For the armchair adventurers and detectives among us, Kate Dyer-Seeley’s Scene of the Climb should head the must-read list. First in a promising new series, Scene of the Climb introduces aspiring Portland journalist Meg Reed. As the daughter of late legendary local journalist Charlie Reed, Meg’s career path should have been easy, and indeed she had secured a post-graduation position with the Portland paper, but when the economy tanked, so did the possibility of gainful employment. Sleeping on the couch in her best friend’s apartment, Meg becomes increasingly desperate for income, until good fortune strikes—or so it seems. One typically rainy day, Meg visits her favorite coffee house and meets Greg Dixon, publisher of Northwest Extreme, a magazine devoted to on-the-spot coverage of extreme sports. When Greg discovers that Meg is a journalist, he invites her to submit her clips and offers her a much-needed job. Never mind that Meg is something of an imposter: a true journalist but no participant in extreme sports. This is easy enough to mask in the office setting, but when a veteran reporter is sidelined by injuries, Meg receives the plum assignment to cover the final stage of extreme sports event Race the States. The assignment requires that Meg accompany the remaining three contestants on a climb of Oregon’s peaks. She finds herself in the precarious position of faking expertise and confronting the daunting challenge of following the three contestants on a grueling hike. When, finally, Meg cannot go another step, she fakes a fall, which almost becomes deadly when she slides precariously close to the edge of the mountain. While Meg escapes serious injury, she witnesses the suspicious fall of one of the contestants, as he plunges to his death. Thus begins the real challenge for Meg, how to convince Greg and the police that someone pushed the victim over the edge. Author Dyer-Seeley weaves an intriguing plot featuring the rugged Oregon landscape and persistent protagonist Meg.
In the often hilarious, consistently outrageous No Hero, Jonathan Wood introduces Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace, one of the least confident adventure heroes you will ever encounter. Wallace is a by-the-numbers type who, during an ongoing murder investigation, is drafted into MI 37, England’s nearly forgotten, chronically underfunded paranormal investigative agency. Asked to lead a colorful team of misfits (including a battery-chewing sorcerer and a belligerent, sword-wielding Scotswoman), Wallace finds himself opposing a group of otherworldly beings known as The Progeny, who hope to open a door to our reality for their parents, the ominously named Feeders, whose coming means the end of humanity.
The first book in a planned trilogy, No Hero is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Wood plops his hapless, but winning, everyman hero directly into an outrageous, high-stakes battle between humanity and cosmic evil. It makes for one hell of a ride, boding well for future installments. Luckily, readers won’t have to wait long for those sequels, as books two and three will be published within months of this very fine adventure.
Georges Simenon’s Parisian cop Jules Maigret investigated over a hundred cases between 1931 and 1972. Alder considers some examples, mostly from the Depression 1930s, to see how they reflect the political, social, and economic history of France over that period, particularly their view of class differences. The viewpoint is avowedly, though not oppressively, Marxist. It would be easy for such a discussion to bog down in literary and political jargon, but Alder is too clear and careful a writer for that. The ideal reader would have an equal interest in France, Simenon, and Marxian theory.
At one point, the name of Burgess Meredith, director of the Maigret film The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1950), is reversed as Meredith Burgess. African American comedian Godfrey Cambridge becomes Cambridge Godfrey. How fleeting is fame!
Not for nothing are reviewers comparing Olen Steinhauer to John le Carré. Both authors write complex, cynical novels of political intrigue featuring an insider’s knowledge of spycraft based either on experience or an amazingly informed imagination. Both began their writing careers with series books. Le Carré broke through to spy superstardom with the standalone The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. (Actually, his series character George Smiley appears in Cold, but is emphatically not its protagonist.) Steinhauer has been edging his way upward with each of his two series’ entries, but his new standalone, a multi-character, multilayered mixture of espionage and human frailty just may be his major game changer.
Set in 2011 after the Tunisia and Egyptian uprisings, it hinges on a supposedly deep-sixed CIA clandestine operation, appropriately called “Stumbler,” that was designed to foment a similar revolution in Libya to remove Gaddafi from power. When American diplomat Emmett Kohl is assassinated in a Budapest restaurant, his connection to Stumbler, along with scattered reports of missing Libyan exiles, suggests the operation is back in play, but perhaps not by the agency. This has a galvanizing effect on most of the novel’s major characters—the CIA’s man in Cairo Stan Bertolli, Jibril Aziz, the humanitarian Libyan-born American analyst who designed the plan, and Omar Halawi, a wily Egyptian intelligence operative who is definitely the smartest guy in the room. The effect Kohl’s death has on his wife Sophie is quite another matter. Only minutes before witnessing his murder, she’d confessed to a one-night affair with Bertolli in Cairo. Steinhauer places Sophie at the center of much of the novel, overcoming the shock of Emmett’s murder, dealing with her guilt because of the affair, drifting off into memories of their past life (some of which, in retrospect, are more political than they seemed at the time). While she struggles to come to grips with his death, the other leads are either racing to stop Stumbler or help it to proceed, mindful of the fact that a very effective assassin is removing players from the game.
Actor Edoardo Ballerini (Ripper Street, Boardwalk Empire) narrates with a surprisingly soft voice, but one with which he effectively expresses emotion and tension. Equally effective is his subtle but distinctive shift in tone and mood to differentiate one character from another. His Sophie, for example, speaks with only a slightly higher pitch than normal, nothing near the usual falsetto, changing it from flat, when reacting to Emmett’s death, to dreamy, when reminiscing. His varied Egyptian accents seem authentic to me (not the best judge) but what’s more important is that Jibril’s conversation is animated and energetic while the older, more experienced Omar sounds weary and deeply cynical. This is the kind of audio one wishes were more prevalent: a fine novel, intelligently performed.
Ed Gorman is one of the best short-story writers around, in any genre, so it’s always a pleasure to find a new collection of his work. The latest is Scream Queen and Other Tales of Menace. Among other dark and unforgettable stories included are “En Famille,” which is frightening in a way that most stories can’t be; “The Brasher Girl,” which is the basis for a fine novel, Cage of Night; and of course “Scream Queen,” a classic shocker. But Gorman’s stories don’t shock like others. The payoff is earned through the characters’ emotion and pain.
Disturbing memories surface for Los Angeles police detective Elouise “Lou” Norton when she gets the call to investigate an apparent suicide at a construction site owned by successful local businessman Napolean Crase. There’s bad blood between Lou and Crase, due to events which occurred three decades before when Crase came under the scrutiny of investigators as a possible suspect in the (still-unsolved) disappearance of Lou’s older sister, Teri. Unable to convincingly tie him to Teri, the police eventually dropped the case. Given the opportunity to put pressure on Crase in the present day, Lou looks forward to making his life miserable. But, could that mean that the real killer may escape justice? Lou has to balance her personal vendetta against the needs of the current investigation to find out.
Rachel Howzell Hall, a debut novelist, writes with skill and flair. Her first novel exhibits a keen sense of pace and place, and an equally keen sense of what makes her wide and varied cast of characters tick. While relying on familiar tropes and motifs (the bumbling partner, the past haunting the present, politics getting in the way of solving crimes, among others), Hall gives them a unique edge. Sure to appeal to fans of Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, and Sue Grafton, Land of Shadows also compares favorably to the work of scribes of Los Angeles, such as Michael Connelly, Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, and Robert Crais.
A race of long-lived shape-shifters propels this unusual combination of mystery and fantasy. In a story that weaves back and forth from Hungary in the 1870s to contemporary France, we follow one of the shape-shifters, an outcast known as Jakab, as he pursues a woman he sees as his soul mate. When the woman ultimately chooses another man, Jakab’s obsession shifts toward her daughter, then her granddaughter.
A hundred and fifty years later, the still-obsessed Jakab has left a trail of dead bodies behind—the husbands and lovers of those women—yet he still isn’t satisfied. In the present day, Jakab is in pursuit of Hannah. Since he is a shape-shifter, he can assume the identity of anyone he wishes, even Hannah’s grandmother—or her husband. As a result, Hannah has learned to trust no one.
Alerted to the generations-long threat by a series of diaries kept by her forbearers, Hannah changes her name and goes underground. But Jakab is a bred-in-the-bone sadist. After Hannah disappears, he begins torturing members of her family to obtain her whereabouts, and the descriptions of these torture sessions are horrific. Serving to balance the gore is the heroism of the book’s many characters, all of whom are prepared to die in Hannah’s defense.
Literary in tone and baroque in its twists and turns, The String Diaries can be a difficult book to read for several reasons. Jakab—originally named Balázs Lukács—changes his name every time he shape-shifts into a new identity, so even the most careful reader can have difficulty keeping up with him. Also, the evolution of the Hungarian shape-shifters (there are many more than Jakab) through the centuries is never adequately explained, nor is their hierarchal order—which turns out to be an important plot point. But although challenging in the extreme, the book does ask an intriguing question: How well do we really know the people closest to us?
Those who worry about what really goes on behind the scenes in our nation’s capital were not reassured by the dastardly DC string-pullers revealed in Matthew Quirk’s blockbuster debut thriller, The 500. In this sophomore outing, Quirk terrifies us anew with how billions of investor dollars and the US economy hang on a single slip of easily misdirected paper.
“Reformed” con artist, now counselor-at-law Mike Ford returns, using what he learned as a political fixer to help his own more deserving (he hopes) clients. But the tightrope Mike walks between his old life and his new one wobbles right at the start of The Directive as he ditches picking out china patterns with his high-end fiancée at Bergdorf’s so that he can turn the tables on a three-card monte game in a nearby alley. Can he ever really go straight? Or will he use the tricks he learned at his ex-con father’s and older brother’s crooked knees to straighten out what’s wrong in Washington?
With his nuptials impending, Mike decides to make peace with Jack, at least long enough for his hustler brother to serve as his best man. But “best” is truly a relative term in the Ford family. Jack seems to have found a profitable gig as a security consultant—until two well-tailored thugs interrupt the filial reunion. Now a job that Jack has botched is dropped, along with death threats, onto Mike’s plate: intercepting the financial policy directive determined by the Federal Open Market Committee, “the most closely-held secret in capitalism.”
Issued eight times a year, this “playbook for the American economy” goes to the trading desk of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, where billions of dollars worth of securities may be bought or sold based on its recommendations. And Wall Street holds its breath waiting to learn if interest rates will rise or fall. So, what if you knew, even a few minutes before this information made its way to the trading floors, what the Fed’s decision would be? Cha-ching!
This is Grisham-like territory but for political/financial conspiracy theorists—no less scary for feeling entirely plausible. Even scarier is that Mike’s network of grifters and swindlers seems more honorable than the wheelers and dealers who make and enforce our laws. Whether the brothers can pull off the scam and who is behind the scheme sets the cat-and-mouse trap. Foreshadowing all is the Ford paterfamilias’ motto: “Never play in another man’s game.”
A former magazine journalist for The Alantic, Quirk keeps the who’s-conning-who action engaging. As a policy wonk’s thrill ride, The Directive’s interest rate is sky high.
The Whole Cat and Caboodle is a promising first-in-a-series mystery. Author Sofie Ryan (Darlene Ryan, aka Sofie Kelly), is better known to cozy readers as the author of the charming Magical Cats mysteries. Ryan/Kelly has not abandoned felines in her new series, subtitled A Second Chance Cat Mystery. Meet Sarah Grayson, owner of Second Chance, a secondhand shop located in North Harbor, Maine. Sarah’s second chance cat is Elvis, a black stray who adopts her. Sarah and sidekick Elvis embark upon a first-rate sleuthing venture when Maddie, an old friend of her grandmother’s, is courted by Arthur Fenety, an older gentleman new to town. Sarah doesn’t trust Arthur, who indeed turns out to be a con artist who targets women of a certain age and steals their valuables. This perfidy is exposed after Arthur is found dead in Maddie’s garden. Did Maddie poison him? Of course not! Sarah proceeds to exculpate her friend by ferreting out the true killer, another disgruntled victim of the swindler. Fortunately, the murder investigation reunites Sarah and her old friend Nick, who formally investigates the case. Will Sarah and Nick get a second chance? Let’s just say that Elvis has set the precedent on that score.
Laura Morrigan scored big on her wonderful first book, Woof at the Door. Luckily, she has written a second novel, A Tiger’s Tale, a Call of the Wilde Mystery. Animal behaviorist and trained veterinarian Grace Wilde continues to ply her trade, employing her ability to tune in to what animals are thinking and to communicate with them psychically. While Grace’s usual customers are desperate pet owners whose animals are behaving badly (at least in the eyes of their unschooled owners), at times she works on more daunting cases. In A Tiger’s Tale, Grace is summoned to an exotic animal rescue facility to find out why a previously docile Siberian tiger has suddenly become unruly. Grace quickly discovers that the tiger is upset because he misses a volunteer, and he communicates to Grace that the teenager, Brooke, was “taken.” Thus begins Grace’s odyssey to find an endangered girl whose parents refuse to report her missing. With the assistance of, and insight from, from various animals, including Brooke’s cat, Grace tracks the predators, eventually finding Brooke and solving the mystery. Along the way, she deals with issues of domestic abuse and mob violence, but you will have to read this fine book to see how these intertwine. I highly recommend A Tiger’s Tale to readers who enjoy excellent plotting and thrilling narrative. It also wouldn’t hurt to love animals.
William Parker, the hero of Anderson Harp’s impressive debut novel, Retribution, is exactly the kind of protagonist Kurt Russell would have played back in the day. An ex-Marine, Parker is an ultra-competent freelancer with a tragic backstory—he lost his parents when Pan Am Flight 103 was brought down over Lockerbie, Scotland. When offered the opportunity to strike back at one of the architects of that heinous act, he jumps at the chance, going undercover as a journalist who has gained the terrorist’s trust via his pro-Jihad articles.
Although the buildup to Parker’s intriguing endgame borders on the overlong, it’s well worth the wait.
Rick Mofina’s Whirlwind, set in the great state of Texas, begins calmly, at least for a few pages. Then a tornado strikes an open-air flea market operating in the town of Wildhorse Heights, wreaking havoc. Especially tragic is the experience of Jenna Cooper, a young mother who, knocked unconscious by a piece of debris, loses track of her infant son, five-month-old Caleb. At first fearing him dead, she quickly comes to believe that he was kidnapped by a strange couple who had been overly attentive to the boy just minutes before the tornado struck.
Oddly enough, the novel does not focus on Cooper after the storm is over, but on the kidnappers (ex-con Mason Varno, and his girlfriend, Remy Toxton, who has recently miscarried), and on newspaper reporter Kate Page, who sees the story as her way into the big time. It’s an interesting choice on Mofina’s part, but one that pays off handsomely, as he effectively evokes readers’ sympathy for Kate while she struggles to piece together what actually happened. The kidnappers also are quite compelling, in their own, repulsive way, but never to the point where they evoke sympathy. You will, however, come to understand, if not agree with their motivations. This is an effective, taut little thriller, guaranteed to distract you from your daily concerns for a few pleasant, but intense, hours.
The history of paperback crime fiction aimed at the urban African-American market, usually centered on pimps and other outlaws rather than detectives and published by the white-owned Holloway House, dates to a 1967 nonfiction title, Pimp: The Story of My Life, by Iceberg Slim (Robert Beck), an ex-convict-gone-straight who went on to publish several volumes of fiction on similar themes and to inspire other African-American writers.
The pioneering work of Chester Himes, who wrote of commercial necessity for a predominately white audience, is considered in the first chapter, which focuses not on the Coffin Ed and Grave Digger detective novels but on the non-series Run Man Run (1959), viewed as a deliberate response to the racist view of the urban black community Gifford infers in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely (1940). Subsequent chapters concern Pimp and its author; the influential works of Iceberg Slim’s most famous successor Donald Goines, with an extended reading of Never Die Alone (1974); subsequent Holloway House authors, including the very prolific Joseph Nazel; the tragic history of the Holloway House magazine Players from sophisticated and black-edited political and cultural periodical à la Playboy to pure porno mag; and finally the rise of “street literature” and the new importance in urban publishing of women writers and entrepreneurs like Vickie Stringer and Nikki Turner. Gifford points out that Holloway House, for all the opportunities it gave African-American writers, was low-paying, exploitative, and ultimately as confining as a ghetto or prison.
This is just the sort of book that deserves Edgar recognition: well-written and argued, and concerning important subject matter relatively little explored in other sources. Early on, the language may seem a bit too academic and the structure too repetitive and dissertation-like—the author is a University of Nevada English professor—but once underway, the book is highly readable and informative.
Eighteen years after its initial appearance, this remains the standard life of James Bond’s creator, striking an appropriate balance between the personal and the professional. The details of Ian Fleming’s working methods, research, and management of his publicity and image are carefully described; the literary and business details of the 007 saga are fully covered. The subject’s parallel career in journalism and earlier ventures in finance and wartime espionage are considered, along with his rocky but longstanding marriage and extracurricular dalliances.
Fleming knew all the great figures of his time, it seems; among the literary personalities appearing here are Paul Gallico, Noel Coward, Evelyn Waugh, Eric Ambler, Raymond Chandler, Truman Capote, Cyril Connolly, and Somerset Maugham. But he was a complicated, contradictory, and difficult person, seemingly as unhappy and dissatisfied as one with so privileged and fortunate a life could be.
This one is certainly Edgar-worthy—or would have been if it had been considered when first published in the United States in 1995. Apparently the author and his publisher were ignorant of or forgot about the earlier edition and promoted this one as the first American, leading to an Edgar nomination for an ineligible book.
Most of the pioneering Sherlockians whose names we know were men, including a fair number of doctors and military officers along with writers. For years the Baker Street Irregulars was a male-only organization, though a token female would be invited to each year’s banquet, presumably to receive the traditional toast to The Woman. Recently, though, more and more women, many of them in their twenties or younger, have joined a growing Sherlockian fandom, spurred in part by 21st-century media adaptations and the Internet’s added channels of communication.
This anthology of carefully footnoted articles, most well written and somewhat more serious in tone than the lighthearted mock scholarship of the pioneers, represents the new generation well for the most part. A quick survey of the contributor notes reveals the variety of nationalities represented: seven are identified as American, five German, four British, plus one each from Australia, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada, and (mysteriously) “a country too bored to continue to exist.” Appropriately enough, there is a single token male—Eric Mittmann, who compares Sherlock Holmes and Batman. (Is he toasted as The Man?)
Some of the more interesting content: Kim Sirag on Conan Doyle’s depiction of Victorian women, less sexist than sometimes thought; Emily Paine on the differences between television’s two Sherlockian updates, the BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary; Mary Platt on the two films with Robert Downey, Jr.; and Kyrie Culp on the reasons for the character’s enduring popularity. In one notably weak article, an author who has never read any of the Conan Doyle stories still wants to be considered a Sherlockian!
To paraphrase Micawber’s famous line about income and expenses, a Veronica Mars project without Kristen Bell: misery. But with Kristen Bell: happiness. In other words, this audio, read by Bell with all of the spunky heroine’s familiar upbeat snark, determination and wisegal attitude, is preferred in a major way to the print edition. Not that the plot isn’t solidly constructed and satisfactorily concluded.
It takes place two months after the recent, famously crowd-financed film, with Veronica’s dad, Keith, undergoing physical and mental therapy as a result of damages incurred in the course of the movie. (There are a few inconsequential spoilers in the audio but nothing to interfere with anyone’s enjoyment of the flick or the previous three TV seasons.) It’s spring break time in Neptune, California, and with the beaches packed and the town teeming with drunken and stoned kids, two visiting coeds go missing. Concerned about the potential tourist fallout, the town council, showing no confidence in their lazy and corrupt Sheriff Dan Lamb, hire the Mars Agency to locate the girls. With Keith on the mend, that task falls to Veronica, cementing her decision to exchange her law degree and job offer at a top Manhattan firm for a full-time version of her old after-school gig.
The plot, wading through a pond stocked with red herrings and tromping on an assortment of noir and mystery tropes, manages to involve an assortment of Veronica’s friends, though her beloved Logan Echols, now on duty in the Navy, appears only via cell phone and Skype. Perhaps to make up for that loss, her long-absent mother returns in a major way, plot-wise. With all that, it’s impossible to think about revisiting Neptune without Bell’s presence. Narrating the story in what might be thought of as one long voice-over, she hits all the right emotional keys, has fun doing her own takes on other actors’ versions of their familiar characters (her Tina Majorino-like Mac Mackenzie and Francis Capra-like Weevil Navarro come closest to the mark), and, in general, makes the audio a must for Marshmallows and maybe even some of the uninitiated.
Two of the stories here are original to this volume, with the other 11 having appeared elsewhere. The title of the first story, “Gentle Insanities,” is fitting not just for that story but for a lot of them. Matthews has the ability to present what seems like a standard situation and then take it somewhere entirely unexpected. A number of these stories have appeared in “year’s best” collections. Read a few and you’ll understand why.
Here’s a great idea for an anthology: Invite thriller writers to collaborate on stories in which their protagonists team up to fight crime. That’s what editor David Baldacci did for FaceOff, in which members of the International Thriller Writers pair up. You can’t go wrong with the combinations in this book, with teams like Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller, and Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme and John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport. And there are eight other surprising teams, as well. Fine entertainment all the way, and to top it all off, you get Baldacci’s introductions to each story, in which he explains how the writers worked out their collaborations.
The Watson Chronicles is “A Sherlock Holmes Novel in Stories.” It involves not just Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson but Mycroft Holmes and Lucy Watson, and it’s a treat not just for Holmesians but for anybody who likes good stories of a bygone era.
Ruth Moose’s debut cozy mystery, Doing It at the Dixie Dew, will charm fans of the genre despite the absence of recipes, ghosts, or sleuthing cats.
The setting is an old Southern mansion that Beth McKenzie inherited from the grandmother who raised her, and which she is now turning into a bed and breakfast. But “Mama Alice” left Beth with more than the house. Nostalgic memories of her grandmother’s ways, wit, and wisdom are sprinkled through the chapters and provide Beth with comfort and insight as the mystery develops.
The day after Beth opens the B&B, she discovers that one of her guests has “checked out” unnaturally. Lavinia Lovingood, an elderly, well-preserved lady, and the last of one of the town’s founding families, had mysteriously returned after a lifetime in Italy only to die at the Dixie Dew. Beth fears the death will keep new clients away, especially when it is discovered that Lavinia was poisoned.
Rather than investigate the death, Ossie DelGardo, the creepy chump of a police chief, accuses Beth of murder and of stealing the wealthy “old bird’s” jewelry. His suspicions escalate when Beth also discovers the handsome Father Roderick’s body in St Ann’s Chapel, strangled with a silk teddy.
Beth finds solace in Ida Plum, her faithful housekeeper, and in Scott Smith, her capable and very enticing building contractor, both of whom admonish her to “Be careful!” But Beth is more interested in getting the B&B finished than in staying safe. Several threatening notes, a hit on the head, a scary night locked in a mausoleum, plus a terrifying attack by an intruder in her bedroom don’t deter her.
It’s hard to believe she doesn’t report these serious incidents, even though the local police are less than the finest. And besides checking out a few facts and locating the stolen jewelry almost by accident, Beth isn’t the tenacious amateur sleuth we expect. Clues seem to fall in her lap. She doesn’t even initiate the final, and admittedly suspenseful, climatic scene.
Despite these faults, Beth is a likable, albeit distracted, protagonist. Readers will enjoy getting to know the quirky characters in this well-imagined town. Think of Arsenic and Old Lace, or perhaps Alice in Wonderland. It’s easy to see how the colorful characters might inspire or be involved in future mysteries—B&B guests alone offer endless possibilities. And the author had some fun naming characters: rhymes, alliteration, and puns elicit smiles. One even wonders at the author’s name!
It was a time of political and social unrest. Riots and demonstrations. Bombs and machine guns. Violence and fear. Troops patrolled the streets, and helicopters filled the air, searchlights slashing the night skies. It was Montreal in 1970.
I was there.
So was the author. But McFetridge doesn’t dwell on the politics. Like the hero of this fast-moving procedural, young Montreal constable Eddie Dougherty doesn’t have the time.
Eddie, who grew up in the predominantly Irish, working-class neighborhood of Point St. Charles, is working out of Station 10. He’s “practically still a rookie,” and although perfectly bilingual, his mostly French-speaking colleagues instantly tag him as an Anglo, and have trouble pronouncing his name. “Doe-er-dee,” he patiently explains.
It starts with a wide-eyed Eddie standing guard over a mysterious package on the Victoria Bridge that links the island of Montreal with the suburbs, watching the bomb squad take care of business. They do—by nonchalantly chucking it into the St. Lawrence below.
It’s a fine opening, a black, what-the-hell shrug that sets the tone. Eddie is soon chasing after bombs all over town: from the stately manors of Westmount to the Champlain Bridge; from the Montreal Stock Exchange to McGill University.
But it’s when he’s dispatched to aid French-speaking Detective Carpentier, who’s having trouble in Eddie’s old stomping grounds, that things really explode. The body of a local girl has been found, and Eddie notes similarities with another case. Impressed with the rookie’s recall—and his familiarity with the neighborhood—Carpentier has Eddie transferred, temporarily, to assist him on the investigation.
But there are plenty more bombs to go off, both literally and figuratively. There are a couple of high-profile kidnappings by the FLQ, a small band of terrorists out to “liberate” Quebec. Task forces are appointed, but the police are already stretched too thin. Politicians and pundits scream at each other. The Canadian army is called in. And through it all, Eddie and the homicide squad search for what looks like a serial killer.
McFetridge gets it all right, from the hysteria to the history, the pop culture shout-outs to the grim rhetoric of the times. It’s a taut, tight police procedural; tough and hard, but full of heart. It’s almost like going home….
“Don’t try to find me.
I’ll be okay. I’ll be better.
I love you.”
A simple note left on a family’s kitchen message board plunges Rachel and Paul Willits into a nightmare—their 14-year-old daughter, Marley, has run away from home.
It quickly becomes clear that there is limited help that they can expect from the police in the small California town where they have recently moved from San Francisco. Paul, the consummate businessman, springs into action, setting up a Facebook page, news conferences, and booking TV appearances. But Rachel, who suffers from anxiety, has secrets she wants to keep private, and she isn’t prepared for dealing with the public spotlight.
As Marley’s disappearance stretches into weeks, the Willits learn just how little they knew about their child, who left behind her phone and computer, both wiped clean of any history. Rifts and tension between the couple rise to the surface, especially as Rachel loses control of her privacy and becomes a suspect in Marley’s disappearance.
Debut novelist Holly Brown, a practicing marriage and family therapist, excels at showing the complexity of marriage under stress and a teenager easily manipulated by adults. Don’t Try to Find Me smoothly alternates viewpoints between the nervous Rachel and the impulsive Marley on her way to what she thinks will be a new life. Each is the epitome of the unreliable narrator and each sees the world only through the prism of her own emotions. Brown makes each finely sculpted character’s motives believable as she smoothly leads her novel to a logical conclusion.
Several opportunities exist to help new or unpublished writers receive grants and awards. Sometimes even a small grant or a scholarship to a writers’ class can mean a big difference.
The Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award is a one-time grant of $1,500 for an emerging writer of color.
An unpublished writer is preferred, although publication of one work of short fiction or academic work will not disqualify an applicant.
This grant is intended to support the recipient in activities related to writing and career development, including workshops, seminars, conferences, and retreats; online courses; and research activities required for completion of the work.
Sisters in Crime administers the grant.
Bland, at left, was a pioneer in crime fiction.
Dead Time, her first novel in the Marti MacAlister series was published in 1992. Marti was an African American female police detective working and living in a Midwestern American town that closely resembled Waukegan, Illinois, where Bland lived.
The author also published several works of short crime fiction and edited a collection titled Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors (2004).
When she passed away in 2010, she was one of the most prolific African-American authors in the genre.
If you love the books of Dorothy L. Sayers as I do, you will be elated to learn that Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are at their scholarly and detecting best in the newest mystery written by Jill Paton Walsh with the approval of the Dorothy L. Sayers Estate. This is the second original Wimsey-Vane novel following the highly praised The Attenbury Emeralds.
In this latest adventure, it is after World War II and Lord Peter, now Duke of Denver, is called upon as the patron of St. Severin’s College, Oxford University, to cast the deciding vote on whether or not to sell a very valuable old book, but all is not as it seems. Several faculty members have been meeting with unfortunate accidents, one resulting in death. Are they really accidents, or is someone trying to eliminate the opposition? Will Peter and Harriet, along with manservant, Bunter, be able to solve the mystery?
This is your classic British murder tale, with red herrings aplenty and pitch-perfect dialog between Wimsey and Vane. The hallowed realm of Oxford, site of Sayers’ masterpiece, Gaudy Night, once more takes us into a world of old-school charm and mystery. Somewhere Sayers is applauding.
Prior to creating the two new Wimsey-Vane novels, Jill Paton Walsh completed two unfinished Sayers mysteries: Thrones, Dominations and A Presumption of Death. Although Sayers was regarded as one of the greatest mystery writers of the 20th century, the one regret is that she wasn’t as prolific as, say, Christie. Thanks to Walsh, that’s no longer a regret.
Hearing the name James Lee Burke instantly brings his Dave Robicheaux series to mind. But in Wayfaring Stranger, Burke takes his readers on a non-Robicheaux journey.
It’s 1934 and Weldon Avery Holland is 16 years old. He’s living with his mother and his grandfather Hackberry Holland (the protagonist in his own Burke series) when he happens upon Bonnie and Clyde. That memory follows him into World War II where he rescues his sergeant, Herschel Pine, and then Rosita Lowenstein, whom he and Pine find buried beneath a pile of corpses. Once back in Texas after the war, Holland (who is now married to Lowenstein) and Pine form a partnership in the cutthroat oil business. Oil is booming and everyone wants their share—or more. Soon Holland, who is honorable and trustworthy, finds himself crosswise of people who are not. When these same folks decide the route to Holland’s cooperation in their dirty deals is through Lowenstein, they threaten her reputation and her life. But Holland will do anything to keep the woman he loves safe.
Burke, a two-time Edgar winner and a Pulitzer nominee, was raised in East Texas and has gone back to his roots with this book, a sprawling saga that seamlessly melds the 1930s, the WWII era, and the early days of the Texas oil boom. His knowledge of the times and the East Texas oil fields comes through clearly. But it’s his characters—some good, some evil—who shine: Roy Wiseheart, a WWII Marine aviator who caused his squadron leader’s death while looking for fame; Linda Gail, Pine’s wife who, by a quirk of fate, becomes Hollywood royalty; and a cop named Hubert Timmons Stakely, evil personified, who not only assaults Lowenstein, but decides Holland should die. Another winning outing for Burke.