The third novel in Sarah Stewart Taylor’s Maggie D’Arcy series finds Maggie at a crossroads. Formerly a Long Island cop, she’s now unemployed, and in Ireland with her daughter, on holiday with her boyfriend, Connor and his son. The first novel was Maggie’s journey backwards: she looked for the killer of her cousin, who had disappeared in Ireland twenty years before. The second novel finds her investigating a crime that begins on a Long Island beach but has roots in Ireland. This third novel finds her firmly in Ireland, planning to move there, and deciding what she should do as far as a new career. As the book makes obvious, she very much misses police work and hates being on the outside looking in (this is a clue to her eventual decision, but it’s hardly a spoiler).
This is the second novel about Inspector Lu Fei, who works in a small town outside of Harbin, China. The charm of the first novel, Thief of Souls, were the inner workings of a small town Chinese police department and the lives of the officers, including and especially Lu Fei, who is an incredibly appealing character. In Wild Prey Lu Fei remains appealing, but the topic Klingborg has chosen to spotlight is far more difficult. The first novel was a serial killer story; this one focuses on the illegal (and immoral) killing of rare animals for food.
This is the kind of book you read with a lump in your throat. Jess Montgomery’s portrayal of 1920’s Ohio is so deeply felt, so evocative, so redolent of history and memory and shared experience, that to read one of these books is to be completely immersed, while at the same time feeling all of the human experience. Montgomery covers it all – birth, death and everything in between. This novel seemed to me to be the most focused of her books plot wise, and that seemed to give this story an extra intensity.
This first novel in a new series from Gigi Pandian is so rich, so stuffed with character, plot and setting, it takes a moment to absorb everything the intelligent Pandian is throwing at you. She expects you, the reader, to hit the ground running. Her main character, Tempest Raj, is a magician and illusionist whose career has been crushed by a spectacular failure onstage in Las Vegas, and she’s back home reconsidering her life.
She’s from a family of magicians and illusionists, and there’s a longstanding family curse: the eldest child dies by magic. Tempest has lost a string of relatives, most recently her beloved aunt and her mother (who were known as “The Selkie Sisters”), and Tempest’s grandparents and her father are extra careful of her as they don’t want her to be next.
I really, really love Molly Murphy. For me these books are an inhale – as in, when one is available, I don’t look up from the pages until I am finished reading. Molly came to readers through Ellis Island in 2001 (for Molly, it was 1901), and the books kept appearing until 2017, when I was afraid the series had come to a natural end. Starting her adventures with “The next morning I sailed for America with another woman’s name”, Molly proceeded to shove her way into reader’s hearts as she made her hardscrabble way through New York City, finding work as a lady private detective.
The second in Ann Cleeves’ Detective Mathew Venn series finds Matthew investigating a case on the grounds of an artist’s colony and farm. The book opens with a party attended by a very drunk Detective Jen Rafferty, who meets the victim at the party, but didn’t talk to him for long because of her condition – something she comes to regret.
The dead man, Nigel Yeo, was a doctor who worked with people who had complaints about National Health. He is discovered with a huge shard of glass in his neck, glass created by his glassblower daughter, Eve. This incredibly fabulist method of death is carried forward. Ann Cleeves, the most careful and meticulous of writers, nevertheless includes this almost gothic flight of fancy as a murder method. It suits her updated golden age style of storytelling.
This is the second installment in the charming Island Sisters series, set in Britain’s Scilly Isles. Sisters Evie and Margot have taken over an old hotel and are managing it for the owner, though they are on the hook for repairs, which are turning out to be massive. As the book opens, they are a few days out from their grand re-opening, and they are working full tilt to get everything ready in time.
Because the books are set on the tiny island of Treggarick Rock, accessible only by boat and at certain times because of high or low tide, every story is going to be essentially a locked room mystery. Because the décor of the hotel calls back to the 30’s, this adds a decidedly golden age feel to the proceedings.
It’s amazing to me that Linda Castillo can work within such a tight construct and still, every time, produce an original and thoughtful book. Her set up: Chief of Police Kate Burkholder, who has grown up Amish, is the insider/outsider head of law enforcement in tiny, Amish centric Painter’s Mill, Ohio. She has connections with the Amish but they don’t fully trust her as she’s left the faith, but she still has insider knowledge of the culture that help her to solve the crimes that occur in her community.
July Book Club will meet in person on Sunday, July 18, 2pm at my home. We’ll also be meeting via zoom on Wednesday, July 21, at 7pm. Please message me if you’d like to attend either iteration and you don’t have the relevant details or zoom link. We’ll be discussing Sarah Stewart Taylor’s wonderful novel, The Mountains Wild.
August book club will meet in person on Sunday, August 22 at 2p.m and via zoom on Wednesday, August 25 at 7pm. We’ll be reading Caroline B. Cooney’s Edgar nominee, Before She Was Helen.
The second in Stewart Taylor’s Maggie D’Arcy series follows her elegiac first outing, The Mountains Wild, my favorite read of 2020. Maggie is a Long Island homicide cop, but as the first novel explored, she has deep roots in Ireland. In the first novel she searches for her long lost cousin’s killer; in the second novel, the crime occurs up the street from her home, but the roots of the story again take her back to Ireland.
She’s left behind a new-old flame in Ireland and has been planning a long vacation there with her daughter to visit him, but she catches a homicide case two days before they plan to leave. When it turns out the victim was Irish, she figures she can combine business and pleasure, and her boss gives her leave to take off.