Johnson, Maureen. The Vanishing Stair.

NY: HarperCollins, 2019.

This is the first sequel to Truly Devious, second in a series of four, picking up a few weeks after the first volume’s cliffhanger ending, and Stevie Bell has been dragged back to Pittsburgh by her suffocatingly conservative and unimaginative parents after the death of one of her housemates at Ellingham Academy in Vermont.

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Marsh, Ngaio. Enter a Murderer.

London: G. Bles, 1935.

In her day, New Zealander Ngaio Marsh was right up there with Christie and Sayers in terms of popular readership (she even got a knighthood, and there’s an award named for her), but she hasn’t fared as well in recent decades compared to the other two. It’s kind of a puzzle why that should be the case.

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Johnson, Maureen. Truly Devious.

NY: HarperCollins, 2018.

There are a lot of YA novelists turning out romances and mysteries with teenage protagonists, but Johnson is of the very best, and she has a whole shelf of awards to prove it. This is the first of a four-volume adventure and it’s the best thing she’s done yet, with striking, in-depth characters, a fascinating setting, and a sizzling narrative that will suck you right in and make your weekend disappear.

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Robotham, Michael. When She Was Good.

NY: Scribner, 2020.

I recently read Good Girl, Bad Girl, and enjoyed it a lot. But it was clear from all the larger questions that were left hanging at the end regarding Evie Cormac’s origins and what Dr. Cyrus Haven was going to do about her, that a sequel was in the works. And sure enough, here it is. And it was worth the wait.

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Aaronovitch, Ben. Moon Over Soho.

NY: Del Rey, 2011.

The “Rivers of London”s series, a combination of urban fantasy and police procedural, has been running for awhile but I’ve only recently discovered it. This is the second volume and PC Peter Grant of the Met has been an apprentice wizard to DCI Thomas Nightingale for nearly a year.

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Robotham, Michael. Good Girl, Bad Girl.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Robotham is known for writing highly original thrillers that frequently are nominated for awards — and he’s won a few, too. This one is definitely strange and it will hold your attention right up through the last explosive chapter. (And I mean that literally.) “Evie Cormac” isn’t her real name, it was chosen for her by the courts so they would have something to call her.

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Faye, Lindsay. Jane Steele.

NY: Putnam, 2016.

I really enjoyed Faye’s Gods of Gotham, set in New York City in the 1840s, so that led me to this one, which is even better. It’s a sort-of homage to Jane Eyre, and in its depiction of not entirely innocent young women making their way as best they can in the underbelly of London in the mid-19th century, it frequently reminds me of Sarah Waters’s Tipping the Velvet.

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Griffiths, Elly. The Stone Circle.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2019.

This is the 11th in the above-average mystery series featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, and it harks back to the first episode, set a decade earlier, when Ruth was brought in to deal with a child’s buried body. Now another such body has turned up, and at a similar ancient excavation site.

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Goldberg, Tod. Gangsterland.

Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2014.

This is not your run-of-the-mill crime thriller, and in various ways it sort of reminds me of Jess Walter’s Citizen Vince. Sal Cupertine is the epitome of a professional hit-man and he’s been doing work for the Chicago mob since he was nineteen. He’s efficient, pragmatic, calm, has a nearly eidetic memory.

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Faye, Lyndsay. The Gods of Gotham.

NY: Putnam, 2012.

This is one of the best-written and socially most pointed historical novels I’ve read in some time. The setting is New York City in the summer of 1845, when the great influx of Irish immigrants was just beginning, a result of increasing literal starvation in Ireland and dispossession by anti-Catholic English landlords. But American Protestants, calling themselves “natives,” are pushing back against the “papist animals” and outright warfare in the streets of the Lower East Side feels very close.

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