Adam Woog’s April roundup of crime fiction includes new books by Laurie R. King and Jacqueline Winspeare — historical mysteries featuring resourceful women.
This month’s column kicks off with two historical mysteries and two smart, independent women.
The title of “The Murder of Mary Russell”(Bantam, 368 pp., $28) is an obvious fib, since Russell narrates much of the latest in Laurie R. King’s sharp, inventive and rewarding series.
Russell is Sherlock Holmes’ wife, and just as resourceful as the retired Great Detective himself. But the focus here is on their trusted housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson.
The author of “Journey to Munich” will sign books at noon Tuesday April 12 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; free (206-587-5737 or seattlemystery.com). She will read and discuss the book at
7 p.m. Wednesday April 13, Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free (206-366-3333 or thirdplacebooks.com).
A man claiming to be Mrs. Hudson’s son appears one day when Russell is home alone — and promptly brandishes a gun. When Mrs. Hudson comes home, she finds signs of a fight, lots of blood — and Russell missing.
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The book toggles between Holmes’ subsequent search and flashbacks to Mrs. Hudson’s surprising past. Some readers may find that the backstory drags; others will appreciate how it fleshes out King’s take on the Holmes tradition.
Jacqueline Winspear’s outstanding series about British detective and psychologist Maisie Dobbs continues with “Journey to Munich” (Harper, 320 pp., $26.99).
In 1938, as war looms, Dobbs is recruited by England’s spy agency. The mission: travel to Nazi Germany incognito and free a detained British engineer who has crucial information for the Brits.
Meanwhile, Dobbs is haunted by the tragedies of her past, including the death of her husband, a past that has serious implications for her present-day situation.
The book is not perfect; some plot turns are implausible — and did even the most stiff-upper-lipped British officer ever deliver such stilted, unwieldy speeches? Still, following the complex and compassionate Maisie Dobbs is always worthwhile. Winspear signs books at noon Tuesday, April 12, at Seattle Mystery Bookshop.
Darko Dawson, an amiable and shrewd police detective in Ghana, anchors Kwei Quartey’s robust “Gold of Our Fathers” (Soho, 368 pp., $26.95).
Dawson has been transferred from the capital city of Accra to the remote north, far away from his beloved family. It’s a region notorious for illegal gold mining, much of it committed by Chinese wildcatters.
Dawson finds himself cleaning up an incompetent, corrupt police department — and investigating the grisly murder of a hated Chinese mining boss, Bao Liu. The investigation focuses on the victim’s brother, the workers Bao exploited, and a family member of Bao’s lover. But deeper crimes for Dawson to explore are on the horizon.
The author has his own intriguing story: he grew up in Ghana with an American mother and Ghanaian father, and now is a physician in California. He excels at evoking a sense of place and the many aspects, both appealing and dismaying, of his native land.
Ace burglar and champion wiseass Junior Bender makes a welcome return in Timothy Hallinan’s“King Maybe” (Soho, 400 pp., $25.95).
Junior (and yes, that’s his given name) is out to steal a rare stamp from the lavish home of a creepy debt collector called the Slugger (after his favored weapon, a baseball bat). When the job goes south, the burglar escapes — but the Slugger remains eager to find Junior and reason with him.
Meanwhile, Junior is blackmailed into robbing the home of a Hollywood bigwig called King Maybe (because maybe he’ll produce your picture someday). Then King Maybe hires Junior to rob that same house. (It’s complicated.)
The supporting cast includes a deeply untalented actress; Junior’s girlfriend (who may or may not be telling the truth about her enigmatic past); and the nasty little suck-up who is tormenting Junior’s teenage daughter.
Hallinan, who lives part-time in Thailand, also writes a more serious series set in that country. With Junior, however, he proudly carries the banner of the late Donald Westlake, whose books are the gold standard of antic capers. The result — lucky us — is a hoot and a half.