The Blood Card

Elly Griffiths writes two masterful mystery series: the one about forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, now up to nine books in the series, and another featuring Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and his magician friend, Max Mephisto.

This latter series is set in early 1950s England (compared to Galloway’s contemporary time frame) and has a decidedly old school feel to the storylines. Both series I highly recommend. Griffiths has a smooth and silky writing style with nicely-paced short chapters, realistic dialogue, super-dynamic characters that are well rounded and interesting even while showing vulnerabilities, and she just manages to write a darn good story.

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Bibliomysteries: Stories of Crime in the World of Books and Bookstores

First things first. Otto Penzler, the editor of the book under review BIBLIOMYSTERIES, is a god. He is a master of the mystery genre, former editor and publisher of the much, much missed magazine THE ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE (for which I used to write reviews), he is the owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City (the oldest mystery specialist store in the world which has contributed mightily to the health of the mystery genre), publisher (formerly under The Mysterious Press, now under various imprints and e-publishing), a two-time Edgar award-winning author, and the editor of over 50 crime anthologies.

In short, he is to be paid attention to and so I opened with much anticipation the cover of BIBLIOMYSTERIES.

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The Hollywood Op

This collection (or “casebook” as the author calls it), originally published in 2011, features eight short stories showcasing Scott Elliott, the protagonist of one of Terence Faherty’s ongoing series. This new edition of THE HOLLYWOOD OP includes a new introduction by the author and is an excellent introduction to the Scott Elliott character.

For the uninitiated, Scott Elliott was one of countless movie bit players during the 1930s. Then his career was interrupted by World War II. When he returned Elliott quickly discovered the Hollywood he had once known had changed forever – and had completely forgotten about him. To make ends meet – and maintain what few industry leads he still has – Elliott becomes a sort of private investigator for Hollywood Security, a firm hired to do the kinds of bothersome jobs the studios would rather avoid.

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The Rat Catchers’ Olympics

I generally love Colin Cotterill and his various mystery series set in Southeast Asia. Both his Jimm Juree and Dr. Siri Paiboun series are delightfully funny, and rather strongly plotted. The Paiboun series extends into the world of the supernatural but it’s on a more spiritual, and less haunting, level. For instance, the good Doctor often physically disappears from Earth, visiting some ethereal otherworldly realm where he is guided (or, if the Doctor were to be consulted, obstructed) by the enigmatic Auntie Bpoo, who torments Siri with her mischievous antics and confusing advice.

THE RAT CATCHERS’ OLYMPICS is the 12th installment in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series and it has a fascinating setting: the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

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Murder in Saint-Germain

With MURDER IN SAINT-GERMAIN, author Cara Black gives us her 17th (17th!) novel featuring Aimée Leduc, a private investigator handling discreet cases in the heart of France.

Two cases present themselves to Ms. Leduc. Her security firm is working on contract at an art institute, firming up the institution’s security protocols and handling their IT needs. One of the instructors is being blackmailed and wants Leduc to find out who is doing the blackmailing. But he wants everything to be so discreet it’s hard to get useful details out of him to solve the case.

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The Vinyl Detective: The Run-Out Groove

In The Vinyl Detective series, author Andrew Cartmel has a wonderful premise. His nameless character (he is referred to as The Vinyl Detective by others and the books are written from a first-person point of view) collects rare records and is an expert at finding them.

The first book in the series, WRITTEN IN DEAD WAX, had our hero search for a rare record that a wealthy client desired. The second book, THE RUN-OUT GROOVE, concerns a fictional 1960s rock band named Valerian.

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The Chalk Pit

Elly Griffiths’ series of mysteries featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway has now extended to nine books, with the latest being THE CHALK PIT. She also writes another series, Magic Men, now up to three titles. Thankfully, her prolific outpouring has done nothing to harm the characters in the series, the plots, or the writing style. Remarkably, she is one of the few mystery authors I can think of who really lets her characters grow and change, sometimes quite drastically, over the course of the series. It’s refreshing and keeps the reader on his or her toes.

In this latest installment, bones are found in one of the chalk mining tunnels that undercut the city of Norwich. The bones have been boiled and they are of recent origin, ten, maybe fifty years old. Boiled bones? Cannibalism? It’s certainly murder.

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Kiss the Bricks

I really can’t recommend enough the remarkable series of mysteries written by Tammy Kaehler about professional racecar driver Kate Reilly. The series has now hit its fifth title, KISS THE BRICKS, and while each book has its highlights, the entirety of the series is just solid, well-rounded entertainment.

Kaehler knows auto racing and describes on-the-track action extremely well. She’s also adept at character development and a reader soon comes to adore and respect the strength of her main character. Reilly is a strong woman, but also cognizant of her weaknesses and the general fickleness of success in the racing world, giving her a believability that outweighs the general oddness of having a touring racing driver solve murder cases.

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Since We Fell

Dennis Lehane’s latest novel, SINCE WE FELL, best demonstrates his skill at creating and presenting alluring, credible characters. Sadly, however, this demonstration is at the expense of the novel’s plot; which states what seems like it’s central conflict after an overly long beginning, only to lose itself in several meandering chapters toward the end.

Rachel Childs works her way up from a reporter’s job at a local newspaper to acclaim as an international journalist for a television network. Along the way, however, Rachel fights a series of panic attacks that she keeps hidden from her professional responsibilities. Then, while hosting a series of stories covering the aftermath of a devastating overseas natural disaster, Rachel suffers an on-air breakdown. It is witnessed by untold thousands of viewers and derails her career.

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The Second Day of the Renaissance

Timothy Williams’ sixth novel featuring Commissario Piero Trotti, now retired, is titled THE SECOND DAY OF THE RENAISSANCE and it may prove to be the end of the dour and crotchety Trotti. An old friend warns him that his life is in grave danger. Someone from his past is sworn to kill him, and there’s little the authorities can do.

At times, and this matches perfectly with his normally sour attitude, Trotti almost welcomes death, “the peace of the senses” as he calls it. But when death does rear its ugly head, Trotti, like almost everyone else, still opts for survival.


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