Sunday, July 17, 2016

Great New PI Mystery from D.P. Lyle, DEEP SIX, an Alabama Case

With a publisher name like Oceanview, it's easy to suspect the new detective title from D.P. Lyle might be set in Florida -- but no, even better, it's on Alabama's Gulf Coast and it's a lively investigation laced with both humor and danger.

And expertise! D.P. Lyle isn't just an award-winning author of crime fiction. He's also a forensics expert consulting for the top TV crime shows and is the expert I'd most like to know was coming to a crime-novel dinner party, because he's quick to correct the scenes and the reasoning. In other words, his firearms and 'tec services make sense. Thank goodness!

But who knew (from that background) that he could also be so entertaining? Well, the truth is, although I take note of his forensic pointers regularly, this is the first time I've read one of his crime novels ... and I'm going to have to gather up some of the others soon. There are already three series (see Lyle's website) and DEEP SIX launches the fourth.

Jake Longly is a former pro baseball player, and the last thing he wants to do is work in the family business, private investigations, for his dad Ray. But he's not above taking an occasional surveillance job for a bit of cash flow. Unfortunately, checking on a possible womanizer for his father's caseload puts Jake into the neighborhood of his suspicious and assaultive ex, who's good with a baseball bat. Escape from the situation takes Jake and his classic car directly into the circle of a gorgeous beach bunny, Nicole, who turns out to also be a very smart script writer -- and eager to assist in "surveilling" while also, umm, taking part in adult activities with Jake.

Add a Ukrainian mobster, a high-money land grab, and some deft legal and risk-taking twists, and it looks like Jake Longly could get hooked on the adventurous side of his dad's PI business, after all. That is, if he and Nicole can survive!

With a quick pace, great scenes, and "murder and mayhem" right and left, DEEP SIX promises a lively new series ahead for D.P. Lyle and Oceanview. Add it to the summer reading stack, for sure!

Lisa Brackman Returns to U.S. Thriller Line, with GO-BETWEEN from Soho Crime

I'm a total fan of Lisa Brackmann's China-set crime series that began with Rock Paper Tiger, followed by Hour of the Rat and Dragon Day. Ellie McEnroe, an Iraq war vet with a bad leg, flashbacks, and a serious passion for life in modern China, gets pretty mixed up in how she handles life, especially the political pressures and risks that Americans can trigger in that place. Her mistakes are understandable, and her frustrations and loyalties appeal to me.

The thriller route that Brackmann also opened with Michelle Mason in Getaway rubbed me wrong -- I felt as though Michelle's poor choices didn't make sense for how smart she is. So I'm glad to say that with the second book in this series, GO-BETWEEN, Michelle seems to have her smarts back into place. Unfortunately, her situation -- partnered with a serious cannabis merchant in northern California -- is designed for failure, and when her boyfriend Danny gets arrested and tossed into the for-profit prison system, it's clear that the sociopathic ex-CIA agent who got them into this mess to start with is back in their lives. For the worse, actually.

I like the way Brackmann takes us into Michelle's struggle to assess and confront the situation:
You can't worry about that now, she told herself. First things first. See Danny. Tell him what was going on. Find out what he thought she should do.

She'd worked through all the options, and she thought she knew what the best one was, but maybe he had a better idea. An angle she hadn't thought of. Because the best option she'd thought of for this situation wasn't very good at all.
Ironically, what Gary -- the ex-CIA manipulator -- wants Michelle and Danny to do for him is connected to the war on drugs, as well as big-money politics and the role of nonprofits with wealth behind them. Michelle's assessment turns out to be on target: There are no good options this time.

Dark, quirky, moderately violent, and a page-turned for its intrigue and smart twists, GO-BETWEEN captures the nightmare of every person who's ever done something "a little bit against the law" -- and is waiting for the penalty stage of capture and punishment. Scary stuff, and a compelling read as a modern thriller with bite! (From Soho Crime, of course ...)

Western Crime Fiction Crosses Into Science Spec, in YELLOWSTONE STANDOFF, Scott Graham

Torrey House Press has a strong commitment to Western Lit -- and just brought out the third "National Park Mystery" from Scott Graham. Graham's previous two titles, Canyon Sacrifice and Mountain Rampage, provided a refreshing counterpoint to the noted Nevada Barr mysteries, also set in national parks. Graham's "amateur sleuth" Chuck Bender is an archaeology specialist, contracting with the nation's prestigious Western preserves to name and document the mostly early First Nations artifacts that turn up in the caves and crevices of Western terrain.

Chuck Bender's intrigue as a character includes his passion for his new Latina wife and stepdaughters. His roles as husband and father are maturing, book by book -- and so is his willingness to include Janelle and the girls directly in the action. Janelle's determined to engage this wilderness that Chuck loves and shares with her, to the extent of even taking Wilderness First Responder and Backcountry Medicine courses. That brings her into the height of the action, too, which quickly ramps up in book three, YELLOWSTONE STANDOFF, to include attacks by both animals and humans.

Charging into the crazy situation of a national park that's home to wolves and grizzlies while allowing human guests to explore the landscape, Graham's character's benefit from this author's expertise in the outdoors. The scary effects of climate change on Yellowstone (described in even more detail in "Yellowstone 2.0" by Jake Abrahamson in the July/August 2016 issue of Sierra and with historic richness in the recent Gloomy Terrors and Hidden Fires by Ronald Anglin and Larry Morris) turn out to be what's summoned Chuck Bender to the part: A vanishing glacier revealed ancient artifacts, and Chuck and his teammates need to document the find.

But perils also appear from the local wildlife as Chuck prepares to launch his investigation. The ranger in charge tells him that a local grizzly, nicknamed Notch for its ear shape, just fatally attacked two people:
Chuck scrunched his face in bewilderment. "So you think this grizzly, Notch, might be a manhunter, and you've situated your research camp in the most likely place for the bear to turn up?"

"The best outcome of all would be a safe sighting of Notch through the presence of lots of folks in a part of the park generally uninhabited by humans but well trafficked by grizzly bears, then tracking down the bear from there."

"Okay. Fine. I get it," Chuck said. "But I still can't figure out why you gave the all-clear for me to bring my wife and kids."
Good point. Of course, this is crime fiction, so it's pretty likely there's a criminal human also involved in the terrain. When Chuck finally figures out how the pieces fit together, his family is definitely at risk.

I enjoy Graham's deep familiarity with the Western terrain, as well as with archaeology and some new methods of exploring land, animals, and artifacts. YELLOWSTONE STANDOFF is a lively page-turner and it's great to see Graham's characters maturing with the series. I found the tech side of things to be a bit stretched in terms of what science can actually do with wild animals, so if you're a science type like I am, brace for a few skeptical moments. But the plot is swift and smart, the story's memorable, and the series is well worth collecting and enjoying.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

New from Peter Lovesey: ANOTHER ONE GOES TONIGHT, British Police Procedural with Mad Twists

What a delight the new Peter Lovesey mystery is! Detective Peter Diamond steps away from the personal issues that have plagued him in recent titles in this irresistible British series, in order to investigate an accident involving a police car, a police fatality, and a critically injured civilian. Under pressure to quickly clear the officers, Diamond is the one who actually finds a motorized tricycle that the duty car had struck -- and then the injured man.
Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of an old person, very likely dead, isn't for the squeamish. The urgency of the situation overrode the reluctance. ... He stooped lower for more mouth-to-mouth. The first instinctive reluctance had gone. He cared, he really cared. Hot lips against cold. Two lungfuls of air. ... He and his mate here were not letting go. There had to be life. Come on, old friend, he urged as he worked his aching shoulders, you and I can do this.
Of course, Diamond's heroics make the situation far worse for the police force, and his superior's pressure escalates. Who is this Ivor Pellegrini that Diamond has found nearly dead, and why does the first cursory investigation of his life -- an old man with a group of friends who get together to talk trains and other topics of the aged -- have such a creepy feel to it?

Lovesey lays out a classic British mystery here, but thanks to the quirks with which he's now endowed both Diamond and the crime victim (and suspects!), ANOTHER ONE GOES TONIGHT is full of lively twists in what we know, what Diamond guesses, and how to prove it. Put this one on the summer reading list for pure enjoyment of the latest work from Lovesey, who has now created more than 30 mystery novels and gathered most of the top awards in the field. If this is your first sample of Lovesey's line, fear not -- there's nothing in the plot that requires you to have read the earlier books.

Be sure to make some guesses of your own about the neighbor's report of the naked man swimming in a pool nearby. Any intriguing distraction provided by this master of the genre has a purpose, a reason, and another quirky twist in store! Many thanks to Soho Crime for continuing to bring this series across the Atlantic.

Swedish Crime Fiction from Carl-Johan Vallgren, THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS

A few months ago, the University of Minnesota Press completed its publication of all three books in Norwegian author Vidal Sunstøl's "Minnesota Trilogy" of Norway/Minnesota crime fiction, richly underlaid with mysticism and the deep ringing notes of an author who writes far more deeply than "genre" fiction labels suggest. I treasured all three -- but as a Vermont resident, it was the second title, Only the Dead, that shook me and lingers in my mind as if I'd experienced it.

Now another link to the American Midwest rises with the newly published American version of Carl-Johan Vallgren's THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS: Brought across the Atlantic by Quercus (owned by Hodder and Stoughton), the novel was translated from Swedish by Madison, Wisconsin, resident Rachel Willson-Broyles, who took advantage of the Midwest's historic connection with the Scandinavians to become an expert in bringing one language into taut, exhilarating coupling with another. Every page of THE BOY IN THE SHADOWS feels like it's written in a native American language (with a touch of British), allowing Vallgren's disturbing currents of menace and despair to flow freely. The book is Vallgren's crime fiction debut, although he has a long track record in other Swedish fiction and is an award-winning and much-heralded author (and musician) in his native land.

What malice, what evil, in someone's past erupts in violent murder? And are there currents that swirl definitively both forward and back in time from the ultimate evils? Danny Katz, a recovering heroin addict with a significant Jewish identity, is about to find out, when an old military friend's wife asks him for help finding her missing husband. Could Joel, the eventual heir to the Klingberg family wealth, have cracked under pressure of his own long-ago disaster? What are the powerful Swedish family's roots in both Scandinavia and the Caribbean?

Danny's past makes him an easy victim, and it's soon clear he's being set up in several ways. But he's determined to keep a commitment to locating Joel -- until the level of danger sweeps away almost all of what he values. The arrival of another individual determined to unravel the knot of the past, Eva Westin, provides a scrap of hope that Danny may elude the net cast for him. But what will he have to surrender in return?

Brace for a long series of unexpected but highly satisfying plot twists in this one -- if you are collecting Scandinavian crime fiction, it's a must for your shelf, but it will also intrigue those who appreciate what a shared military past can impose on a friendship ... as well as readers who appreciate how the power of the industrial and scientific complex can become a dark and terrifying force.

No website for the author at present, and the Wikipedia page is sadly lacking, but Quercus offers a bit on Vallgren here. Another translation from Vallgren, The Tunnel, is underway.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Red Is for Running (for Office) -- at Least, for These VT Candidates

We have two books available right now on or by current political candidates -- Bill "Spaceman" Lee is a noted Red Sox ballplayer, retired, who's entered the Vermont governor's race, and of course, technically, Bernie Sanders is still a candidate for U.S. President. Wonder whether the color choice is coincidence, or the must-have color for such items?? (note: each is signed by its author -- so there's no Sanders signature here ... alas.)

Friday, June 10, 2016

New England Author Edith Maxwell and Two Fresh Mysteries

One of the most remarkable mystery authors in New England is Edith Maxwell, who brought out THREE books in the past few weeks.

Maxwell lives in coastal Massachusetts, north of Boston, and began her mystery-writing career with several manuscripts at once. The first to be published, in 2012, was Speaking of Murder, featuring linguist Lauren Rousseau and released under a pen name, Tace Baker. Her "Local Foods Mysteries" began seeing print in 2013, starting with A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, under her own name, Edith Maxwell. Maxwell's "Country Store Mysteries" started in 2015 with the nom de plume Maddie Day, and a fourth (!) series, her "Quaker Midwife Mysteries," launched this past April, again under the name Edith Maxwell. It's a challenge to keep up with her (reviews here!), and a delight.

I just devoured her two newest titles, GRILLED FOR MURDER (Country Store, protagonist Roberta -- better known as Robbie -- Jordon; author name Maddie Day), and MURDER MOST FOWL (Local Foods, protagonist Cam Flaherty, author name Edith Maxwell). What a treat on a chilly gray day, with the gardens finally planted and a hot bowl of shepherd's pie and some tea (my beverage of choice). I raced through them, realizing the plant-the-garden weeks had put me a bit behind Maxwell's schedule, and I wanted to get word out especially today, for those of you close enough to consider a trip to Manchester, Vt., tomorrow.

The Local Foods series has been going longer, so MURDER MOST FOWL is the fourth -- and amateur sleuth and market gardener Cam Flaherty is well developed, with characters around her who have also deepened across the series. No problem reading this one cold, without the previous three, although it's fun to enjoy them in sequence and see how it all fits together.

This time, Cam's starting seedlings and her first batch of home-raised chicks for her eastern Massachusetts farm, which is in the second year of the three-year process of getting organic certification. Her warm and steady relationship with local police detective Pete Pappas keeps her balanced, but the murder of a neighboring chicken farmer spins her into action -- the kind she's supposed to stay out of and let the police handle! A group of animal rights activists imposing their own form of terror on local farms may have targeted the now-deceased Wayne Laitenen, but one of the young women involved is the sister of a close friend of Cam's, and the determination to keep young Katie out of any unjust consequences tugs Cam more deeply into the investigation. Plenty to think about here, from the roles of animals on farms, to the shape of modern community and the roller-coaster of land values that can push farmers out of business.

GRILLED FOR MURDER takes place in small-town Indiana, "Hoosier" country, and even though country store and restaurant owner Robbie Jordan grew up mostly in California, she has emotional reasons to make her home in South Lick, where her aunt Adele lives. With her carpentry and kitchen skills, her newly rehabbed country store Pans 'N Pancakes is already a local hit, just a month and a half into its first season. So the last thing Robbie needs is notoriety, which is exactly what she gets on the morning after her first catered party ... when the body of one of the guests lies on her dining-area floor, very dead, and very clearly dumped there, after someone smashed the front door during the night. Robbie never heard a thing -- she has trouble sleeping, so she wears silicone ear stoppers -- but will the townspeople believe she had nothing to do with the death of Erica Shermer, who'd been aggressively flirting with Robbie's boyfriend at the catered event?

Maxwell deals straightforwardly with the most essential aspect of "cozy" or "amateur sleuth" mysteries: showing why her business owners feel they have to add their own snooping to the police investigations of untimely death. Both books are totally convincing on this score, and I like in particular these bit from GRILLED FOR MURDER that show the effect of the death and how close it comes:
I kept picturing Erica. Wondering who'd killed her, who'd broken into my store. I'd never seen a dead body before. It'd been an upsetting, terrible sight. ...

[Later, after making grilled cheese sandwiches for her assistant Phil and herself] "Grilled sandwiches. Yesterday morning I realized my sandwich press was missing from the wall over there." I pointed.

Phil swiped a thread of cheese off his cheek. "So?"

"It's heavy. It has long handles. I'm afraid it was used to bash in Erica's head. And these sandwiches reminded me of it."

"Ick." He made a face.

"Agree." I took a deep breath and let it out. "This whole mess is like trying to work a crossword puzzle and having only half the clues. And it's not even my puzzle to work."
Ah, but it soon is, and for both of these amateur sleuths, their skills, smarts, and friendships create their value as investigators of what the police may overlook or just be slow in seeing. Good puzzle solving, and good people -- and good reading!

Hope you can meet the author soon. A member of Sisters in Crime, she also gives intriguing talks on the books and her skills. Meanwhile, enjoy dipping into all four series -- I like them all, am fascinated by their differences, and also keep thinking about this marvelous era when women fill all the roles in Maxwell's books ... as well as writing them!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

When Mary Higgins Clark Edits the Stories ... and Lee Child and Thomas Cook (and More!) Join Her in Writing Them

In 2015, Mystery Writers of America celebrated its 70th birthday. For the occasion, a leader of 20th-century mystery writing, Mary Higgins Clark, brought together and edited a collection of new stories set in MWA's own city: MANHATTAN MAYHEM. Not only are the stories lively, quirky, and wonderfully clever, but they are accompanied by classic photos of the city neighborhoods where they take place, from Chinatown to Hell's Kitchen to the Empire State Building's own district, as well as Harlem, Wall Street, Little Italy, and more. The Flatiron Building has its own photo -- it has a starring and romantic role in a Jack Reacher story that showcases the tough generosity of one of my favorite mythic characters, the man Clark calls "Lee Child's drifting modern warrior."

The great news for this week is, Quirk Books just released a paperback edition of MANHATTAN MAYHEM. Bookended by a story from Mary Higgins Clark, "The Five-Dollar Dress," and another from Jeffrey Deaver (World War II espionage, who would have guessed?) called "The Baker of Bleecker Street," the authors also include Nancy Pickard, Julie Hyzy, Lee Child, Thomas H. Cook, Brendan DuBois, Jon L. Breen, Ben H. Winters, Angela Zeman, N. J. Ayres, Margaret Maron, Judith Kelman, Persia Walker, T. Jefferson Parker, Justin Scott, and S. J. Rozan.

At least four of the stories in here suit my taste so well that I would have bought the collection for those alone -- and it's not just the fun of sampling these fine writers in short form that makes the book sing, but also the way each one creates a different way to pace the challenging form that encapsulates a crime, a character worth caring about, and an unexpected but satisfying resolution.

If you're looking for a summer reading choice that can be savored in short bits of time before you nod into a nap on the hammock or beach chair (or late in the evening after the work's done), here's a prime candidate. MANHATTAN MAYHEM is both a reader's and a viewer's delight, and MWA was brilliant in choosing Mary Higgins Clark to pull it together.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

CID Sergeants in Korea, Where Love and Murder Mingle, PING PONG HEART, Martin Limón

Hard to believe Martin Limón has reached the 11th already in his superb Sueño and Bascom series, set in American-occupied Korea in 1974. In PING PONG HEART, Limón proves again that for a pair of Army CID (Criminal Investigation Division) sergeants with heart, even a war zone can be a place where justice is served -- which is not exactly the same as keeping the letter of the law, is it?

George Sueño and Ernie Bascom don't think much of the case that comes there way at the opening of the book. It sounds like a classic low-life "he-said, she-said," with the Provost Marshal sending them to check out an irate major's claim that a prostitute downtown, Miss Jo, took his money and ran off, without providing any, umm, services. Major Schultz has "connections," which is why Sueño and Bascom have the assignment, instead of ordinary military police. Plus, the two of them get along with the Koreans better than most ... George studies the language and can carry on a conversation pretty well (although he's not yet reading the characters), and Ernie, well, all the girls seem to love him -- both the bar girls and their colleagues the (not always willing) prostitutes, and the secretary in the office on base. Which really should be another thing altogether, except somehow Miss Kim turns out to have her own complications that cross over into the not-so-small-after-all case.

Within the first 24 hours of the case, Sueño and Bascom find themselves tripping over people they really ought to stay away from: the power brokers in military intelligence. But as always, since they're on the side of the disadvantaged (in this case, the Korean bar girls) and being pushed by their dangerous-to-resist Korean counterpart investigator, Mr. Kill, the pair have plenty of reasons to move forward (against orders, of course). This time, each one's heart is also at risk: Ernie because Miss Kim means more to him than he's admitted so far, and George because a sudden chance to see his half-Korean son (readers of the earlier books, are you coming to attention?) during the investigation could capsize the easier relationship he's had working for him lately.

There's also a lot of fun here, in spite of the stakes. For instance, Ernie's been telling George that speaking in Korean to the girls being investigated in losing respect for them. George doesn't buy it -- but a mama-san who owns the bar where they're looking for a lead is more blunt:
"You talk," she said. "Pretty soon I busy."

I asked her again to sit, this time in Korean. She thought it over, stepped forward, and keeping her butt toward the edge of the chair, sat down. "You speaky Korean pretty good," she said. "Who teach you?"

"I study it," I said. "On compound." ...

She shook her head. "Number hucking ten." No good. There's no "f" sound in the Korean alphabet so often it's replaced with "h." And in GI slang, number one -- or hana -- is best and, reasonably enough, number ten in worst.

"Why number ten?" I asked.

"GI speak Korean, all girl lose respect for GI."

Ernie grinned and sipped on his beer,

I took the bait. "Why lose respect?"

Her eyes widened. "Talk like baby. All girl laugh at them."

Ernie glugged even more of his beer down, trying to keep from bursting into laughter.

"Okay," I said. "No more Korean. Only English." ... Then I asked her about Jo Kyong-Ja.
PING PONG HEART is full of action, twists, and good moments -- a classic Martin Limón book, satisfying, enjoyable, and almost impossible to put down. No need to read the others in the series first, but you may want them all, after reading this one.

From Soho Press, whose Soho Crime imprint continues to bring great international (and American) crime fiction to the table.

Excellent Boston Investigation, DARK HORSE, Rory Flynn

Rory Flynn's second Boston crime novel was released today, DARK HORSE -- and it is at least as good as his amazing debut book Third Rail, which came out two years ago. What a delight! And the great impressario of Boston-based crime lit, Dennis Lehane, has even added his "hurrah" to the promotions.

If you missed Third Rail, don't feel too bad; not many people realized at first what a gem it was. The buzz built very slowly. And you have time to still pick up a hardcover copy, which I definitely recommend. It's a twisty, semi-noir, Boston-drenched tale of Detective Eddy Harkness, who at the book's opening has lost his premier position among the big-city drug police, banished to emptying parking meters in his fractured but still very "historic" hometown of Nagog. Eddy's issues with substance abuse and bad choices in "dating" have really messed up his life, and for most of the book, it's anybody's guess how he'll end up.

So in a sense, if you go directly into DARK HORSE, you've already spoiled some of the suspense of the first book, because you know Eddy's lived to tell the tale, and is working back in Boston. But it's OK -- go ahead and read DARK HORSE now, and then catch up with the earlier book. The flavors of the pair are so different that you'll still be surprised at almost every situation Eddy falls (or climbs) into.

At any rate, as DARK HORSE opens, Eddy -- more often called Harkness, by himself as the point-of-view character and by many of the cops and criminals in his life -- is making a real difference in Boston, working in the Narco-Intel team of the Boston Police Department with a pair of, hmm, let's say eccentric partners. He lives with Candace and her little daughter May, and he stays out of trouble. Mostly. In fact, an unpredicted hurricane's just swamped the Lower South End of Boston and the extra push that Harkness gives to doing his job turns him into an instant hero for one of the rescues he manages. The trouble is, he's a good enough cop (with trained nose for drug traffic) that he realizes he's stumbled across the influence of a rash of drug marketing in a single region of the city -- with a really strange form of heroin called Dark Horse, where the packets even include nifty labeling that includes the horse image.

Tracking the unusual pattern of the drug's spread, as well as its puzzling composition, takes Harkness into a confrontation with a secretive cabal that's manipulating real estate in the wake of the storm. At the same time, a bunch of displaced residents from the Lower South End are invading Eddy Harkness's home town of Nagog and the situation smells of advance planning and coordination. Plus an old colleague from the town phones him with bad news:
"Eddy, it's me." It's the voice of Captain Watt out at Nagog police headquarters. "Got a big problem out here."

"What's going on?"

"Got a pissed-off guy cuffed and screaming in the back of my squad car."

"What'd he do?"

"Attempted B and E."

"Sound like you got your man. What's the problem?"

"It's your brother, Eddy. It's George."
If you're a Boston fan, you'll get extra enjoyment from DARK HORSE, because you'll know the streets, the significant buildings, the feel of that downtown rush of energy contrasted with the leafy suburbs that think they're better off somehow. And if you don't know Boston at all, the version of it that Eddy Harkness knows -- from his "bad-boy" past, to his passion for unraveling criminality, to his dream of living peacefully (even as a cop) with Candace and May -- is so convincing, you'll probably feel at home when you finally visit "Beantown."

Buckle up for a fast ride through complications, fistfights, a few (not too gory) murders, and an inside look at urban power brokers versus Occupy-type activists. It's the world of Eddy Harkness. And it's a great, great read.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Bold New Aimée Leduc Crime Novel, MURDER ON THE QUAI, Cara Black

Someday I'll see Paris -- and when I do, I hope there will be an "app" for my smartphone that directs me to all the "quartiers" where the Aimée Leduc mysteries take place, with details of plot, and suggestions for where to enjoy the morning coffee-and-croissant or the evening dining and dancing. Wouldn't that be great? It's also an incentive to read these popular detective novels, set in that glittering and romantic city.  With MURDER ON THE QUAI, Cara Black provides her 16th title.

Long-time fans of the series will be startled to open this book and find a young Aimée, already clever at finding secondhand clothing with haute couture, struggling to do homework and prepare for a test in medical school! The book's actually a prequel to the other 15, and it introduces the reasons this stylish young woman will desert the classroom to take over her family's detective business -- as well as providing answers to many questions readers may have wondered about in the past, like how she started riding motorbikes, where her dog (named Miles Davis, a bichon frise) came from, how she met her super-hacker dwarf partner in crimesolving René, and -- most urgent of all -- the truth of how her father was framed and (gulp) met a dire end.

But if you've never read a Cara Black/Aimée Leduc mystery before, this one's still a great place to start. It opens in November 1989, on the weekend when the Berlin Wall was torn down. Quick math: that would be just 44 years since Paris's occupation, right? So of course, there's a plot thread involving Nazi brutality and gold, as well as Resistance fighters -- many still living at that time, as well as their children, and you know that part about how many generations will carry a crime with them? (Well, okay, the Bible says it differently, but you know what I mean, right?)

I enjoyed romping with Aimée through the Paris days and nights, and watching her grasp each hint and clue about both a crime she happens to investigate, and her own family's secrets. No wonder she chose a different route from medical school -- investigation and operating on a blend of sharp reasoning and fierce instinct suit her like a ... shall we say, like a tenderly aged Chanel jacket??

From Soho Press, which has been Cara Black's publisher from the start -- a gem of a prequel, indeed.

Climate Change Turns Deadly in COLD BLOOD, HOT SEA, Charlene D'Avanzo

New Englanders may not have more certainty than other people about climate change, but if there's something affecting the spread of lobsters along the Maine coast, they want it fixed -- now.

That's not likely to happen. Instead, the wrangling continues on who should do what, and whether there's any need for it. In Charlene D'Avanzo's debut mystery, all that wrangling and, more urgently, all the money and reputations at stake in the climate wars focus on the Maine fishing grounds. Oceanographer Mara Tusconi, whose assets include her PhD in the study of those waters, and whose deficits include terrible seasickness, is being cut out of the research action by her unpleasant boss, who won't direct funding toward her work, even with an intern arriving any day now. Mara quickly decides to recruit the lobstermen/women to her project, creating a much more appealing route toward grant support.

But before she can get things underway, a messy death on the research boat -- probably not an accident, and maybe aimed at her as well -- capsizes her plans. When she starts snooping into a nearby algae farm breeding genetically modified organisms to replace fuel oil, her sense of scientific logic points toward big-money-at-stake fraud.

The "cli fi" (climate fiction) aspect of COLD BLOOD, HOT SEA is clear from the cover (where there's a blurb from climate activist Bill McKibben) and may divide potential readers. But a good traditional mystery is all about the plot and its twists, and D'Avanzo spins a lively and very readable tale of suspense, risk, and high stakes. Mara Tusconi and her friends -- especially Harvina "Harvey" Allison, who's also a researcher, and Mara's white-haired godfather Angelo De Luca -- are warm and likeable. And along with the lobster issues, the research fraud, and the unexpected death on board, Mara's got what might become a huge problem: She's a target of a nasty group of the climate-change doubters, who've hacked her e-mail and are trying to make her look fraudulent, herself.

I particularly enjoyed the final thread that emerged as the mystery deepened: the deaths of Mara's own parents when she was a small child. Seasoned mystery readers may spot the clues before Mara is ready for results (she may be a PhD scientist, but she's only an amateur at sleuthing), while also admiring her pluck and determination to get to the truths of her life.

COLD BLOOD, HOT SEA released June 7 from Torrey House, a Salt Lake City publisher specializing in the environment and the wild outdoors. It's a good pick for their line, and D'Avanzo, who lives in Yarmouth, Maine, clearly knows enough of her science and its frictions to spin a fast-paced story without letting the realistic details drag down the pace.

Here's a sample so you can see firsthand how enjoyable this is:
I let go of the breath I was holding and looked up at Harvey. The hot pink, dangling earphones and wide eyes were too much.

My chortle morphed into a snort, and in seconds I was doubled up on the yoga mat, laughing like a lunatic.

I managed one "Harvey, I'm so sorry" in there somewhere.

... I grabbed a tissue. "But seriously, Harvey, you want to be department head and would be great at it. This is bad for you, and it's my fault."

She shook her head. "I chose to come back." ...

"Guess this shows what I'm doing is risky, at least as far as he's concerned."

"What we're doing, girlfriend. Looks like I'm in it now."

The surge of relief surprised me. I dabbed my eyes once more. "You're one tough babe, Harv."
Pick this one up for a good traditional mystery read, as well as the Maine backdrop, some ocean kayaking, and a taste of the climate wars from the vantage point of the infantry in the labs. Good fun, and thought-provoking, as well.