Gentill’s Debut of the Month, Copperman, Freydont, Round, Shogan, plus New Series Lineup | Mystery Reviews, June 1, 2016

Reading provides not only a mirror that reflects one’s own experiences but also a window into how other people live. And mystery novels are remarkable for their ability to bring readers face-to-face with situations and individuals they might never encounter in real life. This month’s selections illustrate that point well, taking us from the ballrooms of Gilded Age Newport, RI (Shelley Freydont’s A Golden Cage), to a gritty Boston drug den (Rory Flynn’s Dark Horse) and on to the halls of political power on Capitol Hill (Colleen Shogan’s Homicide in the House).

Debut of the Month

redstarGentill, Sulari. A Few Right Thinking Men. Poisoned Pen. Jun. 2016. 368p. ISBN 9781464206351. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9781464206375. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780987068569. M

In 1931 Sydney, Australia, unemployment is high and afewrighthinkingmen.jpg6616tension is mounting, especially among working people who feel the upper class are handing them a raw deal. Rowland (“Rowly”) Sinclair was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but has taken up the mantle of gentleman communist. He is, after all, a bohemian artist. His older brother is embarrassed by Rowly, but when their elderly uncle is murdered at home, Rowly sets out to uncover who might have wanted a sweet old man dead. As Uncle Rowly was a silent partner in a speakeasy, gangsters might have had it out for him, but our sleuth soon learns that fascist politicians make bad bedfellows. While the vintage Down Under settings might make this debut, which was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book, comparable to Kerry Fisher’s Melbourne-based Phryne Fisher 1920s mysteries, Gentill works in historical events that add verisimilitude to her story. There are more political machinations going on here than Phryne could ever contemplate. VERDICT Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for bringing another award-winning Australian crime writer to U.S. shores. Her witty hero will delight traditional mystery buffs.

Check These Out

Daniel, Ray. Child Not Found. Midnight Ink. Jun. 2016. 384p. ISBN 9780738742311. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738748092. M

Aloysius Tucker is an MIT-educated computer genius. Sal Rizzo, his cousin, is a mafioso don. Tucker loves Rizzo and his family and mostly stays out of mob business, except when he can’t. One morning Tucker takes Maria, Rizzo’s nine-year-old daughter, sledding. The fun quickly ends when she is kidnapped and her mother is murdered. The Boston police finger Rizzo as the likeliest culprit. As soon as Rizzo hits jail, his territory is up for grabs, igniting a vicious turf war. All Tucker wants to do is find Maria, but no one is interested in helping him except friend (and Mossad agent) Jael Navas. VERDICT The third Tucker outing (after Corrupted Memory) features a gripping plot and engaging characters who are sure to satisfy readers of Vincent Lardo, ­Joseph Finder, and John Hart.

Flynn, Rory. Dark Horse: An Eddy Harkness Novel. Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2016. 256p. ISBN 9780544253247. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780544253155. M

During a late-summer hurricane, Boston narcotics detective Eddy Harkness and his team discover a deaf boy, alone with the still warm body of his uncle and a boatload of Dark Horse, a particularly lethal heroin brand, in a South End apartment. Mayor Mark O’Meara is a notorious slimeball in a city known for monumental scumbags. His latest scheme is a major real estate development that will replace South End’s poor residents with a pristine monument to yuppie living. Eddy thinks that is a bad idea, especially when it becomes clear the mayor’s plotting may be the fuel behind the surge in Dark Horse. VERDICT Populated with crafty politicians and hard-core activists raging against the machine, ­Flynn’s follow-up to Third Rail is a terrific atmospheric thriller. Fans of Dennis ­Lehane and Robert B. Parker will ­welcome this Boston cop.

Freydont, Shelley. A Golden Cage: A Newport Gilded Age Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Jun. 2016. 368p. ISBN 9780425275856. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780698165694. m

Heiress Deanna Randolph is making her social debut under the aegis of the Ballard family at Bonheur, their sumptuous summer cottage in Newport, RI. Deanna is excited to be out from under her mother’s thumb and delights in her freedom. She meets an actress, joins a ladies’ bicycling club, and considers which fashionable bathing costume to buy. Yet when a young actor is found beaten to death at Bonheur, Deanna, her almost beau Joe, and fearless maid Elspeth have a crime to solve. Deanna is a special plus to the story, an appealing protagonist with a strong streak of independence. VERDICT The second entry in Freydont’s historical series after A Gilded Grave is an enjoyable romp that will attract aficionados of the works of Mary Kruger, Alyssa Maxwell, and ­Tasha Alexander.

McKenzie, CB. Burn What Will Burn. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2016. 224p. ISBN 9781250083371. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250083388. M

Bob Reynolds doesn’t recognize the body in Little Piney Creek, but he is a newcomer to the small town of Rushing, AR. A poet and a drunk, “whose skin was as thick against success as it was against failure,” he wants to do his civic duty. When county sheriff Sam Baxter arrives to investigate, the victim has disappeared. Bob has suffered from some mental health issues, but he is currently off all medications. Who was the drowned man with the tattoo Bob swears he saw in the creek, and will Bob be next on the missing list? ­VERDICT Following the Edgar Award–nominated Bad Country, McKenzie takes another fascinating look at life in rural America. The lyrical writing balances out the bleakness of his ­protagonist’s existence.

Round, Jeffrey. Endgame. Dundurn. Jun. 2016. 226p. ISBN 9781459733251. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781459733275. M

The Ladykillers thought they were punk rock gods back in endgame.jpg6616the day. Spike Anthrax, Pete Doghouse, and Max Hardcore had a well-publicized breakup and vowed never to see one another again, after the fatal overdose of Kent Stabber and the drug-related death of one of their groupies. Still, the lure of money can temporarily ease ill feelings. When former manager Harvey Keill invites the band members to Shark Island to finish recording their final record, Endgame, they cannot refuse the invitation. Accompanied by their girlfriends, critics, and hangers-on, the group decamps to the island off the coast of Seattle. Then, slowly and inexorably, the deaths start. Who is killing off the Ladykillers and their entourage? Paranoia and anxiety escalate, but true to their pitiful natures, each person remains despicable. VERDICT Lambda Award winner Round’s (Lake on the Mountain) contemporary homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is far from derivative. Be prepared to read this in one sitting.

Satterthwait, Walter. New York Nocturne: The Return of Miss Lizzie. Mysterious Press.com: Open Road. Jun. 2016. 285p. ISBN 9781504028127. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781504028103. M

Sixteen-year-old Amanda Burton is thrilled to be spending the summer with her debonair Uncle John at the glamorous Dakota apartments on New York City’s Central Park West. It is 1924, and Amanda’s father and stepmother have taken off for Tibet. Uncle John lives the high life, which involves a passing acquaintance with notorious gangsters and club owners Owen Madden and Larry Fay. One morning Amanda finds John dead in his library, a hatchet buried in his skull, and soon the police are fitting her for the frame. So when her dear friend Miss Lizzie ­Borden (yes, that Lizzie Borden who allegedly gave her mother 40 whacks) shows up, Amanda is grateful. Returning to Lizzie’s story after 1989’s Miss Lizzie, Satterthwait has reimagined his protagonist as an elderly crime-solving investigator. VERDICT Better known for his “Joshua Croft” series, the author creates a charming character in Amanda, but Miss Lizzie is the draw; colorful secondary characters are also essential to the plot. Stuart Kaminsky fans will enjoy this one.

Shogan, Colleen. Homicide in the House: A Washington Whodunit. Camel. Jun. 2016. 258p. ISBN 9781603813334. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781603813341. M

Having survived being accused of murdering her senator boss (in Stabbing in the Senate), Kit Marshall now works for freshman congresswoman Maeve Dixon of North Carolina. The federal government has just shut down owing to a budget impasse. Kit’s boyfriend is not making her an honest woman; best friend Meg is occupied with a new job entailing a White House investigation; and Clarence, Kit’s beagle mix rescue, is in the running for Capital Canine. When Rep. Dixon is found standing over the corpse of Jack Drysdale, top staffer for the Speaker of the House, Kit’s new position is threatened. She uses her burgeoning investigative skills to rescue Rep. Dixon and stop a miscarriage of justice. Congressional Research Service/Library of Congress worker and former Senate staffer Shogan (The Moral Rhetoric of American Presidents) knows life on Capitol Hill, and her expertise is reflected here. VERDICT A solid choice for political junkies and readers of ­Maggie ­Sefton, Fred Hunter, and Mike Lawson.

Cozy corner

Booth, Claire. The Branson Beauty. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781250084385. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250084392. M

When old paddlewheel showboat Branson Beauty runs aground in the Lake of the Ozarks, near Branson, MO, Sheriff Hank Worth finds over 100 elderly passengers stranded and the captain catatonic. After Hank arranges the rescue of the passengers, he discovers the corpse of local track star Mandy Bryson in the captain’s private dining room. Who wanted this popular young lady dead? As the new sheriff in town, Hank faces opposition from various factions. Small-town politics can be brutal and secrets can be deadly. VERDICT Former crime reporter Booth’s debut introduces an engaging cop with wonderful family appeal. A nice discovery for enthusiasts of Joan Hess and Margaret Maron.

Buzzelli, Elizabeth Kane. A Most Curious Murder: A Little Library Mystery. Crooked Lane. Jun. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9781629536064. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781629536071. M

After a difficult divorce, Jenny Weston returns home to Bear Falls, MI, but she’s horrified that someone has destroyed her mother’s little library, built by her late father. Jenny meets her mother’s new neighbor, a little person, Zoe Zola, standing over the wreckage. An admirer of Lewis Carroll and a fantasy author, Zoe suspects local curmudgeon Adam Cane, but when he is found dead in her backyard, all eyes fall on her. Zoe and Jenny team up to bring the real offender to justice. Fans of Carroll will delight in Zoe’s flights of fancy, and the northern Michigan setting in all its splendor is a charmer. VERDICT The author of the “Emily Kincaid” mysteries launches an entertaining series with a quirky premise and captivating characters.

writtenoff.jpg6616redstarCopperman, E.J. Written Off: A Mysterious Detective Mystery. Crooked Lane. Jun. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781629535999. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781629536002. M

Rachel Goldman writes midlist mysteries featuring Duffy Madison, a consultant with a county prosector’s office. Therefore, she is a trifle perturbed when someone named Duffy Madison shows up at her book signing. Turns out he is a consultant with the Bergen County prosecutor’s office, and he wants Rachel to help him find Sunny Maugham, a missing writer who had helped kick-start Rachel’s career. However, it soon becomes clear that Rachel could be the next victim of the “author assassin.” VERDICT ­ Copperman (“Haunted Guesthouse” mysteries) sets up an intriguing premise for her new series: Just who is Duffy Madison? The second book promises to investigate that very ­issue. Lots of fun.

di Marco, Connie. The Madness of Mercury: A Zodiac Mystery. Midnight Ink. Jun. 2016. 312p. ISBN 9780738749129. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738750781. M

Julia Bonatti’s life as an astrologer in San Francisco is going fine until she comes to the attention of the Reverend Roy and the congregation of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. They picket her apartment and threaten to drum her out of business. In addition, one of Julia’s elderly clients is sinking into dementia, and the client’s sister is far too involved with the Prophet’s Tabernacle. Then a mysterious young man appears on the scene claiming to be a long-lost relative of Julia’s patrons. Mercury is in retrograde and disaster looms everywhere. VERDICT Di Marco’s (“Soup Lover’s Mysteries”) series starter features a clever plot and a smart and feisty heroine with feet firmly planted on the ground while she searches the stars. For Victoria Laurie readers.

Hyde, Katherine Bolger. Arsenic with Austen: A Crime with the Classics Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781250065476. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466872424. M

When her great-aunt dies, retired English professor Emily Cavanaugh travels to Stony Beach, OR, to claim her inheritance and start anew in her old hometown. Emily finds some of the townsfolk welcoming, while others resent her; Her first love, Luke Richards, is now the sheriff. Both Emily and Luke suspect Aunt Beatrice’s death was unnatural, and when another family friend is killed, the question becomes, can Emily survive to inherit? The solution might lie in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. VERDICT Children’s author Hyde makes her adult fiction debut with an intelligent traditional mystery that stars an endearing woman of a certain age who draws on her knowledge of literature to solve crimes.

McConnon, Maggie. Wedding Bel Blues: A Belfast McGrath Mystery. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781250001894. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466889231. M

After a well-publicized debacle at a celebrity-owned restaurant where she was a chef, Belfast McGrath returns home to Foster’s Landing, NY, to run the kitchen at her family’s venue, Shamrock Manor. First up, however, is the wedding of Bel’s cousin Caleigh McHugh; but marital bliss takes a back seat to murder when a wedding crasher plunges to his death from the restaurant’s second-floor balcony. Bel’s boistrous Irish family has to be protected from themselves. Who, among the numerous wedding guests, was mad enough to kill an intruder who happened to be the bride’s lover? Zaftig, red-haired, and feisty, Bel is a formidable opponent. VERDICT Dorothy Cannell readers will savor this tasty starter to a culinary series, whose second book, Bel of the Brawl, is due in 2017.

burnwhatwillburn.jpg6616QUOTABLE “This whole extravagance of rural riches, this decomposing and ever- expanding fiefdom of valued trash was set up on a knoll denuded by chicken-scratching and dog-digging and kid-playing and was boundaried by almost a half mile of pooched-out chain-link fencing and surrounded by acres of the most comprehensive collection of white trash n
ecessities imaginable.”—CB McKenzie, Burn What Will Burn

Series Lineup

Bilal, Parker. City of Jackals: A Makana Mystery. Bloomsbury USA. Jun. 2016. 464p. ISBN 9781632863270. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781632863287. M

It is Egypt in December 2005, and the uprising known as the Arab Spring is beginning to stir. Makana has been hired to find Mourad Hafiz, who has disappeared from his college. As a former police chief in Sudan, Makana is dragged into the ethnic warfare of the refugees from South Sudan. A man of honor living in a city of upheaval and corruption, he tries to protect everyone he can. Following The Burning Gates, this fifth entry in the international thriller series is excellent.

deadloudmouth.jpg6616Houston, Victoria. Dead Loudmouth. Tyrus. (Loon Lake, Bk. 16). Jun. 2016. 208p. ISBN 9781440568459. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781440568466. M

Police Chief Lewellyn Ferris is called to the scene of a horrific accident at Loon Lake, WI, right after telling the mayor that criminal activity in the area was at an all-time low. The misdeed took place at a gentleman’s club owned by one of the victims. How exactly did those folks get crushed by the piano, up against the ceiling? This 16th installment (after Dead Rapunzel) delivers an intriguing plot and a solidly drawn setting.

Kuhns, Eleanor. The Devil’s Cold Dish. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Will Rees, Bk. 5). Jun. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781250093356. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250093363. M

Will Rees is back on his rural Maine farm with his family. It is the summer of 1796, and work is brutal. Will and Zadoc Ward come to blows, and then Zadoc is murdered. Lydia, Will’s pregnant wife, is attacked and accused of being a witch. Another killing further implicates Will and his family. The historical research is impeccable and the theme of religious persecution is highly relevant for today. This fifth book in the series follows Death in Salem.

Water, Martin. Fatal Pursuit: A Bruno, Chief of Police Mystery. Doubleday. (Bruno, Chief of Police, Bk. 9). Jun. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781101946787. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101946794. M

When a local scholar turns up dead at St. Denis, France’s annual rally and classic car parade, Bruno, the city’s chief of police, suspects foul play, especially when a family squabble is factored in, making the investigation more challenging. Then another body is found. This ninth outing (after The Patriarch) is lighter in tone but still entertaining. The descriptions of food and the Dordogne region? are enchanting.

Wiley, Michael. Black Hammock. Severn House. (Daniel Turner, Bk. 3). Jun. 2016. 192p. ISBN 9780727886002. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780107639. M

Det. Daniel Turner investigates an unsolved 18-year-old homicide in this third outing (after Second Skin). Oren Jakobsen was eight when his father was killed and he was left for dead. Now, Oren has returned to Florida for revenge against his mother. This atmospheric Southern gothic uncovers unpleasant secrets for all involved.

Additional Mystery

redstarMay, Peter. Coffin Road. Quercus. Oct. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781681443898. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781681443874. M

May returns to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in this chilling ecothriller. When a man is washed up on a barren beach, he is hypothermic and confused, with no memory of who he is. He begins to uncover clues to his identity, but his amnesia retains a stubborn hold. In Edinburgh, a rebellious teenage girl struggles to understand her scientist father’s suicide and sets off a series of events she could never have imagined. DS Sergeant George Gunn from May’s “Lewis Trilogy” (The Blackhouse; The Lewis Man; The Chess Men) returns to investigate a murder on the nearby Flannan Isles where the evidence is scanty and confusing. Why do so many people have bee stings? Three perilous journeys lead to a harrowing conclusion. ­VERDICT This intense, complex mystery will satisfy especially those who are environmentally conscious, but overall, this is one bang-up read.—­Gloria Drake, Oswego P.L. Dist., IL

Robinson, Peter. When the Music’s Over: An Inspector Banks Novel. Morrow. Aug. 2016. 432p. ISBN 9780062394781. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062395061. M

The 23rd Alan Banks mystery (after In the Dark Places) opens with a naked girl thrown out of a van on a dark country road. DI Annie Cabbot and recently promoted Detective Superintendent Banks pursue separate but related cases, linked by the sexual exploitation of teen girls. Cabbot works the rape and murder case of the 15-year-old girl ejected from the van, a case possibly connected to the heinous practice of grooming girls for prostitution and complicated by cultural differences with the Asian community. Banks’s investigation involves historical abuse. Well-known poet Linda Palmer was raped in 1967 at age 14 by popular British celebrity Danny Caxton. As the evidence piles up and more crimes surface the teams race to solve their cases. Happily, the resolution includes the hint of a new age-­appropriate love interest for Banks. VERDICT Somehow, Banks and company never lose their appeal for fans of gritty British crime novels, especially those featuring a music-loving detective who is always in trouble and rarely lucky in love. Series followers won’t be ­disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 2/29/16.]—Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton P.L., CT

redstarSaunders, Kate. The Secrets of Wishtide. Bloomsbury USA. Sept. 2016. 352p. ISBN 9781632864499. $26; pap. ISBN 9781632864512. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781632864505. M

Meet Laetitia Rodd, the widow of an archdeacon, who is living in reduced circumstances in 1850 Hampstead, ­England. She supports herself by doing discreet private investigation work for her brother, a successful London criminal barrister. Her sibling introduces ­Laetitia to Sir James ­Calderstone, a wealthy industrialist who asks her to investigate an “unsuitable” woman whom his son wants to marry. The goal is to prevent the match. Posing as the new governess for the two Calderstone daughters, she travels to Wishtide, Sir James’s Lincolnshire estate. Laetitia’s probe grows increasingly complicated as corpses amass and eventually Sir James’s son is accused of murder. Rodd is then engaged to find proof of his innocence. Readers will find themselves immersed in 19th-century English society, from grand houses to dockside taverns, in a story that draws heavily from the work of Charles Dickens. Saunders’s protagonist sheds a sympathetic light on the plight of women in the rigid moral climate of Victorian England. VERDICT Readers who relish the puzzle of a well-done Victorian-set mystery with a resourceful female detective will take pleasure in this series launch by a prolific British author and journalist (The Marrying Game).— Cheryl Bryan, Orleans, MA

Viccy Kemp is the Technical Services Manager for the Flower Mound Public Library, TX, where she buys the books and deals with library technology. Reading mysteries is her passion because it’s only between the pages of a book that justice can really be done


This article was published in Library Journal's June 1, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Comments

  1. shelia1994 says:

    “As Uncle Rowly was a silent partner in a speakeasy, gangsters might have had it out for him, but our sleuth soon learns that fascist politicians make bad bedfellows”
    I don’t agree, read that: http://journal.burningman.org/2016/03/global-network/regionals/local-leaders-gather-round-the-table-in-the-deep-south/
    – Shelia