Mystery Reviews | October 1, 2013

Family reunions go badly for a number of characters this month. If readers like tales in which the characters need to dip far back into the family’s past to solve a current crime, then they will have abundant choices. Take M.C. Grant’s reporter helping a young woman find her missing dad in Devil with a Gun. Or Susan Moody’s highly gothic A Final Reckoning, which draws a young woman back to the scene of her sister’s murder 23 years earlier. And don’t expect to sleep a wink once you start Peter James’s newest in his DI Roy Grace series, Dead Man’s Time. A son has spent nine decades seeking answers in his father’s abduction, and at age 95 he’s not done yet.

It’s not all dark, however. Jane O’Connor’s sophomore entry, Almost True Confessions: Closet Sleuth Spills All, abounds with sarcastic wit along the lines of Elinor Lipman. Michael Nethercott’s delightful debut, the 1950s-set The Séance Society, has a nifty Rex Stout flavor.

In the finest tradition of collaborative efforts, editor and contributor Jonathan Santlofer has corralled a team of 20 big-name crime authors and produced a bang-up, serial-style novel, Inherit the Dead. Not only is it an exciting read, but it’s a fund-raiser for Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest provider of domestic violence services, as described in Linda Fairstein’s preface. Just a thought: librarians might try promoting this title with their local government agencies and/or support groups for battered women and children. Perhaps one of the contributing authors could headline a library event? Think locally, act globally!

death Mystery Reviews | October 1, 2013OrangeReviewStar Mystery Reviews | October 1, 2013 Thomas, Paul. Death on Demand. Bitter Lemon. Oct. 2013. 284p. ISBN 9781908524171. pap. $14.95. M

A husband’s offhand remark about hiring a hit man loses its humor when someone offers to take care of the task. The Auckland, New Zealand, case was never solved, and only Maori DS Tito Ihaka suspected the moneyed husband. Ihaka’s rough edges and zeal effectively doomed him, and six years ago, he was reassigned to the Wellington area. Now, new revelations indicate that Ihaka’s instincts were right; he is brought back to reopen the cold case. Before long, things turn hot as a complicated case involving grifters and shifting identities means more victims will fall. VERDICT New Zealand’s irascible cop Tito Ihaka has been MIA since Thomas’s last series entry in 1996 (Guerilla Season), and his return pleases on so many levels. Thomas is a past winner of the Ned Kelly Award, and this one looks to be a future nominee as well.

Paretsky, Sara. Critical Mass: A V.I. Warshawski Novel. Putnam. Nov. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9780399160561. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101636503. M

Paretsky’s latest V.I. Warshawski novel (after Breakdown) has her famed private investigator investigating the science behind the atomic bomb. Answering a distress call, V.I. finds a horrific crime scene but little evidence of the woman she seeks. The investigation quickly snowballs as she learns about the connection of the missing woman’s family to her friend Lotty Herschel. As a child, Lotty escaped Nazi Austria on the Kindertransport with her friend Kitty Binder; now Kitty’s daughter, Judy, and Judy’s estranged son have disappeared. V.I. uncovers connections among computer design, physics research, and family secrets that lead to dangerous encounters and the reasons behind their disappearances. She finds decades-old truths hidden in the name of pride, vanity, and capitalism. As usual, V.I.’s quest is fraught with plenty of danger and white-knuckle moments. VERDICT Paretsky’s crime novel turns quickly from a simple missing-persons case into one involving national security, intellectual-property patent law, corrupt local officials, drug lords, and wartime family secrets. It is as much a breathless mystery as a historical delving into science and wartime academic politics. An intellectual mystery that will please the author’s many fans. [See Prepub Alert, 4/29/13.]—Julie Kane, Sweet Briar College Lib., VA

OrangeReviewStar Mystery Reviews | October 1, 2013 Parot, Jean-François. The Châtelet Apprentice: The First Nicolas Le Floch Investigation. Gallic. Oct. 2013. 404p. tr. from French by Michael Glencross. ISBN 9781906040062. pap. $15.95. M

One dark night just outside Paris, two men dump body parts. An old woman observes. Thus opens an amazing story that leads all the way to Louis XV’s court. Now, consider Nicolas Le Floch, the young Parisian police investigator assigned to find a missing police commissioner, Guillaume Lardin. While inexperienced, Nicolas is wise beyond his years. Trusting few—his carefully chosen sidekick, Insp. Pierre Bourdeau is key—Nicolas proceeds. By trial and error, through lies and reexaminations, he discovers that ruthless men and women could have easily conspired to dispose of Guillaume. More important, he learns that state secrets are at stake. Guillaume’s fate may be moot, but Nicolas won’t rest until he finds the missing documents. Embodying the new idea of evidence-based investigating. Nicolas also exudes heroic instincts. Despite great danger to body and reputation, he perseveres. VERDICT This adventure-laden French historical set in 1761 has long been a best seller in its original French and is finally available in the United States. With swashbuckling style, Parot’s prerevolutionary French characters will captivate readers with their sly humor, dastardly deeds, and, yes, honorable intentions. Don’t miss!

DEBUT OF THE MONTH

OrangeReviewStar Mystery Reviews | October 1, 2013 Florio, Gwen. Montana. Permanent. Oct. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781579623364. $28. M

Downsized by her Baltimore newspaper, war correspondent Lola Wicks heads west to northern Montana for a much-needed reunion with fellow journalist and longtime friend, Mary Alice. A searing prolog tells readers that Mary Alice has just died violently, and, needless to say, Lola is stunned when she finds her friend’s body. Obviously, Mary Alice was on to something so dangerous it cost her her life. Lola’s first instinct is to suspect Johnny Running Wolf, a slick Native American gubernatorial candidate who runs an intense campaign. The killer might think he snagged all of Mary Alice’s latest research, but Lola knows her friend’s tricks, and she haphazardly deciphers Mary Alice’s clues until she unearths a startling long-held secret so implausible that it sounds almost laughable. But if it’s so farfetched, maybe someone can explain why Lola’s life is seriously on the line. VERDICT Breathless pacing, strong characterizations, and a nuanced plot blend into an unforgettable read. With its strong sense of place and an intriguing ethnic character mix, consider for fans of Lori Armstrong, C.J. Box, and Wayne Arthurson. Florio is a veteran journalist, so she knows her stuff. [Dakota, the second volume in the series, is scheduled for a 2014 publication date.—Ed.]

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

HAUNTED BY MAU MAU

Adams, Jane A. Secrets: A Naomi Blake Novel. Severn House. Nov. 2013. 204p. ISBN 9780727882905. $27.95. M

Faherty, Terence. Eastward in Eden: An Owen Keane Mystery. Crum Creek. Oct. 2013. 244p. ISBN 9781932325492. $26. M

CHECK THESE OUT

Child, Lee & others. Inherit the Dead. Touchstone: S. & S. Oct. 2013. 320p. ed. by Jonathan Santlofer. ISBN 9781451684759. $25.99. M

OrangeReviewStar Mystery Reviews | October 1, 2013 Collett, Chris. Blood and Stone: A Tom Mariner Mystery. Créme de la Crime: Severn House. Nov. 2013. 252p. ISBN 9781780290522. 28.95. M

Grabien, Deborah. Comfortably Numb. Plus One. (JP Kinkaid Chronicles, Bk. 8). Oct. 2013. 296p. ISBN 9780986008511. pap. $17.95. M

Grant, M.C. Devil with a Gun: A Dixie Flynn Mystery. Midnight Ink. Oct. 2013. 312p. ISBN 9780738734996. pap. $14.99. M

James, Peter. Dead Man’s Time. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9781250030184. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250030191. M

Moody, Susan. A Final Reckoning. Severn House. Nov. 2013. 236p. ISBN 9780727882882. $28.95. M

QUOTABLE

“Stealthily but merrily, he would have yanked open drawers, read hidden letters, rummaged through the closet, and even pried up a floorboard or two if he felt so inclined—all in the name of professional sleuthing. I, on the other hand, was a milder sort of shamus. A nervous thrill, chiefly unpleasant, shot through my abdomen as I contemplated the opportunity before me.”—Michael Nethercott,
The Séance Society

Nunes, Maxine.
Dazzled: A Nikki Easton Mystery. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Oct. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781432827304. $25.95. M

O’Connor, Jane. Almost True Confessions: Closet Sleuth Spills All. Morrow. Oct. 2013. 316p. ISBN 9780061240942. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062236487. M

COZY CORNER

Nethercott, Michael. The Séance Society: A Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250017390. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250028358. M

ADDITIONAL MYSTERIES

Alexander, Tasha. Behind the Shattered Glass: A Lady Emily Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781250024701. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250024718. M

Robinson, Thatcher. White Ginger. Seventh St: Prometheus. Oct. 2013. 293p. ISBN 9781616148171. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781616148188. M

newsworthy

Looking ahead

Be on the watch for fun new publications in early 2014.

Poisoned Pen Press (poisonedpenpress.com) announced the winner of their 2013 Discover Mystery ™ Award: Eileen Brady, for her book Dog Shows Are Murder. Brady’s protagonist is a veterinarian. Finalists were: Peggy McKeep Barnhill’s Uniformly Dead, Judy L. Murray’s Murder in the Master, and Carmen Will’s A Practicum for Murder.

Gigi Pandian’s “Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery” series has been scooped up by Henery Press. Pandian is a winner of a Malice Domestic Grant. Artifact (book one) is out, and the second title (Pirate Vishnu) is slated for an early 2014 publication.

Crossing the Bar

We were saddened to learn of the death of four crime fiction authors this past summer. Not only were they literary luminaries, they were well-known people whom many librarians and fans counted as friends. Please check your library holdings, and consider a testimonial; readers will appreciate knowing more about these writers’ lives.

Dianne Day, a longtime Californian who came via Mississippi, passed away in early July. While she wrote under different names, Day was best known for her historical series featuring the turn-of-the-century single woman Fremont Jones. Signature work: The Strange Files of Fremont Jones

Leighton Gage was best known for his “Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations” series but also was the founder of the international crime blog Murder Is Everywhere (murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com). Signature work: The Blood of the Wicked

Elmore Leonard—Edgar Allan Poe Grand Master. Mysteries, Westerns, movies—you name the genre, Leonard made his mark on it. Signature work: Get Shorty

Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz) created characters so well known that they act as shorthand for readers’ advisory work (think: Amelia Peabody). She was also an Edgar Grand Master. Signature work: The Crocodile on the Sandbank

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