Shelton's Pick of the Month, de Castrique, Ellison, Griffiths, McDermid, Pinter, Quartey, & More | Mystery & Suspense, Dec. 2019

The latest "Sam Blackman" has the right amount of action, humor, and intrigue; Coyle's latest will please noir enthusiasts with its staccato prose, evocative descriptions, and hard-nosed protagonist; Ellison has crafted a complex, convoluted plot that mystery fans will savor; perfect for fans of police procedurals with nontraditional, especially older, detectives

Pick of the Month 

redstar Shelton, Paige. Thin Ice. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Dec. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9781250295217. $26.99. M
Renowned thriller writer Elizabeth Fairchild was kidnapped by a crazed fan but managed to escape after three days. Now, under her real name, Beth Rivers, she’s run as far as she can, to the isolated village of Benedict, AK. Her kidnapper hasn’t been caught yet. With only a few memories of her ordeal and the man’s name stuck in her head, she’s going to hide until either the police or her determined mother find the man. She attracts attention as a newcomer, but everyone in Benedict seems to be hiding or escaping from the past. The police chief knows who she is and recruits her to use her skills to help with a murder investigation. The case keeps Beth occupied, while she tries to remember her ordeal and looks over her shoulder with every unusual sound.
VERDICT Known for her cozy mysteries (The Loch Ness Papers), Shelton turns thriller author for this riveting story with an unusual setting and cast of characters. Fans of strong amateur sleuths will admire Beth’s struggle to build a new future in a remote location. Readers of Vicki Delany’s "Molly Smith" books, set in British Columbia, will also enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 6/3/19.]—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Castrique, Mark de. Murder in Rat Alley. Poisoned Pen: Sourcebooks. (Sam Blackman, Bk. 7). Dec. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9781492699385. $26.99. M
In 1971, computer programmer Frank DeMille disappeared from Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) in North Carolina, where he and coworkers were tracking the Apollo 12 mission. Nearly 50 years later, his body is uncovered near the facility. Evidence indicates DeMille was murdered. His niece enlists private detectives Sam Blackman and his partner/lover, Nakayla Robertson, to pursue a parallel investigation to that of the police. Initial suspects include the brothers of DeMille’s fiancée; additional suspects arise when Sam learns that DeMille sent a letter to his brother-in-law, Eddie, an intelligence officer during the Vietnam War, seeking advice about anomalies at PARI. Eddie died several months after receiving DeMille’s letter and pushing it up the ranks. Could these deaths, as well as recent murders, have something to do with military intelligence?
VERDICT The seventh "Sam Blackman" mystery (Hidden Scars) has the right amount of action, humor, and intrigue. Fans of the humor of Robert B. Parker’s "Spenser" series with some North Carolina history thrown in will enjoy Sam’s relentless pursuit of the truth. —Edward Goldberg, Syosset P.L., NY

Coyle, Matt. Lost Tomorrows. Oceanview. (Rick Cahill, Bk. 6). Dec. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9781608092451. $26.95; pap. ISBN 9781608093632. $16. M
PI Rick Cahill is haunted by his wife’s murder 14 years ago. A young cop at the time, he was also exiled from the Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD) after being wrongfully accused of the crime. Though innocent, Rick is still weighed down by guilt. The night of the murder, he was in bed with another woman, his SBPD partner Krista Landingham. Now Krista is dead, struck by a van in the middle of the night. A quick trip to Santa Barbara for her funeral becomes much more when Krista’s sister, Leah, hires Rick to investigate. Leah also hires former detective Jim Grimes, who arrested Rick for murder years ago and still thinks he’s guilty. The unlikely partners discover that ­Krista’s death might not have been accidental and could even be linked to the murder of Rick’s wife.
VERDICT Coyle’s sixth "Rick Cahill" novel (Wrong Light) will please noir enthusiasts with its staccato prose, evocative descriptions, and hard-nosed protagonist. Readers new to the series can still enjoy this book as a compelling stand-alone mystery, and enticingly vague references to previous books make a strong case for checking out Rick’s past adventures.—Andy Northrup, Eugene P.L., OR

Ellison, J.T. Good Girls Lie. Mira: Harlequin. Dec. 2019. 464p. ISBN 9780778330776 pap. $16.99. SUSPENSE
The Goode School, located in a small Virginia town, is the prep school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential. Enter Ash Carlisle, a privileged British girl who recently lost her parents in a double suicide. Ash is trying to remain incognito as she starts her new life at the school while trying to forget the tragedies of her past. But all is not what it seems. Rumors about Ash abound. Beneath the respectable surface of the school bubbles a cauldron of lies and deceit. Then a student dies in a fall from the bell tower, and the whispers begin, saying that Ash did it. Another student death, an obvious murder, is the catalyst that brings everything to a head, exposing all the lies and peeling away the layers of deceit. ­
VERDICT Ellison (Tear Me Apart) has created a complex, convoluted plot that mystery fans will savor. —Sandra Knowles, formerly South Carolina State Lib., Columbia

Fowler, Christopher. Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour. Bantam. (Peculiar Crimes Unit, Bk. 17). Dec. 2019. 448p. ISBN 9780525485827 $28. M
Sparrow, a young woman, is out seeking rare bats. She sees something odd, but she doesn’t know what she saw. The next morning, Arthur Bryant and John May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit are called to the scene of a murder. Why this particular unit? The murder appears to be a witch’s ritual, and the mainstream police want nothing to do with it. Another victim is found, although the connection is a matter of argument. The second victim appears to be a suicide to all except Bryant, who has alienated most of his coworkers and superiors, as only an aging professional can. This includes longtime partner May. But he usually has the right thread even if he investigates in eccentric ways. How many more victims will they find? Will Bryant and May be working together at the conclusion of the case? ­
VERDICT Fowler’s 17th installment in the series (following Hall of Mirrors) has all the idiosyncrasies and dark humor of its predecessors but stands alone well. Perfect for fans of police procedurals with nontraditional, especially older, detectives.—Elizabeth ­Masterson, ­Mecklenburg Cty. Jail Lib., Charlotte, NC

Griffiths, Elly. Now You See Them. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. (Magic Men, Bk. 5). Dec. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9781328971593. pap. $15.99. M
In 1960s Brighton, UK, Beatlemania and miniskirts are in full swing. DS Edgar Stephens and his pal, magician Max Mephisto, have their careers well in hand and Edgar’s wife, the former DS Emma Holmes, is a stay-at-home mom. When a string of young girls goes missing, likely victims of kidnapping, Edgar and his team snap into best detecting mode, and Emma sinks into restless frustration, knowing she’s the best detective for the job but unable to convince her husband to let her return to work—this is the 1960s, after all. But when Max’s daughter Ruby and then Edgar’s daughter Marianne become victims as well, Emma goes rogue to solve the case and find the girls.
VERDICT The fifth in Griffiths’s "Magic Men" series (The Vanishing Box) is written with a lighter touch and quirkier characters than her "Ruth Galloway" archaeological mysteries. Nevertheless, it’s a highly entertaining read with a spot-on portrayal of the manners and mores of the 1960s. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/19.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

redstar Hurwitz, Gregg. Into the Fire. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Orphan X, Bk. 5). Jan. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781250120458 . $27.99. THRILLER
Hurwitz’s fifth "Orphan X" adventure (Out of the Dark) finds former assassin Evan Smoak using his deadly skills to assist Max Merriweather, a guy down on his luck, whose cousin’s murder has brought him to the attention of an Armenian street gang involved in a money-laundering scheme. It seems like an easy enough task for the Nowhere Man, but as soon as he eliminates one threat, a more powerful one appears, and getting to the top of the pyramid requires courage, wit, creativity, and a lot of specialty weapons. But along bombast and weaponry, there’s plenty of hope, tenderness, and even humor throughout this story. Series fans will appreciate the growing friendship between Evan and teenage hacker Joey, whose sarcasm and sloppiness serve as an excellent foil to the behavior of the earnest, meticulous hero. Even though the ending posits that Evan is retiring his vigilante identity, a cliff-hanger suggests that the series will continue along a new and exciting path.
VERDICT Another exceptional installment in the "Orphan X" series, full of action, excitement, and adventure. A must-read for thriller fans. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/19.]—Nanette ­Donohue, Champaign P.L., IL

Little, Elizabeth. Pretty As a Picture. Viking. Feb. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9780670016396. $27. M
Film editor and cinephile Marissa accepts a job working with a legendary director and quickly discovers it’s no ordinary gig. Whisked away to the film shoot on a remote island, she’s not allowed to read the script, her phone is confiscated, and no one will tell her why the previous editor was fired. The film is based on an unsolved murder that occurred decades earlier on the island, and strange incidents on set seem to hint that the murderer may be interfering with the shoot. When Marissa finds herself in the middle of a new murder investigation, she uses her observational skills to put together the pieces of both crimes.
VERDICT Little (Dear Daughter) once again delivers a dark, witty thriller. Movie fans will be delighted with the behind-the-scenes setting and the numerous cinematic references. While there are some twists, this character-driven whodunit is mainly propelled by Marissa, an intelligent, charming protagonist whose neurodiversity is well portrayed. Recommended for mystery fans drawn to amateur sleuths and quirky, realistic protagonists.—Anitra Gates, Erie Cty. P.L., PA

McDermid, Val. How the Dead Speak. Atlantic Monthly. (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, Bk. 11). Dec. 2019. 416p. ISBN 9780802147615. $28. M
Five years after a Catholic convent and children’s home closes, the property’s new owners begin to tear up the lawn. Along with soil and grass, skeletons are unearthed, and it doesn’t take long to discern that the unmarked graves contain the remains of children. On the surface, this looks like a cold case job best handled by the local police, but Ian Rutherford, the new DCI of ReMIT, is determined to make a name for himself and takes over. Before long, a cadaver dog discovers fresher graves, and the case changes course. The team yearns for the direction of their former head, Carol Jordan, as they grapple with religious professionals intent on keeping the secrets that the bodies may divulge. Meanwhile, Carol is dealing with her own demons and working with a group investigating miscarriages of justice, and trying to get by while profiler Tony Hill is in jail. VERDICT The 11th in McDermid’s series ( Insidious Intent) is chock-full of crime and yet not as compelling as past installments. Regardless, fans and newcomers to the series will enjoy the twists and turns. —Susan Santa, Shelter Rock P. L., Albertson, NY

redstarPinter, Jason. Hide Away. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. (Rachel Marin, Bk. 1). Jan. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781542005906. pap. $15.95. THRILLER
Rachel Marin was a happily married mother of two before a horrific act of violence shattered her life. Seven years later, she and her children have started over in the city of Ashby, IL. But Rachel is no ordinary grieving widow. Determined to protect her family from a world that let them down, she’s transformed herself into a vigilante with the combat and investigative skills to rival Sherlock Holmes. When Constance Wright, the disgraced former mayor of Ashby, is found dead at the bottom of a bridge, Rachel quickly deduces that it wasn’t a suicide; it’s clear to her that Constance was murdered. Detectives Leslie Tally and John Serrano are grudgingly impressed by Rachel but wary of her involvement, especially after a person of interest ends up dead. As the investigation ramps up, Rachel is torn between seeking justice and protecting herself, her past, and her children.
VERDICT Pinter’s (The Darkness) outstanding series launch is a deft combination of domestic suspense and police procedural that recalls the works of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay. Both an unstoppable force of nature and painfully human, Rachel is a heroine readers will not soon forget.—Andy Northrup, Eugene P.L., OR

Quartey, Kwei. The Missing American. Soho Crime. [Emma Djan, Bk. 1] Jan. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9781641290708. $27.95. M
In Accra, Ghana’s capitol, Emma Djan has wanted to be a homicide detective since she was a small child visiting her father at his police station. Upon entering the police force, she gets stuck in a tedious and unimportant department with no hopes of promotion. She ends up leaving in disgrace to find a more exciting position in a private detective agency. Her first case is steeped in political intrigue—locate Gordon Tilson, a missing American man who was investigating internet scams being run by groups known as sakwa boys. Emma must untangle the web of sex, lies, and deceit in the political and police systems in order to find the missing American. Quartey’s writing is visceral, with lush descriptions of the scenes as well as his (large) cast of characters. ­
VERDICT This promising series debut from the acclaimed Quartey ("Darko Dawson" mysteries) introduces the formidable Emma, and most important, the culture and politics of Ghana. Recommended for readers of mystery, African American and African fiction, and international crime/mystery. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/19.]—Jennifer Funk, McKendree Univ. Lib., Lebanon, IL

Smith, J.P. If She Were Dead. Sourcebooks. Jan. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781492669036. pap. $15.99. SUSPENSE
Best-selling novelist Amelie Ferrar, recently divorced and an empty-nester, has a schedule filled with book signings and interviews while finding time to write her next book. Yet her mind is consumed with love for Ben, the married father of her daughter’s classmate with whom she’s having an affair. Ben’s wife, Janet, edges her way into Amelie’s life, making Amelie suspicious that she knows about the affair. When Ben rebuffs Amelie’s urgings for him to get divorced so the two of them can marry, her obsession deepens, and she becomes fixated on how to get Janet out of the way. In this psychological exploration of one woman’s descent into loneliness and obsession, Smith’s (The Drowning) detailed and nuanced prose, along with a stifling portrayal of small-town life, are assets. Yet the pace is a bit too leisurely to create tension, and the action doesn’t pick up until the last few chapters. ­
VERDICT For readers seeking an unsympathetic portrayal of "the other woman," but with the ample offerings of domestic thrillers available, this is an optional purchase.—Anitra Gates, Erie Cty. P.L., PA

Solomon, Burt. The Attempted Murder of Teddy Roosevelt. Forge. Dec. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780765392671. $27.99. M
In 1902, while touring New England, President Theodore Roosevelt is involved in an accident when his carriage is broadsided by a streetcar, killing his bodyguard. Roosevelt is convinced this was no accident and calls on his secretary of state, John Hay, to investigate the matter. Hay assisted President Lincoln with the investigation of his son Willie’s death (The Murder of Willie Lincoln) is no stranger to detective work. Because Roosevelt succeeded President McKinley after his assassination at the hands of an anarchist, Hay begins with the anarchists, including the well-known rabble-rouser Emma Goldman. Besides Goldman, Hay’s investigation puts him in the path of other well-known figures, including Henry Adams, J.P. Morgan, and even journalist Nellie Bly. The anarchist theory is quickly discarded, and Hay soon finds that the answer lies closer to home than he ever could have suspected.
VERDICT Solomon incorporates many historically accurate events, details, and characters into this engaging story, based on an actual incident. Historical mystery fans who relish rich period details will be eager to see Hay again.—Melissa Stoeger, Deerfield P.L., IL

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