Monday, November 18, 2019

Autumn Mysteries to Catch Up With: Archer Mayor's BOMBER'S MOON, and THE RANSOM by Nancy Boyarsky

November's a perfect month for shopping for mystery books, because there are two equally valid choices: buy them as gifts (the gifting holidays are racing toward us), or stack them for the dark days that linger from now til February, at least in the northern hemisphere.

So here are a pair to consider. THE RANSOM from former political author Nancy Boyarsky is the fourth in the Nicole Graves series:

1. The Swap
2. The Bequest
3. Liar Liar
4. The Ransom

This time, Nicole has a proper private investigator's license, which makes investigating in Los Angeles much safer. Or at least, it should. But while she investigates an apparent home invasion-turned-kidnapping, she discovers an unexpected deposit of more than $2 million to her own checking account. Tracking down the source isn't hard—but the sudden wealth makes Nicole herself a target, and soon she's trying to investigate multiple crimes with a very clever twist.

Boyarsky deserves to be better known: Her plotting is fast-paced, tight, and surprising, and she walks the line between dark and smart in an enjoyable mode that leaves room for some laughter, some flirtation, and a lot of hard-core investigation:
Nicole took the box, went into her office and closed the door. She'd just finished locking the money in the cupboard where she kept her purse and jacket, when she thought of something. Why had the kidnappers failed to show up at the first two drops? ... the police took extra care on the second drop, when they'd used the drone to keep watch. Somehow the kidnappers still found out the cops were involved.  ... She thought of her conversation with Kevin that morning, his nonplussed attitude ... It was as if he'd been expecting her call.
I enjoyed racing along with Nicole, and savored the careful plotting that allowed me to get a handle on the crime just in time to feel that I could have solved it -- but not so soon that the suspense would be crushed. Nice work! And worth picking this up, especially if you have a shelf for women investigators.

Another must-buy from the autumn releases is Archer Mayor's 30th Joe Gunther mystery, BOMBER'S MOON. Fans of the series will be especially pleased to savor a full house of the favorite characters from this Vermont-based investigation team: Joe Gunther as an investigator resisting retirement, the puzzling relationship of Sammie Martens and Willy Kunkle, return appearances by other investigators and even one of the criminals from an earlier book. It also features Mayor's trademark "rough talk" as he crossed police conversation with a hint of military:
In fact, Gunther's present ranking was as statewide field commander of all VBI investigations. However, instead of flying a desk at headquarters in Waterbury, alongside the agency's director, he'd insisted on also being agent in charge of the southeast office, one of five aceross Vermont. An unusual setup, it had been his only requirement to transferring to the VBI from the Brattleboro PD, where he'd been chief of detectives. He was among the longest-serving and most respected cops in Vermont.
What makes the book stand out the most is the way Mayor plays two characters against each other and then perhaps in tandem: investigative reporter Rachel Reiling, and private investigator (PI) Sally Kravitz.

The book also has some frustrating aspects that may irk obsessive readers: papers that seem significant but never quite materialize, the absence of resolution on at least three characters and their conflict, threads left incomplete for Willy and Sammie. But go for the ride and don't be too fussy! Add this one to a Vermont shelf ... or PI shelf ... or police procedurals. Or place it in the center of your TBR stack, for a delicious winter reward.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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