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The Shivering Turn: A Jennie Redhead Mystery

Sally Spencer. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8667-5

Set in Oxford, England, in May of 1974, this witty series first from Spencer (Death in Disguise and 10 other Monika Paniatowski mysteries) introduces Jennie Redhead, a private investigator with a competent Upper Second degree in English literature from Oxford University and six years’ experience working for the Thames Valley Police. Jennie is a classic fictional detective: idealistic and not afraid of a fight (she’s proficient in karate). But she’s also a well-rounded female character, with a wry sense of humor. The narrative entwines the fun of a literary puzzle and insight into the workings of the university with slam-bang action. It begins with Jennie reluctantly accepting a case from a distraught mother, who fears her missing 17-year-old daughter may be dead. Jennie’s search for the truth takes in every stratum of Oxford life, including seedy pubs, grim police stations, and that temple of knowledge the Bodleian Library. Anglophiles will find much to like. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Long Time Lost

Chris Ewan. Minotaur, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-250-11739-7

Former lawyer Kate Sutherland, the heroine of this disappointing thriller from Ewan (Dark Tides), is in witness protection on the Isle of Man, waiting to testify against Russell Lane for murder. Russell’s rich sociopath brother, Connor, would rather see her dead, and he has the resources to find her. She manages to kill the man sent to eliminate her and escape into what she hopes is a more secure hiding place, with the aid of Nick Miller and his skilled crew. Miller himself is one of the vanished, unable even to reappear long enough to clear his name in the killing of his wife and children. Things start to unravel immediately as others under Miller’s protection are exposed and threatened, and he and Kate run from one end of Europe to the other to attempt to protect them. An overabundance of unrealistic scary situations heighten the suspense but make the action hard to follow. The continuous high threat level drains the reader’s emotions, resulting in far too much of what could have been a good thing. Agent: Vivien Green, Sheil Land Associates (U.K.). (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Vanquished: A Bruno Johnson Novel

David Putnam. Oceanview, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-60809-216-1

In Putnam’s action-packed fourth Bruno Johnson novel (after 2016’s The Squandered), the ex-cop must once again leave his home in Costa Rica and return to Los Angeles, where the members of the Sons of Satan, an outlaw motorcycle gang with whom he tangled previously, are making trouble. Flashbacks to 1988 chart the story of Johnson’s partnership and affair with police trainee Sonja Kowalski and that affair’s tragic end. Back in the present, Bruno receives an unexpected phone call from Sonja. Bruno’s feisty, pregnant wife, Marie, accompanies Bruno to L.A., where Bruno reconnects with Karl Drago (who two decades earlier helped him take down the Sons of Satan), Sonja, and eventually FBI special agent Dan Chulack, who needs his assistance in a case involving the theft of a military drone and four Hellfire missiles. Putnam combines some surprising facets of Bruno’s past with some startling betrayals and plenty of violence. Agents: Mike and Susan Farris, Farris Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma

Larry Millett. Univ. of Minnesota, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5179-0086-1

Sherlock Holmes returns to center stage in Millett’s outstanding eighth historical set in Minnesota after playing a supporting role in 2014’s Strongwood. In 1892, Holmes, who was believed to have perished in a struggle with Professor Moriarty, found himself in Bavaria, where he speedily identified a killer called the Monster of Munich, though his quarry escaped. In 1920, the detective, who’s battling emphysema caused by decades of smoking, is about to return to London from a visit to the Mayo Clinic, when he discovers a taunting note under his hotel room door. The anonymous author of the cryptic missive promises him a second chance to catch the Monster of Munich if Holmes will meet him in nearby Eisendorf, a community founded by German immigrants. Before arriving in the eccentric town, Holmes learns of some recent suspicious deaths, which, despite his declining health, he also attempts to solve. Millett does a superb job of portraying Holmes without the familiar Watsonian narration and creating a creepy setting for his inquiries. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Where the Lost Girls Go: A Laura Mori Mystery

R.J. Noonan. Crooked Lane, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-62953-773-3

Set in Sunrise Lake, Ore., this uneven series launch from Noonan (All She Ever Wanted as Rosalind Noonan) introduces rookie cop Laura Mori, who’s a bit of a fish out of water but eager to show what she can do. Mori becomes the lead officer in the case of an unidentified teenager killed in a fiery car wreck; the victim might be the missing 17-year-old daughter of Sunrise Lake’s most famous citizen, mystery writer Kent Jameson. In addition, Mori is at odds with the members of her traditional Japanese family, who don’t like her career choice. At 24, Mori has yet to move out of the family home. Meanwhile, her boss is on a mission to root out police corruption. And then there’s the deepening mystery of the lost girls of the title, runaway teens who go to Portland and subsequently disappear. Noonan tries to cover too many issues in a story whose multiple viewpoints don’t cohere until halfway through the book. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The English Agent

Phillip DePoy. Minotaur, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-05843-0

In DePoy’s middling second Christopher Marlowe mystery (after 2016’s A Prisoner in Malta), Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s spymaster, dispatches the playwright to Delft, Holland, to save the life of William the Silent, the “prime mover of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish.” Walsingham has learned of an assassination plot aimed at William, the success of which would have worldwide consequences. Marlowe teams with a formidable ally, Leonora Beak, a relative of the queen, and also Walsingham’s daughter, Frances. Marlowe eventually learns that the murderous plot is but the prelude to a larger one, with an even more significant target. DePoy’s efforts suffer in comparison with more skilled writers dealing with the same period such as Rory Clements. Readers should be prepared for some heavy-handed irony (e.g., Marlowe tells fellow playwright Thomas Kyd that his pre-Shakespeare Hamlet play will be “the definitive version of that story” and that no one is going to pay attention to any other). Agent: Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary Management. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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What You Don’t Know

JoAnn Chaney. Flatiron, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-07553-6

Set in Denver, Chaney’s unsettling, well-crafted first novel opens in December 2008, when homicide detectives Ralph Loren and Paul Hoskins arrest creepy Jacky Seever, a successful restaurateur, after a search of the crawl space in the home that he shares with his wife, Gloria, turns up bodies of murder victims going back decades. The subsequent investigation is covered by newspaper reporter Samantha “Sammie” Peterson, whose extramarital affair with Hoskins grants her special access. “It’ll never be over,” the incarcerated Seever predicts, and so it proves seven winters later when Carrie Simms, who escaped Seever in 2008, is murdered, along with others connected to the original case. The methodology mirrors Seever’s, including his trademark removal of one or more of the victims’ fingers, a fact that was never released to the public. All the point-of-view characters—Hoskins, Sammie, Grace—are tragically flawed in believable ways, though the flat, untidy ending may leave some readers feeling frustrated. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Gernet Company. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Heartbreak Hotel: An Alex Delaware Novel

Jonathan Kellerman. Ballantine, $28.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-345-54143-7

L.A. psychologist Alex Delaware specializes in “evaluating the mental health of injured, neglected, or traumatized children,” but in Edgar-winner Kellerman’s so-so 32nd series entry (after 2016’s Breakdown) he accepts the invitation of 99-year-old Thalia Mars, a retired accountant, to meet her at the Aventura, the hotel where she lives on Sunset Boulevard. The charming Thalia asks Alex to share with her “the current psychological wisdom with regard to guilt” without explaining why she’s interested in this topic. Tired, she ends their interview after a short while, but Alex agrees to visit her the following day to continue the discussion. On returning to the Aventura, he learns to his sorrow that Thalia has died, just weeks before her 100th birthday. Alex is angered when an alert paramedic finds evidence that Thalia didn’t die of natural causes. Alex and his friend on the LAPD, Milo Sturgis, look into Thalia’s past in an effort to identity the killer and the motive. The psychological insights Alex typically displays are few and barely relevant to the inquiry or its solution. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Unpunished

Lisa Black. Kensington, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4967-0190-9

In bestseller Black’s solid sequel to 2016’s That Darkness, forensic technician Maggie Gardiner and her associate, homicide detective Jack Renner, investigate the suspicious death of Robert Davis, a copy editor at the Cleveland Herald. Davis’s body was found late one night hanging by the neck above the printing machinery in the Herald’s three-story-high offset room. What first appears to be a suicide turns out to be murder. Talk of the impending death of the daily print newspaper lends color to the case, the details of which police procedural wonks are sure to relish. Black does a good job contrasting the complex characters of her two leads. Given the devil-in-the-details character of her profession, Maggie is naturally drawn to minutiae. Jack’s idea of serving justice leans more toward ignoring the nuance and inconvenience of due process—to say the least—and it’s that divergence that both divides and, ironically, binds the two. Savvy mystery fans should be able to predict whodunit, though the fun lies in the process of getting there. Agent: Vicky Bijur, Vicky Bijur Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Shimmering Road

Hester Young. Putnam, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-399-17401-8

Thriller Award–finalist Young’s whip-smart, adrenaline-fueled second Charlotte “Charlie” Cates novel (after 2015’s The Gates of Evangeline) finds the pregnant journalist and her boyfriend, Noah Palmer, in Tucson, Ariz., attempting to adopt Charlie’s six-year-old niece, Michaela, after the double homicide of Charlie’s estranged mother, Donna DeRossi, and Charlie’s half-sister, Jasmine Cassell. The police believe that the crime was drug related, but those closest to the victims insist otherwise. Charlie launches an investigation that lands her and Noah in a tangled web of sex, lies, and international political corruption. Meanwhile, Charlie, who has a history of psychic dreams, is plagued by nightmares that predict her own violent death. Young deftly uses Charlie’s supernatural gift to create tension and dread without relying too heavily on it to advance the plot. And a story line involving Donna’s employer—a nonprofit that helps women living in Mexican border towns—both champions charity and gives poverty a human face. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/09/2016 | Details & Permalink

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