Mystery Previews, Jan.-Feb. 2013: Alan Bradley, Dana Stabenow, Charles Todd, and More

Back in History
Winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime Writers Association of Australia, Kerry Greenwood crafts a story billed as mystery but seemingly more suspenseful historical in Out of the Black Land (Poisoned Pen. Feb. 2013. 250p. ISBN 9781464200380. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464200403. $14.95), about a  reluctant new Great Royal Scribe in Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt who must survive court machinations and the seemingly mad Aknaten’s push to establish monotheism. In Frederick Ramsay’s Holy Smoke: A Jerusalem Mystery (Poisoned Pen. Jan. 2013. 250p. ISBN 9781464200908. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464200922. $14.94), Gamaliel, the highest-ranking rabbi in all of Judea, 29 C.E., must solve the mystery surrounding the badly burned body found, shockingly, behind the veil of the Holy of Holies—a true sacrilege.

Bernard Knight offers a prequel to his popular “Crowner John” series, explaining how Sir John de Wolfe became a king’s coroner upon his return from the crusades in 1192 in Crowner’s Crusade (Severn House. Jan. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780727882219. $28.95). Samuel Thomas’s The Midwife’s Tale (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250010766. $24.99) takes place in 1644 England, as Parliament rebels against the king and lays siege to York. Meanwhile, midwife Bridget Hodgson scurries to prove the innocence of friend Esther, accused of killing her husband, so that Esther will not be burned alive.

In Carol K. Carr’s India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy (Berkley Prime Crime. Feb. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780425255957. pap. $15), a “Madam of Espionage” mystery, full-time madam and sometime secret agent India Black is charged by the prime minister with discovering who has begun assassinating the  lords and earls of Victorian England. Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini launch a frothy new series with The Bughouse Affair  (Forge: Tor. Jan. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780765331748. $24.95), set in 1890s San Francisco and featuring former Pinkerton operative Sabina Carpenter and her detective partner, ex-Secret Service agent John Quincannon. They run into a man claiming to be Sherlock Holmes as they hunt down suspects in seemingly separate cases. In Barbara Corrado Pope’s The Missing Italian Girl: A Mystery in Paris (Pegasus. Feb. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781605984087. $25), set in fin de siècle Paris, magistrate Bernard Martin stalks the killer who’s stalking young immigrant women. 

In Dolores Gordon-Smith’s Frankie’s Letter (Severn House. Jan. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780727882172. $28.95), set during World War I, secret agent Anthony Brooke learns that there’s a spy loose in the English countryside, undermining the war effort. Is the victim of a hit-and-run in post–World War I Britain the missing head of a classy madeira-importing firm? That’s what Inspector Ian Rutledge must discover in Barry Award winner Charles Todd’s Proof of Guilt (Morrow. Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780062015686. $25.99). In busy Kerry Greenwood’s latest Phryne Fisher Mystery, Unnatural Habits (Poisoned Pen. Jan. 2013. 250p. ISBN 9781464201233. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464201257. $14.95), posh detective Phryne and loyal maid Dot investigate when girls (poor, pretty, often pregnant, and always blonde) go missing in 1929 Melbourne, as does reporter Polly Kettle when she tries to discover what happened to them. (See also her Out of the Black Land, previewed above.)

Screen goddess Sarah Darling persuades awestruck screenwriter Charlie Dickens to help her murder her husband in Robert S. Levinson’s Phony Tinsel (Five Star: Cengage. Jan. 2013. 385p. ISBN 9781432826796. $25.95), tenth in a series set in 1930s Hollywood. Next in the multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling series set in 1950s England, Alan Bradley’s Speaking from Among the Bones (Delacorte. Feb. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780385344036. $23) assigns impassioned preadolescent sleuth Flavia de Luce the task of investigating the death of a church organist found upon the ceremonious opening of the tomb of St. Tancred. Set in 1963 Ireland, Los Angeles Times Book Award winner Stuart Neville’s Ratlines (Soho. Jan. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781616952044. $26.95) harks back to World War II, as Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government are assassinated one by one.

Contemporary: Cozy
In Mary Jane Clark’s Footprints in the Sand: A Piper Donovan Mystery (Morrow. Jan. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780062135445. $25.95), latest in the “Wedding Cake Mystery” series, a glorious beach wedding in Sarasota, FL, may be upended after the disappearance of a bridesmaid and other mysterious doings. When Laura Converse travels to Woodstock to ghost-write a psychic’s memoir, she is thought to be a  long-vanished singer sent (supernaturally?) to solve a 25-year-old murder in Erica Obey’s Back to the Garden (Five Star: Cengage. Jan. 2013. 282p. ISBN 9781432826390. $25.95).

Al Stevens’s Nursing Home Ninjas (Five Star: Cengage. Feb. 2013. 274p. ISBN 9781432826949. $25.95) features a sharp 87-year-old who wonders why his fellow nursing-home residents have an unusual number of bruises. In Betty Webb’s Llama of Death: A Gunn Zoo Mystery (Poisoned Pen. Jan. 2013. 250p. ISBN 9781464200663. $23.95; pap. 97814642-00687. $14.95), zookeeper Theodora “Teddy” Bentley, who’s relieved that her llama, Alejandro, did not stomp wedding chapel reverend Victor Emerson to death but is dismayed to learn that the dead reverend was an escaped convict—which means that none of the weddings he has performed would stand up in court. Alas, he’s officiated for Teddy’s mother twice.

Real Tennis is a fun new pastime for “Fethering” series stalwart Jude Nichols, but it proves to be the death of a friend of her new guy, Piers, even as Fethering buddy Carole Seddon seeks to identify mysterious human remains in Simon Brett’s The Corpse on the Court (Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Jan. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781780290324. $28.95). There’s trouble in paradise as retired university professor Malcolm Finlay moves into Thatcher’s Cottage and starts charming the local women in Evelyn Hood’s Return to Prior’s Ford (Severn House. Jan. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780727882196. $28.95). And that’s not the half of it.

Paralegal Apple Mariana finds herself dealing with more than missing heirs when an appraiser at a real estate sale is done in by an antique dagger moments after handing Apple an antique valentine in Linda S. Reilly’s Some Enchanted Murder (Five Star: Cengage. Feb. 2013. 276p. ISBN 9781432826819. $25.95). Finally, in Parnell Hall’s Stakeout (Pegasus. Jan. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781605984025. $25), next in the darkly funny series starring Stanley Hastings, the only PI who doesn’t carry a gun, Stanley is gleefully staking out a presumably cheating husband when the guy ends up dead—and Stanley ends up as suspect.

Contemporary: Hardboiled
In the New York Times best-selling Dana Stabenow’s Bad Blood (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013.  384p. ISBN 9780312550653. $25.99), Kate Shugak is called in by Sgt. Jim Chopin to investigate when not one but two deaths seem to result from the long-standing feud between the villages of Kushtaka and Kuskulana. In Lachlan Smith’s Bear Is Broken (Mysterious: Grove Atlantic. Feb. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780802120793. $24), Leo Maxwell investigates when older brother Teddy, a much-hated crackerjack defense attorney, is shot while they are having lunch.

Carolyn Mulford’s Show Me the Murder (Five Star: Cengage. Feb. 2013. 328p. ISBN 9781432826888. $25.95) stars former spy Phoenix Smith, recuperating in her Missouri hometown, who uses all the skills she amassed in Eastern Europe to protect a friend trying to clear her dead husband’s name. Wallace Stroby’s Shoot the Woman First (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250000385. $24.99) stars grade-A thief Crissa Stone, who ends up with half a million dollars in drug proceeds and the moral conviction that she should share it with the family of a partner slain after the heist.

For Allison Taylor McKenna, a decade-old horror is coming back to life as a killer seeks vengeance in Shadowkiller (Morrow. Jan. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780062070326. pap. $7.99), which stokes the fear New York Times best-selling Wendy Corsi Staub inspired in Sleepwalker and Nightwatcher.

Contemporary: It Gets Personal
Sara J. Henry’s A Cold and Lonely Place (Crown. Feb. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780307718419. $24) is a sequel to Learning To Swim, winner of the 2012 Agatha Award for best first novel and the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award. In the first book, Troy Chance leapt off a ferry crossing Lake Champlain to rescue a child who’s fallen in (or been tossed oberboard) and found herself in more than just very cold water. In Julia Pomeroy’s No Safe Ground (Five Star: Cengage. Feb. 2013. 340p. ISBN 9781432826826. $25.95), Reynolds Packard is going through his numbing routine as a limo driver when the daughter he gave up years ago reappears, wounded, AWOL, and convinced that a fellow soldier murdered her friend in Iraq and is now after her.

In Tina Whittle’s Blood, Ash, and Bone (Poisoned Pen. Feb. 2013. ISBN 9781464200939. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464200076. $14.95), Tai Randolph wants a break from running her Atlanta gun shop, so she heads out of town for the Savannah Civil War Expo only to encounter an old flame, as charming as ever and desperate about a stolen Civil War artifact. Triss Stein’s Brooklyn Bones (Poisoned Pen. Feb. 2013. 250p. ISBN 9781464201202. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464201226. $14.95), first in a series about the New York City borough, features the newly widowed Erica Donato, whose teenage daughter finds the skeleton of a teenage girl behind a wall of their new tumble-down home. The victim was hidden there not so long ago, which obviously concerns mother and daughter.

For journalist Philip Dryden, there’s real confusion. The police inform him that his father, who drowned in the fenland floods of 1977, has just died in a car accident in Jim Kelly’s Nightrise (Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Jan. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781780290331. $28.96).

International Settings
In Nele Neuhaus’s 2.5 million-copy international best seller, Snow White Must Die (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780312604257. $24.99), police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein check out a woman’s mysterious fall (push? leap?) from a bridge and discover that her son, convicted on circumstantial evidence after the disappearance of two teenage girls from their German village, has just been released from jail. After a couple of New York Times best sellers, Inspector Montalbano is back in Andrea Camilleri’s The Dance of the Seagull (Penguin. Feb. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780143122616. pap. $15), in which a seagull’s strange, floppy dance before its death helps the Italian detective uncover a gruesome underworld involving torture, extortion, and murder.

In Parker Bilal’s Dogstar Rising (Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Feb. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781608198719. $25), Cairo P.I. Makana, himself a refugee from internecine warfare in Sudan, is worried that religious rancor will boil over when suspicion falls on the Coptic community after several boys are found mutilated. Detective Mike Ellis, sunning himself in old Havana, has more than his crumbling marriage to worry about when a boy who begged from him and his wife is later found drowned in Peggy Blair’s The Beggar’s Opera (Pintail: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780143186427. pap. $16).

With a suicide bombing, a gubernatorial candidate’s assassination, and the release of a convict bearing a grudge, Brazilian chief Inspector Mario Silva has a lot to handle in Leighton Gage’s Perfect Hatred (Soho. Feb. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781616951764. $25). In Paul Johnston’s The Green Lady (Crème de la Crime: Severn House. Feb. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781780290348. $28.95), originally scheduled for October 2012, half Greek, half Scots PI Alex Mavros looks for the missing 14-year-old daughter of one of Greece’s richest men while recognizing that an old nemesis is back in town and seems linked to the case.

In Edith McClintock’s Monkey Love and Murder (Five Star: Cengage. Jan. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781432826383. $25.95), Emma Parks puts personal troubles behind her by signing up for a spider monkey research project in the South American rain forest, never mind that she doesn’t know what a spider monkey looks like. The drowning of the project’s director and a subsequent death by machete are unwelcome disruptions. Finally, in Peter Tonkin’s Dead Sea (Severn House. Feb. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780727882318. $28.95) what starts as an experiment in ecology ends as a race down a Tokyo river and out to sea in a competition to grab a lottery ticket worth $55 million.

The Police Proceed
In Peter Robinson’s Watching the Dark (Morrow. Jan. 2013. 368p. ISBN 978-0062004802. $25.99), a policeman’s murder at a departmental treatment center seems linked to the disappearance of an English girl in Estonia six years earlier, leading Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks on an uneasy chase to the Continent. In Karen Pullen’s Cold Feet (Five Star: Cengage. Jan. 2013. 292p. ISBN 9781432826376. $25.95), Special Agent Stella Lavender, who’s charged with buying drugs undercover, is trying to relax at a wedding when the bride turns up dead.

After killing a murder suspect in self-defense, FBI Agent Bryan Robbins finds that his own brother’s life is threatened by the dead man’s brother in David Rosenfelt’s Airtight (Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250024763. $24.99). Deborah Crombie’s The Sound of Breaking Glass (Morrow. Feb. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780061990632. $25.99) sees Detective Inspector Gemma Jones back in the saddle (and Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid home with the baby), as the scandalous death of a high-profile barrister links back to events in South London 150 years ago.  

Finally, when Montana Sheriff Martha Ettinger encounters two dead souls that may or may not be murder victims, she turns to fly-fishing P.I. Sean Stranahan for help in Keith McCafferty’s The Gray Ghost Murders (Viking. Feb. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780670025695. $26.95).

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @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.