Raybourn's Pick of the Month, Cleeves, Gardner, Kallentoft/Lutteman, Kepler, Shames, Siger, Nordic Noir | Mystery & Suspense Reviews

Raybourn's intricately plotted and dramatic story features the independent, intellectual equal of the brooding Stoker; this atmospheric mystery vividly captures a diverse, contemporary Los Angeles that will still be recognizable to Raymond Chandler readers; a must-read for aficionados of golden age mysteries; the shiver-inducing Sandman will have you turning pages until the cliff-hanger ending

Pick of the Month

redstarRaybourn, Deanna. A Treacherous Curse. Berkley. (Veronica Speedwell, Bk. 3). Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780451476173. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780698198401. M

In 1888 London, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is intrigued by the newspaper reports about the calamities of the Tiverton expedition in Egypt, including stories of the appearance of Anubis, god of the underworld, and a curse attached to a recovered sarcophagus. In addition, the project’s photographer, John de Morgan, and his wife have disappeared with a priceless diadem taken from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. It’s only when she and her working partner, the scientist Stoker, are called to meet with the head of Special Branch that she learns Stoker was once married to Mrs. de Morgan. Her husband had been the friend who had abandoned Stoker to die in the Amazon. To save Stoker’s reputation, the duo team up to investigate the truth behind the expedition and the couple’s disappearance. VERDICT While readers of Elizabeth Peters’s “Amelia Peabody” mysteries will enjoy this title, it is fans of Jane Eyre who will truly appreciate the third volume in Raybourn’s historical series (following A Perilous Undertaking). Her intricately plotted and dramatic story features a strong-willed, independent woman who is the intellectual equal of the brooding Stoker.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Check these out

Cleeves, Ann. The Glass Room. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781250135728. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250107374. M

Cleeves’s latest is reminiscent of an Agatha Christie mystery: a murder takes place at a country house where the guests are all suspects and no one seems to have a motive, but a little investigation finds more connections than first appear. Vera Stanhope is asked by her neighbor to find his missing wife, and she tracks the young woman to a writer’s workshop at a country house owned by a semifamous author. When a workshop leader is murdered, the attendees fall under suspicion. Vera and her team are called in, but with her neighbor as one of the prime suspects, she is forced to keep herself at arm’s length. Cleeves’s characters are richly drawn, their motives are believable, and the plot is engaging and with enough surprises that readers will be guessing until the very end. VERDICT Published for the first time in the United States, this fifth Vera Stanhope mystery (after Silent Hope) makes a satisfying addition to the series.—Lisa O’Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg

Gardner, Lisa. Look for Me. Dutton. Feb. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9781524742058. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781524742065. suspense

Det. D.D. Warren is back, along with self-appointed vigilante Flora Dane (Find Her). When D.D. gets the call about a domestic case, she knows this is more than a family crisis that’s gotten out of hand. In fact, it is a homicide investigation involving the brutal murders of four family members, with a fifth, 16-year-old Roxanna, D.D. is betting she can solve the murders if she can locate the teen. At the same time, Flora Dane, a kidnapping survivor–turned–avenger, thinks she might have an edge and races to find Roxanna, whom she suspects is an abuse victim not unlike herself. Both D.D. and Flora, seeking justice for different reasons, pursue the missing girl and the truth of what really happened to her family, but time is running out and the killer is still on the loose. VERDICT The twists and turns in this gripping D.D. Warren adventure will keep readers turning the pages. [See Prepub Alert, 8/13/17.]—­Cynthia Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC

Longworth, M.L. The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche: A Provençal Mystery. Penguin Pr. Apr. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780143131427. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524705152. M

Life in Aix-en-Provence gets a little more interesting when infamous author Valère Barbier buys the Bastide Blanche, a grand estate that has sat empty for years. Barbier’s desire for a quiet life is dashed by unexpected visitors and voices that haunt him in the night. When he isn’t the only one to have terrifying encounters in the bastide, Judge Antoine ­Verlaque begins to dig into Barbier’s history for answers while his wife looks into rumors that the early owners of the bastide were hiding some shocking secrets. Is someone from Barbier’s past out to get him, or is he simply a convenient target for ghosts? VERDICT Longworth (The Curse of La Fontaine) once again transports readers to the South of France, peppering the story with sensory details that bring the setting to life. Antoine and wife Marine are as delightful as ever, and the compelling mystery keeps you wanting more.—Julie Ciccarelli, Tacoma P.L.

Phillips, Adam Walker. The Perpetual Summer. Prospect Park. (Chuck Restic, Bk. 2). Jan. 2018. 280p. ISBN 9781945551123. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781945551130. M

HR executive Chuck Restic is bored at work, but he is promised $100,000 by real-estate tycoon Carl Valenti (whom he met during the events of The Silent Second) if he can find Valenti’s missing granddaughter. But there are strings attached, with Valenti’s driver escorting Chuck and reporting back to his boss. Chuck juggles corporate politics with his search for the girl, whose disappearance may be linked to her grandfather’s proposed museum and his old relationships. Along the way, Chuck has a run-in with a cop, a teen is killed, and his driver indicates he knows how to use a knife in a fight. In this darkly humorous crime novel, Phillips nicely contrasts Chuck’s action-packed sleuthing with his humdrum corporate battles. Well aware of the irrelevance of his HR position, the budding Philip Marlowe narrates in the same wisecracking style of so many old-school detectives. VERDICT This atmospheric mystery vividly captures a diverse, contemporary Los Angeles that will still be recognizable to readers of Raymond Chandler.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

redstarShames, Terry. A Reckoning in the Back Country. Seventh St: Prometheus. (Samuel Craddock, Bk. 7). Jan. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781633883673. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781633883680. M

With one officer visiting family, and another out sick, Chief Samuel Craddock of Jarrett Creek, TX, catches most of the calls over Thanksgiving, including one about a missing husband. Dr. Lewis Wilkins has been gone for more than a day when two young boys stumble across a body in the woods that appears to have been attacked by dogs. As Craddock questions neighbors and local residents, two stories emerge. There are rumors of dog fights in the area, and pet dogs have disappeared. There are odd stories about the victim as well. He lost a malpractice suit and his practice, and he’s a heavy gambler. Who could have wanted him dead? VERDICT Macavity Award–winning author Shames’s (A Killing at Cotton Hill) riveting mystery is as ­issues-oriented as others in the series; the lawman protagonist is believable and realistic, and the strong sense of place should appeal to fans of Bill Crider’s mysteries.— Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

redstarSiger, Jeffrey. An Aegean April. Poisoned Pen. (Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, Bk. 9). Jan. 2018. 318p. ISBN 9781464209451. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464209482. M

Mihalis Volandes had a practical plan to deal humanely with the refugees passing through the Greek island of Lesvos (also known as Lesbos), but the human traffickers who profit from the business have other plans. Even a member of the Greek elite can be killed, and Volandes’s murder is blamed on a refugee–turned–aid worker. When Ali Sera is arrested, his American colleague Dana McLaughlin reaches out to CI Andreas ­Kaldis, head of the Special Crimes Unit. When Kaldis’s team doesn’t move fast enough over the Easter holiday, Dana holds a press conference that causes a flurry of activity by the hired killer, the traffickers, and the police. Kaldis’s shrewd scheme to catch the culprit leads to a dramatic confrontation at a monastery on Lesvos. Siger’s ninth atmospheric mystery (after Santorini Caesars) vividly depicts the political and economic issues involved in the European refugee crisis. VERDICT Fans of Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy books and other police procedurals that handle violence and political issues with black humor will welcome this outstanding crime novel.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville ­Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Spencer, Sally. Dry Bones: A Jennie Redhead Mystery. Severn House. Feb. 2018. 208p. ISBN 9780727887542. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781780109336. M

When Jennie Redhead’s best friend Sir Charles Swift, bursar of St. Luke’s College at Oxford, asks her to investigate the two bodies found interred in the cellar, she suspects he knows more than he’s telling. After all, he hired a private investigator before he notified the police. And, Charles requests the names of the dead men. He doesn’t ask her to find the killer. How does the new murder in 1974 tie to the past? The flashbacks to the war years of 1914 and 1939 introduce the victims and acquaintances, tragic stories Jennie uncovers as she questions the head porters, silent witnesses to student activities at the college. There’s a strong sense of time and place evoking the college atmosphere during wartime. However, with the alternating time periods and shifts in points of view, this second Jennie Redhead mystery (following The Shivering Turn) is sometimes difficult to follow. The perpetrators are the only characters who are sympathetic. VERDICT Readers of Charles Todd’s historical mysteries or crime novels set in academia may appreciate the ambience.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Vanek, John A. Deros: A Father Jake Austin Mystery. Coffeetown. Feb. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781603816199. pap. $16.95. M

DEBUT Jake Austin surprises everyone at his 30th high school reunion in Oberlin, OH. The hell-raiser who left town unexpectedly is back, and he’s now a Catholic priest and a doctor. Jack is on temporary assignment, filling in for an ailing priest. In one short week in 2002, Jake will face the sweetheart he had abandoned who is now blind, attend his reunion, and meet a sister he never knew he had. He also becomes a suspect when one classmate is shot and another dies. The troubled man will need all his hometown knowledge to find a killer with a hit list. VERDICT This intense debut introduces a complex narrator, an introspective Vietnam vet who still struggles three decades later with his anger and losses stemming from the war. Vanek’s bittersweet novel will appeal to admirers of Julia ­Spencer-Fleming’s clerical mysteries.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Collections & Anthologies

redstarBloody Scotland. Pegasus Crime. Mar. 2018. 284p. ed. by James Crawford. ISBN 9781681776545. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681777122. M

Scotland is a land soaked in stories. For this superb contemporary collection, editor Crawford (publisher, Historic Environment Scotland) challenged 12 of Scotland’s finest crime writers to pen a short story inspired by some of the country’s iconic buildings. ­Val ­McDermid, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, among others certainly rose to the challenge, and the locations include Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, the Forth Bridge, and Edinburgh Castle. As the title suggests, murder and mayhem ensue. But there is so much more, including revenge, retribution, redemption, horror, and humor. The tales feature a Viking cold case, a modern-day siege, the inescapable brutalities of World War II, and insidious terror of domestic violence. Throughout, the landscape and buildings bear witness to the extremes of human folly. Sometimes they are even complicit in the crimes. VERDICT Perfect for reading during a long winter’s evening by a fire with a wee dram of a favorite single malt in hand, these stories will transport mystery lovers to an unforgettable landscape.—Penelope J.M. Klein, Fayetteville, NY

The Long Arm of the Law: Classic Police Stories. Poisoned Pen. (British Library Crime Classics). Jan. 2018. 234p. ed. by Martin Edwards. ISBN 9781464209062. pap. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464209079. M

Following an introduction that covers the history of police procedurals from the mid-1800s to authors of the 20th century, including Colin Dexter, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, and Lynda La Plante, the 15 short stories collected here spotlight some forgotten gems, as well as tales that were based on actual cases. While John Creasey and Michael Gilbert may be recognizable names to avid readers, the now-forgotten clever tales by Edgar Wallace, Roy ­Vickers, and ­Christianna Brand will come as delightful discoveries to mystery buffs. The police detectives range from the silently observant to the clever officers who reveal their discoveries. ­Edgar Award–winning Edwards, author of The Golden Age of Murder and series consultant for British Library Crime Classics, is the perfect editor for this anthology of classic procedurals. VERDICT Knowledgeable background introductions along with stories that have been long out of print make this a must-read for aficionados of golden age mysteries.—­Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Cozy Corner

Bolton, Ginger. Survival of the Fritters. Kensington. (Deputy Donut, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781496711878. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781496711885. M

When Emily Westhill’s police detective husband was killed on duty three years earlier, he was investigating the murder of Matthias Treeter. Now, when Matthias’s mother, Georgia, doesn’t show up at Emily’s Deputy Donut shop, her friends in her knitting circle ask Emily to accompany them to check on her. They find Georgia dead at home, and Emily’s mistakes at the murder scene draw her into the case. But, it’s Emily’s lifelong knowledge of the town residents that will help her to save herself when she catches a killer’s eye. The first in a new cozy series by pseudonymous Bolton (Janet Bolin, Seven Threadly Sins) is a slow-paced story that carefully develops the protagonist’s background. The emphasis on the sympathetic amateur sleuth’s donut shop as the center of the action creates a strong sense of place. VERDICT Fans of Jenn McKinlay’s “Cupcake Bakery” mysteries may want to branch out into other pastry-related cozies like this one.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

MacRae, Molly. Scones and Scoundrels. Pegasus Crime. (Highland Bookshop, Bk. 2). Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781681776200. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681776910. M

Janet Marsh, the co-owner of Yon Bonnie Books in Inversgail, Scotland, having previously solved a murder in Plaid and Plagiarism, is pushed to investigate once again by the local author-in-residence when a man is killed outside the local pub. Daphne Wood, author and environmental activist, once lived in Inversgail before immigrating to Canada. Now, as she digs around, she irritates almost everyone in town, demands special treatment, and stirs up trouble. When Daphne ends up dead, poisoned by scones from the bookshop’s tea room, Janet and her friends realize they may be the next targets of a killer. VERDICT With its cast of appealing amateur sleuths and quirky town residents, this leisurely paced mystery will attract cozy fans of Paige Shelton’s “Scottish Bookshop” mysteries, as well as lovers of biblio­mysteries by Carolyn Hart or Vicki Delany.— Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Trent, Teresa. Murder of a Good Man. Camel. (Piney Woods, Bk. 1). Jan. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781603816359. pap. $15.95. M

When Nora Alexander’s mother died, she had one request: Nora was to go to Piney Woods, TX, to deliver a letter to a man named Adam Brockwell. Upon arrival, she’s almost run off the road. Then, the grieving Nora is shocked to learn her mother’s scathing letter attacked the popular Brockwell. When Brockwell is killed, suspicion falls on Nora, and Tuck Watson, the hunky police chief, asks her not to leave town. In need of a temporary job, the insolvent Nora accepts one with Tuck’s aunt, who is trying to save a historic hotel. Now, in order to clear her name, Nora questions the town’s residents, including family members that she didn’t even know she had. VERDICT Trent (Till Death Do Us Part) launches a new cozy series introducing an amateur sleuth who feels vulnerable and alone in the world. The cast of likable small-town residents and a sympathetic lead will attract fans of Sheila Connolly and Paige Shelton, but the stereotyping of older characters limits the book’s appeal.—Lesa Holstine, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., IN

Stockholm Cops

Kallentoft, Mons & Markus Lutteman. Zack. Emily Bestler: Atria. Jan. 2018. 480p. ISBN 9781476788135. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781476788159. suspense

Kallentoft (winner of the Swedish Katapultpriset for his Malin Fors books) launches a new procedural series with Swedish journalist Lutteman. After a night of carousing with his friend Abdula at one of Stockholm’s underground nightclubs, police detective Zack Herry stumbles into work, hoping no one will notice his disheveled hair and clothes. He learns the disturbing news that though the club was raided, Abdula was able to slip out. Zack worries that someone spotted them together. The last thing he needs is to be disciplined for cocaine use. Even more disturbing is the reason for his early call-in. Four Thai women were found brutally murdered and the only clue is a phone message that was forwarded to the police. Zack and his team set out to track down the anonymous caller. Why were the women killed? Was their message parlor a front for prostitution? Were they killed by an unhappy client or rival gang? VERDICT This suspenseful, hard-to-put-down thriller features short, action-packed chapters and realistic characters and situations. But fans of Nordic noir may be disappointed if they expect the introspection and gloomy philosophy of Henning Mankell or Leif G.W. Persson.—Susanne Lohkamp, Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR

Kepler, Lars. The Sandman. Knopf. Mar. 2018. 464p. tr. from Swedish by Neil Smith. ISBN 9781524732240. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524732257. suspense

In the fourth entry (after The Fire Witness) of the internationally best-selling “DI Joona Linna” series, the Stockholm detective finds himself facing Jurek Walter again. He arrested the psychotic serial killer 13 years ago and always suspected he had an accomplice who remained free. Joona’s theory is confirmed when a long-missing victim, Mikael, is found wandering on a railroad track. He has escaped from his kidnapper whom he thinks of as the Sandman, but his twin sister Felicia is still in captivity. Jurek is smart and dangerous, but they need to get him to talk if there’s any chance of finding Felicia before it’s too late. Joona plans a risky strategy: Insp. Saga Bauer will go undercover as a patient in the high-security psychiatric ward where Jurek is being held and try to draw out information from him. Joona has lost his partner and his family to Jurek and will stop at nothing to end the terror. VERDICT More dark psychological thriller than police procedural, this shiver-inducing read will have you turning pages until the cliff-hanger ending. For fans of Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Danish writer Sara Blaedel. [See Prepub Alert, 9/25/17.]—Melissa DeWild, Spring Lake Dist. Lib., MI


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