Mystery Reviews | January 2013

Thoughts for a new year

Prediction Demographics don’t lie. I predict you’ll see many more boomer-themed mysteries coming your way, both light and dark. And not just any boomers—they must have flair and defy expectations like the AARP-eligible bank robbers in Bobby Cole’s Moon Underfoot, Charles Atkins’s dementia victims in Best Place to Die, and the sexy seniors and hit men in Lois Winston’s Revenge of the Crafty Corpse .

Resolution How about stepping away from Scandinavian lit for a spell and trying a new region, style, or time period? Resolve to read outside of your comfort zone this year. Revisit the cozies, perhaps, or try authors who write about topics or regions unfamiliar to you. Expand those horizons!

Prediction Historicals will continue to come on strong, particularly the 20th-century entries. Many lap the edges of war with characters seeking revenge for atrocities rendered earlier. Now’s your chance to learn more about the Boer War (Frances Brody’s A Medal for Murder) or about World War I’s effects on Australia (Kerry Greenwood’s Unnatural Habits). Contemporary titles tap into World War II (Charley Memminger’s Aloha, Lady Blue), and Vietnam (Christopher R. Cox’s A Good Death)—and those are just for openers.

Resolution Enough with reviewers telling you that someone writes like such classic authors as John D. MacDonald, Agatha Christie, or Dorothy Sayers. Why not put them to the test and have your library’s mystery reading group do some compare and contrast? See what your local readers have to say about homage, pastiche, and parody.


Resolution If you missed Cynthia Orr’s LJ article about Bouchercon, be sure to read it now. “Librarian Brings Bouchercon to Cleveland—and $1M+ to Its Economy.”

Two conferences are just around the corner: Chicago’s Love Is Murder (February 1–3) and Left Coast Crime 2013, based in Colorado Springs this year (March 21–24). Maybe some travel is in your future?

Prediction You won’t regret it!

Library Journal Reviews starred review Greenwood, Kerry. Unnatural Habits: A Phryne Fisher Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Jan. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781464201233. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464201257. $14.95. M

Phryne Fisher, Australia’s inimitable sleuth and flapper, returns to help the police find not only Polly Kettle, a reporter who’s gone missing, but also three young unwed mothers who have disappeared from the nursing home where they had been banished because of their pregnancies. Polly had been investigating rumors of missing young women—not just pregnant ones—and now it looks as if she’s been kidnapped, too. As always, Phryne defies convention and plows in wherever she feels an answer might be found. Enlisting help from an assortment of allies (commune residents, gay club owners, brothel madams), the charismatic Phryne pursues justice with vigilante fervor. ­ VERDICT Greenwood’s 19th entry (after Dead Man’s Chest ) in her long-running and justifiably popular historical cozy-with-a-social-conscience series is not to be missed. Not only are readers treated to vivid descriptions of late 1920s Melbourne, but clever turns of phrase and witty humor make the journey a treat. While the story is historical in setting, Greenwood’s tone and ensemble cast could also appeal to G.M. Malliet fans; Dorothy Sayers aficionados need look no further. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/12.]

Library Journal Reviews starred review Cox, Christopher. A Good Death. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250012319. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250012326. M

When American Linda Watts, who emigrated from Laos as a child refugee, dies of a drug overdose in Bangkok, the insurance company holding her policy doesn’t buy that her death was accidental. They send Boston PI Sebastian Damon to Thailand to investigate. Once there, Sebastian realizes two things: Linda is alive, and he is unable to navigate Thai society on his own. Wisely, he enlists the aid of Sam Honeyman, one of his dad’s buddies from ‘Nam, who has made Thailand his home. Sam and Sebastian find Linda, and the trio then sneaks into Laos where Linda has unfinished family business: finding her long-lost American father. Meeting such dangerous challenges as corrupt cops, the threat of malaria, and suspicious tribal people ensures an exciting showdown. VERDICT Cox’s action-packed debut is perfect for armchair travelers who will be amazed by the author’s ability to make gaudy Bangkok and the remote hill country of Laos come alive. The Caucasian PI-entranced-by-demure-Asian-beauty device is a bit timeworn, but the author’s fresh spin (his Asian beauty is quite complicated!) makes that a minor complaint. Award-winning journalist Cox puts his travel writing skills to good use in a book that is perfect for fans of Tim Hallinan and Hilary Davidson.

Library Journal Reviews starred review Nickson, Chris. Come the Fear: A Richard Nottingham Mystery. CréKeme de la Crime: Severn House. Jan. 2013. 216p. ISBN 9781780290300. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780103259. M

Dedicated Constable Nottingham watches over 1755 Leeds like a hawk, defying anyone to mess with his thriving city of industry. So when a suspicious house fire leaves behind the charred remains of a young, pregnant victim, he is spurred into action. Perplexed at first by the victim’s anonymity, Nottingham learns that she was a disabled woman abused both by employers and kin. No way will his fledgling police department let this wrongful death slide by. Nottingham is quietly powerful and strives to ensure justice for all, not just the moneyed class. Not surprisingly, his investigation exposes more than some city leaders had planned and leaves him particularly vulnerable. VERDICT Nickson’s fourth title (after The Constant Lovers ) in his superb 18th century-set series lives up to expectations. Clearly written so that the titles can be read out of order, this historical police procedural ends with a cliffhanger, guaranteeing your patrons will demand number five.

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


Hart, Carolyn. The Devereaux Legacy. Seventh St. Bks.: Prometheus. (Carolyn Hart Classics). Feb. 2013. 190p. ISBN 9781616147044. pap. $13.95 ; ebk. ISBN 9781616147051. M


Corris, Peter. Comeback. Allen & Unwin, dist. by Trafalgar Square. ( Cliff Hardy). Jan. 2013. 252p. ISBN 9781742377247. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781742695389. M


Atkins, Charles. Best Place to Die. Severn House. ( Lilian and Ada Mysteries). Jan. 2013. 220p. ISBN 9780727882080. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780103181. M

Cole, Bobby. Moon Underfoot. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. Jan. 2013. 465p. ISBN 9781612187211. pap. $14.95. M

Memminger, Charley. Aloha, Lady Blue: A Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250007780. $24.99;ebk. ISBN 9781250020994. M

Muller, Marcia & Bill Pronzini. The Bughouse Affair: A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery. Forge: Tor. Jan. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780765331748. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429997218. M


Brody, Frances. A Medal for Murder: A Kate Shackleton Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780312622404. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250022615. M

Cates, Bailey. Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti: A Magical Bakery Mystery. Obsidian Mysteries: NAL. Jan. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780451238986. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101607381. M

Simon, Clea. True Grey: A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery. Severn House. Jan. 2013. 216p. ISBN 9780727882158. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781780103280. M

Winston, Lois. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse: An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery.Midnight Ink. Jan. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780738725864. pap. $14.99. M

Additional Mysteries

Armstrong, Lori. Merciless. Touchstone: S. & S. Jan. 2013. 352p.ISBN 9781451625363. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781451625417. M

Library Journal Reviews starred review Edwardson, Åke. Room No. 10: A Chief Inspector Erik Winter Novel. S. & S. Mar. 2013. 464p. tr. from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles. ISBN 9781451608526. $25.99; ebk. ISBN9781451608557. M

Library Journal Reviews starred review Hamilton, Ian. The Disciple of Las Vegas: An Ava Lee Novel.Picador. Jan. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781250032430. $25; pap. ISBN 9781250031938. $15;ebk. ISBN 9781250031945. M