Posts Tagged ‘Peter Lovesey’

poppetThis time last year Mo Hayder’s Gone picked up the Edgar award for best novel. Now comes the sixth in the Jack Caffery series, Poppet (Grove/Atlantic, digital galley), and it’s another winner — chilling, twisted, and oh-so-creepy. Caffery and the Bristol major crime unit are still searching for missing Misty Kitson when a series of patient suicides at the psychiatric hospital Beechwood arouses the suspicions of nurse supervisor AJ LeGrande. The deaths, several incidents of self-harming, and rumors of a terrifying apparition known as “the Maude” unsettle the staff and residents, and the hysteria extends to the community when a patient who killed his parents is mistakenly discharged. Hayder doesn’t spare graphic, gruesome details, but her demon-haunted characters, especially Caffery and diving expert Sgt. Flea Marley, drive the story.

toothCaffery’s turf isn’t far from the historic city of Bath, where Peter Lovesey’s astute, abrasive copper Peter Diamond gets a crash course in classical music in The Tooth Tattoo (Soho Press, digital galley). The body of a young Asian woman found in a Bath canal leads to a string quartet in residence. One of its former members mysteriously disappeared in Budapest four years ago, and the new violist is still adapting to his colleagues’ eccentricities when he is drawn into the police investigation of superfandom. Diamond may not know one note from another, but Lovesey obviously does, and the clever plot is enriched by the passions of its players.

perfectghostThe title of Linda Barnes’ adroit stand-alone The Perfect Ghost (St. Martin’s, digital galley) refers not to a supernatural phantom but to Em More, one-half of the successful ghost-writing team of T.E. Blakemore. When the other half, charismatic Teddy Blake, dies in a car wreck, timid-mouse Em fights her agarophobia to finish their current project, the “autobiography” of famous director Garrett Malcom. She braves Malcolm in his Cape Cod home where he is working on a new version of Hamlet, and soon falls for her charming subject even as she suspects he is harboring secrets. Replete with clever Shakespearean references, the narrative’s as tense as a tight-rope when Barnes gives it a sudden, head-spinning twist. Em’s a little bit Ophelia, a bit more Jane Eyre, and very much  herself.

fearFamous mystery writer Josephine Tey and famous movie director Alfred Hitchcock meet in Nicola Upson’s Fear in the Sunlight (HarperCollins, digital galley), the fourth in this excellent series featuring Tey as sleuth. In 1953, an American visitor’s surprise announcement forces former Chief Inspector detective Archie Penrose to recall the strange events of the summer of 1936 when Tey and her theatrical friends gathered at a resort in Wales to celebrate Tey’s 40th birthday. Hitchcock and his wife Alma arrange to meet Tey in hopes she’ll agree to a film of “A Shilling for Candles.” But Hitchcock, who delights in unsettling pranks, is upstaged by the real-life murder of a Hollywood actress in a nearby cemetery, and Penrose and Tey are left to sort out a bevy of suspects and motives. Upson neatly meshes fact and fiction, and her characterizations of Hitch and Alma appear delightfully spot-on. 

parrotsCrime briefs:  The animals, including a profane parrot, a talkative tabby and a rebellious raccoon, steal the show in Clea Simon’s entertaining new Pet Noir mystery, Parrots Prove Deadly (Poisoned Pen Press, ARC), as Pru Marlowe detects misdeeds involving a nursing home, a shady doctor and horrible heirs.

                             gordonston                                                                                                                                          I would have liked to see more of the pampered pets in Duncan Whitehead’s The Gordonston Ladies’ Dogwalking Club (Dog Ear Publishing, digital galley), in which Savannah neighbors meet for afternoon cocktails and gossip. When one of their own, Thelma Miller, dies (bless her heart), the friends hone in on the widower, and jealousies, secrets and lies lead to an unmarked grave and an overheated mystery.

TuesdaygoneNicci French follows up Blue Monday with the twisty Tuesday’s Gone (Pamela Dorman/Viking, digital galley), another tale with an off-putting beginning. But psychotherapist Frieda Klein only seems detached when she agrees to help the police investigate the case of a mentally ill woman living with an unidentified corpse. 

killowenThere are two bodies buried in the bog in Erin Hart’s layered The Book of Killowen (Scribner, digital galley). One is a well-preserved corpse from the ninth-century, the second that of a recently gone-missing TV personality with controversial views. Both present quite the puzzle for archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin, who are bunking at at nearby artists’ colony.

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I really should stop reading mysteries before bedtime. But the days are long and light-filled into the evening, and I forget. I start a new novel, and the sun goes down, the stars come out, and I just keep on reading into the wee hours. The next day — like today — I’m sleepy and don’t want to write, but I before I start reading another mystery — or just take a nap — I best tell you what’s been keeping me up nights.

Let’s start with the title-appropriate Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson (HarperCollins).  Life is one long one-night stand for Christine Lucas, but not in the way you might think.  She wakes up in a strange bed next to a strange man every day because a brain injury has resulted in years of memory loss. A look in the mirror reveals a middle-aged version of the young woman she still feels like; notes on the mirror tell her the man in her bed is her husband, Ben. A phone call from an unknown doctor prompts her to retrieve her journal from its hiding place in the closet. It’s full of the memories that sleep erases every night. “Don’t trust Ben,” she reads. Why not? She can’t remember.

Watson’s first thriller offers first-rate psychological suspense as Christine’s journal entries begin to fill in the blanks. She reads that she has recently started having visceral flashbacks of real memory. But what she remembers conflicts with what Ben has told her and the pictures he shows her. Perhaps she’s imagining that she once wrote a book and had a child. Ben reassures her daily with great patience and concern.

A story from an amnesiac’s perspective involves a certain amount of repetition, but Watson doesn’t overdo it as Christine realizes — every day — that the only person she can really trust is herself. If only she could remember. . .

Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (Houghton Mifflin) offers such fascinating characters and atmosphere, I didn’t mind the meandering storyline in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Private investigator Claire DeWitt is sort of a New Age-noir Nancy Drew, who has been solving mysteries since her Brooklyn childhood with the help of her dreams, omens and a book by a mysterious French detective. Alcohol, cigarettes, pot, and memories of her mentor, Constance Darling, also inspire Claire as she searches for attorney Vic Willing, who disappeared during the storm. Perhaps the green parrots he used to feed are a clue, maybe the tough street kids he befriended. She compares tattoos and war stories with teen-age Andray, who reluctantly hooks her up with a gun and also has a connection with Constance.

“The thing about this city,” Andray says at one point. “It knows how to tell a beautiful story. It truly does. But if you’re looking a happy ending, you better be lookin’ somewhere else.”

Years ago, I dubbed Ruth Rendell something of a literary Hitchcock because she comes at her stories from unexpected angles. Now, in Tigerlily’s Orchids (Simon & Schuster), she does a version of “Rear Window” on a block of London flats. A widower named Duncan, who lives next door to a secretive Asian family, peers across the street, making up stories about the inhabitants of Lichfield House even as Rendell reveals their secret lives.

Charming slacker Stuart Font is planning a housewarming party in the flat he recently bought with an inheritance, but he’s having trouble with the guest list. He’d just as soon that Claudia, the married woman with whom he’s been having an affair, not come, especially with her powerful attorney husband. Olwen, the unkempt woman upstairs, is deliberately drinking herself to death. But the three young women who share a flat will be attractive additions, and he’ll also ask the hippie classics buff and the new woman who just moved in. He’s not much on the creepy building super and his vulgar wife, but Stuart asks them as well.

Rendell builds suspense slowly as she raises “people-watching” to a fine art. The party proves explosive, yet the requisite murder doesn’t happen until later,  almost an afterthought. By then, readers have eavesdropped on a half-dozen characters’ private lives and lies, and mysteries have emerged. The most intriguing concerns the beautiful Asian woman across the street, whom Duncan calls “Tigerlily,” and with whom Stuart becomes obsessed in true Rendell fashion.

Town meets gown in Charlotte Bacon’s elegantly written academic mystery The Twisted Thread (Hyperion Voice). When a popular  student at elite Armitage Academy is murdered in her dorm room shortly before graduation, her friends confide in Madeline Christopher, the novice English teacher. Madeline is at first flattered, and then threatened, by what the girls tell her. She turns to Matt Corelli, a local cop who has his own checkered history with the prep school.

Bacon moves among the perspectives of Madeline, Matt, Fred, an art teacher carrying on the family legacy, and Jim, the school’s middle-aged maintenance worker, well-versed in the school’s basement tunnels. Each has a back story that Bacon neatly twists into the well-knotted narrative that also includes a secret society, a charismatic headmaster, furtive love affairs, overprivileged students, suspicious townies and  — to up the ante — a missing newborn.

Peter Lovesey’s likeable curmudgeon Peter Diamond returns in Stagestruck (Soho Press), an artful tale provoked by a horrific opening-night incident at Bath’s Theatre Royal. Diamond reluctantly investigates;  just walking into the theatre gives him the willies, but his superior is angling for a part in an upcoming production of Sweeney Todd.

Lovsey’s humor and plotting are razor-sharp as Diamond and company question a cast of distinctive theater types, from the ambitious understudy to the oily artistic director. The theatre is supposedly haunted by a grey lady, and alternately blessed and cursed by tortoiseshell butterflies. Diamond’s impatient with the superstitions, but dogged about solving the mounting mysteries, including his own phobia of the footlights. The curtain comes down in a stunning finale.

Open Book: I read digital galleys of all of the above mysteries. Four were supplied by the publishers through NetGalley; Simon & Schuster has its own digital “galley grab.” I’ve more mysteries to read before I sleep, or they expire on my nook. Curses! Deadlines all over again.

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