Auntie M receives many more books during the year than she could possible review Reading 2-3 a week, she usually picks out her favorites to give a full review, and throws in guests here and there, so you can imagine the piles of books at her house. With the spring/summer catalogues starting to arrive, it seemed prudent to do a bit of book cleaning and sorting. Here are the fall/winter releases that didn’t make it to a full review, mostly because of timing issues, not because they weren’t good reads. Lurkers new to this blog should be aware that Auntie M does not waste space on a book she didn’t like, whatever the reason. The thrust of this blog is to bring great new authors or continued series winners books to your attention.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker is not the usual kind of crime book Auntie M reviews, but there is a mystery at the heart of this involved immigrant tale that focuses on elements of Arab and Jewish mythology. It’s an interesting mix of these two world and revolves around two supernatural creatures who arrive in New York in 1899 and adjust to a human city. There is adventure as they face adversity, and their once-hostile relationship changes through the strong bond they form. Surrounded by a colorful cast of secondary characters, this is a mix of fable and historical fiction in this tale of folklore and fantasy.
Staying with books written in another time, we head to 1956 and Michael Nehtercott’s The Seance Society. PI Lee Plunkett and Mr. O’Nelligan, his partner, pair up to solve a murder involved the “Spectricator,” a machine designed to communicate with the afterlife. The fresh cast of characters they meet, combined with witty dialogue, make for a great mystery.
It’s back to the post-Revolutionary War era when veteran Will Rees, a traveling weaver, finds his fragile happiness shattered by news of the murder of his old friend, Nate Bowditch, in Eleanor Kuhn’s Death of a Dyer.Kuhns’ won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award for A Simple Murder, which intruded Rees. She brings this tale of hidden motives and evil secrets alive with capturing the Shaker lifestyle of the period.
Sam Thomas’ The Midwife’s Tale takes readers to 1644, when Parliament’s armies laid siege to York in a rebellion against the King. A different sort of rebellion faces midwife Bridget Hodgson, who resolutely sets out of clear her friend of murdering her husband. But will she find the real culprit before Estehr Cooper is burned alive? Enlisting savvy servant Martha Hawkins, the two will travel to unknown neighborhoods and delve into Puritan ethics run amok. Filled with historical details and breathing with realism of the era.
Julia Keller’s A Killing in the Hills brings her skills as a Pulitzer Prize-wining journalist to her first crime novel with powerful results. Bell Elkins returns to the depressed area of West Virginia that carries enough terrible childhood memories to keep her away. But returning to Acker’s Gap as the county’s prosecuting attorney will bring Bell’s daughter Carly into the fray after the girl is a witness to a fatal shooting. A wonderful sense of place with quick pacing finely-darwn characters.
Maggie Barbieri’s Once Upon a Lie is a departure from her Murder 101 series. This time a suburban mystery takes a dark turn in this debut featuring baker Maeve Conlon, a most unlikely protagonist. Trying to juggle her kids, an ex with a new family and a father with Alzheimer’s while running a successful business isn’t easy for Maeve but she manages–just. Then her cousin Sean Donovan is found dead and suddenly things get a lot more complicated. Unusual and surprising.
Helen Smith’s Emily Castle series are pure fun, what Auntie M calls brain candy. This time poor Emily, temp job queen, is convinced to travel for the weekend to beachside of Torquay for a weekend convention of paranormal research. Her neighbor, Perspicacious Peg, has had a premonition someone will drown at the convention, and Emily is hired as a “future-crimes” investigator, which translates to an all-expense paid vacation whilst keeping her eyes open. Magician Edmund Zenon’s bounty of 50,000 British Sterling pounds, offered to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal, dangles like a carrot on a stick in front of the resort and its inhabitants. Filled with quirky characters and tongue-in-cheek asides.
Jeffrey Deaver’s October List flips his usual crime novels on hits head by starting with the ending and working his way backwards to show how and why Gabriela is sitting in an apartment, watching the clock tick down after the kidnapping of her daughter. The story builds and rebuilds with device as reader’s work back, trying to spot clues. Deaver says he was inspired by Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along.
Edgar Award-winning author Theresa Schwegel brings a noir look to Chicago with The Good Boy, her look into 11 yr-old Joel Murphy’s journey with his father’s police dog, Butchie, who set out to protect Joel’s sister and end up running for their lives. With his father, Pete, facing a wrongful arrest suit, justice seems to be out of reach for this family. Schwegel’s authentic dialogue adds to the tension.
The Widows of Braxton County is Jess McConkey’s haunting family story with a mystery at its heart. When Kate Krauss marries into an Iowa farming family and only finds out after her wedding that her new mother-in-law will be living with the newlyweds, that’s not the only secret this family holds.
Cut to the Bone is the newest entry in the Jefferson Bass series set at the Body Farm in 1992. This one delves into Dr. Bill Brockton’s past and the Body Farm’s early beginnings. The launch of this macabre research facility are threatened to derail when he’s called to investigate a crime scene with chilling similarities to Brockton’s past.
Memphis is the setting for Jeff Crook’s The Sleeping and the Dead. featuring Jackie Lyons, a former vice detective on the edge of too many life changes to take hold of at once. There’s a mystical element here, as Jackie’s camera starts to capture images of ghosts and she must decipher the real world from the spirit world.
Carol Miller’s debut Murder and Moonshine features waitress Daisy McGovern, working at a Virginia diner, and overhearing far too many secrets to keep her safe. First in a new series.
Hoomy Menino debuts a gripping mystery surrounding horsewoman Tink Elledge in Murder, She Rode. Set outside Philadelphia in the Brandywine region, Tink becomes involved in unraveling the truth behind several supposedly freak accidents affecting the riders she knows.
It’s easy to figure out the setting for DE Johnson’s Detroit Shuffle. Will Anderson seems to have a knack for getting involved in sleuthing. This is the third entry in the times of suffrage rallies, conspiracies and murder against the backdrop of the infancy of the auto industry.
Steve Hamilton prolific Alex McKnight series had two entries last year: Let It Burn took the ex-cop back to his Detroit roots to revisit a case he thought he’d solved decided ago. Blood is the Sky came out in paperback and follows McKnight’s journey deep into Canada on a search for the missing brother of his good friend and was previously reviewed. Hamilton gets the balance of tension, action and atmosphere just right in this series from the two-time Edgar Award winner.
Shoot the Women First is Wallace Stroby’s third Crissa Stone caper, featuring the professional thief, an unlikely but engaging protagonist Kirkus calls “crime fiction’s best bad girl.” This time she’s in Detroit and finds herself on the run with a stolen cache of drug money, being pursued by the drug kingpin’s lethal lieutenant and a former cop with his own agenda. Action-packed and hard-boiled as you can get.
Dana Hayes fast-paced action thriller Ice Cold Kill will have readers leaving the light on long after bedtime. Working as an interpreter and living in exile in the US and under FBI protection is a very different way of life for former Shin-Bet agent Daria Gibron, who can’t resist taking on the occasional job as an operative. Alerted to an ambush but not knowing who’s at its heart, she finds herself on the run from a setup and pursued by the very people who are supposed to protect her.
Thriller writer James Rollins takes an apocalyptic turn with the comet set on a collision course with Earth in The Eye of God . Throw in behind-the-scenes government plots, add in a huge dose of action and startling secrets and you have a view of the future where Sigma Force, an elite and covert arm of the Department of Defense’s DARPA Unit exists. Combining high concept scientific theories with true historical and religious facts gives this thriller the ring of plausibility.
Stephen Leather has garnered an audience with his Spider Shepherd series and True Colors is out in paperback. His newest release is Lastnight, a Jack Nightingale thriller which finds Jack asked to track down a killer murdering Goths in a most horrific manner: skinning and butchering them. When Jack finds the common link to the victims, he sets himself and his family squarely in the firing line of a secretive Satanic cult.
Archer Mayor’s Paradise City came out in paperback and was quickly followed by Joe Gunther’s newest tale in Three Can Keep a Secret. Recovering after the devastation of Hurricane Irene is a full time job for Gunther and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation until they are handed three seemingly unrelated cases. How they are related provides the key as Gunther plows through the disaster trying to learn what is really at the base of these cases.
Tim O’Mara’s Crooked Numbers second novel brings back Sacrifice Fly‘s protagonist, NYC teacher Raymond Donne. This time Donne takes a break from middle-school teaching to solve the apparently gang-related killing of a former student on scholarship to a private Manhattan school–only the boy’s mother insists her son was never part of gang. Then another victim from the same school dies and a third is hospitalized.
The Other Woman is Hank Phillippi Ryan’s riveting entry featuring reporter Jane Ryland that won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. A Boston investigative reporter, Ryan brings her extensive history and knowledge to crime, wining the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards in the process. Jane will encounter Detective Jake Brogan in this mystery with tones of election connections and a serial killer at large. The Wrong Girl follows the duo into the investigation of a respected adoption agency. Are they reuniting birth parents with the wrong children? A strong series with compelling characters and nonstop action.