Some excellent crime-fiction writers have new books out for summer reading, including Sara Paretsky, Ken Bruen and Seattle author Mike Lawson. Plus, a debut Ballard-based mystery by T.W. Emory.
V.I. Warshawski returns, thank goodness, in “Brush Back”(Putnam’s, 480 pp., $27.95), the 17th in Sara Paretsky’s terrific series.
Warshawski was a pioneer in the hard-boiled division of female private eyes — tough-minded, impassioned and fearless in her commitment to righting wrongs.
Her strong ties to the gritty Chicago neighborhood of her childhood are strained when her high-school sweetheart, now a sad-sack truck driver, visits her office.
His mother, Stella, is just out of prison, having served time for the long-ago murder of her daughter. Now the son wants to prove her innocence.
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The problem is that Stella is a repulsive woman, violent and irrational — and she has always hated the Warshawski family.
At first the private eye refuses to help, but she’s forced to get involved after Stella accuses Warshawski’s late, beloved cousin of the murder. Baseball fans, take note: Wrigley Field figures largely here.
The title of “Green Hell”(Mysterious Press, 304 pp., $25) distills an underlying theme running through author Ken Bruen’s novels about Galway’s Jack Taylor. Ireland may be green, but it’s not always paradise.
Taylor is a classic figure: an ex-cop turned seedy private eye (and a serious drinker, even by Irish standards). He’s compelled to help those in need, even while refusing help for himself.
A college student is shadowing the charismatic PI, planning to write a biography. Meanwhile, Taylor wants to expose a professor with a history of violence. When a woman is murdered and Taylor’s shadow is arrested, the detective, aided by an unlikely ally in the form of a Goth girl named Emerald, redoubles his efforts.
There’s no mystery here about who the bad guy is. The book’s pleasure comes from listening to Taylor’s eloquent rants, studded with references to songs and books. His voice is wry and bittersweet, but somehow always hopeful.
Seattle-area writer T.W. Emory’s debut, “Trouble in Rooster Paradise” (Coffeetown, 256 pp., $14.95 paperback original), is an affectionate nod to noir fiction and its tough guys and dolls.
Back in the 1950s, Seattle was a small, distinctly non-cosmopolitan town. Private eye Gunnar Nilson walks the mean streets of Ballard, a blue-collar neighborhood of mostly Scandinavian families.
Soon after Nilson’s chance encounter with a knockout who works in a swanky jewelry store, she’s murdered — and his business card is in her pocket.
Good, vivid stuff. And who can resist a book with a cover featuring a fedora-wearing private eye, a shapely dame … and the Smith Tower?
Meanwhile, the prolific Seattle-area author Mike Lawson, a reliably excellent writer, is back with “House Rivals” (Atlantic, 304 pp., $25). It’s his latest about Joe DeMarco, the resourceful fixer for a powerful congressman.
DeMarco’s latest assignment has him helping a friend of the congressman. The friend’s daughter is a tenacious social crusader, not entirely likable, who has been writing scathing blogs about an oil tycoon.
After the ruthless tycoon overreacts and orders his own fixers to kill her, DeMarco abandons D.C., crisscrossing America’s heartland to avenge her. As always, Lawson’s plotting is ingenious and his characters memorable.