Mystery Reviews, August 2012

if describing the current mood of mysteries, I’d say social realism is bubbling to the surface most frequently, as evidenced by titles exploring grim topics such as drug abuse, war injuries, femicide in Juárez, racism during World War II, and prostitution through the centuries.

On a lighter note, you’ll see that the food truck craze has made it to our corner. Cleo Coyle takes her coffeehouse on the road with the Muffin Muse in A Brew to a Kill. Chris Knopf uses his food truck, Grub on the Go, to get closer to a bad guy’s laptop in Dead Anyway.

If you thought vampires were passé, think again, and look at how Jaden Terrell continues her intense exploration of vampire-enamored teen culture in A Cup Full of Midnight. Historically speaking, R.N. Morris has this covered in his dark Summon Up the Blood.

“Shane! Come back!” Romance columnist Kristin Ramsdell and I both noticed an uptick in cowboys in our reading, so be sure to take a look at our anecdotal comparisons of how the men in chaps are presented in our respective genres.


I am so impressed with the new look (as of this spring) of Soho Press’s website. If you click on the “South of Houston blog” icon on the page, you’ll be taken to such offerings as the “Classic Crime Read-Along” series (a mini-RA course you can take or share with patrons), a Soho Press book club, “Friday Reads,” and assorted social media posting opportunities. Did you know Soho is introducing a Soho Teen line in early 2013? January’s release: Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Things We Saw at Night .

Watch this fall for a new lineup from Seventh Street Books. This mystery and thriller imprint from Prometheus Books rolls out two titles, Mark Pryor’s The Bookseller and Erec Stebbins’s The Ragnarök Conspiracy, in October. Seventh Street will also reissue classic mysteries. First up this November is Skulduggery, the debut entry in a line of Carolyn Hart classics (with new introductions written by Hart).

Speaking of reissues, Kenneth Wishnia’s cult favorite sleuth Filomena Buscarsela is back this month with 23 Shades of Black, thanks to PM Press. If your library hasn’t made the acquaintance of the groundbreaking NYPD detective from Ecuador, here’s your chance. All five titles in the series will be reissued by PM in the coming months. Welcome back, Fil!

starred review star Delany, Vicki. More Than Sorrow. Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781590589854. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781590589878. $14.95. M

War correspondent Hannah Manning is fighting to recover from a severe brain injury while staying with her sister’s family on their Ontario farm. Hannah feels useless; she sleeps, she has terrifying visions, and most problematic, she suffers from long blackouts. Her niece, however, adores her and introduces Hannah to their neighbor, Hila, an Afghani refugee who is being sponsored by a local couple. When Hila disappears and her corpse is found in the woods days later, Hannah becomes a person of interest. Military intelligence is brought in for interrogations, and Hannah knows in her gut that something sinister is at work. Concurrently, Hannah channels visions of a ghostly woman whenever she goes into her family’s root cellar; this story goes back into the late 1700s, when American colonists loyal to the British crown fled the newly established United States. VERDICT In a change of pace from her Con. Molly Smith mysteries (Among the Departed), Delany has written a splendid Gothic thriller with a theme of strong women throughout history. Readers will be captivated by the haunted root cellar and how Delany contrasted one woman’s struggles in the past with the plight of contemporary refugees. Match with Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern or Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

starred review star Knopf, Chris. Dead Anyway. Permanent. Sept. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781579622831. $28. M

When a hit man shows up at Arthur Cathcart’s home and assassinates his wife, Arthur is badly wounded, but not quite dead, and his physician sister is able to get him back on his feet. Angry Arthur has mapped out a strategy to make everyone to think he’s dead, and he’s concocted an elaborate alternative identity plan so he can track down the hit man himself. Since Arthur was a professional researcher, his prowess with online detecting is quite remarkable. His audacious plan is both psychologically chilling and exciting as the plot burrows through the bowels of underworld Connecticut. Running the supreme con, Arthur pulls in his prey. VERDICT Knopf’s tale is suspenseful from the get-go, with an intellectual, yet visceral, vigilantism coursing through the pages. In a major change in direction, the author of the “Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mysteries” (Black Swan; Hard Stop) never misses an angle and manages to weave a bit of humor into a storyline that could have been purely dark. This bodes well for a really good series and is reminiscent of Richard Stark’s (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels with a dose of Grosse Point Blank.

starred review star Penny, Louise. The Beautiful Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780312655464. $25.99. M

Penny’s (A Trick of the Light) eighth elegant entry in her Agatha Award–winning series is a locked-room mystery set in a remote monastery deep in the wilderness of northern Québec. There are 24 cloistered monks. One is dead. There are only 23 suspects. The monks have taken a vow of silence, except that they made the most beautiful recording of Gregorian chant ever heard. And it caused a schism. And then a murder. Chief Inspector Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec come to investigate the murder and the difficulties in this formerly peaceful order that caused it. It also brings the viper within the Sûreté to this remote place and exposes the rot inside Gamache’s own house. VERDICT This heart-rending tale is a marvelous addition to Penny’s acclaimed series. Fans won’t be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 7/5/12.]—Marlene Harris, Reading Reality LLC, Atlanta

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


Smith, Brad. Crow’s Landing: A Virgil Cain Mystery. Scribner. Aug. 2012. c.320p.ISBN 9781451678536. pap. $16. M

Terrell, Jaden. A Cup Full of Midnight: A Jared McKean Mystery. Permanent. Aug. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781579622251. $28. M

Dobson, Joanne & Beverle Graves Myers. Face of the Enemy: A New York in Wartime Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2012. c.380p. ISBN 9781464200311. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464200328. $14.95. M

Gray, Alex. A Pound of Flesh. Little, Brown UK, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Aug. 2012. c.388p. ISBN 9781847443939. $27.95. M

Hawken, Sam. The Dead Women of Juárez. Serpent’s Tail, dist. by Consortium. Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781846687747. pap. $14.95. M

Hornsby, Wendy. The Hanging: A Maggie MacGowen Mystery. Perseverance: John Daniel. Sept. 2012. c.252p. ISBN 9781564745262. pap. $15.95. M

Hughes, Chip. Wipeout! & Hanging Ten in Paris. Slate Ridge Pr. 2012. c.252p. ISBN 9780982944424. pap. $14.95. M

starred review star Morris, R.N. Summon Up the Blood: A Silas Quinn Mystery. Créme de la Crime: Severn House. Aug. 2012. c.232p. ISBN 9781780290256. $28.95. M


Coyle, Cleo. A Brew to a Kill: A Coffeehouse Mystery. Berkley Prime Crime. Aug. 2012. c.372p. ISBN 9780425247877. $25.95. M

Ernst, Kathleen. The Light Keeper’s Legacy: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery. Midnight Ink. Oct. 2012. c.348p. ISBN 9780738733074. pap. $14.99. M

Price, Carole. Twisted Vines:A Shakespeare in the Vineyard Mystery. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Aug. 2012. c.332p. ISBN 9781432826024. $25.95. M


Benn, James R. Death’s Door: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery. Soho Crime. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781616951856. $25. M

Fossum, Karin. The Caller: An Inspector Sejer Mystery. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2012. c.256p. tr. from Norwegian by K.E. Semmel. ISBN 9780547577524. $25. M

Kiely, Tracy. Murder Most Austen. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781250007421. $25.99. M

Read, Cornelia. Valley of Ashes. Grand Central. Aug. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780446511360. $24.99. M

St. Petersburg Noir. Akashic. Aug. 2012. c.285p. ed. by Julia Goumen & Natalia Smirnova. ISBN 9781617751011. pap. $15.95. M