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August 10, 2019
It's hard for me to have to admit it, but Laura Lippman's LADY IN THE LAKE is listed as an "historical mystery." It's set in 1966. Nevertheless, historical or simply retrospective, it found favour with Susan Hoover. In fact, she gave it a rousing cheer.
Actual historicals (ones set before I was born) are also on the menu today. THE DOLL FACTORY, by Elizabeth Macneal, takes place in mid-19th century London. It highlights the grotesqueries of the time as well as taking a serious look at the situation of women. On the whole, I thought it a striking debut. Some of its details are decidedly grim, but none quite so disturbing as THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN, by Niklas Natt Och Dag, set in 18th century Stockholm, also a debut. Meg Westley reports that while parts of it are hard to read, it is nevertheless a fascinating exploration of what drives someone to commit unthinkable acts. Barbara Cleverly's INVITATION TO DIE is very far from a debut for this novelist. Diana Borse was, however, disappointed to have to report that it does not come up to the standard set by the first in this new series for the author.
In the present day, on the other hand, we expect women characters to be fully integrated into the world of work, and the central figures of four tough-minded investigations are exactly that. Hard-drinking, principled PI Roxane Weary, of Kristen Lepionka's THE STORIES YOU TELL, is a dogged investigator into a frustrating collection of clues in a world where appearances count for far more than fact. Barbara Fister approved. Lourdes Venard says that the British buzz that accompanies the US release of Olivia Kiernan's THE KILLER IN ME is largely deserved. It's a solid police procedural, with a strong female protagonist and plenty of suspense. BAD AXE COUNTY, by John Galligan, is a police procedural with a twist, Susan Hoover says. It features a badass sheriff, Heidi Kick, who leaves her husband and three kids at home to track down a potential serial killer. The author, says Susan, hits this one out of the park. A serial psychopath is at work in Ellison Cooper's BURIED as well, and the investigator this time is a neuroscientist who works for the FBI. Anne Corey says this has a plot that will leave the reader breathless and the final revelation is unexpected and surprising.
A current social preoccupation appears to be with tidying, or, to use the vogue term, decluttering. This is a trend that Hallie Ephron successfully exploits in CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, and Meredith Frazier says there are plenty of surprises here, as well as a lot of fun. The daughter of a crime boss has fallen in love with the son of a senior policeman in Peter Lovesey's KILLING WITH CONFETTI, which would be problem enough even without their fixation on a white wedding in Bath Abbey. I thought the old pro once again demonstrates his skill at keeping a number of balls in the air while cheerfully misdirecting the reader in this entertaining outing for Peter Diamond.
Keshena Hanson was taken with Carter Wilson's THE DEAD GIRL IN 2A, a psychological thriller that turns on manufactured memory loss and a long-buried and horrifying scheme. She says this story of a creepy scientific manipulation raises larger questions in the reader.
Cosies are a staple of summer reading and some of the best involve clever (or at least charming) animals. Ruth Castleberry read two such this month and liked the pair. She says Cate Conte's third Cat Café mystery TELL TAIL HEART is well-conceived, complex, and satisfying. And Ruth particularly admired the kitty in Laurie Cass's BOOKING THE CROOK, part of the Bookmobile Cat series, which she says will appeal both to lovers of good mysteries and of likeable felines.
Cosies centred on occupations of one sort or another run the risk of falling into the Cabot Cove syndrome - how many murders can take place in such a limited arena? Laura Bishop, the protagonist of Grace Topping's STAGING IS MURDER may avoid the problem as she stages houses for pre-sale viewing, a job that will certainly get her out and about. PJ Coldren figures this is a satisfactory start to a new series.
Finally, we began with historicals; let's end with one. Maggie Robinson's WHO'S SORRY NOW?, second in the Lady Adelaide Mystery series is set in the decade following the end of the Great War. Meredith Frazier calls it a fast and entertaining read with solid period detail.
Our guest this week in the "Sixty Seconds..." spot is Greg Hurwitz. You can find him in the box to your left.
Our friends at CRIMEREVIEW have also been reading a lot and that's where to go to find out what is going on in UK crime these days.
The next time we show up here will be in the vicinity of Labour Day, a holiday that always signals the end of summer, even if the weather may disagree. But it also signals the beginning of a new publishing season so do drop by to see what we've turned up.
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