A fresh crop of crime fiction for summer reading includes new books by Walter Mosley, British writer Robert Goddard and Seattle novelist Ingrid Thoft. Thoft appears June 30 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop.
This month’s selection of crime fiction features two memorable private eyes and a square-jawed veteran of World War I.
Walter Mosley is renowned for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, but “And Sometimes I Wonder About You” (Doubleday, 288 pp., $26.95) falls into one of this prolific author’s other series — and it’s equally exhilarating.
Leonid McGill is a gumshoe with a past: The “post-black” P.I. grew up on New York City’s mean streets and is forever seeking to atone for past sins. He’s also got a remarkably messy personal life (many kids, mentally unstable wife, multiple affairs, politically radical father, etc.).
The author of “Brutality” will sign books at noon Tuesday, June 30, at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; free (206- 587-5737 or seattlemystery.com).
McGill, powerful but short, also has a strange mental tic: precisely describing the height of every man he meets. (Full disclosure: I am also height-challenged, but I like to think I’m not as preoccupied about it as McGill is.)
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The book’s plot includes a gorgeous woman in danger, a Fagin-like mastermind with a network of child criminals, and a murdered homeless guy. Mosley doesn’t resolve these complex stories neatly, but then he’s never been as interested in plotting as he is in creating vivid characters and bracing, rat-a-tat prose — both of which are in abundance here.
“The Ways of the World”(Mysterious Press, 416 pp., $25) is the first in a trilogy by Robert Goddard, a popular writer in his native England but less known here.
It’s 1919, and Paris is consumed by post-WWI peace talks. A British diplomat, Sir Henry Maxted, has fallen to his death from a high roof, and British and French authorities want to mark it as accidental, since reports of a murdered diplomat could disrupt delicate negotiations.
Enter Sir Henry’s son James. Max, as he’s known, is a former combat pilot who postpones his future plans to uncover the truth. This pits Max against his older brother, a weasel with designs on their father’s considerable will. But he also has allies, chiefly his loyal wartime mechanic and the Frenchwoman who was Sir Henry’s beloved.
Goddard does not always escape clichéd prose, and his book lacks the rich atmospherics of the best historical espionage. Nonetheless, I welcome further adventures of the square-jawed Maxton.
On the local front: With “Brutality” (Putnam’s, 464 pp., $26.95), Seattleite Ingrid Thoft continues her absorbing series about Boston P.I. Fina Ludlow. Fina is a terrific character, a failed lawyer who works for a top-drawer law firm led by her stern father and including her irrepressible brothers.
Here, the energetic P.I. takes on the case of a viciously attacked woman, Liz Barone. The victim, a former college soccer star, had been suing her alma mater for turning a blind eye to its team’s aggressive play — a situation, Barone believes, that led to several players’ head injuries and her own worsening cognitive functions.
Thoft expertly balances her all-too-real theme with her protagonist’s wry narration — especially when Fina is discussing fast food or the opposite sex.
The crime-fiction world lost a bright light in May with the death of Ruth Rendell. The British author, who was 85, kept busy: She wrote some 60 books (as herself or under her pseudonym, Barbara Vine). She was also a member of the House of Lords (so that’s Baroness Rendell to the likes of us). And she often spoke out on a number of important social topics.
Besides her long-running series of police procedurals starring Chief Inspector Wexford, Rendell wrote many darker novels of psychological suspense. Perceptive commentary, elegant prose and silky, spellbinding plots marked them all. A final novel, “Dark Corners,” is due in October.