Despite the title of Karin Slaughter’s latest work, Girl, Forgotten, it’s pretty clear that Emily Vaughn’s idyllic little hometown has never truly forgotten her. Told half in the present, where the case has been reopened by newly minted US Marshal Andrea Oliver, and half in the past, where Emily lives out the days before her own murder, her voice isn’t silenced for long. That can make the horrific things she endured – rape by someone who knew she was drugged, ostracization by former friends, loss of her future, and unexpected pregnancy – difficult to bear. It is clear throughout that Emily was a sweet, good person who intended to make the most of her situation moving forward. Unfortunately, she never gets the chance to do so.
The Hunt, Faye Kellerman’s latest Decker/Lazarus mystery, is barely their story at all. Instead, it revolves around the toxic, layered relationship of Chris and Terry, the biological parents of Peter and Rina’s adopted son, Gabe. Though Gabe is no longer close to either of his parents, when Terry calls him after she is seriously hurt, he turns to the powerful, mob-connected Chris for help. Terry’s younger son, Sanjay, has been kidnapped during the course of her messy second divorce. Chris seems the obvious choice to help get him back.
Carol Goodman has been killing it. She’s writing the kind of standalone, psychologically suspenseful novels that are incredibly popular at the moment, but she’s been doing it for twenty years. She’s a tight storyteller and a smart one, and she’s great with character and setting – in fact, she’s the whole package. Her new novel, The Disinvited Guest, posits that we have emerged from a worldwide pandemic, albeit briefly, and been plunged into another one. Her book is set very slightly in an unfortunately believable future.
Set at a girl’s boarding school in 1970, Siena Sterling’s debut novel was immediately attractive to me, as a 1977 graduate of a girl’s boarding school myself. There is no doubt Ms. Sterling attended boarding school as the details are pretty much spot on. Happily, I had a much better experience than the four girls in the novel, Abby, Zoey, Cassidy and Karen. Boarding school is a time of intense bonding – girls are there from the ages of 14 to 17 or 18 – and as that coincides with the surge of adolescence and self discovery, the friendships formed during that time of your life often prove to be the most indelible.
I am a devotee of this charming new series, where the detective is the most famous woman on the planet – Queen Elizabeth II. She shares detecting duties (she’s quite busy of course) with Rozie Oshodi, one of her private secretaries, a London born Nigerian. She and Rozie formed a bond in the first novel as they investigated the mysterious death of a young Russian pianist at Buckingham Palace.
There are many things to love about these books. One is the meticulous backstage look at how an enormous household like Buckingham Palace functions. One is the author’s loving portrayal of the queen – a woman who is busy, organized, intelligent and curious. One is the character of Rozie herself, who is almost, but not quite, a superwoman. She’s respected by her colleagues, but Buckingham Palace appears to be very much an old boy’s club in many ways. It’s something the author turns her observant eye on in this novel.
Through now 24 novels, Charles and Caroline Todd have provided their readers with excellence, pure and simple. The first novel in the Rutledge series, A Test of Wills, is a classic, and the rest of the series, elegiac, carefully plotted, and richly characterized, have all been solid and worthy reads. Sadly, this is the last novel written in collaboration with Caroline Todd, who passed away in 2021. She leaves a huge legacy.
In this novel, set in 1921, Inspector Rutledge has been called in from Scotland Yard to look at a case in Essex. He goes where he’s sent by his higher ups, but he is puzzled to be looking in a case that seems to involve a ghost. No-one is better than the Todds at setting up a disturbing premise that sticks in your mind as you read, wondering what’s going on. Twenty-four books in, I was pretty comfortable waiting to discover the solution.
These books – two so far – are a mix of adventure, climate change despair, and appreciation and love of the natural world and the creatures that share the planet with us. In the first book, Henderson’s protagonist, Dr. Alex Carter, left Boston to study wolverines in Montana. As that study winds down in book two, she’s delighted to get a call from a colleague, asking her to fill in for her on a polar bear study in Churchill, Manitoba.
Thrilled, Alex jumps at the chance and hops on a plane. She’s used to solitude and her main points of contact are a buddy who is an actor and her father. While Churchill would be no one’s idea of the big city, to Alex, it almost is, as she’ll be working at a large center with other scientists. She’s happy enough to be able to stay in a motel on her own instead of the center’s quarters.
The most towering figure in mystery fiction is Agatha Christie. She created and influenced countless plots and tropes, and invented iconic detectives. Surely no mystery writer can set a pen to paper without feeling in her debt. Re-paying this debt with her impressionistic Death at Greenway is Lori Rader-Day, a writer known for multiple point of view novels and indirect storytelling. Her style could not be further from Agatha’s, but – there’s still that debt to be paid.
The book is set during WWII at Mrs. Christie’s summer home, Greenway, in Devon. During the war the Mallowans (for that was Agatha’s married name) lent their house to a war nursery – or to children evacuated from London, cared for by nurses. Rader-Day has chosen to focus her story on Bridget Kelly, a failed nurse in training, who takes up the war nursery job out of desperation.
Join our book club on Sunday, April 18 at 2 p.m. via zoom to discuss Alyssa Cole’s Edgar nominee, When No One is Watching. All are welcome – message us on facebook or email us at store (at) auntagathas.com for a zoom invitation. Here’s a precis of the novel:
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.
This book is adorable in the best possible way. I usually hate it when real people are used as the detective, and in the case of this novel “the detective” is one of the most famous people on the planet, Queen Elizabeth II. But SJ Bennett has real affection and reverence – in the nicest way – for her majesty and the actual detecting is mostly done by the Queen’s Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian who shares the Queen’s affection for horses and would do anything for the “boss.”