Michael Stanley: A Deadly Covenant

The eighth book in Michael Stanley’s enjoyable Detective Kubu series, set in Botswana, tells his origin story as a detective.  As readers, we have already come to love Kubu and his wife, Joy, so it’s a pure delight to read this book, which chronicles their early courtship and Kubu’s beginnings as a detective.  Kubu’s shyness and uncertainty with Joy only add to the human dimensions of his personality, a personality already well fleshed out in previous novels.

He’s not quite as uncertain on the job, though he’s junior enough to be uncertain that his superiors will listen to his ideas on a case.  His boss, Mabaku, sends his into the wilds of Botswana to observe pathologist Ian MacGregor (a Scot new to the country) as news that a cache of bones have been unearthed on a construction site. MacGregor will be processing the bones and Kubu is told to watch and learn. read more

Joyce St. Anthony: Death on a Deadline

It’s 1942, and Irene Ingram is managing The Progress Herald while her Dad is covering the front lines.  She’s in tiny Progress, Pennsylvania, and everyone in town is in a state of excitement at the news that Clark Gable will possibly be attending the war bond rally at their county fair.  The sensible and skeptical Irene is not so sure about it, though, and the book starts with her trying to get to the truth of the Clark Gable rumor.

This is a bit of a different take on a WWII mystery.  Many of the books are set in Europe, where the war was a daily and deadly occurrence.  However, the war reached its fingers everywhere, and even tiny Progress feels the impact.  Sweethearts, brothers and husbands are away; there’s shortages of almost everything; women are working in places they hadn’t before, like the newspaper.  St. Anthony brings the war home with her chapter epigraphs in the form of newspaper headlines, detailing the sinking of ships and lives lost all over the globe, and some even close to home.  The U.S. was not inviolable, as Pearl Harbor proved. read more

Martin Edwards: The Life of Crime

Lately I’ve felt few hardcovers are actually worth owning, but there are always exceptions.  I’m sure many of us have our collections – all of Agatha Christie or Michael Connelly or Sue Grafton, for example – but Martin Edwards’ new reference book, The Life of Crime, is the exception to the rule.  First of all, it’s beautiful.  The paper is smooth and creamy; the jacket is simple and elegant; and the endpapers – a collection of classic crime covers – are to die for. But while the cover draws you in, it’s what’s between them that’s the point. read more

Francine Mathews: Death on a Winter Stroll

Great Christmas Read

Confession: this is the first book I’ve read in Mathews’ Merry Folger series, and I very much regret not being up to date (something I plan to rectify). What a great read – it reminded me of Jane Haddam’s books, without some of the sardonic edge that Haddam brought to her work.  Set on Nantucket, the setting is spectacular, and it’s obviously born of a personal love and knowledge of the area.  She describes the social strata of a resort perfectly – the workers who serve the very wealthy who frequent Nantucket exist in a different social sphere.  Merry, a native, is a “townie” who grew up on Nantucket and has long family roots on the island. They are there when the dust of the tourist season clears, and the gap between townie and summer visitor is often vast. read more

Ausma Zehanat Khan: Blackwater Falls

This book opens with a bang and doesn’t let up.  A young woman is found crucified on the door of the local Evangelical Church in Blackwater Falls, Colorado.  The dead woman, Razan, is a Muslim, which brings in Denver’s Community Response Unit, or CRU, who are called in on cases of racial sensitivity.  The squad is headed by Lt. Seif, but the book centers on one of his officers, Detective Inaya Rahman. The local sheriff is annoyed that his case is being preempted by the CRU and does his best to be unhelpful. read more

Colleen Cambridge: A Trace of Poison

The second book in Cambridge’s delightful series about Agatha Christie’s housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, does not disappoint.  The first one was a take on The Body in the Library; this book takes place at a “Murder Fête,” an early version of a mystery book conference.  In this iteration, there are just a few authors, but they are Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Anthony Berkley.  Pretty swoon-worthy.  There’s also a short story contest judged by the celeb authors, and the outcome is hotly anticipated by the local mystery writing group. The prize is publication. read more

Alex Erickson: Death by Spiced Chai

Alex Erickson’s barista turned part-time sleuth, Krissey Hancock, finds herself the target of a sinister stalker in her newest book Death by Spiced Chai. Everything begins with little incidents such as the sudden appearance of cockroaches, and ominous texts about her local cop boyfriend Paul Daulton. At first, most are easily explained as either accidents or perhaps even as revenge by someone in town who has taken exception to Krissey’s history of being a tad too intrusive in her past investigations. But soon things escalate to accusations from friends and neighbors. Krissey finds her head spinning and anxiety rising as she desperately tries to clear her name left and right. Despite her efforts, things continue to escalate and eventually the police come to accuse her of vandalism of other local establishments, and then even of murder! read more

Donna Andrews: Dashing through the Snowbirds

Donna Andrews’ Dashing Through the Snowbirds will have readers dashing to solve the crimes alongside Meg Langslow. Christmas cheer abounds in Caerphilly, only broken up by a few grumpy guest programmers, who work for the small AcerGen company. Ian Meredith, the head programmer, seems determined to make everyone around him as miserable and uncomfortable as possible. Meg does her best to manage her constantly active family and their house guests, but thanks to Mr. Meredith she and her Mother are finding hosting more of a chore than a pleasure. read more

S.K. Golden: The Socialites Guide to Murder

This charming, frothy concoction is as charming and frothy as it’s heroine, Evelyn Elizabeth Grace Murphy, daughter of the owner of New York City’s Pinnacle Hotel.  She lives in the penthouse, and she never leaves the building – there’s no need!  She has a social life, friends, food delivery, even a dog walker.  It’s 1958 and she loves to dress like her favorite movie star, Marilyn Monroe.  Her fluffy white dog – she carries him around in her purse – is named Presley.  As the story opens there’s a big art exhibition opening, and Evelyn is on the arm of movie star(let) Henry Fox.  She’s dressed to the nines, in a replica of Marilyn’s pink dress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  read more

November Book Club: The Godwulf Manuscript

Robert B. Parker’s Spenser celebrates 50 years in 2023, with the 50th birthday book being The Godwulf Manuscript.  Our book club wanted to read a classic this month, and chose Parker over Tey, Sayers, P.D. James and Ross MacDonald (Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affair was a close second). Is Spenser a “classic”?  At 50 years on, it’s time to evaluate.  The first review from Kirkus in 1973 said “The publishers make the comparison to Philip Marlowe (author-professor Parker did a dissertation on Chandler-Hammett) but it won’t serve him well — there’s some of the toughness and the terseness but the hat’s much too big for him and it hasn’t got the right slouch.”  Agree? Disagree?  Join us on zoom Sunday, November 13  at 2 p.m.  to join the fray. See how Parker laid out his series with this first novel, and how he set a pattern followed by many, many others, from Harlan Coben to Robert Crais to Dennis Lehane… read more