Crime-fiction columnist Adam Woog looks at “Cave of Bones” by Anne Hillerman, who continues her father's atmospheric series, and “Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic” by Ace Atkins.
Using a best-selling writer’s name to boost book sales is, of course, nothing new. It happens even when that author has the misfortune to be dead.
Typically, a writer’s estate will authorize living writers to produce new books using the famous person’s style and characters. Among the many crime and thriller writers who are thus still speaking from beyond the grave: Robert Ludlum, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dick Francis, Rex Stout and Tom Clancy.
British writer Anthony Horowitz, for his part, has created outstanding books authorized by the estates of both Ian Fleming and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Another example is Anne Hillerman, ably carrying on the legacy of her father, Tony Hillerman. “Cave of Bones” (Harper, 320 pp., $26.99) is the latest in this atmospheric series, set in the Southwest and starring Navajo tribal cops Jim Chee, Bernie Manuelito and Joe Leaphorn.
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Annie Rainsong, a troubled teen with a history of overdramatization, disappears into the desert. Dom Cruz, who works with at-risk youth, goes in search of her. She returns, he doesn’t. Furthermore, she claims that while out there she found a cave full of human bones.
It’s up to Bernie to find Dom, determine if Annie is truthful and learn the mystery of the cave, which may connect to one of Joe’s long-ago cases.
Meanwhile, Jim, Bernie’s husband, investigates apparent abuse targeting Bernie’s sister, who runs with a rough crowd.
Another newly channeled book is “Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic” (Putnam’s, 336 pp., $27). Ace Atkins, who writes terrific books of his own, is the conduit for Parker’s long-running series starring Spenser — tough private eye, gourmand and professional wiseass.
Spenser is hired to solve the theft of three priceless paintings from a Boston museum. He doesn’t much like the museum’s bigwigs, but agrees because closing the case would mean a lot to a dying friend.
Atkins perfectly catches Spenser’s breezy voice and Parker’s knack for creating vivid characters — notably a foppish, condescending British detective who is also hunting the paintings.
On the local front: Thriller writer Kevin O’Brien and history/outdoors expert David Williams again team up to present “Dark Corners of the City: Literary Murder in Seattle,” an evening focused on Seattle locations that figure in fictional murders. The event happens at 7 p.m. Monday, April 23, at the University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., Seattle; 800-335-7323, ubookstore.com.
My advice? Check it out.