Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley
This sequel to The Rook was worth the long wait. Britons with supernatural abilities are raised by the Checquy, a secret government agency which investigates crime. The Grafters, the Checquy’s longtime Belgian enemies, are in England for talks. Pawn Felicity is assigned to protect Odette, a young Grafter surgeon, but it’s not an easy job. Plenty of suspense, adventure, and some humor. The title is unclear until the last part of the book; a nice touch. If you’re in the mood for a quirky book with fast pacing and intriguing characters, enjoy!
The Widow by Fiona Barton
It’s rather a relief for Jean Taylor to be a widow. Maybe the reporters and detectives will leave her alone at last. Jean’s husband Glen was a suspect in the much-publicized disappearance of little Bella Elliott from her front yard. Bella has never been found, although her mother Dawn believes she’s still alive. Glen drove a delivery van, and may have been in Bella’s neighborhood that day. Jean, a hairdresser in London, always stood by him, even after detectives reveal some of his dark secrets. Dogged PI Bob Sparkes can’t stop looking for leads in Bella’s case, and resourceful reporter Kate Waters manages to get the first interview with Jean. Read this compelling, fast-paced novel of psychological suspense to find out what happened to Bella, if Glen was guilty of her kidnapping, and what Jean knew or suspected and when. But the reader must decide if Jean’s story is reliable, as she has her own secrets. No graphic violence here, just plenty of chills. Readalikes include Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Expats by Chris Pavone, and The Last Child by John Hart.
A Bed of Scorpions by Judith Flanders
A clever, satisfying mystery, the second to feature London book editor Samantha Clair. When Aidan, an old flame, asks Sam to lunch, she is shocked to learn that the gallery owner’s partner Frank has been found dead. Sam, along with her new boyfriend, DI Jake Field, begins investigating. Sam’s knowledge of the publishing world turns out to be both helpful and dangerous. The plotting is smart, the dialogue witty, and Sam can be very funny, especially when she kicks a snob at a dinner party or reacts after a bike accident. Sam’s older neighbor, her assistant Miranda, and her mother Helena, a solicitor, are all good company and do their bit to help Sam and Jake solve the mystery. I’m always happy to find a good new mystery author to recommend. My review of the first book, A Murder of Magpies, is here. There is a third book, but it’s just out in Great Britain, and will probably appear in the U.S. next spring.
The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King
The title of the 14th book in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series may have fans rather worried. I’m not going to reveal much of the plot, just reassure readers that Laurie King continues to take this series in new and creative directions, including setting part of this book in Australia. Sherlock’s housekeeper Clara Hudson shares center stage here with Mary Russell, and I quite enjoyed getting to know her better. Very suspenseful, with a little humor; a thoroughly satisfying read.
Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear
In her 12th mystery, Maisie Dobbs is back in fine form after the somewhat disappointing and melancholy A Dangerous Place. Staying with Priscilla’s family in London in 1938, Maisie is approached by the Secret Service for a short assignment in Munich, Germany. An industrialist and inventor, Leon Donat, is to be released from Dachau after two years, but only to a family member. His daughter is ill, and Maisie is asked to impersonate her. Nothing is ever simple and straightforward in Maisie’s world, and she is also asked to look for Elaine Otterburn, a young woman she has cause to dislike. The tension in this book is ever-present, the storyline is detailed, and the writing is compelling. But what fans of Maisie want to know (and after reading the first book, Maisie Dobbs, many mystery and history lovers become fans) is how is Maisie? As she’s thinking of reopening her practice as a private investigator and psychologist, touching base with Sandra and briefly with Billy, and spending more time with friends and family, be assured that Maisie is as good company as we’d like. I just wish the book was longer.
Home by Nightfall by Charles Finch
Another very satisfying visit to Victorian England as Charles Finch and his colleagues at their London detective agency ponder the disappearance of a German pianist from a theatre dressing room and worry about their business. Charles and his wife Jane are concerned about Charles’ brother Edmund, a member of parliament. He’s in mourning, and waiting for his sons to hear of their mother’s death. In their hometown in Sussex, Charles is able to distract Edmund by asking for his help investigating recent thefts and odd occurrences. The writing is richly detailed; I enjoyed the descriptions of the brothers out riding and interacting with townspeople, and Charles’ occasion frustration with communication with London only by letter or brief telegrams. Charles gets a glimpse of the depth of Edmund’s grief, and this draws them closer together. An attack on a local dignitary leads to dark secrets about his past, and Jane and her friend Toto help the men with the investigations. While the mysteries are clever, it’s the setting and the continuing development of the appealing characters that makes this mystery series a personal favorite. The first book is A Beautiful Blue Death.
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
The title is taken from a newspaper headline in 1914. Three unconventional sisters are living on a small farm near Paterson, New Jersey. Tall, independent Constance Kopp and animal-loving Norma are raising their pretty teenaged sister Fleurette after their mother’s death. When a car driven by factory owner Henry Kaufman crashes into their horse-drawn buggy, Constance sends him a bill for the damage. When there’s no response, Constance delivers another bill to the factory, and gets into a confrontation with Kaufman. This begins months of trouble for the Kopp sisters. The sisters are harassed, bricks are thrown through windows of their house with notes, and Fleurette is threatened with kidnapping. With the help of Sheriff Robert Heath, Constance and Norma are prepared to defend their home and younger sister. Constance also tries to help Lucy, who works as a silk-dyer for Kaufman, and whose young son is missing after a strike. Sheriff Heath is very supportive, but his resources are limited, and the sisters may have to move into town and live with their brother Francis and his wife. What’s truly remarkable about this suspenseful book is that all of the characters except Lucy were real people. The pace intensifies, the writing style is descriptive, and the settings are vividly drawn. Subplots are added, conversations imagined, and Norma’s fondness for homing pigeons is entirely fictional, but the well-developed characters, genuine suspense, and an incredible true secret that is gradually revealed to the reader all add up to a memorable first novel. Find out more about the sisters on the author’s website, or wait for the planned sequel.