Reviewer Adam Woog looks at Robert Crais’ expertly crafted “The Wanted,” Peter Lovesey’s tantalizing mystery “Beau Death” and Ray Celestin’s gripping if overlong “Dead Man’s Blues.”
For the year’s final crime-fiction suggestions, let’s look at four seasoned detectives: an American private eye, a British copper and a pair of Pinkertons. Happy reading in 2018!
Elvis Cole, the L.A.-based hero of Robert Crais’ expertly crafted “The Wanted” (Putnam’s, 336 pp., $28), is an appealingly old-school gumshoe: in the classic mold, he’s a tough, sensitive, dogged wiseass. He’s also no friend of the cops, and possessed of both a complicated personal life and extra muscle in the form of Joe Pike, his scary sidekick.
Thanks to some upscale burglaries, teenager Tyson Connor has a small fortune in cash and expensive items stashed in his room. When his loving mom finds the loot and Tyson disappears, she thinks he’s selling drugs and hires Cole to find him.
Meanwhile, two eccentric bad guys are hunting a laptop that Tyson and his partners stole and sold, and they’re not above killing innocent people to find it.
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In “Beau Death” (Soho, 416 pp., $27.95), Peter Lovesey’s venerable Bath police detective, DS Peter Diamond, unravels the tantalizing mystery of a skeleton found in a derelict building. The droll copper’s loyal team joins him, maintaining their (mostly) good-natured sniping at each other even as they expertly do their jobs.
But talk about cold cases! The dead man is wearing authentic 18th-century clothes, down to the white tricorn hat and black wig that were trademarks of one of Bath’s most famous (real-life) sons, the rascally fashion plate Beau Nash.
Is the skeleton really The Beau, or the remains of a more recent murder? And what’s the connection to a peculiar society devoted to celebrating and researching natty Beau?
The book, I am happy to say, is as tightly plotted and absorbing as the best of Lovesey’s long-running series.
“Dead Man’s Blues” (Pegasus, 496 pp., $25.95), by Ray Celestin, transports us to 1920s Chicago, a wide-open town of speak-easies and bloody mob warfare.
A wealthy society woman has hired Pinkertons Ida Davis and Michael Talbot to find her missing daughter and fiancé. Intertwined with this, a crime-scene photographer investigates a grisly murder and Al Capone ferrets out a traitor.
Meanwhile, a young Louis Armstrong arrives to join the legendary King OIiver’s band; he and several other real-life musicians figure prominently in the overlapping story lines.
The book is overlong and could have used a more stringent editor, but nonetheless remains gripping, atmospheric and satisfyingly meaty.