Wurster's Debut of the Month, Beaumont, Cameron, Miller, plus New Series Lineup | Mystery Reviews, August 2016

Aficionados of comic mysteries will delight in Wurster's laconic, humorous prose; a traditional English country house mystery mixes a bit of ­supernatural horror and suspense; adventurous readers are in for a hair-raising thrill ride

The hard-boiled crime novel, featuring a flawed, cynical hero confronting a ­corrupt, violent world, is a particularly American genre. Its protagonists are not only tough detectives but can also be criminals and victims of crime. The genre’s early masters included Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross ­Macdonald (pseudonym of Kenneth Millar). The field was male-dominated until 1977, when ­Marcia Muller created private detective Sharon McCone. Muller was quickly followed by authors Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton. Some of this month’s selections are definitely children of these mystery pioneers. Jason Miller’s Red Dog as well as Maegan Beaumont’s Blood of Saints fit neatly into the hard-boiled category. W. Bruce Cameron’s Repo Madness adds a soupçon of humor to leaven the mayhem, and Simon R. Green’s Dead Man Walking stirs in a dollop of paranormal activity.

Debut of the Month

redstarWurster, Erich. The Coaster. Poisoned Pen. Aug. 2016. 275p. ISBN 9781464205651. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464205682. M

coaster.jpg72116Bob Patterson is a coaster; a guy who ties his fortunes to someone higher up the food chain. His job as head of a division of his father-in-law’s company doesn’t require much input from him. His wife, Sarah, is president of Bennett Capital, and their life is well regulated; galas and benefits and rescuing horses and occasional lovemaking keep Bob going. Suddenly, Sarah’s father dies, leaving Bob as the trustee of Sam Bennett’s multibillion-dollar personal fortune. What’s a coaster to do? When blackmail and murder raise their ugly heads, Bob finds out he actually can accomplish quite a lot when necessary. VERDICT Aficionados of comic mysteries such as those by Tim Dorsey will delight in Wurster’s laconic, humorous prose; Bob’s wry, self-deprecating, and hilarious musings offer keen observations on everything from sports to sex.

Murder with an edge

Beaumont, Maegan. Blood of Saints: A Sabrina Vaughn Novel. Midnight Ink. Aug. 2016. 456p. ISBN 9780738748047. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738748924. M

In the aftermath of the events of Promises To Keep, former homicide detective Sabrina Vaughan (not her real name) has found peace, hidden in Montana, with her assassin boyfriend, Michael O’Shea, and the two children she rescued. When a killer emerges in Yuma, AZ, who fits the profile of the man who kidnapped, raped, and tortured her for months in 1998, Sabrina travels there to aid the police in their dragnet. Aware that she might be exposing her idyllic new life to people who would like to see her and Michael dead, Sabrina enlists the aid of other dangerous people to exact her vengeance. VERDICT With its raw and vividly drawn characters, this thrill-a-minute adrenaline ride will keep Donald Westlake readers on their edge of their seats.

redstarCameron, W. Bruce. Repo Madness. Forge. Aug. 2016. 352p. ISBN 9780765377500. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466855915. M

Football great–turned–repo man Ruddy McCann, who returned in disgrace to Kalkaska, MI, after serving time for murder, finds his new life upturned when a psychic tells him this piece of his history may not have happened the way Ruddy believes. Our hero is also coping with the death of his boss Milt; Ruddy’s fiancée, Katie, wants to take a break from the relationship; and the voice of his late future father-in-law, Alan Lottner, has taken up residence in Ruddy’s head once more (his new shrink is loving that one). Reinvestigating the crime that landed him in prison sets Ruddy on the trail of a possible serial killer. Cameron’s protagonist is a perfect everyman who does his job and goes home, maybe drinks a few beers now and again. The cast that orbits him is a wonderfully dynamic assortment of oddballs. VERDICT Carl Hiaasen fans will enjoy this entertaining follow-up to The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man, which was short-listed for the RUSA Reading List in 2015.

Green, Simon R. Dead Man Walking: An Ishmael Jones Mystery. Severn House. Sept. 2016. 208p. ISBN 9780727886231. $28.99. M

Ishmael Jones works for a British agency so secret it is only called The Organization. Ishmael has his own big secret: he isn’t human. In his latest case, the Organization sends him to Ringstone Lodge in Yorkshire to interrogate rogue agent Frank Parker, who defected and now has returned to the fold. But Parker is found dead in a highly secured cell. Only seven people are at the Manor. Which one of them killed Parker? VERDICT This sequel to the wonderful The Dark Side of the Road takes the basic structure of a traditional English country house mystery and mixes it with a bit of ­supernatural horror and suspense. Richard Kadrey and E.E. Knight fans will particularly relish Green’s genre-blending novel.

Miller, Jason. Red Dog: A Slim in Little Egypt Mystery. HarperCollins. Aug. 2016. 448p. ISBN 9780062449061. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062449078. M

Slim, along with his precocious daughter Anci, lives in southern Illinois’s coal country, a gothic region known as Little Egypt. Now a private detective, Slim started out in the mines that have now played out, leaving the area mired in poverty and depression. Slim is hired to find a stolen red pit bull puppy, but as he tracks down the pooch, he gets entangled in a spider’s web of illegal dog fighting, murder, and white supremacists. And that’s before the FBI gets involved. Slim and his bad-to-the-bone partner Jeep Mabry end up being hunted by the good and bad guys alike. VERDICT This second series outing (after Down Don’t Bother Me) is a seamlessly plotted mystery with a likable hero in a gritty world populated by meth heads, environmental activists, militias, and ordinary folks just trying to make a go of it. Tim Cockey admirers and Robert Crais fans who crave laugh-out-loud dialog will add this title to their to-read lists.

Check These Out

Alber, Lisa. Whispers in the Mist: A County Clare Mystery. Midnight Ink. Aug. 2016. 360p. ISBN 9780738748962. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738749723. M

In the small Irish town of Lisfenora, DS Danny Ahern tries to adjust to his new life, separated from his clinically depressed wife and their son, who suffers from anxiety. It is September and time for the annual matchmaking fair that brings tourists from near and far to tiny Lisfenora. Fog rolls in off the Atlantic, and with it comes rumors of the legendary Grey Man, who sucks souls from his victims. When a teenage boy dies in Danny’s arms, he must find the killer and cope with his own personal demons. And then another boy becomes a victim. Although this sophomore outing makes references to the events in Alber’s debut, Kilmoon, this atmospheric mystery can be read as a stand-alone. The author expertly captures the claustrophobic feel of life in a close-knit, insular community, and the struggles of her characters adds depth and power. ­VERDICT A first-rate crime novel that will satisfy fans of Dicey Deere and Bartholomew Gill.

Keyse-Walker, John. Sun, Sand, Murder. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9781250088291. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250088307. M

Special Constable Teddy Creque isn’t really a policeman; he just plays one on his island home of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands. He is tasked with reviewing what little crime exists on this remote outpost and sending quarterly briefings to his boss. He also holds down two other jobs. So when the body of Boston University herpetologist Paul Kellliher is discovered, everyone on the island is stunned. After Anthony Wedderburn, better known as “De White Rasta,” is severely beaten while helping Teddy investigate Kelliher’s death, the police administration on Tortuga is convinced drug running is the problem. In pressing his investigation, Teddy uncovers far more than he expected. VERDICT Winner of the 2015 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award, this debut novel features a beautiful Caribbean setting, vibrant characters, lively plotting and pacing, and a memorable villain who will surprise you.

redstarLourey, Jess. Salem’s Cipher. Midnight Ink. Sept. 2016. 480p. ISBN 9780738749693. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780738750729. M

salemscipher.jpg81516Best friends Salem Wiley and Isabel Odegaard grew up together, but Bel has gone on to the Chicago police department and ­Salem remains in Minneapolis, hemmed in by her agoraphobia, after the suicide of her beloved father. Despite her condition, ­Salem has triumphed in the world of cryptography, which serves her well when her mother, Grace, is kidnapped along with Bel’s mom, Vida. Bel and Salem are drawn into a centuries-old conspiracy to derail women’s rights. On the eve of the election of the first female U.S. president, the ruthless Heritage Foundation works to identify members of the Underground, of which Grace and Vida are important participants. A secret message encrypted in an Emily Dickinson poem; codes tucked into the Beale ciphers, three texts dating back to the country’s early days; and computer cryptography all combine to pack a punch in Lourey’s (“Murder-by-Month” mysteries) first volume of her new “Witch Hunt” series. VERDICT Complex protagonists who overcome many obstacles take adventurous readers on a hair-raising thrill ride. Dan Brown fans will eagerly anticipate more Salem and Bel adventures down the road.

Mizushima, Margaret. Stalking Ground: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery. Crooked Lane. Aug. 2016. 321p. ISBN 9781629538334. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781629538358. M

Robo, the German Shepherd K–9, and his human partner Mattie Cobb are practicing their take-down skills when Mattie gets a call from the Timber Creek, CO, police department. Adrienne Howard, the girlfriend of a fellow deputy, is missing. Mattie and Robo are needed to locate Adrienne before a snowstorm destroys any chance of finding her alive. Local vet Cole Walker is also concerned about Adrienne, who was booked to provide massages to several clients’ horses. When Mattie and Robo find Adrienne’s body, it is only the beginning of a dark and arduous search for the truth. Timber Creek may be a small town, but it can’t escape some big-city problems. ­VERDICT ­Mizushima’s sophomore outing proves that her acclaimed series debut, Killing Trail, was no fluke. Carefully crafted tension is reinforced by the ominous weather hanging over the mountains. A strong sense of place will appeal to Ben Rehder fans; dog lovers will want to read this thriller as well.

redstarOverheat, Cuyler. A Deadly Affection: A Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mystery. Sourcebooks Landmark. Sept. 2016. 448p. ISBN 9781492637363. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492637370. M

Dr. Genevieve Summerford is a newly minted psychiatrist in 1907 New York. She opens a clinic in St. ­Christopher House at Holy Trinity Church and Mission, where she meets with a group of five women, all with psychosomatic illnesses. When one of her patients is accused of murdering a society doctor who took away her baby at birth, a horrified Genevieve questions whether she missed something in her training. She is also burdened with guilt over the death of her brother at a young age. As she investigates the case, Genevieve has to fight both societal norms and her father. VERDICT Initially self-published and winner of ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award for best mystery, this superb debut reflects the author’s impeccable research with its portrait of turn-of-the-century New York City. Discussion questions at the end ­focusing on women’s rights make this a solid book club choice.

Putnam, Jonathan F. These Honored Dead: A Lincoln and Speed Mystery. Crooked Lane. Aug. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781629537771. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781629538211. M

In 1837 Springfield, IL, merchant Joshua Fry Speed offers a berth in his bed to a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln, a common practice for unmarried men at this time. Speed and Lincoln are drawn into a murder investigation when a woman in a nearby town is accused of killing her niece. Speed wants to help Rebecca Harriman because he has been sleeping with her. As bodies pile up, Speed and Lincoln are in a race to unmask the killer before Springfield goes up in flames. VERDICT Frontier justice was not the jurisprudence we know today, as this well-researched debut mystery by a lawyer and amateur Lincoln scholar reveals. Eye-opening historical details on hunting runaway slaves and 19th-century poorhouses will interest readers who enjoy works by ­Caleb Carr and E.L. Doctorow.

Series lineup

deathatboston.jpg81516Lake, Deryn. Death at the Boston Tea Party: A John Rawlings Mystery. Severn House. Aug. 2016. 224p. ISBN 9780727886170. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781780107790. M

In 1776, after a perilous trip from England, apothecary John Rawlings (Death on the Rocks) and his three children arrive in a tension-filled Boston. Spectacular scenery and cameo appearances by various Sons of Liberty (Sam Adams, Paul Revere, etc.) add to the sense of adventure.

Pryor, Mark. The Paris Librarian: A Hugo Marston Novel. Seventh St: Prometheus. Aug. 2016. 279p. ISBN 9781633881778. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781633881785. M

Hugo Marston, chief of security for the American Embassy in Paris, and his CIA pal Tom Green investigate the mysterious death of the head of the American Library, who had recently acquired the papers of Isabella Severin, believed to have been a French spy during World War II. Are there buried secrets in these documents? The sixth series title follows The Reluctant Matador.

Siger, Jeffrey. Santorini Caesars: A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery. Poisoned Pen. Sept. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9781464206016. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781464206047. M

In this follow-up to Devil of Delphi, an agitator is killed in downtown Athens during an antigovernment protest. The case leads Chief Inspector Kaldis’s team to the island of Santorini. Greece is in chaos, and Kaldis wonders if it is worth continuing the fight.

Todd, Charles. The Shattered Tree: A Bess Crawford Mystery. Harper. Aug. 2016. 304p. ISBN 9780062386274. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062386298. M

In her eighth outing (after A Pattern of Lies), World War I nurse Bess ­Crawford spots on the streets of Paris a former French Army patient now wearing an American uniform. She had previously witnessed this wounded soldier speaking German. Driven to investigate, Bess sets out, putting her life in danger.

Westerman, Jeri. A Maiden Weeping: A Crispin Guest Medieval Mystery. Severn House. Aug. 2016. 256p. ISBN 9780727886217. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781780107837. M

In his eighth adventure (after The Silence of Stones), Crispin Guest wakes up in a strange bed next to a strangled woman. After another victim is found, he must rely on apprentice Jack Tucker to handle the investigation.

wwa.jpg81516newsworthy There is a new home for the Tony ­Hillerman Prize, the annual award established in 2006 to honor the best debut crime fiction set in the Southwest. St. Martin’s Minotaur imprint and Wordharvest announced that they are partnering with the Western Writers of America (WWA), who will host the prize going forward. With this change comes a new submission deadline, an option for electronic manuscript submission, and a fresh venue for the announcement of the winner at the annual WWA convention. In order to prepare for these changes, the organizers have suspended the 2016 competition. The deadline for the 2017 contest will be January 2. The 2015 winner, Kevin Wolf’s The Homeplace, is due out this September.—Wilda Williams, Library Journal

Additional Mystery

Bolton, Sharon. Daisy in Chains. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2016. 352p. ISBN 9781250103420. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250103437. M

Hamish Wolfe has served two years in prison for the murders of four obese women. He claims innocence and contacts controversial lawyer and best-selling author ­Maggie Rose to overturn his conviction—and write his story. Prepare to be drawn into this mystery through alternating perspectives and Bolton’s epistolary style, which serve to misdirect readers and only provide subtle clues to the truth. Through the newspaper articles, love letters, book drafts, and the traditional narrative, readers will learn of Wolfe’s off-kilter fan club, the budding relationship between Maggie and the detective on the case, and why these four lives were taken. VERDICT The literary styling of this latest work from Bolton (Little Black Lies; “Lacey Flint” series) makes this a quick read, but the multiple plot threads will occupy readers’ minds for days after they finish. Fans of Lisa Gardner and Karin Slaughter will savor this twisty crime novel that invites many rereadings. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/16.]—Natalie Browning, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond, VA

reddog.jpg81516QUOTABLE “And off she went to put on her motorcycle gear and scrounge up her private detective kit: notebook, pen, flashlight. I did the same, except I put on more than leather gloves and boots. I strapped a 9000S under my jacket and an S&W 442 to my ankle. I also put my knife on my belt and a mean look on my face. Had [I] time, I would have gotten a scary tattoo, too. As it was, I felt like a walking arsenal, the flawless expression of American manhood.”—Jason Miller, Red Dog

Viccy Kemp is Technical Services Manager at the Flower Mound Public Library, TX, where she buys the books and deals with library technology. Reading mysteries is her passion because it’s only between the pages of a book that justice can really be done

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