft. VERDICT With the cooking school component, this multifaceted read will hold great appeal for art, food, travel, and, oh yes, mystery readers. It couples beautifully with Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern. Jane Langton’s mysteries also come to mind, and Elly Griffiths’s fans will enjoy the archaeology angle.
Mills, Jon. The Ronnie Gene. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Nov. 2011. c.258p. ISBN 9781432825164. $25.95. M
This engaging and clever debut features two unlikely protagonists: Stanley, who suffers from Parkinson’s, and Dave, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Caught up in financial and health insurance issues, they inadvertently become detectives on a case involving their bankrupt marketing company‚ and just about every other aspect of their lives. The precipitating events are the puzzling murder of Pete, a friend and the company’s accountant, and the subsequent reappearance of Ronnie, Stanley’s lost love. It turns out that Stanley’s financial problems lead to the late Pete. Suddenly, life is very twisty, and some of Dave’s logic actually makes sense. VERDICT Stanley and Dave are strikingly original sleuths, and Stanley’s struggle with paranoia gives the mystery a postmodern twist. This is sure to delight puzzle lovers and fans of Diana O’Hehir’s series about Carla Day and her Egyptologist father who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Palumbo, Dennis. Fever Dream: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Nov. 2011. c.250p. ISBN 9781590589571. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589595. $14.95. M
Pittsburgh psychologist Dan Rinaldi’s (Mirror Image) boxing skills serve him well in this high-octane police procedural, which opens with a bank robbery gone awry. Brought in by the police to help debrief a released hostage, Rinaldi again finds himself in something much more convoluted than a simple robbery. Somehow this case is tied in with the district attorney’s current campaign for governor. Stick with the two story lines, because ten rounds of sleuthing are required before Rinaldi’s astute powers of observation and physical agility can crack this case wide open. VERDICT Lots of action coupled with earnest conversations makes for a roller-coaster read. Veteran screenwriter Palumbo composes his book as if it were a TV movie, filling it with a few too many thinly developed characters. Still, the intriguing plot and the psychological angle will hold your attention. For pacing, action, and a look at the underbelly of big cities, fans of Robert Ellis’s Lena Gamble mysteries might take to this series.
The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. 2011. c.432p. ed. by Harlan Coben. ISBN 9780547553962. pap. $14.95. M
Expertly edited by thriller master Coben and featuring an insightful introduction by series editor Otto Penzler, this superb anthology presents 20 high-caliber short stories, all first published in 2010 and culled from assorted journals, anthologies, submissions, and magazines. Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin’s What His Hands Had Been Waiting For is a mesmerizing 1927-set country noir story that begs to become a novel. Or meet the crafty old dame in Ernest J. Finney’s A Crime of Opportunity. As a bonus, author bios and comments are included, along with a lineup of other recommended short story reads. VERDICT Some of the contributor names are huge‚ S.J. Rozan and Lawrence Block‚ but this collection offers a powerful array of familiar and new voices, leaning toward crime fiction’s noir side. This is the perfect way for mystery fans to try newer voices in the field or to stretch their comfort level for subgenre reading.
McInerny, Ralph. The Compassion of Father Dowling. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Dec. 2011. c.352p. ISBN 9781432825102. $25.95. M
For those seeking cozier short stories, this new compilation (following The Wisdom of Father Dowling) nicely fills a niche. The 16 stories have all appeared before, mostly in the serial Catholic Dossier, but not in one anthology. It is hard not to enjoy Midwesterner Father Dowling’s subtle detecting and his housekeeper Marie’s earnestness. VERDICT The late McInerny (1929‚ 2010) cut a wide swath of followers during his long writing career. These gems will remind readers how the benevolent Father Dowling always walked the walk; no false homilies with this guy.
He’d spent so much time alone, in enemy territory, with his rifle and his handgun. The smell of the weapons, and of the oil that kept them running smoothly, was more potent to him than the smell of the most beautiful woman on earth. It was the one smell in all the world he could trust.‚ Peter James, Dead Man’s Grip
I sighed. Gigi was going to be seriously handicapped as an investigator if she couldn’t get over her hangup about lying. It was one of the PI’s most useful tools, I’d found. As were its relatives: misleading, prevaricating, fibbing, and creative manipulation of the truth.‚ Laura DiSilverio, Swift Edge
CHECK THESE OUT
DiSilverio, Laura. Swift Edge. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Dec. 2011. c.288p. ISBN 9780312624446. $25.99. M
Olympic hopeful skating star Dmitri Fane has disappeared just days before Nationals are set to begin in Colorado Springs. Hired to find him by Dmitri’s hysterical young partner, PI Charlotte Charlie Swift (Swift Justice) soon figures out that Dmitri was making money on the side to pay for costumes and training‚ and his unorthodox means are catching up with him. Quicker than you can say triple Salchow, Charlie finds the skating duo’s gravely injured coach and Dmitri’s dead cohorts. Will Dmitri’s next death spiral be fatal, too? VERDICT DiSilverio has a bit of Sue Grafton’s tone about her, with a dash of Janet Evanovich thrown in, thanks to Charlie’s always unpredictable partner, Gigi. Expect to laugh and roll your eyes with this enjoyable read. [Library marketing.]
Griffin, H. Terrell. Collateral Damage: A Matt Royal Mystery. Oceanview. Dec. 2011. c.360p. ISBN 9781608090266. $25.95. M
A conspiracy plot centered in unlikely little Longboat Key, FL, brings boomer lit to life. Semiretired lawyer‚ turned‚ beach bum Matt Royal is hired by Doc, his old Marine buddy from Vietnam, to find out who killed his son. Can a trio of deaths on a nearby dinner cruise ship be linked? The well-connected Matt brings in Jock, a multitalented federal agent, to help figure out what is going on, since signs point inexplicably to a Laos connection that might involve drugs. Soon the guys are under siege, diving in the sand to escape gunshots and knifings. VERDICT Truly an action lover’s delight, this terrific sixth series entry (Bitter Legacy) radiates energy as intense as Florida’s August sun. Combine a strong sense of place with plenty of over-the-top but exciting situations, and you’ve got a winner. Try this with your Robert Crais fans and for those who mention John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee mysteries with a wistful look.
James, Peter. Dead Man’s Grip. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Dec. 2011. c.416p. ISBN 9780312642839. $25.99. M
Rule of thumb: don’t mess with a mobster’s kid. One frantic morning, three stressed-out drivers are involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident. The dead bicyclist, an American graduate student studying in Brighton, is the son of an American Mafia family. Not content to let Det. Roy Grace and his colleagues find the sole driver who fled the accident scene, the boy’s vengeful parents hire the very best hit man to kill all three drivers in a creative manner. He is quite thorough and cruel, and Grace needs to stop this guy before more innocent folks die. VERDICT This seventh entry in James’s Roy Grace series (after Dead Like You) can be read as a stand-alone. Dollars to doughnuts your readers will come back begging for more after this exciting one. For fans of Lee Child and Jeffery Deaver‚ and perhaps Nelson DeMille.
Morson, Ian. A Deadly Injustice: A Nick Zuliani Mystery. Severn House. Nov. 2011. c.224p. ISBN 9780727880628. $28.95. M
Venetian Niccol√≤ Zuliani (City of the Dead) returns in a spunky sequel and proves his first-rate detecting abilities are no fluke. What Nick is doing in China during the Song Dynasty (the year is 1268) is a fascinating story in itself, and Morson spins it in a delightful way. In this outing, the red-headed investigator for the Mongol Emperor is sent to a remote town to reexamine the case of a young woman who confessed to poisoning her future father-in-law. VERDICT This winning first-person narrative is just the ticket for crime fiction readers who like humor mixed with their history. Morson, author of the Master William Falconer series, brings a fresh dimension to the medieval mystery with his setting. Zuliani is a likable protagonist whose ability to run a counterscam makes for a clever, intricate puzzle. A prime readalike would be Gary Corby’s ancient Greece series.
Nickson, Chris. Cold Cruel Winter: A Richard Nottingham Mystery. Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Nov. 2011. c.224p. ISBN 9781780290058. $28.95. M
Ah, the crazed mind. This second entry in an outstanding series (after The Broken Token) begins with a murder of vengeance. We learn this from the killer’s perspective, as the newly released criminal returns to 1732 Leeds to wreak havoc on those who sent him to prison. Constable Nottingham, as strong and good as ever, is grieving over the recent death of his older daughter. But when the murderer starts delivering little books bound with the flesh of his victims, the constable snaps into high alert. A small but devoted police staff and an unusually varied group of informants prove that Nottingham can play hardball, too. VERDICT With its accessible language and likable supporting characters, this stunning historical will just as easily appeal to contemporary thriller fans. Nickson is developing an unusual series that is strong on creepy: Chelsea Cain goes 18th century, anyone?
Orloff, Alan. Deadly Campaign: A Last Laff Mystery. Midnight Ink. Jan. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780738723181. pap. $14.95. M
Professional comedian Channing Hayes (Killer Routine) goes amateur detective in his rousing encore performance. Channing and his partner, Artie, are invited to a political kickoff for the nephew of their friend Thomas Lee, but masked thugs disrupt the event. Lee begs Channing to find out who wants to sabotage Edward Wong’s campaign, and Channing reluctantly agrees to poke around. His snooping does not go unnoticed, and our sleuth begins to realize that the seemingly perfect Asian American family is full of cracks and chips. He is also struggling in his own life‚ still recovering from his fiancée’s death and regaining his comedy mojo, while this favor threatens to tarnish an entire community. VERDICT Politics is no laughing matter for the intrepid and ever-helpful Channing. Orloff has put together another winning routine, and mystery buffs will enjoy the fresh venue of a comedy club, not to mention a soft-boiled amateur sleuth case.
Blackwell, Juliet. Dead Bolt: A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery. Obsidian Mysteries: NAL. Dec. 2011. c.336p. ISBN 9 780451235305. pap. $7.99. M
San Francisco‚ based Melanie Turner (If Walls Could Talk) is no ordinary contractor. Her renovations veer to spooky, haunted Victorian houses, and you might call her a ghost buster. But the specters in this current job are more malevolent, suggesting that some crimes remain unresolved. When a neighbor turns up murdered and former tenants of the house aren’t being forthright, Mel knows there is unfinished business in this place. She would just like to live to see the murderer caught. VERDICT Cleverly plotted with a terrific sense of the history of the greater Bay Area, Blackwell’s series has plenty of ghosts and supernatural happenings to keep readers entertained and off balance. Sue Ann Jaffarian’s Ghost of Granny Apples series is a good match. Blackwell also writes as Hailey Lind.
Fraser, Anthea. Shifting Sands. Severn House. Nov. 2011. c.224p. ISBN 9780727880574. $28.95. M
Recently widowed Anna Farrell goes on a South African safari holiday, a gift from her grown children who hope she will enjoy the diversion. But they don’t count on their mother falling in love with Lewis Masters, a successful businessman. In an uncanny coincidence, Anna’s journalist son, Jonathan, is investigating a story about the health spa company that Lewis owns. People may be dying from some of the spa’s experimental treatments. A leisurely but engrossing story picks up momentum midstream when Jonathan’s inside source is murdered. Did Mum’s new boyfriend murder the whistle-blower? VERDICT This old-fashioned tale of romantic suspense, dressed up for the 21st century, from the always reliable Fraser (Thicker Than Water) will entertain Margaret Truman fans and readers who like family dramas in the style of Penny Vincenzi.
Meade, Amy Patricia. Well-Offed in Vermont: A Pret’ Near Perfect Mystery. Midnight Ink. Nov. 2011. c.240p. ISBN 9780738725901. pap. $14.95. M
Imagine that you have just moved into your dream home in a bucolic Vermont village, only to find a dead guy in your well‚ make that a murdered guy. Young professionals Stella and Nick thought moving from Manhattan would be a slice of paradise, but now they are locked out of their home and forced to figure out what possible motive led to this local businessman’s demise. The couple makes it their business to solve the crime, and their intrepid spirit catches the locals by surprise, including the somewhat hapless sheriff. VERDICT Meade successfully segues from her historicals (Black Moonlight) to this snappy yet traditional contemporary. She brings us pitch-perfect dialog, original characters, and enormous potential for a fun series. Buy now and get in on the ground floor!
Staab, Rochelle. Who Do, Voodoo? Berkley Prime Crime. (Mind for Murder Mysteries). Nov. 2011. c.304p. ISBN 9780425244593. pap. $7.99. M
Let Staab’s debut cast a spell over your readers with its spirited pace, likable heroine, and Los Angeles backdrop. This is light, romantic suspense featuring first-person narration by psychologist Liz Cooper, whose best friend, Robin, is being stalked and hexed by an unknown assailant. But then the girlfriend of Robin’s boss is murdered, and Robin becomes the prime suspect based on an argument witnessed by many. Garnering the assistance of a handsome, single professor who knows all things occult, BFF Liz digs in. When the curses increase and spells need to be broken, count on her to see it through. Mix in a mother who reads tarot, a brother who is with the LAPD, and a steady patter of classic film references. VERDICT Staab sets her fairly sophisticated blend of the occult in a flashy West Coast locale for great escape reading. Fans of Juliet Blackwell and Rebecca M. Hale will get a kick out of this one.
Alexander, Tasha. A Crimson Warning. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2011. c.320p. ISBN 9780312661755. $24.99. M
In early summer 1893, someone is splashing red paint on the doorsteps of prominent London citizens, a warning that their most scandalous secrets are about to be exposed. One of the first targets is Mr. Dillman, an industrialist promoting social justice. When he is killed in a warehouse fire, Colin Hargreaves, an agent of the Crown, is requested to investigate. Colin and his wife, Lady Emily, begin their work as a team to find the connection among the paint, the secrets, and the murder. After a detour to Normandy in Dangerous To Know, Alexander returns to the familiar setting of London society; this time she has a more solid foundation on which to build her characters and crime. Emily remains strong willed and focused in her desire to find the culprit before Colin, but their sincere affection and happy marriage act as pleasant counterweights to Emily’s competitive nature. VERDICT The mystery and the solution are clever, with the addition of commentary on the dark side of a class-driven society for extra oomph. Fans will be excited to spend more quality time with such appealing and intelligent characters. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/11.]‚ Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH
Mortimer, John. Forever Rumpole: The Best of the Rumpole Stories. Viking. Nov. 2011. c.528p. ISBN 9780670023066. $30. M
Horace Rumpole, the claret-quaffing barrister who never quite makes the grade but always makes a point, stars in a new collection of his most outrageous exploits. Created by British barrister Mortimer, Rumpole’s courtroom antics and politically incorrect gaffes have made him a perennial favorite among mystery fans for decades. The book begins with an excellent and insightful introduction by barrister Ann Mallalieu who had the pleasure of assisting Mortimer on some of his cases. Collected here are 14 stories total; seven that were previously published in 1993 under the title The Best of Rumpole, and an additional seven from Mortimer’s later works. There is also a sliver of a novel, Rumpole and the Brave New World, which Mortimer began shortly before his death in 2009. VERDICT Alas, Rumpole devotees will find nothing new. However, those uninitiated to the irascible barrister’s charm and wit will have much to relish. The collection is an excellent primer to all things Rumpole: the Timson clan (his favorite thieving family), his penchant for Chateau Fleet Street, and the indomitable Hilda, long-suffering wife and appropriately titled She Who Must Be Obeyed.‚ Amy Nolan, St. Joseph P.L., MI
Collins, Kate. To Catch A Leaf: A Flower Shop Mystery. Obsidian Mysteries: NAL. Nov. 2011. c.336p. ISBN 9780451235237. pap. $7.99. M
Putting her wedding plans on hold, flower shop owner Abby (Night of the Living Dandelion) is not about to let her assistant take the fall for the murder of a wealthy local woman.
DePoy, Phillip. A Corpse’s Nightmare: A Fever Devilin Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2011. c.310p. ISBN 9780312699468. $25.99. M
In DePoy’s sixth Southern gothic entry, folklorist Fever Devilin (The Drifter’s Wheel) wakes up from a three-month coma wondering who wanted to kill him.
Finch, Charles. A Burial at Sea. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2011. c.320p. ISBN 9780312625085. $24.99. M
Detective-cum-spy Charles Lenox is off to Egypt in his fifth historical jaunt (A Stranger in Mayfair). Expect intrigue and seafaring tales in this Victorian adventure. [Library marketing.]
Finnis, Jane. Danger in the Wind: An Aurelia Marcella Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Dec. 2011. c. 250p. ISBN 9781590588901. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590588925. $14.95. M
In Roman Britain, lively innkeeper Aurelia Marcella’s (Buried Too Deep) latest round of troubles begin when a soldier is murdered at the inn.
Harrison, Cora. Deed of Murder. Severn House. Dec. 2011. c.224p. ISBN 9780727880710. $28.95. M
Prepare to be immersed in 16th- century Ireland as Mara (Scales of Retribution), Brehon of the Burren, tracks down a stolen deed after one of her law students is murdered.
Havill, Steven F. One Perfect Shot: A Posadas County Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Jan. 2012. c.250p. ISBN 9781590589540. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589564. $14.95. M
Grab this prequel to Havill’s winning New Mexico‚ set series (Double Prey) to learn how Undersheriff Bill Gastner first met his new deputy, Estelle Reyes.
Jardine, Quintin. Grievous Angel: A Bob Skinner Mystery. Headline, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Dec. 2011. c.410p. ISBN 9780755356928. $24.95. M
It’s always dark in Jardine’s Scottish thrillers, and DS Bob Skinner (A Rush of Blood) is in the midst of a crime spree targeting Edinburgh’s gays. Meanwhile, his own past is terrorizing him, too.
Purser, Ann. Foul Play at Four: A Lois Meade Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Dec. 2011. c.320p. ISBN 9780425243596. $24.95. M
Don’t miss housecleaner and sleuth Lois Meade in her 11th outing (Threats at Three). The working-class Miss Marple is always welcome.
Thurlo, Aim é e & David Thurlo. Black Thunder: An Ella Clah Novel. Forge: Tor. Nov. 2011. c.320p. ISBN 9780765324511. $24.99. M
The last thing the Navajo need is a serial killer among them. Count on Special Investigator Ella Clah (The Never-Ending Snake) to find the connections on and off the reservation.
Tremayne, Peter. The Chalice of Blood: A Mystery of Ancient Ireland. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2011. c.384p. ISBN 9780312551216. $25.99. M
In the latest addition to Treymane’s long-running, beloved series set in medieval Ireland, Sister Fidelma (The Dove of Death) and Brother Eadulf hunt for manuscripts stolen from a murdered scholar.
|Teresa L. Jacobsen, retired librarian, was a training coordinator for Solano County Library, and previous to that, a fiction evaluator/reference librarian for Santa Monica Public Library. She has written occasional feature articles for LJ and BookSmack! and reviewed fiction regularly since 2004. She is an unabashed mystery fan who enjoys bringing new readers into the fold.|