Fabulous Fiction Firsts #170

In Romance novelist Linda Castillo's chilling mystery debut Sworn to Silence*, Kate Burkholder is a "gun-toting, cursing, female chief of police" at Painters Mill, (Ohio) an idyllic Amish community that prides itself in distancing from the complication of modern life, that is, until a serial killer resurfaces to terrorize the town. The current victims all sport the killer's signature - Roman numerals ritualistically carved into their abdomens.

Kate has good reason to worry - well above her duty to protect and defend - as she is a surviving victim of torture and rape 16 years ago. What transpired estranged her from her family and her faith, and left her totally isolated with a secret she is desperate to keep.

"Deeply flawed characters in a distinctive setting make this a crackling good series opener, recommended for fans of T. Jefferson Parker and Robert Ellis, whose books take place in very un-Amish settings but who generate the same kind of chills and suspense.”

* = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #169

The Frightened Man* launches a historical mystery series set in Jack-the-Ripper era London. Author Kenneth Cameron also writes military thrillers with his son under the name Gordon Kent.

Infamous American ex-lawman Denton now lives a solitary life in London, (we will discover his tragic past) sporadically turning out sensational novels of questionable quality. He is smitten with a two-timing mistress, well-served by his Jeeves-like Sergeant Atkins, and gets himself tangled up in the gruesome murder of a young prostitute. It all started with the visit of a frightened stranger who claims to have witnessed Jack the Ripper at work.

“A gripping page-turner, Cameron's novel combines a devilishly clever plot, enigmatic characters, a foreboding atmosphere, and a shocking finale. A top pick for all crime collections.” ~ Booklist

Fans of atmospheric historical mysteries set in London might also like C.S. Harris’s Where Serpents Sleep (2008), 4th in the Sebastian St. Cyr series featuring a Regency-era gentleman sleuth. Dust and Shadow: An account of the Ripper killings by Dr. John H. Watson (2009) by Lyndsay Faye is a fictionalized documentary of the most famous serial killer in history.

* = Starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #168

Move over, Mdm. Precious Ramotswe (of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency). Or at least make room for Vish Puri!

Tarquin Hall introduces India's "Most Private Investigator" in his The Case of the Missing Servant*. Portly, persistent, and unmistakably Punjabi, he cuts a determined swath through modern Delhi's swindlers, cheats, and murderers.

Pleased with a break from the usual screening of prospective marriage partners, Puri investigates the murder of a maidservant while keeping an eagle eye on his widowed "Mummy-ji" who is determined to sleuth alongside his team of colorful undercover operatives. Ingeniously combining modern investigative techniques with 2000 year-old Indian principles of detection, Puri is a welcome addition to the pantheon of exotic sleuths.

Strong local color, sly humor, endearing characterization and keen observation make this debut mystery a wild and deligthful ride. Future cases are to be expected.

* = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #164

At the heart of Enrique Joven's gripping debut (translated from the Spanish) The Book of God and Physics* is the Voynich Manuscript - a puzzling document that has fascinated generations of cryptologists both amateur and professional with its odd drawings and strange text, as yet undeciphered.

This 500 year-old oddity found its way to the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where a Jesuit physics teacher and two resourceful collaborators try to pierce the mystery, including the possible murder of a well-known scientist. The Church, on the other hand, seems to be going to great lengths to keep the book's meaning hidden.

"Joven's sophisticated perspective indeed opens insights into the current controversy pitting Darwinism against intelligent design. A book to delight lovers of well-crafted fiction and well-anchored fact." ~ Booklist

Debut author Katherine Howe's The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane deals with yet another archival puzzler connected to the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history - the Salem witch trials. Fan of Matthew Pearl would find themselves two new authors to watch.

* = Starred review

Affinity

Margaret Prior, an upper class woman in Victorian London, begins visiting the women of Millbank prison after a failed suicide attempt. She finds herself drawn to Selina Dawes, a spiritual medium sent to prison after the death of a woman during a séance. Margaret begins to believe Selina’s claims of occult power after a series of mysterious gifts appear. As the women’s relationship grows deeper, Margaret starts to develop a plan to free Selina from Millbank.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #163

This "wickedly brilliant" cozy by Canadian journalist Alan Bradley won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crimewriter's Association.

Set in a quaint English village, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie* features one of the most engaging amateur sleuths since Harriet the Spy.

11 year-old Flavia de Luce, a walking encyclopedia of the practical use of poison, is thrilled to find a corpse in the cucumber patch of the family's crumbling manor. A missing piece of custard pie, a dead snipe bearing a priceless "gift" on the door step, a retired librarian with a menacing secret and a shell-shocked WWII soldier are among her suspects but the bumbling police arrest her father for the crime. It is all up to Flavia to save the day.

Pure delight. Sequel likely, and most eagerly anticipated.

* = starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #159

This delightful debut by Canadian author Elizabeth J. Duncan won the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant.

In The Cold Light of Mourning*, Penny Brannigan, a Canadian expat, has made the Village of Llanelen home for decades, having been seduced but the breathtaking view of this part of the Welsh countryside as a young backpacker. Now manicurist and owner of the Happy Hands Nail Care shop, she has become an integral fabric of the community. When a young bride goes missing after her nail appointment on her wedding day, Penny gets involved.

Her budding romance with the local police inspector, colorful village personalities, quiet domestic routines and the idyllic setting will engage readers longing for a new voice in contemporary cozies. Cold will please fans of fellow Canadian Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, and brings to mind Joan Hess's Maggody series as well as the Kate Austen novels by Jonnie Jacobs, and the Ruby Crane series, set in western Michigan by Jo Dereske.

* = Starred Review

Mystery Author Night at AADL

Elmore LeonardElmore Leonard

Famed mystery authors Elmore Leonard and son Peter Leonard will make a special appearance at the Downtown Library on Thursday, May 28 at 7 PM. The format of this event is especially unique: Elmore and Peter will be interviewed by award-winning writer Loren Estleman. After a discussion of their careers and new books, the authors will be available for signing, and books will be for sale courtesy of Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Bookshop, cosponsors of this event.

In his newest mystery, Road Dogs, Elmore Leonard brings back three of his favorite characters: Jack Foley from Out of Sight, Cundo Rey from LaBrava, and Dawn Navarro from Riding the Rap. Road Dogs will be released May 12, just two weeks before this event.

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Precious Romotswe may be the only lady detective in Botswana but that's not why she's No. 1. Jill Scott (Precious Romotswe) stars in the film based on the series by Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

The show starts on Sunday March 29th on HBO.

Book 1: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Book 2: Tears of the Giraffe
Book 3: Morality for Beautiful Girls
Book 4: The Kalahari Typing School For Men
Book 5: The Full Cupboard of Life
Book 6: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Book 7: Blue Shoes and Happiness
Book 8: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
Book 9: The Miracle at Speedy Motors
Book 10: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Alexander McCall Smith has written his first online novel, Corduroy Mansions.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #154

A Beautiful Place to Die* is an accomplished debut in a projected mystery series by Malla Nunn.

Award-winning filmmaker Nunn sets this atmospheric police procedural in her native South Africa. Det. Sgt. Emmanuel Cooper is called to investigate the murder of an Afrikaner police captain in Jacob's Rest, a small border town with Mozambique.

1952 saw the gathering force of apartheid. New government decrees further etched the color divide. Racial tension, already ingrained, festered with secrets and lies both sordid and honorable. Cooper, being an outsider and under the oppressive supervision of the farcical government agents, must tread lightly to get at the truth.

Mystery readers might remember fondly James McClure's early apartheid procedurals, mostly out-of-print. For another current series set in South Africa, try Salamander Cotton by Richard Kunzmann.

Fans of the PBS MYSTERY! program should also check out the cinematic 1999 miniseries Heat of the Sun, about a former Scotland Yarder transplanted to 1930s Nairobi, filmed entirely on location.

* = Starred Review

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