Rhys Bowen: Love and Death Among the Cheetahs

Every time I finish a Lady Georgie book by Rhys Bowen I think to myself, well, there’s no way she can write another book that’s so insanely enjoyable. But every time…she does write one that’s just as positively crazily enjoyable as the one before. She has the gift of narrative in spades, but she also has a light hand with it. Each time, she puts her characters in a fresh situation, and this is book 13 in a series. In the last book (Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding) Georgie and Darcy were married at last. So what comes next? A honeymoon, naturally. read more

Louise Penny: A Better Man

This is one of the more stripped down narratives Louise Penny has delivered.  Stripped down for Penny, that is.  The essential story is a simple one that drives her narrative, but being a complex writer and thinker, she’s made the simple complex.  There are two threads.  One concerns the disappearance of a woman who happens to be the goddaughter of a Surete officer.  Gamache, who has returned to work with a demotion (he’s head of homicide, not the entire Surete) accompanies the officer to the village where the woman lived. read more

William Kent Krueger: This Tender Land

While this wonderful novel bears all the hallmarks of William Kent Krueger, it’s not exactly a mystery. There are some mysterious – or criminal – elements and the fact that it’s not a straight up mystery should keep no reader away. Written as a companion to Krueger’s classic, Ordinary Grace, it is a spiritual companion but it’s not a sequel or a prequel or anything like it. It’s very much its own country.

Set in 1930’s Minnesota, it’s the story of Odie, his brother Albert, and their friend Mose, who doesn’t speak. All of them are young and living in an “Indian” boarding school. At the time (and up through the early 70’s) native children were taken from their homes and put in these harsh schools where they were allowed little to no contact with their families and were forbidden – even punished – if they spoke their native language. They were given western style haircuts and forced to anglicize their names. read more

Annelise Ryan: Needled to Death

This book has a cozy look, but I wouldn’t say it’s a cozy. It’s kind of a half cozy, but if you shop by cover art, the cute dog isn’t going to quite give you the picture of what’s inside. I’m a fan of Ryan’s Mattie Winston series because of the complex characters and situations, and this book, the first in a “new” series, actually features a character introduced in the last Mattie Winston book, Hildy Schneider.

Hildy is a hospital social worker who leads a grief group. As the book opens, the group is meeting, and a new member to the group has lost her son to addiction, a sadly unremarkable story. What’s different is that the woman insists her son wasn’t involved with drugs and that he was murdered. The cops are skeptical and have closed the case – the young man was found with a needle hanging out of his arm, and after all, does a parent always know what their child is up to? read more

Stephen Mack Jones: Lives Laid Away

This book came out around the time we closed the store and I didn’t read it at the time, being deep into comfort re-reading of Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth.  However I thought the first book, August Snow, was wonderful and a great and much needed injection of diversity and vitality to the private eye genre.  This second book is even better, more intense and focused.  I recently interviewed Stephen who mentioned Robert B. Parker as an influence, and I can sure see it in this tight, funny, fast moving story. read more

Dianne Freeman: A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder

What does an American-born aristocrat do when she becomes a young widow? Why, introduce her heiress niece to London society, start playing match-maker for other young American heiresses, and solve murders, of course.

In this lighthearted second installment in the Countess of Harleigh series, Frances has a serious problem. When her cousin Charles decides it’s time to look for a wife, Frances introduces him to her acquaintance Mary Archer. The romance doesn’t work out and soon after Charles and Mary part company, Mary is found dead, and Frances is determined to keep Charles from being accused of murder. read more

Casey Cep: Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

As evidenced by its extended title Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee is really three interrelated stories. The first, and impetus for the rest, is the murky tale of a murky man, the Reverend Willie Maxwell, an itinerant preacher and laborer whose immediate family members had the unfortunate habit of dying under mysterious circumstances. Whether the Reverend was unlucky or not depends on your perspective, because it always turned out that said family members were insured to the hilt, with the beneficiary being, unsurprisingly, the Reverend himself. He was found innocent the only time he was tried for his losses, and eventually (no spoiler here, it’s on the jacket copy) shot in church during the funeral of one of his alleged victims. read more

S.J. Rozan: Paper Son

Eight long years and a change of publisher later, Lydia Chin and her partner Bill Smith have returned. They have been missed! Rozan’s series is one of the best private eye series around, with the fresh take of shifting narrators between books. One book will be Lydia’s, one Bill’s. This one is Lydia’s. She’s summoned to Mississippi to get a never met cousin out of jail for murdering his father.

First of all, what? Mississippi? What’s hard core New Yorker Lydia doing in the Mississippi Delta, and who knew she had cousins there, much less that Chinese grocery stores are/were a fact of life in small Mississippi towns. Lydia’s scary (and entertaining mother) is sure her cousin Jefferson cannot be guilty, because he’s family. read more

Sarah R. Shaber: Louise’s Crossing

This is the seventh Louise Pearlie mystery – the first one for me, and I have to say I am now a fan.  I was able to pick up the character threads easily and was quickly absorbed in the story of Louise Pearlie, OSS agent, crossing a wartime ocean in winter to take up an assignment in London.  Shaber is a brisk storyteller and I was immediately drawn in to Louise’s goodbye to her U.S, wartime office, to her boarding house friends, and even her packing for a winter voyage. By the end of chapter two she has her orders and is already on board ship. read more

Terry Shames: A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary

This is the first Samuel Craddock mystery I’ve read, largely on the advice of other readers I met at Left Coast Crime this year.  As when I had a bookstore, the best recommendations often come from fellow readers, and I decided to give this one a try.  I was intrigued when I sat next to Terry at a panel and she told me this was a police series, by far one of my favorite sub genres.  This is a softer police story than say, one by Michael Connelly, but it’s still a police novel and a very good one. read more