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Rider on the Rain

Sébastien Japrisot, trans. from the French by Linda Coverdale. Gallic, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-913-54713-4

At the start of this outstanding noir from Japrisot (1931–2003), first published in 1992, Mélancolie “Mellie” Mau, a sheltered housewife who lives in a village on the French Riviera, spots a man in the rain who has just gotten off a bus carrying a red travel bag. The man follows Mellie, whose husband is away, to a clothing shop and then to her house, where he rapes her. She loses consciousness, but when she wakes up, she discovers her attacker is in the basement. She shoots him with her husband’s shotgun and dumps his body in the sea. Later, at a wedding, Mellie is confronted by a stranger, American Harry Dobbs, who seems to know nearly everything about her encounter with the rapist. Japrisot skillfully deepens the mystery of what’s real and what’s imagined as Dobbs leads Mellie on a journey to recover the bag and uncover the truth behind the assault. Incisive prose is a plus (“She speaks with the assurance of someone who would never permit even obvious facts to change her mind”). Noir fans will welcome more Japrisot reissues. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Sammy Two Shoes

Phillip DePoy. Severn, $28.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5066-9

Set in 1976, DePoy’s entertaining fifth Foggy Moskowitz mystery (after 2019’s Sidewalk Saint) takes Foggy, a semireformed thief, back to New York City. Despite being the subject of an active warrant in New York, Foggy sneaks back there from Florida to hear a favorite jazz singer perform. While he’s sitting in a bar awaiting the show, he’s accosted by a friend and former partner-in-crime, Sammy Two Shoes. Sammy’s girlfriend, Phoebe Peabody, the stage manager for an all-female production of Hamlet set in a prison, needs help. Phoebe suspects that Emory Taylor, who plays Ophelia, is out to kill her, because Phoebe was about to fire the actor. Foggy regards the evidence as thin—a note left for Phoebe quoting a line from Hamlet—but agrees to visit the theater and talk to Emory. Foggy later attends the show, but after the performance Emory is found dead backstage with a pencil thrust through her neck. DePoy manages to keep things plausible as Foggy gets involved in a murder investigation. Series fans will be intrigued by the setup for the next book. Agent: Janet Reid, Janet Reid Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen

Rhys Bowen. Berkley Prime Crime, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-4400-0008-2

It’s 1935 in Agatha winner Bowen’s warmhearted 16th Royal Spyness mystery (after 2020’s The Last Mrs. Summers), and newlyweds Lady Georgie Rannoch and dashing Darcy O’Mara are looking forward to their first Christmas together. But when Darcy’s Aunt Ermintrude, once lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary, invites the couple to spend Christmas at her manse near the royals’ Sandringham retreat and hints that the queen herself wants Georgie to call on her, that’s an end to Georgie’s plans for a comfy Christmas at home. After all, one can hardly turn down the queen. When the Prince of Wales shows up with Wallis Simpson in tow, the queen senses trouble and asks Georgie to keep an eye on her son. It seems Her Majesty’s foreboding is justified after the Christmas gathering is interrupted by a series of freakish accidents and unlikely deaths. Is the prince a target, or perhaps Mrs. Simpson? Or does someone have another motive for murder entirely? The humor and wit match a cast of charming, quirky characters. Bowen’s lovely English Christmas cozy doesn’t disappoint. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Down the Hatch: An Agatha Raisin Mystery

M.C. Beaton, with R.W. Green. Minotaur, $26.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-81613-9

Green, who collaborated with British author Beaton (1936–2019) on 2020’s Hot to Trot, ably continues the adventures of private detective Agatha Raisin, thorn in the side of conservative Cotswold society, in the diverting 32nd installment of this bestselling series. Agatha, out for a bracing power walk through Mircester Park, strides straight into a murder: at least she thinks so, even though ever-inept Detective Chief Inspector Wilkes believes the death to be accidental. The victim, Harold Nelson, is found dressed in the pristine whites of the Mircester Crown Green Bowling Club, lying spread-eagled on the grass, a bottle of rum at his side. His fellow bowlers are quick to describe him as “a foul, bullying loud-mouth” and a “drunken monster.” Nonetheless, Agatha makes it her personal mission to find Nelson’s killer, all the while juggling her paying clients’ cases, which involve, among other things, exotic dancers, space aliens, and a paternity suit. The prose sparkles as usual, but Agatha has softened a bit from her feisty early days, and her romantic pendulum doesn’t swing as wildly as it once did. Series fans will still have fun. Agent: Barbara Lowenstein, Lowenstein Assoc. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Five Decembers

James Kestrel. Hard Case Crime, $22.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-78909-611-8

In early December 1941, police detective Joe McGrady, the hero of this enthralling crime novel from the pseudonymous Kestrel, investigates the murder of Henry Kimmel Willard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Hawaii, whose tortured and disemboweled body was found hanging inside a shed in the mountains outside Honolulu. Also in the shed was the body of an unknown young Japanese woman, who was similarly butchered. Henry, who was destined for a promising career in Navy Intelligence, was studying Japanese, so his connection with the other victim may have been professional, as suggested to McGrady by his real-life uncle, Admiral Kimmel, who commands the U.S. Pacific Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor. A possibly related murder takes McGrady first to Wake Island and then to Hong Kong on the trail of an elusive assassin known as John Smith. When the Japanese capture Hong Kong, they take McGrady prisoner, but his quest for the killer is only beginning. Heartfelt, enduring images of war and the pain and damage it reaps are sprinkled throughout Kestrel’s vivid, richly detailed narrative, which carries McGrady to the end of WWII. This tale of love, courage, hardship, and devotion is unforgettable. Agent: Alice Martell, Martell Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Adventure of the Deceased Scholar: The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes; Case Three

Liese Sherwood-Fabre. Little Elm, $14.99 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-952408-11-3

Sherwood-Fabre’s enticing third mystery featuring a teenage Sherlock Holmes (after 2020’s The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy) finds Holmes attending the Oxford-Cambridge boat race on the Thames with his astute mother and his brother, Mycroft, a student at Oxford. There, Mycroft’s accosted by Lady Surminster, the mother of his classmate Vernon, who recently disappeared. The three Holmeses agree to help look for Vernon, until a drowning victim turns up wearing the missing man’s suit. After the sad news is broken to Vernon’s family, their butler, Hamilton, goes to the hospital to make a formal identification. Hamilton declares the dead man a stranger, but then he recognizes a second drowned body on a nearby autopsy table as Vernon’s. The coroner declares Vernon killed himself. Fearing that an official verdict of suicide would forfeit their assets to the Crown, Vernon’s relatives threaten to release a letter that they believe would implicate Mycroft in a scandal unless the Holmeses investigate. With a tight deadline to prove Vernon was murdered, the Holmeses pursue several leads, including Vernon’s mysterious interest in 16th-century land records pertaining to a property apparently unconnected to his family. This is the author’s best plot yet. Fans of the Enola Holmes graphic novel series will be intrigued. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Mercy Creek: A Jo Wyatt Mystery

M.E. Browning. Crooked Lane, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-64385-762-6

In Browning’s well-crafted sequel to 2020’s Shadow Ridge, Det. Jo Wyatt of the Echo Valley, Colo., PD looks into the disappearance of Lena Flores, an 11-year-old girl who went missing after attending the Echo Valley Fair with her older sister, Marisa. Jo, who has no actionable information to go on, believes Lena might have been kidnapped. On her short list of suspects are a carnival worker who noticed the two girls watching his game; Lena’s father, Lucero, who’s divorced from her mother; and a neighbor who’s a sex offender. But the more she investigates, the more Jo finds herself digging through lies: Lucero about his alibi, Marissa about who she was with at the fair, and a paper delivery guy about knowing the occupants in Lena’s mother’s home. It takes a key interview, under highly unusual circumstances, for Jo to break the case. The action of this heart-wrenching story builds to a somewhat unbelievable twist, but the action-packed conclusion satisfies. Readers will feel like they’re getting a glimpse into the real world of police work. Agent: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Chaos Kind

Barry Eisler. Thomas & Mercer, $24.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-5420-0561-6

Bestseller Eisler’s explosive sequel to 2019’s The Killer Collective reunites the formidable team of former Marine sniper Dox; Seattle PD sex crimes detective Livia Lone; freelance assassin John Rain; Rain’s ex-Mossad agent girlfriend, Delilah; and black-ops specialist Daniel Larison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alondra Diaz is prosecuting a massive child-trafficking case against perverted wealthy financier Andrew Schrader, whose trove of blackmail material implicates U.S. intelligence officials at the highest levels of government. Powerful people with reason to support Schrader hire reluctant assassin Marvin Manus (introduced in 2016’s The God’s Eye View) to eliminate Diaz, while Dox and Larison are recruited to stop the assassination. One botched and bloody double-cross later, Dox, Larison, Lone, Rain, and Delilah set out to take down corrupt officials and enact their own brand of justice. Eisler juggles the complicated plot and large cast, imbuing his diverse characters with robust backstory and emotional motivation. Pure action seekers will gasp at the brutal violence and raw hand-to-hand combat. Fans of Mark Greaney’s Gray Man novels or Andrew Vachss’s Burke series will find a lot to like. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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A Corruption of Blood

Ambrose Parry. Canongate, $26 (416p) ISBN 978-1-78689-985-9

Parry (the pen name of husband-and-wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman) makes excellent use of Haetzman’s experience as an anesthetist and a medical historian in his stellar third whodunit set in 19th-century Edinburgh (after 2019’s The Art of Dying). When wealthy and influential Sir Ainsley Douglas dies of arsenic poisoning in 1850, Gideon, Douglas’s son, who recently fought with his father, is charged with patricide. Physician Will Raven gives in to his fiancée’s entreaties that he work to exonerate her friend Gideon, despite regarding the suspect, whom he knew in medical school, as “arrogant and detestable.” Raven finds Gideon’s argument for his innocence—that he’d never have used a poison so easily detectable—compelling but faces an uphill battle in getting the police to agree. Meanwhile, Will’s colleague, Sarah Fisher, a former servant aspiring to become a physician, searches for a missing baby on behalf of its mother. The integration of real history—Douglas’s advocacy of the arrest of prostitutes to contain the spread of STDs is based on real legislation—enhances a page-turning plot. Imogen Robertson fans will be delighted. Agent: Sophie Scard, United Agents (U.K.). (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Lemon

Kwon Yeo-Sun, trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong. Other Press, $20 (176p) ISBN 978-1-63542-088-3

South Korean author Kwon’s powerful English-language debut explores issues of jealousy, loss, and physical beauty. Long after the event, “short and dumpy” Kim Da-on remains obsessed with the 2002 murder of her preternaturally beautiful but strange older sister, Hae-on, in high school, whether in imagining the scene in the investigation room, trying to embody her sister’s look through plastic surgery, befriending the family of one of the suspects in a search for closure, or diving into poetry and prayer. Chapters are structured as short stories, with notable shifts of tone between sections. Most are narrated by Da-on, either introspectively or obliquely through one-sided conversations with counselors, but some approach Da-on from the perspective of an old friend meeting her years later. Though the novel has the bones of an unsolved crime story, any objective solution is besides the point, even as Da-on’s conversations with others yield more information. Those ready to sink into a creepy and intense yet understated emotional experience will find that this story hits and sticks. Agent: Barbara Zitwer, Barbara J. Zitwer Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/13/2021 | Details & Permalink

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