Elly Griffiths: The Lantern Men

This novel will be released on July 14.

It’s rare for a writer to sustain interest and excitement through a long series.  Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series, now twelve books strong, has had a few entries not quite as great as some of the very best ones, but this one is one of the best ones.  There might be a couple reasons – one, Griffiths has now refreshed herself with a very different series (the Magic Men books). For another, she’s taken this book and skooched Ruth two years ahead in time from the last book and much has happened.  It’s only unsettling for a moment – you’ll catch on – especially as all the changes are pretty briskly introduced in the first chapter. read more

Peter Robinson: Many Rivers to Cross

This melancholy, thoughtful novel finds Inspector Banks struggling with some of the knottier issues confronting the world at the moment – immigration, drug use and human trafficking.  Mystery novelists are often among the first to write about “issues,” wrapping them in stories that make the reader think. Robinson is embracing this macro view of the universe, while applying a writer’s micro view – the humans who populate the drama.

There are two main story threads in this book.  One involves a young Arab boy found dead, stuffed in a garbage bin.  The police are having a hard time locating any ties for him, and of course he turns out to be a refugee, with a particularly heartbreaking backstory. read more

Sophie Hannah: Perfect Little Children

There’s a classic French novel called Le Grand Meaulnes, which is basically in two parts. The first is about a runaway schoolboy who stumbles into a marvelous, fairy tale experience in an isolated, ancient mansion in the countryside. The second half is the prosaic, logical explanation of this seemingly magic occurrence and the resulting quotidian grind of real life. In a way it’s satisfying to know what really happened, but in another way you want to rip the book in two and throw the ending out of the window. Or in the words of the marvelously named Sacheverell Sitwell, “In the end, it is the mystery that lasts and not the explanation.” read more

Deborah Crombie: A Bitter Feast

I don’t think there was a book I was more excited to read this year than this one and happily, I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s been three long years since the last novel, The Garden of Lamentations, and I have missed Crombie’s perceptive take on human nature.  It’s character that dominates her novels.  Characters are the alpha and omega of her writing, and this book is no exception to the rule.

I have to say I nearly swooned when I discovered the book was set in the Cotswolds.  There can be no more English village-y type setting, and contemporary writers from Erin Hart to Elizabeth George to G.M. Malliet have taken this classic setting and run with it.  There’s a depth to Deborah Crombie’s writing that sets her apart, and it percolates through every detail of her novels, from setting to plot to whatever she has chosen to examine in a particular book. read more

Ann Cleeves: The Long Call

Ann Cleeves wrapped up her stellar Shetland series and has turned her hand and eye to Devon, a British resort area where of course she finds out what’s lurking under the surface. She introduces the reader to detective Matthew Venn, who has a complex backstory that would seem to lend itself to further discovery in more books down the road.

Matthew is a bit OCD, reminding me slightly of Margaret Maron’s great creation, Sigrid Harald. He was raised by parents who were members of a Christian cult and when he renounced their faith he was banned from their lives. He’s married to the lively, artistic and sometimes messy Jonathan, who runs the local center for art and disabled adults. The odd combination of artistic pursuit and mental health and disabled adult care seems to work well and the center is a lively place, important to many families in town. read more

Kate Atkinson: Big Sky

It’s been a long wait for the new Jackson Brodie novel. Kate Atkinson was writing Life After Life and other literary hits. But her unlucky-in-love, tough-but-soft-hearted P.I. is back. This time Jackson’s 13-year-old son Nathan is staying with him on Yorkshire’s east coast while his mother Julia, Jackson’s former flame, acts in a TV crime series. Jackson’s daughter Marlee is now a law graduate and about to be a bride. Jackson does “dog work for solicitors—debt tracing, surveillance, and so on.” He also documents adulterous couples. read more

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

After the Great War

This wonderful essay comes to us from occasional contributor Nancy Shaw.

The wait is over. The recently-released Maisie Dobbs mystery, The American Agent, puts her in the middle of the London Blitz on ambulance runs, bringing her back to the scenes of wartime carnage that molded her life into “psychologist and investigator,” the job she created after nursing in France in World War I. Jacqueline Winspear makes the trauma of war her major subject through her beloved series. Shell shock lingers in the lives of Brits and pops out in a variety of malignant ways, volume after volume. 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

David Downing: The Dark Clouds Shining

Our June book club read is David Downing’s The Dark Clouds Shining, set in 1921 London.  Ex-secret service spy Jack McColl is in prison, but his ex boss offers him an assignment in Russia to get out of jail time.  Join us on Thursday, June 27 at 6 p.m. at the Classic Cup Cafe. 4389 Jackson Rd. for dinner & discussion.  All are welcome.  Purchase a copy at our online store here    See you in June!