Jonathan Moore: The Dark Room

I like starting a new year with a new discovery. I read an advance reading copy of this novel, which I plucked from the giant slush pile we have of such books. Sometimes one will call to me, and this one did. It feels very much like a series book though it apparently is not (that would be my one objection). Set in San Francisco, we meet homicide cop Gavin Cain, who is called in by the mayor after the mayor receives some compromising photographs with a request from the anonymous sender that the mayor do the world a favor and kill himself. When Gavin has his initial meeting with him, the mayor denies knowing anything about the photographs, which show a woman handcuffed, then undressed and obviously drugged. read more

Carrie Smith: Forgotten City

Forgotten CityCarrie shared the manuscript of this novel with me – I inhaled it and loved it and then didn’t (or forgot to) write my review. I had to come back to it and re-read it thoughtfully. I still love this book and this author. Carrie is part of a long line of beloved authors (for me at least) that include Lillian O’Donnell, Barbara D’Amato, Leslie Glass, Lynn Hightower, and Lee Martin/Anne Wingate, women who wrote about female police officers or detectives who are juggling family and personal issues along with the day to day sexism they encounter on the job. O’Donnell’s first novel was published in 1972 and the sexism doesn’t seem to have changed much. read more

Michael Connelly: The Wrong Side of Goodbye

the-wrong-side-of-goodbyeIt’s been awhile since I’ve enjoyed a Michael Connelly book as much as I enjoyed this one. I always enjoy them, don’t get me wrong, but some of the fizz was gone for a couple books there. It seems to be back in a big way in this new Harry Bosch novel, where Bosch takes on not one, but two, cases and arrives at a meaningful and satisfying solution for each one.

As the book opens, Bosch is requested to meet with reclusive billionaire Whitney Vance. Vance has made his fortune in steel. As Bosch heads over to meet him in an uncharacteristic jacket and tie, he thinks “he was calling on six billion dollars,” a nice nod to Raymond Chandler, and the plot, as it always does in a Connelly novel, takes off in a rocket powered fashion from there. read more

John Keyse-Walker: Sun, Sand, Murder

sunsandMr. Keyse-Walker is the winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel award (the award being publication), so I turned to it with some interest. Past winners of Minotaur/St. Martin’s contests include Steve Hamilton, Michael Koryta and Julia Spencer-Fleming, so the bar is somewhat high. I was at first jarred as I opened a novel set on tiny Anegada, a remote member of the British Virgin Islands. The main character is special constable Teddy Creque, who is a native islander. The author, a lawyer from Ohio, couldn’t seem more removed from his character, but then I decided the guy who wrote Memoirs of a Geisha wasn’t very much like his character either, so I settled in. read more

Louise Penny: A Great Reckoning

5192hTW7qxL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_I love Louise Penny, and that’s no secret. There are many, many readers out there who share my adoration. But I was starting to wonder how she could move forward with Gamache being essentially retired in Three Pines… it’s too much like paradise and it’s too settled. There are few reasons to bring him into a case, other than his new son-in-law.

But Ms. Penny has found a way to get Gamache out of the house, so to speak, by making him the new head of the Surete Academy, where new cadets are trained. Of course Gamache being Gamache, he also has an ulterior motive, though it’s clear to no one how he is implementing his plan to clear the academy of rampant corruption. He’s demoted the most recent head of the academy and not fired him, but kept him on staff. He also hires his old frenemy, Michel Brebeuf. read more

Anne Hillerman: Rock with Wings

rockwithwingsAnne Hillerman may be a unicorn—that very rare writer whose relative was a bestselling author, and who is able to continue that series and make it her own. In fact, I can’t think of another example. Tony Hillerman’s classic and beloved Leaphorn and Chee novels put me off of his daughter’s work but they shouldn’t have—this is a terrific novel and I can’t wait to read more. The younger Hillerman has made the series her own by having Leaphorn retire, and Chee married to the lovely Bernadette “Bernie” Manuelito, also a police officer. Shifting the storytelling focus (or at least 50% of it) to a woman’s perspective changes things up enough to make these books Anne Hillerman’s very own. read more

Carrie Smith: Silent City

Silent CityThe two books I’ve read so far by new publisher Crooked Lane have knocked me out, and I am really smitten with Carrie Smith, who writes in one of my favorite subgenres: the police procedural with a female central character. NYPD Detective Claire Cordella is returning to work after a vicious and nearly deadly bout with cancer, and she’s out to prove she can handle the job no matter what. Of course she’s handed a doozy of a case her first day back: the murder of a popular public school principal, Hector Sanchez. He’s been found dead in his apartment, laid out like Christ on the cross. Even a cursory look reveals there are two sides to Sanchez, and Claire is determined to get to the bottom of it. read more

Andrew Grant: False Positive

falsepositiveThis book is a departure for Grant, whose first three books were James Bond style thrillers, and whose most recent, Run, was a straight up, no holds barred thriller. This one is a police novel set in Birmingham, Alabama. The central character is one Devereaux Cooper, a detective and damaged soul, scarred by a terrible childhood. Throughout the novel his backstory is teased out as he’s assigned the case of a missing child.

Grant gives the reader a look inside the head of the kidnapper as well, threading the kidnapper’s actions with the actions of the police. As the detectives begin to follow wrong paths thanks to false clues laid down by this person, it’s Deveraux who has the flashes of intuition that begin to lead them in the right direction. He’s assigned a new partner who seems a bit stand offish and it’s not clear if she doesn’t trust him or if it’s the department in general that doesn’t trust him. When he urges some actions that aren’t strictly legal (but that are expedient) you begin to worry about him, and that’s a good sign that Grant has really made you care about this character. read more

Margaret Mizushima: Killing Trail

killingtrailThis is the first title I’ve read by new publishing house Crooked Lane and I have to say it was a knock-out.   If you’re a fan of Dana Stabenow or Nevada Barr, you’ll gobble this one up with a spoon. Set in rugged Timber Creek, Colorado, the main characters are deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner, Robo. Newly paired up with Robo, Mattie is dealing with a bit of sexism and a bit of resentment on the part of her fellow deputies, and she’s also learning to trust Robo as a partner. That trust issue plays into the storyline in a major way. read more

Louise Penny: The Nature of the Beast

natureofthebeastLouise Penny’s gift is to take bits of reality and weave it into her setting and characters and make the reader really feel what she is feeling. In this novel, her eleventh in her remarkable Inspector Gamache series, the action starts, as it always does, in tiny Three Pines. The villagers are frequently disturbed or annoyed or even amused by the tall tales of young Laurent Lepage, who is always emerging from the woods with a fantastical story.

When Laurent claims he’s seen a giant gun in the woods and that it has a monster inscribed on it, no one believes him but when he goes missing and he’s later found dead of an apparent accident things turn more serious. On a hunch, Gamache calls his son in law Jean Guy, who is still with the Surete and tells him he thinks little Laurent’s death was no accident. This is a mystery novel—of course it wasn’t. read more