City of Masks.
By S. D. Sykes.
July 2017. 368p. Pegasus, $25.95 (9781681773421).
The first two mysteries in the Somershill
Manor series focused on fourteenth-century
rural England following an
outbreak of the Great Plague.
This third installment, still
starring Oswald de Lacy, who
became a too-young and too-unprepared Lord Somershill
after his father and two older
brothers died in the plague,
follows Oswald to Venice in
1358, as he travels through Europe to try to
outrun the mental darkness that has consumed
him for years. Sykes’ depiction of depression
is one of the beauties of this book; she doesn’t
impose a modern perspective but instead gives
Somershill’s agony a presence, like a beast that
is tracking him. Then Somershill trips over
the mutilated body of a new friend in an alley,
the grandson of the wealthy Englishman with
whom Somershill is staying. Friendship and
gambling debts compel Somershill to investigate the death for the grandfather’s proffered
fee. And we are plunged into Sykes’ rich soup
of Venetian intrigue (where even a casual trip
to Piazza San Marco can result in imprisonment in the Doge’s Palace), period detail, and
increasingly intricate plotting, all with the
deeply realized character of Lord Somershill
fighting his own demons while investigating.
A brilliant addition to the Somershill Manor
novels. —Connie Fletcher
Cold Hearted River.
By Keith McCafferty.
July 2017. 320p. Viking, $26 (9780525429609).
When a book begins with a harrowing
struggle for survival in the Montana moun-
tains and uses as its MacGuffin a lost trunk
of Ernest Hemingway’s fishing tackle (with
the tantalizing possibility of lost manuscripts
tucked inside), you know you’re not in for a
run-of-the-mill mystery. The sixth Sean Stra-
nahan outing finds the fly-fishing painter and
private investigator working an unusual case
more or less alongside his off-again, on-again
romantic partner, Sheriff Martha Ettinger. It’s
complicated but involves elk-antler tea, plenty
of fishing, and that trunk, which has enough
bodies bobbing along in its wake to make Sean
wonder whether it’s cursed. McCafferty’s skill
at creating memorable characters has even the
walk-ons warming to the spotlight, and his
background as the survival and outdoor skills
editor of Field & Stream lends the outdoor
scenes more authority than one finds in most
western fiction. The fishing scenes will delight
anyone who gets a chuckle out of Stranahan’s
offhand “good fishing if not good catching”—
though there might be a wee bit much for
others. The bittersweet ending hits all the right
notes. —Keir Graff
The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes.
By Leonard Goldberg.
June 2017. 320p. Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, $25.99
(9781250101044); e-book (9781250101051).
It’s early in the last century. A young widow
and her 10-year-old son are taking the air on
London’s Curzon Street when they witness
a man falling to his death. From then on, it’s
the woman we’re interested in. Everyone finds
her way of talking oddly familiar, as when she
speaks of “a court of logical deduction,” and
“facts that may be of importance.” She’s Joanna
Blalock, star of this engaging Holmes pastiche
narrated by Dr. John Watson, Jr., the son of
the great detective’s biographer. Junior is visiting his aging father, who’s living at 221B Baker
Street after Holmes’ death, when they encounter Blalock. Soon all three are drawn into the
mystery, which has echoes of the Agra treasure
at the heart of “The Sign of the Four.” Sherlockians will also find versions of the code that
is central to “The Adventure of the Dancing
Men”; even the dog who did nothing in the
night is here. Yes, Joanna is Holmes’ daughter,
even down to echoing the great man’s occasional lapses into smugness: “Allow me to draw
your attention . . ..” —Don Crinklaw
Death on Delos.
By Gary Corby.
July 2017. 352p. Soho, $26.95 (9781616958213); e-book
Corby’s seventh in the Athenian Mystery se-
ries puts his sixth-century-BCE sleuthing duo
of Nicolaos and Diotima on an island hedged
round with constraints. The island is Delos,
Dying and giving birth on
Delos are illegal. So, when
the high priestess of Athens
selects the pregnant priest-
ess Diotima to accompany
Athens’ annual gifts to the
gods of Delos, it’s problem-
atic. And when Diotima’s husband, Nicolaos
(investigator for the statesman Pericles), finds
the dead body of a high priest on the island,
the stress level skyrockets. It doesn’t help that
the priest has a sacrificial dagger sticking out
of his chest. The word Nemesis, the name of
the goddess devoted to revenge, is scrawled in
blood on the wall next to the victim. Is this
revenge completed or just getting started?
The murder may or may not be connected
to the fact that Pericles has led an Athenian
fleet to convey the treasure of Delos back to
Athens. However, the people of Delos do
connect Nicolaos to the crime, since he found
the body. Diotima moves to first-sleuth posi-
tion this time in a refreshingly original touch.
There’s so much to admire here: Corby seam-
lessly works in Greek myths and history; the
details of everyday life, like rituals, coins, and
food, are part of the fabric of the mystery; and
Nicolaos and Diotima’s witty, sexy relation-
ship seems like a BCE version of Nick and
Nora Charles. Another outstanding entry in a
consistently excellent series. —Connie Fletcher
The Devil’s Muse.
By Bill Loehfelm.
July 2017. 272p. Farrar/Sarah Crichton, $26
New Orleans rookie cop Maureen Coughlin
faces a new challenge: Mardi Gras. An NOPD
patrol cop’s first Mardi Gras is a rite of passage
like no other, and Coughlin’s is no exception.
First a man, clad only in pink
tights and very high on something, throws himself on the
hood of a car and promptly
turns catatonic. Then shots
are fired somewhere in the
crowd. The NOPD is all
about live and let live during
Mardi Gras, until bullets and
blood make their appearance. Coughlin has to
deal with both, knowing that the first bullet is
often not the last. What transpires is a testament to an amazing kind of street-smart grace
under pressure. As Coughlin and a couple of
her equally savvy colleagues attempt to sort
out the contradictory facts surrounding the
shooting, while dealing with nonfunctioning
cops who get in their way, Loehfelm conducts
a master class in how a writer builds character
from the smallest of details. Coughlin remains
the star here—she’s still one of the most compelling figures in crime fiction—but this time,
the focus is on cops working together; it’s a
procedural in the best sense of the word, and
it evokes Ed McBain at the top of his game. At
a time when real-life urban police forces have
been the object of intense and well-deserved
criticism, Loehfelm reminds us that sometimes
a handful of diverse cops, working together in
the midst of both muddle and malfeasance, can
staunch the flow of blood, at least for a while.
DIS MEM BER and Other Stories of
Mystery and Suspense.
By Joyce Carol Oates.
June 2017. 256p. Mysterious, $25 (9780802126528);
As the distressed narrator in the title story in
Oates’ latest set of unnerving tales notes, the
chilling word dismember sounds like remember,
which she is loath to do. Growing up on an
impoverished farm, Jill had secretly succumbed
to the edgy allure of a stepcousin with a “
sky-blue Chevy” who tried to involve her in his
macabre crimes. A similarly tenuous family
bond, along with the prevalence of guns and
alcohol, violently escalates the rivalry between
Continued on p. 18
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