August releases in crime fiction include a stellar offering by Laura Lippman, a new Arkady Renko book by Martin Cruz Smith, a debut offering by Renton writer Jeanne Matthews and a mystery based in the world of wine by Seattle restaurateur Peter Lewis. Lewis reads at several area bookstores in September.
“I’d Know You Anywhere” (Morrow, 373 pp., $25.99) continues Laura Lippman’s extraordinary run of stand-alone novels (alternating with her lighter books about private eye Tess Monaghan). From its unsettling opening to its breathtaking conclusion, “Anywhere” exemplifies Lippman’s strengths: compassion, intense prose and deep empathy for the snares of ambiguous emotions.
Walter Bowman, a narcissistic sad sack — and the kidnapper-killer of a string of girls — has been on death row for decades. Meanwhile, Eliza Benedict (“the one who got away,” the victim who lived) has been trying, with mixed success, to live a normal life.
When Walter reaches out, asking Eliza to grant him forgiveness, she faces a wrenching decision:
Should she visit him in prison? Will he then tell her what exactly happened during a period so traumatic that Eliza (apparently a victim of Stockholm syndrome) has erased it from her memory?
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Arkady Renko is a Moscow-based homicide detective and the hero of Martin Cruz Smith’s engrossing series. Renko returns in“Three Stations” (Simon & Schuster, 229 pp., $25.99). Renko is a complex character, and — though this new book is less powerful than earlier tales — “Three Stations” delivers a satisfying punch.
Here, the melancholy Muscovite (is that a redundancy?) investigates the murder of a prostitute found in a shabby trailer, despite his colleagues’ scorn of Renko’s interest in this apparent nobody. Meanwhile, the detective longs to strengthen his tenuous connection with Zhenya, his semi-foster son, who lives on the street, earns a sketchy living as an itinerant chess player, and has taken up with a punkish young woman in search of her stolen baby.
On the local front:
University of Oregon professor Barbara Corrado Pope’s excellent “The Blood of Lorraine” (Pegasus, 367 pp., $25), set in Alsace in the final years of the 19th century, finds magistrate Bernard Martin reluctantly accepting the case of a couple who claim that their infant son was ritually killed by a Jew — a tragedy that ominously echoes the Dreyfus Case, a real-life incident involving the anti-Semitic persecution of a distinguished soldier.
“Bones of Contention” (Poisoned Pen, 304 pp., $24.95), Renton writer Jeanne Matthews’ debut, agreeably evokes the desolate land, rich myths, and colorful residents of the Australian outback.
Seattleite Dinah Pelerin — having just quit her job and dumped a cheating boyfriend — arrives at the bedside of a dying relative in Australia’s “Top End” (Northern Territory), joining several others in her messy family. Cleon is planning assisted suicide — but, Dinah hopes, not before he tells her the truth about her father’s death.
Seattle restaurateur/food consultant Peter Lewis turns his talented hand to prose with “Dead in the Dregs” (Counterpoint, 274 pp., $14.95 paper). Aaron “Babe” Stern is a retired sommelier turned bar owner in California wine country. Babe’s ex-wife asks him to informally look into the death of her brother, a hugely influential and hugely disliked wine critic. (He was found, one hand missing, in a vat of wine.)
Stern’s hunt leads to France and back, uncovering two generations of family secrets (and some very miffed wine people). Lewis’ book is rich in the rhythms of the winemaker’s seasons, and, as might be expected, dishes out enthusiastic but unpretentious writing about some serious eating and drinking.
Peter Lewis will appear at these area locations:
• At noon Sept. 8 at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, signing only (206-587-5737 or www.seattlemystery.com).
• At 7 p.m. Sept. 9 at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park (206-366-3333 or www.thirdplacebooks.com).
• At 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Co. (206-624-6600 or www.elliottbaybook.com).
Finally: congratulations to Kirkland writer Robert Ferrigno, whose “Can You Help Me Out There” snagged the Short Story Dagger award from England’s most prestigious mystery organization, the Crime Writers’ Association. Ferrigno fans will welcome the news that he is ending a stint at Microsoft and returning to honest work.
Seattle writer Adam Woog’s column on crime fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.