This month's crop includes three writers from Great Britain, plus three with local ties and a filial connection. You think Seattle's winter...
This month’s crop includes three writers from Great Britain, plus three with local ties and a filial connection.
You think Seattle’s winter rain is bad? Judging by Stuart MacBride’s strong debut, “Cold Granite” (St. Martin’s Minotaur, 458 pp., $24.95), we’re lightweights compared with Aberdeen, Scotland. That city’s Detective Sergeant Logan McRae, recovering from a near-fatal stabbing, has to slog through constant freezing rain while fulfilling two tasks: tracking a killer of small children and pinpointing a sleazy reporter’s source of inside police information.
The book’s grim setting, plus the gallows humor, mordant introspection, and heavy drinking of its cops, draw inevitable comparisons to another talented Scotsman, Ian Rankin. But MacBride has some neatly distinctive touches, not least among them hefty doses of Aberdonian dialect and that wonderfully foul weather.
Jasper Fforde, the wildly imaginative author of the Thursday Next books, is back with another mind-blowing romp: “The Big Over Easy” (Viking, 383 pp., $24.95).
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This unlikely but winning mix of fairy tale and film noir stars Detective Jack Spratt of Reading’s Nursery Crimes Division, ably assisted by Sergeant Mary Mary. The pair must track down whoever pushed a minor aristocrat and philanthropist, one Humpty Dumpty, off a wall. Once ensconced in this book, you’ll soon happily lose count of the number of groan-worthy puns and zanily clever allusions it offers.
More down to earth than the Fforde book — but just as delightfully quirky — is Christopher Fowler’s “The Water Room” (Putnam, 356 pp., $24). It’s the second in Fowler’s series about John May and Arthur Bryant, partners for 50 years in London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit. Witty, erudite, and full of beans, these aging detectives contemplate their own mortality while investigating several deaths on a quiet street, including a woman who drowns in a dry basement. This book is stuffed with more amazing information than you ever thought possible about, among other topics, London’s intricate and messy underground waterways.
Eugene writer Gregg Keizer’s “The Longest Night” postulated an American gangster undertaking a mission during WWII to rescue Dutch Jews from concentration camps. Keizer returns to that era for his absorbing “Midnight Plague” (Putnam, 352 pp., $24.95).
Allen Wyler reads from “Deadly Errors” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free (206-366-3333 or www.thirdplacebooks.com).
On the eve of the Normandy invasion, a ship full of dead and dying Jewish refugees — apparently deliberately exposed by Nazis to pneumonic plague — runs aground in England. Physician and antibiotics specialist Frank Brink, together with two enigmatic Englishmen and a French Resistance worker, searches Europe for the lab where the disease is being tested. Meanwhile, a Nazi detective has his own reasons for tracing, from the opposite direction, the path of the human guinea pigs.
Seattle neurosurgeon Allen Wyler’s debut novel, “Deadly Errors” (Forge, 368 pp., $24.95), is a fast-paced medical thriller. Dr. Tyler Matthews — framed for drug abuse after whistle-blowing on a Medicare fraud case — resurfaces at a Seattle medical center.
But Matthews is alarmed by the center’s high-tech records-keeping system; altered information is causing patients to die. Deliberate killer or faulty system? Matthews finds his investigation into this blocked by obstinate hospital executives, nasty software-company reps, and even a chili-loving FBI man.
Portland Assistant D.A. Samantha Kincaid makes a welcome return in “Close Case” (Henry Holt, 350 pp., $22), by Alafair Burke. Newly playing house with her policeman boyfriend, Sam has plenty of personal problems and professional issues, including a murdered investigative reporter and a riot sparked when an officer kills an unarmed woman. As in Burke’s past books, seemingly simple legal cases become anything but cut-and-dried, and their consequences are always intriguing.
Meanwhile, Burke’s father, the distinguished James Lee Burke, offers “Crusader’s Cross” (Simon & Schuster, 325 pp., $25.95), in which his fiercely honorable Cajun cop, Dave Robicheaux, investigates murders apparently connected to the reappearance of a dangerous woman from his youth. Burke’s obsessions — the disparities of class and race, the inevitability of history, his hero’s ceaseless battle to stay sober — surface in all his books, but the writer’s tough passion and exacting language make even the familiar seem fresh.
Seattle writer Adam Woog’s column on mystery and crime fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Times.