Mystery Reviews, July 2012

Mystery readers expect to find familiar patterns in the books they’ve chosen, but they also relish discovering an author who turns the predictable inside out with new settings and time periods.

For the country-village or closed-room-drama set, see if Annamaria Alfieri’s Invisible Country set in 19th-century Paraguay doesn’t captivate. Similarly, Janet Hubbard’s sparkling Champagne: The Farewell brings all sorts of motives up to the surface in the French region of Champagne. And one of the spa guests in Staci McLaughlin’s cozy Going Organic Can Kill You is looking for more than a weekend getaway.

For readers who love books that highlight the ordinary person meeting the challenge of extraordinary circumstances, suggest Thomas Mogford’s Shadow of the Rock, a debut thriller about a tax attorney running for his life in Morocco. Simon Wood’s competitive driver Aidy Westlake faces high-speed drama off the racetrack in his high-octane Hot Seat. Poke Rafferty, Timothy Hallinan’s travel writer, faces a harrowing trip when a sidewalk collision turns deadly in the riveting The Fear Artist. As always, Rebecca Cantrell’s determined Hannah Vogel will stop at nothing‚ even when Nazi soldiers shatter the Berlin night in A City of Broken Glass.

If paranoia and conspiracy satisfy your readers’ cravings, then bring it on. Maggie Sefton unearths political dirt in her intriguing new series entry Deadly Politics. Spooks abound in Tom Schreck’s thriller Getting Dunn, while the drug war runs amok in Key West per Michael Haskins’s hair- raising Car Wash Blues. Mogford, Cantrell, and Hallinan all introduce abundant conspiracy subplots, too.

Many readers like a young protagonist finding his or her way in the world, and that might be the strongest appeal of the mystery. Cozy mysteries typically excel at this; be sure to look over the two Amish-centered mysteries by Amanda Flower
and Laura Bradford reviewed below.

Travel, whether hard-boiled or cozy style, is high on many readers’ lists. It’s practically an Olympic games of nationalities represented this month: Bahamian, Gibraltarian, Indian, Pakistani, Paraguayan, Vietnamese, and Thai. Finally, don’t forget to consult the Series Lineup for the latest entries just coming out. These titles represent a full spectrum of styles‚ and with characters your readers often ask for by name!


Billed as a conference for thriller, suspense, and mystery writers, as well as literature lovers, Killer Nashville ( takes place August 23‚ 26. This year’s guests of honor are C.J. Box, Heywood Gould, and Peter Straub. Since not every mystery lover can attend Killer Nashville, the organizers have made a concerted effort to heighten its blog presence. The weekly blog is well underway and can be found at


Mooresville Public Library (MPL) in Indiana has taken readers’ advisory to the next level with its delightful book trailers on YouTube. Its YouTube Channel ( has a Drama & Mysteries Playlist worthy of a shoutout and a smile. I stumbled onto the library’s book trailer for Miranda James’s File M for Murder when perusing the MPL’s blogs. In the finest library traditions, Mooresville has adopted a local cat, Cauli Le Chat, and uses her as a sort of feline reporter.

Bill Buckley, the driving force behind MPL’s videos and blogs, tells me that Cauli’s blog ( is their most popular. Both the videos and blogs can be accessed via the library’s home page, Want to learn more? Contact

starred review star Hallinan, Timothy. The Fear Artist: A Poke Rafferty Thriller. Soho Crime. Jul. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781616951122. $25. M

Poke Rafferty’s ordinary day is upended when he crosses paths with a man fleeing Bangkok police. Billie Joe Sellers, a Vietnam vet, is shot dead, falls on Poke, and utters three fateful final words. Now Poke is being hunted down for murky reasons, not least that a lot of people want to know what Sellers said to him. It seems the post-9/11 war on terrorism has resurrected some real-life demons from the Vietnam War‚ era covert Phoenix Program, including ruthless former Phoenix member Red Murphy, who plans to launch fresh violence on Thailand soon. Poke strikes up an alliance with Ming Li (his half-sister) and some slapdash spies from the old days, and the game is on. VERDICT Hallinan’s storytelling abilities have gotten stronger. This stellar fifth series entry (after The Queen of Patpong) demonstrates that. I would stop and re-read sections because he makes the whole scenario so vividly clear. Similarly, I admire his book’s structure and careful plotting. A good readalike might be Randall Peffer for his Vietnam War themes and Southeast Asian settings.

starred review star Adams, Ellery. Pies and Prejudice: A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Jul. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780425251409. pap. $7.99. M

Ella Mae leaves her ailing marriage and lonely New York City life to seek comfort in her idyllic hometown of Havenwood, GA. A gifted baker, she decides that a pie shop is her destiny. There’s magic in her culinary gifts: her freshly baked goods pick up on her moods (sad, happy, etc.), and then the eaters absorb the mood. Tragedy strikes when the local equine veterinarian is murdered, and Ella Mae’s rolling pin is the weapon. Our sleuth scrambles to identify the murderer by working with the victim’s son, renewing her friendship with a local firefighter, and baking pies that make people want to tell her secrets. VERDICT A little play on Jane Austen with a nod to Arthurian legend gets this new series from veteran author Adams (she also writes as J.B. Stanley and cowrites as Lucy Arlington) off to an enchanted start. A sensory delight for those who like a little magic with their culinary cozies; think Bailey Cates’s recent Brownies and Broomsticks.

starred review star Cantrell, Rebecca. A City of Broken Glass. Forge: Tor. Jul. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780765327345. $25.99. M

Chasing a story in 1938 Poland as a Swiss journalist, Hannah Vogel finds a hidden stable overflowing with Jewish refugees from Germany. One of them, Miriam, recognizes Hannah and begs her to go back to Berlin to find her young daughter, Ruth. Hannah honors her request and returns to the city where she is wanted for past crimes. The danger level increases after she and her lover, Lars, back on the scene after a two-year absence, kill two German soldiers. Using her connections, Hannah works on finding Ruth and getting a new passport so that she and her son, Anton, can exit Germany yet again. In this world of deceit, Hannah knows that others hold her responsible for their losses and that revenge has no expiration date. VERDICT Cantrell’s fourth historical featuring journalist Hannah Vogel (after A Game of Lies) is compulsively readable. A palpable sense of dread builds, as we know that Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom of November 1938, is imminent. This award-winning series succeeds at weaving a very personal story into a well-researched historical survey. In an increasingly crowded genre period, Cantrell’s series stands tall. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/12.]

The following titles are reviewed in the July print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Bradford, Laura. Hearse and Buggy: An Amish Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. 2012. c.276p. ISBN 9780425251317. pap. $7.99. M

Flower, Amanda. A Plain Death: An Appleseed Creek Mystery. B&H. Jul. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781433676970. pap. $14.99. M


Alfieri, Annamaria. Invisible Country. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781250004536. $25.99. M

Hall, Tarquin. The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken: From the Files of Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator. S. & S. Jul. 2012. c.340p. ISBN 9781451613155. $24. M

Haskins, Michael. Car Wash Blues: A Mick Murphy Key West Mystery. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Aug. 2012. c.378p. ISBN 9781432825805. $25.95. M

Hubbard, Janet. Champagne: The Farewell. Poisoned Pen. Aug. 2012. c.284p. ISBN 9781464200779. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464200793. $14.95. M

Pirro, Judge Jeanine. Sly Fox: A Dani Fox Novel. Hyperion. Jul. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781401324575. $25.99. M

Retzky, Allan. Vanished in the Dunes: A Hamptons Mystery. Oceanview. Jul. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781608090532. $25.95. M

Schreck, Tom. Getting Dunn. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. Jul. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781612182810. pap. $14.95. M

Sefton, Maggie. Deadly Politics. Midnight Ink. Aug. 2012. c.276p. ISBN 9780738731285. pap. $14.95. M

Wood, Simon. Hot Seat. Créme de la Crime: Severn House. Jul. 2012. c.232p. ISBN 9781780290232. $28.95. M


McLaughlin, Staci. Going Organic Can Kill You: A Blossom Valley Mystery. Kensington. Jul. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780758275004. pap. $7.99. M


√ñstlundh, Håkan. The Viper. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. c.352p. tr. from Swedish by Per Carlsson. ISBN 9780312642327. $24.99. M

Quinn, Spencer. A Fistful of Collars: A Chet and Bernie Mystery. Atria: S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781451665161. $25. M

Slan, Joanna Campbell. Death of a Schoolgirl: The Jane Eyre Chronicles. Berkley Prime Crime. Aug. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780425247747. pap. $15. M

Winters, Ben H. The Last Policeman. Quirk. Jul. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781594745768. pap. $14.95. M