My favorite TV series are in reruns — oh, Elementary, I think I miss you most of all — and it’s a couple weeks before a new True Detective airs. No worries, though. Many of my favorite crime writers have stepped up with new series entries, so I’m binge reading. First up, Walter Mosley’s And Sometimes I Wonder About You (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley), the fifth in the Leonid McGill series. I like the New York ex-pugilist PI almost as much as his West Coast counterpart, Easy Rawlins, and for sure you want him on your side in a fight. McGill’s cases tangle with his personal life: a femme fatale he’s sleeping with claims her ex-fiance wants the engagement ring back; his son is caught up with a Fagin-like figure running drugs from the city’s underground tunnels; his long-lost activist father turns up to befriend McGill’s wife in a mental ward; and then the client he turned away is murdered. The street-smart detective uses both brain and brawn so all’s well that ends well, at least until the next time he meets a pretty woman on a train.
Elly Griffith’s absorbing The Ghost Fields (Houghton Mifflin, digital galley) takes its title from the abandoned World War II air bases on England’s Norfolk coast. When a downed U.S. military plane is unearthed at a construction site, forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway discovers the skeletal pilot in the cockpit doesn’t belong. DNA identifies him as the black son of the prominent Blackstock family, MIA since the war. Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson’s investigation takes them to secluded Blackstock Hall, to a pig farm on an old ghost field, and to a family pet cemetery, but their findings are complicated by a documentary film company, more human remains, and a storm so fierce that the sea threatens to engulf the land. Then there’s their rocky personal relationship, which dates back some six years to a one-night stand that resulted in 5-year-old Kate. Griffith neatly mixes fascinating history with puzzling mystery, the seventh in the series. Another winner.
After 21 previous books in Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild series, the 22nd, The Body in the Birches (Morrow/Harpercollins, digital galley) has the familiarity of a reunion. But while caterer Faith, her minister husband Tom and their two kids are all on hand for a summer vacation at a Maine island resort, much of the focus is on the neighboring Proctor/McAllister family. The extended clan — including the Fairchild’s former babysitter Sophie Proctor — has gathered after the death of Great-Aunt Priscilla to learn who will inherit the island cottage/estate known as the Birches. This recipe for disaster soon results in a sudden death and then a murder, drawing Faith into the fray. But the suspenseful unmasking of the villain may well surprise you.
Anne Hillerman picked up the pen of her late father Tony Hillerman in 2013’s Spider Woman’s Daughter, carrying on the adventures of married Navajo tribal police officers Bernie Manuelito and Jim Chee, and Chee’s mentor Lt. Joe Leaphorn. In Rock with Wings (HarperCollins, digital galley), Leaphorn is still sidelined after being grievously injured in a previous case, but he’s the one who points the others in the right direction in solving two crimes. While Chee is detailed to provide protection for a movie production company filming on the reservation, Bernie’s routine stop of a speeding car leads to a company that wants to install solar panels on the scenic landscape. A mysterious gravesite and several boxes of dirt also figure in the twisty but exposition-heavy plot.
I was predisposed to really like John Sandford’s Gathering Prey (Putnam/Penguin, review copy) because I’m a longtime Lucas Davenport fan and because this 25th in the series promised to send the Minnesota detective in a new direction. But I’m just lukewarm about this choppy chase narrative that touches down in California, South Dakota,Wisconsin and Michigan as it tracks a murderous gang headed by the enigmatic Pilate. This infamous crook inspires a cult-like devotion in his followers, who deal in drugs and prostitution, and just for the fun of it, prey on the nomadic homeless known as the Travelers. Davenport’s adopted daughter Letty meets two Travelers busking in San Francisco and later learns that one of them has disappeared. Readers know by then that the missing gentle soul has met a terrifying end, described in gruesome detail. There’s more violence but little suspense as Davenport then tries to stop the state-hopping serial killer and company, even if it means going maverick.