What Else Is Hot? Mysteries, August Through October 2011

Prepub mystery returns! Covering mysteries releasing in late summer and early autumn, this list starts by looking backward (lots of good historicals coming up), then ranges through top Nordic chillers, hard-edged contemporaries, warm-and-fuzzy cozies, and more. I’m particularly tickled to see not one but two whodunits featuring English vicars and two books with a canine slant. Stay scared.

History in the Making
In The Killing Season (Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2011. 250p. ISBN 9781590589472. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589496. $14.95), the latest in Priscilla Royal’s Medieval Mystery series, Baron Herbert, storm-cloud dark and gloomy after returning from the Crusades, seems cursed by God when his sons begin dying. Soon, he’s asked a friend to sent for both spiritual and secular healers, sparking even more tension at Doux et Dur (Sweet and Hard) castle. Ian Morson, famed for the Master William Falconer mysteries, offers the second in a new series featuring Venetian Niccol√≤ Zuliani, newly appointed investigator to the Mongol Emperor. Nick is sent to a faraway town and charged with looking into the murder of an old man by a girl intended for his son; apparently, she’s already confessed (A Deadly Injustice. Severn House. Oct. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780727880628. $28.95)
Before writing A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft must discover who murdered a friend and arranged the corpse to resemble a figure in a scandalous painting that has disappeared (Nancy Means Wright, The Nightmare: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft. Perseverance: John Daniel. Sept. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9781564745095. pap. $14.95). Moving on to 1930s England, there’s Rhys Bowen’s Naughty in Nice (Berkley. Sept. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780425243497. $24.95), the next in the author’s A Royal Spyness Mystery series, and Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780312654184. $24.99). Dandy, an offbeat aristocrat (she was born Dandelion Dahlia Leston), goes undercover as a maid for a woman who believe her husband plans to kill her. Heed the Financial Times‘s opinion that McPherson’s books are guaranteed to appeal to those who have never got over the death of Dorothy L. Sayers.
Wartime can make for good suspense. In Charles Todd’s A Bitter Truth (Morrow. Sept. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780062015709. $24.99), World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford, in London for Christmas leave, escorts home a distraught woman she’s found on her doorstop‚ and uncovers murder. The 75,000-copy first printing suggests confidence. First in a series, Sarah R. Shaber’s Louise’s War (Severn House. Aug. 2011. 208p. ISBN 9780727880406. $27.95) takes place in World War II Washington, where young widow Louise Pearlie works for the OSS. She finds herself in the position to help a French Jewish friend escape Europe, but then the confidant she had hoped would help her is murdered. Finally, Ed Gorman continues his Sam McCain Mystery series, set in 1960s Iowa, with Bad Moon Rising (Pegasus. Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781605982601. $25). Look for the hippie commune.

Nordic Delights
Fourth in the series starring Detective Ann Lindell, which has won Best First Novel and Best Swedish Crime Novel honors from the Swedish Crime Academy, Kjell Eriksoon’s The Hand That Trembles (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780312605056; $24.99) opens with the possible sighting in India of a Swedish county commissioner who disappeared years ago. How could that be related to the discovery of a woman’s severed foot back home? In the English-language debut of Sara Blaedel, voted the most popular novelist in Denmark in 2010, Detective Inspector Louise Rick investigates a nasty rape by immersing herself in the online dating world (Call Me Princess. Pegasus. Aug. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9781605982519. $25).
Arnaldur Indridason’s Operation Napoleon (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780312659103. $24.99) is a standalone thriller from the CWA Golden Dagger and Glass Key award-winning author of the Inspector Erlunder series. So I’m cheating, but hey! While helping the U.S. Army stealthily remove a plane from one of Iceland’s many glaciers, an Icelandic volunteer vanishes‚ though not before sending his sister a disturbing message. The plane itself? A German bomber that crashed in 1945 with both German and American officers aboard. A featured title at BEA, with lots of publicity planned.

Calling All Police Procedurals
In Sally Spencer’s Backlash (Severn House. Sept. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780727880550. $28.95), fourth in a series that’s won especially nice reviews from LJ, DCI Monika Paniatowski is irked when she’s given responsibility for investigating the disappearance of the chief superintendent’s wife‚ and even more irked that resources are being diverted from other cases, like the disappearance of a young prostitute named Grace. Second in a new series from the creator of the Hennessey and Yellich mysteries, Peter Turnbull’s Deep Cover (Severn House. Oct. 2011. 192p. ISBN 9780727880659. $27.95) stars Detective Inspector Harry Vicary, who is puzzled when melting snows on London’s Hampstead Heath reveal the body of a young man‚ evidently not the victim of foul play‚ atop the grave of a very battered young woman.
In Archer Mayor’s Tag Man: A Joe Gunther Novel (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780312681944; $24.99), someone’s sneaking into the homes of the Vermont rich, eating fancy food, and leaving a tag behind saying You’re it. Then he’s running for his life as he discovers evidence of nasty murder, even as series stalwart Joe Gunther tries to sort out both strands of this tricky case. Tania Carver’s debut, The Surrogate (Pegasus. Sept. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9781605982564. $25.95), sounds especially hardboiled. Detective Inspector Philip Brennan investigates a series of murders involving pregnant women whose unborn children have been cut from their bodies and stolen away. In Aimée Thurlo and David Thurlo’s Never-Ending-Snake: An Ella Clah Novel (Forge. Oct. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780765324535. pap. $14.99). Navajo Police Special Investigator Ella Clah finds herself literally under fire when she lands in Washington, DC, to take a job with a private security firm. A Navajo war hero lies dead, but who was the intended victim?

Getting Cozy
Louise Penny won New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards for her first novel, Still Life, a pack of Anthonys for subsequent novels, and the attention of mystery readers everywhere when three of her novels became New York Times best sellers. So look for her new book, A Trick of the Light: A Crime Inspector Gamache Novel (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780312654191; $24.99), a featured title at BEA this year. The death of Lillian Dyson, who’s found amid the flowers in Clara Morrow’s garden, surely wrecks Clara’s planned solo art show in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the S√ªreté du Québec, investigates.
In M.C. Beaton’s latest Agatha Raisin mystery, As The Pig Turns (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780312387020. $24.99), the roasting of a pig in a Cotswold village town square to ward off the winter gloom is halted by a frantic Agatha, who notices that the pig in question is actually much-disliked local policeman Gary Beech. Tasha Alexander’s A Crimson Warning: A Novel of Suspense (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780312661755. $24.99) takes place in late 1800s London, where someone keeps splashing red paint on upper-class homes shortly before the revelation of dastardly secrets regarding the families living there. It’s Lady Emily Hargreaves to the rescue in her sixth outing.

Hard-Edged Contemporary
Best-selling author Wendy Corsi Staub’s Hell To Pay (Avon. Oct. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780061895081. pap. $7.99) rounds out a trilogy whose second book, Scared To Death, won the 2011 WLA Washington Irving Award for Fiction. Opening 15 years after Scared, it features Lucy Walsh and Jeremy Cavalon, married now, who survived a brush with a serial killer in childhood. But it’s never that easy. In Jamie Freveletti’s The Ninth Day (Harper Mass Market. Oct. 2011. 352. ISBN 9780062025319. pap. $9.99), chemist Emma Caldridge comes face to face with a human trafficker while collecting plant samples in the Arizona mountains. In Jordan Dane’s Reckoning for the Dead: A Sweet Justice Novel (Harper Mass Market. Oct. 2011. 368p. ISBN 9780061969690. pap. $7.99), Sentinels chief Garrett Wheeler is dead, though agent Alexa Marlowe isn’t buying the explanation, and former bounty hunter Jessie Beckett’s DNA shows up as evidence in an ugly, cold-case murder committed when she was just a child.
In Angela Gerst’s debut, A Crack in Everything (Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2011. 250p. ISBN 9781590589441. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589465. $14.95), political consultant Susan Callisto is kind of hot to help fledging candidate Charles Renfrow‚ until she learns that his biotech firm might be doing some toxic dumping. The Renfrow ends up dead. Flowers for Her Grave (Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2011. 250p. ISBN 9781590589182; pap. ISBN 9781590589205. $14.95) continues Judy Clemens’s Grim Reaper series, featuring a very flummoxed young woman named Casey who’s relentlessly pursued by Death. Changing her name and signing up as a fitness instructor in a rich, gated community doesn’t keep murder from happening around her. Finally, in Jane A. Adams’s The Dead of Winter (Severn House. Aug. 2011. 208p. ISBN 9780727880345. $27.95), a new Rina Martin mystery, Rina reluctantly agrees to spend a weekend at Aikensthorpe, a country house hotel where an 1872 murder is being re-enacted. Then real murder and a terrible blizzard descend.
Down Mississippi way, when repo man Nick Reid tries to lay claim to a flat screen TV, he’s whacked over the head, and the coral-colored 1969 Ranchero he borrowed from his landlady is stolen. That’s in Rick Gavin’s debut, Ranchero: A Mystery (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9780312573737. $24.99). The Burning: A Crime Novel (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780312538064. $24.99), the second novel and a series debut from Oxford and Trinity College grad Jane Casey, features Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan’s efforts to uncover a killer who beats women to death and then sets them ablaze. With A Killing in China Basin (Severn House. Sept. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780727880543. $28.95), Kirk Russell, creator of the John Marquez series, launches a new series starring grizzled San Francisco homicide detective Ben Raveneau, who’s charged with investigating the murder of an unidentified mixed-race woman in the city’s China Basin.

Blessings from the Vicar
Two new novels feature British vicars. In Agatha Award‚ winning G.M. Malliet’s Wicked Autumn: A Mystery (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780312646974. $23.99), Max Tudor, who’s happily presided over Nether Monkslip’s church of St. Edwold’s, finds his police past kicking in when the terribly unpopular president of the Women’s Institute turns up dead. In C.C. Benison’s Twelve Drummers Drumming: A Mystery (Delacorte. Oct. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780385344456. $22), Thornford Regis’s new vicar, Father Tom Christmas‚ how appropriate is that?‚ stumbles upon a body stuffed inside a Japanese o-daiko drum in the town hall. It’s the choir director’s 19-year-old daughter, who had decidedly Goth tendencies. This book introduces Father Christmas, so I suspect we will get a count-down to that partridge in a pear tree.

Sometimes, a mystery’s defining aspect lies beyond the murder. For mysteries by JoAnna Carl (The Chocolate Castle Clue: A Chocoholic Mystery. NAL. Oct. 2011. ISBN 978-0451234742. $22.95), it’s the luscious product of the cacao tree. For Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country Mysteries, it’s the joy of fermented grapes; The Sauvignon Secret: A Wine Country Mystery (Scribner. Aug. 2011. 272p. ISBN 9781439163887. $24), sixth in the series, finds wine merchant Paul Noble hanged in his art studio‚ perhaps because of a murder 40 years earlier. In Mark de Castrique’s The Sandburg Connection (Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2011. 250p. ISBN 9781590589410. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589434. $14.95), the clue to a woman’s murder (a cover-up for a doctor’s error?) lies in the verse of Carl Sandburg. In Nicholas Kilmer’s A Paradise for Fools (Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2011. 250p. ISBN 9781590589342. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589366. $14.95), the eighth art mystery featuring Fred Taylor, death intervenes when Taylor tries to track down a painting he first sees tattooed on a young woman’s torso.

In Susan Conant’s Brute Strength (Severn House. Sept. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780727880673. $28.95), 19th in a series starring Holly Winter, Holly’s beloved malamutes Rowdy, Kimi, and Sammy must come to rescue when their mistress is targeted by a killer. This book comes well recommended for dog nuts everywhere; Conant is a seven-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Award. Sandra Parshall’s Under the Dog Star (Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2011. 250p. ISBN 9781590588789. $24.95; ISBN 9781590588802. $14.95) also comes well recommended, as it’s the fourth in an Agatha Award‚ winning series starring veterinarian Rachel Goddard. When dogs start vanishing from Goddard’s Virginia mountains community and then a feral pack seems responsible for killing a physician, Goddard rushes to find sanctuary for the pack‚ and find the real killer.

Best Mysteries
Just a reminder to look for The Best American Mystery Stories 2011 (Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780547553962. pap. $14.95.), the next edition in a venerable series edited by Mysterious Bookshop founder and all-’round mystery man Otto Penzler. The guest editor this year is Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony Award winner Harlan Coben, whose books tend to be No. 1 New York Times best sellers. Can’t beat that.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Michelle says:

    Fantastic article! Thanks for the heads up on so many wonderful-sounding stories.