Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Library Journal Pick: A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR, Radha Vatsal

Debut author Radha Vatsal draws from her own vivid experiences of immigration from Mumbai, India, and her PhD work at Duke University, to create a new historical mystery series, with Kitty Weeks as her amateur sleuth. The first title came out this summer and I was delighted that publisher Sourcebooks drew my attention to A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR. Ignore the cover, which to my eye looks like Julie Andrews playing Mary Poppins in downtown 1915 Manhattan. Jump into the story instead -- of a "Ladies Page" society reporter, young and scrappy Capability "Kitty" Weeks, trying to prove herself to both her newspaper employer and her rather distant father. And over it all, the shadow of what will soon be World War I.

Kitty's first major newspaper assignment to a garden party with the cream of Society turns dark when she calls in a murder to the City Desk, instead of the sweet story of fireworks and picnic that her bosses expected. Her efforts to balance three directions at once -- the Ladies Page, the chance to assist with the news of the murder, and keeping house for her demanding father -- capsize quickly. Little wonder that she's managed to ignore so far the rise of world events that will soon engage all Americans after the sinking of the ship Lusitania:
"I find it all so confusing," Kitty said. "Is the president trying to say that we deserve to be unharmed because we're neutral?"

"That's correct." [Her father] Julian Weeks looked Kitty in the eye. "But there's a war going on, Capability. And the simple fact of the matter is that even neutrals aren't innocent."
Soon Kitty's wondering whether her father had deeper, more dangerous things in mind when he said that -- what is his past, which he's never discussed with her? Who is he meeting with in such secrecy? Why is her father's business apparently crossing paths with the criminals who infiltrate high society?

Vatsal's writing is deft, vivid, and well paced; the discussion at the end of the book, in which she reveals her own journey, adds much extra interest. I'll be watching for more of this series -- and meanwhile, A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR took the title "Debut Mystery of the Month" from Library Journal earlier this year. Nice!

Brief Mention: OFF THE GRID, C. J. Box, Wyoming (Joe Pickett)

C. J. Box's latest thriller, OFF THE GRID, came out in March and I missed it at the time. Summer's reward meant a chance to catch up with game warden Joe Pickett and his family, as well as his old and close friend Nate Romanowski. Joe and Nate haven't seen each other in a while when OFF THE GRID opens, because Nate's been hiding out, keeping low, out of trouble but also pinned in place by a difficult-to-live-with agreement that's sheltering him and his beloved Olivia from criminal charges.

But when both Nate and Joe's wife, Marybeth, experience the same dream, pierced by Arab voices in the dangerous terrain of the Red Desert, each man finds himself driven toward a major standoff in the parched and desperate landscape. Add some strong scenes of falconry, an antigovernment black op, and foreign agents, and there's good reason to wonder whether Joe's horse, dog, and friend will survive. Not to mention Joe himself.

A wild page-turner of a mystery, with a lot of insight. I asked myself quite a few questions as it all rounded out. And I almost missed making supper. Yes, it's really that good.

New Sharpe & Donovan Mystery from Carla Neggers: LIAR'S KEY

I look forward all year to each new mystery from Carla Neggers -- and sometimes there are even two of them, as she's currently writing two series at a time. Art sleuth Emma Sharpe and her fellow FBI investigator (and fiancé) Colin Donovan are my favorites. I'm also a fan of their family members and friends, whom Neggers weaves in and out of the series, sometimes focused on one, sometimes on another, and usually combining scenes in both Ireland and Maine, where the warm welcomes of small inns and dinner spots provides a charming contrast to the rocks, fogs, rutted back roads, and sometimes boats and excursions into, say, Dublin or London.

LIAR'S KEY is a delight -- a traditional mystery with reliably smart sleuths and just enough danger to season the development of Emma and Colin's sturdy romance. Actually as the book opens, their wedding is mere weeks away, and Colin's struggling to decompress from his most recent undercover work while also setting up a honeymoon location. But it's Emma whose skills must cut forward first, when former FBI legend Gordy Wheelock turns up on her turf. Gordy's supposed to be retired, making a civilian life with his wife in the South. But when he lands in Emma's Boston office, he's sniffing for details of a presumed art crime, a heist of a mosaic. The part that has him back on the trail of a crime -- when he shouldn't be! -- is that he caught word of the theft during a London party that involved way too many memorable people: Emma's parents, for instance, and her wily grandfather, as well as the sophisticated and probably criminally minded Oliver York. Plus an agent from Britain's MI5, complicating the gathering to a level of suspense and intensity that Gordy just can't resist.

His attempt to probe Emma for news of the crime or of her noted family members, owners of Sharpe Fine Art Recovery, falls flat. But Emma has to work hard to make sure that's the case:
Gordy started past her but stopped abruptly. "I hoped you'd level with me, Emma."

"That's a two-way street, Gordy."

"I always believed there were no secrets between us. I should have known better. You're a Sharpe, after all."

"Sorry the fishing expedition didn't work out for you."

He laughed. "I had that coming. You're tougher than you used to be."
Emma needs to be tough, for the perils of her job on the HIT (High-Impact Target) team of the FBI, "focusing on criminals with virtually unlimited resources." Readers of the series will recall her risky efforts in Ireland to nail the brilliant Oliver York for art theft ... and will enjoy York's abrupt reentry into her casework. But this isn't the moment she wants to be on the job, with her wedding so close and the need to create a safe harbor in Maine for Colin's return.

As in the earlier books in the Sharpe & Donovan series, there are budding romances here, blossoming around the passion and joy that the engaged couple share with their community of sleuths and family members. Count on some intriguing scenes with Father Fin Bracken, too. Most importantly, the challenge of figuring out whether there's actually been a mosaic theft, and why it might affect Emma's hometown, is central to the investigating that Emma pursues. The twists are clever, the pace relentless, and the clock's ticking toward the wedding -- if all the wedding party can arrive at that point, alive, healthy, and ready.

Why the title, LIAR'S KEY? Neggers doesn't reveal that until nearly the end of the mystery -- but from the start there is at least one consistent liar on scene, and several who doggedly mislead. Emma Sharpe's task is to figure out the danger -- before it can spoil her big celebration ahead.

The book's now on sale (August 30 release date); although Neggers has few events scheduled for signings (see, she's highly accessible through the website, where other 2016 releases are also described. Let me know if you, too, get hooked on her neat plots, warm and sensible sleuths, and gorgeous backdrops. Good storytelling, from MIRA Books.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Very, Very Dark: HELL FIRE, from Karin Fossum

HELL FIRE is the 12th in Karin Fossum's Inspector Sejer series, and it's grim, violent, and graphic. That said, it's also insightful and precise in its language and imagery, and I'm always willing to read another by Fossum ... but also always depressed afterward. There are no happy endings in this series.

The frame is a double story of single parenting in Norway. One is the daily struggle of caregiver Bonnie Hayden, whose heart breaks a little bit each time she has to leave her crying five-year-old at day care. The other is Mass Malthe, raising a boy with obvious "issues" around food, cruelty, and power. In a relentless double spiral, Fossum entwines the two sets of lives. Those who read crime fiction regularly will have no doubt about who's done what, from very early in the book. What Fossum does though that keeps the book compelling and the pages turning is show the navigation of ordinary lives and the tiny changes of direction that eventually create a horrifying collision.

In that sense, this is a literary novel rather than a genre page-turner. I'd hesitate to hand it to anyone who's not already a Fossum fan, though; it's darker than night, with few guiding stars, and even the kindly and wounded Inspector Sejer won't come out of this one with the same soul that he brought into it.

From HMH Books, with an August 30 release.

For other reviews, click here.

Nordic Noir: Gunnar Staalesen, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE

What a great discovery! This is the first time I've read a crime novel by Norwegian Gunnar Staalesen, and I'm really late finding his work ... he's written more than 20 titles, most significantly his series featuring detective Varg Veum, which began back in 1977.

Veum is a classic disillusioned private investigator, and at the opening of WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE he's completing a three-year binge of alcohol and self-pity relating to the death of his (female) partner, which is never fully explained here (I will have to get some of the earlier books, to find out more). And he's not in the mood to take any case that might improve his self-esteem; he's been "working" at lower and lower levels, taking assignments that can be done drunk.

But the mother who walks into his office has a plea he finds hard to resist: Her three-year-old daughter's case, a kidnapping from almost 25 years ago, is about to hit the statute of limitations, and no perpetrator was ever found -- nor was the child. Little Mette is still the center of her mother's life, and Maja, the mom, wants the case properly solved at last. Why Veum, of all people, to solve it? Well, he had solved another unrelated case of a missing child from the 1970s. And as he begins to realize he's going to take the case, he confronts a very large hurdle: getting sober enough to do this.

The dark cover of the book actually kept me from reading it for a while, so I was relieved to discover that despite the image, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE does not contain child abuse in any of the gruesome sexually perverse modes that are currently in vogue (I hope desperately that the real world contains less of such crime than the fictional one). Instead, it's in some ways a traditional PI investigation, with some intriguing twists. For one thing, the child and her family lived in a somewhat quirky five-family environmental project, one of those miniature communes created in an attempt to use land more wisely and kindly. For another, one of the adults who lived there at the time Mette was kidnapped (and killled? it seems likely) was just shot to death in a jewelry-store robbery. There's no obvious connection, but the death has shaken Mette's mother out of her own lethargy, into pressing Veum for answers.

Although the book's blurbs refer to sharp teeth, darkness, and brutality, I found instead that Staalesen's expert storytelling tested and tasted the forms of love and commitment, along with what can go wrong inside well-meaning families. I enjoyed it a lot -- and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys a moderately dark but very humane mystery. Not for kids, but a thoughtful book that probes what it is to be an adult in a close community, and the value of trust.

Oh, if you've been reading Scandinavian noir: This is not as dark as most, despite the cover. I'd compare it more to the British crime fiction of, say, Ruth Rendell, or Colin Dexter. Good stuff, from Orenda Books via Trafalgar Square Publishing (release date Sept. 1).

New from Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins: A LONG TIME DEAD

Actually, Max Allan Collins is very much alive -- and even Golden Age crime fiction author Mickey Spillane has only been dead for a decade (he lived from 1918 to 2006). Instead, the title for this delightful eight-story collection comes from one of the tales included. And they all have that great Spillane flavor: like "The Big Switch," "Fallout," and "So Long, Chief." A LONG TIME DEAD comes out on September 6 from Mysterious Press, and it's well worth pre-ordering.

Spillane was the creator of Mike Hammer, a detective whose style is closer to gangland than to cop, even though his buddy Captain Pat Chambers will most likely help him cover up the seamy side of his crimesolving. Hammer has a little issue that today would disqualify him totally for that PI license (or "tag" as he calls it): He tends to shoot the bad guys dead, once he's established that they're at fault. He hardly ever means to do it, but most often he confronts someone who pulls a gun on him, and the only way to stop his opponent's trigger finger from aggression is if Hammer's own immediate shot blows out the brain network of the criminal. See?

If you don't see that, don't worry -- you have plenty of time to catch on, as story after story goes in that direction. Even so, the diversity among these is wide and enjoyable. It's also fun to realize that Collins, a master of crime fiction himself and a superb collaborator, has taken the left-behind beginnings of Spillane's abandoned shorter works and built them into full-fledged tales. I found it fascinating in each one to guess at what part had been Spillane's and what part Collins erected on the foundations. What's never in doubt, though, is Mike Hammer's adoration of his smart and sassy secretary/partner Velda, and his blunt assessment of a situation:
You don't need doctors or coroners or medical examiners to tell you when somebody is dead. Not this kind of dead. You say, "Shit," because you knew this dead somebody and he was a great old guy who was your friend. And because he was your friend, you are the reason he is stuffed inside a wooden crate with bullet holes in him.
In a long introduction, Collins explains how all this came to pass, and the long close friendship he'd had with Spillane. One tale, "Grave Matter," he says he wrote mostly himself; another, "Skin," brings us the aging detective and his attempt to straighten out his crimefighting style, along with some updates in technology (not really the 'Net, but at least cell phones).

Fond of the Golden Age classics? Treat yourself to this collection. It's almost like being there, all over again.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hard-Boiled Crime from Bill Loehfelm: LET THE DEVIL OUT

When another reviewer's comments made me itch to read LET THE DEVIL OUT by Bill Loehfelm, I realized it was the fourth in the series featuring Maureen Coughlin, and I hadn't read any yet ... in fact, somehow I missed even hearing about Bill Loehfelm. I'm glad I've caught up with his crime fiction, though, starting with the first in the series, The Devil She Knows.

Maureen Coughlin at this opening looks like she's already sliding downhill fast in life: waitressing in her second Staten Island bar, making poor choices, and stringing herself along by balancing her ups and downs with booze and cocaine. The apparent suicide of the bar owner arrives in parallel with invasive and terrifying threats to Maureen herself, and soon she's sure she's been a witness to part of a criminal operation, embedded in city politics and of course money and power.

Making bad choices includes, in this case, trying to chase the head of the criminal operation herself. Maureen's effort to confront the face of evil puts her into far more danger; The Devil She Knows is downright scary to read, while at the same time almost impossible to put down. Those decisions are only a hair's distance from ones we've all considered at some point, and we're just better protected, less foolhardy, probably less brave than Maureen Coughlin.

When I plunged into this summer's release of LET THE DEVIL OUT, I'd skipped the second and third titles, The Devil in Her Way and Doing the Devil's Work, but Loehfelm brushes the important changes into the fourth book swiftly and effectively. Maureen's now an rookie officer with the New Orleans Police Department, carrying her wounds as impetus for a crime-solving career. She's "Coughlin" or OC, for Officer Coughlin, to most around her.

But at this point, Maureen Coughlin is also Seriously Messed Up. Tossed aside for six weeks of forced leave because of actions she'd taken against a crooked fellow cop, she's back to abusing drugs and has a new obsession: Let's call it a nasty form of vigilante action. "Instead of going home like she should have, she had restarted that night's mission." It made her feel alive, and in control, and more: an almost sexual sense of complete exhilaration. And she knows it's a terrible mistake.
So wise of you, Maureen. Every step of the way. You're letting him burn you down, she thought, from beyond the grave. After everything you did to get away from him.

How stupid can you be?
The death of a young woman Maureen's been trying to locate, the murderously disturbed Madison Leary, pulls Maureen back into official action. Looks like the Klan's form of evil has resurfaced in New Orleans with a group called The Watchmen, and soon Maureen makes herself a target. Her inner demons make it all extra dangerous. I was frankly appalled at how much risk she pulled toward herself, and how much anger and pain she carried ... but also recognized the situation as true enough to life.

What impresses me most in LET THE DEVIL OUT is Loehfelm's deft portrayal of what it costs to make a decision to change -- to exorcise the demons that drive us. Every move Maureen makes carries a price, and she is excruciatingly aware of that mathematics of pain. Loehfelm's laying out of the choices she confronts is engrossing, compelling ... an American version of Lisbeth Salander's journey, with considerably more hope allowed to tug at the readers. A must-read, and exactly the right balance of hard-boiled and self-revealing.

THE DARKNESS KNOWS, Cheryl Honigford: 1938 Radio Drama in Lively Traditional Mystery

It only took me a few pages to realize that the title of Cheryl Honigford's debut mystery, THE DARKNESS KNOWS, is a play on the old-time radio drama called "The Shadow Knows." But I was too busy turning the pages to find out what would happen next to rising radio starlet Vivian Witchell to think more about that part!

Scrappy, courageous, and determined to prove herself not just in the working world but also to her skeptical (and wealthy) mother, Vivian recently made the leap from secretary to dramatic reader of multiple parts, in multiple radio series. It's 1938 and far away from any feminist revolution -- Viv's the target already of another woman's greed for the drama parts, and unsure which of the men around her can be trusted not to take advantage of her. A killing at the start of the book puts this classic traditional mystery into high gear right away. Lucky for Viv, she makes the quick decision to hire a private detective to work for her and protect her from both the killer and in-house threats.

Turns out PI Charlie Haverman is a lot like Viv in some ways, pulling himself up from the bottom and mostly taking the high road. But Viv's attraction toward him actually makes her more wary in terms of trusting him (great to have a sensible and smart protagonist here!). Her boss, Mr. Hart, isn't playing fairly, either:
"Were you here when it ... it happened? Did you see anything -- the person that could have done this?" Vivian glanced at the ashtray on his desk where the remnants of something still smoldered. That wasn't cigar smoke in the air.

"I was working late, but I didn't notice anything unusual." He turned from the window briefly to glance at her, then turned back before adding, "Until I heard you scream, that is."

Vivian felt the color drain from her face as the image  of Marjorie's dead body popped into her mind. She didn't remember screaming.

"Do you need anything?" she asked. ... "A drink?" When he didn't answer, she continued in a small voice, "I'll just go out and see if I can be of help to the police then, shall I?"

Mr. Hart grunted. "Yes, go see what you can do." He turned to look at her and attempted a smile.
Honigford salts her story with just the right amount of 1930s expressions and issues to make it enjoyable, while laying out a well-plotted "whodunnit" for contemporary readers to enjoy. It's clear this is the start of a series, and I look forward to more! Published by Sourcebooks, as an August release.

Suspicious Airplane Crash, Feisty Investigative Reporter: FREE FALL from Rick Mofina Hits the Thriller Buttons

Rick Mofina's FREE FALL is the fourth in his Kate Page series (1, Whirlwind; 2, Full Tilt; 3, Every Second; 4. Free Fall), and should absolutely not be read during high-speed travel!

With 18 books under his belt, Mofina's a pro at pacing his thrillers and picking out the areas where readers will echo the disturbance and mounting fear in the story, thanks to ordinary experiences we've all had: hearing the airplane captain talk about oncoming turbulence, reading a report of a bus with mechanical malfunctions, realizing how rapidly today's trains take the curves of the tracks.

This time, Mofina places journalist Kate Page in a frightening position personally as well: A hostile internal takeover of the newsroom at the paper where she works is threatening her reputation and her job. When Kate hears the police scanner report a jet landing with a mysterious malfunction, she almost gets the entire story stolen from her. Malicious colleagues want her slot. She knows darn well she's good -- and that she's given a piece of her soul to each major story and the victims she's interviewed. Can she be forced out?

Luckily, the just-in-time return to Newslead of a former boss who knows Kate's skills gives her a chance to jump back into the story. Her investigations soon have her chasing across the country to pull together tips, interviews, and enormous possibilities, in collaboration with the very worried FBI agents on the case.

Mofina's pace is rapid, and FREE FALL reads best if it's not interrupted often. His writing has earned praise from Michael Connelly and Tess Gerritsen, although it differs from both of these -- closer to an early James Patterson. No need to read the books in sequence, although, as always, it's a good way to appreciate a character's growth (and the author's). This one is from MIRA; Mofina is himself a former crime reporter, and I'm betting he has a dozen or more plots already spinning for sequels!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Corruption in the Oil Industry and Land Deals Speeds Paul E. Hardisty's Thrillers to the Top

Things keep changing in the global publishing arena. Orenda Books is a relatively new British publisher, carried in the US by Trafalgar Square Publishing at the Independent Publishers Group. When a copy of Paul E. Hardisty's second thriller, THE EVOLUTION OF FEAR, came my way via IPG, the distributor noted that Hardisty's first novel, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, climbed onto the Crime Writers Association (CWA) charts right away: short-listed for the 2015 John Creasey "New Blood" dagger.

So of course, I picked up the first book, first.

Here's the situation as The Abrupt Physics of Dying opens: Claymore Straker's been working as an oil company engineer for a company of questionable ethics, in Yemen. His job is to conduct surveys of oil locations, present and future, and collect the test results for the company, while at the same time assuring the local people that the company only means to bring them good things: money, schools, a hospital even. He's been lying for his clients for so long that it doesn't bother him much.

But he has a vulnerability: He cares about his local driver and close friend Abdulkader. When a rebel leader named Al Shams captures Clay and Abdulkader, there's only one deal on the table: Clay must visit more of the sites being poisoned, take samples that prove it's from the oil operations, and get that information to the company leadership with a message from Al Shams: "All that is within this land is a gift from God to those who have lived here since before the prophet." Abdulkader's life depends on Clay completing this mission by a deadline that Al Shams sets:
"My people are dying. Your oil is killing them. What you must ask yourself, Mister Claymore, is if you care. ... I am giving you an opportunity, my friend, to find what you have lost."
But the oil company's corrupt -- well, Clay knew that, in a way -- and although its environmental effects are actually far worse than Clay realized, his efforts to make the leadership listen fall on deaf ears. Receiving Abdulkadar's severed hand in a package confirms that the deadline was intended, real, and fierce.

But that doesn't stop Clay's awakened conscience from driving him to fight for the Yemeni people, now that he's reawakened to caring about the land and the individuals. In The Abrupt Physics of Dying, his math and science skills are of little avail when he finds he's on the wrong side of both Yemen's secret service and the CIA.

The book's bloody and fearsome ending reshapes Clay Straker into an international race to escape being framed, in THE EVOLUTION OF FEAR. There's a woman he's begun to care about also, across barriers of ethnicity, religion, and motives. This time, it's not just the CIA on his tail: The Russian mafia, Greek Cypriots, and Turkish land developers have surrounded the woman in her role as a powerful journalist, and once again, Clay's struggling to free someone he cares about from a hostage situation. Even if he succeeds, will she accept him as lover and friend -- or push him away, symbol of the oppressive money forces operating around her. What must he give up, to maintain Rania's safety and his own sense of integrity? He struggles to understand:

"Justice isn't an event, she'd said. It isn't something you do once. There is no end to it. Forgiveness, you earn."

I have complete confidence that Paul E. Hardisty -- whose bio is outrageously interesting and laced with risk -- will carry this series forward. Consider me eagerly waiting for the next Clay Straker adventure, with its suspense and moral conflicts, as well as highly memorable characters and situations. Good stuff.

Yes, these deserve reading in sequence. Both are available via the usual sources, thanks to Trafalgar's adept US distribution.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Colin Cotterill's 14th Dr. Siri Paiboun Mystery, I SHOT THE BUDDHA

This time of year is perfect for curling up with an entertaining sort of mystery -- not too dark, not too serious, and yet full of adventure and fun. In other words, it's time to welcome I SHOT THE BUDDHA, as Colin Cotterill spins his 14th mystery of Dr. Siri Paiboun and friends, muddling through retirement, political chaos, and crime in Laos.

Cotterill provides a caution at the front of the book:
A mental health warning. Through necessity this edition is heavily spiced with supernatural elements. For those of you who prefer your mysteries dull and earthly, this is not the tome for you. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Cotterill might as well have also warned: Get ready to laugh, a lot. At least, I did ... Chapter 2 opens in the 1970s, as usual, with the aging (retired coroner) Dr. Siri and his noodle-cooking wife Madam Daeng attending a Communist Party seminar that condemns the pagan rituals of spirit worship. That could be seen as a poor match for the couple: Dr. Siri's struggle with the spirits that live in and around him now has him vanishing from time to time, without warning. And Madam Daeng's recent cure for arthritis left her with a small but presumable waggable tail. Add to this, later the same day, police inspector Phosy and his wife Nurse Dtui, and Dr. Siri's good friend Civilai Songsawat, a former politboro member. The good friends' enjoyment of another superb noodle dinner gets interrupted as Sirit shares the latest news of a Thai forest monk who's been living in Siri's official government residence with other homeless people (Siri's idea).

All of that's fine -- the problem is, the monk, Noo, appears to have been kidnapped. And he's left Siri a mission to complete for him that will involve crossing the border illicitly into Thailand.

Within a few more pages, all three friends -- Siri, Phosy, and Civilai -- have taken off, with their usual traveling companions, to try to solve various parts of Noo's disappearance and cope with the mission. And each one confronts questions about politics, religion, and mortality in his own inimitable way. Which is to say: with all the eccentricity of old friends who do things their own way. Spirit guides included.

Cotterill must have chuckled all the way through writing this one. Siri pulls off some great distractions of other police officers as needed ("Well, comrade," said Siri, "you know you can't hurry an eighty-year-old bladder) and wrestles with his spirit quandary, which turns out to be oddly linked to the crime he investigates. Civilai and Phosy keep in touch with him in odd ways. Even the dog Ugly turns out to have a useful role, and there are at least two forms of exorcism along the way, booting out evil and rescuing the good.

Ride along with the fun, and all the crimes and their solutions will make sense by the end of the book. But I'm still shaking my head over the wry insights on spirit and religion that Cotterill's characters dispense through the pages.

No, you don't "have to" read any earlier Dr. Siri investigations before you read this one -- but consider the author's warning and be aware that the charm and quirkiness of the early books in this wonderful series have now escalated to marvelously ridiculous (and hence quite deep!) adventures, discoveries, and friendship. (It will also help if you know the saying about what to do if you meet the Buddha along the road. It has nothing to do with the story, but it will keep you guessing in enjoyable ways.)

To browse some other reviews of Cotterill's tales, click here.

From Soho Crime, host to a range of international crime fiction that boggles the imagination in all the best ways.