Mystery Reviews | November 1, 2013

By Teresa L. Jacobsen

Lies, lies, and more lies No wonder our sleuths struggle so much. Deceit runs the gamut from unreliable informants (Kirk Russell’s Die-Off or John Pilkington’s Marbeck and the King-in-Waiting) all the way to a whole town of liars (Mark Douglas-Home’s The Woman Who Walked into the Sea). Then there are conspiracies, such as a sinister group in H. Terrell Griffin’s Found. Bad cops complicate life in E. Michael Helms’s Deadly Catch and Brian McGilloway’s The Rising.

Whole-collection readers’ advisory opportunities abound this month. Who wouldn’t want to know more about oceanography and beachcombing after starting Douglas-Home’s The Woman Who Walked into the Sea? If you need a refresher on the Basque separatist movement, dip in with Chris Knopf’s Cries of the Lost. On a lighter note, see if you can’t find a Pinterest moment with Karen Rose Smith’s Staged to Death—a delightful cozy featuring a home-staging business. Finally, am I the last librarian to know about Great Britain’s prime ministerial venue, Gladstone’s Library ( in Wales? Thank you, Elizabeth J. Duncan, for Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By. Passports, please!

redstar Deadly Pleasures: A Crime Writers’ Association Anthology. Severn House. Nov. 2013. 244p. ed. by Martin Edwards. ISBN 9780727883179. $28.95. M

Veterans mingle smoothly with newcomers in this collection specially commissioned for the Crime Writers’ Association’s (CWA) Diamond Jubilee. Nicely dovetailing longer stories such as Simon Brett’s twisty “The Frame” with whip-smart shorties such as Ann Cleeves’s “The Pirate,” the anthology never feels slapped together. If, like me, you’ve wanted to catch up with Michael Ridpath’s Icelandic mysteries, start with “The Polar Bear Killing.” If you are intrigued by new voices, Claire McGowan’s chilling “The Last Resort” won’t disappoint you. A great addition is a selection from the late Margaret Yorke (“Threescore and Ten”), the only story that wasn’t written directly for this compendium; she died in 2012. VERDICT CWA’s annual anthology is always reliable, but this entry is particularly strong. It covers a broad spectrum of reading interests, mixes big names with newer ones, and successfully blends longer stories with brief ones. Wit, psychological tension, twisted plots, and traditional procedurals are all represented. Editor Edwards is to be commended.

redstar Duncan, Elizabeth J. Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By: A Penny Brannigan Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781250008251. $24.99;

ebk. ISBN 9781250020499. M

A small conference for a group of vicars at the notable Gladstone’s Library in Wales goes decidedly grim when the bishop’s administrative assistant dies of a food-allergic reaction. Turns out someone planned it that way. DCI Gareth Davies happens to be on the scene, and, conveniently, Penny Brannigan is there, too. What most of the attendees don’t know is that Araminta (Minty) Russell, the victim, had recently decided to try her amateurish hand at blackmail, targeting multiple individuals. Clearly, one of them has retaliated. But after a second victim dies in the library, Penny and Gareth pursue a variety of leads, including library book checkouts, menu planning, and secret doors. Apparently, all is not peaceful in the parishes of the region as tawdry secrets come to light, ensuring that a desperate killer will try again. VERDICT This fifth entry in a winning series (after A Small Hill To Die On) is a pleasing update of the “body in the library” standard. In the time-honored tradition of village cozies, Duncan provides structure, subtle clues, rampant gossip, and a satisfying conclusion.

redstar Knopf, Chris. Cries of the Lost. Permanent. Nov. 2013. 272p. ISBN 978157962326. $28. M

Arthur Cathcart can’t let go of an unanswered question, and his late wife Florencia’s secret past had opened a veritable Pandora’s box of them. In a nutshell, Florencia was killed because of her illegal accounting activities; Arthur had been left for dead but awoke from his coma much later. He has chosen to live underground, seeking answers and revenge. Along the way he teamed with adventurous Natsumi Fitzgerald, and this time out, the duo are abroad, following Florencia’s offshore bank accounts. One safe deposit box contains an encoded flash drive. After breaking the code, the two begin hopscotching across Europe, barely staying ahead of assorted angry men and the FBI. Florencia’s Basque heritage plays a key role as to why some folks want to nab Arthur, but money motivates others. Once again, Arthur needs to assemble a team of defenders to help him reach a point of negotiation. VERDICT The Nero Award–winning Knopf’s sequel to the must-read Dead Anyway is a storytelling gem of a caper. The author is particularly talented at filling in a complicated backstory, balancing light humor with violence and maintaining a blistering pace. Perfect for Timothy Hallinan “Junior Bender” series fans.


redstar Helms, E. Michael. Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery. Seventh St. Bks: Prometheus. Nov. 2013. 200p. ISBN 9781616148676. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616148683. M

Looking for purpose in his life, the newly retired and divorced Mac McClellan goes on a fishing vacation in the Florida Panhandle. Wouldn’t you know it, he snags a corpse. A few days later, someone plants a bag of marijuana on his boat. Surprised to be considered a suspect, Mac weighs his options and figures he’d better protect his interests and find out who killed young Maddie Harper and her fiancé, Brett Barfield (his body is found later). Neither the local sheriff nor the city police chief strike Mac as trustworthy, but Kate Bell, a local businesswoman, might fit the bill. VERDICT This debut from a Vietnam War memoirist (The Proud Bastards) will resonate with retired military, boomers, and all Florida crime fiction fans. Although the plotline is perhaps too familiar, Helms’s love of his novel’s setting, and his engaging first-person narrative and internal musings suggest a winning new series is under way.

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Douglas-Home, Mark. The Woman Who Walked into the Sea. Sandstone. Nov. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781908737328. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781908737335. M


QUOTABLE “I retrieved the rake leaning against the tree and, turning back toward the Once in a Blue Moon, followed the prints of her naked feet down the pathway, raking the sand behind me as I went. It was a trick I’d picked up from an Israeli colleague in Peshawar—the Israelis raked the sand around their camp every night and then inspected the track for footprints first thing at first light.”—Robert Littell, A Nasty Piece of Work

Davis, Genie. Marathon: A Lynn Bryant Mystery. Five Star: Gale. Nov. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781432827281. $25.95. M

Forman, J.E. Really Dead: A Ria Butler Mystery. Dundurn. Nov. 2013. 312p. ISBN 9781459706804. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781459706828. M

Griffin, H. Terrell. Found: A Matt Royal Mystery. Oceanview. Nov. 2013. 344p. ISBN 9781608090990. $26.95. M

Littell, Robert. A Nasty Piece of Work. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781250021458. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250022806. M

McGilloway, Brian. The Rising: An Inspector Devlin Mystery. Pan Macmillan. Nov. 2013. 356p. ISBN 9780330460859. pap. $12.95. M

Oak, B.B. Thoreau at Devil’s Perch: A Henry David Thoreau Mystery. Kensington. Nov. 2013. 348p. ISBN 9780758290236. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758290243. M

Pilkington, John. Marbeck and the King-in-Waiting. Severn House. Nov. 2013. 204p. ISBN 9780727882943. $27.95. M

Russell, Kirk. Die-Off: A John Marquez Novel. Severn House. Nov. 2013. 248p.

ISBN 9780727882837. $28.95. M


Groundwater, Beth. A Basket of Trouble: A Claire Hanover Mystery. Midnight Ink. Nov. 2013. 296p. ISBN 9780738727035. pap. $14.99. M

Smith, Karen Rose. Staged to Death: A Caprice De Luca Mystery. Kensington. Dec. 2013. 376p. ISBN 9780758284846. pap. $7.99. M


Cleeland, Anne. Daughter of the God-King. Sourcebooks. Nov. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781402279850. pap. $14.99. M

newsworthy If you love all things Southwest, click on over to the University of New Mexico (UNM) College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences for its noteworthy Tony Hillerman Portal ( Still in its building stages, the newly launched site (it became public in June of this year) already demonstrates scholarly potential as an online archival source of considerable depth. Hillerman donated his papers to UNM’s Zimmerman Library in 2005. The portal will enable viewers to read the author’s manuscripts online, view his notes to gain an appreciation of how he developed his books, and see interviews with him. More broadly, the portal is a gold mine of information about New Mexico and the Southwest. Be sure to read project manager Kevin Comerford’s introduction (at the URL above) for a greater understanding. Kudos!

Teresa L. Jacobsen, retired librarian, was a training coordinator for Solano County Library, and previous to that, a fiction evaluator/reference librarian for Santa Monica Public Library. She has written occasional feature articles for LJ and reviewed fiction regularly since 2004. She is an unabashed mystery fan who enjoys bringing new readers into the fold