Monday, March 21, 2016

New mysteries

            Even though we’ve seen signs of spring, there are still plenty of indoor evenings for reading the new mysteries you can find on the shelves at the Peter White Public Library. 
            For those of you who can’t get enough of “Downton Abbey”, Scandalous Behavior by Stuart Woods takes Stone Barrington, New York City cop-turned-Manhattan law firm millionaire, to England. Dame Felicity Devonshire, the director of MI6, gives him a tour of Windward Hall, the Hampshire estate Felicity tells Stone he should buy from its terminally ill owner, Sir Charles Bourne. The same day that Stone pays £10 million for Windward Hall, he purchases a new wardrobe, a Bentley, and a Porsche in London. The murder of a Hampshire neighbor, Sir Richard Curtis, provides a minor distraction. All goes smoothly for Stone, until his son, Paul, becomes a target of a religious cult, the Chosen Few.  Stone learns that not everything is as it seems and sometimes the people closest to you are the ones who hold the darkest of secrets.

            One of my favorite detective series features Bess Crawford, English battlefield nurse, who serves in France during the 1st World War.  In A Pattern of Lies, written by Charles Todd, an American mother/son partnership, Bess meets Major Mark Ashton, a former patient.  When she's stranded in Canterbury waiting for a train to her home, he invites her for a visit. Her pleasure at the unexpected meeting is soon marred by his revelation that his family has been the subject of a sustained whispering campaign. Two years earlier, the family business, a gunpowder factory, exploded, causing more than 100 deaths. Though the official investigation ruled out sabotage, rumor has it that Mark's father, Philip, was responsible. Even Philip's arrest doesn't end their persecution. Bess is determined to find the one surviving witness who can clear her friend's name. But there's a problem: the witness is currently in combat, fighting at the front. Can Bess find him before someone else does and perhaps silences him and her forever?

            Mystery writers often cloak their stories with historical happenings.  Spies and code breakers not only appear in recent movies and PBS specials but also in Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Ella MacNeal. Maggie Hope, the American-born British spy, travels to Washington, D.C., in the company of Winston Churchill, posing as his typist, for a meeting with F.D.R. just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When Eleanor Roosevelt's temporary secretary, Blanche Balfour, fails to show up for work, Maggie winds up accompanying the First Lady to Blanche's apartment, where they discover her body and a note implicating Eleanor Roosevelt herself as the reason for her (apparent) suicide. Not only does Maggie try to prevent a scandal that has implications for the presidency and the war, she also assists in the First Lady's efforts to help Wendell Cotton, a poor African-American sentenced to die by an all-white Virginia jury. While Maggie is the star, MacNeal gives ample space to the political maneuverings of Roosevelt and Churchill.

            Marquette is not the only area where the recent development of a mine has been controversial.  A Midsummer’s Equation: a Detective Galileo novel, the latest in a Japanese mystery series by Keigo Higashino featuring brilliant physicist Manabu Yukawa, takes the physicist to the dying Japanese resort town of Hari Cove, where Yukawa (aka Detective Galileo) offers his expertise at hearings on an offshore drilling proposal that promises to boost the nation's economy by providing access to rare metals. Locals who fear the effects of the resulting environmental damage, which also threatens the area's fishing industry, are against the plan. As the corporation behind the mining operation holds meetings to win over opponents, Masatsugu Tsukahara, a fellow guest at the hotel where Yukawa is lodging, is found at the base of a seaside cliff, apparently dead from an accidental fall. An autopsy reveals that Tsukahara actually died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the mystery deepens when Yukawa learns that the dead man was a former homicide detective and “Detective Galileo” must uncover the hidden relationship behind the tragic events that led to this murder.
            While we’re reading reports on the 2015’s deer hunting season, Joseph Heywood has written Buckular Dystrophy, the 10th installment of the beloved Woods Cop mystery series featuring Grady Service. The traditional firearm deer season in Michigan lasts two weeks, a time in which the most hunters are afield during the year and the time when most things happen. Game wardens cannot count on having any life but work during this period, and in this case Grady Service, who takes longtime violator and archrival Limpy Allerdyce on as his partner for deer season, runs into the most bizarre string of big cases involving deer that he has ever encountered. “Buckular Dystrophy” is the term coined by Conservation Officers to describe the condition whereby people cannot help killing deer, not for sport or food, but for other reasons - an addiction of sorts, and unlike other addictions, one not medically organized, but just as real.
            The Steel Kiss: a Lincoln Rhyme novel by Jeffrey Deaver would have been a great selection for this season’s “Murder is where you find it—Mysteries with murders in unusual places, times and ways” theme for the Once Upon a Crime Book Group. NYPD Major Cases detective Amelia Sachs is hot on the trail of a killer. She's chasing him through a department store in Brooklyn when an escalator malfunctions. The stairs give way, with one man horribly mangled by the gears. Sachs is forced to let her quarry escape as she jumps in to try to help save the victim. She and famed forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme soon learn, however, that the incident may not have been an accident at all, but the first in a series of intentional attacks. They find themselves up against one of their most formidable opponents ever: a brilliant killer who turns common products into murder weapons. As the body count threatens to grow, Sachs and Rhyme must race against the clock to unmask his identity--and discover his mission--before more people die.
--Caroline Jordan, retired librarian

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