The Affair of Lady Wescott’s Lost
Ruby / The Case of the Unseen
By Gary Lovisi.
May 2017. 164p. Stark House, paper, $9.99
With wit, energy, and a fine feel for Conan
Doyle’s—or is it Dr. Watson’s?—deceptively
simple prose style, author Lovisi has produced a couple of high-end Sherlock Holmes
pastiches that should intrigue
the Great Detective’s zillion
fans. The first begins as a
search for a well-born lady’s
lost dog and quickly morphs
into something wilder. The
second pulls Holmes into a
modern phenomenon, the
lone loon with a high-powered rifle picking off innocent citizens. The
intriguing twist here is that the tale is told
not by Watson but by Scotland Yard Inspector Alec MacDonald, introduced in “The
Valley of Fear” as the only non-dunderhead
on the force. He gathers crime-scene details
and brings them to 221B Baker Street. The
Master offers insights and goes to work—his
impersonation of a rat catcher is priceless.
Lovisi is aware of the modern understanding of Holmes. We see him not, as in too
many pastiches, as snippy and acerbic, but as
a decent chap who values justice even more
than logic. His generosity to Inspector Mac
is, to those who know him well, not really
surprising. A must-read for Holmes devotees.
By Marcus Sakey.
July 2017. Amazon/Thomas & Mercer, $24.95
(9781477848470); e-book, $15.95 (9781477848401).
Sakey began his career with a series of
smart, compulsively readable thrillers about
more or less ordinary Chi-cagoans wrestling with
personal problems and the
zeitgeist, and getting into
potentially fatal trouble.
But with Brilliance (2013)
and the Brilliance series
that followed, he stepped
brilliantly into the realm
of speculative fiction. Afterlife is a deep dive
into the unknowable. Chicago is being ter-
rorized by a preternaturally lethal sniper, and
FBI agents Will Brody and his lover, Claire
McCoy, are desperate to end the terror. But
Will is murdered by a bomb in an aban-
doned West Side church. Claire is bereft,
but the dead Brody finds himself wandering
the streets of a Chicago populated only by
people armed with clubs, axes, and swords.
Some threaten him, but Will encounters a
group of people who lead him to their ref-
uge. Meanwhile, Claire kills the sniper but
dies in the effort. The couple are reunited,
and they conclude that being together in the
afterlife isn’t bad—except for the “eaters,”
dead people who have learned that killing
makes them stronger. Even worse, the sniper
is organizing eaters into an army. Afterlife is
simultaneously a beautiful love story, a grim
tale of apocalyptic conflict, and an oppor-
tunity for an insightful writer to ruminate
on the eternal verities. Great appeal across
genres. — Thomas Gaughan
All Signs Point to Murder.
By Connie di Marco.
Aug. 2017. 336p. Midnight Ink, paper, $14.99
The latest in di Marco’s Zodiac series finds
astrologer Julia Bonatti anxious at the wedding of her college friend Geneva when
one of the bride’s sisters, Moira, goes missing. She turns up drunk, but this wedding
disaster is just gaining speed. Next up: the
wedding planner passes out and dies days
later. Julia spends the night at Geneva’s
mother’s house and is awakened by gun
shots. Moira is found shot dead, with a family member claiming he shot her, thinking it
was a burglar. Geneva asks Julia to help find
out what Moira was into. Taking clues from
astrological charts, what she finds at Moira’s
apartment, and conversations with friends
and family, Julia remains stymied; matters
are complicated further when e-mails are discovered suggesting that Moira and another
of the bride’s sisters, Brooke, were plotting to
murder Brooke’s husband. Di Marco crafts
an intricate, twisting plot and layers on the
astrological details that fans of psychic mysteries so enjoy. —Amy Alessio
And into the Fire.
By Robert Gleason.
June 2017. 368p. Forge, $25.99 (9780765379160);
e-book, $12.99 (9780765397027).
A government official, Elena Moreno, learns
a terrifying truth, and when she takes it to
the president, her conclusions are ignored.
Meanwhile, journalist Jules Meredith uncovers
evidence of corruption and blackmail involving the federal government, and, as her friend
was, she is completely shut out. The two women have stumbled on a terrorist plot. Teaming
up with ISIS, Pakistani terrorists—including
a man who was once Jules’ lover—have stolen
nuclear material and plan
to detonate dirty bombs in
three cities across the U.S.
Gleason is a bona fide expert
on nuclear terrorism, and
he utilizes his knowledge,
along with his storytelling
skills, to deliver a thriller that
feels shockingly authentic.
Military-action fans will relish this one as they
shudder at its implications. —Jeff Ayers
Bad to the Bone.
By Linda O. Johnston.
May 2017. 288p. Midnight Ink, paper, $14.99
Carrie Kennersly works as a veterinary
technician in a small Southern California
town and also owns a bakery, Icing on the
Cake, and a shop selling healthy dog treats
called Barkery & Biscuits. Jack Loroco is eager to purchase some of Carrie’s recipes for
his company, VimPets, but his associate, the
disagreeable Wanda Addler, wants the deal
for herself. Before Carrie can make a decision, Wanda is found murdered, and Jack,
along with Councilwoman Billi Matlock,
who was dating Jack, become the chief suspects. Carrie does not believe either is guilty
and sets out to find the real killer, against
the wishes of family and friends. Framed
with many scenes about dogs and their owners’ love for them, including Carrie’s own
Biscuit, as well as insight into the life of a
small-business owner, this cozy will appeal
to fans of Susan Conant’s Dog Lover’s series and is also reminiscent of Joanne Fluke’s
Hannah Swensen novels. —Sue O’Brien