24 Booklist February 1, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
pretty serious themes: death, poverty, and
the strength required to persevere in the face
of virtually insurmountable odds. This one
pairs nicely with Daniel Woodrell’s Give Us a
Kiss (1996). —David Pitt
A Cruel Necessity.
By L. C. Tyler.
Mar. 2017. 304p. Felony & Mayhem, paper, $14.95
Author of the Ethelred-and-Elsie cozies,
Tyler launches a new series in the U.S. (two
volumes have appeared in the UK) with this
historical mystery set in Oliver Cromwell’s
England, where the depth of hatred and suspicion created in the Civil War spread into
even the small Essex town where the story
takes place in 1657. Cambridge law student
John Grey returns to his home village, gets
drunk, finds a body in a dung heap, and tells
a tale of a strange horseman—but no one
believes him. Narrated mainly by Grey, a portrait emerges of small-town rivalries, secrets,
and collusion. Grey’s amusing, confused
perspective on events is set against italicized
sections hinting at political intrigue and murder. Clever turns of phrase (“Essex is nibbling
at the edges of her speech”), well-developed
characters, and Grey’s cheerful self-abnegation keep the narrative moving, despite an
annoying sprinkling of Latin phrases bereft
of translation. Readers may also enjoy Sam
Thomas’ The Midwife and the Assassin (2016),
another mystery set in the same period, filled
with Loyalists, spies, and murder; and Eleanor Kuhns’ Death in Salem (2015), which
presents a wealth of clues and secrets in another tightly knit community. —Jen Baker
By Christina Kovac.
Mar. 2017. 320p. Atria/37 Ink, $26 (9781501141690);
e-book, $12.99 (9781501141713).
Women go missing all the time. But
when promising lawyer Evelyn Carney van-ishes after leaving her husband in an upscale
Georgetown restaurant, Washington, D.C.,
television-news producer Virginia Knightly is
hooked on the story. While contending with
possible cutbacks at her station and a reunion
with her estranged father, who’s near death,
Knightly sets out to pursue the Carney story.
Then Carney’s body is found in the Potomac
River with signs of a head injury, and what
was a missing-person problem becomes a
murder. Knightly teams with anchorman
Ben Pearce to follow the case, collecting information from Carney’s husband, a marine
recently returned from duty in Afghanistan
who says his wife left him for another man;
from her mentors; and from police commander Michael Ledger, with whom Carney
had a relationship. Former D.C. newsroom
manager Kovac knows her milieu and portrays it vividly in this smart, absorbing mix of
media, politics, and mystery, with twists and
turns to the end. An impressive debut and a
good choice for fans of Hank Phillippi Ryan.
The Day I Died.
By Lori Rader-Day.
Apr. 2017. 432p. Morrow, paper, $14.99
In award-winning Rader-Day’s latest, the
staid existence of domestic-violence survivor
and handwriting analyst Anna Winger and her
son, Joshua, is punctuated by periodic moves
when anyone comes close to unmasking their
identities. They’ve now settled in Parks, Indiana, a quiet town until a two-year-old boy
goes missing, and Anna is hired to examine
handwriting central to the case. She is compelled to find the boy, even as she’s repelled by
his family’s dysfunction, the kind of chaos and
unhappiness she ran away from years before.
When things take complicated turns, it takes
a visit to a past she thought she’d left behind
to sort out the mess. Apart from Anna and
Joshua, Rader-Day’s characters are a little flat
here, but the story of survival and redemption
will propel readers to the end. The author
notes that she was inspired to write this title
by a handwriting-analysis book she found in
2007; it could be Joyce Frances Parkinson’s
The Ultimate Guide to Handwriting Analysis,
and that or any similar guide would be a great
companion to this novel. —Henrietta Verma
By Caite Dolan-Leach.
Mar. 2017. 328p. Random, $27 (9780399588853).
Though their initials put them at opposite
ends of the alphabet, Ava and Zelda Antipova
could not be closer. Who else knows Zelda’s
hiding spots? Who else can understand Ava’s
need to conform? When Zelda’s remains are
found in a fire on the grounds of the family’s winery in upstate New York, Ava returns
from graduate school in Paris to uncover the
mystery behind her twin sister’s death, a puzzle made more complicated as emails appear
out of the cyber ether directing Ava on a cat-and-mouse chase that delves into the family’s
darkest secrets. Guilt, remorse, lies, recriminations follow. Zelda plays Ava like a finely
tuned instrument, even after Ava realizes just
how diabolically she’s being manipulated.
With her mother’s dementia growing more
pronounced, and her father’s physical and
emotional distance a barrier, Ava enlists
Wyatt, the love of her, and of Zelda’s life,
to separate myth from reality. Considering
questions of identity, loyalty, and reliance,
Dolan-Leach’s tautly crafted crime debut will
resonate with fans of Gillian Flynn’s and Paula Hawkins’ domestic psychological thrillers.
The Devil’s Country.
By Harry Hunsicker.
Mar. 2017. 304p. Amazon/Thomas & Mercer, paper,
Five people, three of them bent cops, are
dead as this thriller begins. And that’s just the
backstory. The main narrative will be familiar
to anyone who remembers old western mov-
ies. A stranger steps off the stagecoach (update
to Greyhound) and onto the dusty streets of
a Texas town. His attempt to drink a beer in
the saloon is thwarted when he’s menaced by
thugs. Then he encounters the tight-lipped
sheriff, who orders him out of town. That’s
when we learn the hero is Arlo Baines, a former
Texas Ranger who lost his family, narrowly es-
caped a murder charge, and is traveling to flee
the pain. Hunsicker tells Baines’ story in un-
derstated prose that can move effortlessly into
highly emotional moments, as when he lets us
know why those crooked cops had to die. His
Texas stay leads him into a confrontation with
a dangerous cult, prompting some fine action
scenes. But the real and perhaps surprising ap-
peal here comes from the enduring power of
the old myth of the mysterious stranger who
arrives—and leaves—with the wind. Shane!
Shane! —Don Crinklaw
The Devil’s Feast.
By M. J. Carter.
Mar. 2017. 432p. Putnam, $26 (9780399171697).
No chef would poison a diner, especially
not in the dining room of a Victorian gentleman’s club. Yet the shocking death of a
prominent member at London’s Reform Club
and the resulting inquiry threaten a career-ending debacle for flamboyant and talented
Chef Alexis Soyer, the Napoleon of Food, and
a shocking scandal for the club. William Avery agrees to conduct a private investigation,
but he feels the absence of his cohort, Jeremiah Blake—clearly the better detective—but
Blake languishes in prison. Third in the series,
following The Infidel Stain (2016), this delectable mystery features mouthwatering food
and a lavish setting. A plethora of clues and
suspects and a somewhat lagging pace are offset by amusing Dickensian characterizations
and surprising plot twists. Comparisons to
Holmes and Watson are inevitable, for the
period manners and genius-sidekick aspects,
but readers most interested in not-overly-cozy
historical mysteries featuring gastronomical
delights will enjoy Martine Bailey’s An Appetite for Violets (2015). —Jen Baker
The Devil’s Triangle.
By Catherine Coulter and J. T.
Mar. 2017. 512p. Gallery, $27.99 (9781501150326);
e-book, $14.99 (9781501150357).
The Staff of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Bermuda Triangle all figure in
this action-packed outing. The clients who
engage master international
thief Kitsune (known as the
Fox) to steal the Staff of
Moses from Turkey’s Top-kapi Palace intend to kill her
once she completes the job;
thwarted, they kidnap her
husband. Kitsune calls on
past adversaries, FBI Special
Agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela
(Mike) Caine, new heads of the handpicked
Covert Eye team, as the only persons skilled
enough to help her, telling them she overheard
talk of a pending Gobi Desert sandstorm that