The Night Bird

In THE NIGHT BIRD, his latest stand-alone mystery, Brian Freeman again probes the psychological themes found in most of his previous works. Here, however, a psychologist and her unusual therapy technique are one of the main characters.

San Francisco Homicide Detective Frost Easton is investigating a series of bizarre deaths. The fact that the victims, all women, reportedly suffered psychotic breakdowns just before their deaths causes Easton to look for other possibilities connections between the victims.

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The Killing Bay

Wow. I’d never read a mystery set within the Faroe Islands, but after Chris Ould’s THE KILLING BAY, I want to go back and read his first (THE BLOOD STRAND) and will eagerly await what I presume to be the third in the series (THE FIRE PIT, due February 2018).

He brilliantly describes the Faroe countryside (very evocative, and with a handy map and place name pronunciation guide) and the Faroe culture (such as the grind, a whale hunt in which all the islanders take a share of the meat and blubber from the dead animal).

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The Dark Room

Jonathan Moore’s latest novel, THE DARK ROOM, combines an unexpectedly complex plot with equally unexpected character empathy. Call it a thriller if you like, but certain plot elements and the character intimacy especially make it an engaging and thoroughly contemporary mystery.

Gavin Cain, a homicide inspector for the San Francisco Police Department, is supervising an exhumation at a cemetery just outside of town as the novel opens. Suddenly his phone rings, and Cain is told that a helicopter is on it way to bring him to the mayor’s office. The exhumed casket – central to a cold case Cain has worked on for several weeks – will have to wait.

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The Trapped Girl

I had never come across Robert Dugoni’s mystery series featuring Seattle Detective Tracy Crosswhite, but I will now actively look for them. There are four full-length novels starting with MY SISTER’S GRAVE, HER FINAL BREATH, IN THE CLEARING and culminating with the book under review, THE TRAPPED GIRL.

He also has a five-book series starring Attorney David Sloane and a couple of one-offs including a non-fiction book. If they are anything like THE TRAPPED GIRL, then all his books will be eminently readable and exciting.

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Bryant & May: Strange Tide

strangetideChristopher Fowler is here to brighten our winter season with BRYANT & MAY: STRANGE TIDE, the latest Peculiar Crime Unit mystery featuring lead senior detectives Arthur Bryant and John May. Like previous titles in this series the mystery is enhanced with esoteric facts about London, the Unit’s home base. And, like previous titles, it is an unyielding joy to read.

A woman is found drowned in the Thames River after being chained to a concrete pillar at low tide. But only one set of footprints lead to where the woman was found. The odd nature of the death is brought to the Peculiar Crime Unit (PCU), who immediately researches the dead woman’s background to determine if the single set of footprints indicate suicide.

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The Hollow Men

hollowmenTHE HOLLOW MEN is a powerful and exciting debut novel from Rob McCarthy, and it starts what promises to be a series of riveting police procedurals. It’s not just a police procedural however, it’s also a medical procedural because McCarthy’s protagonist, Dr. Harry Kent, is a police surgeon for the London Metropolitan Police. The opening hundred or so pages seamlessly weaves together the worlds of coppers and medicos, the specialized language and details of the job peculiar to both, along with all the violence and the blood.

The book opens with a young down-and-out man who has taken a number of hostages in a fast-food restaurant. He’s coughing spasmodically and Dr. Kent is called to treat him while the cops are trying to negotiate during the standoff. If the doctor can help the boy, he will release some of the hostages.

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Echoes of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon

echoessherlockAlmost 130 years have past since Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print. Yet the popularity of the world’s greatest “consulting detective” and his partner, Dr. Watson, is as strong as ever (witness the success of the recent BBC-TV updating of the Holmes stories, staring Benedict Cumberbatch).

Small wonder then that editors King and Klinger – both actively immersed in the world of Holmes as authors and researchers — filled two previous collections of original short stories “inspired by the Holmes canon.” ECHOES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is the third and latest collection. Again, the editors approached writers who are not known as Holmes devotees and gave them free range to express their admiration for the Conan Doyle’s creation. The resulting stories – and how they incorporate Holmes and Watson — are as varied and individual as the authors themselves.

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Plaid and Plagiarism

plaidplagiarismI like cozies. It’s a genre that is much harder to write than most readers credit, and it’s nice to have a mystery in a setting that’s more believable and characters that are more relatable than most of the physical and mental superheroes we encounter in best-selling thrillers. Molly MacRae has been writing in this genre for many years, so it is no surprise to find that her professionalism comes across well in a new endeavor: The Highland Bookshop Mystery Series.

Book one in this series is PLAID AND PLAGIARISM, and while there are a few missteps, she has set the baseline for what promises to be a dynamic line of stories with a rich cast of characters and a charming setting.

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The Big Book of Jack the Ripper

bigbookjackripperIt’s fitting that for his latest Vintage Crime BIG BOOK anthology, editor extraordinaire Otto Penzler has followed up 2015’s THE BIG BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES STORIES with THE BIG BOOK OF JACK THE RIPPER. After all, despite one of them not being real, the two icons have met many times before, both in a theater (notably James Hill’s A STUDY IN TERROR and Bob Clark’s MURDER BY DECREE) and a library near you (Edward B. Hanna’s THE WHITECHAPEL HORRORS and David Stuart Davies’ THE RIPPER LEGACY, to name just two).

But at 865 pages, this back-buster belongs to the sultan of stabbings, as Penzler aims to make good on the book’s subtitular promise to be “The Most Complete Compendium of Ripper Stories Ever Assembled.” No shock here: He succeeds.

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Hold a Scorpion

holdascorpionMelodie Johnson Howe’s HOLD A SCORPION is the second book in her series featuring Hollywood actress Diana Poole (the first was CITY OF MIRRORS; there is also a collection of short stories titled SHOOTING HOLLYWOOD). Howe’s protagonist, Poole, is mostly believable, likable, has a strong personality with realistic deductive powers, and can certainly hold her own with greasy talent agents and narcissistic fellow actors. The pacing of the book and its brevity are also refreshing after so many 300+ page mysteries.

We start out with a bang, or maybe more with a sickening thud. Diana is standing outside her front door, adjacent to the Pacific Coast Highway, when she sees a woman on the other side waving to her. The woman sees a large black car pull up along the berm and then, deliberately, she walks into traffic and is instantly run over and killed. When Diana investigates the actual scene of the “accident”(?), she discovers a bejeweled scorpion, the very same scorpion that Diana’s mother had on her bedside table right up to the day she died.

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