March means spring training, and the heavy hitters are ready to score as they step out of mystery’s on-deck circle. First up: C.J. Box knocks one out of the park with the stunning Force of Nature. Then Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire title, As the Crow Flies, doubles with a new strong female lead. Put award-winner Brad Parks on base with his irreverent The Girl Next Door. And let Rhys Bowen bring them home with her newest Molly Murphy adventure, Hush Now, Don’t You Cry.
Or maybe it’s spring fever you prefer. Romantic suspense kicks up its heels with new energy this time. Diane Kelly’s sexy CPA sleuth in Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte puts a whole new spin on the IRS. Denise Swanson’s new series debut, Little Shop of Homicide, promises romantic entanglement issues ahead for Missouri shopkeeper Devereaux Sinclair. And love (and lust) are critical components in Tina Whittle’s second Tai Randolph title, the Atlanta-set thriller Darker Than Any Shadow.
For all your forensics buffs, take a look at this subgenre’s historical side. Bernadette Pajer’s Professor Bradshaw series warms up with Fatal Induction, an electrical forensics mystery set in 1901 Seattle. Over in Wales, Bernard Knight’s 1950s series features a team of forensic specialists enthralled with their newfound crime-solving powers using microscopes and blood tests. Be sure to examine his Grounds for Appeal, the third in a fascinating series.
OUT AND ABOUT
Mining for Murder is the theme of Left Coast Crime’s (LCC) March 29‚ April 1 gathering in Sacramento (www.leftcoastcrime.org/2012/). Guests of honor are John Lescroart and Jacqueline Winspear, special guest is James Rollins, and Harley Jane Kozak serves as toastmaster. LCC changes venue every year, so accordingly, the organizers can put a local spin on their conference. One example is the awards category, in which a totally random award might emerge. I like this year’s Golden Nugget award for the best mystery set in California.
Wouldn’t this be an easily modifiable category libraries could try at home? Regional mysteries have always been popular, and what a fun way to generate some renewed interest in those winning titles we all have tucked in the stacks, doomed as soon as they’ve left the glory days of the new titles shelves. Regional lists abound, but try Stop! You’re Killing Me for starters (www.stopyourekillingme.com).
DEBUT OF THE MONTH
Swanson, Denise. Little Shop of Homicide: A Devereaux’s Dime Store Mystery. Obsidian Mysteries: NAL. Mar. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9780451236180. pap. $7.99. M
Local girl Devereaux Sinclair has returned to her small Missouri town after a stint in Kansas City ended badly. Now self-employed as a general store owner/gift basket creator and acting as a caregiver to her grandmother, Dev is stunned when her ex-boyfriend’s fiancée is murdered in a bizarre manner. Worse, a zealous local detective wants to pin the crime on her. But feisty Dev, a former investment professional, is no dummy, and she is not about to be intimidated by a detective with a grudge. With her two best friends, an attorney and a bar owner, she is ready to find the killer. Grandma has a strategy, too, and chaos ensues. VERDICT Veteran author Swanson (Murder of a Creped Suzette; Scumble River Mysteries) debuts a spunky new heroine with a Missouri stubborn streak. Joelle Charbonneau readers will like this one for its slightly zany, multigenerational take on small-town mores.
Long Island Noir. May 2012. c.284p. ed. by Kaylie Jones. ISBN 9781617750625.
Mumbai Noir. Mar. 2012. c.300p. ed. by Altaf Tyrewala. ISBN 9781617750274. ea. vol. Akashic. (Akashic Noir). pap. $15.95. M
In this bleak Long Island anthology, editor Jones (Lies My Mother Never Told Me) uses the American Dream as her overarching theme, √† la The Great Gatsby. She divides the volume into four parts: Family Values, Hitting It Big, Love and Other Horrors, and American Dreamers. She has brought in Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Weinman, Nick Mamatas, Richie Narvaez, and others, who each write about their own geographic part of the island. For example, Kenneth Wishnia’s Blood Drive features a Port Jefferson Station worker desperate to find a new job. An unexpected contributor to this volume is cartoonist Jules Feiffer with his graphic short story set in Southampton, Boob Noir.
The Mumbai volume, edited by Tyrewala (No God in Sight) is similarly structured and divided into three parts: Bomb-ay, Dangerous Liaisons, and An Island Unto Itself. Tyrewala’s insightful introduction greatly enhances the reading experience, and the glossary helps, too. There are PIs‚ meet Ahmed Bunglowala’s Shorty Gomes proving his mettle in Nagpada Blues. Or for historical context, try Kalpish Ratna’s At Leopold Café, which haunts long after the final word. The collection is astonishingly diverse. Verdict Both volumes are worthy additions to Akashic’s stellar series. If you can only buy one, go for Tyrewala’s anthology for the experience of sampling brand-new authors and for his superb introduction. It might provide a fictional contrast to Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.
Box, C.J. Force of Nature: A Joe Pickett Novel. Putnam. Mar. 2012. c.372p. ISBN 9780399158261. $25.95. M
Set just weeks after fugitive Nate Romanowski’s double loss of his lover and a trusted ally (Cold Wind), Nate realizes that his former Air Force mentor is hunting him down and systematically eliminating all his known associates. A bloody confrontation along the Twelve Sleep River injures Nate and sets the tone for a series of violent attacks stretching from Colorado into Wyoming and Idaho. Getting ever closer to Nate’s best friends, game warden Joe Pickett and his wife Marybeth, the killer taunts his intended victims. Nate, up against a skilled falconer, expects only the worst outcome, but still he perseveres. And Joe, always honorable, plans to save Nate’s life, no matter what it takes. Verdict The 12th Joe Pickett novel focuses on the enigmatic Nate, whose story mirrors some of the sweeping changes brought on by 9/11 and the subsequent wars. Edgar-winner Box has written an exquisitely designed, six-act mystery that uses falconry for its central metaphor without ever losing the necessary thrust to make this an absolutely riveting read. This is the best Box I’ve ever read, and I’ve read them all. Recommend to fans of Lee Child’s The Affair. [See Prepub Alert, 9/19/11.]
West, Michael Lee. A Teeny Bit of Trouble. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780312571238. $24.99. M
Hallelujah! Teeny Templeton (Gone with a Handsomer Man) has returned, and she’s been served another plateful of crazy to boot. Cooper O’Malley’s high school girlfriend, Barb Philpot, draws Teeny into trouble with an outrageous lie: Coop, who is now Teeny’s beau, is fooling around with Barb behind Teeny’s back. Teeny’s attempt at surveillance goes horribly wrong when she is spotted by Barb and, worse, when she witnesses Barb being strangled by a masked man. Before her death, Barb ditched her ten-year-old daughter Emerson on Coop. Returning the girl to her legal father in Bonaventure, GA, Teeny’s hometown, brings more than bad memories for Teeny; there, she finds coded messages sent from the grave and discovers a black market of human parts. Verdict West’s second mystery rises to the occasion by following a surefire recipe for adventure: a dash of quirky heroine, a pinch of deadly secrets, and a lovely dollop of sweet romance, all carefully folded into a story of clever twists, turns, and red herrings. Readers already under Teeny’s spell will be relieved to find everything they were hoping for and more; newcomers will be racing back to the first book to discover what they’ve missed. [See Prepub Alert, 11/11/11.]‚ Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P. L., OH
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SHORT, But NOT SWEET
Guilty Consciences: A Crime Writers’ Association Anthology. Severn House. 2012. c.240p. ed. by Martin Edwards. ISBN 9780727880246. $28.95. pap. ISBN 9781847514042. $15.95. M
Long Island Noir. May 2012. c.284p. ed. by Kaylie Jones. ISBN 9781617750625.
CHECK THESE OUT
Gooden, Philip. The Ely Testament: A Cathedral Mystery. Severn House. Feb. 2012. c.236p. ISBN 9780727881038. $28.95. M
Houston, Victoria. Dead Tease: A Loon Lake Mystery. Tyrus. Mar. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9781440533129. $24.95. pap. ISBN 9781440533112. $15.95. M
Johnson, Craig. As the Crow Flies: A Walt Longmire Mystery. Viking. May 2012. c.308p. ISBN 9780670023516. $25.95. M
Kelly, Diane. Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte: A Tara Holloway Novel. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2012. c.316p. ISBN 9780312551278. pap. $7.99. M
Pajer, Bernadette. Fatal Induction: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery. Poisoned Pen. May 2012. c.228p. ISBN 9781590586129. $24.95; pap.
ISBN 9781590586143. $14.95. M
Parks, Brad. The Girl Next Door. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780312667689. $24.99. M
Whittle, Tina. Darker Than Any Shadow: A Tai Randolph Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Mar. 2012. c.306p. ISBN 9781590585467. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590585481. $14.95. M
Knight, Bernard. Grounds for Appeal. Severn House. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780727881076. $28.95. M
McKinlay, Jenn. Due or Die: A Library Lover’s Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Mar. 2012. c.296p. ISBN 9780425246689. pap. $7.99. M
Sigurdardóttir, Yrsa. Ashes to Dust. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2012. c.368p. tr. from Icelandic by Philip Roughton. ISBN 9780312641740. pap. $14.99. M