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  • Jeff Somers 4:50 pm on 2018/12/19 Permalink
    Tags: alexander mccall smith, , , , , , , , , , , , , , mystery gift guide, ,   

    12 Must-Have Titles for the Mystery Fan on Your Shopping List 

    Giving books as gifts can be tricky; you want to ensure you get the bibliophiles on your list books they’ll appreciate and love, while avoiding books they’ve already read. The good news is there are so many strong mysteries out right now you have a lot of choice. We’ve taken the liberty of pointing you at some of the best mysteries out there right now; any one (or two! or three!) of these titles would make a perfect gift for the mystery fan in your life—and books make great gifts for Secret Santas and office gift exchanges, too, because who doesn’t love a good mystery?

    Look Alive at Twenty-Five, by Janet Evanovich
    Gift-giving can be stressful, so do yourself a favor and concentrate on the crowd-pleasing sure things like this. Twenty-five books in and Stephanie Plum is going strong as ever, still tackling gritty mysteries with humor, smarts, and competence to spare. This time around Plum’s attention is drawn to the Red River Deli in Trenton, famous for its pastrami and its cole slaw. More recently, it’s become famous because of its disappearing managers—three in the last month, each leaving behind a single shoe. Lula tries to convince Stephanie it’s aliens abducting humans for experiments, but Stephanie figures on something a little less exotic—and takes over running the business herself in order to get to the bottom of things. It’s certainly not the first time Plum has put herself in danger for the sake of a case—and she can only hope it won’t be her last.

    Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny
    Penny’s 14th book featuring Chief Inspector Gamache begins with the retired chief of the Sûreté du Québec receiving the surprising news that he’s one of three executors of the estate of an elderly woman he’s never met. With his suspension and the events that led to it still under excruciatingly slow investigation, Gamache agrees to participate, even thought the terms of the will are outlandish, leading him and his fellow executors to wonder if the old woman was mentally sound. When a dead body turns up, however, it prompts Gamache to reconsider—because the terms of the will suddenly seem much less strange, and much more ominous. Meanwhile the drugs he allowed to remain on the streets as part of his plan to destroy the drug cartels are still out there—and if he doesn’t find them, and soon, there will be devastation throughout the city. For once, Chief Inspector Gamache is something wholly unexpected: desperate.

    Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith
    By now everyone knows that Robert Galbraith is actually J.K. Rowling, and the fourth Cormorant Strike novel finds her at the top of her adult fiction game. Strike, now a famous private investigator, has to deal with people showing up at his offices as well as the difficulty in investigating things when you’re instantly recognizable to everyone. When a young man comes to his office asking for help looking into a murder he thinks he witnessed—and thus has been haunted by—as a kid, Strike senses just enough sincere detail to take on the case. As his investigation leads him into the secret corridors of British power, his personal life in the form of his relationship with former assistant-turned-full partner Robin reaches new levels of complexity.

    Leverage in Death, by J.D. Robb
    Robb delivers the 47th entry in this bestselling series with appropriate fireworks, as Paul Rogan, a successful executive, arrives at a routine meeting concerning a merger and promptly detonates the suicide vest he’s wearing. Eve Dallas is called in as the investigating detective and first has to figure out whether this was purposeful terrorism or simple desperate suicide with collateral damage. Every detail Dallas and her team discover serves only to muddy the waters and spin up the tension, especially after they discover that Rogan had been told by mysterious men that his family would be killed if he didn’t do as they asked. As Dallas puzzles over the convoluted manner of what seems like a murder attempt, more explosions deliver more bodies—and more clues.

    The Witch Elm, by Tana French
    French turns in her first novel not part of the Dublin Murder Squad, telling the story of affably low-key Dubliner Toby. Toby’s low-stakes life involves working as a social media guru for an art gallery and contemplating someday maybe marrying his girlfriend Melissa. When two robbers break into his apartment and beat him brutally, however, his lingering mental and physical injuries prevent him from living a normal life, and he and Melissa move in with his dying Uncle Hugo. When a skeleton found in a tree on Hugo’s property turns out to be an old classmate of Toby’s, the damaged young man is haunted by the possibility that his lost memories hold the key.

    Depth of Winter, by Craig Johnson
    After thirteen books, it’s understandable that Walt Longmire has made a lot of enemies. Professional assassin and enforcer for drug cartels Tomás Bidarte knows this, and so he kidnaps Walt’s daughter, Cady, and holds her captive in a remote cabin in the Chihuahua desert in northern Mexico, intending to auction her off to whichever of Walt’s enemies hates him the most. Walt heads off to rescue his girl, but Bidarte has an army of bad guys protecting his investment, and Longmire isn’t the sort of man who can blend in. Longmire’s faced bad odds before, but never quite this bad—and never with so much on the line. In a foreign country, with no help from his own government and disinterest from the locals, it’s tempting to count Longmire out—but fans know better.

    The Colors of All the Cattle, by Alexander McCall Smith
    The nineteenth novel featuring Mwa Ramotswe and her fellow investigators and residents of the town of Gaborone is as delightful and insightful as ever. Ramotswe is persuaded to run for a seat on the city council when it’s revealed that the arch-enemy of her agency partner Grace, Vera Sephotho, is in the race. Vera supports a terrible initiative to build a luxury hotel next to the town’s cemetery, which gives Mwa Ramotswe the moral edge in the race, but her compulsively honest answers to questions might complicate her campaign. Meanwhile, the agency deals with the investigation of a hit-and-run case even as their assistant Charlie, finally growing up, engages in his first true romance.

    Feared, by Lisa Scottoline
    Scottoline is as close to a safe bet when it comes to buying books for mystery fans, and her series about lawyers Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato is probably on your mystery superfan’s shopping list already, so giving it as a stocking stuffer will be genius. When Rosato & DiNunzio is hit with a sex discrimination lawsuit from three men who claim they weren’t hired because of their gender, Mary and Bennie smell a rat. When their only male employee, John Foxman, resigns because he agrees, they’re floored—and then they find out who’s behind the lawsuit—Mary’s nemesis, Nick Machiavelli. Nick is determined to have his revenge, and when Foxman turns up murdered suspicion settles on the firm’s partners and things look bleak. Mary—seven months pregnant—and Bennie must somehow fight off a lawsuit that could ruin them and solve a murder that could incarcerate the partners. That’s a recipe for the perfect mystery to give as a gift.

    November Road, by Lou Berney
    Berney spins a karmic tale about a mob fixer named Frank Guidry working in New Orleans in 1963. Guidry snips loose ends for his boss Carlos Marcello, violently if necessary. He gets the job of leaving a car in a Dallas parking lot, and after President Kennedy is assassinated he realizes he provided a getaway vehicle for the real shooter—and worse, now he’s a loose end. Trailed by Marcello’s top hitman, Guidry flees and meets up with Charlotte Roy, an unhappy but steel-tipped housewife escaping an abusive husband. As the tension rises, the two find themselves making a surprisingly effective team as they seek to survive in different ways.

    Field of Bones, by J.A. Jance
    For long-time fans of Jance’s Joanna Brady series, book number eighteen will be a welcome addition to their gift haul—and it’s not a bad idea for any fan of great mysteries with a realistic protagonist and a lot of heart. Brady, pregnant and on maternity leave, responds to acting sheriff Tom Hadlock’s call for all hands on deck when a teenager finds a skull in the desert, revealing what appears to be a body disposal area for a very active—and very terrifying serial killer. Alternating points of view between the killer and the police’s efforts to identify him is a master class in ratcheting up the tension and keeping the reader guessing, as the birth of Brady’s daughter underscores the desperation to save the killer’s remaining prisoners.

    Bright Young Dead, by Jessica Fellowes
    Fans of Downton Abbey and other Edwardian-era historical fiction are closer to the mystery genre than they realize, and Fellowes’ Mitford Murders series is the perfect way to convince them. Set in 1925, when London is roiled by the criminal activities of an all-female gang known as the Forty Thieves, London police Guy Sullivan and Mary Moon find themselves in the company of aristocrats upstairs and their servants downstairs as they try to tackle the gang—and find themselves embroiled in a distasteful murder before it’s all over. Think of Fellowes’ work as Abbey with murder and they’ll be sold—and you’ll be getting some very enthusiastic Thank You cards.

    One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
    The holiday season is the ideal time to give someone more than just a single book, but rather the gift of one of the best characters to ever grace the mystery shelves, Stephanie Plum. For twenty-five books, Evanovich has been delighting mystery fans with Plum’s adventures as a bounty hunter and detective, and the first book remains the ideal introduction. Plum, down on her luck in Trenton, New Jersey, convinces her cousin to give her a shot at apprehending criminal Joe Morelli—coincidentally the man who seduced Plum out of her virginity at age sixteen—and gets a crash course in the rough and tumble world of being an apprehension agent as she explores some long-dormant feelings for Joe. The lucky person getting this book from you will thank you twenty-four more times, trust us.

    There’s no mystery why people love getting books as gifts (see what we did there?)—it’s an opportunity to lose yourself and get away from holiday stress (the travel! the cooking! the travel!) by escaping into a thrilling story that also challenges your little gray cells. Which books are on your gift list this year?

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  • Jeff Somers 4:12 pm on 2018/11/07 Permalink
    Tags: alexander mccall smith, allen eskens, , , , , , , , mike lupica, , ,   

    November’s Best Mysteries 

    November officially kicks off the holiday season, which means you’re putting together shopping lists and trying to pick out the perfect gifts for everybody. You have to practice self-care, though, which means that aside from choosing the best mysteries to give to your loved ones as gifts, you have to pick out a few for yourself. This week’s best mysteries include new adventures from the best in the business, including the very real Janet Evanovich and Louise Penny and the very fictional Jessica Fletcher.

    Look Alive Twenty-Five, by Janet Evanovich
    Twenty-five books in and Stephanie Plum is going strong as ever, still tackling gritty mysteries with humor, smarts, and competence to spare. This time around Plum’s attention is drawn to the Red River Deli in Trenton, famous for its pastrami and its cole slaw. More recently, it’s become famous because of its disappearing managers—three in the last month, each leaving behind a single shoe. Lula tries to convince Stephanie it’s aliens abducting humans for experiments, but Stephanie figures on something a little less exotic—and takes over running the business herself in order to get to the bottom of things. It’s certainly not the first time Plum has put herself in danger for the sake of a case—and she can only hope it won’t be her last.

    Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny
    Penny’s 14th book featuring Chief Inspector Gamache begins with the retired chief of the Sûreté du Québec receiving the surprising news that he’s one of three executors of the estate of an elderly woman he’s never met. With his suspension and the events that led to it still under excruciatingly slow investigation, Gamache agrees to participate, even thought the terms of the will are outlandish, leading him and his fellow executors to wonder if the old woman was mentally sound. When a dead body turns up, however, it prompts Gamache to reconsider—because the terms of the will suddenly seem much less strange, and much more ominous. Meanwhile the drugs he allowed to remain on the streets as part of his plan to destroy the drug cartels are still out there—and if he doesn’t find them, and soon, there will be devastation throughout the city. For once, Chief Inspector Gamache is something wholly unexpected: desperate.

    Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud, by Mike Lupica
    In response to a request from Robert B. Parker’s fans, veteran sportswriter-turned-novelist Lupica brings the late Parker’s only female private eye, Sunny Randall, back in this exciting, fast-paced seventh novel. Sunny—hypercompetent as a private detective—is struggling with her emotional state as she deals with being divorced but still drawn to her ex-husband, Richie Burke. Richie, the son of local mobster Desmond Burke, gets shot in the back one night—but the shooter makes it clear that he was left alive on purpose, and that it’s part of a grudge against the Burkes in general. A few nights later, his bookie uncle Peter is shot dead. The Burkes want to handle this on their own, but Sunny can’t stay out of it, even when her investigation beings her repeatedly up against old foe Albert Antonioni, supposedly retired after trying to bump Sunny off. Lupica does Parker proud with this energized, smart story, and Sunny’s fans old and new will be very happy with the way everything turns out.

    The Colors of All the Cattle, by Alexander McCall Smith
    The nineteenth novel featuring Mwa Ramotswe and her fellow investigators and residents of the town of Gaborone is as delightful and insightful as ever. Ramotswe is persuaded to run for a seat on the city council when it’s revealed that the arch-enemy of her agency partner Grace, Vera Sephotho, is in the race. Vera supports a terrible initiative to build a luxury hotel next to the town’s cemetery, which gives Mwa Ramotswe the moral edge in the race, but her compulsively honest answers to questions might complicate her campaign. Meanwhile, the agency deals with the investigation of a hit-and-run case even as their assistant Charlie, finally growing up, engages in his first true romance.

    A Christmas Revelation, by Anne Perry
    Perry’s tradition of offering a Christmas-themed Victorian mystery continues, this time telling the story of nine-year old Worm, an orphan living in mid-19th century London. Worm has found an ersatz family at Hester Monk’s clinic, located at the site of a former brothel, and especially in the sweet Claudine Burroughs and the sour Squeaky Robinson, who once worked at the brothel and now serves as the clinic’s bookkeeper. One day Worm sees a woman on the street who immediately infatuates him with her gentle visage—only to be apparently attacked and kidnapped. Distressed, Worm enlists the reluctant but experienced Squeaky to help him track down the lady and ride to her rescue—but of course, twists and turns abound as they walk the cobble stone streets in search of clues.

    Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder, by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
    Fans of the classic TV show and fans of great mysteries alike will be thrilled with Land’s second outing with writer and detective Jessica Fletcher. In New York for a meeting with her publisher, Fletcher is approached by a fellow writer named Thomas Rudd who tells her he thinks their publisher, Lane Barfield, is skimming money form their royalties—and later turns up dead in a suspicious gas explosion. When she meets with Barfield, however, he can only talk about a new novel he’s acquired from an unknown writer named Benjamin Tally, and he gives Fletcher a copy of it for her opinion. Then the bodies begin to pile up: Barfield turns up dead, an apparent if unlikely suicide, and two other authors who saw the manuscript are dead as well. When Fletcher herself is attacked and left for dead before she can finish the book, she seeks out allies and digs in like only Jessica Fletcher can.

    The Shadows We Hide, by Allen Eskens
    Report Joe Talbert, Jr. reads about a man named Joe ‛Toke’ Talbert, recently murdered in a small Minnesota town. Joe never knew his father, and he wonders if this man might turn out to be his namesake. He begins looking into the man’s life and murder, and finds no shortage of suspects who might have wanted Toke dead, as he was by all reports a terrible human being and worse father. Toke’s wife died shortly before under suspicious circumstances, leaving Toke with a large inheritance, making the solution to his murder an even more complex puzzle—especially since, if Toke is in fact Joe’s father, the money would legally be his. Part personal journey, part grim mystery, Joe learns as much about himself as he does about the man who might be his father as the mystery takes a few delirious twists before the surprising, satisfying ending.

    The Whispered Word, by Ellery Adams
    Nora Pennington and the Secret, Book, and Scone Society return to run Miracle Books and feed the soul with the perfect choice of novel. A new business opens in town, Virtual Genie, offering cash for unwanted goods that it then sells on the Internet. Everyone thinks owner Griffin Kingsley is a perfect gentleman, but Nora isn’t sold. And when an obviously terrified young girl named Abilene wearing a hospital bracelet and some bruises turns up hiding in the store, followed by a pair of suspicious deaths, Nora begins to suspect that Abilene is the next target—and that Griffin Kingsley’s arrival at the same time may not be as much of a coincidence as it first appears.

    Whether it’s holiday stress, plane ride downtime, or the simple pleasures in life, nothing beats a good supply of mysteries to feed the soul while the cold weather moves in. Grab a bunch from this list and thank us later!

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  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2018/06/29 Permalink
    Tags: a gathering of secrets, a measure of darkness, a noise downstairs, , alexander mccall smith, , , , , , , , , paradox, rescued, the quiet side of passion: an isabel dalhousie novel, the sinners   

    July’s Best New Mysteries 

    July is the time for gumshoes to put on their wide-brimmed detective hats, slather on the SPF, and dive into an exciting new mystery. We’ve got something for everyone in this crop of whodunnits, psychological thrillers, and charming cozies, which includes everything from adorable dogs to a haunted typewriter.

    Paradox (FBI Series #22), by Catherine Coulter
    What could the attempted kidnapping of FBI Agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock’s five year old son have to do with a collection of bones dredged up from the bottom of a lake after a sherrif witnesses a murder on its surface? As it turns out, there may be a strong link—and it’s in the form of a escaped mental patient who is out for revenge. The twenty-second installment in Coulter’s bestselling FBI series has the pulse-pounding plot and relentless pacing that her fans know and love, and it’s going to be tough to put this one down before you’ve reached the end.

    A Measure of Darkness (Clay Edison Series #2), by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman
    Deputy coroner Clay Edison has enough on his plate these days. His brother is out of prison, and family things are complicated; he’s got a good thing going with his steady girlfriend and he’s worried about screwing it up, and his last case, although successful, netted him a suspension. So he’s not exactly thrilled when he’s called to the scene of a wild party in an up and coming neighborhood that’s gone wrong—wrong enough to need a coroner. One victim in particular stands out as different from the other—Jane Doe was horribly assaulted and left for dead and no one has been able to identify her. Obsessed with her case, Clay’s investigation into her story leads him down dark path into a harrowing world filled with danger and terrible secrets.

    A Gathering of Secrets (Kate Burkholder Series #10), by Linda Castillo
    Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called to investigate a fire in an insular Amish community—a barn burned to the ground in the middle of the night—but when the body of a well-known and well-liked young Amish man is found among the wreckage, burned alive, the mystery deepens and turns sinister. As Kate turns to the community she was once a part of for answers, she finds herself rebuffed at every turn. Is it because she’s an outsider—or is this seemingly peaceful community hiding something dark and disturbing? The closer Kate comes to the truth, the more she is forced to acknowledge about her own past—and a chilling possibility.

    The Sinners, by Ace Atkins
    Things are going poorly for Sheriff Quinn Colson these days. Ages ago his late uncle put the Patriarch of the no-account Pritchard clan behind bars, but he’s out now, and ready to cause trouble. Quinn’s got a wedding to get ready for, which is a positive development, but it’s been overshadowed by a sketchy trucking firm that has come to Tibbehah with its own violent agenda. When an innocent man pays the price of a business partnership gone wrong, can Quinn get his groove back in time to make sure justice prevails?

    Rescued, by David Rosenfelt
    Fans of the Andy Carpenter series know that mysteries + puppies = a winning combination, and the 17th novel in the series is further proof. Andy is hard at work manning the Tara Foundation, his dog rescue organization, which he enjoys a bit more than his chosen profession as a defense lawyer. But when the driver of a truck carrying 70 dogs up for adoption is murdered, the case has his name on it. The only small snag? The person accused of the murder is none other than Andy’s wife’s (handsome, strapping, ex-Marine) ex-fiance. Even worse? Andy believes his claim of innocence. This case is shaping up to be an extra tricky one, but his wife is insisting he take it.

    A Noise Downstairs, by Linwood Barclay
    Paul Davis is a college professor enjoying a normal life when he witnesses a murderer getting rid of several bodies on a deserted road late at night. This experience derails his enjoyably mundane existence and leaves him deeply traumatized, and when his wife Charlotte buys him a typewriter in an effort to cheer him up, he begins hearing the sound of typing in the middle of the night—but he’s the only one who can hear it. Before long, Paul has convinced himself that the typewriter has something to do with the murderer he witnessed—who apparently forced his victims to type apologies to him right before he killed them. This twisty psychological thriller by a master of the genre is not to be missed.

    The Quiet Side of Passion: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel, by Alexander McCall Smith
    Isabel has her hands full with her family (two young boys) and her career (a ton of editing work has falling into her lap), so at her husband’s suggestion she hires an au pair, and an assistant editor—but both women are involved in dubious romantic entanglements that Isabel worries may affect their work. As their boss, should she get involved in their personal lives? In the meantime, Isabel is befriended by Patricia, the single mother of a friend of her son’s. Knowing that Patricia has a hard time of it raising a child by herself, Isabel tries to reserve judgment when she notices Patricia making dubious decisions—but she grows concerned when she notices her associating with one particularly unsavory character.

     

     

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  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2018/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: after anna, alexander mccall smith, , , , cave of bones, , , , , , , new and mysterious, richard jury series, the good pilot peter woodhouse, , the sixth day, , twenty-one days   

    The Best New Mysteries of March 2018 

    Greetings, gumshoes! March may have gone out like a lamb, but April’s new crop of mysteries is roaring in. From a gritty retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by the peerless Jo Nesbø, to the story of a long-lost daughter whose sudden reappearance brings nothing but trouble, this month’s crop of whodunits is ready to surprise you with twists and turns you didn’t see coming.

    After Anna, by Lisa Scottoline
    In this tense family drama, Noah Alderman, a widower with a young son, gets a second chance at love when he marries Maggie Ippolitti, who is wonderful with his child and gives him the happy family he has longed for. When Maggie’s teenage daughter Anna, whom she hasn’t seen since she was an infant, reappears in her life, Maggie is also overjoyed that she gets a second chance at being the parent to Anna that she has always longed to be. But Anna’s reappearance upsets all of their lives, as she manipulates Noah and Maggie and pits them against each other, destabilizing their happy marriage. When Anna is murdered, Noah stands accused of the crime. Maggie doesn’t want to believe it, but the evidence against him is overwhelming…until she begins to dig deeper into Anna’s past, and uncovers darker secrets than she could have imagined.

    The Sixth Day (A Brit in the FBI Series #5), by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison
    Things are heating up in the A Brit in the FBI Series—the fifth installment opens with a number of deaths of well-known politicians, which authorities are trying to claim are merely coincidental—until a drone is spotted near the steps of 10 Downing street when the German Vice-Chancellor is murdered. It’s clear there’s a hidden agenda behind these killings, and special agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine must track down a descendant of Vlad the Impaler, whom they believe is hell-bent on attacking London.

    The Knowledge (Richard Jury Series #24), by Martha Grimes
    When Richard Jury learns that a gambler-slash-astrophysics professor at Columbia he’s become friendly with was murdered in front of a casino-slash-gallery called the Artemis Club, he’s furious. When he learns that the murderer jumped into a cab directly after committing the crime, Jury follows that lead and finds himself in an investigation that leads from Tanzanian gem mines to a cabbies-only pub so secretive that not even the police can get the location out of anyone. Grimes’s funny, offbeat Richard Jury series crackles with wit and is packed with bizarro characters.

    The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse, by Alexander McCall Smith
    A moving story of love and friendship set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War II, this standalone novel is by the bestselling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, and features his charming, deftly-drawn characters and intricate plotting. A young woman named Val is working on an English farm when she crosses paths with a U. S. Air Force pilot named Mike. When Val rescues a dog from an abusive owner, she finds him a home on Mike’s air force base, and she and Mike fall in love. The dog, Peter Woodhouse, becomes a fixture on the air force base, but disaster strikes as the war drags on, and when Mike and Peter Woodhouse draw a German corporal into their lives, it sets off a series of events that challenges their notions of friendship, loyalty, and love.

    Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø
    Brilliant thriller writer Jo Nesbø (author of the Harry Hole series) has written a fascinating entry in the inventive Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which modern authors update classic Shakespeare plays. Nesbo sets Macbeth in a dilapidated town in Scotland in the 1970s that is plagued by drugs and corruption. Duncan, the chief of police, is working to stem the tide of both and is assisted by SWAT team head Macbeth. But vicious local drug lord Hecate has his own agenda, and uses pressure and manipulation to push Macbeth, already unstable and paranoid, into serving his own terrible ends.

    Cave of Bones (Leaphorn, Chee and Manualito Series #4), by Anne Hillerman
    When a young participant in a character-building program returns from an outdoor trek shaken and upset, Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manualito, who happens to be visiting the program, questions her and discovers that she came across a body in the rugged wilderness of New Mexico. Even more disturbing is the possibility that the body may belong to a missing program instructor. When Bernie investigates further, she discovers that this missing persons case may be connected to a very old one in which Joe Leaphorn was involved. In the meantime, her husband Jim Chee is dealing with a nightmare scenario of his own: a violent man he sent to prison on domestic violence charges is out—and he’s taken up with Bernie’s sister, Darleen. Navigating this extremely tricky emotional territory is going to push Jim to his limits.

    Twenty-One Days (Daniel Pitt Series #1), by Anne Perry
    It’s 1910, and young lawyer Daniel Pitt has some rather large shoes to fill, as the son of the esteemed Thomas and Charlotte Pitt (stars of Perry’s long-running series by the same name). Hungry to make a name for himself, junior barrister Daniel takes on the case of one Russell Graves, a biographer who has been found guilty of his wife’s murder. Unless Daniel can find the real killer, Graves will hang in only three weeks. But as Daniel digs deeper into the case, his investigations bring him closer to a colleague of his father’s, and his loyalty to the law is soon pitted against his duty to his own family—and to an innocent man whose life is on the line.

    What mysteries are you excited to read in April?

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  • Melissa Albert 8:50 pm on 2015/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: , alexander mccall smith, ann b. ross, ann packer, , , , , , , ,   

    April’s Top Picks in Fiction 

    This month we’re getting long-awaited sequels, the latest from a Nobel Prize-winning novelist, an ice-cold noir thriller, and a delicious contemporary reimagining of a classic Jane Austen comedy of manners. These are the books you should be pairing with your coffee, your commute, and your late-night “just one more page” protests all month long.

    A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
    A God in Ruins is the companion novel to Atkinson’s astonishing, award-winning Life After Life, which followed Ursula Todd from birth to death again and again, tracking the progression of her soul as she lives out her life in countless iterations. Now Atkinson turns her focus to Ursula’s beloved brother, Teddy, whose safe return from World War II was one of the first novel’s emotional high points. The focus is on his postwar life, which he, as a former RAF pilot, didn’t really expect to be granted. In telling his story, Atkinson again bends time and tests the boundaries of traditional narration; she’s a master storyteller, and A God in Ruins is not to be missed.

    Early Warning, by Jane Smiley
    Smiley’s 2014 book Some Luck, the first in her Century Trilogy, followed Iowa farm couple Walter and Rosanna Langdon from 1920, when they’re newlyweds, to the early 1950s, each chapter covering a year in their family’s life. Book two, Early Warning, opens in 1953 just after Walter’s death. Smiley follows the lives of Rosanna, her five children, and their children over the 33 years following that death, through the social tumult of midcentury and beyond. She keeps a tight hold on her fascinating, miraculously distinct cast, through whose eyes readers experience cultural touchpoints like the Vietnam War and the 1970s boom in cult activity, as well as the more intimate triumphs and disasters of family life.

    Inside the O’Briens, by Lisa Genova
    Lisa Genova, of Still Alice fame, is back with another exploration of degenerative disease’s effects on families. When respected family man and cop Joe O’Brien’s constellation of strange symptoms is diagnosed as progressive, incurable Huntington’s disease, he and his children are at a crossroads: he has to find purpose and peace despite the rapid decline of his body and mind, and they must decide whether to get tested for the genetic condition in the face of 50/50 odds. Once again O’Brien delivers an insightful, moving story of human frailty and the strength of familial ties.

    Blood on Snow, by Jo Nesbø
    In the latest standalone from the acclaimed author of icy Norwegian thrillers including The Son and the Harry Hole series, complicated contract killer Olav is touched by conscience at a very inconvenient moment. He’s a “fixer” for a crime lord whose latest assignment hits close to home: he wants Olav to kill his wife. But when Olav decides the wife’s crimes against her husband are less straightforward than they appear, he begins planning a double-cross, attempting to both save the wife’s skin and keep himself out of his dangerous boss’s crosshairs. Complete with a beautiful femme fatale, a dangerous yet sympathetic hero, and a world of bad choices, Blood on Snow is pitch-black noir.

    Miss Julia Lays Down the Law, by Ann B. Ross
    In the 17th installment of Ann B. Ross’s Miss Julia series, a rude new neighbor in the steely southern belle—and sometime detective’s—beloved North Carolina town is found murdered in her home. Before her death, the victim offended a dozen members of Miss Julia’s social circle by talking trash about Abbotsville. At her pastor’s behest, Miss Julia visits in the hopes of convincing her to make peace with one of them, the pastor’s highstrung wife—and thus becomes the one to discover the body. Fans of cozy mysteries will drink up this twisty, genteel tale like sweet tea.

    Emma, by Alexander McCall Smith
    The Jane Austen project, kicked off in 2014 with Val McDermid’s retelling of Northanger Abbey, commissions selected authors to transpose Austen’s timeless stories to contemporary times. In McCall Smith’s retelling, Emma Woodhouse is an interior designer, her homebody father is a germaphobe, and protegé Harriet Smith is the naive daughter of a single mother and a sperm donor. McCall Smith brilliantly revives Austen’s talent for smart social commentary and ear for the ridiculous, with fun modern touches that will delight fans of both authors.

    The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer
    The four Blair children grew up in Portola Valley, California, under the shadow of their artist mother’s thwarted ambition, which stunted and spurred them in various ways. This epic jumps among narrators and time periods, weaving a marvelously textured family tale. The return of prodigal son James kicks off a plot thread set in the story’s present day, one that causes his siblings to reexamine what they believed to be true about their upbringing.

    At the Water’s Edge, by Sara Gruen
    A woman who believes she’s lost all the things that matter most—her money, her wealthy father’s approval, her privileged place in East Coast society—finds her inner world changed forever when she’s stranded in a tiny village in the Scottish highlands. Madeline Hyde’s father cut off her and her husband, Ellis, after a public disgrace; in an effort to get them back in his father-in-law’s good graces, Ellis drags Madeline to Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster. Madeline is forced to reexamine the values she built her life on, against the stark beauty of an impoverished countryside near the end of World War II.

    Beauty’s Kingdom, by Anne Rice
    Twenty years after the close of Rice’s erotic Beauty trilogy, which traced the titular fairy-tale heroine from her enchanted sleep in a tower, through forced sexual imprisonment, to her eventual release, Rice delights fans with an unexpected fourth installment. As the new rulers of the kingdom of Bellavalten, Beauty and her prince make working as a pleasure slave voluntary, paving the way for more enlightened erotic adventures. A must-read for those who shelve their fairy tales right next to their copy of Fifty Shades.

    God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison
    Lula Ann is a dark-skinned girl born to a mother who can pass for white, and her mother’s physical distaste for her reverberates throughout her life, twisting her but also making her strong. As an adult she reinvents herself as Bride, a head-turning career woman. But the kernel of unloved Lula Ann remains, and Bride fears total reversion when the departure of her lover, and the return of a woman who signifies the deepest shame of her past, threaten to undo the life she’s built. It’s a thoughtful, often chilling addition to Nobel Prize winner Morrison’s canon.

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