Finch, Charles. A Beautiful Blue Death.

NY: St. Martin, 2007.

Mystery novels in a historical setting are very problematic, I’ve found, but my wife recommended this new series so I gave it a try. And it’s not bad. It does have problems, but most of them are common to nearly any first novel. It’s 1865 in London and Charles Lenox, the 30-ish younger brother of a baronet, is one of the unmarried idle rich. Well, not so idle, actually: He’s a talented amateur detective (and armchair explorer who wishes he could find the time to actually travel) who frequently shows up the plods at Scotland Yard,

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Swierczynski, Duane. Fun and Games.

NY: Mulholland Books, 2011.

This is the first volume in the author’s rather off-the-wall “Charlie Hardie” trilogy, and it’s a doozy. Charlie, now around forty, was never actually a cop but he used to work with the Philadelphia PD on legally questionable crime-fighting assignments. Then everything blew up (almost literally) and his partner (together with his wife and kids) was massacred by a drug gang and Charlie’s own wife and son are in Witness Protection while Charlie himself scratches out a living around the country as a house-sitter.

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Published in: on 18 June 2017 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hammett, Dashiell. The Thin Man.

NY: Knopf, 1934.

Hammett, one of the fathers of the modern detective story, only wrote five novels, of which this was his last, about the wealthy and sophisticated Nick and Nora Charles. It’s difficult to read about Hammett’s other famous detective, Sam Spade, without imagining Bogie, who made the character his own but who also played the hardboiled Spade pretty much the way the author wrote him. When Nick and Nora came to the silver screen, though, William Powell and Myrna Loy mostly just played themselves, and they mostly played the Charleses for laughs. And that’s not at all fair to the book, which certainly wasn’t written as light comedy.

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Connelly, Michael. The Wrong Side of Goodbye.

NY: Little, Brown, 2016.

Even though he must be pushing seventy now, ex-homicide cop Harry Bosch has spent the last half-dozen episodes in this long-running series fighting hard against retirement. Solving murders and getting justice for the dead is what he does. More, it’s what he is. He spent several years doing cold cases with a gang of other no-longer-active cops, and that taught him a lot — it’s made him “proficient in time travel” — and now he has his private investigator’s ticket, though he doesn’t work at it very hard.

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Black, Benjamin. Christine Falls.

NY: Henry Holt, 2006.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, “Benjamin Black” is the nom de crime of Irish novelist John Banville, and this was his first mystery novel featuring Quirke, a decidedly quirky forensic pathologist in Dublin in the 1950s, when the Church ran absolutely everything. But even though this is a “detective story,” it’s nothing at all like what Michael Connelly or Lawrence Block might write.

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French, Tana. The Trespasser.

NY: Viking, 2016.

Almost from her first book about the exploits (if you can call them that) of the Dublin Murder Squad, I’ve become a solid fan of French’s writing style and her skill in uncovering and exploring the personalities and souls of her characters. Each outstanding volume has been better even than the previous ones, and this sixth outing is the best yet.

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Swierczynski, Duane. Canary.

NY: Mulholland Books, 2015.

I’ve been a big fan of Duane’s idiosyncratic crime novels for some years now and this one may be his best. There’s a reason it was nominated for an Edgar. Serafina Holland is a very straight-arrow 17-year-old college freshman in an honors program and her future looks very bright. It’s the day before Thanksgiving and she’s at a party (pretending to drink beer and smoke pot), taking a break before term papers are due and then finals. A guy she barely knows begs her to give him a lift down to South Philly, supposedly to pick up a book and, being a nice person, she agrees.

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Published in: on 10 May 2017 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Swierczynski, Duane. Revolver.

NY: Mulholland Books, 2016.

I stumbled on one of this author’s earlier crime novels a few years ago and became an almost instant fan of his rather noir style. He’s a Philadelphian through and through and the seamy side of the city he knows so well becomes a character in his books, too. And this time, he indulges in an unusual sort of narrative strategy.

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Hill, Reginald. Midnight Fugue.

NY: HarperCollins, 2009.

Sadly, this is the last novel about Detective Superintendent Andrew Dalziel and DCI Peter Pascoe of Mid-Yorkshire CID before the author’s death, but it’s not a bad one to be going out with. The story revolves around the very wealthy “Goldie” Gidman, who made his money as a loan shark and financier of organized crime before he eased his way into the straight world of business and Tory politics.

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Pelecanos, George P. The Night Gardener.

NY: Little, Brown, 2006.

I’ve read a number of the entries in this author’s several highly regarded series of crime novels, all set in Washington, D.C., but this one is a standalone, and it may be his best book yet. Gus Ramone, who is (I think) part-Hispanic and part-Italian, is a sergeant in homicide who loves his job, even while he hates the necessity for it. His wife is a black ex-cop, and that and their two mixed-race kids provide much of the background for Pelecanos’s ongoing commentary about the reality of race relations in the District.

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