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Kill Me, Darling: A Mike Hammer Novel

Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Titan (titanbooks.com), $22.99 (296p) ISBN 978-1-783291-38-0

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Set in 1954, Collins’s seventh posthumous collaboration with Mike Hammer creator Spillane (after 2014’s King of the Weeds) is one of his best, liberally dosed with the razor-edged prose and violence that marked the originals. The New York City PI has hit the bottle hard after his longtime assistant and love, Velda Sterling, abandoned him with a one-word note. Then Mike’s friend on the NYPD, Pat Chambers, tells him that Velda has surfaced in Miami, on the arm of Nolly Quinn, a notorious mob-connected pimp. Mike cleans himself up and heads south to rescue Velda from Quinn, only to find that she doesn’t want to be rescued. Collins faithfully follows Spillane’s successful formula, including frequent gunplay, menacing thugs, and betrayal. He even matches Spillane’s colorful turns of phrase (e.g., “My bullet shattered his smile on its way through him and out of the back of his head”). Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Poison Ivy: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery

Cynthia Riggs. Minotaur, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-05867-6

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Nonagenarian Victoria Trumbull is still active and alert, but the plot of Riggs’s 11th Martha’s Vineyard mystery (after 2011’s The Bee Balm Murders) creaks. Victoria, an acclaimed poet and unlikely police deputy, has agreed to teach a class at tiny, struggling Ivy Green College on the island. The problems between the college’s founder, Thackery Wilson, and the oversight committee appointed by Cape Cod University get worse quickly when a corpse found in a garage crawl space turns out to be wealthy supporter Harlan Bliss. More bodies, some years old, are uncovered, without a clue to the killer. Meanwhile, two students of professor Roberta Chadwick are upset by her handling of their research papers. Victoria does her best to help the students, a floundering Wilson, and the police stop a serial killer with an appetite for academics. While Riggs gets the Vineyard background right, not much of what happens makes a lot of sense. Agent: Paula Munier, Talcott Notch Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Mouth of the Crocodile

Michael Pearce. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8463-3

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Pearce’s 18th mystery set in early 20th-century Egypt (after 2013’s The Bride Box) is his best yet, replete with his dry sense of humor. Gareth Owen, the head of the Khedive’s Secret Police, agrees to protect a royal pasha carrying some sensitive documents after the pasha is attacked on the train he’s riding to Khartoum. The assault is followed by the suspicious death of a member of the pasha’s entourage, who drowns in the Nile. Owen accompanies the pasha, who may not be exactly what he purports to be, on his return train trip to Egypt, but the travelers are stymied by a severe sandstorm that strands them in the middle of nowhere. The investigator is aided by two unlikely, but engaging, younger assistants: Jamie Nicholson, a railway official’s son, and Aisha al-Jawad, a government lawyer’s feisty daughter. This variation on the snowbound train full of suspicious characters is nicely done, and Pearce is adept at subtly injecting the English-Egyptian tensions of the time. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Double Fudge Brownie Murder

Joanne Fluke. Kensington, $26 (356p) ISBN 978-0-7582-8040-4

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Bestseller Fluke’s lively 18th Hannah Swensen mystery (after 2014’s Blackberry Pie Murder) finds the Lake Eden, Minn., baker a murder suspect, after she discovers the dead body of Judge Colfax in his chambers. She has solved plenty of crimes in the past, but can she clear herself? Fortunately, family lawyer Howie can keep her out of jail, and her relatives can operate the bakery while Hannah searches for the real killer. It takes a lot of digging to unravel the mystery of the murder of Judge Colfax, but fortunately she can rely on the help of sisters Michelle and Andrea, as well as an assist from an exciting visitor from her past. In her spare time, Hannah always manages to come up with new recipes for loyal readers to try, close to 20 of them this time. Add the big surprise ending, and fans will be more than satisfied. Author tour. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Witch of Painted Sorrows

M.J. Rose. Atria, $25 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7806-8

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This haunting tale of possession, set in 1894 Paris, from bestseller Rose (The Book of Lost Fragrances) inaugurates a new trilogy. “I did not cause the madness, the deaths, or the rest of the tragedies... I had help.” So says New York socialite and artist Sandrine Salome, who bears the scars of her first traumatic experience with love. At 15, she was caught, naked, with 18-year-old Leon Ferre. When Leon’s father learned of the nature of their relationship, he slapped his son, accidentally triggering a fatal asthma attack in the boy. Ten years later, to escape her treacherous husband, Sandrine flees New York for her grandmother’s home in Paris, where her grandmother reminds Sandrine that the City of Lights is “poison” to her. Sure enough, Sandrine finds herself taken over by the spirit of La Lune, the woman of “moon dreams, of legends and of nightmares.” Fans of literate supernatural suspense will be pleased. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Murder on the Champ de Mars

Cara Black. Soho Crime, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61695-286-0

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Family matters dominate bestseller Black’s absorbing 15th Aimée Leduc investigation (after 2014’s Murder in Pigalle). The baptism party of Aimée’s six-month-old baby, Chloé, is complicated by the arrival of the baby’s biological father, Melac, and by Nicu, an anguished Gypsy boy. Melac and his new wife want to share custody of Chloé. Nicu insists that his dying mother, an old family acquaintance and informant of Aimée’s late father, who ran the detective agency she inherited, has information to share about Aimée’s father’s unsolved murder a decade earlier. Classic spy scenes with an old-fashioned feel—meetings with dramatic figures in the back of cafés, trailing suspicious characters at fashionable parties—brush up against Aimée’s angst at managing life as a working single mother, while modern behavioral sensibilities and high-level politics butt heads with Gypsy traditions. Black imbues Aimée’s personal story with an exotic charm that feels more intimate than foreign. Agent: Linda Allen, Linda Allen Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Werewolf Cop

Andrew Klavan. Pegasus Crime (Norton, dist.), $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60598-698-2

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In this oddly effective supernatural thriller from Klavan (The Identity Man), Det. Zachary Adams, a top investigator on a federal task force, must track down criminal mastermind Dominic Abend, the leader of an international crime syndicate that has achieved total subversion of the European political establishment. Zach discovers that Abend is seeking the location of an ancient dagger with alleged demonic powers. He follows a lead to meet an expert on the dagger, and there the story takes a wild turn as a werewolf attacks Zach and transmits to him its curse. Zach’s own disbelief and bewilderment give way to his determination to use his new state to catch Abend and end the threat of the magical dagger. From this point on, the narrative proceeds with a dreamlike logic to a satisfying and action-filled conclusion, fitting both Zach’s police background and his fantastic transformation into a creature of vengeance. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Too Bad to Die

Francine Mathews. Riverhead, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-59463-179-5

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Mathews (Jack 1939) delivers a literate and sophisticated what-if historical thriller. In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin gather in Tehran, where the ostensible allies must find common ground in the fight against Nazi Germany, despite their mutual mistrust. Alan Turing, the head of Britain’s secret Enigma project, discovers that a German operative known as the Fencer plans to murder all three leaders during the conference, but Turing is able to offer relatively few clues to the Fencer’s identity. The burden of foiling the German agent falls to future James Bond creator Ian Fleming, a Naval Intelligence officer who’s frustrated at having been relegated to desk duty. Fleming’s task is made even more daunting when his superiors view his warning with some skepticism. Mathews makes the historical figures come to life, and even though readers know the Fencer doesn’t succeed, they will be caught up in suspense reminiscent of Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. Agent: Raphael Sagalyn, Sagalyn Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lacy Eye

Jessica Treadway. Grand Central, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4555-5407-2

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In this deftly plotted psychological thriller from Treadway (And Give You Peace), a brutal home invasion leaves Hanna Schutt permanently disfigured and her husband, Joe, dead. The speech-impaired Hanna communicates to the police, via what the press dubs “the Nods,” that the culprit is Rud Petty, the boyfriend of her younger daughter, Dawn. This, in addition to circumstantial evidence, leads to Petty’s conviction. Three years later, Petty has won an appeal, and Hanna is terrified the case will hinge on her faulty memory. College-age Dawn—always an awkward child who was teased mercilessly for her lazy eye—returns to the family home in upstate New York for the first time since the tragedy. It’s common knowledge the prosecution sought to indict her for her role in the attack, but charges wouldn’t stick. Hanna must learn to separate her fierce love for her daughter and the slowly emerging truth about that fateful night. Treadway paints a devastating portrait of a family torn apart from both the outside and within. Five-city author tour. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Stolen Ones

Owen Laukkanen. Putnam, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-399-16553-5

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Early in Laukkanen’s savage, cathartic fourth series crime novel (after 2014’s Kill Fee), Cass County (Minn.) sheriff’s deputy Dale Friesen notices a truck towing a container in a diner parking lot. His suspicions aroused, Friesen orders the truck’s driver to unlock the container door, and two dirty young women try to flee, but only one escapes. Friesen is shot dead, and later Irina Milosovici, a Romanian sex-trafficking victim, is found next to his body holding his gun. Kirk Stevens, of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and his FBI task force partner, Carla Windermere, investigate. Stevens is sure Irina didn’t kill Friesen. Irina is determined to save her younger sister, Catalina, from the clutches of the sex traffickers. Meanwhile, Andrei Volovoi, orchestrator of the slave ring, and his menacing partner, known only as the Dragon, prepare to teach Irina a lesson. Laukkanen deftly mixes sharp social criticism with bleak white-knuckle suspense. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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