Adam Woog rounds up new crime fiction, including books by Seattle author James Thayer, Tracy Weber and Martha Crites, as well as new work by veterans Benjamin Black, Håkan Nesser, Ian Rankin, Christopher Fowler and Mick Herron.
This column sometimes gives short shrift to the region’s many fine crime writers, so let’s kick off the new year with three of them. (OK, one of the writers isn’t local, but the Seattle setting earns her a spot.)
Prolific Seattle writer and writing teacher James Thayer returns with “House of 8 Orchids” (Thomas and Mercer, 281 pp., $15.95 paperback original). This complex and detail-rich adventure story follows the exploits of two brothers, John and William Wade, in the first half of the 20th century.
The two are sons of the American consul in Chungking (now Chongqing), China. Kidnapped as children, they are trained by a nefarious eunuch to become master criminals, one a killer and the other a forger. When the eunuch kidnaps a Chinese movie star, John helps William rescue her (he’s love-struck), thus betraying their mentor and launching a dangerous escape journey.
Italian-born, London-based V.M. Giambanco’s“The Dark”(Quercus, 439 pp., $26.99) is making its first appearance in the U.S. A Seattle homicide detective, the scarily focused Alice Madison, is obsessed with the case of three boys murdered in the Hoh rain forest. Giambanco’s prose and characters are powerful, but despite frequent place-name-dropping (jogging on Alki, driving to Bellevue, etc.) she provides too little of the flavor that makes her chosen setting distinctive.
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“Karma’s a Killer”(Midnight Ink, 288 pp., $14.99 paperback original) continues Tracy Weber’s charming series of cozy mysteries about Seattle yoga teacher Kate Davidson. (The author, a recovering Microsoftie, is a yoga teacher herself.) Volunteering her professional services at a fundraiser for a local animal shelter complicates Kate’s life when it involves a murder — and a chief suspect who is her estranged mother. Who knew yoga for dogs could be so hazardous?
Author appearances: Tracy Weber will read from and/or sign “Karma’s a Killer” at these area locations:
• At noon Jan. 16 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St. (206-587-5737, seattlemystery.com).
• At 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park (206-366-3333, thirdplacebooks.com).
Seattleite Martha Crites’ debut, “Grave Disturbance” (Rat City, 230 pp., $14.99 paperback original), is a dark and compelling story set mainly in the Cascade foothills. Grace Vaccaro is a mental-health evaluator (as is the author) caught up in bad business after a filmmaker, working on a documentary about native land rights, is murdered. Not surprisingly, one of the book’s strongest elements is its protagonist’s skill as a mental-health professional in teasing clues out of other people’s heads.
Author appearance: A launch party for “Grave Disturbance” will be at 7 p.m. Saturday Jan. 23 at The Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave. (206-624-6600, elliottbaybook.com).
And in nonlocal news: No room for details, but in the last month I thoroughly enjoyed Benjamin Black’s“Even the Dead” (Holt, 304 pp., $27),Håkan Nesser’s “Hour of the Wolf”(Pantheon, 320 pp., $25.95), Ian Rankin’s“Even Dogs in the Wild”(Little, Brown, 352 pp., $26),Christopher Fowler’s“Bryant and May and the Burning Man”(Bantam, 416 pp., $26), and Mick Herron’s “Real Tigers”(Soho, 336 pp., $26.95).
As it happens, all feature longtime series characters — respectively, Irish pathologist Quirke, Sweden’s Inspector Van Veeteren, Scottish cops John Rebus, Malcolm Fox and Siobhan Clarke, Bryant and May (the oldest and oddest police detectives in London), and the denizens of Slough House, the (fictional) branch of England’s espionage service where disgraced (but not always incompetent) spies are reassigned.