Mystery Reviews | April 1, 2013

Private investigator (PI) characters, with all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, are on the upswing. Wolf Haas’s Simon Brenner (The Bone Man) and Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt (Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway) are two remarkable protagonists you won’t soon forget. Sometimes the PI’s sidekick really makes the story. Consider Linda L. Richards’s Death Was in the Blood just to meet Los Angeles’s irrepressible Kitty Pangborn. Along the same lines (only in London), perceptive Robin Ellacott helps Cormoran Strike make the connections he needs in Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling, the debut of the month.

If your readers clamor for the unusual, be sure to introduce them to Raymond Benson’s vigilante heroine in her third outing (The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes), set in 1960 New York. If all the humans disappeared, could our four-footed friends make a go of it, asks John Travis. See what he means with The Designated Coconut: A Benji Spriteman Mystery. And don’t overlook some of your favorite authors in the Series Lineup this month. These titles are comfort reads and just the cure for wanderlust.


If your PI skill set needs tweaking, while away some time at Kevin Burton Smith’s Thrilling Detective website ( He has a full list of Shamus Award winners, the Private Eye Writers of America’s Awards.

Book display idea: I’m a little late on this, but it’s nifty anyway. In honor of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary, UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library created a book-cover exhibit entitled “Shrouded in Mystery.” Take a virtual tour at


Just around the corner, Crimefest ( will be convening in Bristol, England on May 30–June 2. Watch this site for a dandy list of Crimefest Award nominees, including Last Laugh and eDunnit. Further ahead on the calendar, you might consider attending Bloody Scotland ( September 13–15.

Barnes, Linda. The Perfect Ghost. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250023636. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250023643. M

Shy Em Moore is the perfect ghostwriter, taking her gregarious partner Teddy’s interviews and turning them into cohesive “autobiographies” for celebrities. When Teddy dies suddenly in a car crash, Em is determined to finish their current project about Hollywood legend Garrett Malcolm. Em keeps up a running monolog to Teddy as she is swept up by Garrett’s charismatic personality, moving into his home—ostensibly to finish the interviews—and then his bed. Parallels to Shakespeare’s life and works, particularly Hamlet, are strongly drawn: the play within a play, ghost of the father, treachery, betrayal, eavesdropping and familial skeletons resonate throughout. Nothing is truly what it seems in this world populated with ghosts, both literary and figurative. VERDICT In this standalone (and Barnes’s first book in five years) by the multiple award-winning author of the Carlotta Carlyle mysteries (Flashpoint), the fast-paced action, compelling characters, alternating interview fragments, police reports, and Em’s first-person narration will keep readers up long into the night, waiting for the full revelation of the particulars, which include a sharply surprising and satisfying twist. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/12; library marketing] —Charli Osborne, Oxford P.L., MI

Hutton, Ewart. Good People. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2013. 328p. ISBN 9781250019615. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250019622. M

DS Glyn Capaldi (the Welshman is part Italian) has been banished to the hinterlands of Wales for his past indiscretions. Now he’s stumbled upon a case that the locals want to sweep under the rug, and something sounds off to him. Six local guys had rented a van for their rugby outing, and one woman (possibly a prostitute) joined them later. The next morning, only five men are left. They provide a reasonable explanation for the missing man and woman, but Capaldi doesn’t believe the story. Tired of being stonewalled, Capaldi investigates until he unearths tawdry, long-kept secrets so sinister that no one wants to believe they are true. When one of the five men is found hanged, the pent-up tension escalates into violence. It won’t be easy, but bet on Capaldi to see it through. VERDICT Shortlisted for the 2012 Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger for best first novel, this is a stunningly dark debut. The first-person narrative keeps it personal, making the detective’s vulnerabilities that much more intense. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/12.]

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewGran, Sara. Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway. Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780547429335. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780547840642. M

Claire’s old love, Paul Casablancas, is murdered in an apparent robbery gone bad, opening a floodgate of emotions for her. She finds a clue (“trust only the clues,” says her detective mentor, Jacques Silette) that helps her trace Paul’s final steps that ultimately led to his death. Two cases separated by 25 years—the old one in Claire’s native Brooklyn and the current in San Francisco—define Gran’s second series entry. Through Claire’s flashbacks and dreams, readers are transported into her intuitive detecting methods—an exhausting process unique to this fine detective. Claire’s increasing reliance on cocaine as the case escalates worries both her friends and the readers, but she never loses track of her cases, leading to a stunning conclusion. VERDICT Gran’s (Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead) detective searches for truth, not necessarily justice, and philosophical tidbits scattered throughout give the storyline an otherworldly tone. Remarkably, Gran keeps her tortured detective focused throughout, ensuring a satisfying read. Highly recommended.

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


Haas, Wolf. The Bone Man. Melville House. Apr. 2013. 176p. tr. from German by Annie Janusch. ISBN 9781612191690. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612191706. M


Barber, Christine. When the Devil Doesn’t Show: A Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250004727. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250023858. M

Benson, Raymond. The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes. Oceanview. Apr. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781608090723. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781608090730. M

Coleman, Reed Farrel. Onion Street: A Moe Prager Mystery. Tyrus. May 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781440539466. pap. $16.95. M

Hozy, S.P. The Scarlet Macaw: A Mystery. Dundurn, dist. by Midpoint Trade. Jun. 2013. 392p. ISBN 9781459705982. pap. $17.99. M

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewPilkington, John. Marbeck and the Double-Dealer. Severn House. Apr. 2013. 188p. ISBN 9780727882394. $27.95. M

Richards, Linda L. Death Was in the Blood. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Jun. 2013. 332p. ISBN 9781432827168. $25.95. M

Travis, John. The Designated Coconut: A Benji Spriteman Mystery. Atomic Fez. May 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780986642487. pap. $19.99. M


Archer, Gretchen. Double Whammy: A Davis Way Mystery. Henery Pr. May 2013. 308p. ISBN 9781938383366. pap. $14.95. M

O’Sullivan, Kathryn. Foal Play. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781250026590. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250026606. M

Shea, Susan C. The King’s Jar: A Dani O’Rourke Mystery. Top Five Bks. May 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781938938047. pap. $14. M


Hill, Antonio. The Summer of Dead Toys. Crown: Random House. Jun. 2013. 368p. tr. from Spanish by Laura McGloughlin. ISBN 9780770435875. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780770435882. M

Mishani, D.A. The Missing File. Harper: HarperCollins. Apr. 2013. 304p. tr. from Hebrew by Steve Cohen. ISBN 9780062195371. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062195395. M