Something fun, something thrilling, something silly - something for everyone this season. Mystery Scene picks some of our favorite books for the summer months.
The Shining Girls
by Lauren Beukes
Mulholland Books, June 2013, $25.99
It’s hard to classify The Shining Girls: part time-traveling adventure, part serial-killer drama, part victim-empowerment story. It follows the trail of Harper Curtis, a murderer who travels through time to kill the “shining girls,” bright, young women who excel in their respective eras. Among them are Jeanette, a dancing girl in the 1930s, Zora, a “colored” female welder working during WWII, and Kirby, a college student in 1989. When Kirby lives through Harper’s vicious attack, she turns the tables and begins tracking him. (Read the full review.)
by Marcus Sakey
Thomas & Mercer, July 2013, $14.95
Federal Agent Nick Cooper lives in an alternate 2013, a world very similar to our own except that it’s just slightly skewed; one percent of all infants exhibit superpowers. In the civilization that Marcus Sakey so vividly creates in the first of a new three-book saga, these superhumans are called "brilliants," "abnorms," "gifted," or derogatory variations. The government tests children, who, if they score in the top one or two tiers of gifted powers, are forced into academies where the humanity is drained from their souls. Cooper's world is shaken when his four-year-old daughter Katie exhibits signs of superpowers. Cooper pleads with his boss to exempt her from testing and inevitable admission to an academy. When he is refused, Cooper makes a deal with the devil that finds him not only questioning his belief system, but running for his life and the lives of those he loves. (Read the full review.)
Hour of the Rat
by Lisa Brackmann
Soho Crime, June 2013, $25.00
Tart-tongued, Iraq War veteran Ellie McEnroe proves to be a near-perfect tour guide to Beijing, where her business as an art dealer for Chinese political artists is thriving. Ellie loves the city, the country, the food, and all the quirks that come with living here.
When fellow veteran Doug “Dog” Turner wants Ellie to find his brother, Jason, finding someone in a country as vast as China isn’t that difficult if the person is a Westerner, Ellie reasons. But the search quickly becomes complicated.
In the second of this series, Hour of the Rat showcases an insider’s view of China and works as a character study of a woman who is equally tough and vulnerable. Brackmann mixes acerbic humor with a serious look at a veteran’s recovery. (Read the full review.)
The Fame Thief
by Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, July 2013, $25.00
This third installment of Timothy Hallinan's pitch-perfect, hardboiled Junior Bender series finds the former criminal turned PI digging up ghosts from the Golden Age of Hollywood after nonagenarian crime boss Irwin Dressler asks Bender to uncover the truth behind the long-ago downfall of a beautiful young movie starlet, Dolores La Marr. Sixty years after the fact, the story of La Marr still has the power to move men to murder and Bender is dodging danger on the case.
The wisacre demeanor of Junior and his associates and their spitfire dialogue are big winners for fans of the mystery series, as well as the glam-meets-grime setting of Hallinan's Los Angeles. The Fame Thief continues to deliver in spades. (Read reviews of Hallinan's Crashed and Little Elvises.)
The Last Word
by Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster, July 2013, $25.00
The Spellmans, led (reluctantly) by PI Isabel "Izzy" Spellman, are back just in time to sleuth away those summertime blues. The Last Word launches with Spellman Investigations embroiled in a labor dispute—Izzy has staged an agency coup, and mom and dad have gone on strike in protest. What's more, rebellious kid sister Rae comes back to the fold trailing nothing but trouble behind her, and now Izzy has been accused of embezzling from one of the agency's VIP clients—an accusation that threatens to strip Spellman of her license, her reputation, and Spellman Investigations.
Will the contentious clan be able to set aside their quarrels long enough to kiss and save the family business? Family dysfunction has never been so madcap, hilarious, or ultimately poignant. Perhaps the best Spellman novel yet. (Read a review of Curse of the Spellmans, the 2008 book that began the series.)
The Shadow Tracer
by Meg Gardiner
Dutton, June 2013, $26.95
Oklahoma skip tracer (and devoted single mom) Sarah Keller has built a respectable, no-drama life for her precocious, precious five-year-old daughter Zoe and herself—except when she’s at work, tracking down deadbeat dads, delinquent witnesses, and the like. But a freak school bus accident (damn those cellphones!) shatters the quiet domesticity when an ER medical test reveals Sarah’s big secret—Zoe is not her daughter.
In fact, Zoe’s her niece, the daughter of Sarah’s sister Bethany who was murdered by the Fiery Branch of the New Covenant, a cult of meth-dealing, Bible-thumping Looney Tunes led by the charismatic Eldrick Worthe, Zoe’s paternal grandfather. And Eldrick wants his granddaughter brought back into the family fold.
Edgar-winner Meg Gardiner knows her stuff. It may just be a chase as Eldrick hunts down Sarah and Zoe, but it’s one helluva chase. Pass the popcorn. (Read the full review.)
by Ivy Pochoda
Dennis Lehane Books, July 2013, $25.99
Brooklynite author Ivy Pochoda crafts a slow-burning literary mystery set in the changing waterside neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, where hipster eateries push up against housing projects and working docks on the small strip of south Brooklyn where the East River opens out into the bay.
When two restless 15-year-old girls disappear one summer night on a raft adventure and only one returns, washed up on the banks nearly dead, it sets off a series of events in the community that fan out through a complex and varied cast of neighborhood characters: Fadi, a Lebanese bodega owner; Acretious "Cree," a man accused of murdering his own father; and a mysterious youth named "Rundown," stand out as some of the most memorable. It's a meditative mystery that reads more as an ambitious portrait of Red Hook and the many intersecting lives of its colorful inhabitants.
by Stephen King
Hard Case Crime, June 2013, $12.95
Set in 1973, Joyland takes place at a North Carolina seaside carnival of the same name. Having just lost his best girl, heartbroken 21-year-old Devin Jones lands a summer job at the seedy carny. He makes new friends with a whole range of colorful carny veterans, as well as single mother Annie Ross, and her young, preternaturally gifted, but terminally ill son, Mike.
Devin is fascinated by the theme park’s lore, which includes a tale of an unsolved murder in its fun house. It seems that the ghost of the victim still haunts the ride, making her presence felt to only a select few, among them Mike Ross.
Joyland doesn’t deliver the hardboiled type of mystery you would expect from Charles Ardai’s fine line of crime novels. But for the almost essential mystery at its core (an unsolved murder at a theme park), it’s more of a nostalgic coming-of-age novel with touches of the supernatural. Cynical but also wistful, serious but also humorous, it’s both a celebration of and an elegy for a time long past. (Read the full review.)