Mystery Reviews, January 2012

Every January brings readers who have made New Year’s resolutions with regard to their reading picks. The reader’s advisory discussion usually revolves around such vague descriptors as good or quality or substantive. In short, such patrons want their reading to be more meaningful or educational.

Consider guiding such knowledge-hungry readers toward mystery’s historical subgenre. Often full of facts, philosophical ideas, and cultural tidbits, historical mysteries satisfy readers looking for substance with their pleasure. Two superb examples this month are J. Sydney Jones’s The Silence, set in Vienna in 1900, and Frederick Ramsay’s The Eighth Veil, a scholarly mystery set in first-century Jerusalem.

Contemporary mysteries, too, can weave historical material into their plots, and Betty Webb’s issues- oriented Lena Jones series does this well. Her newest, Desert Wind, grapples with the the devastating effects of nuclear fallout.

Other patrons, postholidays, are looking for comfort reads. The Cozy Corner comes to the rescue with two debuts: Chrystle Fiedler’s Death Drops, which features alternative health remedies, and Lucy Arlington’s Buried in a Book, an atmospheric novel set in a literary agency, which shows that forty somethings are so not over-the-hill.

If you’re looking for laughs, you can’t beat Gray Basnight’s hilarious debut, The Cop with the Pink Pistol. Devoted mystery fans will appreciate the nods (subtle and not) to Alfred Hitchcock standards and more.

On the political front, mystery-wise, elected officials will always take a beating. Even the political consultants are cynical. Ed Gorman’s Dev Conrad finds corruption in Illinois (Blindside), while Howard Shrier’s hero, Jonah Geller, contends with a desperate councilman in Boston Cream. More globally, sample Cold Comfort, Quentin Bates’s take on Iceland’s financial collapse and resulting public unrest.


With all the holiday festivities, you might have missed TNT’s Mystery Movie Night, which ran for six weeks beginning in late November. But I bet your mystery shelves felt the impact. Were you wondering about the sudden upsurge of interest in Scott Turow’s Innocent, for example? The good news is that the made-for-TV-movie mystery series will be back this spring. An adaptation of Patricia Cornwell’s Hornet’s Nest is slated to launch the spring run. Good stuff!


It’s not too early to anticipate upcoming Edgar Award nominees. Mystery Writers of America ( has already announced some of its special honorees for 2012. This year’s Grand Master Award goes to Martha Grimes. She has authored at least one book a year for the past 25 years, and her name is familiar to most mystery buffs. Three of her series stand out: Richard Jury, Andi Olivier, and Emma Graham. Additionally, many of us like her stand-alones that don’t necessarily get shelved in the mystery section.

Two Raven Awards will be given‚ one to a bookstore and one to a blogger. Warm and inviting and located just south of San Francisco in San Mateo, M is for Mystery ( has been the only mystery bookstore between Portland and Los Angeles. Just last month, owner Ed Kaufman announced his retirement and the store’s sale, so the Raven is a timely tribute.The new owner will continue to stock mysteries, but the store’s name will be Third Avenue Bookstore.

Blogger Molly Weston is the voice behind the North Carolina‚ based Meritorious Mysteries ( Active in Sisters in Crime, Molly has been a mystery reviewer and lecturer for over 20 years. She is also known for hosting mystery author tours.

starred review star Jones, J. Sydney. The Silence. Severn House. Jan. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780727880840. $28.95. M

Young lawyer Karl Werthen loves taking on private investigations, so he is eager to pursue the disappearance of a member of the illustrious Wittgenstein family. Concurrently, a Vienna councilman is found shot in his office, an apparent suicide. Working his missing-person case, Werthen interviews a gay freelance journalist who knows young Wittgenstein and, interestingly, has also been writing inflammatory articles about council activities. The missing man is soon found, but the journalist is murdered. Afraid that his interview triggered the man’s death, Werthen feels morally compelled to identify the killer. But what exactly is he looking at: a sex scandal or financial greed? It is a tangled web that now ensnares Werthen, and the next murder hits too close to home. Verdict Ultimately, this fin de siècle mystery is all very Sherlock Holmes. Populated with such real-life luminaries as artist Gustav Klimt, Jones’s third historical series title (after The Empty Mirror) is an intricately plotted, gracefully written, and totally immersive read. Recommended for Stefanie Pintoff, Laurie R. King, and Philip Gooden fans.

starred review starShrier, Howard. Boston Cream. Vintage Canada. Jan. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780307359568. pap. $17.95. M

When Dr. David Fine, a gifted young Boston-based, Orthodox Jewish transplant surgeon, vanishes, his Canadian parents are frantic. Toronto PI Jonah Geller agrees to take the case. He and his partner Jenn Raudsepp, tracing David’s path on the day he was last seen, soon uncover bizarre links among the Irish mob, a local congressman, and a rabbi with big dreams. Creepily, they’re all connected to the prominent hospital where David works. Jonah finds the idea that organ theft could be anything but urban legend ludicrous, but when folks are desperate, creative black-market opportunities do open up. Then things get downright brutal in this complicated thriller, and Jonah is forced to bring in reinforcements. David’s betrayal by those he trusted the most is not something that Jonah is going to let slide. Verdict There is a reason Shrier (High Chicago ) consistently wins the Arthur Ellis, Canada’s highest crime fiction award: he tells a really good story. Relish the local color, cultural nuances, and successive waves of action.

starred review starJaffarian, Sue Ann. Gem of a Ghost: A Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery. Midnight Ink. Feb. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780738713816. pap. $14.95. M

Emma may be just a regular TV host who acts as a ghost buster on the side, but her newest case is particularly troubling. She has just learned that old friends may have been haunted by a piece of jewelry, an heirloom diamond ring that causes people to attempt suicide. When the friends’ daughter becomes the latest victim, Emma sees an angry ghost residing inside the gem. When she learns that the cursed ring came from the town of Jim Thorpe, PA, Emma must leave her familiar Southern California base to face the demons on their turf. Verdict Jaffarian’s welcome third entry in her paranormal series (Ghost √† la Mode; Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini) sparkles as brilliantly as the story’s haunted diamond. Incorporating historical interest with likable characters and steady suspense, she also makes paranormal activity seem plausible. One of the best cozy authors for light chatter and low-key humor, Jaffarian is currently juggling three series with aplomb! Victoria Laurie and Juliet Blackwell would be good read-alikes.

The following titles are reviewed in the January print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.


starred review starJones, J. Sydney. The Silence. Severn House. Jan. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780727880840. $28.95. M

Ramsay, Frederick. The Eighth Veil: A Jerusalem Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Feb. 2012. c.268p. ISBN 9780967759050. pap. $14.95. M

Webb, Betty. Desert Wind: A Lena Jones Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Feb. 2012. c.328p. bibliog. ISBN 9781590589793. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589816. $14.95. M


Bates, Quentin. Cold Comfort: An Officer Gunnhildur Mystery Set in Iceland. Soho Crime. Jan. 2012. c.384p.ISBN 9781616950545. $25. M

Buckley, Fiona. Queen Without a Crown: An Ursula Blanchard Mystery. Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Feb. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9781780290140. $28.95. M

Fredrickson, Jack. Hunting Sweetie Rose: A Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2012. c.344p. ISBN 9780312605261. $25.99. M

Gorman, Ed. Blindside: A Dev Conrad Mystery. Severn House. Feb. 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9780727880253. $28.95. M

Jacobs, Jonnie. Paradise Falls. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Feb. 2012. c.392p. ISBN 9781594153785. $25.95. M

starred review starShrier, Howard. Boston Cream. Vintage Canada. Jan. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780307359568. pap. $17.95. M


Arlington, Lucy. Buried in a Book: A Novel Idea Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Feb. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780425246191. pap. $7.99. M

Fiedler, Chrystle. Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery. Gallery: S. & S. Feb. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781451643602. pap. $15. M

Flower, Amanda. Murder in a Basket: An India Hayes Mystery. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Jan. 2012. c.284p. ISBN 9781432825676. $25.95. M

starred review starJaffarian, Sue Ann. Gem of a Ghost: A Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery. Midnight Ink. Feb. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780738713816. pap. $14.95. M


Bilal, Parker. The Golden Scales: A Makana Mystery. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Feb. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9781608197941. $25. M

Crombie, Deborah. No Mark Upon Her. Morrow. Feb. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780061990618. $24.99. M

Ebersohn, Wessel. Those Who Love Night. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780312655969. $24.99. M

Fowler, Christopher. The Memory of Blood: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery. Bantam. Apr. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780345528636. $25. M

Robertson, Imogen. Anatomy of Murder. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Feb. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780670023172. $26.95. M