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The Finder

Will Ferguson. Simon & Schuster Canada, $17 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-9821-3969-8

In this witty, exuberant novel from Ferguson (419), items believed long lost, such as Buddy Holly’s glasses, Muhammad Ali’s Olympic gold medal, a priceless African drum, and a lost Hitchcock film reel, suddenly resurface, often accompanied by unexplained deaths. The question is, who’s doing this and why? The memorable cast of seekers includes Gaddy Rhodes, an Interpol agent obsessed with unmasking the mysterious “finder”; Thomas Rafferty, a legendary but burned-out travel writer searching for an ex-lover; Tamsin Greene, a war photographer with secrets of her own; and Catherine, a New Zealand schoolgirl hoping to breed bolder sheep. The richly developed characters cross and re-cross each other’s paths as the plot moves effortlessly from the islands of southern Japan to earthquake-devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, and the country’s Maori lands before climaxing during a dust storm in the Australian outback. Part thriller and part travelogue, this highly original novel offers punchy storytelling and vividly portrayed locales. Ferguson is bound to win new fans with this one. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Burn You Twice

Mary Burton. Montlake, $12.95 trade paper (364p) ISBN 978-1-5420-2128-9

In 2010, college student Joan Mason and her best friend, Ann Bailey, were rescued from a fire that destroyed the house they shared in Missoula, Mont., as revealed in the prologue of this solid romantic thriller from Burton (Never Look Back). A fellow student, Elijah Weston, was subsequently tried and convicted of the crime, though he professed his innocence. Ten years later, Joan is a Philadelphia homicide detective who specializes in arson cases. When she learns Elijah is being released from prison, she returns to Missoula, as does Elijah. On the day of his arrival, a fatal fire occurs. Though Elijah has an alibi, Missoula police detective Gideon Bailey, Ann’s brother and Joan’s college sweetheart, who still carries a torch for her, suspects him. When a woman dies in yet another burning building, Joan vows to find the culprit, which requires her to examine her past and relive the terrifying night she nearly died. Convincing characters redeem some unlikely plot twists. Burton does a good job balancing gentle romance with high-tension suspense. Agent: Karen Solem, Spencerhill Assoc. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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To Tell You the Truth

Gilly Macmillan. Morrow, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-287558-7

Bestselling mystery writer Lucy Harper, the insecure heroine of this outstanding suspense novel from Edgar finalist Macmillan (The Nanny), is the creator of capable and astute Det. Sgt. Eliza Grey, based on an imaginary childhood friend. Chapters that recount a tragedy in Lucy’s past alternate with the main narrative. In 1991, when Lucy was nine years old, she snuck out of her home with her three-year-old brother, Teddy, to see a Summer Solstice celebration taking place in the woods outside Bristol, England. Lucy returned in the early hours of the morning; Teddy did not. Lucy’s only emotional support during the difficult period that followed was her imaginary friend, Eliza, who gradually evolved into her fictional police detective. In the present, trouble begins when Lucy’s publishers all reject her new novel—because Eliza isn’t in it. Lucy’s rapacious husband, Dan, is also angry at her decision, as it signals a loss in income. When Dan disappears, the police consider Lucy a suspect. Who can she trust? Herself? Her creation? This deliciously multilayered tale provides genuine, shocking surprises that culminate in a satisfying and unexpected conclusion. Macmillan is a master of misdirection. Agent: Helen Heller, Helen Heller Agency (Canada). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Orphan’s Guilt: A Joe Gunther Novel

Archer Mayer. Minotaur, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-22414-9

Bestseller Mayer’s solid 31st Joe Gunther novel (after 2019’s Bomber’s Moon) begins with a DUI arrest along a Vermont road. The case of John Rust, a repeat offender, appears to be open and shut, until his lawyer, hotshot Brattleboro defense attorney Scott Jezek, angles for a way to appeal to the jury’s sympathy. Jezek hires PI Sally Kravitz to check out the death of John’s invalid brother, Peter, to whom he was devoted, on the day of John’s arrest. Peter’s death was apparently the result of complications of a childhood brain injury, but Kravitz comes up with evidence suggesting it was murder as she uncovers the troubling truth behind Peter’s condition and John’s drinking. Gunther, head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation, and his team step in to investigate. Meanwhile, someone has come a long way to finish his business with the Rust brothers, and he has little to lose after so many years. Mayer expertly intertwines murder with a view of life off the beaten path. This long-running series continues to impress. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Arrowood and the Thames Corpses

Mick Finlay. HQ, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-00-832452-0

In Finlay’s outstanding third Victorian whodunit featuring private inquiry agents William Arrowood and Norman Barnett (after 2018’s The Murder Pit), the detectives, unlike Sherlock Holmes, whom Arrowood both envies and despises, continue to get prosaic clients with prosaic problems. One such problem, however, becomes much more complex. Captain Moon, the owner of a pleasure steamer that operates on the Thames, reports that someone, probably his business rival Captain Polgreen, has been vandalizing his boat when it’s docked at night. Arrowood and Barnett agree to talk to Polgreen, who denies the charges and claims instead that it was his vessel that was damaged by Moon. The case takes a much darker turn after Barnett and Moon find two ropes tied to Moon’s steamer the morning after their visit to Polgreen: 14 children’s skulls are strung along one rope, and a second is affixed to the murdered bodies of a man and two women. The tension builds as the investigators probe who sent Moon this grisly message and why. Finlay’s grim depictions of the inhabitants of the more impoverished parts of London evoke Dickens. Fans of gritty historicals will be richly rewarded. (June)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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One of Our Own: A Gregor Demarkian Novel

Jane Haddam. Minotaur, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-77049-3

The excellent 30th and final series whodunit from Edgar winner Haddam (1951–2019) featuring the brilliant but all too human Gregor Demarkian, who frequently consults for the Philadelphia PD, finds him still dealing with the fallout from 2014’s Fighting Chance, in which he was shot by someone he trusted. Senator John Jackman and Police Commissioner Bill Jefferson ask Demarkian to help investigate an attempted murder. Someone bludgeoned an elderly woman into unconsciousness and placed her in a garbage bag, which accidentally fell out of the back of a van onto a Philly street, an incident witnessed by Demarkian’s close friend, Fr. Tibor Kasparian. Jackman and Jefferson suspect the assault may be connected to Cary Alder, an unscrupulous real estate magnate believed to have bribed “the mayor and half the building inspectors in the city,” because the woman had a gold coin in her possession that’s accepted as legal tender in some of Alder’s properties. As always, Haddam cleverly integrates political issues such as illegal immigration and affordable housing into an intricate and gripping plot. This is a fitting coda to the career of one of America’s best contemporary fair play authors.

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Shooter in the Shadows

David Hewson. David Hewson, $2.99 e-book (312p) ISBN 978-1-8380897-0-2

Thomas Honeyman, the hero of this taut thriller from Hewson (the Nic Costa series), made his name and fortune with a true-crime bestseller that claimed to have solved a horrific murder. In 2008, someone locked high school art teacher Mia Buckingham and her 16-year-old student, Scott Sorrell, inside a cabin in Prosper, N.Y., before dousing the building with gasoline and setting it on fire. Honeyman identified firefighter Jorge Rodriguez as the killer, but Rodriguez died in a shoot-out with police before being formally charged. Years later, Honeyman travels to Venice to start a new book dealing with unanswered questions about the killings. But soon after his arrival, the author gets a call from an unidentified man, who claims he’s abducted Honeyman’s daughter, Lauren, and threatens to murder her if Honeyman doesn’t write a new book within four days identifying the person really responsible for the Prosper murders. Hewson does a good job balancing action and characterization. Readers who appreciate nail-biting suspense will be satisfied. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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666 Gable Way

Dani Lamia and Frederick H. Crook. Level 4, $18.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-933769-62-2

Lamia (Scavenger Hunt) and Crook’s chilly, claustrophobic supernatural thriller puts a contemporary spin on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. Aspiring fiction writer Phoebe Pyncheon, after getting fired from her job at a suburban Detroit newspaper, decides to moves in temporarily with her great-aunt Hester, her only living relative. Hester works as a psychic from her home, the House of the Seven Gables, a creepy, decrepit house in White Lake, Mich., which Phoebe last visited 15 years earlier. Hester also rents rooms to borders, including Alec Holgrave, an archaeologist visiting from England. As Phoebe reacquaints herself with the house, she senses a strange, unsettling presence more menacing than the spirits she remembered dwelling there as a girl with psychic abilities she now represses. The murder of the local council president, who wanted to appropriate Hester’s property, leads Phoebe and Holgrave to dig into her great-aunt’s business ties within the community and other mysteries. What they find isn’t pleasant. This page-turner will keep readers up late at night. Hawthorne fans should be pleased. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Shirley Jackson: Four Novels of the 1940s & 50s

Edited by Ruth Franklin. Library of America, $40 (850p) ISBN 978-1-59853-670-6

Admirers of Shirley Jackson (1916–1965) will welcome this collection of her first four novels. The Road Through the Wall (1948) satirizes suburban life, slowly revealing the petty jealousies and casual cruelty of the residents of a “nice” neighborhood of a California town. Hangsaman (1951) uses razor-sharp wit to chart the fall of 17-year-old Natalie Waite as she slips into an ever-darkening world of madness. In The Bird’s Nest (1954), timid 23-year-old Elizabeth finds her many alternate selves at her psychiatrist’s office. The Sundial (1958), a creepy gothic horror tale combined with a black comedy of manners, exposes the deplorable nature of the members of the Halloran family as they wait for the end of the world. These novels are united by the author’s vibrant, eloquent prose; incisive characterizations; intimate understanding of fear; and unerring awareness of everyday evil. Jackson’s psychological weirdness compels, but in large doses it may leave readers feeling emotionally exhausted. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars

Anthony Boucher. Penzler, $15.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-613161-82-1

Set in 1939, this worthy addition to the American Mystery Classic series from legendary mystery critic Boucher (1911–1968) pits the Baker Street Irregulars, members of the real-life organization of Sherlock Holmes fans, against Stephen Worth, who has been chosen by Metropolis Pictures to write the screenplay for a major movie based on the Holmes story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” Worth, “the author of many stupid and illogical mystery novels of the type known as hard-boiled,” has expressed a desire to show up the detective as a “cocky bastard.” When the Irregulars protest Worth’s selection to Metropolis Pictures producer F.X. Weinberg, Weinberg invites them to Hollywood to consult on the film. The Irregulars soon lock horns with the obnoxious Worth, and a fatal shooting follows. Weinberg’s publicist, Maureen O’Breen, investigates, with varying degrees of help from the Sherlockians. Boucher tosses in plenty of shout-outs to Conan Doyle’s originals, including an envelope containing five orange seeds and a coded message featuring stick figures of dancing men. Fans of humorous whodunits will be pleased. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2020 | Details & Permalink

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