Archive for the ‘Regional Mystery’ Category

Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish-Janet Hubbard

April 1, 2014

Bordeaux: The Bitter Finish
Janet Hubbard
Poisoned Pen, Apr 1 2014, $24.95
ISBN 9781464201547

American wine critic Ellen Jordan asks NYPD Detective Maxine Maguire to act as her bodyguard while she visits Bordeaux, France. Once in country Ellen asks French speaking (from her mom) Max also to protect one of the four wine magnums valued at over $30,000 each by auctioneer Paula Goodwin though the American believes these are worthless frauds.

At the annual regional wine tasting gala in Lussac, experts test the contested wines for authenticity. However, Ellen dies from asphyxiation in her hotel room and the magnum Max left in the hotel safe has vanished. Max believes her client was murdered so she persuades her former lover French magistrate Olivier Chaumont and Commissaire Abdel Zeroual to allow her in on the investigation.

With a nod to Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country Mysteries (though in France rather than Virginia) the second Vengeance in the Vineyard Mystery (see Champagne: The Farewell) is a super whodunit as suspects straddle both sides of the Atlantic. Fast-paced from the moment Max learns Ellen died, readers will enjoy this solid whodunit as questioning those with motives seems to disprove Vino Veritas.

Harriet Klausner


I Remember You-Yrsa Sigurdardottir; Philip Roughton (translator)

March 28, 2014

I Remember You
Yrsa Sigurdardottir; Philip Roughton (translator)
Minotaur, Mar 25 2014, $14.99
ISBN 9781250019004

Married couple Katrin and Gardar, accompanied by a late friend’s widow Lif, leave Reykjavik, Iceland to renovate an old house they’ve recently purchased into a guesthouse in remote Hesteyri. Almost upon arrival, the trio feel like eating the financial investment as they are uncomfortable though none of them initially can explain why. They soon understand that the house contains a deadly resident, a ghost child, who demands they leave or suffer the consequences of their foolishness.

At the same time in Ísafjördur, police detective Dagný investigates a vandal incident at a school in which a young student, who vanished three years ago, remains missing. The cop asks psychiatrist Dr. Freyr to assist him with the case. They soon learn of an identical event at this same school six decades ago. In that historical cold case, the missing pupil’s classmates began mysteriously dying. Soon the eerie events happening in Hesteyri and Ísafjördur connect.

As Thora Gudmundsdottir (see The Day Is Dark) takes a respite, Yrsa Sigurdardottir provides an exhilarating Icelandic paranormal mystery. The Ísafjördur subplot is the stronger of the pair as each new clue forces the investigators and readers to change their opinion as to what is happening. The Hesteyri haunted house engages the audience with scary suspense, but loses some steam as the time to flee back to Reykjavik long passed. Still I Remember You is a fabulous fright fest.

Harriet Klausner

Precious Thing-Colette McBeth

March 7, 2014

Precious Thing
Colette McBeth
Minotaur, Mar 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9781250041197

In Brighton, England, Rachel’s dad vanished from the moment she was born and her resentful alcoholic mom Niamh despised her; blaming her child for her man leaving. At school, lonely Rachel meets dynamic Clara and they become BFFs. Niamh adores Clara and treats her as her child rather than her biological mistake. However, due to a nasty incident the friendship dies; Niamh blames her offspring.

Years later Clara and Rachel reunite as friends but their situations are radically different than when they were teens; as the former has had a tough go while the latter has become a successful reporter. Clara calls Rachel to meet her and other school friends at a club. Rachel arrives, but Clara fails to show. The police suspect Rachel harmed her BFF due to envy re Niamh. Now, the journalist must use her skills to learn what happened to Clara to stay out of prison.

This strong psychological thriller looks deep at the good, the bad and the ugly of friendships. The enjoyable storyline starts leisurely paced in order for the audience, through a Rachel filtering, to fully understand how each of the female trio thinks. Once the plot turns to the friendship renewal, the twisting tense tale soars into suspenseful first gear.

Harriet Klausner

Killer’s Island-Anna Jansson

February 20, 2014

Killer’s Island
Anna Jansson
Stockholm Text, Feb 11 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9789187173998

On Gotland Island, Sweden, Detective Inspector Maria Wern heads home in high heels after going to Quay 5 for drinks with her colleague Erika Lund who leaves with a man she met at the bar. Maria responds to a call for help, but when she intervenes to stop three men kicking and battering a young teen they attack her too while a witness flees. At the hospital Maria fears the brutes injected her with HIV. Dr. Eriksson says she more likely will suffer from hepatitis and that the lad suffered severe internal injuries that have left him in ICU after surgery with little chance of surviving.

Soon after Maria’s Good Samaritan beating, nurse Linn Bogen heads home after finishing her shift at the hospital when she is assaulted. When Linn learns of the attacks on the cop and the teen, she reports her assault. Pedestrians soon find her decapitated in a wedding dress that eerily emulates the White Sea-Lady myth and also found dead is the witness of the cop battering. As more murders occur, Erika leads the investigation into a serial killer while her private life intrudes on her inquiry.

The latest Maria Wern Swedish police procedural (see Strange Bird) provides an interesting look at the victims before they are murdered and the emotional damaging impact on their grieving loved ones and their frightened neighbors. Readers will enjoy this strong whodunit into terror that paralyzes the islanders with abject fear.

Harriet Klausner

The Deliverance of Evil-Roberto Costantini, translated by N.S. Thompson

February 20, 2014

The Deliverance of Evil
Roberto Costantini, translated by N.S. Thompson
Quercus, Feb 11 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781623650025

In 1982 in Spain, Italy wins the World Cup. The country is ecstatic with its first championship since before WWII. While Rome celebrates, eighteen years old Elisa Sordi vanishes. Like much of the country, young politically-connected Police Commissario Michele Balistreri joins in the reveille while he delays the missing person’s investigation using SOPs as the rationale to the hysterical parents of the teen. Michele’s passion remains vino and women until a few days later when Elisa’s battered body is found on the banks of the Tiber. The despondent cop realizes the impact of what he allowed and vows never again.

In 2006, Italy defeats France in Germany to win their first World Cup since 1982. At the same time, Elisa’s mom commits suicide while several young women are tortured and murdered just like her daughter was. This time Balistreri vows to solve the present day serial killings and the cold case that still haunts him.

Ironically though the 1982 homicide radically changes the protagonist from an uncaring hedonist to a dedicated cop, Balistreri remains unlikable and unsympathetic. The engaging Italian police procedural provides the audience with a fascinating psychological look at how ugly nurturing turns a human into an amoral evil.

Trilemma-Jennifer Mortimer

February 19, 2014

Jennifer Mortimer
Oceanview, Feb 4 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781608091126

American Linnet “Lin” Mere knows little about her New Zealand paternal family except that her late father, who died when she was twelve, abandoned his family and left his homeland to marry her mother. Amongst her mother’s things, Lin finds a photo of a painting “The Road to Ngatirua” by Rose Mere. She learns from the net that Rose is her deceased dad’s first wife.

Deciding to see her paternal relatives, Lin travels to Wellington. There she and her twin stepsisters meet for the first time. She soon becomes CEO of startup Hera telecommunications over the objections of her mean-spirited male rivals and also accepts the end of her beloved Ben in her life. However, as much seems to go relatively smooth, someone willing to kill wants her gone.

This “Roots” storyline is excellent when the focus is on the American trying to adapt to New Zealand society once she meets her family and at the workplace. The lethal suspense subplot detracts from the powerful character-driven look at difficult dilemmas people make to belong and to get ahead while sometimes these choices include deciding whether to abandon loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Mandarin Gate-Eliot Pattison

December 24, 2013

Mandarin Gate
Eliot Pattison
Minotaur, Dec 24 2013, $25.99
ISBN 9780312656041

Former Beijing investigator Shan Tao Yun learned the hard way about being too diligent when pursuing corruption at the highest levels of the government; his reward was exile to a Tibetan gulag. Still in Tibet, which he love due to the people, Shan works alongside unregistered Buddhist monks as a government irrigation and sewer inspector.

Unofficially he thrives on protecting the Tibetans from their Chinese overlords like keeping unregistered Monk Jamyang safe from an egregious bounty hunter. To his horror Shan watches his close friend Lokesh shoots and kills Jamyang. They go to honor Jamyang by adhering to his wishes to treat every shrine as the last shrine. However Shan observes Public Security Bureau and People’s Armed Police at the site of a ruined convent. Unable to resist though he knows the consequences of his folly, Shan makes commentary on the homicide “scenes” of two mutilated males that he believes are Chinese and a shot in the chest Buddhist nun were posed together with her at their feet far from the site of their deaths. Shan knows he must solve the case before the PAP’s “green apes” viciously punish everyone in the nearby village turned into a prison camp.

The seventh Shan mystery (see Lord of Death and Prayer of the Dragon) continues to show the oppression of the Tibetan people especially when it comes to justice. Encouraged by PSB Lieutenant Meng, Shan returns to his previous occupation as he investigates the homicides but aware he must be careful with how he does so or face the reeducation wrath of Governor Colonel Tan. Readers will appreciate the protagonist’s latest albeit unofficial case.

Harriet Klausner

The Missing Dough-Chris Cavender

December 5, 2013

The Missing Dough
Chris Cavender
Kensington, Dec 3 2013, $24.00
ISBN 9780758271549

Like many residents of Timber Ridge, North Carolina, A Slice of Delight Pizza Parlor sibling owners Eleanor Swift and Maddy Spencer prepare for the town’s annual Founders Day Festival. However, Maddy’s ex-husband Grant Whitmore arrives on the day of the popular gala. He claims he came to town to win back his former wife. As if affirming his seriousness of achieving his goal, at the festival Grant assaults Maddy’s fiancé Bob Lemon.

That same night, someone stabs Grant to death. Police chief Kevin Hurley suspects Bob killed Grant. The sisters refuse to accept Hurley’s premise that Bob committed murder so they begin to investigate only to find a horde with motives (including Maddy with two powerful incentives).

The sixth Pizza Lovers amateur sleuth (see Killer Crust and Rest in Pizza) is a delightful regional whodunit as the sisters and readers learn that there are plenty of people with strong reasons to kill Grant. Series fans will enjoy this entry as once again Chris Cavender provides a fabulous Tarheel whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery-. Michael Helms

November 11, 2013

Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery
E. Michael Helms
Prometheus/Seventh Street, Nov 12 2013, $15.95
ISBN 9781616148676

After nearly a quarter of a century as a U.S. Marine, Mac McClellan retires. He heads to the Florida panhandle for some R& R before deciding what to do as a civilian. While fishing, Mac hooks a rotted corpse.

The vet later learns the victim is affluent teenager Madison Lynn Harper. Meanwhile marijuana is found on the boat Mac has leased. Maddie’s uncle Sheriff Bo Pickron offers him a deal he cannot afford to refuse if he wants to remain a breathing free man. Bo tasks Mac to go undercover in order to find the killer of his niece and why her. With help from marina employee Kate Bell, Mac works the case hoping to escape from the mess in which someone cleverly has framed him for the homicide and for drug dealing.

The first Mac McClellan mystery is an exciting regional whodunit with a vivid backdrop and a fabulous beleaguered protagonist. Although there is too much passiveness especially by a marine, fans will root for the sleuth-drafted veteran as he battles against influence targeting him to take the fall.

Harriet Klausner

The Case of the Love Commandos-Tarquin Hall

October 20, 2013

The Case of the Love Commandos
Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster, Oct 8 2013, $24.99
ISBN 9781451613261

In India Ram and Tulsi meet and fall in love. However, Tulsi’s father Mishra objects to the relationship as he and his daughter are upper class Thakur and Ram is a lowly Dalit Untouchable. Mishra threatens to kill Ram if he continues to pursue Tulsi.

The desperate pair asks the Love Commandos, who assist star-crossed couples overcoming caste differences impeding their marrying; they plan to help them elope. However, before they can wed, Ram is kidnapped. Love Commando Laxmi talks with her boss at the Most Private Investigators Ltd, Puri; who agrees to find the missing groom. Puri soon learns that someone murdered Ram’s mother with Mishra as the prime suspect. Feeling the resolution too simple, Puri digs deeper; while his Mummy goes after a person she believes is a pickpocket about to commit a deadlier crime; and his operative Facecream works undercover.

India’s Most Private Investigator’s latest case (see The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken) is a fabulous investigative tale that looks deep at the remnants of the Caste system in which money has dented the rigidity but it remains strong otherwise. The engaging storyline rotates between Puri, Mummy and Facecream with the first being a terrific insightful whodunit, the second comedic relief (except if you are “Chubby” Puri or her suspect), and the third well done but not at the same level.

Harriet Klausner