Mystery Reviews, September 2012

starred review starMacNeal, Susan Elia. Princess Elizabeth’s Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery. Bantam. Oct. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780553593624. pap. $15. M

Churchill and the crew at 10 Downing Street move their fledgling spy, ­Maggie Hope, into Windsor Castle ostensibly as a math tutor for 14-year-old Princess ­Elizabeth, but really because they’ve been alerted to a possible kidnapping plot. While Maggie learns the ins and outs of royal society, she also endears herself to Elizabeth and her sister Margaret by teaching them simple codes and math games. Then one of the ladies-in-waiting is killed on the grounds, and Maggie finds an unexpected clue in the victim’s bookcase. As in all good spy thrillers, the clock is ticking, and soon Maggie’s job will be more dangerous and complicated than she calculated. VERDICT MacNeal’s sophomore historical outing (after Mr. Churchill’s Secretary) synchronizes perfectly with the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. With a smart, code-breaking mathematician heroine, abundant World War II spy intrigue, and a whiff of romance, this series has real luster. The author leaves readers with a mind-boggling conclusion that hints at Maggie’s next assignment.

starred review starMay, Peter. The Blackhouse. SilverOak: Sterling. Oct. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9781454901273. $24.95. M

Because of his ties with the region and his fluency in Gaelic, Edinburgh-based DI Fin Macleod is dispatched to Scotland’s remote Isle of Lewis to compare two deaths. Two hangings, one in Edinburgh and one in Fin’s childhood home of Crobost, share the same traits. Is a serial killer or a copycat at work? Since the Crobost victim was the village bully, Fin must sift through multiple motives and his own memories to tease out the killer. Chapters alternate between Fin’s youth (in first-person voice) and the current investigation in this thrilling coming-of-age adventure laden with premonition and dread. VERDICT Order, read, and pass it on! Well known for novels and television dramas, Scottish author May (Backlight Blue; Chinese Whispers) has written a mesmerizing new trilogy opener. May brings the story to a breathtaking conclusion with an astonishing twist at the end. Compare to Simon Beckett’s Written in Bone for locale and Tana French for tone.

Alexander, Tasha. Death in the Floating City: A Lady Emily Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780312661762. $24.99. M

In this seventh installment of Alexander’s Victorian series (after A Crimson Warning), Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband travel to Venice to investigate a murder tied to a series of old manuscripts. Trying to clear the name of an acquaintance, Lady Emily finds Emma Barozzi as secretive and duplicitous as ever. Enlisting the help of a local historian and his daughter, Lady Emily searches archives, palazzos, and the hidden passages of Venice to uncover the truth behind the mysteries (both ancient and current) tied to her friend’s infamous family name. VERDICT This dependable series with plucky heroines and memorable villainesses is filled with local and period detail. An exceptionally good bet for readers who appreciate historical mysteries and the combination of past and present voices. [See Prepub Alert, 7/2/12.]—­Catherine Lantz, Morton Coll. Lib., Cicero, IL

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


Boyer, Susan M. Lowcountry Boil: A Liz Talbot Mystery. Henery Pr. Sept. 2012. c.396p. ISBN 9781938383045. pap. $14.95. M

Legault, Stephen. The Slickrock Paradox. Touchwood, dist. by Midpoint Trade. (Red Rock Canyon Mysteries. Bk.1). Sept. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781927129395. pap. $18.95. M


Campbell, Melodie. The Goddaughter. Raven Bks.: Orca. (Rapid Reads). Sept. 2012. c.136p. ISBN 9781459801257. pap. $9.95. M

Fradkin, Barbara. Evil Behind That Door. Raven Bks.: Orca. (Rapid Reads). Sept. 2012. c.120p. ISBN 9781459801004. pap. $9.95. M

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Ellis, Kate. Watching the Ghosts. Créme de la Crime: Severn House. Sept. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9781780290270. $28.95. M

Crane, Cheryl. Imitation of Death: A Nikki Harper Mystery. Kensington. Sept. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780758258885. $25. M

Harrison, Cora. Laws in Conflict: A Mystery Set in Sixteenth Century Ireland. Severn House. Oct. 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9780727881786. $28.95. M

Johnson, D.E. Detroit Breakdown: A Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781250006622. $25.99. M

Longworth, M.L. Murder in the Rue Dumas: A Verlaque & Bonnet Provençal Mystery. Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780143121541. pap. $14. M

O’Mara, Tim.

Sacrifice Fly. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781250008985. $24.99. M


Allen, Jeffrey. Popped Off: A Stay at Home Dad Mystery. Kensington. Sept. 2012. c.300p. ISBN 9780758266903. pap. $7.99. M

Boneham, Shelia Webster. Drop Dead on Recall. Midnight Ink. Oct. 2012. c.408p. ISBN 9780738733067. pap. $14.99. M

Graham, Barbara. Murder by Vegetable:The Baby Quilt. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781432826215. $25.95. M


Indridason, Arnaldur. Outrage: An Inspector Erlendur Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.288p. tr. from Icelandic by Anna Yates. ISBN 9780312659110. $24.99. M

Kansas City Noir. Akashic. Oct. 2012. 240p. ed. by Steve Paul. ISBN 9781617751288. pap. $15.95. M

Krajewski, Marek. Death in Breslau: An Inspector Eberhard Mock Investigation. Melville House. Sept. 2012. c.256p. tr. from Polish by Danusia Stok. ISBN 9781612191645. $24.95. M

Nesbø, Jo. Phantom. Knopf. Oct. 2012. c.400p. tr. from Norwegian by Don Barlett. ISBN 9780307960474. $25.95. M

Robertson, Imogen. Island of Bones. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780670026272. $26.95. M

Tallis, Frank. Death and the Maiden: A Max Liebermann Mystery. Random. Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780812983340. pap. $15. M