Monday, November 9, 2015

Historical Mysteries

In the mood for a mystery from history?  The following modern day mysteries can only be solved by uncovering secrets from the past; some as far as 40 years back and some not so old.  All books listed here are available in print and a few stories are also on the audio book shelves.  Whatever your preference, enjoy the suspense. 

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (2014) is historical fiction set in the present, but reflects back to events in the 1960’s, especially those centered on the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi and a splinter group of the Ku Klux Klan called the Double Eagles.  The stage is set for conflict, and the action begins with an aging nurse, Viola Turner, who returns home to Natchez for a peaceful death, but ends up murdered.  The main suspect is the doctor she worked for forty years ago, Tom Cage, who is less active in his advanced age, but still practicing medicine.  He has his share of secrets from the 1960’s and must enlist the help of his son, the mayor and former prosecutor, to keep from going to jail.  The action is plentiful and the suspense builds right to the end of the book.

The Bone Tree (2015) is the second book in the Penn Cage series, taking up exactly where the first story ends.  Most of the characters stay the same, except for the ones who’ve been killed off.  However, there’s no love lost between readers and the villain from the first book - a ruthless old man who built his power by torturing and killing his enemies.  The second villain is even more sinister because he’s a corrupt cop in a trusted government position, aided by other corrupt officials profiting from the drug trade in Louisiana.  This story moves beyond the Viola Turner murder case to numerous hate crimes still unsolved from the Civil Rights era.  The bone tree is mentioned in the first book, but saves its secrets for the second volume.  The third installment of the Natchez Burning series, Unwritten Laws, will be released in 2016. 

The Secret Place by Tara French (2014) features a Dublin detective, Stephen Moran, and a new partner, Antoinette Conway, who end up working the same cold case - the murder of a 16 year-old boy that took place at a reputable girls boarding school the previous year.  A new clue has turned up, so the detective duo head for the school to interview two groups of roommates who rank high on the suspicion scale.  Both groups have alpha females and a group of very loyal friends, always watching out for each other.  As with any good mystery, the prime suspect changes often, keeping everyone guessing who the killer is.  The storyline switches back and forth between the present day and one year ago, letting the murder unfold in one chapter, and coming back to the present in the next, as the detectives interview each girl in turn to sort out the truth.
Part of the Dublin Murder Squad series, The Secret Place is fifth in the series, but was easy to follow as a separate novel.  The library has the whole series.  Since the story revolves around the lives of teenagers, it would also be interesting for high school students, who may recognize some of their friends' mannerisms and speech patterns in these characters.  It seems that teens are similar whether they live in the U.S. or Ireland.  These teens are just a little scarier because of the secrets they hide.

After The Storm by Linda Castillo (2015) continues the saga of Police Chief Kate Burkholder, former member of the Amish community, who returned to her hometown of Painters Mill, Ohio because of her knowledge of local customs and ability to converse with the Amish in archaic German a.k.a. Pennsylvania Dutch.  A tornado leaves behind the usual wreckage, along with evidence of a murder involving an Amish family with secrets from the past, a trademark of the Kate Burkholder series. 

To find what drives the police chief from within, read Breaking Silence (2011) where readers learn about Kate’s own family secrets, what made her leave her Amish roots, and why she is so rattled by a series of killings in Painters Mill.  Fellow detective, John Tomasetti, is introduced in this book as he first antagonizes, and then forms a relationship with Kate that continues into future stories.  There are seven books in this series, with an eighth mystery, Among the Wicked, coming out in July, 2016. 

--Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk

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