Griffiths, Elly. The Janus Stone.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

This is the second in the series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk, and it’s even better than the first-rate first volume. Ruth is turning forty and she’s overweight, but she had a one-night stand with homicide DCI Harry Nelson — it was a combination of stress and special circumstances during the last case — and that’s complicating her life. Being a bone specialist, she’s been doing some forensics work for the police and this time, three months since the previous case, that brings her to investigate the skeleton of an infant found under the doorstep of an old house being torn down to make way for a block of luxury flats.

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Horowitz, Anthony. Magpie Murders.

London: Orion Books, 2016.

I’ve read two of Horowitz’s earlier books, both pastiches on Sherlock Holmes, but this one is completely different, and both its critical and its public reception has been surprising. It’s also two of the strangest murder mysteries I’ve ever read. What seems at first to be the frame story is narrated by the fiction editor of Cloverleaf Books, who has settled in for the weekend with the new ninth novel from popular mystery writer Alan Conway featuring the Poirot-like private detective Atticus Pünd.

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Lehane, Dennis. The Drop.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

This rather short novel was based on the film of the same name, which itself was based on the short story “Animal Rescue,” which Lehane had written a few years before. It sort of epitomizes his recurring theme of working-class life and problems in the fading industrial Northeast. Bob Saginowski runs the bar in the place owned by his cousin, Marvin, who used to be a big-time fence but who now knuckles under to the Chechen mafia, which uses the bar as a conduit for their other criminal revenues.

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Published in: on 18 December 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hiaasen, Carl. Star Island.

NY: Knopf, 2010.

Hiaasen, the off-the-wall conscience of Florida environmental politics and a very funny writer, couldn’t produce an actual bad book if he tried. That said, this one is nowhere near his best. The subjects this time are the nature of celebrity in modern America (one can be famous just for being famous, as Paris Hilton has demonstrated), the real world of the paparazzi (they know they’re considered the scum of the earth and they don’t care), and rampant real estate development (who needs another wildlife refuge anyway?).

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Published in: on 12 December 2017 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Griffiths, Elly. The Crossing Places.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

This is the first entry in a lengthening series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk and it’s a first-rate piece of work. Ruth is not unattractive, but she’s pushing forty and weighs in at 180 pounds. She concentrates mostly on her career, both teaching at the local university and excavating in the nearby coastal marshes, which she has come to love, and where she lives in a small wind-and-rain-swept cottage.

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Macdonald, Ross. The Drowning Pool.

NY: Knopf, 1950.

In many ways, Los Angeles private eye Lew Archer was to the 1950s what Philip Marlow was to the same city a generation earlier, but he doesn’t seem to be much read these days. Which is a shame, because Macdonald was an excellent writer of noir-ish crime stories. This was Archer’s second case, in which he tries to find out who’s attempting to blackmail the young wife of the heir to a large, oil-rich estate in the hills north of LA. But she’s not going to give him much to work with.

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Keen, Greg. Soho Dead.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2017.

Kenny Gabriel is a couple years short of his sixtieth birthday and with less than three hundred quid in the bank. He’s a creature of Soho, having lived and worked in that London neighborhood since supposedly going off to university in the mid-’70s, and both he and Soho have changed over the years. He’s a skip-tracer most of the time, working for a corpulent, agoraphobic computer nerd who hasn’t left his flat in a decade.

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Tey, Josephine. The Daughter of Time.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1951.

I first read this marvelous sort-of historical novel in high school around 1960, and it cemented my determination to become an historian of some kind. I’ve reread it several times in the years since and it never fails to absorb me. “Josephine Tey” was one of the pen names used by Elizabeth MacKintosh, a mystery writer greatly appreciated by her professional peers but who is largely forgotten today — except for this book, which was always her most popular.

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Perry, Thomas. Strip.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Manco Kapak is a middle-aged, relatively low-ranking gangster in Los Angeles and he takes it poorly when he’s robbed while personally making a late-night deposit of the receipts from one of his dance clubs. If people in his gray world begin thinking he’s an easy mark, it will damage his reputation badly. Especially since he’s also laundering drug money for the Colombians, and they can smell weakness.

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Connelly, Michael. The Late Show.

NY: Little, Brown, 2017.

Okay, so LAPD Detective Harry Bosch has been in retirement for the last several volumes of this long-running series (though it doesn’t seem to be slowing him down much), and Harry’s half-brother, Mickey Haller (the “Lincoln lawyer”), never really bloomed as a character the way the author presumably hoped he would. So Connelly decided to come up with a new cop, one young enough to last awhile but senior enough to have interesting cases. Enter Renée Ballard of Hollywood Division (the same place Harry started), now in her mid-30s and a pretty good detective.

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