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Secrets and Shamrocks: A Jordan Mayfair Mystery

Phyllis Gobbell. Five Star, $25.95 (302p) ISBN 978-1-4328-3234-6

Gobbell’s enjoyable sequel to 2015’s Pursuit in Provence takes Savannah, Ga., architect Jordan Mayfair and her travel writer uncle, Alex Carlyle, to Ireland, the home of longtime friends Colin and Grace O’Toole, who run a bed and breakfast in the quaint little town of Thurles. On arrival at the Tooles’ house, Jordan and Alex learn from a fellow guest that the Tooles’ two-year-old grandson, Jimmy, is missing. When the toddler soon appears, Colin declines to answer Jordan’s question about where the boy has been. Unfortunately, Jimmy is kidnapped from his crib a week later. Meanwhile, the Tooles’ troubled daughter, Bridget, who’s Jimmy’s mother, has gone off to stay with a woman who lives in a cottage in the woods and believes in leprechauns. When James Malone, Bridget’s doctor, turns up dead, Bridget becomes a prime suspect in his murder. Jordan’s keen knowledge of architecture and history comes in handy in her efforts to uncover the truth. Fans of travel cozies will find plenty to like. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Rwandan Hostage

Christopher Lowery. Urbane (IPG, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-1-910692-96-7

Set over a period of 10 days in July 2010, the second volume in British author Lowery’s African Diamonds trilogy (after 2015’s The Angolan Clan) will work best for thriller fans who don’t mind extremely convoluted plots. Mystery author Emma Stewart has taken her 15-year-old son, Leo, from the U.K. to Johannesburg for the World Cup final as a special treat. When Leo disappears, Emma finds the authorities’ handling of the case suspicious. Emma’s worst fears come true when she learns that Leo has, in fact, been abducted, and she turns to her sister back in England, Jenny Bishop, who has the financial assets to help with any ransom demand. Fortunately, Leo manages to stay alive while Emma and her allies try to determine the motive behind the crime, which has its roots in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, though this background is underdeveloped. Readers should be prepared for some improbable actions (e.g., the kidnappers wait days before warning Emma not to contact the authorities). (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Seven Times Dead

Roy Chaney. 280 Steps, $16.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-82-8355-012-2

Near the start of Chaney’s disappointing sophomore effort (after The Ragged End of Nowhere, which won the Tony Hillerman Prize), salesman Richard Slade, who peddles his American company’s pesticides in Europe, decides to visit his friend Septimus Morgan in Nice, France. While he’s waiting in a bar for Septimus, a woman sits on the stool next to him and asks for a cigarette. When Slade refuses to give her one, she sticks a gun in his side and repeats her request. She soon leaves the bar, but not before slipping a flash drive in his pocket. This puzzling episode is followed by a rude visit from the French police, who ask about the woman in the bar. Slade says nothing about the mysterious flash drive and begins a series of misadventures in which he’s caught in a kidnapping attempt, seeks help from the U.S. consul, and is taken captive by a brutal smuggler. He also becomes a pawn in a high-stakes game involving a Russian criminal gang known as the Rising Sun, the British Secret Intelligence Service, the CIA, and the French police. Chaney’s Kafkaesque tale never manages to gather much steam as Slade struggles to escape and to find answers. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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A Fine House in Trinity

Lesley Kelly. Sandstone (Dufour, dist.), $16 trade paper (302p) ISBN 978-1-910124-95-6

Joseph “Stainsie” Staines, the down-on-his-luck hero of British author Kelly’s comical but flat debut, left Edinburgh with cash in his pocket and the tally book of the much-feared Isabella Stoddart in his possession. Now the money is gone, Isabella—the mother of Lachie, Stainsie’s childhood thug pal—is dead, and Stainsie is the heir. Except it’s not money he’s getting but a rundown mansion in the city’s posh Trinity section, the perfect spot for a guy with no place to stay to crash—and an excellent spot for the police to find a corpse. Stainsie, who seems to have run afoul of the whole of Edinburgh, must not only persuade the police he had nothing to do with the deaths of Isabella and the woman found in the Trinity mansion, or Lachie, who appears to have committed suicide under suspicious circumstances, but also find the real killer if he has any hope of inheriting more than a crumbling house. Kelly peppers her tale with flashbacks of Stainsie’s youth with the fearsome Stoddart clan, but even his colorful memories aren’t enough to buoy the lackluster current-day story. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Angel: A Grand and Batchelor Victorian Mystery

M.J. Trow. Crème de la Crime, $28 (224p) ISBN 978-1-78029-089-8

Was Charles Dickens’s death on June 9, 1870, at his country retreat in Kent actually a murder? That’s the question facing enquiry agents Matthew Grand and James Batchelor in Trow’s ambitious if uneven third Victorian mystery (after The Circle). When George Sala, Dickens’s garrulous biographer, asks Grand and Batchelor, whose motto is “no stone unturned,” to investigate, they leap into action. Improbably, Dickens’s staff and family members are soon opening up to Grand and Batchelor, as the police grumble. Two men sharing lodgings in London, investigating crimes while enjoying an uneasy relationship with Scotland Yard, invites an obvious comparison to Holmes and Watson, but Grand and Batchelor fall short of Conan Doyle’s high standard. More successful is Trow’s arch and witty tone and a plunge into the delightfully cutthroat publishing scene of Victorian London, where all loudly mourn Dickens while privately saying that the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood definitely wasn’t his best. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Leadfoot: A Rumrunners Novel

Eric Beetner. 280 Steps, $15.95 trade paper (220p) ISBN 978-82-8355-004-7

Set in Iowa in 1971, Beetner’s prequel to 2015’s Rumrunners combines brutal violence with sympathetic characters. Calvin McGraw, a gifted driver whose talents are much in demand, can’t shake his affiliation with the Stanleys, “a family who would call themselves a criminal empire.” The Stanleys are enmeshed in a blood feud with their hated rivals, the Cantrells, and the bodies have begun to pile up. Hugh Stanley, the clan’s leader, assigns Calvin to pick up a package in St. Louis that’s actually a young woman, Joni, who’s 20 years old at most, but circumstances force Hugh to pass that duty on to his 19-year-old son, Webb. This is the first solo mission for Webb, who finds it more challenging than he anticipated once he develops feelings for Joni. The stakes rise after Joni gives Webb the slip. Various characters display unexpected but plausible depths, and Beetner effectively balances action scenes with quieter moments. Readers, especially fans of the TV series Fargo, will want to seek out his other work. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Reykjavik Assignment: A Yael Azoulay Novel

Adam Lebor. Harper, $15.99 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-233003-1

Lebor’s overstuffed final book in his trilogy featuring United Nations covert negotiator Yael Azoulay (after 2014’s The Washington Stratagem) takes Yale from Istanbul to New York City, where she has to deal with an array of problems, past and present, personal and professional. First off, she’s being followed by operatives from an old enemy, Clarence Clairborne, the head of a shadowy security firm implicated in a recent attempt to assassinate the U.S. president. Meanwhile, a top U.N. official has just been gunned down on the street and another wounded. Suspicion seems to be falling on Iranian agents. Yael is also starting to pick up disturbing rumors about the mysterious death of her brother many years ago in Rwanda. To top it all off, Yael, now 36, is agonizing over her many romantic misfortunes and wondering why she can’t attract a steady lover. Other subplots abound, and many readers will be confused about what to keep their eye on. They may also grow irritated by the author’s overuse of cliff-hangers. Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman, William Morris. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Odessa Sea

Clive and Dirk Cussler. Putnam, $29 (496p) ISBN 978-0-399-57551-8

On the Black Sea, the setting for bestseller Cussler’s intricately plotted 24th Dirk Pitt adventure, the seventh coauthored with son Dirk (after 2014’s Havana Storm), a Russian freighter has encountered a deadly mystery that has killed almost everyone aboard. Fortunately, Dirk and his crew aboard the Macedonia, an oceanographic research ship, are nearby, allowing Dirk and pal Al Giordino to investigate. After Dirk and Al rescue a lone crew member, a small explosion on the stern sends the freighter to the bottom of the sea. Ana Belova, a special investigator with Europol, and her partner, Lt. Petar Ralin, from the Bulgarian Organized Crime Directorate, assist Dirk and company in the hunt for Martin Hendriks, a Dutch businessman who’s working a complicated deal with the Russians to acquire a nuclear weapon. The pages whip by as the characters, at least the good guys, survive one deadly encounter after another, and the bad guys get their comeuppances. Readers will anxiously await Dirk’s next adventure. Agent: Peter Lampack, Peter Lampack Agency. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Michael Connolly. Little, Brown, $29 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-22594-6

Bestseller Connolly’s canny detective, Harry Bosch, remains a compelling lead, but even longtime fans may feel that his creator gives him a few too many fortuitous breaks in his 21st outing (after 2015’s The Crossing). Bosch’s long career with the LAPD is a thing of the past, and he now divides his time between PI work and pro bono service as a reserve police officer for the city of San Fernando. He gets involved in an apparently impossible case for an extremely wealthy client, Whitney Vance, who pays Bosch $10,000 just to agree to a meeting. The 85-year-old Vance asks Bosch to find out, in complete secrecy, what became of the woman Vance impregnated 65 years earlier and who disappeared from his life almost immediately afterward. The billionaire, who believes he is nearing his end, hopes the investigator can ascertain whether he has a living heir. Though the trail is beyond cold, Bosch lucks into a solid lead. The multiple contrivances significantly diminish the plot. Agent: Philip Spitzer, Philip G. Spitzer Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Footprints to Murder

Marcia Talley. Severn, $28.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8646-0

In Talley’s well-plotted 15th Hannah Ives mystery (after 2015’s Daughter of Ashes), Hannah agrees to help her former college roommate Susan Lockley, the owner/manager of an event-planner service, put on the Sasquatch Sesquicentennial in Flat Rock, Ore. The conference attracts such folks as debunker Martin Radcliffe of TV’s Don’t You Believe It!, adventurer Randall Frazier (whom Susan calls a “superannuated Indiana Jones”), and cryptozoologist true believer Jim Davis, who has developed a surveillance system using leftover equipment from a defunct Radio Shack franchise. At convention headquarters in Flat Rock Mountain Lodge, Hannah meets retired cop Jake Cummings, who monitors a Bigfoot-sightings database. After a possible Sasquatch sighting, Hannah and Jake discover Radcliffe’s body in the woods. In the subsequent murder investigation, Hannah helps Det. Lt. Barbara Cook weed out a large roster of potentially dangerous suspects. Citations regarding unusual humanoid creatures, most dating to the late 19th century, head each chapter of this entertaining entry. Agent: Vicky Bijur, Vicky Bijur Literary Agency. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 09/30/2016 | Details & Permalink

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