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Mimi Lee Gets a Clue

Jennifer J. Chow. Berkley Prime Crime, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-9848-0499-0

Mimi Lee, the 25-year-old heroine of this sparkling series launch from Chow (the Winston Wong mysteries), has just opened Hollywoof, a pet grooming salon in a beach town near L.A. As an opening-day present, her sister gives her a Persian cat, whom Mimi names Marshmallow. No ordinary cat, Marshmallow can hear, understand, and communicate thoughts to humans, dogs, and other cats. Meanwhile, when friends bring their Chihuahuas to Hollywoof, Mimi notices the dogs all have health issues, and further investigation reveals they all came from the same breeder, Russ Nolan. Incensed, Mimi goes to Nolan’s house in the San Fernando Valley and threatens to turn him in for operating a puppy mill. When Nolan is discovered dead the next day, Mimi becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Marshmallow’s unique talents come in handy as he one-by-one chats up the Chihuahuas to reveal secrets and gossip that help point to the culprit. Chow smoothly mixes intrigue, romance, and humor. Cozy fans will have fun. Agent: Jessica Faust, BookEnds Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Lady of the Lake

Peter Guttridge. Severn, $28.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8967-6

In Guttridge’s sprightly seventh Brighton mystery (after 2019’s Swimming with the Dead), Det. Insp. Sarah Gilchrist and Det. Sgt. Bellamy Heap are dispatched to a lake belonging to Hollywood film star Nimue Grace, where Maj. Richard Rabbitt, a neighbor of Grace, has been found with his throat slit. The possible murderers include locals Donald Kermode, who discovered the body while swimming nude in the lake and has a creepy obsession with Grace, and Said Farzi, who’s suspected of human trafficking. The stakes rise with the appearance of more bodies. Guttridge adds humor at appropriate spots, including in the byplay between the leads, as well as in the person of an eccentric ostrich farmer, who schemes to resurrect dinosaurs using DNA from his flightless birds. Catherine Aird fans who’ve not yet discovered this series will be delighted. Agent: Paul Moreton, Bell Lomax Moreton Agency (U.K.). (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Please See Us

Caitlin Mullen. Gallery, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-9821-2748-0

At the start of Mullen’s exceptional debut, the Atlantic City, N.J., boardwalk psychic known as Clara Voyant receives an unexpected client, a man who’s trying to find his missing teenage niece. The man’s visit causes Clara to have visions filled with warnings and bad omens long afterward. In addition, she suddenly feels and hears things that aren’t there. Meanwhile, Clara forges an unlikely friendship with Lily Louten, a former SoHo art gallery worker now employed at a casino spa, who’s dealing with demons of her own, in particular painful memories of her father’s death. After a tough reading for a prostitute nicknamed Peaches, Clara’s visions intensify. Fearing the worst after Peaches disappears, Clara enlists Lily’s help to find her, and they plunge into the dark heart of a tourist town in the middle of economic turmoil. Readers won’t be able to stop turning the pages of this heartbreaking story as it touches on prostitution, drug abuse, and the fates of women who go unseen. Mullen is definitely an author to watch. Agent: Sarah Bedingfield, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Keeper

Jessica Moor. Penguin, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-14-313452-7

Set in rural England, Moor’s clever debut presents a movingly sympathetic portrait of the victims of domestic violence. The investigation of Katie Straw’s apparent suicide takes two policemen, old-school Det. Sgt. Daniel Whitworth and his trainee, Detective Constable Brookes, into the women’s shelter where she worked and where the director is protective of the women under her care. Meanwhile, in an alternating narrative, Katie relates the deterioration of her relationship with boyfriend Jamie, who’s initially indulgent, if overprotective, then becomes isolating, controlling, and worse. Though the characters hit a lot of the expected tropes, such as the addict with mental health issues, the skittish wife and mother, and the tough feminist, they come through more as archetype than stereotype. Katie’s simultaneous identities as protagonist and corpse effectively build a sense of resigned dread, while also helping the reader understand how an intelligent, resourceful woman could become trapped in an abusive relationship. Moor is off to a fine start. Agent: Alexandra Cliff, Peters, Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.). (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Santa Fe Noir

Edited by Ariel Gore. Akashic, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61775-722-8

As noted in the introduction to this solid Akashic noir anthology, Santa Fe, N.Mex., and environs is less the Land of Enchantment, per the tourism slogan, than the “Land of Entrapment,” where characters are inexorably tied to or haunted by the area’s long history and uneasy mix of cultures. One highlight is Hida Viloria’s “SOS Sex,” a traditional crime story in which a property appraiser stumbles onto a sex trafficking racket that ties to a long-ago family tragedy of his own. In a more off-beat vein, Cornelia Reed’s scathing “The Cask of Los Alamos” retells Poe’s revenge tale “The Cask of Amontillado,” but this time set at the 1945 test of the first atomic bomb. For many of the selections, however, crime is secondary or even nonexistent, as in Jimmy Santiago Baca’s unsettling “Close Quarters,” in which a Chicano writer is visited by the ghosts of his ancestors. The quality of the 17 entries varies widely, but the book’s diverse group of writers will provide readers with unexpected perspectives on this centuries-old city and its people. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Sea of Lost Girls

Carol Goodman. Morrow, $16.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-285202-1

Tess, the unreliable narrator of this exciting, if flawed, psychological thriller from Mary Higgins Clark Award–winner Goodman (The Night Visitors), teaches English at Haywood, a prestigious boarding school on the Maine coast, where her 17-year-old son, Rudy, is a student. Early one morning, Rudy texts Tess asking her to pick him up near the beach. Tess finds Rudy in a bloodstained sweatshirt, and he reveals that he had a fight with his bright, go-getter fellow classmate and girlfriend, Lila. A few hours later, Tess receives a phone call from Haywood’s headmistress informing her that Lila’s body has been found on the beach. With a history of aggression, Rudy is a person of interest in Lila’s murder, and his overbearing mother is desperate to protect him, even if it involves lying to the police and exposing dark secrets about her past concerning Rudy’s father. Unfortunately, most of the characters, including the irritating Tess, grate, and the culprit’s identity comes as no surprise. Still, readers will have a hard time putting this one down thanks to Goodman’s storytelling powers. Agent: Robin Rue, Writers House. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Safety Net

Andrea Camilleri, trans. from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli. Penguin, $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-14-313496-1

Bestseller Camilleri’s 25th outing for Insp. Salvo Montalbano (after 2019’s The Other End of the Line) offers a rich, nuanced mix of plot elements. Besides looking into a mysterious but nonfatal terror attack on a school, Montalbano has an unsought but unshakable obsession with a strange series of home movies belonging to a local resident with a tragic family history. The films show nothing but the same piece of a crumbling wall, each year from 1958 to 1963. He must also deal with a Swedish TV production that’s taken over his Sicilian town of Vigàta and made everything look as it did in the 1950s. The rhythms and layers of the aging detective’s thoughts, routines, and speech are droll and subtle, and fans will be attuned to Montalbano’s attempt to reckon with a serious past mistake. As the cases conclude, with none of the resolutions showing up on official records, readers will feel a pang of loss that this may be one of the last visits they’ll have from an old, wise friend. Camilleri died in 2019, having completed several books for posthumous publication. Agent: Carmen Prestia, Alferjeprestia (Italy). (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Eight Perfect Murders

Peter Swanson. Morrow, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-283820-9

In 2004, Malcolm Kershaw, the narrator of this outstanding fair-play crime novel from Swanson (Before She Knew Him), began working at Boston’s Old Devils Bookstore, where he posted a list on the store’s blog of eight mysteries in which “the murderer comes closest to realizing that platonic ideal of a perfect murder.” Years later, FBI agent Gwen Mulvey tells him she’s investigating multiple killings that she believes may have been influenced by his blog post. For example, Mulvey is probing the deaths of three people apparently connected only by having a name related to birds, a setup similar to Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C. Murders, one of the books on the list. Mulvey is also looking into a murder that mirrors the circumstances of James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and hopes that Kershaw can give her a lead as to who might be using his list for a campaign of bloodshed. The stakes rise when Kershaw admits he knew one of the victims but chose not to share that with Mulvey. Swanson will keep most readers guessing until the end. Classic whodunit fans will be in heaven. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel & Weber. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Gone by Midnight

Candice Fox. Forge, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-31758-2

When eight-year-old Richie Farrow goes missing from his hotel room while on vacation in Crimson Lake, Queensland, in Australian author Fox’s intense third Crimson Lake novel (after 2019’s Redemption Point), his mother, Sara, asks Ted Conkaffey, a former Sydney homicide detective, to help find Richie. The local police reluctantly work with Ted, who was once a suspect in a child’s attempted murder, and his quick-witted partner, Amanda Pharrell, a convicted killer who served eight years in prison. As Amanda and Ted question witnesses and suspects, they discover that many of them are less than truthful, leading the pair to consider a myriad of scenarios to explain Richie’s disappearance. Complicating their investigation is Ted’s decision to look after his two-year-old daughter for his ex-wife and a budding relationship with his veterinarian. Quirky, no-nonsense characters complement the suspenseful plotting, which includes a multitude of twists. Readers will look forward to seeing more of Ted and Amanda. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, DeFiore & Co. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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She Lover of Death: The Further Adventures of Erast Fandorin

Boris Akunin, trans. from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield. Mysterious, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4814-8

Akunin’s intriguing, if flawed, eighth mystery featuring investigator Erast Fandorin (after 2019’s The Coronation) opens with a series of newspaper articles detailing several tragic deaths in 1900 Moscow. After a “latter-day Romeo and Juliet” take their own lives, a correspondent for the Moscow Courier speculates in print that his city has become the base for a suicide club, similar to ones that have existed in Berlin and London. The concept of a “secret society of death worshippers” who pledge to kill themselves is a promising one, and Akunin does a good job of bringing the reader into the mindset of a wannabe member of such a group, Marya Mironava, who arrives in the city in pursuit of a love-interest. An anonymous agent whom series fans will recognize as Fandorin goes undercover to infiltrate the society in an effort to destroy it, but newcomers may wonder why no one named Erast Fandorin appears in the book. This is not a good starting place for the uninitiated. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Ritterberg Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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