Mystery Reviews | December 2012

veteran series surprise us sometimes with their vibrancy and current appeal. Two of my favorite twentysomething readers recently “discovered” Mary Daheim, thanks to a copy of The Wurst Is Yet to Come (27th in the series) that I passed their way. They were hooked and surprised that I’d never mentioned this wonderful author to them before !

Consider a matchmaking experience for some of your younger readers when you look over the Series Lineup. For example, Aaron Elkins brings back anthropologist Gideon Oliver (aka the Skeleton Detective) in Dying on the Vine ; this character has 30 years under his belt now. Also, please notice the Mystery Encore entry this month—it’s by Carolyn Hart, no less, who offers a nifty little stand-alone ( Skulduggery) set in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Short and snappy might appeal to your readers who can barely scratch out a minute to read. See if a sampler would work here; Other People’s Baggage showcases three cozy novellas by Kendel Lynn, Gigi Pandian, and Diane Vallere. Similarly, the Medieval Murderers—five collaborators—are back with their eighth historical (The First Murder) which offers a prolog, four acts, and an epilog for a fun way to try new authors.

And of course, sex and gender issues are always hot-button choices for motive. Along this line of plotting, two new books feature transsexuals: Karen Pullen’s bride (in Cold Feet ) and Mehmet Murat Somer’s protagonist (in The Serenity Murders ). Just to keep it balanced, one is funny and the other not! How about the sexuality of developmentally disabled adults? Lynne Raimondo tackles that one in her engrossing debut, Dante’s Wood.


Scoring points for clever wordplay, Poisoned Pen Press has announced a new imprint, aimed at the YA set, called Poisoned Pencil. We can expect the first title in fall 2013.

Over at Soho Crime, Timothy Hallinan has brought in his Junior Bender series. Bearing no relation to his Bangkok-based Poke Rafferty series, the Junior Bender titles are set in greater Los Angeles (plenty of Hollywood fodder), and the protagonist is a burglar/PI. First up this month is Crashed, with two more titles following in the first half of 2013. What’s unique about this deal is that the titles in the Junior Bender series were originally self-published ebooks. Although the books have been successful, Hallinan mentions in his press release that he missed the team effort that goes into print titles. Read more at the Soho Press site.


Keeping up with blogs is Sisyphean at best, but I persist in the name of research, of course! Do your mystery readers follow them? Here’s a trio that might pique those with specialized reading interests:

International mysteries: Murder Is Everywhere

Cozies—with a Canadian twist, no less: Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

Thrillers Kill Zone Authors

Library Journal Reviews starred reviews Muir, T. Frank. Hand for a Hand. Soho Crime. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781616951818. $25. M

Scotland’s famed St. Andrews golf course is not a place one generally finds body parts, but this killer goes for the unexpected. He has strategically placed limbs (beginning with a hand in a bunker) and labeled them so that DCI Andrew Gilchrist knows someone with a vendetta is targeting him. Gilchrist’s panic increases when he identifies the first victim as his own son’s girlfriend. Compounding his problems, Gilchrist has been partnered with a detective he doesn’t trust. As the vicious killer taunts in codes and riddles, Gilchrist enters a terrifying nightmare when someone he loves even more is kidnapped. VERDICT Muir’s popular Scottish series makes a welcome U.S. debut. Terse, dark, and ultimately very scary, this thrilling police procedural rings with emotional turmoil and desperation. The hero’s personal failings and his subsequent attempts to reach out to his loved ones make for a memorable, draining read. [See Prepub Alert, 7/2/12.]

Library Journal Reviews starred reviews Blackwell, Juliet. Murder on the House: A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery.
NAL: Penguin Group (USA). Dec. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780451238849. pap. $7.99. M

Building contractor Mel (short for Melanie) Turner’s construction firm is known for quality work on historic San Francisco homes, but she’s also developing a reputation for being the up-and-coming ghost buster for the region as well. Part of the bidding process for a renovation on a sprawling home situated in the colorful Castro district requires Mel and the competing firm’s representative to spend the night—just so they can experience the ghostly environment. The ghosts definitely distract them, and tragically, at the same time, someone kills the elderly owner in the garden. Now, everything is upended with a very real murder case, abundant suspects, and an unresolved history that only Mel can rectify. Clearly, though, the killer isn’t done, and Mel is getting in the way. VERDICT Blackwell’s third entry in this series (after Dead Bolt ) is a charming cozy. This top-notch light paranormal successfully mixes San Francisco history with a tremendously appealing ghost buster at the helm.

Lynn, Kendel & others. Other People’s Baggage: Three Interconnected Mystery Novellas. Henery Pr. Dec. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9781938383106. pap. $14.95. M

Three novellas are built around the premise that a major airport snafu resulted in each protagonist picking up the wrong suitcase. In Diane Vallere’s “Midnight Ice,” interior decorator Madison Night (a Doris Day fan extraordinaire) gets caught up in an undercover operation dressed in Western wear that is decidedly not her norm. Lynn’s “Switch Back” features a Texas town that proves less than hospitable to Eli Lisbon when she investigates a philanthropist’s murder wearing tiny black pieces that belong to another sleuth. Meanwhile, across the pond in Edinburgh, Gigi Pandian’s historian Jaya Jones (“Fool’s Gold”) is grateful for her magician friend’s help in a decidedly locked room treasure hunt case involving a stolen museum-quality chess set. VERDICT A cozy triple-scoop that tastes divine. While the suitcase connection is slim, the pleasantly contrasting novellas make it easy to finish off a story in one sitting, plus each novella serves as a prequel to the respective author’s full-length work.

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


Hart, Carolyn. Skulduggery. Seventh St. Bks.:
Prometheus. (Carolyn Hart Classics) 2012.

180p. ISBN 9781616147068 pap. $13.95. M


Somer, Mehmet Murat. The Serenity Murders: 
A Turkish Delight Mystery. 
Jan. 2013. 260p. tr. from Turkish by
Amy Marie Spangler. 
ISBN 9780143121220. pap. $15. M


Harris, Tessa. The Dead Shall Not Rest:
A Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mystery.
Kensington. Jan. 2013. 340p.
ISBN 9780758266996. pap. $15. 

Hayes, Steve & David Whitehead.
Sherlock Holmes and the Queen of Diamonds. Robert Hale. Jan. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780709094784. $29.95.M

Kovacs, Ed. Good Junk: A Cliff St. James Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. D ec. 2012. 328p. ISBN 9780312600891. $25.99. M

Masters, Priscilla. Smoke Alarm: A Martha Gunn Mystery. Severn House. Dec. 2012. 216p. ISBN 9780727881991. $28.95. M

McClintock, Edith. Monkey Love and
Five Star: Gale. Jan. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781432826383. $25.95. M

Nolan, Terri. Burden of Truth: A Birdie
Keane Novel. 
Midnight Ink. Jan. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780738735825. pap. $14.99.M

Pullen, Karen. Cold Feet: A Stella Lavender Mystery. Five Star: Gale. Jan. 2013. 292p. ISBN 9781432826376. $25.95. M


Webb, Betty. The Llama of Death:
A Gunn Zoo Mystery. 
Poisoned Pen.
Jan. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781464200663. $24.95. ISBN 9781464200687. pap. $14.95. M


Blaedel, Sara. Farewell to Freedom:
A Novel. 
Pegasus Crime. Dec. 2012.
384p. tr. from Danish by Erik J. Macki & Tara F. Chace. ISBN 9781605984537.