Wednesday, April 25, 2018

May 2018 New Mystery Releases!

When this is posted, Denis and I will be having fun with our niece, Daisy, who's here from England for two weeks. As you can see, I'm trying to get as much as possible done ahead of time, but who knows how successful I'll be? One thing is certain, though: I'm always on the lookout for new reading material, regardless of what's going on around me!

These are my picks of new crime fiction being released during the month of May. I've grouped them by release date, and the book covers and synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Hopefully, I've chosen a title or two that tickles your fancy as well as mine. Let's take a look!

=== May 1 ===

Title: A Baby's Bones
Suspense set in present-day England involving a 400-year-old mystery.
464 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Archaeologist Sage Westfield has been called in to excavate a sixteenth-century well, and expects to find little more than soil and the odd piece of pottery. But the disturbing discovery of the bones of a woman and newborn baby make it clear that she has stumbled onto an historical crime scene, one that is interwoven with an unsettling local legend of witchcraft and unrequited love. Yet there is more to the case than a four-hundred-year-old mystery. The owners of a nearby cottage are convinced that it is haunted, and the local vicar is being plagued with abusive phone calls. Then a tragic death makes it all too clear that a modern murderer is at work...

Title: See Also Proof
Series: #3 in the Marjorie Trumaine historical series set in 1960s North Dakota.
251 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Dickinson, North Dakota, 1965. It's a harsh winter, and freelance indexer Marjorie Trumaine struggles to complete a lengthy index while mourning the recent loss of her husband, Hank. The bleakness of the weather seems to compound her grief, and then she gets more bad news: a neighbor's fourteen-year-old disabled daughter, Tina Rinkerman, has disappeared. Marjorie joins Sheriff Guy Reinhardt in the search for the missing girl, and their investigation quickly leads to the shocking discovery of a murdered man near the Rinkermans' house. What had he been doing there? Who would have wanted him dead? And, above all, is his murder connected to Tina's disappearance?

Their pursuit of answers will take Marjorie all the way to the Grafton State School, some six hours away, where Tina lived until recently. And the information she uncovers there raises still more questions. Will the murderer come after Marjorie now that she knows a long-hidden secret?

Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Aimee Molloy
Psychological Thriller, Standalone, set in Brooklyn.
336 pages

Synopsis: "They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they want a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed.

=== May 2 ===

Title: The Otter of Death
Author: Betty Webb
Series: #5 in the Gunn Zoo series set on the central coast of California.
235 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "While taking the yearly "otter count" at a marsh near Gunn Landing Harbor, California, zookeeper Theodora Bentley sees Maureen, her favorite otter, swimming around clutching someone's expensive smartphone. When Teddy rescues the device, she discovers a photograph of a murder-in-progress. A hasty search soon turns up the still-warm body of Stuart Booth, Ph.D., a local Marine Biology instructor.

Booth was a notorious sexual harasser of young female students, so the list of suspects is long enough to make Teddy wonder if the crime will ever be solved. But when her friend, Lila, one of Booth's original accusers, is arrested and charged with his murder, Teddy begins to investigate. This creates considerable tension with Teddy's fiancé, Sheriff Joe Rejas. He believes the ever-inquisitive zookeeper might be putting her own life at risk, and so orders her to butt out.

Concerned for her accused friend, Teddy ignores Joe's ultimatum. She questions not only members of Gunn Landing's moneyed social elite, but also the other side of the financial spectrum - the financially strapped young women willing to do almost anything to pay for their college tuition. Alarmed by Teddy's meddling, Booth's killer fights back - first with a death threat, then via gunshot."

Title: The Bomb Shelter
Author: Jon Talton
Series: #9 in the David Mapstone police procedural set in present-day Phoenix, Arizona.
300 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "Forty years ago, a Phoenix reporter was killed by a car bomb in one of America's most notorious crimes. Three men went to prison - but was there more to the story of Charles Page's assassination? More than three low-level players? Did a kingpin order the hit and get away with it? And what was the real motive? Despite the work of teams of journalists and law and legal professionals, no one yet knows why.

It's a case custom-made for David Mapstone, the historian-turned-sheriff's deputy. And suddenly Mapstone's boss, newly re-elected Sheriff Mike Peralta, promises to reopen the investigation into the only murder of an American journalist, in the US, in modern times. Why?

The promise triggers new murders. The crimes are reenactments of Phoenix's mob-riddled past, where gangsters rubbed elbows with the city's elite amid crosscurrents of corrupt cops, political payoffs, gambling, prostitution, and murder, all shielded by the sunshine image of a resort city. But who is committing them? A former soldier who is an explosives expert and deadly with a knife? A woman with screen-siren looks and extraordinary computer skills? Or someone out of Phoenix's seamy, swinging Seventies with secrets to keep, even though the major power brokers are dead?

Mapstone will need all the help he can get. He enlists a Ph.D. candidate and Black Lives Matter activist to help him comb through sealed archives of the original bombing. Mapstone's wife, Lindsey, a top hacker, rejoins the Sheriff's Office and plays a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the perp or perps - one that goes from the digital to the real and risky world. Somewhere in the house of mirrors surrounding the Page case they must find the key that connects the past to the present.

=== May 15 ===

Title: Fall of Angels
Author: Barbara Cleverly
Series: #1 in the John Redfyre historical series set in 1920s Cambridge, England.
384 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "England 1923: Detective Inspector John Redfyre is a godsend to the Cambridge CID. The ancient university city is at war with itself: town versus gown, male versus female, press versus the police force and everyone versus the undergraduates. Redfyre, young, handsome and capable, is a survivor of the Great War. Born and raised among the city’s colleges, he has access to the educated élite who run these institutions, a society previously deemed impenetrable by local law enforcement.

When Redfyre’s Aunt Hetty hands him a front-row ticket to the year’s St. Barnabas College Christmas concert, he is looking forward to a right merrie yuletide noyse from a trumpet soloist, accompanied by the organ. He is intrigued to find that the trumpet player is—scandalously—a young woman. And Juno Proudfoot is a beautiful and talented one at that. Such choice of a performer is unacceptable in conservative academic circles.

Redfyre finds himself anxious throughout a performance in which Juno charms and captivates her audience, and his unease proves well-founded when she tumbles headlong down a staircase after curtain fall. He finds evidence that someone carefully planned her death. Has her showing provoked a dangerous, vengeful woman-hater to take action?

When more Cambridge women are murdered, Redfyre realizes that some of his dearest friends and his family may become targets, and—equally alarmingly—that the killer might be within his own close circle.

Title: A Howl of Wolves
Series: #4 in the Samantha Clair amateur sleuth series set in present-day London, England.
304 pages

Synopsis: "Sam Clair figures she’ll be a good sport and spend a night out at the theater in support of her upstairs neighbors, who have small parts in a play in the West End. Boyfriend (a Scotland Yard detective) and all-round good sport Jake Field agrees to tag along to what is apparently an extra-bloody play filled with dramatic, gory deaths galore. So Sam expects an evening filled with faux fatalities. Until, that is, the curtain opens to the second act, revealing a dummy hanging from the rafters, who’s been made up to look suspiciously like Campbell Davison, the director of the production.

When Sam sees the horrified faces of the actors onstage, she realizes that this is indeed not a dummy, but Davison himself―and this death is not part of the show. Now everyone wants to know: who killed Campbell Davison? As Sam learns more about the murdered man, she discovers that he wasn’t all that well-liked amongst the cast and crew, so the suspect list grows. The show must go on―but Sam knows a murderer must be apprehended, so she sets out to find out what happened, and why."

Title: The Dark Angel
Series: #10 in the Dr. Ruth Galloway series set in Italy.
352 pages

Synopsis: "It’s not every day that you’re summoned to the Italian countryside on business, so when archaeologist Angelo Morelli asks for Ruth Galloway’s help identifying bones found in the tiny hilltop town of Fontana Liri, she jumps at the chance to go, bringing her daughter along with her for a working vacation. Upon arriving, she begins to hear murmurs of Fontana Liri’s strong resistance movement during World War II and senses the townspeople are dancing around a deeply buried secret. But how could that be connected to the ancient remains she’s been studying?

Ruth is just beginning to get her footing in the dig when she’s thrown off-guard by the appearance of DCI Nelson. And when Ruth’s findings lead them to a modern-day murder, their holidays are both turned upside down, and they race to find out what darkness is lurking in this seemingly picturesque town.

Title: A Million Drops
Author: Victor del Árbol
Literary Thriller, Standalone set in Spain.
640 pages

Synopsis: "Gonzalo Gil is a lawyer stuck in a disaffected life, in a failed career, trying to dodge the constant manipulation of his powerful father-in-law. This monotonous existence is shaken up when he learns, after years without news of his estranged sister, Laura, that she has committed suicide under dramatic circumstances. Her death pushes the fragile balance of Gonzalo's life as both a father and husband to the limit.

Resolutely investigating the steps that led his sister to suicide, he will discover that Laura is suspected of having murdered a Russian gangster who had kidnapped and killed her young son. But what seems to be revenge is just the beginning of a tortuous path that will take Gonzalo through the untold annals of his family's past that he would rather not face. He will have to enter fully into the fascinating story of his father, Elias Gil--the great hero of the resistance against fascism, the young Spanish engineer who traveled to the USSR committed to the ideals of the revolution, who was betrayed, arrested, and confined on the infamous Nazino Island, and who became a key figure, admired and feared, of Spain's darkest years.

Title: How It Happened
Series: #1 in the Rob Barrett thriller series set in Maine.
368 pages

Synopsis: "Kimberly Crepeaux is no good, a notorious jailhouse snitch, teen mother, and heroin addict whose petty crimes are well-known to the rural Maine community where she lives. So when she confesses to her role in the brutal murders of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly, the daughter of a well-known local family and her sweetheart, the locals have little reason to believe her story.

Not Rob Barrett, the FBI investigator and interrogator specializing in telling a true confession from a falsehood. He's been circling Kimberly and her conspirators for months, waiting for the right avenue to the truth, and has finally found it. He knows, as strongly as he's known anything, that Kimberly's story-a grisly, harrowing story of a hit and run fueled by dope and cheap beer that becomes a brutal stabbing in cold blood is how it happened. But one thing remains elusive: where are Jackie and Ian's bodies?

After Barrett stakes his name and reputation on the truth of Kimberly's confession, only to have the bodies turn up 200 miles from where she said they'd be, shot in the back and covered in a different suspect's DNA, the case is quickly closed and Barrett forcibly reassigned. But for Howard Pelletier, the tragedy of his daughter's murder cannot be so tidily swept away. And for Barrett, whose career may already be over, the chance to help a grieving father may be the only one he has left.

=== May 22 ===

Title: The Outsider
Author: Stephen King
Standalone set in the present day.
576 pages

Synopsis: "An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

=== May 29 ===

Title: Dead Girls
Standalone Thriller set in England.
304 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "It’s been two months since a serial killer brutally attacked police detective Alisha Green and left her for dead. Two months since she could effortlessly recall simple things since her mind felt remotely sound. The nameless killer thinks he knows her, thinks she’s just another dead girl among many. Ali Green plans to show him he’s dead wrong about that.

Ali has two enemies now: the dangerous man she’s hunting and her own failing memory. As explosive new evidence comes to light and conflicting accounts from a witness and a surviving victim threaten both her investigation and her credibility, she begins to question what is and isn’t real. And now Ali has no choice but to remember the past…before it buries her.

Title: Crime & Punctuation
Series: #1 in the Deadly Edits cozy series set in the Catskills area of New York state.
304 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.

Synopsis: "When perky novice writer Tiffany Scott knocks at her door holding a towering manuscript, Mikki expects another debut novel plagued by typos and sloppy prose. Instead, she finds a murder mystery ripped from the headlines of Lenape Hollow’s not-too-distant past. The opening scene is a graphic page-turner, but it sends a real chill down Mikki’s spine after the young author turns up dead just like the victim in her story . . .

Mikki refuses to believe that Tiffany’s death was accidental, and suspicions of foul play solidify as she uncovers a strange inconsistency in the manuscript and a possible motive in the notes. Then there’s Tiffany’s grandmother and husband, who aren’t exactly on friendly terms over the local area’s planned rejuvenation efforts . . .

Unable to convince police that they are focused on the wrong suspect, Mikki must rely on her keen eyes to catch the truth hidden in Lenape Hollow. As she gets closer to cracking the case, only one person takes Mikki’s investigation seriously—the cunning killer who will do anything to make this chapter of her life come to a very abrupt ending . . .

Well... did I manage to tempt you with any of my picks? Which ones? 

I love the cover for Betty Webb's The Otter of Death, and Kaitlyn Dunnett's Crime & Punctuation intrigues me. I'm not entirely sure that I like it. What do you think? As for the worst cover of the month, my hat is off to The Perfect Mother. What were they thinking?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

First Line: The day was bright, the air crisp, with sunshine giving an impression of imminent spring, though as soon as a person ventured out from a warm, cocooned indoors, a nip in the chill outdoors soon found its way to fingertips and toes.

It's early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England, staying with friends while she looks for a new home. Naturally, it's only a matter of time before she's approached by Huntley and MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to hand over an important British subject who's been incarcerated in Dachau for two years-- but only if a family member comes to Munich to collect him. The imprisoned man's wife is dead and his daughter is bedridden, but fortunately, Maisie bears a striking resemblance to the daughter. How can Maisie say no?

As Maisie was told in a previous book, once you've done the British Secret Service's bidding, you're done for. They will just keep coming back no matter how many times you say no. That person was telling Maisie the truth: she keeps saying no, the Secret Service merely smirks and hands over her railway tickets. At least the time she spent in Spain has helped her overcome the worst of her grief, and she feels ready to re-enter her old life and be with her friends and family once more.

Being in Munich in 1938 gives Maisie a very clear picture of what is to come. It goes without saying that the Germans don't release the Englishman in a timely manner, and Maisie has to keep her composure and her cover while the Nazis play cat and mouse. This is a good, solid mystery that puts the reader right in the middle of a world that's on the brink of going completely mad.

I don't think Winspear is capable of writing a bad book, but I have to admit that, after reading A Dangerous Place, almost all the luster has been knocked off this series for me.  This was always a series in which I bought and read each new book as soon as it came out. I was so invested in Maisie! But my feeling of being betrayed is staying with me even though I realize I'm being a bit silly. After reading Journey to Munich (which I did not buy), I am still two books behind, and I feel no urgency whatsoever to catch up. This may very well be the last book I read in this series. And now I feel as though I'm in mourning.

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear
ISBN: 9780062220608
HarperCollins © 2016
Hardcover, 304 pages

Historical Mystery, #12 Maisie Dobbs mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap


Monday, April 23, 2018

Under the Covers with Colin Cotterill

I have no memory of what I was researching. All I do remember is that it was during the wee hours of the morning, and I was looking at a page with all sorts of covers for the first book in one of my favorite series: Colin Cotterill's Dr. Siri Paiboun mysteries set during the late 1970s in Communist Laos.

Dr. Siri is in his late seventies, and he's the national coroner of Laos. In fact, he's the only coroner in the country and he has to make do with only two assistants and very little (and antiquated) equipment. When Dr. Siri was young, he was a firebrand who fought with the Communists in their takeover of Laos. Now many years have passed and he's had a chance to see what Communism has wrought in his country.

Cotterill has embued his main character with such a wonderful blend of wisdom, integrity, compassion, and sly humor that I, quite frankly, adore Dr. Siri. I'd hate to contemplate missing the chance to read each new book as it's published. So... you can undoubtedly see why I was transfixed by the sight of all those covers of the book that started it all. These covers are for hardcovers, paperbacks, and audiobooks, and they're from the USA, the UK, and Australia. Let's look at each different take on the very same book, shall we? Which cover does the best job of selling?

1. Australia, CD-Audio

2. UK, Audio Cassette

3. USA, paperback

4. USA, paperback, large print

5. UK, paperback reissue

6. UK, paperback

7. UK paperback, reissue

8. Australia, paperback

Which (if any) cover do you prefer?  The building on #4 fascinates me; I know I'd pick that one off the shelf to take a look. I like the colors of #6, and I like the subtlety of #7. That's the typical cap Communists wear in Asia. Well, at least in shape it is, but the flowers certainly give the impression that the wearer isn't a typical Communist, and readers learn very quickly that Dr. Siri is anything but typical.

Are there any fellow Dr. Siri fans reading this post? I hope so!

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Night-Blooming Weekly Link Round-Up

Here's a fly-by before I flit to my next task...

Back in a December round-up, I showed you a photo of our big senita cactus adorned with Santa hats. We've had this cactus for more than twelve years, and it's been a learning experience. One year, it got so big that it started to lean, and we called someone to straighten it out. Since we called one of the companies that does work for the Desert Botanical Garden, we figured our cactus was in good hands. It was fascinating watching the men dig, move that huge thing into position, then tamp the soil down. Come to find out, most landscapers don't plant these cacti correctly, and sooner or later many of them begin to lean (if not fall over entirely).

Night-blooming Senita cactus
Shortly after it was straightened, we noticed buds come out on it for the first time ever-- apparently in thanks for improving its posture-- but we never saw it bloom. Then during a night of a particularly bright full moon when Denis and I were coming home from The Poisoned Pen, Denis noticed something and walked over to take a closer look.

What he saw made me turn to Google for more information. Senita cacti are night-blooming cacti, so no wonder we never saw the blooms that first year. Our senita is blooming again, and one night Denis made so many trips outside to take photos that he wound up with his own version of time-lapse. The photo above shows the flower fully open at 11 PM. From certain angles, the petals have a soft, gold, metallic gleam.

And if you ever want to amuse your neighbors, just keep running out in the dead of night taking flash photography of your cactus. You will get some strange looks!

On that note, it's off to the corral I go. Head 'em up! Moooooooooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • Found: An ancient depiction of Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut.
  • Stunning photos capture Egypt's ancient underworld.
  • Archaeologists found an astonishing site in the Brazilian jungle that may have housed over a million people, and it could change everything we know about the mysteries of the Amazon.
  • 13,000-year-old footprints have been found off the Canadian coast.
  • Florida beachgoers discover the "holy grail of shipwrecks" after the remains of an eighteenth-century ship wash ashore.
  • An ancient book blasted with high-powered X-Rays reveals text that was erased centuries ago.

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Dogs may soon be on the front lines in the fight against artifact smuggling.
  • What aardvark milk reveals about the evolution of lactation.
  • Dinosaur horns were for making love, not war.
  • Baby sea turtles were spotted on a beach in Mumbai for the first time in twenty years.

►The Happy Wanderer◄
  • A nearly nine-hour rainbow in Taiwan sets a new Guinness record.
  • How California's giant Sequoias tell the story of Americans' conflicted relationship with nature.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas. How'd you like to have that in your backyard?
  • The plight of Phoenix: how long can the world's "least sustainable" city survive?
  • Fifteen of the best views in Scotland.

►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, April 19, 2018

The Dark Side of Town by Sasscer Hill

First Line: Dense fog enveloped the backstretch at Saratoga Race Course that morning, leaving the Oklahoma Training Track virtually invisible.

Now an official employee of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB), Fia McKee is working undercover as a hot walker at Saratoga Racetrack to investigate trainer Mars Pizutti since the horses Pizutti trains are suspiciously lucky and lucrative at crossing the finish line.

Fia's bosses  are convinced that Pizutti's success has a lot to do with illegal drugs and deceitful methods, but when she witnesses the tragic aftermath of a jockey's suicide, Fia learns that the rider's death is just the tip of an iceberg involving death threats, the mob, and a crooked racing hedge fund. She's got to work fast to learn the truth before anyone else dies.

Although I grew up loving horse racing and books, I've never read one of Dick Francis's mysteries; however, I'm positive that Sasscer Hill is creating a series that is a worthy successor to his renowned mysteries taking place in the glamorous and seedy world of racetracks. Hill has an insider's knowledge that you can feel as you turn the pages, and she's equally adept at painting the beauty of horse racing as well as its seamy side.

The Dark Side of Town is fast-paced and has scenes in which you'll find yourself holding your breath-- sometimes literally-- but I'm not going to give you any more information about those so the surprises won't be ruined. Even though the overriding theme of the book is horse racing, there's an excellent cast of characters for those readers who enjoy more of a human element in their mysteries. Fia finds herself dealing with the mother who deserted the family when Fia was a child, and there's a young jockey anyone would want to befriend.

Then there's her burgeoning relationship with fellow TRPB employee Calixto. Every time Fia is around this sexy agent, she's so charged up that the Saratoga city fathers should hook her up to the power grid. (Wow...) Now I'm one of those females who doesn't like much romance in her mysteries, but most of the interactions between Fia and Calixto make me smile. I don't know if it's because I'm picturing that Saratoga power grid or what.

A fantastic setting, a complex mystery, chills, thrills, and a solid cast of characters-- let The Dark Side of Town take you across the finish line in style.

The Dark Side of Town by Sasscer Hill
eISBN: 9781250097026
Minotaur Books © 2018
eBook, 320 pages

Law Enforcement, #2 Fia McKee mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Tangled Yarn by Betty Hechtman

First Line: Did I really want to do this?

Casey Feldstein is field testing a new muffin, which isn't a good idea when she's also up to her eyes in preparing for the latest yarn retreat at the Vista Del Mar Hotel. The retreat barely begins when it becomes clear that those attending aren't very happy with learning the chosen arts of arm knitting and finger crochet.

Things go from bad to worse when a travel writer from a neighboring retreat group is found dead in his room. Casey had sworn off doing any more amateur sleuthing, but when one of the owners of the Vista Del Mar pleads for her help, Casey can't say no.

One of the things that I enjoy most about Hechtman's Yarn Retreat series is that she doesn't forget about the "hook," or what made me start reading the series in the first place. (I like to knit.) Not only does the author always include yarn arts in her storyline, she also makes me feel as though I have a good idea of how these yarn retreats work.

This is the first time that a retreat has gone wrong with its choice of classes, although I had serious doubts about combining two trendy arts-- arm knitting and finger crochet-- instead of combining one trendy with one traditional. Having worked in customer service for a long time, I had to smile when Casey had her first two attendees who seemed to pay the fees and show up simply for the pleasure of non-stop complaining. Yes indeed, it's all about how you deal with those folks!

A Tangled Yarn is another example of a trend I've noticed in cozies lately: that of having the main character swearing off amateur investigation yet having a friend guilt/embarrass her into doing it anyway. In some ways, this irks me because it shows that the character has no spine, but that's just me. Regardless of how I feel about trends, there's a good, solid mystery here and a cast of characters I really like. This is another fun entry in one of my favorite cozy series.

A Tangled Yarn by Betty Hechtman
ISBN: 9780425282687
Berkley Prime Crime © 2017
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Cozy Mystery, #5 Yarn Retreat mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


On My Radar: Ragnar Jónasson's The Darkness

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm always on the lookout for a good mystery to read. Having read and really enjoyed Ragnar Jónasson's Dark Iceland quartet set for the most part on the north coast of the island, I perked up considerably when I learned that he has a new series featuring Hulda Hermannsdóttir, a police detective inspector in Reykjavik. Here's what I learned about the first book, The Darkness, which will be available here in the US on October 16, 2018:

Synopsis: "Spanning the icy streets of Reykjavik, the Icelandic highlands and cold, isolated fjords, The Darkness is an atmospheric thriller from Ragnar Jonasson, one of the most exciting names in Nordic Noir.

The body of a young Russian woman washes up on an Icelandic shore. After a cursory investigation, the death is declared a suicide and the case is quietly closed.

Over a year later Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavík police is forced into early retirement at 64. She dreads the loneliness and the memories of her dark past that threaten to come back to haunt her. But before she leaves she is given two weeks to solve a single cold case of her choice.

She knows which one: the Russian woman whose hope for asylum ended on the dark, cold shore of an unfamiliar country. Soon Hulda discovers that another young woman vanished at the same time and that no one is telling her the whole story. Even her colleagues in the police seem determined to put the brakes on her investigation. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

Hulda will find the killer, even if it means putting her own life in danger."

In further reading, I see that the trilogy will be told in reverse chronological order, which will show us Hulda being thrown out to pasture and then gradually going back to show us when she was a young officer. This could be a very interesting way to tell this story, and I'm looking forward to it.

How about you? Does The Darkness tickle your fancy? Inquiring minds would love to know!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Whispers of the Dead by Spencer Kope

First Line: Darkness-- nearly complete.

It's difficult to identify a dead body from just the feet-- at least that's what Magnus "Steps" Craig of the FBI's Special Tracking Unit learns when he walks into the house of a Federal judge in El Paso, Texas. There are no clues as to the identity of the killer, the victim, or the reason behind having the feet inside a cheap styrofoam cooler; the only thing the authorities feel safe in saying is that this isn't the killer's first victim, and probably not his last.

Part of an elite team, Steps is the best tracker in the world, but only three people know that his talent lies in a kind of synesthesia that allows him to see whatever each particular person has touched in a unique color.

With the team still trying to come to grips with the case in El Paso, they discover an earlier victim with the same feet-in-a-cooler presentation-- and somehow they know that the "Ice Box Killer" has just begun.

In 2016, Spencer Kope wowed me with his first Special Tracking Unit mystery, Collecting the Dead, and I'm thrilled to say that he hasn't taken his foot off the gas for Whispers of the Dead. There's a razor-sharp investigation here, as well as a fast pace, and a group of characters who are more like family than mere work colleagues.

The way Kope puts the clues and the investigation together is completely absorbing, partly due to Steps' special gift of synesthesia. An FBI tracker can't go to the police and say, "Here's your killer. I know he did it because he left a dark olive and lime green 'shine' on the body and the murder weapon, and his tracks led right back to his apartment." No, that would be a sure way to get a ride to the psych ward at the local hospital. Steps not only has to interpret the shine-- the unique colors individuals leave on everything they touch-- he has to find the evidence that will hold up in a court of law. It's not always easy, but he and his partner Jimmy Donovan are professionals.

Whispers of the Dead isn't just about the investigation; it's got a very human element. Kope shows the damage a life in this sort of business can cause to a marriage and a thing or two that can be done to make sure this doesn't happen. In addition, he has a way of making you think differently about some of the characters than you think you should. Steps is also coming to realize that he should've told a couple more people about his gift a long time ago. Now it's going to be awkward when he finally does.

Not all readers like continuing storylines in the books they read, and there is one here. The Ice Box Killer investigation is successfully concluded, but there's another killer-- one even more intelligent and dangerous-- who's been taunting Steps for quite some time. Steps calls this killer "Leonardo," and I'm really looking forward to the book when Steps can concentrate on bringing him to justice. I've gone from thinking Spencer Kope's first book is brilliant to knowing that he's creating a fantastic series. Hopefully, you'll join us on the journey (if you haven't already).

Whispers of the Dead by Spencer Kope
eISBN: 9781466884847
Minotaur Books © 2018
eBook, 320 pages

Law Enforcement, #2 Special Tracking Unit mystery
Rating: A
Source: Net Galley