Mystery Reviews | May 1, 2013

Though May is the month of Mother’s Day, not many of the mother characters is this column’s titles are meant to be celebrated. Don’t miss the secret-keeping mother in Sandra J. Robson’s twisty debut, False as the Day Is Long. Watch out for the really messed-up mom in Maegan Beaumont’s scary Carved in Darkness. Then there’s the idealized—but deceased—mother in Mark Pryor’s The Crypt Thief. On a lighter note, Deborah Coonts offers a comic take on the late-in-life pregnancy of Lucky’s mom in Lucky Bastard. Lastly, meet a misguided and disapproving mother in Liz Mugavero’s debut cozy, Kneading to Die.

Memorial Day anchors the end of May, reminding us of personal sacrifice and national responsibility. Veterans, both heroic and damaged, play prominent roles in several titles. Be sure to look at The Terrorist Next Door from Sheldon Siegel and Linda Rodriguez’s Every Broken Trust for contemporary plotlines. The latest anthology from the Mystery Writers of America, The Mystery Box, also showcases wartime-related mysteries from other eras.

The Edgar Awards (mysterywriters.org) and Agatha Awards (malicedomestic.org) will be given out at banquets the evenings of May 2 and May 4, respectively. Don’t forget to follow along on Twitter in real time or to check online the next day, as the awards will trigger holds alerts at the library soon after.

HONORS AND MEMORIES Going golden: Carolyn Hart publishes her 50th book this month with Dead, White, and Blue (see Series Lineup on page 64). Longtime readers know her for romantic suspense titles (some of which have been reissued), but most identify her with the “Death on Demand” series. She will be honored at Malice Domestic this month with the Amelia Award. Her readers’ advisory–friendly website is carolynhart.com.

RIP Historical mystery author Margaret Frazer (real name: Gail Frazer) passed away this February. Long known for her historical mystery series featuring Sister Frevisse and Joliffe, Frazer featured strong female leads and abundant historical detail; read more at margaretfrazer.com. The early Sister Frevisse titles were cowritten with Monica Ferris; start with The Novice’s Tale.

WALKING THE WALK Those of us who live in the Golden State have the good fortune to know Laurie R. King as a faithful advocate for library services. Generous with her speaking time, she recently completed a 10-stop “thank you” tour of libraries. The occasion? The 20th anniversary of her first book, A Grave Talent. Be sure to check her website (laurierking.com) for abundant library love. King will be honored as Malice Domestic’s guest of honor this year (malicedomestic.org).

Rogan, Barbara. A Dangerous Fiction: A Mystery. Viking. Jul. 2013. 324p. ISBN 9780670026500. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101622810. M

Successful literary agent Jo Donovan, the widow of an iconic literary figure, longs for the perfect life she remembers sharing with him. Then things take a turn for the worse when a stalker infiltrates both her physical and cyber worlds. The stalker’s insidious defamation of Jo’s character baffles her colleagues, the NYPD detectives working the case, and Jo herself. Then the attacks escalate to a real murder (one of her most famous clients is shot) and a clue left at the scene implicates Jo. But her inability to figure out who hates her so much brings the case to a standstill. Even the detective—a long-ago lover of Jo’s—is shocked by her warped perceptions of her past. Meanwhile, a determined killer moves ever closer. VERDICT This literary mystery veers back and forth between insider-gossip tone (replete with literary stereotypes) and genuine terror at warp speed, fulfilling many of the requirements for a perfect beach read. Readers who liked Debra Ginsberg’s Blind Submission and perhaps Jennifer Belle’s Little Stalker would enjoy.

fame Mystery Reviews | May 1, 2013OrangeReviewStar Mystery Reviews | May 1, 2013 Hallinan, Timothy. The Fame Thief: A Junior Bender Mystery. Soho Crime. Jun. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781616952808. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781616952815. M

Professional burglar Junior Bender agrees to help mobster/movie mogul Irwin Dressler find out who ruined beautiful starlet Dolores La Marr back in the early 1950s. Dressler’s bucket list includes finding out who set up Dolores so that her “good name” was stolen. Apparently, back in 1951, the lovely starlet was caught up in a raid, then kept in jail when all the others got their charges dropped and she eventually had to testify in front of Senate subcommittee hearings on organized crime. The investigation dredges up old vendettas, putting everyone involved in danger. Meanwhile, an engaging subplot involving Junior’s family adds a slightly comic air to the book. VERDICT Hallinan’s natural storytelling skills will hold readers rapt through his Shakespeare-quoting, five-act tale as they relish his attention to Los Angeles cultural details and ability to weave two time periods together so effectively. This third series entry (after Little Elvises) manages to keep it simultaneously playful yet empathetic.

OrangeReviewStar Mystery Reviews | May 1, 2013 Robson, Sandra J. False as the Day Is Long: A Keegan Shaw Mystery. Rainbow. May 2013. 236p. ISBN 9781568251462. pap. $16.95. M

Almost on a lark, Floridian freelance photojournalist Keegan takes on a sleuthing assignment and finds her subject more complicated than expected. Abby’s daughter, Sunni, has asked Keegan to follow Abby to London. Secretive about her past, Abby has been acting suspiciously and Sunni thinks London might be where her birth father lives. Believing she’s on a paternity hunt, Keegan soon learns that Abby was party to an unsolved murder that claimed her roommate’s life back in 1966. Abby might be seeking closure for a terrible chapter in her life, but now someone else wants to eliminate her entirely. Keegan is caught up in a swirling scene of jealousy, long-simmering hatred, and folks on the run. VERDICT One woman’s search for her past threatens those who were left behind. Robson’s effective use of twists and turns is nicely paced and introduces an engaging protagonist with plenty of her own skeletons in the closet to explore. More Keegan, please.


The following titles are reviewed in the May 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS

Morris, R.N. The Mannequin House: A Silas Quinn Mystery. Crème de la Crime: Severn. May 2013. 232p. ISBN 9781780290386. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780103877. M

Nesbitt, John D. Dark Prairie. Five Star: Gale Cengage. (Five Star Frontier Fiction). Jul. 2013. 216p. ISBN 9781432827502. $25.95. M

Short Stuff

Mystery Writers of America Presents The Mystery Box. Grand Central. May 2013. 384p. ed. by Brad Meltzer. ISBN 9781455512355. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455522675. M

Check These Out

Coonts, Deborah. Lucky Bastard. Forge: Tor. May 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780765335463. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466822726. M

Pryor, Mark. The Crypt Thief: A Hugo Marston Novel. Seventh St. Bks.: Prometheus. May 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781616147853. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616147860. M

Rodriguez, Linda. Every Broken Trust: A Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250030351. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250030368. M

Runcie, James. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. (Grantchester Mysteries). May 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781608199518. pap. $16. M

Siegel, Sheldon. The Terrorist Next Door: A David Gold Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Jul. 2013. 300p. ISBN 9781464201646. $24.95; ISBN 9781464201660. pap. $14.95. M

COZY CORNER

Mugavero, Liz. Kneading to Die: A Pawsitively Organic Mystery. Kensington. May 2013. 344p. ISBN 9780758284785. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780758284792. M

Parra, Nancy J. Gluten for Punishment: A Baker’s Treat Mystery. Prime Crime: Berkley. May 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780425252109. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101622292. M

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