Mystery Reviews | October 1, 2012

Pull out the fedoras and trench coats: we have a new crop of private investigators for you to meet. Christobel Kent’s dedicated Florentine sleuth, Sandro Cellini, returns in The Dead Season; Charles Salzberg’s skip tracer turns bibliophile and heads to London in Swann Dives In; and Gigi and Charlie go slapstick while struggling with snow and scams in Laura DiSilverio’s Swift Run.

Speaking of weather, nature at its worst has always inspired mystery authors. If you’d like a good snowstorm, may I recommend C.C. Benison’s badly timed blizzard in Eleven Pipers Piping? And then there’s water. Suspicious deaths are connected with water in M.J. Trow’s historical Witch Hammer; Victoria Jenkins’s debut procedural, An Unattended Death; and most certainly in Christopher Valen’s Bone Shadows, which features the mighty Mississippi.

The unreliable or troubled protagonist resonates for many of today’s readers. Consider Harry Bingham’s detective, Fiona Griffiths, in Talking to the Dead, or become acquainted with Valen’s detective, John Santana, always on the run from a Columbian cartel.

This column will be devoting a little real estate to reissues in the coming months. Some great stuff is once again available in print, and we’d like to give a shout-out when possible. Watch for the heading “Mystery Encore.” This month’s nod goes to two notable science fiction authors who walked the genre-blending walk decades ago: Mike Resnick for a 1990s title, Dog in the Manger, and the late Jack Vance for three 1960s tales bundled together in one volume, Desperate Days.


If it’s almost November, it means the Muskego Public Library (in Wisconsin) will soon be hosting its eighth annual Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. Slated for November 10, the one-day festival showcases at least 20 well-known authors and benefits the Friends of the Library for Muskego P.L. Notable sponsorship includes Crimespree magazine, edited by Jon and Ruth Jordan. The Jordans have even edited a short story anthology that will be available this year, with proceeds going to the Friends group.

On the darker side, maybe you can head for Philadelphia on November 8–11 to catch a bit of NoirCon. The conference celebrates the bleakness of crime fiction, but you’d never know it by the fun-loving speakers and attendees.

From the left coast, retired educator Joan Hansen has been hosting the annual Men of Mystery conference in southern California since 2000, and this year it will be held on November 17. We can marvel at yet another amazing lineup of authors here, including John Lescroart, Joseph Finder, and James Rollins. It doesn’t get much more “up close and personal” than this!

starred review starBingham, Harry. Talking to the Dead. Delacorte. Oct. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780345533739. $26. M

Murdering a prostitute is terrible enough, but killing her innocent child as well is horrific, think the members of the Cardiff, Wales, police department. A powerful clue was left behind: the credit card of one of Wales’s richest shipping magnates. The trouble is, he died the year before. Cambridge-educated DS Fiona (Fi) Griffiths is determined to pursue this tenuous lead. Fi, who carries her own dark secret, tries to fit in, but it’s a near-impossible task for the oddball, brilliant detective. Brilliant doesn’t mean sensible though, and Fi uses tactics that break most rules—and that put her in extreme danger. She senses that the sex trade and the shipping industry intersect somehow, but she’ll need to think outside the box to make the complex case come together. VERDICT Bingham’s riveting procedural thriller series debut has winner written all over it. The author’s ability to juxtapose his protagonist’s introspection with an inflammatory and violent storyline makes for an edgy, totally unsettling read. Recommend highly for S.J. Bolton and Tana French fans.

starred review starWiprud, Brian. The Clause. Midnight Ink. Oct. 2012. c.312p. ISBN 9780738734163. pap. $14.99. M

For a completely different take on the PTSD theme (see the review of Bone Shadows above), meet ex-naval intelligence officer turned jewel thief Gill Underwood. After a major heist goes bad and his partner/lover dies, Gill presses on, in possession of fabulously valuable jewels for which numerous criminals (think Chinese, Cuban, Serbian, Israeli, etc.) lust. The FBI is involved because of the nature of the crime and because Gill’s heist interfered with an ongoing investigation. Interspersed with amusing and expletive-laced transcripts of cell phone conversations and FBI meetings, the story never flags. Gill is a genius at what he does, and Wiprud is too, as he gradually reveals a more complex protagonist than readers might have expected. VERDICT Abundant action, comic confrontations (shades of Elmore Leonard), and clever deceits make for a fun-filled read. The final twist is not to be missed. Wiprud’s irreverent heist caper (after last year’s Ringer) would partner well with Gray Basnight’s The Cop with the Pink Pistol and appeal to fans of TV’s Leverage.

starred review starKaaberbøl, Lene & Agnete Friis. Invisible Murder. Soho Crime. Oct. 2012. c.352p. tr. from Danish by Tara Chace. ISBN 9781616951702. $25. M

Kaaberbøl and Friis return with a riveting follow-up to their 2011 debut, The Boy in the Suitcase. A crusading Red Cross nurse and mother of two, Nina Borg treats a group of violently ill Roma refugees living in a Copenhagen hovel, defying her husband’s request not to put the welfare of others above that of her own children. When Nina herself falls ill, she receives a chilling diagnosis: radiation sickness. Meanwhile, cautious Budapest law student Sandor Horvath searches for his half brother, a Roma teenager looking to sell deadly goods on the Danish black market, a quest that draws the attention of Danish intelligence agencies. Sandor soon faces a more serious danger—one that threatens not only his life but the lives of Nina’s daughter and countless others as well. VERDICT Nina and Sandor are flawed but appealing characters, and their stories smoothly connect in the buildup to a pulse-pounding finale. With its intricate plot and revealing glimpses into Roma life, this assured thriller cements its authors’ places near the top of the Scandinavian crime fiction pantheon.—Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL

The following titles are reviewed in the October 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Valen, Christopher. Bone Shadows: A John Santana Novel. Conquill Pr. Oct. 2012. c.344p. ISBN 9780980001754. pap. $15. M


Resnick, Mike. Dog in the Manger: An Eli Paxton Mystery. Seventh Street Bks: Prometheus. Nov. 2012. c.220p. ISBN 9781616147105. pap. $13.95. M

Vance, Jack. Desperate Days: Selected Mysteries. Vol. 2. Subterranean. Oct. 2012. c.608p. ed. by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan. ISBN 9781596064638. $45. M


Kent, Christobel. The Dead Season: A Mystery in Florence. Pegasus Crime. Oct. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9781605983745. $25.95. M

starred review starMalliet, G.M. A Fatal Winter: A Max Tudor Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780312647971. $24.99. M

Salzberg, Charles. Swann Dives In: A Henry Swann Novel. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Oct. 2012. c.292p. ISBN 9781432826222. $25.95. M

Scott, A.D. Beneath the Abbey Wall. Atria: S. & S. Nov. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781451665772. pap. $15. M

Sharp, R.F. No Regrets, No Remorse: A Sydney Simone Mystery.

Poisoned Pen. Nov. 2012. c.252p. ISBN 9781464200410. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464200434. $14.95. M

Trow, M.J. Witch Hammer. Créme de la Crime: Severn House. (Kit Marlowe). Oct. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781780290294. $28.95. M


Benison, C.C. Eleven Pipers Piping: A Father Christmas Mystery. Delacorte. Oct. 2012. c.512p. ISBN 9780385344463. $24. M

DiSilverio, Laura. Swift Run. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2012. c.304p.ISBN 9780312623814. $25.99. M

Loan-Wilsey, Anna. A Lack of Temperance: A Hattie Davish Mystery. Kensington. Oct. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780758276346. pap. $15. M

Vallere, Diane. Pillow Stalk: A Mad for Mod Mystery. Polyester Pr. Oct. 2012. c.292p. ISBN 9780984965328. pap. $14.95. M

Additional Mysteries

Kornetsky, L.A. Collared: A Gin and Tonic Mystery. Gallery: S. & S. Nov. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781451671643. pap. $15. M

Royes, Gillian. The Man Who Turned Both Cheeks. Atria: S. & S. Dec. 2012. c.456p. ISBN 9781451627435. pap. $16. M