Jenny Milchman: Ruin Falls

Ruin FallsJenny Milchman’s new novel concentrates on a mother’s primal fear: the vanishing of her children. Her main characters in this stand alone novel are the Daniels family, Paul, Liz, Ally and Reid, on their way to visit Paul’s parents. Rarely do the Daniels leave their homestead and their contact with Paul’s family has been minimal.

Milchman begins to skillfully sketch in the family details: the processed snacks snuck by Liz to her children when they are on the road, despite Paul’s objections; the clever and disturbing ability of Reid to pick pockets; the sweetness of Ally; and the apparent controlling nature of Paul. We’re seeing it all through Liz’s lens. When Paul decides they can spend the night in a hotel before reaching his parents’ house, Liz is delighted by the rare treat and chance to get cleaned up and prepared to face her in-laws. Wakening from a deep, comfortable sleep the next morning, she quickly discovers the children are missing, and she and Paul go into full panic mode. read more

Linda Castillo: The Dead Will Tell

The Dead Will TellI am a sucker for this series. Castillo’s premise is a brilliant one: police chief Kate Burkholter, who was raised Amish in tiny Painter’s Mill, Ohio, left the Amish for the “English” world and returned home to join the police force. Her appointment as Chief is relatively new. Her status as an insider/outsider could not be more perfect as far as a mystery heroine is concerned, and her character’s knowledge of Amish culture, Amish families and at times, the Pennsylvania Dutch language the Amish speak, are all helpful to her as she solves crimes. read more

Chevy Stevens: That Night

That-NightWe get a lot of uncorrected proofs and advanced reader copies – those large format paperbacks that are sent to bookstores in order to drum up interest in a forthcoming hardback.  Much of the accompanying promotional literature is guilty of hyperbole to say the least, but in rare cases it’s spot on. As printed on the cover, with any justice the summer of 2014 will belong to Chevy Stevens’s fantastic, suspenseful novel That Night.

Earlier this year I lined up four or five proofs and read the first pages of all of them and That Night was the only one that grabbed me from the get go. After I quickly finished it, I gave it to Robin who also tore through it and then we subjected it to the most rigorous test of all, our son, who demands Harlan Coben quality readability and suspense in any book he picks up. When he loved it as well, I knew we were on to something. read more

Kem Nunn: Chance

Chance by Kem NunnKem Nunn’s latest begins with a pretty straightforward James M. Cain setup. The titular character, Dr. Eldon Chance, is a semi-hapless, yet highly intelligent psychiatrist who is going through a nasty divorce and burning out on his profession, which largely consists of lending his expertise in legal matters concerning people who have been damaged by various kinds of physical and mental trauma. Into this life of quiet desperation strides Jaclyn Blackstone, a beautiful, wounded woman who has evidently been abused and trapped by her husband, a corrupt cop. It’s no surprise that Dr. Chance soon finds that “His days of respectability were behind him. There was no getting around it and none of his present endeavors were likely to bring them back.” read more

Robert Crais: Suspect

Robert Crais is hands down one of the absolute best writers of action.  That’s not an easy thing to do, though he makes it look that way.  The miracle of his writing is that he combines the action of his stories with some real emotional punch.  If, when you finish this book, you aren’t a) crying your eyes out, and b) wishing you had a dog (if you don’t already have one), there’s something the matter.  I heard Crais at a conference say that he starts every story with something that breaks his heart, and this one has a whopper of a heartbreaking beginning. read more

Laura Lippman: After I’m Gone

Laura Lippman is truly a master at what she does.  Her latest novel, a stand alone, takes a ripped-from-the-headlines story and she puts her own Lippman-esque spin on it.  The story concerns one Felix Brewer, a slick operator who decides to vanish rather than face prison time over his many unlawful misdeeds.  Lippman’s concern and interest, however, is not so much Felix as the women Felix leaves behind: his beautiful wife, Bambi; his three daughters; and his mistress, Julie.  The connecting thread is not only the women, but the cold case officer who is trying to figure out, many years later, who caused the death of Felix’s mistress ten years to the day after his own disappearance. read more

Nevada Barr: Destroyer Angel

I haven’t checked in with Anna Pigeon in a few books and I see she’s gotten married (congrats, Anna!) and she seems to have morphed into a Jack Reacher-of-the-woods.  In this book she’s the coolest, most badass character you can imagine.  I was absolutely unable to stop reading.

Destroyer-AngelAnna has taken a bit of time away from her spouse to spend a weekend with the “girls” – two women her own age and their teenage daughters.  One of the women, Heath, is almost as badass as Anna herself, though she’s paralyzed from the waist down.  She and her daughter Elizabeth, or “E,” have a good relationship and E seems like a very level headed teen.  They’ve brought their dog, Wily, with them. read more

Sarah Weinman (editor): Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense

To my mind the most unjustly neglected mystery writers of all are the women who wrote non-series books around the middle of the twentieth century. Part of the neglect has to do with the fact that series fiction has come to dominate the genre, but a lot of it has to do with sheer sexism. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the hard-boiled guys who saw women as little more than leggy appendages and prized gun play, fisticuffs and rye whiskey overlooked or derided the housewife, widow or mousy poor relation protagonists of these books, but what is surprising is the treatment they would come to receive from their own sex. When the sixties and seventies rolled around female mystery heroines picked up guns and came out slugging, empowered by a revolutionary new world of economic and social possibilities. In an era of “I am woman, hear me roar,” their muzzled predecessors became an embarrassment, a page to be turned and forgotten rather than a legacy to be celebrated. read more

Michael Gruber: The Return

Michael Gruber is one of the more original of all mystery writers,  His wonderful brain takes the reader to all kinds of places, almost always an unexpected one.  The Return is no different, following book editor Marder after a diagnosis of fatal cancer.  Marder decides to spend his last days in Mexico, returning to the tiny birthplace of his beloved and now dead wife.

The ReturnHe doesn’t want to burden anyone with his illness, so he cashes out (he has a large stash, despite his profession as an editor), buys a house in Playa Diamente, Mexico, severs ties and heads out in a camper.  Unbidden, a (scary) old buddy of his, Paul Skelly, turns up and refuses to be shaken no matter what. read more

Patricia D. Cornwell: Postmortem

postmortemMy 13 year old son was spending lots of time reading graphic novels – he’s a bit past the YA novels available – and wondering how to get him into reading actual books, I gave him a copy of Mystic River for Christmas. He devoured it, even going into his room and shutting the door to read in peace. Since then he’s also become a giant Harlan Coben fan (he’s reading The Woods right now), but he seems to like serial killer novels, having also enjoyed Connelly’s The Poet. So, bad mother that I am (what kind of mom gives her 13 year old a copy of a Dennis Lehane novel, after all?) I of course thought he might as well read one of the true classics of the serial killer genre, Patricia Cornwell’s Postmortem. Well, that was another close the door and leave me alone read for him, and when he had finished it, it was of course lying around the house, so I thought I would re-read it, wondering if I would enjoy it as much as I did in 1990, when it was first published. read more