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Posts Tagged ‘Louise Penny’

reckoningCable TV shows — Motive, Murder in the First, Major Crimes — got me through the summer, and now it’s back to the books. A flurry of new crime novels last month soon turned into a bit of a blizzard. That’s fine — it’s still hot and steamy here in Florida, and I appreciate the chill of ice and snow, if only on the page.

Winter is not just coming, it’s fast upon the Quebec village of Three Pines in Louise Penny’s A Great Reckoning (St. Martin’s Press, library hardcover). Former Chief Inspector Armand Gamache comes out of retirement to whip the national police academy into shape, searching for long-rooted corruption. An old map literally found in the walls of Three Pines figures into the expertly plotted puzzle, as does the murder of an authoritarian professor, Gamache’s interest in a fierce young cadet, and the almost forgotten lives of World War I soldiers. Loss shrouds the winter-haunted village, but also the possibility of forgiveness. This is my new favorite in the series, right up there with the piercing How the Light Gets In.

brinded-catBooted from boarding school in Canada, intrepid girl detective Flavia de Luce is delighted to be returning home to her crumbling English home Buckshaw in time for Christmas. But what should be a joyous homecoming in Alan Bradley’s clever Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mewed (Ballantine/Random House, digital galley) turns bleak when Flavia learns her beloved father, the Colonel, is in hospital with pneumonia. Unable to be at his bedside, Flavia tears off on an errand aboard her trusty bicycle Gladys and comes upon the body of a woodcarver hanging upside down from his bedroom door. “It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one spirits,” thinks Flavia, seizing on the unusual clue of famous children’s books in the dead man’s possession. The curious cat also on the scene may be the companion of a rumored witch across the road, and that’s just beginning of a curious mystery in need of Flavia’s detecting skills.

sorrowJulia Keller writes atmospheric mysteries set in the mountains of West Virginia, and Acker’s Gap, the hardscrabble hometown of prosecutor Bell Elkins, is practically a character in the series. Sorrow Road (St. Martin’s Minotaur, digital galley) is as chilly as its eye-catching cover, with several snowstorms impeding Bell’s investigation of a law school colleague’s death on an icy road, as well as her daughter Carla’s oral history project for the library. A nursing home where many of the residents have dementia ties several plot points together, including the murder of a staff member and the questionable deaths of several patients. Keller intersperses the present story with a past one about three local boys going off to fight World II and being together on D-Day.

 

wishtrueI grew up in a Charlotte, N.C. subdivision very like fictional Sycamore Glen in Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s The Things We Wish Were True (Lake Union, digital galley), and I can almost smell the chlorine at the neighborhood pool. It’s the social hub during sultry summer days, kids cannon-balling off the diving board, mothers trading suntan lotion and gossip, young teens hanging out. In Whalen’s story, told from multiple points-of-view, an accident at the pool disturbs the seemingly placid surface of Sycamore Glen, revealing secret undercurrents. It’s not a conventional mystery but rather a domestic/neighborhood drama with elements of suspense. Think Liane Moriarty (Truly Madly Guilty) or Lisa Jewell (The Girls in the Garden), only in an all-American small-town. Zell is the middle-aged empty nester who keeps an eye on the single dad next door and knows more than she’s letting on about his runaway wife. Jencey, hunted by a stalker in high school, returns 15 years later, her country-club life in ruins. Her former best friend Bryte is now happily married to Jencey’s high school boyfriend. Then there’s Cailey, the young girl who lives in a rental house, and the older single man across the street who takes care of his elderly mother. Whalen deftly weaves their lives together, and if some events are predictable, others surprise. Things are not what they seem in The Things We Wish Were True, the September selection of the She Reads online book club.

darkestBe happy you weren’t invited to philandering land developer Sean Jackson’s 50th birthday party, which ended in disaster when Coco, one of his three-year-old twins, mysteriously vanished into the night, never to be seen again. This was in 2004, and now in the present day, Mila Jackson, 27, receives word of her estranged father’s scandalous death. All the houseguests at the ill-fated weekend will be at the funeral, except for her stepmother, Claire, who asks Mila to take teenage Ruby, the surviving twin. In The Darkest Secret (Penguin, library paperback), Alex Marwood skillfully uses flashbacks to tease out and eventually reveal (perhaps) what actually happened to young Coco. So readers do wind up at the scene of the crime, so to speak, privy to the bickering between narcissistic Sean and insecure Claire, and where the self-involved adults plan how to keep the handful of kids quiet while they party into the wee hours.  It’s not pretty, nor is the funeral gathering, where someone else ends up dead.

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zigzagSo many mysteries the last month or so. A popular author kicks off a new series, while another chooses to end a longtime favorite. Star turns by trusted detectives, past crimes leading to present-day puzzles, procedurals, capers, a serial killer — or two.

Elly Griffiths, whose Ruth Galloway series is known for its engaging characters, introduces another memorable cast in The Zig Zag Girl (Houghton Mifflin, digital galley), set in 1950 Brighton. Police detective Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto both served in a special ops/disinformation group known as the Magic Men during World War II and reteam as sleuths when someone starts killing people by restaging famous magic tricks. Atmospheric, clever and appropriately tricky. Encore, please.

longlandWith the evocative Long Upon the Land (Grand Central, library hardcover), Margaret Maron brings her long-running Deborah Knott series to a close by circling back to Deborah’s complicated family history as bootlegger Kezzie Knott’s daughter. She marries a contemporary mystery about a dead man found on Kezzie’s North Carolina farm to one with roots in World War II, when Deborah’s mother Susan befriended both a young soldier and widower Kezzie. In both cases, Deborah needs answers from her many older brothers, her aunt and her father, as well as others with long memories. Sweet and bittersweet.

raggedLand is also at the heart of Last Ragged Breath (St. Martin’s Minotaur, advance reading copy), Julia Keller’s fourth entry in her excellent series featuring prosecutor Bell Elkins. A native of the hardscrabble West Virginia mountain town of Acker’s Gap, Elkins is familiar with the area’s history, even if the disastrous 1972 Buffalo Creek flood was before her time. Royce Dillard was only two when he survived the rushing waters that claimed the lives of his parents and more than a hundred other souls, but now the solitary dog-lover’s life is imperiled once again. He is on trial for the murder of an outside developer on his land. The circumstantial evidence points to Dillard, but Elkins has her doubts, well aware of the passions aroused by the dead man and his plans that could forever change Acker’s Gap. Like her protagonist, Keller knows the landscape and its residents. Unlike Elkins, though, she also knows dogs. I fell hard for Goldie.

natureofA boy cries wolf once too often in Louise Penny’s The Nature of the Beast (St. Martin’s Press, library hardcover), a stunning addition to her Inspector Gamache series. I was disappointed by the last one (choppy writing, digressive plot), but this one took my breath away as the isolated Quebec village of Three Pines is invaded by suspicion and betrayal with far-reaching moral consequences. All the familiar characters are on hand, including Henri the dog and Rosa the duck, as Gamache resists peaceful retirement in his search for answers. What little Laurent finds in the woods is real and fearsome.

xgraftonThe only problem with Sue Grafton’s X (Penguin Putnam, digital galley) is that it means we’re nearing the end of her alphabetically titled series starring PI Kinsey Millhone. As always, it’s a treat to watch Kinsey using the old-fashioned tools of the trade circa 1989 to catch criminals. Here, knocking on doors, using library reference books and looking at public records in person has Kinsey figuring out frauds large and small, even as the private files of a late colleague lead to a trail of missing women and a serial killer. Yikes! The colorful characters include a wily divorcee, a slick sociopath and annoying new neighbors for Kinsey and her elderly landlord Henry.

susansThe plot of Julia Heaberlin’s thrilling Black-Eyed Susans (Random House/Ballantine, digital galley) reminds me of an episode of Criminal Minds but minus most of the gory details. In 1995, 16-year-old Tessa was found buried alive under a blanket of black-eyed Susans in a Texas wheat field that served as a grave for three other girls. Tessa, who only has flashes of memory of her traumatic experience, nevertheless testified at the trial of the presumed killer, who was sent to Death Row. Now, with his execution only days away, Tessa reluctantly agrees to help a defense attorney and a forensics expert trying to free the condemned man by finally identifying the other victims. Heaberlin alternates between past and present, piling on the red herrings, and Tessa struggles to recover her memory. The ending’s a bit muddled and unevenly paced, but Heaberlin’s third book will keep you up all night.

marrykissWith its snappy dialogue and cinematic scenes, Marry Kiss Kill (Prospect Park Books, digital galley) reads like a rom-com caper TV movie — no surprise since author Anne Flett-Giordano’s writing and producing credits include Frasier and Hot in Cleveland. With the glitzy Santa Barbara film festival as backdrop, police detective Nola MacIntire and her partner, Tony Angellotti, try to solve the case of a murdered street artist while also looking into the suspicious death of a wealthy businessman. Nothing especially original here, but appealing characters and a spritz of name-dropping make for fast-paced fun.

pargeterKeeping up with so many series means I hardly ever run out of new mysteries to read. A shout-out to the Witness Impulse imprint that introduced me to several excellent writers from across the pond, including Brian McGilloway, whose Lucy Black series is set in Northern Ireland; Mari Hannah, whose Kate Daniels series takes place in Northumbria; and Alison Bruce, whose Gary Goodhew procedurals are set in Cambridge. I also count on British publisher Severn House for witty new tales from Simon Brett, who writes the Charles Paris series and the Mrs. Pargeter books. Severn also publishes new mysteries from American writers (and Facebook friends) Clea Simon and Sarah Shaber.  Recommended all.

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So many mysteries the last month or so. A popular author kicks off a new series, while another chooses to end a longtime favorite. Star turns by trusted detectives, past crimes leading to present-day puzzles, procedurals, capers, a serial killer — or two.

Attention: The above was prematurely published when a cat took over the laptop. I apologize on his behalf. The complete version appears in the next post.

 

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rosegoldIn 1967 Los Angeles, the times keep on a-changing, and Walter Mosley’s detective Easy Rawlins keeps on finding work — or rather it finds him. Not long after the events chronicled in last year’s stellar Little Green, Rose Gold (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley) opens with Rawlins moving house and getting some unexpected help from the police unloading the boxes. That’s because the LAPD wants Rawlins’ help in finding a black activist boxer, who may be involved in the apparent kidnapping of Rosemary Goldsmith, the rebellious college student daughter of a weapons manufacturer. The investigation is all hush-hush — the police don’t want Rawlins talking to Rose’s family, and the FBI and State Department don’t want him on the case at all. He’s not deterred, even when shots are fired at his car, and exchanges favors with some old friends, including a veteran cop who has fallen for a missing grifter. Rawlins looks for her, as well as an abducted child, all the while trailing Rose, her faux-hippie friends and the violent black nationalist group known as Scorched Earth. Mosley mixes pointed social commentary with heart-in-your-throat action sequences, and makes it all look, well, easy. Sweet.

longwayIn Louise Penny’s Long Way Home (St. Martin’s Press, library hardcover), Inspector Armand Gamache has retired as Quebec’s chief of homicide and retreated to the peace of the village of Three Pines. But then neighbor and friend Clara Morrow asks for his help in finding her husband, Peter Morrow, an artist who has been overshadowed by his wife’s success. The two separated for a year, but Peter failed to turn up on the designated reunion date. Finding clues in odd paintings Peter left with a young relative, Gamache and his former colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir trace Peter from Montreal to France to Scotland and back to Canada. Along with Clara and bookstore owner Myrna Landers, he and Beauvoir journey through the wilds of Quebec to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, a desolate spot referred to as the “land God gave to Cain.” Readers of Penny’s previous books will appreciate the intertwining of spiritual and artistic themes and the rich description of both natural and emotional landscapes. But the narrative is unevenly paced, and a profusion of sentence fragments chop it up. And slow it down. Too bad. Really.

dwellWhen a white phosphorous grenade goes off in London’s busy St. Pancras station, killing one man and injuring bystanders, the police first suspect terrorism. This makes Deborah Crombie’s To Dwell in Darkness (Morrow/HarperCollins, digital galley) terribly timely, and tensions remain high even when the explosion is connected to a small group of protesters arguing for architectural preservation. Duncan Kincaid, recently transferred from Scotland Yard to the Camden borough homicide squad, still has a murder to solve, and the key may be a mysterious ex-soldier who was on the scene at St. Pancras. Also on the station platform that day was Melody Talbot,  a friend and colleague of Kincaid’s wife and fellow copper Gemma St. James. Soon, drama on the domestic front involving kids and pets vies with the bomb investigation for the detectives’ attention. It’s to Crombie’s credit that readers are equally invested in the competing storylines. After 16 books, we’ve been through thick and thin with Kincaid and St. James, whose lives are never dull.

distanceHelen  Giltrow delivers a gritty page-turner with her first novel, The Distance (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley), about a high-tech information agent known as Karla who hides behind the identity of London socialite Charlotte Alton. Or is it the other way around? Karla’s an expert at erasing a person’s past and giving them a new identity, something she did for expert sniper Simon Johanssen after a mob hit went wrong eight years ago. Now Simon needs Karla’s help to get inside an experimental prison that’s home to his next target, a woman for whom Karla can find no record, as well as the sadistic mob boss he eluded once upon a time. It’s a  mission fraught with  obstacles and with little chance for success, and pretty much everything that can go wrong does. Be prepared for blood, torture and a high body count.

cinderellaIn Simon Brett’s entertaining The Cinderella Killer (Severn House, digital galley), veteran actor Charles Paris has to explain to American sitcom star Kenny Polizzi  that pantomime is not mime. Rather, the traditional holiday pantos are more akin to vaudeville with numerous stock characters and bits of stage business that the audience expects. Kenny, an amiable if somewhat clueless soul, has a leading role in Eastbourne’s Christmas production of Cinderella, while Charles’ part is much smaller, at least until Kenny falls off the wagon, a dancer disappears and murder makes an entrance. Then Charles plays sleuth, dealing with the inflated egos and eccentric antics of cast, crew and hangers-on. The plot’s on the slight side, but it’s always a pleasure to keep company with Charles, and the details on pantomime’s theatrical traditions are fascinating. A front-row seat on back-stage shenanigans.

 

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lightgetsinHistorical, contemporary, chillers, thrillers, inspired by real events, complete with recipes. So let’s start with Louise Penny’s exquisitely calibrated, triple-plotted How the Light Gets In (St. Martin’s Press, purchased e-book), the ninth in the series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete. Again, Gamache returns to the village of Three Pines, far from the madding crowd without cell phone or internet service. Which makes it a perfect place to retreat when Gamache and his few loyal friends come ever closer to unmasking a great conspiracy within the Surete. Even his once-trusted lieutenant, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, wants Gamache gone. But then an elderly woman with ties to Three Pines is murdered, and Gamache’s investigation reveals she has been living under an alias. What secrets about her famous family was she getting ready to divulge? And what does any of this have to do with a bridge, a satellite dish and Rosa the duck? Gamache knows.
fatalI thought I knew a good bit about the free-spirited Romantics — Percy and Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, his lover (and Mary’s stepsister) Claire, the creation of Frankenstein — until I read Lynn Shepherd’s literary thriller A Fatal Likeness (Random House, digital galley). In 1850s London, private detective Charles Maddox tries to determine the authenticity of secret documents related to Percy Shelley, and meets the poet’s widow and her estranged stepsister in the process. He also uncovers a trail of obssession, jealousy and betrayal that casts a new light on the late poet’s many liaisons, his early death and the authorship of Frankenstein. Shepherd posits a murder (or two) in the mix of suicides and scandals. Fascinating.
blindjusticeVictorian London is also the setting for Anne Perry’s latest William and Hester Monk mystery, Blind Justice(Random House/Ballantine, digital galley), which offers more courtroom drama than detecting. Monk’s friend Sir Oliver Rathbone finds himself presiding over a fraud trial instigated by Hester Monk’s suspicions of a pastor fleecing his flock. When Hester’s reputation is threatened, Sir Oliver must decide whether to use illegal means — a cache of pornographic pictures — to influence the courtroom participants. Will the judge go to jail?
honorWorld War I nurse Bess Crawford is also beset by an ethical dilemma in Charles Todd’s A Question of Honor (Morrow, review ARC). Admist the horrors of trench warfare in 1918, Bess learns that a murder suspect long-thought dead is serving on the front. Ten years ago in India, where Bess spent her childhood, Lt. Thomas Wade went missing when news reached the regiment that he was wanted for the murder of a family in England. Then his parents were murdered on the night he vanished on the Khyber Pass. Because the reputation of Bess’s father’s, the Colonel Sahib, is involved, Bess does her best to find the once highly-regarded Wade while investigating the English family’s murders while on leave. The surprising – and disturbing connection — she makes to her childhood uncovers a secret kept by author Rudyard Kipling, one that also provides motive for murder.
spidercupBritish writer Barbara Cleverly first introduced her series protagonist Joe Sandilands 11 books ago in The Last Kashmiri Rose. His adventures in India were followed by service in WWI. Now, in The Spider in the Cup (Soho Crime, digital galley), it’s 1933 and as an assistant police commissioner, Sandilands is charged with protecting an American diplomat during a global economic conference in London. At the same time, dowsers on the Thames riverbank have found the corpse of a woman in the mudflats. One of her toes has been severed; a gold coin placed in her mouth. By a stretch of the writer’s imagination, the two cases are eventually linked to each other and to Sandiland’s past, but a too-talky narrative undercuts any suspense.
kissmeLottie Moggach explores a very 21st-century crime in her twisty debut, Kiss Me First (Knopf Doubleday/digital galley). Unreliable narrator Leila, a bi-polar computer nerd, discovers a like-minded community on the website Red Pill. Its guru, Adrian, recruits her to impersonate online an unstable woman who wants to commit suicide without her friends and family knowing. So before Tess disappears, Leila gathers personal details, then sets up as bohemian Tess on Facebook and in e-mails, creating a new life for her far away from England. But Leila becomes so invested in Tess and her virtual activities, she fails to detect Adrian’s true agenda.
afterherNovelist and journalist Joyce Maynard uses the true crimes of a Bay Area serial killer as the springboard to explore family dynamics in After Her (HarperCollins/Morrow, digital galley.) “My Sharona” is the soundtrack to the fateful summer of 1979 as remembered 30 years later by mystery writer Rachel Torcelli. She was turning 13 back then and traded on her handsome detective father’s fame hunting the Sunset Strangler to get in with the popular crowd and leave behind her faithful younger sister Patty. But imaginative Rachel can’t let go of the girlhood games they played together, spying on neighbors and making up elaborate scenarios. Living with their divorced, preoccupied mother, and dazzled by their charming dad’s infrequent visits, the sisters get caught up in Rachel’s search for the killer who eludes their father. Maynard adroitly moves back and forth in time, teasing us with the knowledge that Something Terrible happened in 1979 and that history might yet repeat itself.
inthedarkInimitable supercop Kathy Mallory returns in the seductively titled It Happens in the Dark (Penguin USA, library hardcover) by Carol O’Connell. This time, the colorful cast of characters includes the actual cast and crew of a spooky Broadway play, where an audience member died on opening night and the playwright’s throat is slit the next night while he’s sitting in the front row. Clever Mallory displays her usual lack of charm and fashionista style as she navigates theater and police politics to ferret out poseurs, druggies and liars galore. The choppy narrative offers false trails and backstage atmosphere, but whereas the play ended with a scream, the book signs off with a sigh.
enchiladaAltogether lighter and brighter fare can be found in Diane Mott Davidson’s The Whole Enchilada (Morrow, review ARC) and Susan M. Boyer’s Lowcountry Bombshell (Henery Press, digital galley). In the first, Colorado caterer Goldy Shulz is on the case again when her longtime friend Holly dies at a birthday party. Was it something she ate that Goldy made? Relieved to discover that a medication was the culprit, Goldy resolves to find the killer of the doctor’s ex-wife. Holly’s past and present offers plenty of clues as Goldy crafts mouthwatering meals and confronts several life-changing events.

bombshellBoyer’s second Liz Talbot tale finds the South Carolina private eye working for a Marilyn Monroe-lookalike convinced someone is going to orchestrate her death as a suicide. Boyer knows the lowcountry landscape around Charleston — the manners, the talk, the food — and likeable Liz, with her dog Rhett and her divided love interests, would no doubt be best friends with Lindsey Fox of the Caroline Cousins mysteries. (I can say that, being I am one-third of CC and Lindsey’s alter-ego). Looking forward to Liz’s next Lowcountry outing.

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An isolated monastery in northern Quebec, a shabby West Virginia mining town, the ancient city of Fez. Setting plays an integral part in three new crime novels.

In Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery (St. Martin’s press, library hardcover), Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and sidekick Jean-Guy Beauvoir travel north to the wilderness outpost of two dozen cloistered Gilbertine monks, whose amateur CD of Gregorian chants brought them world-wide fame. The CD also has divided the brothers between those who side with the choirmaster in wanting to further capitalize on their divine musical gift, and those who agree with the abbott that preserving their isolation is essential to their tiny order’s preservation. But now the choirmaster is dead in the abbott’s walled garden, presenting a no-exit puzzle for the two detectives, whose investigation is further hampered by the unwelcome arrival of Gamache’s dodgy boss.

In her last novel, A Trick of the Light, Penny explored ambition,  pride and jealousy in the art world; here, the same motives for murder emerge among the monks, all of whom have been recruited for their musical gifts that combine for “the beautiful mystery” of the title. Penny smoothly orchestrates the ensemble cast, detailing the history of plainsong and musical notation, along with asides on chocolate-making and monastic life. Gamache is quietly astute, as usual, but troubled Beauvoir keeps second-guessing his mentor’s methods. A murderer is revealed but not without cost to the Gilbertines — and the detectives. The ninth book in this favorite series can’t come soon enough.

The narrator of Laurie R. King’s A Garment of Shadows (Random House, digital galley via NetGalley) awakes with a headache, not knowing where or who she is. A victim of amnesia, our intrepid heroine will figure out where she is — Fez, in 1924 Morocco — long before she reclaims her identity as Mary Russell, the much-younger wife of Sherlock Holmes, something series readers have known since the get-go. But before the two can be reunited and embark on a daring ride through the desert, Mary will use her wits and fierce intelligence as she dons male Arab garb and seeks her name in the twisting marketplace. Warplanes fly overhead as Britain, France and local political factions tussle over Morocco’s future, and Holmes, in a parallel narrative, is drawn into the intrigue even as he learns Mary is missing. King evokes the period and Arab culture with her vivid writing, and the plot unfolds at  a relentessly suspenseful pace.

The impoverished West Virginia town of Acker’s Gap springs to life in journalist Julia Keller’s first mystery, A Killing in the Hills (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley via NetGalley) when three old men are gunned down in a fast-food restaurant. County prosecutor Bell Elkins’ teenage daughter Clare was a witness to the shooting, but her failure to tell her mother about the figure she glimpsed in the doorway will put both their lives in danger as they pursue separate investigations.

Bell, who has returned to her hometown from Washington, D.C., to crusade against the prescription drug trade that is ravaging the rural county, is a strong and prickly protagonist. As she tries to figure out the perplexing shooting with the sheriff, she also deals with a mentally handicapped man accused of killing a child, the scars of her horrific childhood and the difficulties of being a single mother. Keller builds suspense by moving among the perspectives of Bell, Clare and the hired killer, and then ups the ante with a devastating betrayal. My only quibble is the overuse of similies that mar Keller’s otherwise fine writing.

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When the going gets tough, I read crime fiction. Noir, cozy, thriller, procedural, caper, PI, amatuer sleuth. I like them all. They are my literary potato chips of choice, and I never stop with just one. So when things went south this fall on the homefront, I sought diversion in the pages of books, riding a crime wave that started around Labor Day and is still going strong.

The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Penguin; read digital galley via NetGalley): A celebrated Danish novelist introduces homicide detective Carl Morck, who, after being wounded in a disastrous shooting,  is exiled to Department Q as a special investigator of cold cases. Popular politician Merete Lynngaard vanished five years ago and is presumed dead. (Readers know better). Morck’s quick-step investigation, with the help of his assistant Assad, exposes long-held secrets, but he’s racing against a literal deadline. More of Morck will be welcome.

The Drop, by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown; purchased digital edition): LAPD detective Harry Bosch returns in another socially realistic procedural that tests his puzzle-solving abilities and his belief that “everyone counts, or no one counts.” His investigation into a cold case linking a young boy to a long-ago murder is interrupted when a high-ranking city council member demands that Harry look into the death of his grown son, who fell from the famed Chateau Marmont. Suicide, accident, murder? Both cases follow twisting mean streets, validating Harry’s dislike of “high jingo,”  aka police politics. Meanwhile, he’s looking at forced retirement in three years, worrying over his 15-year-old daughter, dealing with partners old and new, and trying to connect with a troubled woman. Both Bosch and Connelly are such pros. Long may they continue their partnership.

‘V’ is for Vengeance, by Sue Grafton (Putnam; purchased hardcover): Harry Bosch thinks of himself as a dinosaur in a digital age, but PI Kinsey Millhone is really retro. In her 23rd outing, Kinsey is turning 38 in 1988 and sporting raccoon eyes, having once again stuck her newly-broken nose in someone’s else’s business.  But who knew a lingerie sale at Nordstrom’s would lead to a Mob-run shoplifting ring, or a suicide that may be murder, or an errant husband, or a spoiled young gambler willing to bet his life? And then’s the really ruthless guy. Says Kinsey, “I know there are people who believe you should forgive and forget. For the record, let me say I’m a big fan of forgiveness as long as I’m given the opportunity to get even first.” You go, Kinsey.

Wicked Autumn, by G.M. Maillet (St. Martin’s Press; purchased digital edition): On the surface, this English village mystery appears quite cozy. But the handsome vicar is a retired MI5 agent, the head of the Women’s Institute is a poisonous know-it-all, and idyllic Nether Monkslip’s harvest “fayre” ends in murder.  Max Tudor calls on his past to help the authorites ferret out a killer among his parishners and finds his paradise harboring some nasty serpents. This is the beginning of a new series that promises to be crisper than a crumpet and clever as all get out. Mind how you go, dearie.

Three-Day Town by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing; read digital galley via NetGalley): Maron’s two series heroines, North Carolina judge Deborah Knott and NYPD detective Sigrid Harald, meet for the first time, and it turns out they’re sort of kin, dontcha know?! Deborah and her new sheriff’s deputy husband Dwight are on a belated honeymoon in wintry Manhattan when someone is murdered in their borrowed apartment. Missing is the mysterious maquette that Deborah’s delivering to Sigrid’s family per an elderly relative’s dying wish. It may have been the reason for the murder, or the murder weapon. Maron seamlessly shifts perspectives among her characters and ups the suspense in the subterranean depths of the apartment building. South meets North, and readers win in this holiday treat.

A Trick of the Light, by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s Press; read hardcover library copy): Penny’s astute detective Armand Gamache is involved in another intriguing mystery in the charming Canadian village of Three Pines. Several familiar series characters are on hand when the body of an art critic is found in a garden after an exhibition-night party. Several are suspects with mixed motives to spare. Penny artfully tells a tricky-indeed tale with characteristic warmth and wit. I was laughing aloud at some of the funny bits, and then was moved by the poignant passages on love and loss.

The Vault, by Ruth Rendell (Scribner; read digital galley from publisher): I’ve always thought Rendell’s 1999 novel A Sight for Sore Eyes to be one of her creepier psychological outings. The ending, with three bodies entombed in a basement vault of a London house, is a nightmarish stunner worthy of Poe. It doesn’t need a sequel, but Rendell has crafted a grimly entertaining one starring Inspector Wexford, restless in retirement. Picturesque Orcadia Place, made famous in a painting of a rock star and his girlfriend, is undergoing renovations by new owners when the tomb in the garden is discovered. There are four bodies — three dating back at least a decade, and another one about two years. Wexford’s roundabout involvement in identifying the remains and solving the crimes is confusing and a tad tedious at times; I remembered just enough of the first book to keep tripping over details, making me wish I had reread it before beginning the sequel. A Sight for Sore Eyes remains a stand-out stand-alone. The Vault is icing on the cake.

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