White's Pick of the Month, Berry's Breakout Debut, plus Burke, Carter, Dow, Dugoni, & Many More | Mystery & Suspense, April 2019

White delivers an intense page-turner that never lets up; newcomer Berry turns in well-written, intriguing debut mystery that combines history, an unforgettable setting, and mature, relatable characters; Boyle’s fiction rises above the stereotypes of urban noir; this second in Carter’s Inishowen series is hugely entertaining and satisfying; a must-read for fans of legal thrillers and/or spy novels; Hillerman’s writing becomes stronger with every new installment in the series; Mina introduces a gutsy, endearing heroine and a wondrously surprising ending in Conviction 

 

Boyle, William. A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself. Pegasus. Mar. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781643130583. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781643131177. M
Boyle’s third Brooklyn noir (after Gravesend The Lonely Witness) follows three women as they navigate perilous relationships and flee a crazed mob enforcer. Sixty-year-old Mafia widow Rena fights off a lecherous neighbor by striking him over the head with an ashtray, leaving him for dead. She then steals his mint 1962 Impala and runs to her daughter Adrienne, who refuses to let her in the house. Adrienne’s boyfriend Richie has just knocked off five members of the Brancaccio crime family, absconding with half a million. Adrienne’s disturbed daughter Lucia eventually winds up with the money and the chase is on. But first Rena and Lucia stumble upon former porn star Wolfstein, who’s pursued by a jilted chump she scammed out of 15 large. And then comes Crea, the enforcer who gleefully pulps his victims with a hammer.
VERDICT Boyle’s fiction rises above the stereotypes of urban noir, not so much for the plot as for the quirky, flawed female characters with rich inner lives, the gritty dialog, and atmospheric street settings, in which authentic details abound. Offbeat humor leavens the mix and adds to the fun. —Ron Terpening, formerly of Univ. of Arizona, Tucson

Burke, Alafair. The Better Sister. Harper. Apr. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9780062853370. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062853356. SUSPENSE
Chloe Taylor is married to her estranged sister Nicky’s handsome ex-husband Adam Macintosh, and raising her sister’s son, Ethan, as her own. She’s also the editor-in-chief at a women’s magazine and has recently gained significant recognition—both good and bad—for a series highlighting everyday women and the #MeToo movement. By all appearances, she’s super successful, with a loving spouse, a two-book deal, and a well-paying job. Then Adam is murdered, and a staged crime scene and an inconsistent account of Ethan’s whereabouts leads to his arrest. Not sure whom she can trust, Chloe reluctantly lets Nicky back into her life. Together, they deal with the consequences of having their secrets exposed during a high-profile trial while also confronting the truth about the man they both once loved. Z
VERDICT Burke (The Wife; The Ex) writes a straightforward and uncomplicated character-driven mystery that also delves into the topics of sisterhood and abuse. Vague references to current events might eventually date the story, but mystery lovers will find much to enjoy in this fast-moving whodunit.—Vicki Briner, Broomfield, CO

redstarCarter, Andrea. Treacherous Strand. Oceanview. (Inishowen, Bk. 2). Sept. 2019. 368p. ISBN Treacherous Strand9781608093045. $26.95. M
When Frenchwoman Marguerite ­Etienne’s body washes up on a remote beach on Ireland’s Inishowen peninsula and the death is quickly ruled a suicide, local solicitor Benedicta “Ben” O’Keeffe is convinced otherwise. She had recently drawn up Marguerite’s will and should perhaps have done more for the recent transplant to the small town of Glendara. Ignoring police warnings, she forges ahead, uncovering the woman’s past in a doomsday cult, a child she left behind, and her fraught relationships with men. Putting herself at risk, Ben can’t let go of this lonely and disturbed woman whom she feels she’s failed. Of course, in the process she unearths local secrets, threatening her own position—both personally and professionally—in the tiny community.
VERDICT This second in Carter’s Inishowen series (after Death in Whitewater Church) is hugely entertaining and satisfying, full of Irish legal tidbits and solidly drawn characters in a deliciously remote and picturesque locale. Ben is an intelligent and feisty woman you’d want in your corner. Highly recommended. —Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

redstarDow, David R. Confessions of an Innocent Man. Dutton. Apr. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9781524743888. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781524743901. THRILLER
DEBUT In this first novel from memoirist Dow ( Things I’ve Learned from Dying), restaurateur Rafael Zhettah falls in love with Tieresse, an older, wealthy philanthropist. A year after the wedding, she’s violently murdered. Despite an alibi and circumstantial evidence, Rafael is convicted, sentenced to death, and spends over six years on death row before previously withheld evidence is discovered and exonerates him. Unlike many who have been wrongfully convicted, Rafael’s gratitude is mitigated by a need for retribution, which he quickly begins to seek out. The novel explores wrongful convictions, the death penalty and appeals process, life on death row, and exoneration. It’s also about duplicity—the honest and hardworking man becoming a criminal only after a wrongful conviction; a legal system that seems too often to pit police, prosecutors, and judges against the truth—and features an ingenious, well-planned, and perfectly executed revenge.
VERDICT This fast-paced legal thriller powerfully captures themes of love, surrender, despair, and vengeance. It will appeal to fans of Phillip Margolin and George Pelecanos, and pair nicely with Anthony Ray Hinton’s memoirThe Sun Does Shine. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/18.]—George Lichman, Rocky River, OH

redstarDugoni, Robert. The Eighth Sister. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. Apr. 2019. 478p. ISBN 9781503903036. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781503903319. $15.95;ebk. ISBN 9781503958302. THRILLER
Forty years ago, Russian specialist Charles Jenkins left the CIA in disgust after a botched op in Mexico City. Now, with his finances in disarray and his younger wife in the throes of a difficult pregnancy, the 64-year-old security expert finds his former station chief on his doorstep. Seven long-serving female spies in Russia are being hunted down by an eighth “sister,” apparently a counterintelligence agent for the FSB (formerly the KGB). Three women have already died. Jenkins reluctantly agrees to help, though he knows if anything goes wrong the CIA will deny him aid and recognition. In Moscow, he tangles with a relentless FSB officer. This is only the first stage of what will turn out to be a desperate cat-and-mouse game with odds against him. Set in the new Cold War between Putin’s Russia and the United States, Dugoni’s 15th novel (after The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell) is a riveting tale of treachery.
VERDICT With lean prose and spot-on local color, this plot-driven thriller pulses with tension and fraught escapes, the action capped by a courtroom drama as good as any from Grisham. A must-read for fans of legal thrillers and/or spy novels.—Ron Terpening, formerly of Univ. of Arizona, Tucson

Gudenkauf, Heather. Before She Was Found. Park Row: Harlequin. Apr. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9780778308621. $26.99 ; pap. ISBN 9780778307730. $16.99 ; ebk. ISBN 9781488095429. THRILLER
A middle school group project on urban legends leads to a brutal attack that stuns and angers a small Iowa town. For their project, 12-year-olds Cora Landry, Violet Crowe, and Jordyn Petit choose the figure of teenager Joseph Wither, who disappeared from their town decades earlier and reputedly returns to lure away and kill young girls. Cora, the smallest and most sensitive of the trio who’s repeatedly rebuffed by popular queen bee–type Jordyn, comes to think Wither is real and enters into an online correspondence with someone she believes to be him. Things come to a head when, after their assignment is finished, the trio leave a sleepover at midnight to go to a former railroad depot where Cora hopes to meet Wither but instead is horribly stabbed. The story is told in multiple voices with police transcripts and emails and texts included as authorities try to identify Cora’s assailant.
VERDICT With a focus on preteen social pressure and parental protection of their children, this latest from Gudenkauf (The Weight of Silence) again builds suspense in commonplace domestic situations. Complete with a reader’s guide, this is a solid bet for book clubs. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/18.] —Michele Leber, Arlington, VA

redstarHillerman, Anne. The Tale Teller. Harper. (Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito, Bk. 5). Apr. 2019. Tale Teller304p. ISBN 9780062391957. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062391971. M
Hillerman (Cave of Bones) presents the fifth in her series featuring retired Navajo policeman Joe Leaphorn and officers Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito. Each is investigating a crime within the Navajo Nation. As a favor to a friend, Leaphorn is looking into the disappearance of a priceless, sacred artifact, a traditional dress dating back to the Long Walk, when the Navajo were forcibly removed from their homeland. A series of robberies and a shooting are the focus for Chee. And Manuelito becomes entangled with the FBI when she discovers a body while on a running trail. Mysterious deaths, lies, and secrets plague the investigators. Nevertheless, their diligent efforts uncover clues that assist them in unraveling each of the cases, and all are guided by the history and culture of the Navajo.
VERDICT Hillerman’s writing becomes stronger with every new installment in the series, deepening the development of each character. Fans will be intrigued by the intertwining stories that keep them guessing. The picturesque Southwest, as well as the history of the Navajo, come through on each page.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern ­Community Coll., Mt. Carmel

Maxwell, Edith. Charity’s Burden. Midnight Ink. (Quaker Midwife, Bk. 4). Apr. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9780738756431. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738756660. M
Quaker Rose Carroll is a skilled midwife, but when one of her patients, Charity Skells, appears to be bleeding out, Rose takes her to the hospital. When Rose asks her policeman friend to insist on an autopsy, her worst fears are confirmed. Charity, a mother of five, appears to have died of a botched abortion. However, the more Rose learns of Charity and her husband, the more she fears the young mother’s death may have been murder. Despite the disapproval of the new police chief, Rose asks questions of her friends and the mothers-to-be as she makes her rounds in Amesbury, MA. Even with births, a forthcoming family wedding, and her fear of Charity’s cousin, Rose is determined to find the killer before another life is lost. The fourth “Quaker Midwife” mystery (following Turning the Tide) is a compelling historical, presenting characters, especially Rose, who highlight a lifestyle, time, and place not often featured in the genre.
VERDICT This story of women’s rights and the need for safe abortion practices is as relevant today as it was in 1889 following the enactment of the Comstock Laws. Fans of Victoria Thompson’s “Gaslight” mysteries will enjoy. —Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

redstarConvictionMina, Denise. Conviction. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jun. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9780316528504. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316528481. THRILLER
Anna McDonald is comfortably married to a wealthy Scottish lawyer and dotes on her two young daughters. A true-crime podcast about a yacht exploding, killing someone she’d known years earlier, frightens her. Then her husband suddenly announces he’s leaving her for her best friend and Anna’s photo goes viral, exposing a notorious past from a rape trial. As her world explodes, she’s thrown together with her friend’s husband, Fin, an ex-rock star, fending off murderous attackers while attempting to solve the mysterious yacht killings. A rich and powerful woman with a Nazi past seems to be controlling everything, as Anna and Fin scramble across Europe searching for answers. The text of the podcast is interspersed throughout the narrative while simultaneously Anna’s hidden past is gradually revealed. Mina (“Alex Morrow” series) is a skilled author of novels, plays, films, TV scripts, and graphic novels. In this stand-alone, traditional mystery elements are infused with social media and technology that emphasizes the interconnectedness of our contemporary scene.
VERDICT With a gutsy, endearing heroine and a wondrously surprising ending, this is highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 12/3/18.] —Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

Rendon, Marcie R. Girl Gone Missing. Cinco Puntos. (Cash Blackbear, Bk. 2). May 2019. 208p. ISBN 9781947627116. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781947627123. M
Although Renee “Cash” Blackbear is most comfortable drinking and playing pool in her favorite bar in Fargo, ND, she’s enrolled in college at Moorhead State in Minnesota, thanks to Sheriff Wheaton. He’s taken an interest in the 19-year-old Native American ever since he pulled her from a car accident at age three. She’s escaped foster homes and abuse but is still a loner at school, one of a handful of Native Americans enrolled there in the late 1960s. Before she even learns about Janet Tweed’s disappearance, Cash dreams about a blonde girl calling for help. The vision changes to include two blondes when another girl disappears. Cash asks questions, but when she journeys to Minneapolis/St. Paul, she’s pulled into the room where the lost girls are kept. White slavery, Vietnam, the American Indian Movement, and young Native Americans lost to their families are important issues in this melancholy mystery.
VERDICT Native American author Rendon’s authentic story of a brooding, displaced young woman follows up Murder on the Red River and will appeal to readers looking for fresh voices and characters, as well as stories with a strong sense of place and historical atmosphere. —Lesa Holstine, Evansville ­Vanderburgh P.L., IN

 

Cozy Corner

Lights! Camera! Puzzles!Hall, Parnell. Lights! Camera! Puzzles! Pegasus Crime. (Puzzle Lady, Bk. 20). Apr. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9781643130590. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781643131214. M
If Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady, didn’t need the money, she certainly wouldn’t be sitting in a theater watching actresses audition to play her in the movie made from her fifth ex-husband’s trashy tell-all book. But, when a production assistant is murdered before filming even starts, Sergeant Crowley, a homicide detective and one of Cora’s ex-boyfriends, calls her to the scene. Lovers’ spat gone wrong? It’s possible, because the woman’s boyfriend is found dead as well. Something doesn’t feel right to Cora, but she’s sidetracked when a TV actress steps in to play her in the film. Filming might start, but murders continue to roll. While Cora is willing to let Crowley solve this series of murders, it’s actress Angela Broadbent who pushes her to investigate. The one-liners and witty comebacks never stop in the latest “Puzzle Lady” romp.
VERDICT Hall’s humorous mystery takes us behind the scenes in the film world. Readers who appreciate fast-paced cozies with an outrageous amateur sleuth will relish puzzling out the follow-up to The Purloined Puzzle. —Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Sennefelder, Debra. The Hidden Corpse. Kensington. (Food Blogger, Bk. 2). Apr. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9781496715937. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496715968. M
The disappearance of Lily Barnhart, a member of the Planning & Zoning committee, has everyone in town buzzing, but food blogger Hope Early has other worries. Her elderly neighbor Peggy begs for help—she doesn’t want her daughter to know that she fell asleep with a pan on the stove that set off the smoke alarm. When Hope later finds Peggy’s house on fire, she regrets she never mentioned Peggy’s memory issues. But, there are two bodies found in the house. Although the police chief and the investigating detective both warn Hope not to get involved, she’s naturally nosy and ­encouraged by a retired mystery author, who asks a few too many questions for the comfort of some powerful people. A warning nailed to her front door angers her, but she still persists. While the recipes are enticing, and the food blogger and photography information interesting, Hope’s attitude alienates her from even her best friends in this weak mystery.
VERDICT While The Uninvited Corpse showed a great deal of promise, the characters are much weaker in this second series entry. Not a necessary purchase. —Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

 

Collections & Anthologies

Milwaukee Noir. Akashic. May 2019. 256p. ed. by Tim Hennessy. ISBN 9781617757013. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617757211. M
There’s nothing positive nor uplifting about Milwaukee if these stories are any indication. However, that’s the point of noir, to illustrate the gritty, bleak side of life. The violent, dark stories in this anthology fit the bill perfectly with the intention, as editor Hennessy writes, to be social commentary. With a map to illustrate the location of each selection, the collection points to the setting of each disturbing story or crime. Tales by Jane Hamilton and Christi Clancy stand out, evidence that ordinary people can get swept up in hatred, even if they did not start out living with violence, drunkenness, or poverty.
VERDICT While the male authors featured, such as Reed Farrel Coleman, may turn to violence as a solution to problems, many of the female writers use more subtle methods. That quieter savagery is bleaker and more haunting in this anthology. —Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

 


This article was originally published in Library Journal's April 2019 issue 

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