Fabulous Fiction First #68

Set in a contemporary Dublin suburb, the first of a projected series, In the Woods* by Tana French is an “engrossing if melancholy” police procedural.

Young Katy Devlin's battered body has been found in the woods where an archaeological dig is in progress, the same woods, where 20 years ago three children went missing. The criminal investigation named "Operation Vestal" is led by Detectives Cassie Maddox and Adam Ryan. Unbeknownst to everyone including the police (except for Cassie), Adam is the only survivor from the earlier case.

When chilling similarities between the Devlin murder and Ryan’s flashes of recollection surface during the investigation, and the relationship between the partners becomes more complicated, we are treated to a psychological thriller with a breathtaking climax and a satisfying conclusion.

Readers of Harlan Coben's latest The Woods would find the storyline uncannily similar. You think they talked?

* = Starred Reviews, "An outstanding debut" ~Booklist

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #67

Critics are calling Rebecca Stott’s academic thriller Ghostwalk* “hypnotic”, “intelligent”, and “stunning”, (where) “Isaac Newton joins Dracula and Leonardo da Vinci”. Curious? I was.

Elizabeth Vogelsang, a Cambridge University scholar at work on a potentially controversial biography of Isaac Newton is found drowned and clutching a prism in her hand (a clue?). Lydia Brooke, a successful screenwriter is asked by Cameron Brown, her former lover and Elizabeth’s son to ghostwrite the last chapter of Elizabeth’s manuscript.

Lydia soon finds that Elizabeth’s cottage might be haunted and she is drawn into solving two series of murders centuries apart, both connected to 17th Century alchemy and present-day animal rights.

This well-researched and intricately crafted debut novel by British historian Stott (bio.) is a clever whodunit that entertains and instructs - of such varied subjects as optics, neuroscience, and animal testing. More interesting trivia on 17th Century Cambridge could be found on her website.

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #64

If you had missed Still Life, Louise Penny’s debut of her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, don’t despair. Check out the books on CD while you are waiting for the second in the series A Fatal Grace, due out this month.

Still life was the winner of the New Blood Dagger in Britain and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada for best first crime novel. It was also named one of the Kirkus Reviews Top Ten mysteries of 2006.

This lovely cozy is set in Three Pines, a ficticious and picturesque small village in Canadian Quebec, a short drive from Montreal. The beloved local retired teacher is found shot to death in the woods and Chief Inspector Gamache from the Sûreté du Québec must sort out the killer among the locals which include artists, a gay couple who runs a little bistro and only B & B in town, a cantankerous poetess, teenage troublemakers, a too-eager to inherit estranged relative.

Snappy dialogue, well drawn characters, lovely and atmospheric settings made for a pleasurable read. Don't miss this one.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #60

For a Few Demons More by Kim Harrison, the 5th in her paranormal mystery Hollows series just made it onto the Publishers Weekly Bestsellers. A hardback debut, it features a Rambo-esque Rachel Morgan - witch and bounty hunter who is assigned to protect an ancient artifact from demons and from Piscary, the vampire master.

With a serial killer on the loose and her werewolf pal being the prime suspect, growing tension at home with vampire roommate and boyfriend Kisten, Rachel’s high-octane supernatural adventures will leave you spellbound and breathless.

This series with a sexy, urban, kick-ass tough female protagonist will appeal to fans of Laurell K. Hamilton's erotic Anita Blake (federal marshal, vampire executioner, raiser of the dead) series. and L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress Legend series with African-American runaway Damali Richards and her eclectic band of guardian protectors/evil vampire fighters. Erotic, pop-fiction gritty and action-packed.

Another first - many authors and publishers are making a splash in the internet. Check out Kim’s spot on MySpace.

Coldest Blood

I think the average mystery reader will easily relate to Jim Kelly’s realistically drawn hero Phillip Dryden. It takes more careful reading than others like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series but Kelly’s plotting is great. I tried skipping to the end when the night grew late but had to go back the next day and finish the book. Good yarn! An added treat for anglophiles is that it’s set in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

High Profile

Looking for something to read? Look no further. Parker has been turning them out for decades and he's as good as ever. Great reviews for his latest High Profile.
Parkers is well known for the mid 1980's television mystery series featuring the private-eye Spenser who operated out of Boston.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts # 51

Fans of international spy thriller and historical mystery are no strangers to Boris Akunin’s popular Petrovich Fandorin series. Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog* is the first in a projected trilogy in which Akunin introduces to mystery lovers an even more memorable sleuth.

Set in 19th century, Sister Pelagia, a young nun in a remote Russian province is called on by her bishop to investigate the poisoning of a white bulldog whose noble mistress, Sister Pelgagia suspects, is to be the intended victim.
This highly unusual historical mystery is remarkable for its charm and its humorous narrative voice. Not to be missed!

"You're a good man, sister."

Who else could have said this if not tough guy, Sam Spade, the no frills detective of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. On February 14, 1930, The Maltese Falcon was published by Alfred A. Knopf in New York. It was originally published as a story in the pulp crime magazine, Black Mask and later became the famous film starring Humphrey Bogart as Spade. Hammett drew on his work as a Pinkerton detective to create the rough characters in his novels. His gritty stories that were set in the dark corners of the city became a precedent for what later was called the "hard boiled detective novel." Hammett later became a screen writer and was active in defending writers during the McCarthy hearings.

Other writers of the "hard boiled genre" are:

Raymond Chandler
James M. Cain
Ian Rankin
Dan Simmons and
Jim Fusilli.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #50

Kirkus reviewer called Mistress of the Art of Death* “CSI meets The Canterbury Tales”.

The brilliant female forensic pathologist, Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar of Salerno, a short and short-tempered medieval coroner is hired in secret by King Henry II to find out who's behind the horrific murders of 4 Christian children in Cambridge. Less concerned about the murderer than the tax revenue he is losing while prominent local Jews stand accused and languish in the fortress, Henry wants them freed.

Aided by a eunuch escort and a Jew with an affinity for detection, Adelia must piece together the mystery of these hideous crimes among a long list of suspects before the killer strikes again.

Mistress is a skillful blend of historical fact and gruesome fiction that will surely entertain, and Franklin presents a fascinating character in Adelia, who is odd for her era and profession yet familiar in her flaws and complexity. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait long for the next in this new series.

For fans of Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael series.

Ariana Franklin is the pen name of British historical fiction writer Diana Norman. Her first stand-alone City of Shadows is set in 1922 Berlin, a women in an asylum claims to be the only survivor of the Czar’s family and the heir to the Romanov fortune.

* = Starred Review(s)

February New and Noteworthy

The Teahouse Fire* by Ellis Avery. (A Fabulous Fiction Firsts)
Orphaned and alone in Kyoto, 9 year-old Aurelia Caillard is taken in by a Japanese family of tea ceremony masters. “...(T)old in an enchanting and unforgettable voice, The Teahouse Fire is a lively, provocative, and lushly detailed historical novel of epic scope and compulsive readability”.

Self Storage by Gayle Brandeis.
From the Barbara Kingsolver Bellewether Prize winner comes this quirky and moving story of Flan Parker who owns a thriving resale business, and a mysterious box from an abandoned storage unit that bears only an address and a note with the word “yes”. Yes – put your name on that wait list.

Sacred Games* by Vikram Chandra.
7 years in the making, this 900-page epic novel of Mumbai's underworld is a glorious and demanding literary thriller. “Corruption, murder, arms dealing, Bollywood, plastic surgery, and a superstar guru on an apocalyptic mission--all fuel this novel of crime and punishment, survival and annihilation. A splendidly big, finely made book destined to dazzle”.

Napoleon's Pyramids by Willaim Dietrich.
Action-packed thriller involving an American expatriate, Napoleon’s army and an ancient medallion for anyone looking for impeccable period details, passion and plot.

Looks to die for by Janice Kaplan.
Well-connected Hollywood insider sleuths to save her man. A new series of suspense-meet-shopping from the former deputy editor of TV Guide and the author of Mine are spectacular!

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom.
In this “Nick Hornby meets Alexander McCall Smith”, Israel Armstrong, a roving bookmobile driver must solve the mystery of the missing 15,000 books from the library. A charming and entertaining first in a projected mystery series set in Ireland.

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