Daughters of famous men fall victim often this month, but the crimes are neither formulaic nor misogynistic. While three titles open with a sensationalistic type of tabloid-fodder murder, they veer off in stunningly different directions. James W. Ziskin’s No Stone Unturned, Neely Tucker’s The Ways of the Dead, and Andrew Brown’s Coldsleep Lullaby transfixed me.
On a lighter note, the economy must be improving if the spunky entrepreneurs in Cozy Corner are accurate indicators. Whether your readers like Amish-infused mysteries (Isabella Alan’s Murder, Simply Stitched), outdoor adventure (Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley), or perfectly planned wedding-related events (Nancy J. Parra’s Engaged in Murder), these infectious new series have a bit of fun about them.
Our Series Lineup showcases both veteran series and newer ones you shouldn’t miss. I hope you’ll pay particular attention to those authors who are on their third or fourth title: Patricia Hall, Thomas Mogford, Howard Owen, Gillian Royes, and Eleanor Kuhns.
Bouman, Tom. Dry Bones in the Valley. Norton. Jul. 2014. 284p. ISBN 9780393243024. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393243031. M
First, a reclusive old codger finds in his woods the body of a young man, apparently shot by a musket earlier in the winter. Less than 24 hours later, Officer Henry Farrell discovers his deputy shot dead in his car. It’s imperative that they get help from outside law enforcement agencies, but Farrell best understands his rural northeastern Pennsylvania hamlet and can piece together the cases. An uneasy mix of old-timers, meth heads, and just plain poor people populates the region and some are selling out their mineral rights (think: fracking), pitting adjacent landowners against one another. If that’s not enough, Henry literally stumbles over an ancient grave that might explain part of the current crime spree. But it’s a wild ride to the finish line for this quiet, fiddler-loving officer. VERDICT Don’t miss this assured opener for a sure-to-be-popular projected four-book series. Bouman’s likable protagonist joins the ranks of police officers we want to know while introducing readers to an Appalachian region layered with story. This would appeal to fans of Craig Johnson, Julia Keller, and Wiley Cash.
Debut of the Month
Brown, Andrew. Coldsleep Lullaby. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781250035998. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250036001. M
The dead young white woman found floating in a river in the Cape wine country of South Africa just happens to be the daughter of a prominent law professor. Struggling DI Eberard Februarie can barely manage his own life, and his partner Constable Xoliswa Nduku wonders if this case might break him totally. Meanwhile, alternating chapters tell the riveting history of how this particular region was colonized; readers can deduce that the descendants will play roles in the current murder investigation. Februarie soon uncovers a disturbing sex-club component to the victim’s life. Two other victims will die in rapid succession before the volatile case is solved. While racial turmoil is the norm for a South African crime novel, it is the sexual scandal that rocks this case. Each chapter opens with a lullaby, and the progressively darker nature of the lyrics escalates the tension in this nightmarish psychological thriller. VERDICT With its lush, detailed descriptions, Brown’s debut successfully captures both the beautiful landscapes and the violent textures of South Africa’s racially charged history. Winner of South Africa’s Sunday Times Fiction Prize in 2006, the title is new to U.S. readers. Try pairing with Paul Thomas’s New Zealand–set series (Death on Demand).
Hallinan, Timothy. Herbie’s Game: A Junior Bender Mystery. Soho Crime. Jul. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781616954291. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616954307. M
Professional burglar Junior Bender has taken a case seeking an incriminating cheat sheet that sequentially names the criminals (like a chain letter) involved in a murder for hire. Troublingly, Junior’s mentor and father figure, Herbie Mott, seems to be a part of this chain and he has died violently. Junior is devastated by his loss, but he must race to figure out where the list is hidden while making sure his nearest and dearest are safe. Disliking the new information he’s learning about Herbie, Junior has a bit of a life crisis out in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley. Thus it takes a while for Junior to connect his dots, but most assuredly he does so with verve and style. And he grows up a little, too. VERDICT Devoted fans of Hallinan’s rollicking L.A.-based series will grab up number four (after The Fame Thief). While the author excels at comedic prose and intricate plotting, this entry is more reflective than earlier titles. Although victims fall left and right, Hallinan somehow keeps it light.
Hanley, C.B. The Bloody City: A Mediaeval Mystery. History. Jun. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780752497044. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780752497440. M
He may be just a commoner, but young Edwin Weaver plays a pivotal role in his earl’s trusted entourage. Based on his recent heroism (The Sins of the Father), Edwin becomes an intelligencer in this historical adventure set during the 1217 siege of Lincoln, England. Moving behind enemy lines, Edwin desperately seeks clues as to how the English soldiers can rescue Lincoln from the Frenchmen who are decimating the city. He gains the trust of Alys, a wise young woman whose father died in the resistance after he confided critical information to her. Armed with this new knowledge, Edwin races back to the troops outside the blockade. Now the fearless knights can make the ensuing battle victorious. VERDICT Blatantly heroic and wonderfully readable, this engrossing historical adventure is the second in a projected trilogy. With its brave young protagonists it has perfect crossover appeal for YA readers.
Ziskin, James W. No Stone Unturned: An Ellie Stone Mystery. Seventh St: Prometheus. Jun. 2014. 276p. ISBN 9781616148836. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616148843. M
Reporter/photographer Ellie Stone finally has the story of her life. It’s Thanksgiving 1960, and Jordan Shaw, a local young woman home from Tufts University, has been murdered and dumped in the woods near the small town of New Holland, NY. Jordan had broken several young men’s hearts, but her current activities (a trip to India and the use of an IUD, for openers) startle even Ellie and she’s not one to flinch from modern lifestyles. When Ellie heads to Boston to interview the deceased’s roommate, she finds her slain also. Ellie realizes that Jordan’s cryptic datebook entries can help her narrow down the suspects; she unearths a veritable minefield of professors and grad students. Her interviews on campus fire up folks and before long she is in real danger. VERDICT Ziskin’s sophomore entry (after Styx & Stone) rolls along energetically, and his smart and aggressive protagonist has real personality. The author’s touch for academic politics coupled with his clear observations of the early years of the 1960s is superb. Don’t miss this series.
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Sampson, Fay. Beneath the Soil: A Suzie Fewings Genealogical Mystery. Severn House. Jun. 2014. 200p. ISBN 9780727883735. $28.95. M
Check These Out
Casey, Donis. Hell with the Lid Blown Off: An Alafair Tucker Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Jun. 2014. 244p. ISBN 9781464202988. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464203008. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464203015. M
Pilkington, John. Marbeck and the Privateers. Severn House. Jun. 2014. 188p. ISBN 9780727883728. $28.95. M
Ryan, Patricia. Windswept. Severn House. Jun. 2014. 184p. ISBN 9780727883575. $27.95; pap. ISBN 9781847515049. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780105109. M
Torregrossa, Richard. Terminal Life: A Suited Hero Novel. Oceanview. Jun. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781608091201. $26.95. M
Tucker, Neely. The Ways of the Dead. Viking. Jun. 2014. 276p. ISBN 9780670016587. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698140493. M
Alan, Isabella. Murder, Simply Stitched: An Amish Quilt Shop Mystery. Obsidian: NAL. Jun. 2014. 360p. ISBN 9780451413642. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101638415. M
Dyer-Seeley, Kate. Scene of the Climb: A Pacific Northwest Mystery. Kensington. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780758295316. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780758295323. M
Parra, Nancy J. Engaged in Murder: A Perfect Proposals Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Jun. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780425270356. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698135017. M
Doiron, Paul. The Bone Orchard. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250034885. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250034878. M
Downie, Ruth. Tabula Rasa: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire. Bloomsbury USA. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781608197088. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620403235. M
TERRY’S READER RESOLUTIONS
With ThrillerFest just around the corner (July 8–12, thrillerfest.com), I can’t resist checking in with two thriller writers who shared their 2014 resolutions (see Mystery column, LJ 1/14, for the full report).
ank Phillippi Ryan was looking to the classics when she wrote in an email, “I hereby resolve, I really do, that this year I will read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I don’t even need to buy it. I have two copies, maybe three, strategically placed around the house, just in case I can finally convince myself to read what’s known as one of the first examples of detective fiction.” For readers, Ryan is looking ahead, recommending two titles: Ice Shear by M.P. Cooley (“I’ve just read the manuscript and it’s a brilliant debut—chilling, relentless, and seamlessly gripping.”) and Land of Shadows (see review on p. 87) by Rachel Howzell Hall (“a wow of a fresh voice”). Both titles got shout-outs in Kristi Chadwick’s “Pushing Boundaries” feature (LJ 4/15/14), so what’s holding you back?
Meanwhile, Gregg Olsen confessed, “I am the only mystery/crime/thriller writer who hasn’t read Gillian Flynn’s blockbuster Gone Girl, but I have it by my bedside, and I vow to start turning the pages of what everyone says is a masterful and supremely scary thriller after the new year.” Olsen wants readers to pick up any Kevin O’Brien novel. He writes, “He’s Seattle based and writes the kind of thriller that focuses on plot as much as character. Plus, there’s some real wit on those pages, too.”
Aird, Catherine. Dead Heading: A Sloan and Crosby Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250041135. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466837287. M
Detectives Sloan and Crosby deal with a case of greenhouse sabotage that has ruined a huge cash crop of exotic plants. Soon a missing person complicates the situation further. A solid, yet fresh British procedural (after Past Tense) in a series that has been running since 1966.
Davis, Krista. The Diva Wraps It Up: A Domestic Diva Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780425258149. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698143180. M
Loaded with atmosphere and charm, the Alexandria, VA–set cozy is getting a jump on the winter holidays with a Christmas cookie swap. Cookies disappear and so does one neighbor who ends up dead. Davis’s eighth culinary outing (after The Diva Frosts a Cupcake) includes abundant cookie recipes.
Hall, Patricia. Blood Brothers. Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Jun. 2014. 204p. ISBN 9781780290614. $28.95. M
The year is 1963, and London’s West End is rebuilding dramatically. Gutsy photographer Kate O’Donnell is working with a newspaper crime reporter in her fourth entry (after Dressed To Kill), making her especially vulnerable to gangster violence in the area.
Houston, Victoria. Dead Lil’ Hustler: A Loon Lake Mystery. Tyrus. Jun. 2014. 208p. ISBN 9781440568411. $24.99; pap. ISBN 9781440568404. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781440568428. M
Two suspicious fatalities in a remote river wilderness area make police chief Ferris wonder if something more fierce than wild wolves might be on the loose. Houston’s 14th (after Dead Insider) doesn’t disappoint in her fly-fishing-infused, Wisconsin-set police procedural.
Kahn, Michael. Face Value: A Rachel Gold Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Jun. 2014. 260p. ISBN 9781464202780. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464202803. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464202810. M
A young legal associate’s death is ruled suicide, but Rachel, prodded by an Asperger’s-afflicted colleague, thinks otherwise. Kahn’s ninth legal thriller (after The Flinch Factor) finds the St. Louis attorney learning more about the Facial Action Coding System.
Kuhns, Eleanor. Cradle to Grave. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781250050007. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466851191. M
Will Rees, an 18th-century itinerant weaver from Maine, returns in his third historical (after Death of a Dyer). This time he and Lydia help a Shaker friend in New York who has been accused of murder. Librarian Kuhns won the Minotaur Books/MWA First Crime Novel competition in 2011.
Mogford, Thomas. Hollow Mountain: A Spike Sanguinetti Novel. Bloomsbury USA. Aug. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781620405963. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620405970. M
Spike is still hunting for his missing love, Zahra, but he is temporarily distracted by his law partner’s accident. Thrills don’t get any better than those in Mogford’s compelling Gibraltar-based series; this is number three (after Sign of the Cross).
Owen, Howard. Parker Field: A Willie Black Mystery. Permanent. Jun. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781579623616. $28. M
Willie wants to find out who’s systematically killing the starting lineup for Richmond’s 1964 minor league baseball team. Number three (after The Philadelphia Quarry) dishes up more crime for Owen’s protagonist, a biracial reporter from Virginia. The first title in the series (Oregon Hill) won the Hammett Prize.
Royes, Gillian. The Sea Grape Tree. Atria. Jul. 2014. 356p. ISBN 9781476762388. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476762395. M
Shad, the Jamaican bartending PI, really needs to court an investor for his business, but a love triangle gone bad catches his attention, too. Jamaican culture complicates the mix in Royes’s third series entry (after The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks).
Left Coast Crime, held in Monterey, CA, this past March, was rife with debut authors this year. The New Authors breakfast featured 44 debuters, each of whom got 60 seconds at the mike to pitch their book. I was able to snag a few after the event, many of whose titles have graced our pages in recent months.
Top left photo: Veterans Kris Neri (Revenge on Route 66) and Shannon Baker (Broken Trust) surround Terry Shames (A Killing at Cotton Hill)
Top right photo: Midnight Ink’s Tracy Weber (Murder Strikes a Pose) meets up with team Sparkle Abbey (Yip/Tuck)
Bottom left photo: (l.–r.) Oceanview’s Matt Coyle (Yesterday’s Echo) and David Putnam (The Disposables)
Bottom right photo: Seventh Street’s Lynne Raimondo (Dante’s Poison) and James W. Ziskin (No Stone Unturned)
Teresa L. (Terry) Jacobsen, retired librarian, was a training coordinator for Solano County Library, CA, and previous to that, a fiction evaluator/reference librarian for Santa Monica Public Library. She has written occasional feature articles for LJ and reviewed fiction regularly since 2004. She is an unabashed mystery fan who enjoys bringing new readers into the fold