Wednesday, January 27, 2021

February 2021 New Mystery Releases!


I seem to be stuck in domestic engineer mode, probably because I'm still sheltering at home. So I knit up a storm on three different projects, stab at a needlepoint canvas thousands of times (it's a large project), and plot changes to the decor in various rooms of the house. 

Am I still reading? 

Do you really need to ask that question? Even though my attention span seems to be stunted, I'm still reading, and-- like a magpie-- I'm still looking for shiny new books to read.

I've grouped my picks of the best new crime fiction being released throughout the month of February by their release dates. Book covers and synopses are courtesy of Amazon.

Now it's time to see if I've chosen any books that tickle your fancy, too!
=== February 1 ===
Title: Water Memory
Author: Daniel Pyne
Series: #1 Aubrey Sento thriller set aboard a cargo ship headed for South America.  
351 pages
Synopsis: "Black ops specialist Aubrey Sentro may be one concussion away from death. But when pirates seize the cargo ship she’s on, she must decide whether to risk her life to save her fellow passengers.

Sentro’s training takes over, and she’s able to elude her captors, leaving bodies in her wake. But her problems are just getting started. Her memory lapses are getting more frequent, symptoms of serial-concussion syndrome.

As she plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with the pirates, she pushes herself to survive by focusing on thoughts of her children. She’s never told them what she really does for a living, and now she might not get the chance.

While her memories make her vulnerable, motherhood makes her dangerous."
=== February 2 ===
Title: The Survivors
Author: Jane Harper
Standalone thriller set in Australia.
384 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...
Title: The Sharpest Needle
Series: #4 in the Lillian Frost & Edith Head historical mystery series set in 1930s Los Angeles.
240 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "1939, Los Angeles. Marion Davies has a problem. The actress has received poison pen letters highlighting an embarrassing event in her past from the mysterious 'Argus'. Can Lillian Frost and her friend and partner-in-crime, celebrated costume designer Edith Head, expose the writer before they expose Marion? Lillian's boss, millionaire inventor Addison Rice, seems to think so, but when Lillian speaks to her idol, Marion is reluctant to reveal her secrets, fearful of jeopardizing her affair with newspaper tycoon W.R. Hearst.

Is a prankster simply trying to tarnish the reputation of one of Hollywood's leading ladies, or is something more sinister going on behind the scenes? As Lillian and Edith are drawn into increasingly dangerous and disturbing territory, their enquiries take an unexpected and stunningly dark twist . . .

Title: The Unwilling
Author: John Hart
Standalone thriller set in North Carolina.
384 pages 
Synopsis: "Gibby's older brothers have already been to war. One died there. The other came back misunderstood and hard, a decorated killer now freshly released from a three-year stint in prison.

Jason won't speak of the war or of his time behind bars, but he wants a relationship with the younger brother he hasn't known for years. Determined to make that connection, he coaxes Gibby into a day at the lake: long hours of sunshine and whisky and older women.

But the day turns ugly when the four encounter a prison transfer bus on a stretch of empty road. Beautiful but drunk, one of the women taunts the prisoners, leading to a riot on the bus. The woman finds it funny in the moment, but is savagely murdered soon after.

Given his violent history, suspicion turns first to Jason; but when the second woman is kidnapped, the police suspect Gibby, too. Determined to prove Jason innocent, Gibby must avoid the cops and dive deep into his brother's hidden life, a dark world of heroin, guns and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

What he discovers there is a truth more disturbing than he could have imagined: not just the identity of the killer and the reasons for Tyra's murder, but the forces that shaped his brother in Vietnam, the reason he was framed, and why the most dangerous man alive wants him back in prison.

This is crime fiction at its most raw, an exploration of family and the past, of prison and war and the indelible marks they leave.

Title: Murder Ink
Series: #1 in the Writer for Hire cozy series set in Chicago.
208 pages
Synopsis: "Veronica Blackstone is a writer for hire. Be it love letters, biographies, resumes or wedding vows, Veronica has you covered. Her latest assignment is writing a celebration of life book for the funeral of one-time client Rachel Ross who tragically died one year after her wedding.

While researching Rachel's life, Veronica finds the information surrounding the circumstances of her death to be shrouded in mystery. No one quite knows what happened and her prominent family are more concerned with their image than the truth.

Was Rachel's life as perfect as it seemed or was there something dark going on? Was her fall an accident, deliberate or something else? In celebrating the life of Rachel, Veronica is determined to get to the bottom of her death.
Title: Valentino Will Die
Author: Donis Casey
Series: #2 in the Bianca Dangereuse Hollywood Mysteries historical series set in Los Angeles.
208 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "Though Bianca LaBelle, star of the wildly popular silent movie serial "The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse", and Rudolph Valentino, the greatest screen idol of all time, have been friends for years, in the summer of 1926 they are making their first picture together, a steamy romance called Grand Obsession. One evening after dinner at Bianca's fabulous Beverly Hills estate, a troubled Rudy confesses that he has received anonymous death threats. In a matter of days, filming comes to an abrupt halt when Rudy falls deathly ill. Could it be poison?
As Rudy lies dying, Bianca promises him that she will find out who is responsible. Was it one of his many lovers? A delusional fan? Or perhaps Rudy had run afoul of a mobster whose name Bianca knows all too well? She calls on P.I. Ted Oliver to help her investigate the end of what had seemed to be the charmed life of Valentino."
=== February 9 ===
Title: The Burning Girls
Author: C.J. Tudor
Standalone thriller set in England.
352 pages
Synopsis: "A dark history lingers in Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, Protestant martyrs were betrayed—then burned. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And a few weeks ago, the vicar of the local parish hanged himself in the nave of the church.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping for a fresh start. Instead, Jack finds a town rife with conspiracies and secrets, and is greeted with a strange welcome package: an exorcism kit and a note that warns, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”

The more Jack and daughter, Flo, explore the town and get to know its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into the age-old rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo begins to see specters of girls ablaze, it becomes apparent there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

Uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village with a bloody past, where everyone has something to hide and no one trusts an outsider.
=== February 16 ===
Title: Missing and Endangered
Author: J.A. Jance
Series: #19 in the Sheriff Joanna Brady series set in Arizona.
384 pages
Synopsis: "When Jennifer Brady returns to Northern Arizona University for her sophomore year, she quickly becomes a big sister to her new roommate, Beth Rankin, a brilliant yet sheltered sixteen-year-old freshman. For a homeschooled Beth, college is her first taste of both freedom and unfettered access to the internet, and Jenny is concerned that she’s too naïve and rebellious for her own good.

Her worries are well-founded because one day Beth vanishes, prompting Jenny to alert campus authorities, local police, and her mom, Sheriff Joanna Brady—who calls in a favor. Beth is found, but Jenny’s concern has unwittingly put her in the crosshairs of a criminal bent on revenge. 

With Christmas vacation approaching, and Beth at war with her parents, Jenny invites Beth to the shelter of the Brady home. While Joanna is sympathetic, she’s caught up in a sensitive case—an officer-involved shooting that has placed the lives of two young children in jeopardy—leaving her stretched thin to help a fragile young woman recently gone missing and endangered."
Title: Black Coral
Author: Andrew Mayne
Series: #2 in the Underwater Investigation Unit police procedural series set in Florida.
319 pages
Synopsis: "Sloan McPherson and the Underwater Investigation Unit have discovered a van at the bottom of a murky Florida pond. Sealed inside the watery tomb are the bodies of four teenagers who disappeared thirty years ago after leaving a rock concert. To authorities, it looks like a tragic accident. To Sloan, it looks like murder. Every piece of evidence is starting to connect to a string of cold case vanishings throughout Florida. Clue by clue, Sloan navigates the warm, dark waters where natural predators feed, knowing that the most dangerous one is still above the surface—nesting and dormant.
But when a fresh young kill is found in the Everglades, Sloan fears that her investigation has reawakened a monster. How can she catch someone who’s a genius at hiding in plain sight? By acting as prey. The dangerous gambit is working—only too well. She’s being lured into a deception of the madman’s own design. Has Sloan set a trap for a serial killer? Or has he set one for her?

Title: The Diabolical Bones
Author: Bella Ellis
Series: #2 in the Brontë Sisters historical mystery series set in England.
336 pages
Synopsis: "Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters— Anne, Emily, and Charlotte—are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They’re also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.
Tabby says it's bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumour attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they've been lured right into it...

=== February 23 ===

Title: Nighthawking
Author: Russ Thomas
Series: #2 in the Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler  series set in England.
384 pages
Synopsis: "Under the dark cover of night, a figure climbs over the wall of the Botanical Garden with a bag and a metal detector. It's a dicey location in the populous city center, but they're on the hunt--and while most of what they find will be worthless, it takes only one big reward to justify the risk. Only this time, the nighthawker unearths a body. . . .

Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler and his newly promoted protégé, Detective Constable Amina Rabbani, are officially in charge of Cold Case Reviews. But with shrinking budgets and manpower in the department, both are shunted onto the murder investigation--and when the victim is identified as a Chinese national from a wealthy family, in the UK on a student visa, the case takes on new urgency to prevent an international incident.

As Tyler and Rabbani dig further into the victim's life, it's becomes clear there's more to her studies and relationships than meets the eye, and that the original investigation into her disappearance was shoddy at best. Meanwhile, someone else is watching these events . . . someone who knew the victim, and might hold the key to what happened the night she vanished.

Title: The Ancient Dead
Series: #4 in the Amanda Doucette amateur sleuth series set in Canada.
344 pages
*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books.
Synopsis: "Photographer Todd Ellison is engrossed in a photo shoot deep in Alberta’s dinosaur country when he stumbles upon human bones buried in the sand of a remote coulee. Not far away, while driving through the Alberta prairie, Amanda Doucette glimpses an abandoned farmhouse that reminds her of an old photograph hanging on her aunt’s wall.

Who is the cocky young cowboy in the photo? Could it be connected to Amanda’s uncle, who went missing in Alberta thirty years ago? As Amanda starts to make connections between his disappearance and the body in the coulee, she discovers more questions than answers. To make matters worse, a mysterious person will stop at nothing to get her to abandon the investigation.
Title: Smoke
Author: Joe Ide
Series: #5 in the IQ (Isaiah Quintabe) P.I. series set in California.
336 pages
Synopsis: "Isaiah Quintabe is no longer IQ, the genius of East Long Beach; instead, he’s a man on the road and on the run, hiding in a small Northern California town when his room is broken into by a desperate young man on the trail of the state’s most prolific serial killer.
His old partner, Juanell Dodson, must go straight or lose his wife and child. His devil’s bargain? An internship at an LA advertising agency, where it turns out the rules of the street have simply been dressed in business casual, but where the aging company’s fortunes may well rest on their ability to attract a younger demographic. Dodson—”the hustler’s hustler”—just may be the right man for the job.
Ide is the crime writer’s crime writer, and he’s filled his best novel yet with desperate souls, courageous outcasts, an ex-stripper who’ll do anything to protect her son, and wild half-brothers who may be the very incarnation of evil.
With deft plotting, lacerating humor, and a keen eye for the ways in which characters rise or fall based on their ties to one another, Smoke is Joe Ide’s crowning achievement.
I think it's safe to say that February shows a decided embarrassment of riches, don't you?
Which titles tickled your fancy? Inquiring minds would love to know!


  1. Oh, looks like some nice ones coming down the road, Cathy. I like John Hart's work, and a new Jance is always a good thing. I keep hearing such good things about the Harper, too. It does sound excellent.

    1. I love months where there are so many excellent books to choose from!

  2. Wow! Lots of good books here, several of which are already on my list. And I'm madly adding more. It's been many years since I read a Joanna Brady book. I like the sound of this one and may just skip over the unread and pick up this one. That's allowed, right? LOL

  3. Lots of good books. Look forward to The Survivors and new Sujata Massey, Elly Griffiths.
    Just read a humdinger of a mystery: The Red, Red Snow, by Scottish writer Caro Ramsey. Tight writing, complicated plot, obviously written by a very smart author, and ascerbic wit. I feel like I had a workout, but it was worth it. Usually her books are set in Glasgow, but this one is mainly set in the highlands.

    1. I've always meant to read Caro Ramsey. In fact, I think I have one of her books on my TBR shelves. And you know you had me at one word: "highlands."

  4. The Survivors was already on my radar - and my library hold list :). But I had not heard about Smoke - I'm excited for the next installment of IQ's story!

  5. I knew "highlands" would get you. And it's a variation on a locked-room mystery. It's a locked-house mystery in the midst of a huge snowstorm and freezing weather. But to follow Caro Ramsey's mind if a workout. Not a cozy. Nope. A real maze unraveling step by step. The cops Anderson and Costello are characters, too, not just investigators. And then suddenly, this wit comes out of nowhere. I will read more of her books. Some look really violent, so I'll choose carefully. And I have to rest beforehand because I felt exhausted following the plot.

    1. I have the first book in the series on my TBR shelves. I'll have to move it up.

  6. The series is mostly set in Glasgow, I gather. The Red, Red Wood is set mostly in the Highlands as it takes place in a house where people are murdered, but there are no footsteps in the snow.


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