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Angel Killer: A Jessica Blackwood Novel

Andrew Mayne. Harper/Bourbon Street, $14.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-234887-6

Mayne, the star of the A&E show Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne, combines magic and mayhem in this delightful beginning to a new series starring Jessica Blackwood, a talented fourth-generation magician, who has left the family business to work for the FBI. When a hacker dubbing himself Warlock leads agents to a Michigan cemetery, they find a newly dead body that appears to be identical to a girl murdered two years earlier. Faced with a seemingly impossible crime, a high-ranking FBI consultant has Jessica assigned to the case, hoping her expertise in magic can help unmask a killer who seems determined to build his own cult through “miracles.” Initially reluctant to draw on her past, Jessica quickly becomes engrossed in debunking the Warlock’s increasingly flamboyant demonstrations and anticipating his next moves. Readers will look forward to Jessica’s future adventures. Agent: Erica Spellman-Silverman, Trident Media Group. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Death in the Dolomites: A Rick Montoya Italian Mystery

David P. Wagner. Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (236p) ISBN 978-1-4642-0272-8

When Cameron Taylor, an American banker, disappears from Campiglio, a popular Italian ski resort, in Wagner’s serviceable second Rick Montoya mystery (after 2013’s Cold Tuscan Stone), Rick interrupts his vacation to assist Insp. Luca Albani search for him. Rick treats the investigation as a welcome addition to his skiing adventures, but others in Campiglio clearly see him as a threat. Rick is chased down the mountain by a masked man in a snowmobile, and a person who resembles Rick is stabbed outside his hotel. Rick, however, doesn’t let these events hinder his enjoyment of alpine delicacies. The author’s passion for Italian cuisine jumps off the page, though readers hoping for a juicy mystery may be frustrated by the amount of space devoted to detailed descriptions of Rick’s every meal, snack, and degustation. Indeed, the attention reserved for the food brings into sharp focus the comparative lack of attention paid to the actual mystery. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Unnatural Murder: A Josie Corsino Mystery

Connie Dial. Permanent, $29 (296p) ISBN 978-1-57962-369-2

In Dial’s competent third Josie Corsino mystery (after 2013’s Dead Wrong), a transvestite murder victim found near a sleazy hotel, the Regency Arms, turns out to be Patrick/Patricia Kessler, chief of staff for L.A. city councilman Jeff Flowers. Next day, a second killing in the Regency Arms claims former cop Henry Trumbo, found dressed in a bra and panties. LAPD Capt. Josie Corsino’s best detective, Red Behan, is on the case, but his drinking is a problem, as is his relationship with new partner Ann Martin. Pressure from Kessler’s powerful father, Seymour Kessler, and Flowers results in the investigation being taken over by a different division, represented by Sgt. Kyle Richards. In addition to the politically sensitive case, Josie has to deal with problems with her estranged husband, Jake, as well as with her bosses and with her officers. David, her adult son, is a further source of worry. Full of self-doubt but willing to accept consequences, Josie is a refreshingly fallible cop. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Broadchurch

Erin Kelly (based on the TV series by Chris Chibnall). Minotaur, $26.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-250-05550-7

A police officer haunted by failure gets a chance at redemption with a new case in this uninspired novelization of the hit British TV drama’s first season from Kelly (The Burning Air). Det. Insp. Alec Hardy, a newcomer to the close-knit Wessex community of Broadchurch, looks into the strangulation of 11-year-old Danny Latimer. As the position he takes over had been promised to Det. Sgt. Ellie Miller, fresh off maternity leave, there’s tension from the start, exacerbated by Hardy’s brusque personal style. Broadchurch is well off the beaten path, and Ellie, a long-time local, must confront the disturbing possibility than the killer is someone everyone in town knows well. Predictable red herrings abound, even if the solution will surprise many. In the fall, the series will be rebooted as Gracepoint in the U.S., with David Tennant reprising his lead role. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Cinderella Killer: A Charles Paris Novel

Simon Brett. Severn/Creme de la Crime, $28.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-78029-064-5

Charles Paris lands a role in a traditional English Christmas pantomime of Cinderella in Brett’s masterful 19th mystery featuring the middle-aged actor (after 2013’s A Decent Interval). Not everyone cares about doing a traditional pantomime, as the addition of Kenny Polizzi, an American sitcom star, to the cast makes clear. Other cast members include English soap star Tilly Marcus and a remarkably untalented ex-boxer, and director Bix Rogers is interested only in the choreography. Adding to the fun are Kenny’s agent—or is that babysitter?—as well as Lilith Greenstone, his furiously angry estranged wife, and Gloria van der Groot, a wealthy and persistent stalker. Bemused, Charles hangs out with Kenny, whom he likes. Then Kenny falls off the wagon, a dancer disappears, and a body is found under the Eastbourne pier. The backstage scenes crackle with authenticity and wit. And Charles, a bit frayed around the edges, holds it all together. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Silent Murders

Mary Miley. Minotaur, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-05137-0

Miley draws on the unsolved 1922 murder of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor for her absorbing follow-up to The Impersonator (2013). In 1925, former vaudevillian Jessie Beckett is working as a script girl when she receives a dream assignment: temporary assistant to swashbuckling legend Douglas Fairbanks. To her delight, director Bruno Heilmann invites her to a party at his home, where she has a chance encounter with an old family friend. Alas, the friend and Heilmann turn up dead, and two partygoers are poisoned. The authorities sniff suspiciously around Jessie and the shady David Carr after they discover drugs at Heilmann’s house. Jessie and a sharp cop suspect that more lies behind the murders, and Fairbanks is worried about the potential involvement of his alcoholic sister-in-law. Readers will enjoy the novel’s taut climax, cameos by famous and future stars, and a resourceful heroine who uses her acting skills in investigating and escaping from trouble. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Night of the White Buffalo

Margaret Coel. Berkley Prime Crime, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-425-26465-2

At the start of Coel’s compelling 18th mystery set on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation (after 2013’s Killing Custer), a man enters the confessional to tell Fr. John O’Malley he has committed murder, then runs away before the priest can identify him. Weeks later, attorneys Vicky Holden and Adam Lone Eagle find Dennis Carey, who operates a buffalo ranch on the reservation, shot dead in his pickup. His widow, Sheila, reveals that a white buffalo calf, considered sacred to the Plains tribes, was recently born on the ranch. As local authorities prepare for a surge of visitors, Vicky and Father John investigate rumors that several of the Careys’ hired hands have disappeared. When the owner of a local employment agency who sent the missing cowboys to the Carey ranch is shot, they realize they’re up against a merciless killer. Coel deftly inscribes Arapaho tradition and culture into the Western landscape, portraying both the grace and the squalor of reservation life. Agent: Rick Henshaw, Richard Henshaw Group. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Golem of Hollywood

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman. Putnam, $27.95 (560p) ISBN 978-0-399-16236-7

Both Kellermans, father (Killer) and son (Potboiler), have written better books than this muddled supernatural thriller, which may disappoint their fans as well as readers fond of paranormal mysteries. In the spring of 2011, a “hard-domed insect” attacks a serial killer in Prague as he stalks a victim. A year later, Det. Jacob Lev, a wise ass who has been relegated to analyzing data in an LAPD traffic unit, catches a break when he’s assigned to a bizarre murder case. At a house high in the Hollywood Hills, a severed head has been found on the living room floor; a burn mark on a kitchen counter spells out the Hebrew word for justice. In the course of the ensuing murder investigation, Lev repeatedly encounters a strange beetle. Eventually, his search for the truth takes him to Prague. Those looking for profound religious insights will have to seek elsewhere. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Rest Is Silence: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery

James R. Benn. Soho Crime, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-266-2

Benn offers a thrilling mix of fact and fiction in his ninth whodunit featuring Boston cop-turned-army investigator Billy Boyle (after 2013’s A Blind Goddess). On the eve of D-Day, Boyle, who serves on Eisenhower’s staff, travels to Kingsbridge, England, and looks into the death of an unknown man whose corpse washed ashore on a beach. Since the location was used as practice for the amphibious assault that will be launched shortly in France, the higher-ups are concerned that a link may exist between the dead man, who was shot in the head, and the secret invasion plans. A feud among local gangsters that Boyle learns about suggests a less sinister theory, but the path to the truth is appropriately complex. The affable and capable Boyle continues to grow as a character, and Benn effectively uses the impending Allied invasion of Europe as the background for the whodunit plot. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Distance

Helen Giltrow. Doubleday, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-53699-8

In British author Giltrow’s riveting debut, the rich, sophisticated Charlotte Alton is the alter ego of Karla, who operates a high-tech information network. Eight years earlier, Karla established a new identity for Simon Johanssen, a hit man fleeing gangster John Quillan. Now Johanssen wants her help infiltrating the Program, a prisoner-run society in a heavily guarded London neighborhood, to kill inmate Catherine Gallagher. Because Quillan is the most powerful man in the Program, Karla has misgivings about sending Johanssen inside, but reluctantly agrees. She also looks into Catherine’s background but finds no record of a crime, conviction, sentencing, or incarceration—only a year-old missing person report. Meanwhile, Catherine saves Johanssen from Quillan’s sadistic sidekick, and he begins to reconsider the hit. While Johanssen isn’t entirely convincing as a professional killer, the attraction between him and Karla, as well as other unexpected connections between damaged characters, add depth to an already satisfying read. Agent: Gráinne Fox, Fletcher & Company. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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