I was a devout acolyte of Faye Kellerman’s early Decker and Lazarus books. The Ritual Bath (1986) is, to me, one of the greatest first mysteries ever. In it, Peter Decker, an LAPD detective, encounters the orthodox Jewish Rina Lazarus after a rape and murder at her neighborhood mikvah, or ritual bath. Improbably, the two eventually get married and the series, now 26 books long, is a strong one. The early books were marked by intensity of character discovery, intensity of violence, and Kellerman’s propulsive narrative skill.
This is a delicious, funny, perfect book. Copperman, a seasoned series veteran (Haunted Guest House, Asberger’s, Mysterious Detective, Agent to the Paws, and, as Jeff Cohen, Aaron Tucker and Double Feature) brings all his writing expertise to the table in Inherit the Shoes. Lawyer Sandy Moss has just moved to California from New Jersey to start over. On her first day at her new law firm she’s told to sit still and be quiet (she’s new to defense, she’s come from the prosecutor’s side of the table), and, instead of being quiet, she speaks up.
This novel will be published December 29.
This novel is more of a village cozy than a war novel, though it’s set at the start of WWII in the tiny British village of Pipley. The heroine, Olive, longs to enlist as a FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), but she’s tethered to home, helping her father with her stepmother, who has MS, as well as with a young war refugee, Jonathon. She also has the responsibility of the family pigeon loft, a fine one, and one her bristly father hopes will meet with the approval of the NPS, or National Pigeon Service.
This is the second entry in Maureen Jennings’ Paradise Café series, set in almost wartime Toronto (1936). Detective Murdoch’s son, Jack, is now the “Detective Murdoch” in this series, which centers on young Charlotte Frayne, who has joined up with an older private investigator, Mr. Gilmore. Mr. Gilmore is out of town as the story opens.
Charlotte arrives to open the office and discovers two women waiting for her, both of them in heavy mourning. As Jennings lays her story parameters out in this first chapter, I think her rare capacity for both breaking a reader’s heart and reaching it have never been more strongly on display than they are here. The women relate the story of the suicide of Gerald Jessup, the son of one and the wife of the other.
This is the second book in Paige Shelton’s series about thriller writer Elizabeth Fairchild, now in hiding in tiny Benedict, Alaska as Beth Rivers, after being kidnapped by a crazed fan. Elizabeth/Beth lives in a halfway house and appreciates the privacy she finds in the Alaskan wild, a place that truly seems to be its own country, existing without a real nod to the rules and regulations more common in the lower 48. Shelton, the author of four other cozier series than this one, is a real pro at narrative, pacing, and character. These skills easily transfer to this series which is a bit darker in tone, and fits in more with work by writers like Ellen Hart, Dana Stabenow and Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Death, Diamonds, and Deception is the fifth book in Rosemary Simpson’s Gilded Age mystery series set in New York City in the 1880s. It’s the first I’ve read, but I enjoyed it so much that I will definitely look for the others. The two protagonists are heiress Prudence MacKenzie and ex-Pinkerton agent Geoffrey Hunter, who are partners in a detective agency. Prudence is the daughter of a wealthy judge, a prominent man in New York, who died about two years before this book begins. She is part of the city’s elite, the world of the Astors and Vanderbilts, even though she defies the standards of that society by becoming a detective. Geoffrey is a Southerner who came to New York around the time of the Civil War because he was anti-slavery. He is quite a bit older than she is. Prudence is around twenty, and, although Geoffrey’s age is not specified, it seems that he was already an adult at the time of the Civil War, so he must be in his early forties at least.
2020 has been – challenging – but the upside for me was even more reading time, and I read so many books this year it was difficult to winnow my list to 10, so I added a couple extra categories. There should be something for most readers on this list – maybe not the lover of hard boiled fiction – but I’m pretty sure that’s not why you are visiting this website. I’m sure there were some wonderful noir and hard boiled reads this year – they just aren’t my cup of tea. However, if you are a lover of the traditional detective novel, or of the historical detective novel, this was a fantastic year.
All are welcome to joins us at upcoming book clubs via zoom. Message us on facebook or at store (at) auntagathas.com to receive a zoom invitation.
On Sunday, January 17, at 2 p.m. join us when we discuss Kwei Quartey’s The Missing American, the first in his series featuring P.I. Emma Djan. When her dreams of rising through the police ranks like her late father crash around her, 26-year-old Emma Djan is unsure what will become of her life in Accra. Through a sympathetic former colleague, Emma gets an interview with a private detective agency tracking down missing persons, thefts, and marital infidelities. It’s not the future she imagined, but it’s her best option.
Author Cate Conte/Liz Mugavero joins us with this nostalgic look at Christmases of her childhood and Christmas as it appears in her Cat Cafe books. Time to get in the holiday spirit…A Whisker of a Doubt will be published on December 1st.
Christmas, to many people, means the most wonderful time of the year. (Note: in my view Halloween takes that award, but I’ve always been a bit off-the-beaten-path…)
Regardless, I understand the appeal and I do love Christmas myself. Growing up, my family always made sure we had the best holiday season, full of traditions, family, and yes, gifts galore. I was very blessed.
A Lady Compromised is the fourth book in the Regency mystery series by Darcie Wilde (a pseudonym for Sarah Zettel) featuring Rosalind Thorne, a gentlewoman living in reduced circumstances after a family scandal. To make a living for herself, Rosalind helps society ladies solve their problems, which, in this book and the others in the series, include murder investigation. At the beginning of this book, Rosalind travels to Cassell House, the country estate of Devon Winterbourne, who has recently, and unexpectedly, inherited the title of Duke of Casselmaine following the untimely deaths of his father and older brother. Rosalind and Devon had been close to becoming engaged before Rosalind’s father’s disgrace, at a time when Devon was a second son, with no prospects of inheriting the dukedom. Now his cousin, Rosalind’s friend Louisa, is getting married, and Rosalind is looking forward to attending the wedding and possibly rekindling her romance with Devon.