Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blackout by Ragnar Jónasson

First Line: How do you like Iceland?

A man has been beaten to death on a bright summer's night in northern Iceland. At the opposite end of the country in Reykjavik, an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption is choking and darkening the city, and a television reporter decides to head north to investigate the man's brutal death. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the small police force in Siglufjörður are struggling with this increasingly complex case while dealing with their own serious personal problems. 

It soon becomes clear to Ari Thór that the dead man harbored many secrets and so does the reporter who's come to ask all these questions. The investigation is making a killer very nervous, and it's a race to the unmasking before someone else dies.

Ragnar Jónasson's Dark Iceland series has-- within the space of two books-- become one of my favorites. Quentin Bates' translations are excellent, and Jónasson's use of his Icelandic setting not only gives the landscape and weather character status in the books, it also propels the action. 

If you are the type of crime fiction reader who prefers a fast pace and plot over character, this series may not be for you (although the plot is a strong one). The characters' lives figure largely in the action; their behavior has a great deal to do with the story's outcome. In Blackout, there is a physical blackout due to the volcanic eruptions and ash clouds that are choking Reykjavik to the south, but in the north where Ari Thór Arason is a police officer, people lost in a deep psychological blackout are coming together... with dire consequences.

Of all the characters in this book, it is the television reporter's dogged pursuit of the truth behind the murder that held me hostage. All these characters' secrets form one huge magma chamber that's ready to erupt, and I wasn't content until every bit had been revealed. If you like vivid, atmospheric storytelling, treat yourself to Ragnar Jónasson's Dark Iceland mysteries. 

Blackout by Ragnar Jónasson
Translated from the Icelandic by Quentin Bates.
ISBN:  9781910633465
Orenda Books © 2016
Paperback, 276 pages

Police Procedural, #2 Dark Iceland mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


Monday, January 30, 2017

While Miz Kittling Knits: Death in Paradise

Denis and I are just back from a relaxing week in Cochise County, Arizona. We didn't stay in our usual place, and there will be a post (and photos) about that next week. Since it was a "relax and recharge" kind of vacation, I got a good deal of reading and knitting done. Now that I have two passions, I find that packing my knitting is as important as packing my books.

One of the projects that I completed before we left on holiday is the one that I want to share with you this week. I think it's because of all the snow and cold temperatures I've been hearing about in other parts of the country (and in other parts of Arizona). 

This is called the Rag & Bone Fringe Scarf, and it's made with super bulky yarn on size 11 needles. I used Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick and Quick yarn in a color called "Fig." The pattern calls for a basic knit-and-purl rib stitch that works very quickly, and the yarn I used is warm. Once it was long enough to rest on my thigh, it felt as though I had a heating pad on my leg! It's certainly something I'd wear in the winter back where I grew up. Be sure to click on the pattern link to see more photos of it.

The one thing that makes this scarf different is that the fringe isn't on the short ends; it runs all along one of the long sides of the piece.

I'm definitely going to be making this scarf in other colors because I think-- depending on the color chosen-- it can either look sophisticated or casual. I'm also toying with the idea of sewing scattered beads along that upper edge of the fringe. I do like patterns that bring out an additional spark of creativity in me, don't you?

Now... what was I watching while I stitched away on this incredibly warm scarf? A British crime drama series called "Death in Paradise" that takes place on a small island in the Caribbean called St. Marie (actually Guadeloupe) and which I've watched on both Netflix and on our local PBS station.

For the first two seasons, Ben Miller portrayed DI Richard Poole, an Englishman down to his very marrow, the type of Englishman who would never be truly happy anyplace else but his home country-- and then only certain parts of it. He was prickly, abrasive, and quite adept at solving crimes. Too adept because his superior certainly didn't want to let him return home.

Then in season three Ben Miller left and Kris Marshall took his place as DI Humphrey Goodman, a bumbling, affable man who can also be brilliant at solving murders, even if he does write down all his notes on stray bits of paper. 

The mysteries are quite good in this series, and I've recognized several British actors throughout. (I'd want to film something in the Caribbean to get away from the weather in the UK, too.) Watching also allows me to indulge in some gorgeous scenery and learn a bit about the culture and customs. 

The ensemble cast is the backbone of this series. The officers in this tiny island station work together brilliantly, whether it's in solving crimes-- they always like to bring all the suspects together in one room when they're about to arrest the killer-- or making me laugh or cry. 

If you haven't had a chance to watch "Death in Paradise," I certainly hope you'll give it a try. I've got an episode on my DVR list right now, so it won't be long until I'm stitching away on my current project while picturing myself on the sandy beaches of "St. Marie." (And I always say hello to Harry, the little green lizard who lives in a certain bungalow on the beach!)

If you have seen this series, tell me... what do you think of it? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Old Ten-Eye Weekly Link Round-Up

Some of you may be familiar with the epithet "old four-eyes" which is sometimes bestowed on those of us who wear glasses. I haven't seen it lately, but it used to be rather common on television crime dramas to have some snooty lawyer cast doubt on a witness's statement simply because the witness wears glasses. What's the problem if the witness was wearing his glasses at the time in question? What you don't want to hear is that the person wasn't wearing his specs, right?

Once I escaped grade school, my eyesight began to weaken, and I was saddled with glasses. Back then I only had one pair because we simply couldn't afford more than that. As soon as I could, I bought a pair of prescription sunglasses, too.

What I didn't realize is that the older you get, the more pairs of glasses you can accumulate. I now have four. My computer glasses stay here at my desk. You see them on that little wooden stand. The rest can move around a bit.

The other afternoon I was laying on the bed with my Kindle, reading glasses on my nose. It was very overcast, and I read until dark so I was making full use of the illuminated screen. I'm used to wandering around the house without turning on any lights, and that's what I did when I walked down the hall here to our office. I noticed that things were a bit fuzzier than usual but put it down to the darkness. I sat down at the computer, turned on the desk lamp, and reached for my computer glasses. When I took my glasses off, I understood why everything had been so fuzzy: I was still wearing my reading glasses.

Weird dreams, getting my glasses mixed up... what's next? Or should I even ask? I'll ponder it tomorrow. I've got to go out to the link corral.

Head 'em up! Mooooooooove 'em out!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Scientists are mapping the effects of consumption on the endangered species of the world.
  • The macabre life of Russia's Arctic reindeer herders
  • A rare lynx was spotted on the slopes of a Colorado ski resort.
  • Science explains why humans may never see the world through a hummingbird's eyes.

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • You'll never believe the statue you'll find in the middle of Budapest
  • The book hoarder's guide to moving across the country. 
  • Having visited Bodie State Historic Park last October, I was dismayed to learn about the swarm of earthquakes and aftershocks that have hit the ghost town. Not to mention blizzards. (Guess I timed our trip well.)
  • Bears Ears, America's sacred and stunning new national monument.
  • There's a self-sufficient Scottish island for sale that comes with broadband and a post office.

►I ♥ Lists◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Free Fall by Chris Grabenstein

First Line: For a cop, there's nothing worse than hearing an old friend say "I didn't do anything, Danny!" two seconds after you pull her out of a nearly lethal cat fight.

If a cop got a nickel for every time he heard someone say, "I didn't do it!" he could live a life of ease on a Caribbean beach. But it's harder to ignore when a friend says it. Danny Boyle's friend Chris is a home health care aide, and she's been accused of aggravated assault by one of Sea Haven's elite. 

Danny and Chief of Detectives John Ceepak trust Chris and work hard on her behalf, but when one of her patients turns up dead, the two detectives are faced with a question no policeman wants to hear: Did I just help a friend get away with murder?

It's with a real sense of sadness that I've come to the end of this marvelous series. I live in hope that Chris Grabenstein will see fit to continue it. It's always been filled with (often) laugh-out-loud humor-- and Free Fall certainly isn't an exception-- but the real reason I love these books is the growth of Danny Boyle's character. At the beginning, he's a rather lazy kid who wants to do good and have a good time on the beach, but he lacks real direction. That's where John Ceepak fits in. Ceepak is a truly good man who sometimes seems to be too much of a straight arrow to be real, but he's the role model Danny Boyle was hungering for. Now in the eighth book, Danny has grown up. He's had to do some really tough things in the line of duty. He's been affected by them and is still facing the consequences, but he's no longer a kid. Now the team of Ceepak and Boyle is a true partnership. And it makes you proud... as though you had something to do with it.

The suspect pool in Free Fall is long and distinguished, and it's simply a matter of narrowing it down to the right person and the right motivation. Sometimes those are the most enjoyable mysteries to solve. 

If you enjoy mysteries filled with action, intriguing investigations, marvelous characters and emotions that run from gales of laughter to (now and then) brushing a tear from your eye, I heartily recommend Chris Grabenstein's Ceepak and Boyle mysteries. Begin at the beginning with Tilt-a-Whirl. The entire series is a delight.   

Free Fall by Chris Grabenstein
eISBN: 9781453298695
Pegasus Books © 2013
eBook, 352 pages

Police Procedural/Humorous Mystery, #8 Ceepak & Boyle mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Deadly Currents by Beth Groundwater

First Line: "Gonzo's not going to make it."

Salida, Colorado's economy is driven by tourism and the white water rafters who flock there to try the Arkansas River. River ranger Mandy Tanner risks her own life to save a man after a rafting accident, but the man dies anyway. As it happens, nothing Mandy could do would have made any difference. Tom King was murdered, and there was a long line of people who don't mind seeing him dead. 

When another death hits much closer to home, Mandy begins to think that the two deaths are connected... and she won't rest until she finds the truth.

Beth Groundwater has written one strong mystery and her knowledge of whitewater rafting and river lore brings her Colorado setting to life. 

No matter how strong the mystery or how vivid the setting, I am a character-driven reader, and I have to admit that I had a couple of problems with Mandy Tanner. For one thing, she's too emotionally immature for me. She blew up at the slightest provocation even before the second death in the book. She's also one of the clumsiest investigators I've ever seen. Out of that long suspect list, I don't think there's a one of 'em that she didn't antagonize. Last but not least, there's a killer on the loose and she's going around town making everyone furious, but Mandy is very lackadaisical about getting that large broken window fixed in her house. 

As good as the mystery and setting are, it will probably be a while before I read further into this series. Mandy simply didn't make a good first impression.

Deadly Currents by Beth Groundwater
eISBN: 9780738729299
Midnight Ink © 2011
eBook, 300 pages

Environmental Mystery, #1 RM Outdoor Adventures mystery
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Amazon. 


February 2017 New Mystery Releases!

There is an absolute feast of new crime fiction being released during the month of February-- both established and debut authors-- and I have to admit that I didn't stick to my usual limit of a baker's dozen for the month.

Since I threw restraint out the window, I'm not going to spend a lot of time blathering on about the weather or anything else. It's damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead! 

I've grouped the books according to their release dates, and I've included all the information you'll need to find them at all your favorite book spots. Covers and synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Wait till you get a load of these books!

=== February 1 ===

Title: The Shivering Turn
Author: Sally Spencer 
Series: #1 in the P.I. Jennie Redhead series set in Oxford, England.
ISBN: 9780727886675
Publisher: Severn House
Hardcover, 224 pages

Synopsis: "'My daughter's not just run away - she's dead!' When Mary Corbet walks into private investigator Jennie Redhead's rundown Oxford office one pleasant spring day in 1974, she is a desperate woman. Although she's convinced her daughter has been murdered, she can get neither the police nor her husband to agree with her.

Jennie is not convinced either, but more out of compassion than conviction agrees to take the case. The only clue she has to go on is a fragment of an obscure 17th-century poem she finds in Linda’s bedroom: Or will you, like a cold and errant coward/Abandon all and make a shivering turn. But from that one clue Jennie’s investigations will lead her beyond the city's dreaming spires to Oxford's darker underbelly, in which lurks a hidden world of privilege, violence, and excess.

=== February 7 ===

Title: Swiss Vendetta
Author: Tracee de Hahn
Series: #1 in the Inspector Agnes Lüthi police procedural series set outside Lausanne, Switzerland.
ISBN: 9781250109996
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 368 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Inspector Agnes Lüthi, a Swiss-American police officer in Lausanne, Switzerland, has just transferred to the Violent Crimes unit from Financial Crimes to try to shed all reminders of her old life following her husband's death. Now, on the eve of the worst blizzard Lausanne has seen in centuries, Agnes has been called to investigate her very first homicide case. On the lawn of the grand Château Vallotton, at the edge of Lac Léman, a young woman has been found stabbed to death. The woman, an appraiser for a London auction house, had been taking inventory at the château, a medieval fortress dripping in priceless works of art and historical treasures.

Agnes finds it difficult to draw answers out of anyone―the tight-lipped Swiss family living in the château, the servants who have been loyal to the family for generations, the aging WWII survivor who lives in the neighboring mansion, even the American history student studying at the Vallotton château's library. As the storm rages on, roads become impassible, the power goes out around Lausanne, and Agnes finds herself trapped in the candlelit halls of the château with all the players of the mystery, out of her depth in her first murder case and still struggling to stay afloat after the death of her husband.

Title: Desert Vengeance
Author: Betty Webb
Series:#9 in the Lena Jones private investigator series set in Scottsdale, Arizona.
ISBN: 9781464205934 
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Hardcover, 284 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "When the man who raped Scottsdale PI Lena Jones when she was a nine-year-old foster child is released from prison, Lena is waiting for him in the parking lot-with a big knife. "Papa" Brian Wycoff survives their meeting, but the next day, his wife, who knew about his crimes but did nothing to stop him-in fact enabled him-is found dead in their Apache Junction home, shot through both eyes. Terrified he will be next, Wycoff, violating his parole, flees north to the small town of Black Canyon City, taking shelter in an RV on his brother-in-law's small ranch. A couple of days later, he is found tortured to death, eight horizontal marks burned into his flesh. One for each of his victims?

Suspicion first falls upon Lena, who has trailed Wycoff to Black Canyon City to make sure he doesn't come near any other children. When the local authorities arrive to question her, she admits to having been tempted to kill her former foster father, but someone beat her to the punch. Suspicion then falls on Wycoff's other victims, the now-grown men and women he abused when they were still in his care, and on the mothers of the children who went missing before his arrest.

When Lena takes up the case, more to protect one of the mothers who has been arrested than to find the real killer, her conscience is torn. Does a serial child rapist, a pedophile also implicated in the disappearance of several children, really deserve justice? That choice might not be left up to Lena when members of a local group, Parents of Missing Children, start working to prevent her investigation from succeeding. How far will they go to make sure she fails?

Title: Death in Advertising
Author: Laura Bradford
Series: #1 in the Tobi Tobias cozy series set in St. Louis, Missouri.
ISBN: 9781516102075
Publisher: Lyrical Underground
Paperback, 212 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Sometimes when opportunity knocks, the door you open leads to a closet. That’s certainly the case for Tobi, whose weekends spent cleaning cages in her best friend’s pet shop may soon be over. She’s just landed her first big break—Zander Closet Company needs a catchy campaign slogan ASAP, and Tobi thinks she’s got the right hook to knock ’em dead: 'When we’re done, even your skeletons will have a place.'

But when a real dead body topples out of a showcase closet, she’s about to discover there is such a thing as bad publicity. To save her fledgling business and not get killed by the competition, Tobi takes on a new pet project: solving the murder. But with a stressed-out parrot as the only witness to the crime, Tobi will really have to wing it to put the cagey killer behind bars.

Title: Shadows on the Lake
Authors: Giovanni Cocco and Amneris Magella
Translator: Stephen Sartarelli
Series: #1 in the Inspector Stefania Valenti police procedural set in Lake Como, Italy.
ISBN: 9780143127253 
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "During the construction of a new road to the Swiss border in the mountains above Lake Como, the remains of a young man are unearthed on the powerful Cappelletti family’s property. On the case is Stefania Valenti, forty-five, divorced with a young daughter, and a brilliant, determined police inspector.

Her investigation takes her back to World War II and deep into the history of the region, a place that during the war attracted smugglers, deserters, secret agents, and fleeing Jews. Steeped in the beautiful atmosphere of Northern Italy, Valenti’s investigation brings to light a family’s secret, a tragic romance, and reveals a fascinating piece of Italian history.

Title: Bookman Dead Style
Author: Paige Shelton
Series: #2 in the Dangerous Type cozy series set in the mountains of Utah.
ISBN: 9780425277263
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Synopsis: "It’s January, and the Star City Film Festival has taken the Utah ski resort town by storm. Movie stars are everywhere, carving fresh powder on the slopes and crossing the thresholds of Bygone Alley’s charming boutique shops—including The Rescued Word, where Clare Henry and her grandfather restore old typewriters and beloved books. When cinema’s hottest superhero, Matt Bane, enters their store to buy some personalized notecards, it’s hard not to be starstruck.

But when Clare sees the police leading Matt out of The Fountain hotel in handcuffs only a few hours later, she can’t believe her eyes. The affable actor is accused of killing his sister, but Clare’s convinced he’s wrong for that role. Now it’s open call for suspects as Clare tries to reel in the killer before another victim fades to black...

Title: Garden of Lamentations
Author: Deborah Crombie
Series: #17 in the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James police procedural series set in London, England.
ISBN: 9780062271631
Publisher: William Morrow
Hardcover, 432 pages

Synopsis: "Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are drawn into separate investigations that hold disturbing—and deadly—complications for their own lives in this powerful mystery in the bestselling series.

On a beautiful morning in mid-May, the body of a young woman is found in one of Notting Hill’s private gardens. To passersby, the pretty girl in the white dress looks as if she’s sleeping. But Reagan Keating has been murdered, and the lead detective, DI Kerry Boatman, turns to Gemma James for help. She and Gemma worked together on a previous investigation, and Gemma has a personal connection to the case: Reagan was the nanny of a child who attends the same dance studio as Toby, Gemma and Kincaid’s son.

Gemma soon discovers that Reagan’s death is the second tragedy in this exclusive London park; a few months before, a young boy died in a tragic accident. But when still another of the garden residents meets a violent end, it becomes clear that there are more sinister forces at play. Boatman and Gemma must stop the killer before another innocent life is taken.

While his wife is consumed with her new case, Kincaid finds himself plagued by disturbing questions about several previous—and seemingly unrelated—cases involving members of the force. If his suspicions are correct and the crimes are linked, are his family and friends in mortal danger as well? Kincaid’s hunch turns to certainty when a Metropolitan Police officer close to him is brutally attacked. There’s a traitor in the ranks, and now Kincaid wonders if he can trust anyone.

As Gemma begins to see a solution to her case, she realizes she holds a child’s fate in her hands. Can she do the right thing? And can Kincaid rely on his friends, both inside and outside the Scotland Yard force, to stand beside him as he faces the deadliest challenge of his career?

=== February 8 ===

Title: Death & the Gravedigger's Angel
Author: Loretta Ross   
Series: #3 in the Auction Block cozy series set in Missouri.
ISBN: 9780738750415
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Paperback, 264 pages

Synopsis: "When former army medic Tony Dozier is accused of killing a member of the hate group that disrupted his wife’s funeral, the prosecution charges premeditated murder and the defense claims temporary insanity. Former marine Death Bogart and auctioneer Wren Morgan think there’s more to the story.

They’re both led to the long-abandoned Hadleigh House, where Wren begins preparing the contents for auction but ends up appraising the story behind an antique sketchbook. As Wren uncovers the century-old tale of a World War I soldier and his angel, Death finds a set of truths that will change...or end...their lives.

=== February 9 ===

Title: The Women of Baker Street
Series: #2 in the Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson historical series set in London, England. 
ISBN: 9781509809738
Publisher: Pan
Paperback, 352 pages

UK Release

Synopsis: "As Sherlock and Watson return from the famous Hound of the Baskervilles case, Mrs Hudson and Mary must face their own Hound, in the swirling fog of Victorian London . . .

When Mrs Hudson falls ill, she is taken into a private ward at St Barts hospital. Perhaps it is her over-active imagination, or her penchant for sniffing out secrets, but as she lies in her bed, slowly recovering, she finds herself surrounded by patients who all have some skeletons in their closets. A higher number of deaths than usual seem to occur on this ward. On her very first night, Mrs Hudson believes she witnesses a murder. But was it real, or just smoke and mirrors?

Mary Watson meanwhile has heard about young boys disappearing across London, and is determined to find them and reunite them with their families. As the women's investigations collide in unexpected ways, a gruesome discovery in Regent's Park leads them on to a new, terrifying case.

=== February 14 ===

Title: August Snow
Author: Stephen Mack Jones
Standalone hardboiled mystery set in Detroit, Michigan. 
ISBN: 9781616957186
Publisher: Soho Crime
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Tough, smart, and struggling to stay alive, August Snow is the embodiment of Detroit. The son of an African-American father and a Mexican-American mother, August grew up in the city’s Mexicantown and joined the police force only to be drummed out by a conspiracy of corrupt cops and politicians. But August fought back; he took on the city and got himself a $12 million wrongful dismissal settlement that left him low on friends. He has just returned to the house he grew up in after a year away, and quickly learns he has many scores to settle.

It’s not long before he’s summoned to the palatial Grosse Pointe Estates home of business magnate Eleanore Paget. Powerful and manipulative, Paget wants August to investigate the increasingly unusual happenings at her private wealth management bank. But detective work is no longer August’s beat, and he declines. A day later, Paget is dead of an apparent suicide—which August isn’t buying for a minute.

What begins as an inquiry into Eleanore Paget’s death soon drags August into a rat’s nest of Detroit’s most dangerous criminals, from corporate embezzlers to tattooed mercenaries.

Title: Among the Ruins
Series: #3 in the Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty police procedural series, this time set in Iran.
ISBN: 9781250096739
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 368 pages

Synopsis: "On leave from Canada’s Community Policing department, Esa Khattak is traveling in Iran, reconnecting with his cultural heritage and seeking peace in the country’s beautiful mosques and gardens. But Khattak’s supposed break from work is cut short when he’s approached by a Canadian government agent in Iran, asking him to look into the death of renowned Canadian-Iranian filmmaker Zahra Sobhani. Zahra was murdered at Iran’s notorious Evin prison, where she’d been seeking the release of a well-known political prisoner. Khattak quickly finds himself embroiled in Iran’s tumultuous politics and under surveillance by the regime, but when the trail leads back to Zahra’s family in Canada, Khattak calls on his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, for help.

Rachel uncovers a conspiracy linked to the Shah of Iran and the decades-old murders of a group of Iran’s most famous dissidents. Historic letters, a connection to the Royal Ontario Museum, and a smuggling operation on the Caspian Sea are just some of the threads Rachel and Khattak begin unraveling, while the list of suspects stretches from Tehran to Toronto. But as Khattak gets caught up in the fate of Iran’s political prisoners, Rachel sees through to the heart of the matter: Zahra’s murder may not have been a political crime at all.

=== February 21 ===

Title: A Cast of Vultures
Series: #3 in the Samantha Clair amateur sleuth series set in London, England.
ISBN: 9781250087829
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Usually clear-headed editor Samantha Clair stumbles through her post-book-party morning with the hangover to end all hangovers. But before the ibuprofen has even kicked in, she finds herself entangled in an elaborate saga of missing neighbors, suspected arson, and strange men offering free tattoos.

By the time the grisly news breaks that the fire has claimed a victim, Sam is already in pursuit. Never has comedy been so deadly as she faces down a pair from Thugs ’R’ Us, aided by nothing more than a Scotland Yard boyfriend, a stalwart Goth assistant, and an unnerving knowledge of London’s best farmer’s markets.

From the acclaimed bestselling author Judith Flanders, A Cast of Vultures continues the sharp-witted series starring book editor and amateur sleuth Samantha Clair.

=== February 23 ===

Title: The Chalk Pit
Series: #9 in the Dr. Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson series set in Norfolk, England. 
ISBN: 9781784296599
Publisher: Quercus Books
Hardcover, 384 pages

UK Release

Synopsis: "WINNER OF THE 2016 CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY. Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich's web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity - now it suggests a much more sinister purpose.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she's gone 'underground'. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history - but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart - before it claims another victim.

=== February 28 ===

Title: The Lost Book of the Grail
Standalone literary mystery set in England.
ISBN:  9780399562518
Publisher: Viking
Hardcover, 336 pages

Synopsis: "Arthur Prescott is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts of the Barchester Cathedral library. Increasingly, he feels like a fish out of water among the concrete buildings of the University of Barchester, where he works as an English professor. His one respite is his time spent nestled in the library, nurturing his secret obsession with the Holy Grail and researching his perennially unfinished guidebook to the medieval cathedral.

But when a beautiful young American named Bethany Davis arrives in Barchester charged with the task of digitizing the library’s manuscripts, Arthur’s tranquility is broken. Appalled by the threat modern technology poses to the library he loves, he sets out to thwart Bethany, only to find in her a kindred spirit with a similar love for knowledge and books—and a fellow Grail fanatic.

Bethany soon joins Arthur in a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, the ancient manuscript telling the story of the cathedral’s founder. And when the future of the cathedral itself is threatened, Arthur and Bethany’s search takes on grave importance, leading the pair to discover secrets about the cathedral, about the Grail, and about themselves.

Title: The Fifth Element
Author: Jørgen Brekke
Series: #3 in the Odd Singsaker police procedural series set in Trondheim, Norway. 
ISBN: 9781250073914
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Hardcover, 320 pages

Synopsis: "Police Inspector Odd Singsaker has been captured, imprisoned on an island off the Northern coast of Norway. He wakes to find himself holding a shotgun. Next to him is a corpse. But what events led him to this point? And how did he get here?

A few weeks earlier, Felicia, his wife, disappeared. Though he didn’t know it, she was trying to find her way back to Odd to reconcile, but then she vanished into a snowstorm. Possibly involved is a corrupt, coldblooded cop from Oslo, a devious college student who’s stolen a great deal of cocaine from drug dealers, and a hit man hired by the drug dealers who have been robbed. All of these lives intersect with Odd’s as he searches for Felicia.

The Fifth Element is ultimately the story of what happened to Felicia Stone. Within that journey, brutal crimes are uncovered, tenacious love shines through, and chilling characters with nothing to lose will stop at nothing to get what they want. Jorgen Brekke once again delivers a chilling thriller that readers will tear through to unravel what happened-and why.

Wow! See what I mean by a feast of new crime fiction? All I can say is that I'm glad I haven't spent all my Poisoned Pen gift cards yet. If I were forced to choose the one book that I'm most anxious to get my hands on, it would be Deborah Crombie's Garden of Lamentations. It's much too long since there's been a new Duncan and Gemma book. 

How about you? Which books caught your eye? Is February going to explode your book budget? Inquiring minds would love to know!