"Locked Rooms" (Bantam, 400 pp., $24) is the latest in Laurie R. King's vividly imagined series about Mary Russell, the younger...
“Locked Rooms” (Bantam, 400 pp., $24) is the latest in Laurie R. King’s vividly imagined series about Mary Russell, the younger (but equally brave and smart) woman Sherlock Holmes married after his retirement.
The book focuses on Russell’s pre-Holmesian history, something only hinted at in previous books. In San Francisco to look after long-delayed family affairs, she and Holmes encounter a puzzle involving the 1906 earthquake and the fates of two families — hers and that of the Chinese servants her parents once employed.
“Locked Rooms” brims with lively 1920s color and verve, some of it in the warrens of San Francisco’s Chinatown. It also gives an excellent supporting role to a gent named Dashiell Hammett, part-time detective and aspiring writer. And there are some wry jokes: When Holmes cries out that “the game is afoot,” an observer incredulously asks Russell if he really says stuff like that. Yes, she replies, but only to annoy her.
Scottish writer Val McDermid’s prose rarely sings. On the other hand, she’s brilliant at getting under the skin of her characters — especially the psychos. In “The Torment of Others” (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 390 pp., $24.95), authorities in a dreary northern English town investigate a string of killings of prostitutes. Psychologist and profiler Tony Hill works to get a handle on the culprit’s psyche, while deputy chief inspector Carol Jordan sets a dangerous trap — and has her own demons to deal with, recovering as she is from a devastating assault.
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Like McDermid, Michael Connelly is not afraid to gaze directly at, and contemplate deeply, the very worst evils that society can conjure. His series hero, introspective lone wolf Harry Bosch, is back on the L.A. police force after a spell as a private eye. Assigned to the cold-case squad in “The Closers” (Little, Brown, 392 pp., $26.95), he checks out the unsolved murder of a teenage girl and quickly focuses on a neo-Nazi creep who knew her.
Seattle writer Beth Kalikoff, who teaches at the University of Washington’s Tacoma campus, has produced that rarity: a mystery set in our much-maligned neighbor to the south. Far from making snide jokes about Tacoma (something I, for one, would never do), “Dying for a Blue Plate Special” (Five Star/Gale, 228 pp., $25.95) is warmly affectionate toward the City of Destiny and its residents.
Struggling caterer Jewel Feynmann has finally scored a great gig: feeding a big dinner at (fictional) Commencement Bay University. Alas, the school’s president dies during the dinner — poisoned, in fact. Needless to say, this isn’t the best piece of news a struggling caterer could get. To keep her business from drowning in rumors, Jewel has to find out whodunnit and why. As it turns out, the president was a nasty piece of work, and a variety of whacked-out academics had plenty of motive and ample opportunity.
C.J. Box has staked out memorable turf — the rugged landscape of Wyoming — for his series about game warden Joe Pickett. But as the title of “Out of Range” (Putnam, 308 pp., $24.95) suggests, in this book Pickett roams far from his home in the tiny town of Saddlestring.
He is relocated temporarily to Jackson Hole, after the warden there — a good friend of Pickett’s — commits suicide. This puts Pickett in among the nouveau riche of Jackson, including a wealthy developer who crossed swords with the late warden. Pickett soon is convinced that his friend’s death was not exactly suicide. He’s also lonely for his wife and kids, guiltily attracted to the developer’s wife and plagued by a legendary back-country guide who might be breaking the law.
Box writes well about Pickett’s tangled personal woes, in clean and sturdy prose. He’s good, too, on describing the tensions that exist between the old and new Wyomings. But the writer is at his best when his guy heads out into the mountains — then it’s just Pickett and the Wyoming wilderness.
Seattle writer Adam Woog’s column on mystery and crime fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month.