The civil-rights era, disastrous floods, a Picasso mural — these and other fascinating subjects figure into this month’s recommended crime novels.
“Lady in the Lake” by Laura Lippman (Morrow, $26.99). Lippman brilliantly uses crime to frame her incisive, compassionate dives into social issues. Baltimore, 1966: Maddie Schwartz ditches life as a housewife to make her mark on the world. Scoring a job as a cub reporter, she tracks the murder of Cleo Sherwood, found dead in the fountain of a city park lake. Maddie is white and Cleo was black, giving Lippman ample opportunity to explore the era’s explosive race relations.
“A Dangerous Man” by Robert Crais (Putnam’s, $28.00). In this muscular thriller, Los Angeles gumshoe Elvis Cole and his comrade Joe Pike are pulled into a puzzle: Pike thwarts the kidnapping of a bank teller but fails to prevent a second attack. Who grabbed her, and why? Cole, a world-class smarty-pants, and Pike, an implacable and scary ex-Marine, make a terrific pair.
“A Nice Cup of Tea” by Celia Imrie (Bloomsbury, $17.00). This terrific British actress is no slouch as a writer, as this droll, warmhearted novel proves. Five expats living the good life on France’s Mediterranean coast are having a number of problems, from online reviews sabotaging their restaurant to kidnapping and a cranky delivery van. To avoid financial ruin, they try to sell off a Picasso mosaic set in the restaurant floor. The Picasso estate is not amused.
“A Better Man” by Louise Penny (Minotaur, $28.99). Pensive and moral Quebec police inspector Armand Gamache is justly beloved, and Penny’s evocative prose is unfailingly admirable. Gamache is part of the government’s efforts to stem spring floods devastating the province, and the cop also initiates a murder investigation after a pregnant woman is found dead in a raging river.
“The Shameless” by Ace Atkins (Putnam’s, $27.00). Atkins’ evocative (and graphically violent) books powerfully represent the Southern noir genre. Quinn Colson, the sheriff of fictional Tibbehah County, Mississippi, faces off with the Southern Mafia and a creepy, racist and corrupt gubernatorial candidate. Colson’s also looking into the decades-old murder of a young black man. The tension ratchets high as the cases collide.
A sad final note: Seattleite Andi Schecter died last month at 66. Andi was a stalwart champion of mysteries, reviewing books and chairing conferences. She was funny, quick-witted and never shy about voicing an opinion. Andi cackled when I once called her “Seattle’s mystery maven,” and I’ll miss her.
CORRECTION: Author Celia Imrie’s last name was misspelled in an early version of this story.