Troubles continue in the kitchen this month. Toby Speed opens her debut, Death Over Easy , with a dead short-order cook, while Christine Wenger knocks off the local health inspector in her debut, Do or Diner . Kitchen rage, anyone? A tip of the hat to the little presses that can! This column is full of them, and I encourage you to explore these publishers’ websites. One key example is Permanent Press, with its two award nominees cited in the “Newsworthy” section of this column, below. Or look at the Mystery Press, which not only publishes new historicals but also has a fun list of reprints.
Wishnia, Kenneth. Soft Money: A Filomena Buscarsela Mystery. PM Pr. Aug. 2013. 2013. 276p. ISBN 9781604866803. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781604868500. M
Ex-detective Filomena Buscarsela quit the NYPD when she became a single mother, but she’s still investigating with a passion—for free. In this outing, first published in 1999, she’s helping friends figure out who murdered a favorite local shopkeeper. Meanwhile, at her day job, a clerical position at an environmental-issues nonprofit, Filomena has uncovered an embezzlement scheme that merits the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attention. Before long, Fil and her ragtag team (a couple of independent-minded cops, a neighborhood shaman, and an EPA insider, among others) close in on both cases but not before some exciting moments. At some point, Fil is going to acknowledge she’s still a cop. VERDICT We liked it in 1999, and we still like it. Social issues may have changed slightly, but Wishnia’s tone is timely, his voices authentic, and his pacing superb. This is the second title in a series (after 23 Shades of Black ) that PM Press is in the process of re-releasing, and it includes a new introduction by author Gary Phillips.
Milton, Nina. In the Moors: A Shaman Mystery. Midnight Ink. Sept. 2013. 408p. ISBN 9780738738369. pap. $14.99. M
The region of Southwest England featured in Milton’s suspenseful and paranormal-infused debut was terrorized years ago by a child abductor and murderer who was never caught. Now the pattern is beginning anew, and the police jail Cliff Houghton, a local odd duck who has been acting suspiciously. Cliff is a client of Sabrina (Sabbie) Dare, a professional shaman. Sabbie works with Cliff until he is able to bring up his terrifying suppressed past; it seems that Cliff was kidnapped as a child himself, but he managed to escape his captors. Using his images to guide her dreams, Sabbie finds evidence that can exonerate Cliff, but her discovery also puts her straight in the abductor’s line of sight. It doesn’t help that her ex-lover is causing chaos at the same time. Thankfully one detective, DS Reynard Buckley, takes Sabbie’s dreams seriously. VERDICT Sabbie Dare is the most compelling protagonist I’ve met this year, and Milton’s tale is riveting. Perhaps readers will figure things out before Sabbie does, but the visceral suspense Milton creates is commendable, not to mention terrifying. I like pairing her work with Elly Griffiths’s atmospheric English mysteries.
George, Elizabeth. Just One Evil Act: A Lynley Novel. Dutton. Oct. 2013. 736p. ISBN 9780525952961. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698138285. M
The newest installment in George’s Inspector Lynley series picks up directly where Believing the Lie left off. Taymullah Azhar, Sgt. Barbara Havers’s friend and neighbor, has come home to an empty house. His girlfriend, Angelina, has left with their daughter, Hadiyyah, leaving no trace. Azhar has no official parental rights to Haddiyah, as he and Angelina never married. Barbara helps Azhar hire a private investigator to try to locate Angelina and Hadiyyah. Several months later, Angelina returns. She and Hadiyyah have been living in Lucca, Italy, with Angelina’s Italian lover. Now Angelina claims that Hadiyyah has been kidnapped and that Azhar is behind it. In a first for George, much of the action takes place in Tuscany, with Barbara’s partner, Insp. Thomas Lynley, acting as a liaison officer for Angelina and Azhar during the search for their daughter. Barbara plays the starring role in the other half of the narrative, and the reader is caught up in just how quickly she goes off the rails, professionally and ethically, in the name of friendship. VERDICT This is a must for fans of this series. The twists and turns are vintage George and do not disappoint. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.] —Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. System, TX
DEBUT OF THE MONTH
Wagner, David P. Cold Tuscan Stone: A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781464201905. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464201929. $14.95. M
Both museums and collectors prize Etruscan antiquities from western Tuscany, and collectors are sometimes willing to buy them on the black market. Art thefts—and forgeries—abound, and, in Wagner’s engrossing debut, the Italian police are determined to get to the bottom of an uptick in sales of stolen objects. Rick Montoya, an Italian American translator with dual citizenship who has recently moved back to Italy from Santa Fe, is recruited to be the bait in a sting operation. Posing as an art buyer from New Mexico, Rick is tasked with approaching various members of the art community to see if anyone will respond to his discreet inquiries about purchasing illegal urns. It’s all perfectly safe, his police buddy assures him—but then a gallery employee is killed soon after Rick speaks to him. With the unsolved murder hanging over Rick, the proceedings take a more dangerous tone. Rick will have to talk himself out of a tight situation or two to avoid becoming the next victim. VERDICT Wagner hits all the right notes in this debut. His likable protagonist engages, plus the Italian angle is always appealing. Perfect for readers who enjoy a complex puzzle, a bit of humor, and a fairly gentle procedural. Don’t miss this one.
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The following titles are reviewed in the August 15, 2013 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
Twin Cities Noir: The Expanded Edition. Akashic. (Akashic Noir). Aug. 2013. 320p. ed. by Julie Schaper & Steven Horwitz. ISBN 9781617751615. pap. $15.95. M
CHECK THESE OUT
Easley, Warren C. Matters of Doubt. Poisoned Pen. (Cal Claxton Mysteries, Vol. 1). Sept. 2013. 250p. ISBN 9781464201721. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464201745. $14.95. M
Fusilli, Jim. Billboard Man. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. Sept. 2013. 232p. ISBN 9781612181936. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611099874. M
Jones, Merry. Outside Eden: A Harper Jennings Mystery. Severn House. 2013. 216p. ISBN 9780727882646. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780104171. M
Menino, Holly. Murder, She Rode. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250016515. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250016522. M
Russell, Sheldon. The Hanging of Samuel Ash: A Hook Runyun Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250001016. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250031990. M
Speed, Toby. Death Over Easy: An Emma Trace Mystery. Five Star: Gale. Oct. 2013. 340p. ISBN 9781432827229. $25.95. M
Turnbull, Peter. Gift Wrapped: A Hennessey and Yellich Mystery. Severn House. Aug. 2013. 188p. ISBN 9780727882622. $28.95. M
“Hook looked out the window. ‘Yesterday I cut a boy down from the wigwag signal out on the potash spur. He’d been hoisted to the top of the cantilever with a rope around his neck. They left him there to strangle. It’s the sort of thing that can make a man cynical.’” —Sheldon Russell, The Hanging of Samuel Ash
Kennedy, E.E. Death Dangles a Participle. Sheaf House Pub. (Miss Prentice Cozy Mysteries, Vol. 2) Sept. 2013. 332p. ISBN 9781936438259. pap. $15.99. M
Stratmann, Linda. The Daughters of Gentlemen: A Frances Doughty Mystery. Mystery Pr., dist. by Trafalgar Square. Aug. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780752464756. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780752477312. M
Wenger, Christine. Do or Diner: A Comfort Food Mystery. Obsidian Mysteries: NAL. Aug. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780451415080. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101626382. m
Black, Benjamin. Holy Orders: A Quirke Novel. Holt. Aug. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780805094404. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781429943963. M
Cleeland, Anne. Murder in Thrall. Kensington. Aug. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780758287915. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780758287939. M
Hillerman, Anne. Spider Woman’s Daughter. Harper: HarperCollins. Nov. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780062270481. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062270504. M
O’Connell, Carol. It Happens in the Dark: A Mallory Novel. Putnam. Aug. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780399165399. $26.95. M
USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series. Akashic. ( Noir). Nov. 2013. 548p. ed. by Johnny Temple. ISBN 9781617751899. $29.95; pap. ISBN 9781617751844. $16.95. M
Correction: The Regional Notes box of the July Mystery column reported that author Mike Lawson was given an award for his novel House Blood ; the jacket (for House Odds ) accompanying the report is incorrect.
The North American branch of the International Association of Crime Writers (www.crimewritersna.org) announced the nominees for its 2012 Hammett Prize. The winner will be announced at the end of September, during the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference.
The nominees are:
Landay, William. Defending Jacob . (Delacorte)
Lynch, Jim. Truth Like the Sun . (Knopf)
Owen, Howard. Oregon Hill . (Permanent)
Palka, Kurt. Patient Number 7 . (McClelland & Stewart)
Wilson, G. Willow. Alif the Unseen . (Emblem/Canada; Grove/US).
The Nero Award (given to a mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories) is awarded by the Wolfe Pack at the Black Orchid Banquet in December (www.nerowolfe.org).
This year’s nominees are:
Allan, Barbara. Antiques Disposal . (Kensington)
Estleman, Loren D. Burning Midnight . (Forge: Tor)
Knopf, Chris. Dead Anyway . (Permanent)
Shields, Kieran. The Truth of All Things . (Crown)