Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Three Autumn Releases: SAINT'S GATE by Carla Neggers, GHOST HERO by S. J. Rozan, ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVY by Delia Rosen

Whew, what a busy season! Launching my own second novel (The Secret Room) and welcoming Archer Mayor back to Kingdom Books (Tag Man, number 22 with Joe Gunther) pushed up against finishing the garden, canning applesause, freezing apple pie slices, making lemon-tomato conserve, pruning the apple trees (still need to prune the roses and raspberries).  So of course, I've read some new mysteries for pleasure, in the little scraps of time I could find. Here are three:

SAINT'S GATE is the start of a new series by Carla Neggers, who lives in Vermont but it best known as a national author, with at least four other suspense series already rolling. This one is set in Maine and features FBI art crimes expert Emma Sharpe and one of the FBI's deep-cover agents, Colin Donovan. The two of them collide, each investigating the death of a nun at a seacoast convent and possible ties to international thefts and violence. Friction between their approaches heats up some of the action, and soon it's clear the two investigators need to make time for each other -- but work comes first, and Neggers includes a taste of her beloved Ireland in the process of plotting the downfall of the criminals involved. Smooth, polished, clearly the work of an experienced pro in braiding together detection and romance, SAINT'S GATE is a delightful read. I'm looking forward to more in this series -- as well as some of the others that are still unfolding. Check the author's website for more titles.

It's hard to resist plunging into each new book from S. J. Rozan, and her Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series continues to be a hit, set in New York's Chinatown and working deftly around the cultural conflicts of a Chinese investigator (whose mother wishes she'd marry a nice Chinese man!) and her partner in business, and slowly personally, Bill Smith. This one's not a romance, although strands of the past entanglements and future possibilities between Chin and Smith drift by from time to time; it's a brisk and very action-oriented investigation novel, featuring artwork by Chau Chun -- "Ghost Hero Chau," presumably killed during the shooting in Tiananmen Square in China. But art experts have reasons to disagree -- some of them clearly financial -- and organized crime has its fingers all over the art world. Chin and Smith and a third investigator, Jack Lee (a Chinese-American with a lot less Chinese than Lydia) race to resolve the conflict and head off further violence. Rozan spins an enjoyable tale, and this one is especially notable for the nearly constant one-liners that the three investigators swap; I ache to see the film version (think Pink Panther, but better!). Lydia steals the scene repeatedly, and is one of the most likable detectives in today's mysteries.

Delia Rosen's second "Nashville Katz" mystery, ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVY, follows the cute and clever "cozy" A Brisket, a Casket. It should be clear from the titles that the author is an avid punster, and Gwen Katz brings a dollop of New York Jewish culture to the Nashville, Tennessee, Jewish-style deli that she's inherited from her Uncle Murray. This second book plunges Katz and her crew into trouble at their first catering gig, when a wealthy guest, murdered, falls through the ceiling, splashing gravy and spoiling the event. Pit this amateur sleuth (and kitchen pro) against the local police investigation (they're not supposed to let the amateurs in on the hot trail, you know) and you've got issues as challenging as making Kosher dill pickles (see the recipes in the back of the book). The Jewish humor is a bit heavy-handed, but the plot is sweet, and the resolution satisfying. Hint to book sleuths: "Delia Rosen" is a pseudonym. When you've figured out the author's original name, check the relevant Wikipedia entry; it appears that those Internet sleuths don't yet connect this series to the author's amazing earlier work. It's worth keeping an eye on the series, since with such extensive experience behind this author, there are sure to be a lot of twists and turns already lined up for the future volumes. Hint: From what I can see, the author of the second book is NOT the same as for the first one!

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