Posts Tagged ‘Walter Mosley’

sometimesMy favorite TV series are in reruns — oh, Elementary, I think I miss you most of all — and it’s a couple weeks before a new True Detective airs. No worries, though. Many of my favorite crime writers have stepped up with new series entries, so I’m binge reading. First up, Walter Mosley’s And Sometimes I Wonder About You (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley), the fifth in the Leonid McGill series. I like the New York ex-pugilist PI almost as much as his West Coast counterpart, Easy Rawlins, and for sure you want him on your side in a fight. McGill’s cases tangle with his personal life: a femme fatale he’s sleeping with claims her ex-fiance wants the engagement ring back; his son is caught up with a Fagin-like figure running drugs from the city’s underground tunnels; his long-lost activist father turns up to befriend McGill’s wife in a mental ward; and then the client he turned away is murdered. The street-smart detective uses both brain and brawn so all’s well that ends well, at least until the next time he meets a pretty woman on a train.

ghostfieldsElly Griffith’s absorbing The Ghost Fields (Houghton Mifflin, digital galley) takes its title from the abandoned World War II air bases on England’s Norfolk coast. When a downed U.S. military plane is unearthed at a construction site, forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway discovers the skeletal pilot in the cockpit doesn’t belong. DNA identifies him as the black son of the prominent Blackstock family, MIA since the war. Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson’s investigation takes them to secluded Blackstock Hall, to a pig farm on an old ghost field, and to a family pet cemetery, but their findings are complicated by a documentary film company, more human remains, and a storm so fierce that the sea threatens to engulf the land. Then there’s their rocky personal relationship, which dates back some six years to a one-night stand that resulted in 5-year-old Kate. Griffith neatly mixes fascinating history with puzzling mystery, the seventh in the series. Another winner.

birchesAfter 21 previous books in Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild series, the 22nd, The Body in the Birches (Morrow/Harpercollins, digital galley) has the familiarity of a reunion. But while caterer Faith, her minister husband Tom and their two kids are all on hand for a summer vacation at a Maine island resort, much of the focus is on the neighboring Proctor/McAllister family. The extended clan — including the Fairchild’s former babysitter Sophie Proctor — has gathered after the death of Great-Aunt Priscilla to learn who will inherit the island cottage/estate known as the Birches. This recipe for disaster soon results in a sudden death and then a murder, drawing Faith into the fray. But the suspenseful unmasking of the villain may well surprise you.

rockwingsAnne Hillerman picked up the pen of her late father Tony Hillerman in 2013’s Spider Woman’s Daughter, carrying on the adventures of married Navajo tribal police officers Bernie Manuelito and Jim Chee, and Chee’s mentor Lt. Joe Leaphorn. In Rock with Wings (HarperCollins, digital galley), Leaphorn is still sidelined after being grievously injured in a previous case, but he’s the one who points the others in the right direction in solving two crimes. While Chee is detailed to provide protection for a movie production company filming on the reservation, Bernie’s routine stop of a speeding car leads to a company that wants to install solar panels on the scenic landscape. A mysterious gravesite and several boxes of dirt also figure in the twisty but exposition-heavy plot.

sandfordI was predisposed to really like John Sandford’s Gathering Prey (Putnam/Penguin, review copy) because I’m a longtime Lucas Davenport fan and because this 25th in the series promised to send the Minnesota detective in a new direction. But I’m just lukewarm about this choppy chase narrative that touches down in California, South Dakota,Wisconsin and Michigan as it tracks a murderous gang headed by the enigmatic Pilate. This infamous crook inspires a cult-like devotion in his followers, who deal in drugs and prostitution, and just for the fun of it, prey on the nomadic homeless known as the Travelers. Davenport’s adopted daughter Letty meets two Travelers busking in San Francisco and later learns that one of them has disappeared. Readers know by then that the missing gentle soul has met a terrifying end, described in gruesome detail. There’s more violence but little suspense as Davenport then tries to stop the state-hopping serial killer and company, even if it means going maverick.

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rosegoldIn 1967 Los Angeles, the times keep on a-changing, and Walter Mosley’s detective Easy Rawlins keeps on finding work — or rather it finds him. Not long after the events chronicled in last year’s stellar Little Green, Rose Gold (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley) opens with Rawlins moving house and getting some unexpected help from the police unloading the boxes. That’s because the LAPD wants Rawlins’ help in finding a black activist boxer, who may be involved in the apparent kidnapping of Rosemary Goldsmith, the rebellious college student daughter of a weapons manufacturer. The investigation is all hush-hush — the police don’t want Rawlins talking to Rose’s family, and the FBI and State Department don’t want him on the case at all. He’s not deterred, even when shots are fired at his car, and exchanges favors with some old friends, including a veteran cop who has fallen for a missing grifter. Rawlins looks for her, as well as an abducted child, all the while trailing Rose, her faux-hippie friends and the violent black nationalist group known as Scorched Earth. Mosley mixes pointed social commentary with heart-in-your-throat action sequences, and makes it all look, well, easy. Sweet.

longwayIn Louise Penny’s Long Way Home (St. Martin’s Press, library hardcover), Inspector Armand Gamache has retired as Quebec’s chief of homicide and retreated to the peace of the village of Three Pines. But then neighbor and friend Clara Morrow asks for his help in finding her husband, Peter Morrow, an artist who has been overshadowed by his wife’s success. The two separated for a year, but Peter failed to turn up on the designated reunion date. Finding clues in odd paintings Peter left with a young relative, Gamache and his former colleague Jean-Guy Beauvoir trace Peter from Montreal to France to Scotland and back to Canada. Along with Clara and bookstore owner Myrna Landers, he and Beauvoir journey through the wilds of Quebec to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, a desolate spot referred to as the “land God gave to Cain.” Readers of Penny’s previous books will appreciate the intertwining of spiritual and artistic themes and the rich description of both natural and emotional landscapes. But the narrative is unevenly paced, and a profusion of sentence fragments chop it up. And slow it down. Too bad. Really.

dwellWhen a white phosphorous grenade goes off in London’s busy St. Pancras station, killing one man and injuring bystanders, the police first suspect terrorism. This makes Deborah Crombie’s To Dwell in Darkness (Morrow/HarperCollins, digital galley) terribly timely, and tensions remain high even when the explosion is connected to a small group of protesters arguing for architectural preservation. Duncan Kincaid, recently transferred from Scotland Yard to the Camden borough homicide squad, still has a murder to solve, and the key may be a mysterious ex-soldier who was on the scene at St. Pancras. Also on the station platform that day was Melody Talbot,  a friend and colleague of Kincaid’s wife and fellow copper Gemma St. James. Soon, drama on the domestic front involving kids and pets vies with the bomb investigation for the detectives’ attention. It’s to Crombie’s credit that readers are equally invested in the competing storylines. After 16 books, we’ve been through thick and thin with Kincaid and St. James, whose lives are never dull.

distanceHelen  Giltrow delivers a gritty page-turner with her first novel, The Distance (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley), about a high-tech information agent known as Karla who hides behind the identity of London socialite Charlotte Alton. Or is it the other way around? Karla’s an expert at erasing a person’s past and giving them a new identity, something she did for expert sniper Simon Johanssen after a mob hit went wrong eight years ago. Now Simon needs Karla’s help to get inside an experimental prison that’s home to his next target, a woman for whom Karla can find no record, as well as the sadistic mob boss he eluded once upon a time. It’s a  mission fraught with  obstacles and with little chance for success, and pretty much everything that can go wrong does. Be prepared for blood, torture and a high body count.

cinderellaIn Simon Brett’s entertaining The Cinderella Killer (Severn House, digital galley), veteran actor Charles Paris has to explain to American sitcom star Kenny Polizzi  that pantomime is not mime. Rather, the traditional holiday pantos are more akin to vaudeville with numerous stock characters and bits of stage business that the audience expects. Kenny, an amiable if somewhat clueless soul, has a leading role in Eastbourne’s Christmas production of Cinderella, while Charles’ part is much smaller, at least until Kenny falls off the wagon, a dancer disappears and murder makes an entrance. Then Charles plays sleuth, dealing with the inflated egos and eccentric antics of cast, crew and hangers-on. The plot’s on the slight side, but it’s always a pleasure to keep company with Charles, and the details on pantomime’s theatrical traditions are fascinating. A front-row seat on back-stage shenanigans.


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littlegreenIt’s good to see Easy Rawlins back in action in Walter Mosley’s Little Green (Knopf, digital galley via edelweiss), especially since most readers figured he was a goner, driving off a cliff at the end of 2007’s Blonde Faith. But it’s only been two months in Easy’s world of 1967 LA, and although considerably weakened, Easy’s soon on the trail of one Evander “Little Green” Noon at the behest of his best pal, the murderous Mouse.

Fortified by healer Mama Jo’s mysterious brew, “Gator’s Blood,” and helped by old friends and family members, Easy tracks the missing young man to the Sunset Strip and a house full of hippies. But laying hands on Little Green, still coming off an acid trip, is just the beginning of  convoluted connections leading to an insurance firm, an oil company and assorted bad guys not the least bit interested in a summer of love and peace.

cuckooAfter reading Robert Galbraith’s debut The Cuckoo’s Calling (Mulholland/Little, Brown, digital galley via NetGalley), I think Cormoran Strike may someday be as memorable a PI as Easy Rawlins. Strike, a former investigator with the Royal Military Police in Afghanistan (like his pseudonymous creator), looks like a cage fighter, has a prosthetic lower leg and is camped out in his shabby London office after being thrown over (again) by his gorgeous girlfriend. Temp secretary Robin Ellacott is dubious about a week’s employment, but both she and Strike are intrigued when attorney John Bristow offers double rate to prove that his adopted supermodel sister Lula Landry didn’t pitch herself off a balcony. The police have closed the media-circus case as a suicide, but Strike, with Robin’s assistance,  interviews a bevy of sharply etched characters, including Lula’s druggie rocker boyfriend, her favorite fashion designer and her film producer neighbor, in a series of atmospheric set pieces: 

 “Strike had  felt the living woman behind the words she had written to friends; he had heard her voice on a telephone held to his ear; but now, looking down on the last thing she had ever seen in her life, he felt strangely close to her. The truth was slowly coming into focus out of the mass of disconnected detail. What he lacked was proof.”

lastgirlDetective Constable Maeve Kerrigan is the likeable narrator of The Last Girl (St. Martin’s, digital galley), the third in an involving procedural series by Jane Casey. This time, Kerrigan and obnoxious DI Josh Derwent are investigating the grisly killings of famous criminal defense barrister Philip Kennford’s wife Vita and one of their teenage daughters, Laura. Kennford was knocked out in the attack; troubled 15-year-old Lydia, Laura’s twin, is traumatized by her discovery of the bodies. Neither the oddly composed Kennford nor hysterical Laura are good witnesses. 

The detectives sort through Kennford’s clients for a suspect, as well as family members and friends, before turning to Laura’s secret boyfriend. Meanwhile, Lydia finds refuge with her older half-sister, a famous supermodel estranged from their father, in a Sussex farmhouse. Kerrigan’s distracted by her boss’s interaction with drug lords and her live-in boyfriend’s possible infidelity. Then a stalker who terrorized her in the past reappears. But it’s easy to forgive so much melodrama when the pages practically turn themselves.

innocenceMichael Harvey’s Chicago PI Michael Kelly has a cameo in The Innocence Game (Knopf, digital galley via edelweiss), but the detectives are three Northwestern journalism students in a graduate seminar looking at cases of possible wrongful conviction.   New evidence suggests that James Harrison didn’t kill 10-year-old Skylar Wingate 14 years ago, although he went to prison for the crime and was murdered there. But  Ian, Sarah and Jake, following up on anonymous tip, come to believe the real killer is still alive, especially after they discover a missing boy’s body in the woods and the details of his death match Skylar’s.

The cops don’t welcome the students’ interference and appear determined to keep them off the case, which carries a whiff of Windy City corruption.  They also are challenged by their own suspicions of one another’s hidden agendas. Whose byline will go on the story? Or are they writing their own obituaries? The well-orchestrated finale is surprising and creepy.

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