Let’s toast the new authors making their debuts in 2012! The variety of venues and characters ensure dynamic new mystery reads. A shout-out to Susan Elia MacNeal’s intrepid female math wiz ( Mr. Churchill’s Secretary), James L. Conway’s Hollywood PI ( Dead and Not So Buried), Keith McCafferty’s fly fisherman PI (The Royal Wulff Murders), Mollie Cox Bryan’s crafty gals ( Scrapbook of Secrets), and a new series (we hope) for Robert Greer’s team of an African American Air Force major and a disabled web journalist (Astride a Pink Horse).
Next, applaud two authors who, rather than suffering from sophomore slump, are confidently building on their much-lauded debuts. Make sure to catch Hilary Davidson with her adrenaline-soaked Peruvian-set thriller (The Next One To Fall) and succumb again to Maureen Carter’s diva drama procedural series in her spooky Mother Love.
With in-your-face narratives, three authors incorporate martial arts training into their protagonists’ repertoires. Self-defense training makes perfect sense for the gals in heels. Pump fists for Vicki Doudera’s use of aikido (Deadly Offer), K.J. Larsen’s karate kicks (Sticks and Stones), and Helene Tursten’s jujitsu (Night Rounds).
I am also intrigued by three original stories that portray border crossing in a new light. Greer’s Astride a Pink Horse features Canada, Milton T. Burton’s historical (The Devil’s Odds) targets the Texas-Mexico border, and Joseph Wambaugh sails into the major port of Los Angeles (Harbor Nocturne).
OUT AND ABOUT
If working with historical mystery readers panics you (I don’t know any more medievalists!), you’re just a click away from greater confidence. Try Crime Thru Time (www.crimethrutime.com) for detailed lists, time lines, links, a book club, and more. Nothing is totally comprehensive, but this site works wonders for historical fans.
Hankering for a professional excuse to go to Florida this winter? Look no further than SleuthFest 2012 (www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest.htm) and book your reservations for Orlando. The event, scheduled for March 1‚ 4, is hosted by Florida’s Mystery Writers of America Chapter. Guests of honor Jeffery Deaver and Charlaine Harris are the headliners.
DEBUT OF THE MONTH
MacNeal, Susan Elia. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Bantam. Apr. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780553593617. pap. $15. M
British-born but American-raised Maggie Hope, a math whiz with an MIT graduate school offer on hold, went to London to sell her late grandmother’s home. Now it’s 1940, and she is passionate about staying to help with her birth country’s war effort. As a secretary for the prime minister’s office, she is privy to Winston Churchill’s inner thoughts. But unbeknownst to Maggie, a mole is working nearby, burrowing deep inside 10 Downing Street and making plans to cripple England’s leadership. Already, one secretary has died at the hands of IRA activists colluding with the Nazis, but Maggie’s shocking discoveries about her own family further threaten national security. VERDICT Watch out for the smart girl who can crack codes with her slide rule. The appeal of real-life characters populating the story works well in this solid historical cozy debut. MacNeal squeezes in plenty of World War II facts but never slows the pace. I like pairing this with Maureen Jennings’s Season of Darkness and Sarah R. Shaber’s Louise’s War.
Tursten, Helene. Night Rounds. Soho Crime. Feb. 2012. c.336p. tr. from Swedish by Laura A. Wideburg. ISBN 9781616950064. $25. M
At a tiny, private Swedish hospital one fateful night, someone cuts the power, disengages the backup generator, and murders a nurse. Eerily, the other nurse on duty is convinced she saw the hospital’s resident ghost that evening. Back in the late 1940s, a nurse died there, hanged in the attic; many feel she continues to haunt the facility. A few days after the power failure, another nurse who has gone missing is found hanged in the same place. Insp. Irene Huss realizes that the killer is intimately familiar with the hospital’s history. And that means she and her team will have to immerse themselves in both the current evidence and with the building’s genealogy. Diagnosis: Revenge. VERDICT I couldn’t put down this finely crafted, Swedish procedural with its complex story line and heart-stopping climax. In her fourth outing (after The Glass Devil), Huss works intuitively, and her family interactions add extra depth to the novel. This series will appeal to those who like Michael Genelin and Quentin Bates. [See Prepub Alert, 11/11/11; for more Scandinavian crime fiction, see Nordic Crime Fiction on p. 58.‚ Ed.]
Greer, Robert. Astride a Pink Horse. North Atlantic. Mar. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781583943694. $23.95. M
When a retired Air Force missile technician is found dead and mutilated on a restricted military site in remote Wyoming, Air Force Major Bernadette Cameron and Denver-based reporter Elgin Cozy Coseia are among the first to arrive on the scene. The victim, African American Thurmond Giles, had cut quite a wide swath during his tenure; it’s hard to decide whether the murder was a hate crime or an act of personal revenge. A crowd of suspects emerges: two former lovers, a Japanese American family with deep anger about World War II, a disgruntled rancher, and a wronged husband. Bernadette, granddaughter of a Tuskegee airman, and somewhat of a maverick, keeps tripping over Cozy until they decide to work together on the case. Things heat up quickly, because the killer has bigger plans ahead. VERDICT Greer takes a new direction from his popular series character, C.J. Floyd (Blackbird, Farewell), and I hope Bernadette and Cozy will be back soon. The refreshingly eccentric cast and elaborately structured plot make for an engrossing tale. Think Elmore Leonard, Brad Parks, and Craig Johnson.
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The following titles are reviewed in the January print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.
MARTIAL ARTS HIGH KICKS
Doudera, Vicki. Deadly Offer: A Darby Farr Mystery. Midnight Ink. Apr. 2012. c.312p. ISBN 9780738719801. pap. $14.95. M
Larsen, K.J. Sticks and Stones: A Cat DeLuca Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Feb. 2012. c.228p. ISBN 9781590589212. $24.95; pap.
ISBN 9781590589236. $14.95. M
CHECK THESE OUT
Burton, Milton T. The Devil’s Odds. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780312643355. $25.99. M
Carter, Maureen. Mother Love. Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Feb. 2012. c.216p. ISBN 9781780290089. $28.95. M
Conway, James L. Dead and Not So Buried: A Gideon Kincaid Hollywood Thriller. Camel. Feb. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781603818667. pap. $15.95. M
Davidson, Hilary. The Next One To Fall. Forge: Tor. Feb. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780765326980. $24.99. M
McCafferty, Keith. The Royal Wulff Murders. Viking. Feb. 2012. c.332p. ISBN 9780670023264. $26.95. M
Wambaugh, Joseph. Harbor Nocturne. Mysterious Pr: Grove/Atlantic. Apr. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780802126108. $27. M
Bryan, Mollie Cox. Scrapbook of Secrets: A Cumberland Creek Mystery. Kensington. Feb. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780758266316. pap. $7.99. M
Hood, Evelyn. Mystery in Prior’s Ford. Severn House. Feb. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780727880918. $28.95. M
Toussaint, Maggie. Death, Island Style. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Feb. 2012. c.262p. ISBN 9781432825669. $25.95. M
Black, Cara. Murder at the Lanterne Rouge: An Aimée Leduc Investigation. Soho Crime. Mar. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781616950613. $25. M
Dean, Anna. A Woman of Consequence: The Investigations of Miss Dido Kent. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780312626846. $24.99. M