IT’S ALL IN THE FAMILY this month, as murder places those close ties under closer scrutiny. Between sisters (Julia Keller’s Summer of the Dead), husbands and wives (Margaret Maron’s Designated Daughters and Anne Cleeland’s Murder in Retribution), and fathers and daughters (Sandra Balzo’s Hit and Run), the lines between solving a crime and uncovering mysteries in family relationships start to blur.
Food is on the table in Cozy Corner: Kylie Logan’s Death by Devil’s Breath highlights the heat of chili and Las Vegas. Driving onto the scene is a new series based around food trucks, Death of a Crabby Cook by Penny Pike. Of course, no main course in homicide would be finished without a glass of wine, as Joni Folger’s Of Merlot and Murder demonstrates.
Cleeland, Anne. Murder in Retribution: A New Scotland Yard Mystery. Kensington. Aug. 2014. 294p. ISBN 9780758287977. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780785287991. M
While dealing with the aftermath of their relationship going public, DC Kathleen Doyle and CI Michael Acton set out to discover who is behind a rash of underworld murders in London. As the couple try to find a balance between their work and personal lives, everything escalates when violence hits close to home. In addition to dealing with her not-so-traditional marriage to Acton, Doyle must face some hard truths during her investigation that might better have stayed unrevealed. VERDICT Doyle and Acton are incredibly flawed and engaging protagonists who stay in the reader’s mind long after the case is solved and the last page turned. With just a second book (after Murder in Thrall), Cleeland is developing a memorable series that will captivate fans of police procedurals and complicated sleuths such as the protagonist in Carol O’Connell’s “Mallory” series.
Debut of the Month
Freeman, Philip. Saint Brigid’s Bones: A Celtic Adventure. Pegasus. Oct. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781605986326. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605987187. M
Sixth-century Ireland was a place of magic when Druids still roamed the land and every well had healing powers. Sister Deirdre, who is both a trained bard raised by her Druid grandmother and a nun at the Monastery of Holy Brigid in Kildare, is tasked with finding the saint’s bones after they are stolen from the monastery’s chapel. Set a little more than a century or so before Peter Tremayne’s series featuring Sister Fidelma, Freeman’s (St. Patrick of Ireland) first novel has a strong atmosphere and absorbing, well-drawn characters. For the most part accurate in his portrayal of everyday medieval life, the author, who holds a PhD in classics and Celtic studies, has woven a compelling plot that touches on some of the struggles faced by the early Catholic Church in Ireland. Deirdre’s story as a young woman torn between the pagan and Christian worlds is very intriguing, and this reviewer would love to see where it goes if there are future installments. VERDICT Fans of Tremayne’s “Sister Fidelma” series will want to give this a try. It may also be of interest to those who like series set in Roman and pre-Roman Britain, such as those by Kelli Stanley or Ruth Downie.—Pamela O’Sullivan, Coll. at Brockport Lib., SUNY
Keller, Julia. Summer of the Dead. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781250044730. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466843189. M
In the West Virginia town of Acker’s Gap, county prosecutor Bell Elkins (introduced in Keller’s acclaimed debut, A Killing in the Hills) has her hands full dealing with her sister Shirley’s release from prison, as well as trying to identify a killer stalking the streets. At the same time, Lindy Crabtree, a true coal miner’s daughter, struggles to keep family secrets from exploding into the world. When these women’s lives collide, Bell must do her best to ensure that the body count does not climb any higher. VERDICT Keller seamlessly weaves together Bell’s past and present in her third outing (after Bitter River). The gritty Appalachian setting and plot will keep readers’ attention locked on the pages. This title will especially appeal to fans of such rural noir authors as Tom Bouman (Dry Bones in the Valley) and Daniel Woodrell. [Library marketing; Keller was recently profiled in NPR’s “Crime in the City” series, ow.ly/yFJdp; see also Books for Dudes, ow.ly/yEKqK.—Ed.]
Maron, Margaret. Designated Daughters: A Deborah Knott Mystery. Grand Central. Aug. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781455545285. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781455545292. M
When Judge Deborah Knott gets a call from the convalescent home about her Aunt Rachel, she expects to hear the worst. She arrives to find her aunt awake and telling stories from her past, including some that are new to Deborah. Yet within hours Rachel is dead, and it is obvious that she was murdered. While Deborah and her husband, sheriff’s deputy Dwight Bryant, investigate, her family becomes embroiled in a dispute with a dirty antiques dealer. Alternating viewpoints between Deborah and Dwight, Maron weaves family threads together with current events that leave the reader wanting to know more about the Knott family tree. VERDICT The author’s 19th series outing (after The Buzzard Table) offers loyal fans a fresh look at her expansive family and community. Readers will savor the slow-paced Southern culture and layered story. Maron was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 2013. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]
QUOTABLE “She [Bell] hated emotional reactions—her own or anybody else’s—to anything; emotions caused more trouble in the world than guns and knives. Guns and knives were just accessories after the fact. Emotions were the instigators. Love and hate and greed and lust. Jealousy. Frustration. Despair. Name an emotion, and she could point to a crime it had provoked. To hell with shotguns. Feelings were the real troublemakers.”—Julia Keller, Summer of the Dead
Berenson, Laurien. Death of a Dog Whisperer: A Melanie Travis Canine Mystery. Kensington. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780758284556. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780758284570. M
Dog handler Melanie Travis has plenty on her plate with her poodles and her sons, but she can never turn down a plea for assistance. When “dog whisperer” Nick Walden is shot in his own home, Melanie agrees to help his sister track down his killer. Berenson’s plucky heroine sorts out home and mystery in her 17th outing (after Gone with the Woof).
Brett, Simon. The Cinderella Killer: A Charles Paris Mystery. Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Sept. 2014. 186p. ISBN 9781780290645. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780105420. M
Charles’s minor role in a Christmas production of Cinderella turns into a major hassle when he ends up involved in the lead’s personal problems. Then Charles finds a murdered man under the Eastbourne pier. In Brett’s 19th theatrical mystery (after A Decent Interval) the intrigue happens on and off the stage.
Crider, Bill. Half in Love with Artful Death: A Dan Rhodes Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781250039675. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250039682. M
Texas sheriff Dan Rhodes finds out that not everyone appreciates art. After dealing with vandalism, rioting, runaway donkeys, and a meth gang, Rhodes discovers his local vandal dead with a fractured skull—courtesy of a bust of Dale Earnhardt Jr. The author won the Anthony Award for best first novel for his 1987 series debut, Too Late To Die; this is the 21st title (after Compound Murder).
Guttridge, Peter. Those Who Feel Nothing: A Brighton Mystery. Severn House. Sept. 2014. 215p. ISBN 9780727883605. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780105451. M
Brighton’s new police commissioner Bob Watts tries to deal with his recently created position and a scandal from the Royal Pavilion. When looted antiquities from Cambodia are discovered, a mysterious man and a murder embroil Brighton’s finest in a mystery that dates back decades. Guttridge’s fifth (after The Devil’s Moon) effort delves into the intricacies of war lootings and cultural artifacts.
Kaehler, Tammy. Avoidable Contact: A Kate Reilly Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Aug. 2014. 308p. ISBN 9781464202360. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464202384. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464202391. M
Kate Reilly is excited to participate in the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona, but as she circles the track, a series of tragic events steers her off the course to search for a killer. Kaehler’s third series entry (after Braking Points) highlights the thrill of the chase—and the race—at Florida’s legendary Daytona International Speedway.
Martin, Nancy. A Little Night Murder: A Blackbird Sisters Mystery. Obsidian: NAL. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780451415271. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698146891. M
The Blackbird sisters are back in their tenth outing (after Little Black Book of Murder) dealing with Philadelphia’s high society. Broadway rehearsals next door at the Tuttle mansion are in the spotlight, as is the shocking murder of a Tuttle daughter. Nora attempts to deal with drama—from the killer and her own family.
Pajer, Bernadette. The Edison Effect: A Professor Bradshaw Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2014. 254p. ISBN 9781464202506. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464202520. $14.95. M
In 1903, Thomas Edison is searching for a mysterious device supposedly lost in Seattle’s Elliott Bay. When Edison’s new lights are dead center in a murder, Prof. Benjamin Bradshaw’s investigation may cost Bradshaw more than he can afford. Pajer’s fourth historical mystery (after Capacity for Murder) finds the professor dealing with his own fears and failures.
Palumbo, Dennis. Phantom Limb: A Daniel Rinaldi Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781464202544. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464202568. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464202575. M
Attempting to keep his new patient local Hollywood washout Lisa Harland from committing suicide, psychologist Daniel Rinaldi gets drawn into a ransom delivery when she is kidnapped outside his office. Dealing with secrets and suspicious characters in the Harland family, Daniel must discover Lisa’s whereabouts before she dies. Rinaldi’s fourth investigation (after Night Terrors) pits him against a brilliant killer.
Summer may be winding down but two conferences will keep writers and fans busy this month. In New Brunswick, NJ, Deadly Ink (deadlyink2014.org) runs August 1–3. This conference is geared toward both authors and fans and includes the Deadly Ink Academy, which is focused one-day writing workshops. Famous faces will include guest of honor Donald Bain and Donna Andrews as Toastmaster. Heading south, Killer Nashville (killernashville.com) is held annually on the fourth full weekend of August (this year it’s August 21–24). This writers’ conference started in 2006 and brings together authors, agents, booksellers, and publishers to highlight mystery and thriller writings. For 2014, the guests of honor are best-selling author Lisa Jackson and Edgar Award winner William Kent Krueger.
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Balzo, Sandra. Hit and Run. Severn House. Sept. 2014. 218p. ISBN 9780727883940. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780105413. M
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Cooper, Susan Roger. Countdown: A Sheriff Milt Kovac Mystery. Severn House. Sept. 2014. 202p. ISBN 9780727883957. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780105437. M
Grant, M.C. Beauty with a Bomb: A Dixie Flynn Mystery. Midnight Ink. Sept. 2014. 264p. ISBN 9780738739830. pap. $14.99. M
Koenig, Joseph. Really the Blues. Pegasus Crime. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781605985817. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605986067. M
Longworth, M.L. Murder on the Île Sordou: A Verlaque & Bonnet Provencal Mystery. Penguin. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780143125549. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698146488. M
Masters, Priscilla. The Devil’s Chair: A Martha Gunn Police Procedural. Severn House. Aug. 2014. 185p. ISBN 9780727883896. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780105352. M
Menino, Holly. A Distance to Death: A Tink Elledge Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781250046499. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466846760. M
Folger, Joni. Of Merlot and Murder: A Tangled Vines Mystery. Midnight Ink. Sept. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780738740768. pap. $14.99. M
Kennedy, Mary. Nightmares Can Be Murder: A Dream Club Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780425268056. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101624111. M
Logan, Kylie. Death by Devil’s Breath: A Chili Cook-Off Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780425262429. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101592755. M
Pike, Penny. Death of a Crabby Cook: A Food Festival Mystery. Obsidian: NAL. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780451467812. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698143340. M
Coleman, Reed Farrel. Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot: A Jesse Stone Novel. Putnam. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780399169458. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698155626. M
Harvey, John. Darkness, Darkness. Pegasus Crime. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781605986166. $25.95. M
Krajewski, Marek. The Minotaur’s Head: An Inspector Mock Investigation. Melville House. Aug. 2014. 304p. tr. from Polish by Danusia Stok. ISBN 9781612193427. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612193434. M
Lovesey, Peter. The Stone Wife: A Peter Diamond Investigation. Soho Crime. Aug. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781616953935. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616953942. M
Taylor, Andrew. The Scent of Death. HarperCollins. Oct. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780007213511. $24.99. M
Kristi Chadwick is Advisor—Small Libraries for the Massachusetts Library System. A longtime LJ reviewer who was a 2013 Reviewer of the Year, Chadwick is also a 2014 LJ Mover & Shaker. She can be found on Twitter @booksNyarn