Adam Woog’s crime fiction picks for May are all by authors in the Seattle area: new books by Candace Robb, Ashley Ream, Mary Daheim, Renee Patrick and Gregg Olsen.
It’s no news that the Seattle area is a hotbed of talented crime writers. Here are some new offerings:
Candace Robb, best known for her books about medieval spy Owen Archer, is back with another story set in earlier times: “The Service of the Dead”(Pegasus, 256 pp., $25.95). Kate Clifford is a widow in York, England, that hotbed of 14th-century-style political intrigue. She’s determined to make her way, despite dangers and obstacles that include murder at her guesthouse.
As with Robb’s other books, “Service” is rich in meticulous historical detail and vivid characters. The murder at Kate’s guesthouse, and the scandal that threatens to emerge from it, are set against turmoil pitting the supporters of Richard II against Henry Bolingbroke for England’s throne. (Spoiler alert: I’d bet on Henry.)
Author appearance: Candace Robb will read from and sign “The Service of the Dead” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park; free (206-366-3333 or thirdplacebooks.com).
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Ashley Ream’s “The 100 Year Miracle” (Flatiron, 320 pp., $26.99) is an absorbing story with an arresting premise. For six days every century, the waters around a small San Juan island glow eerily. Biochemist Rachel Bell, studying the microorganisms that create the phenomenon, discovers something long known to anyone steeped in Native-American folklore: that the glow cures injury and illness.
Bell sees this firsthand — it relieves the excruciating pain she’s had since childhood, as well as the degenerative symptoms of a disabled local man. But tension mounts as Bell hits a deadline: she has only a few days to analyze the mysterious force before it disappears for another century.
Author appearance: Ashley Ream will read from and sign “The 100 Year Miracle” at 7 p.m. Monday, May 23, at the Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free (206- 624-6600 or elliottbaybook.com).
Mary Daheim never met a pun she didn’t like — witness “Here Comes the Bribe” (Morrow, 304 pp., $23.99), the latest in her series about innkeeper Judith McMonigle Flynn.
Daheim is a sucker for funny names, too. Take the new guests, Rodney and Millie Schmuck. Rodney seems like an OK guy until he makes a surprise announcement: he’s Judith’s long-lost son. This is big news to Judith, who — as far as she recalls — has never given birth. As in all of Daheim’s books, seriously funny high jinks ensue.
“Design for Dying”(Forge, 318 pp., $24.99) is a charming and gossipy tale, set in 1930s-era Hollywood, by Renee Patrick (a pseudonym for Rosemarie and Vince Keenan). Lillian Frost is a shop salesgirl and aspiring actress whose ex-roommate has been murdered. The victim was found wearing a gown created by costume designer Edith Head, who in this book has yet to become the Hollywood icon she was in real life.
Lillian is a suspect, and for the sake of her career Edith wants to avert any nasty scandal, so the two team up to solve the crime. Along the way, plenty of other real-life figures pop up. Paging Miss Stanwyck and Mr. Hope!
Gregg Olsen’s“The Girl on the Run” (Polis, 288 pp., $18.95) is the prolific author’s first young-adult novel, and it’s a breakneck doozy of a story. Rylee is a teenager who grew up on the move and off the grid. Her family has been hiding under various assumed identities for years, thanks to something really bad that happened in her mom’s past.
This invented life seems pretty normal to Rylee — until her stepfather is brutally murdered and her mother has disappeared. Rylee flees the scene with her younger brother in tow, proving to be scarily precocious about getting out of a succession of jams — she’s been lying all her life, after all — and about finding her mom.
When Rylee discovers the terrifying reason behind her family’s lifestyle, the murder and the disappearance, it’s not for the squeamish. Olsen doesn’t dial down the level of violence and terror that permeates his books for grown-ups.