by Bruce TierneySeptember 2011
Murder and mayhem around the globe
We have another cross-global collection this month, with mysteries from the U.S., Denmark, Canada and even Botswana! First up is Death of the Mantis, number three in the series featuring portly policeman David “Kubu” Bengu. Kubu’s debut adventure, A Carrion Death, earned author Michael Stanley (a pen name for two authors, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) the nod as our Top Pick a couple of years back. Both authors are old Africa hands, and their experience with the land and its people permeates every paragraph. This time out, Kubu is solicited by an old school chum to look into a murder case involving Bushmen, by nature a peace-loving group of folks quite disinclined to take a human life. Although Kubu is able to cast reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the Bushmen, he decides that the case merits his continued participation, a choice that will put him, his staff and even his family in grave peril—and from a most unexpected source. Released as a trade paperback with a list price of only $14.99, Death of the Mantis is, without a doubt, Bargain Mystery of the Month!
PELECANOS' NEW HERO
Fans new and old will celebrate George Pelecanos’ return to the ring with his latest novel, The Cut. A new Pelecanos hero has been brought into the fold, one Spero Lucas, a specialist in retrieving items deemed irretrievable by legal means. Lucas is an Iraq vet, world-weary at a young age and with a pragmatist’s view of the fine line of legality—a line he steps over with some regularity. Hired by an inmate to recover several packages of marijuana that have mysteriously gone missing, Lucas discovers that bent cops are in on the swiping of the drugs, not to mention the redistribution thereof. It goes without saying that they will pull out all the stops to keep Lucas at bay—murder included. You may want to keep a jargon dictionary on hand, as Pelecanos has perhaps the best ear in the business for contemporary street lingo, and he passes it on to the reader without editorial commentary. His writing is masterful, and The Cut deserves a place among his best work, which, as his legions of readers well know, is high praise indeed.
MUST-READ NORDIC NOIR
When The Keeper of Lost Causes hit stands in the U.K.—where it was titled Mercy—the London Times called author Jussi Adler-Olsen “the new ‘it’ boy of Nordic Noir.” (I wish I had said that. . . .) Other reviewers threw around adjectives like “gripping,” “impressive” and “atmospheric.” Let me add a few more: “chilling,” “unsettling” and “downright disturbing.” When cranky detective Carl Morck returns to work after an assignment that went deadly wrong—in part thanks to him—the last thing he expects is a promotion. To his surprise, he is put in charge of Department Q, the cold-case unit of the Copenhagen police department. One such case is the disappearance of Merete Lynggard, once a leading light in the Social Democrats, missing for five years and presumed dead. But she is not dead—far from it. Can Morck find her, and perhaps find a morsel of redemption in the process? All you fans of Scandinavian mysteries (in my opinion some of the finest suspense novels in contemporary fiction): Be sure to grab this book now that it’s on sale in the U.S. You’ll thank me.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
Louise Penny’s previous novel, Bury Your Dead, was our Top Pick last October, and she continues her winning streak this month with the latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel, A Trick of the Light. Gamache returns to the Quebec border town of Three Pines to investigate a murder in the tiny artists’ enclave. The victim is Lillian Dyson, a well-loathed art critic. The list of people who would have liked to see her dead is both lengthy and distinguished, as her exhibition reviews were catty and scathing, and her poison pen savaged newcomer and veteran alike. But by all reports, in the months before her death, Dyson seemed to have turned over a new leaf: She was a regular attendee at Alcoholics Anonymous, and she practiced the 12-step program religiously, particularly Step 9, the making of amends to people she had harmed. Apparently, however, someone remained singularly unmoved by Dyson’s contrition, ending her life with a vicious twist of the neck and leaving the body in the garden of an up-and-coming artist on opening night of said artist’s Montreal exhibition. The sole clue: an AA “beginner’s chip” carelessly(?) left behind in the freshly turned soil of the garden. Penny’s characters are, to a one, rich and multifaceted, her plotting is intricately laced with backstory and her depiction of modern-day Quebec is spot on. A Trick of the Light, like all the Gamache novels that precede it, is simply not to be missed.