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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Red Flags

Tammy Kaehler’s mystery series features racecar driver Kate Reilly, an up-and-coming hotshot who plies her trade in the fictional Sports Car Championship (SCC), but she’s looking to move up into IndyCar and even a potential start in the Indy 500. In Kaehler’s fourth book, RED FLAGS, Reilly comes with her SCC team to the Long Beach Grand Prix, one of IndyCar’s premier events that will feature the SCC race as a support race.

For those who are not attuned, Long Beach, California has been host to both Formula One and IndyCar races since 1976. It’s a beautiful, difficult, technical course run directly on the streets of the city along the waterfront. It’s a glorious track that encourages brilliant racing and with its southern Californian locale and usually great weather, the race weekend becomes more of a spectacular event than a single race.

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Nearly Nero: The Adventures of Claudius Lyon, the Man Who Would Be Wolfe

Prolific crime and western novelist Loren D. Estleman owes his love of mysteries to his discovery as a young reader of the works of Rex Stout; especially the stories of Stout’s most famous character, Nero Wolfe, as relayed by Wolfe’s legman Archie Goodwin. And, like many authors of his generation, Estleman was moved to pay homage to Stout by writing stories in the popular and enduring tradition of Nero Wolfe.

But rather than produce pastiches of “lost adventures” – like the countless Sherlock Holmes tributes – Estleman created a character so enamored with Wolfe that he reinvents himself, as nearly as he can, in the image of his hero. Thus we have Claudius Lyon and the nine gently satiric and wonderfully humorous stories gathered together for the first time in Estleman’s latest title, NEARLY NERO.

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The Murder of Mary Russell

I wonder if I’m getting to be a bit Sherlock-ed. After collecting Sherlockiana for 20 years, then running through multiple video reboots, some very welcome (Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch), some not so much (Robert Downey Jr.), and then reading re-inventions or reinterpretations of the canon from some very fine writers (Laurie R. King) and some not so fine (John Gardner), I wonder if it’s all become just a bit too much.

It was my first thought on reading the new-in-paperback THE MURDER OF MARY RUSSELL, Laurie R. King’s 14th novel featuring Sherlock Holmes as having been married to one Mary Russell. In this installment, Holmes doesn’t even show up until around page 130 and that’s in an extensive flashback. For this book primarily is less about Holmes or even Russell, and more about the very colorful past of one Mrs. Hudson.

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Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly

Adrian McKinty continues his series featuring Irish detective Sean Duffy with his latest novel, POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY. Like previous series titles, this one takes place in the mid-1980s, when Ireland was in the midst of “The Troubles” – that is, the ongoing and often violent tension between Catholics and Protestants.

The setting is Belfast, 1988. A man is found dead, killed by a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. Detective Sean Duffy of the Carrick Police Force is called away from his holiday and assigned the case. Duffy immediately recognizes the dead man as a known drug dealer.

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