Some terrific mystery and suspense writers have new books coming out this week and next week, so if you’re interested in an exciting read that will keep you on the edge of your seat, come in and take a look at our new mysteries.
If you haven’t been reading Karin Fossum, a Norwegian writer whose main character is Inspector Konrad Sejer, you’ve been missing a treat. Fossum is not as dark and depressing as other famous Scandinavian writers (Jo Nesbo, Stieg Larsson, to name two), nor is Sejer a brooding alcoholic. He is, rather, a civilized man, a widower who treats suspects, witnesses and colleagues with courtesy. The books are psychologically observant, turning more on the reasons for a crime than the gruesome details of the crime. The latest in the series, The Drowned Boy, comes out on August 25. A child with Down’s Syndrome has died, supposedly drowned in a pond when his mother was briefly attending to something else. It wouldn’t seem more than an accident, except that soap is found in the boy’s lungs. The mother changes her story, and doesn’t seem to act like a grieving parent. Was it murder? Was it an accident? Sejer investigates, and the book delves deeply into the relationship between the parents and their child, with Fossum’s characteristic deep empathy for troubled human beings in every situation. When you’ve finished this one, if you like her style and her characters, you can go back to the beginning of the series and get to know them better (there are few things as delightful in the reading world as discovering that a writer you love has more books to explore).
Stephanie Pintoff is not as well known to general readers as other mystery writers, but she is an Edgar award winner (and the author of a great series set in early 20th century New York City which I personally wish she would return to), and an excellent writer. Her latest book, Hostage Taker, is probably going to be the first book in a series involving the Vidoc Squad, starring former FBI investigator Eve Rossi, and it starts the series with a punch. Someone is holding hostages at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City shortly before Christmas, and has wired the building to explode if anyone tries to break in. The unknown hostage taker knows Eve well, asking for her personally to act as negotiator, demanding that five different and seemingly unconnected people be brought to act as “witnesses.” The Vidoc Squad is comprised of criminals with specific skills, whose backgrounds are woven through the story. The plot is twisted and suspenseful, with unexpected developments throughout. Eve is a strong character, just the sort you want to meet again and again as the series progresses. A page turner!
The book Smaller and Smaller Circles is by a first time author, F. H. Batacan, but it won the National Book Award in the Philippines, where the novel is set, so the author obviously knows her stuff. And what a plot it is! There’s a serial killer (fairly standard stuff in mysteries these days) roaming the slums of Manila (not at all the usual setting for a mystery), killing preteen boys in 1997. Police resources in Manila are stretched thin to begin with, and this area, a literal dump inhabited by people who live on what they scavenge there (like the people in Behind the Beautiful Forevers, only set in Manila rather than Mumbai), is not a place where those scarce resources are likely to be deployed, no matter how many boys are killed. Enter two Jesuit priests, one a forensic anthropologist, one a psychologist, trying to track down the killer and stop him while at the same time struggling against the efforts of an ambitious attorney to shut them out of the investigation and the secretive nature of the Church to which they are ultimately answerable. Called the first Philippine noir, the book is a suspenseful vista into a culture not often seen in crime or mystery novels, and well worth checking out.