Saturday, November 30, 2019

Naughty and Nice: Three Diverse Crime Novels for Your December List

Three crime fiction treats for your reading pleasure, now that the evenings are so long:
  • Barbara Cleverly, INVITATION TO DIE.
  • Martin Edwards, GALLOWS COURT.
  • Gerry Boyle, RANDOM ACT.
Crime fiction fans are fortunate readers: They can dip deeply into a series, or explore a wide range, and either way, there's some great reading among the 2019 titles!

Let's start close to this reviewer's Vermont location with Gerry Boyle's 2019 title, RANDOM ACT. The 12th in Boyle's highly enjoyable dark crime series featuring Maine journalist Jack McMorrow, this is a gem of action, risk, and vicious crime. Most dangerous in this title is the romantic passion that Jack's Special Forces neighbor Louis drops into ... with a mysterious blond who brings Russian crime attention to the neighborhood. The only risk on this one is that you may need two copies, so you can give one to a friend as a holiday gift and keep the other for your own shelf. Well worth it! (We've been fans of all Boyle's work, always a good read. And Islandport Press does a nice job.)

Can't figure out why I haven't reviewed more of the crime fiction by Martin Edwards. GALLOWS COURT comes via Poisoned Pen Press, which is now a Sourcebooks imprint. Set in London, 1930, it's an astonishing classic sleuth novel featuring a woman detective clearly operating outside the law, Rachel Savernake. Double points of view keep the twists spinning, and the finale meets the quintessential criterion for a good novel: a perfect fit with what's happened, and yet an intense surprise. Reading Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, Barbara Cleverly? Try Martin Edwards and put a pillow over the phone for the duration.

Classic English detective (inspector) fiction, Roaring Twenties, Cambridge, and romance: What a divine mix! This second in Barbara Cleverly's John Redfyre series (the first was Fall of Angels last year) has a delightful set of treats, along with a series of mysterious crimes that involve multiple murders and insight into a "dark and bloody war." A gem of a comment to Detective Inspector Redfyre from a medical examiner in here:
"They say death's a leveller," the doctor murmured, "but I don't know. It's hardly a scientific view, but it always seems to my jaundiced eye to accentuate differences. And sometimes it distorts. Subjects take on a deceptively saintly aspect—and the reverse. Looking at our bloke, I'd say 'saintly,' wouldn't you? He may have been an utter blackguard in life, of course. That's up to you to discover, my friend."
You don't need to read the first in the series, but Cleverly, published by Soho Crime/Soho Press, is a consistently agile and entertaining storyteller; grab this one, and the odds suggest you'll want some or all of the others. (The Joe Sandilands series, her earlier one, is highly satisfying.)

Good luck with your list ... hope this gives you a boost into the season, whether for gifts or for self-spoiling stress relief and delight.

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

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