May Publications

British author H.R.F. Keating's A Detective at Death's Door opens promisingly with the near-fatal poisoning of series heroine Harriet Martens (aka the Hard Detective), whose husband is fortuitously reading Agatha Christie on poisons at the time and comes to her rescue. An unconvincing resolution, however, makes this a disappointing effort from the old pro, who will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Malice Domestic. Agent, Peter Matson at Sterling Lord Literistic.(St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne, $23.95 256p ISBN 0-312-34206-3)

When the body of antiques dealer Roger Crispin hurtles over a balcony into a six-layer almond cake, Theodosia Browning, the proprietress of Charleston's Indigo Tea Shop, is, to say the least, surprised in Laura Childs's Chamomile Mourning: Tea Shop Mystery #6, the strongest installment yet in this cozy series (The Jasmine Moon Murder, etc.). Childs is a master of Southern local color, and, of course, every chapter offers delectable descriptions of aromatic teas and scrumptious quiches and cakes, with recipes. Agent, Sam Pinkus.(Berkley Prime Crime, $21.95 336p ISBN 0-425-20251-8)

A kit of sex toys, a stolen diamond necklace and a crazed romance-novel fan all figure in Batteries Required: A Samantha Shaw Mystery, the somewhat lackluster fourth entry in Jennifer Apodoca's cozy series to feature the kooky and charming head of a California dating service (after 2004's Ninja Soccer Moms). Soon after the requisite corpse shows up late in the story, we learn "whodunit," and the rest of the book is simply a tedious, extended chase scene, as Sam breathlessly tracks down the bad guy. Agent, Karen Solem at Spencerhill Associates.(Kensington, $22 304p ISBN 0-7582-0451-5)

In British author Peter Turnbull's latest police procedural, Hopes and Fears, likable and dedicated DCI George Hennessy exhibits his usual insights into human nature, but, alas, the mystery he investigates—a young Russian girl's murder—isn't worthy of his talents. Suspicion quickly centers on three local Yorkshire figures, and the plot builds to a predictable resolution. (Allison & Busby, $25.95 288p ISBN 0-7490-8322-0)

Agatha Christie: A Reader's Companion, a chronological survey of the author's work by Vanessa Wagstaff and Stephen Poole, is a must for all fans of the "Queen of Crime." Beautifully designed, the book includes mostly color illustrations of book jackets and bindings (both U.K. and U.S.), photos of story settings and period clothing, and stills from film and TV adaptations. (Aurum [Trafalgar Sq., dist.], $25 224p ISBN 1-84513-015-4)