March Publications

Michael Pearce continues to display his mastery of the light historical in The Last Cut: A Mamur Zapt Mystery, in which his quick-witted and personable hero, Gareth Owen, tries to defuse tensions arising from two crimes centered on a major Nile dam. A compelling whodunit, in addition to the usual witty writing and convincing evocation of colonial Egypt, makes this one of the author's better efforts in the series. (Poisoned Pen, $24.95 210p ISBN 1-59058-067-2)

In Honolulu Play-off, the sixth Alan Saxon golf mystery by Keith Miles (better known for dozens of acclaimed historicals under the pseudonym Edward Marston), Saxon travels to Hawaii to be the best man at the wedding of an old friend and rival, Donald Dukelow. When Dukelow is murdered in the same brutal way as a local pool salesman, Saxon investigates. Perfunctory local color, a passive hero whose golf expertise adds little to the plot and a fairly predictable resolution (laid out to Saxon by a local police investigator) all make for a routine performance that falls short of Saxon's previous outing, Bermuda Grass (2002). (Poisoned Pen, $24.95 266p ISBN 1-59058-088-5)

It's March 1933: FDR is inaugurated as president, Prohibition is repealed and Brewster siblings Robert and Lily must solve two puzzling murders in Jill Churchill's It Had to Be You: A Grace & Favor Mystery, the fifth entry in this gently amusing cozy series (after 2003's Love for Sale). Churchill, who's won both Agatha and Macavity awards, is also the author of Bell, Book, and Scandal (2003) and other titles in her Jane Jeffrey series. (Morrow, $23.95 224p ISBN 0-06-052843-5)

The weather, perhaps a stand-in for fate, has a hand in the tentative outcome of Southwesterly Wind: An Inspector Espinosa Mystery, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza's third psychologically acute crime novel (after 2003's December Heat), translated from the Portuguese by Benjamin Moser. A troubled young man, Gabriel, comes to the skeptical Espinosa for help because a psychic predicted he'd kill someone before his next birthday. The Rio de Janeiro cop has to take the claim more seriously when two murders linked to Gabriel occur close to the predicted date. (Holt, $22 256p ISBN 0-8050-6891-0)

Due to the plague, player Nicholas Reville and the Chamberlain's Company leave London in 1603 for Oxford, where a doctor performing in Romeo and Juliet winds up dead—and not of the pestilence. A not very credible villain, a lack of Oxford local color and a plot contrived to make Reville look overly courageous (or foolish), however, mar Philip Gooden's Mask of Night, the fifth novel in this otherwise solid historical series. (Carroll & Graf, $24 288p ISBN 0-7867-1312-7)

Anne Perry follows up her 2002 Shakespearean anthology, Much Ado About Murder, with Death by Dickens, which contains 11 mostly so-so tales inspired by the fiction of Charles Dickens. Well-known contributors include Carole Nelson Douglas, Peter Tremayne and Perry herself, but the book's standout is Martin Edwards's "The House of the Red Candle," an atmospheric tale in which Dickens and Wilkie Collins probe an impossible locked-room murder in a brothel. (Berkley Prime Crime, $23.95 406p ISBN 0-425-19420-5)