Our reviewer continues his countdown of the cream of 2017’s mystery crop.
Here, in no particular order, are more notable books from various subgenres of crime fiction, 2017 edition. Stay tuned for more.
• Renee Patrick, “Dangerous to Know” (Forge).
Patrick – aka Seattleites Rosemarie and Vince Keenan – offers a second feather-light jaunt through Hollywood’s Golden Age.
It’s 1938, and questions abound. Who is a Nazi sympathizer? Who is behind a high-toned smuggling racket? And who, oh who, will play Scarlett O’Hara?
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Enter spirited young Lillian Frost and her friend Edith Head, the legendary (real-life) costume designer.
The Keenans are shameless name-droppers, and the deftly portrayed celebs dropping by include Marlene Dietrich, Jack Benny, Errol Flynn and George Burns (sans Gracie, alas).
Crime, espionage, fashion, and movies – what’s not to like?
• Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess, “The Painted Queen” (Morrow). When she died in 2013, Peters was writing her last ripping tale about Amelia Peabody, an Egyptologist in the early 20th century with boundless energy and a sense of humor as dry as the Sahara. Lucky for us, Hess completed it.
Peabody is enjoying a bath in a Cairo hotel when a man bursts in, utters some cryptic words, and dies with a knife in his back.
This remarkable event, with Hess vividly capturing Peters’ charming style, leads Peabody and her dashing husband, Radcliffe Emerson, to a criminal ring specializing in fake antiquities.
• P.D. James, “Sleep No More” (Knopf). This is, sadly, probably the last we’ll see from the late writer.
James is famous for her richly nuanced books starring Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh, but these are masterful, gemlike short stories.
They range from “The Murder of Santa Claus,” a classic country-house mystery, to “The Yo-Yo,” a disturbing, compact tale of psychological suspense.
• Louise Penny, “Glass Houses” (Minotaur). The village of Three Pines is a refuge for Armand Gamache, the veteran Québécois policeman who stars in Penny’s brilliant series.
Then something disturbs Three Pines’ tranquillity: a mute, motionless figure, obscured in black robes and a mask, standing on the village green for days.
It is a cobrador, a real-life Spanish phenomenon. For a fee, cobradors stalk people responsible for wicked deeds around to publicly shame them. (I sense plenty of opportunity for them in this country right now.)
The cobrador is unnerving but harmless — until a woman is murdered, clothed in its costume.
The story is told in flashback as Penny masterfully escalates the tension. Will Gamache, risking his career, make public a single, devastating, and heartbreaking detail?