Crime fiction for October includes a new Armand Gamache novel by Louise Penny; short stories by Daniel Woodrell; a Joe Gunther novel by Archer Mayor, Ed Gorman's "Bad Moon Rising" and Charles Martin's "Neon Panic."
The traditional mystery, when steeped in intelligence, sympathy, rich characters and lucid prose, has a stalwart champion in Louise Penny.
Penny’s last book, “Bury Your Dead,” won the prestigious Anthony Award for Best Novel, and this year “A Trick of the Light” (Minotaur,352pp.,$25.99) is up for the same honor.
Montréal’s perceptive Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, haunted by a raid that went wrong, is brought back to the present by a new case. In the deceptively bucolic village of Three Pines, an artist is implicated in the death of a childhood friend turned enemy. The body’s found just in time to ruin the triumphant opening of the artist’s breakthrough exhibit.
As in earlier books, plot takes a back seat to subtle character study here. The interplay of opposites — light and dark, friendship and bitterness — is an insistent and powerful motif in this heartbreaker.
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“Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn’t seem to quit killing him.” The first sentence of the first story in “The Outlaw Album” (Little,Brown,176pp.,$27.99) tells us we’re in Daniel Woodrell territory: violence and revenge simmering just below the surface of spare, vivid, Ozark-style storytelling.
Woodrell calls his books “country noirs.” (They include “Winter’s Bone,” which became a stunning movie.) “The Outlaw Album” maintains his earlier work’s ominous feel. As with many story collections, however, it’s a mixed bag. Some pieces seem like just sketches, but the more substantial ones get under your skin. Standouts include “The Echo of Neighborly Bones,” about a newcomer overstepping a boundary, and “Uncle,” a wicked tale about a woman caring for an unusual baby.
Daniel Woodrell will read from and sign “The Outlaw Album” at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Capitol Hill Branch of the Seattle Public Library, 425 Harvard Ave. E. (206-684-4715,www.spl.org). HewillsignbooksatnoonTuesdayatSeattleMysteryBookshop,117CherrySt.,Seattle(206-587-5737,www.seattlemystery.com).Archer Mayor’s sturdy body of work about Vermont lawman Joe Gunther just gets better. In “Tag Man” (Minotaur,290pp.,$25.99), Joe’s on leave while grieving the death of his girlfriend. But he can’t stay away from a case involving the Tag Man, who sneaks into upscale houses and leaves stickies reading “You’re it.”
We learn the Tag Man’s identity early on, and about the shabby secrets he finds on his nocturnal break-ins. He steals only inexpensive mementos, and it’s all relatively harmless — until he stumbles on two big secrets: scrapbooks indicating the work of a serial killer and evidence linking a repulsive rich guy with Boston mobsters.
Like Ed Gorman’s other shrewdly plotted books about lawyer Sam McCain, “Bad Moon Rising” (Pegasus, 208 pp., $25) takes its title from a pop song. It’s the summer of 1968, the Chicago Seven are frolicking at the Democratic Convention, and hippies — still exotic creatures — have settled near McCain’s small Iowa town.
When a girl is murdered at the hippies’ commune, her rich-guy father hires McCain to investigate. It seems like an open-and-shut case, but McCain thinks otherwise. (BTW, by my reckoning the timeframe’s off a bit — the titular song didn’t come out until early ’69. But who’s counting?)
Seattleite Charles Philipp Martin nicely evokes the fizzy chaos of modern Hong Kong in his engrossing debut, “Neon Panic” (Van-
tagepoint, 394 pp., $14.95 paperback). As police investigate a body washed up on shore, a symphony bassist hunts for a missing friend. There’s also turmoil within the orchestra (which bears a suspicious resemblance to one the author, also a bassist, once played for). The bassist’s ally in the search: a female reporter who rejoices in the name of Twinkie Choi.
Adam Woog’s column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.