I’m very lucky. I’m a member of a wonderful crime fiction community and that in itself means a lot to me. Some of my friends in that community are also writers, and several of them had books come out this year. I know how busy everyone gets as the year goes by; I know I do anyway. So I thought I’d take a bit of time now before we close the doors on 2013 to share some great releases from this year in case you missed ‘em.
Rob Kitchin’s Stiffed is a terrific screwball noir story. Tadhg Maguire knows it’s going to be a bad day when he wakes up next to a dead man. It only makes matters worse that the dead man is Tony Marino, ‘right hand man’ to powerful gangster Aldo Morelli. Maquire knows that calling the police isn’t an option. If they don’t arrest him for murder, he’ll probably have a very life-shortening ‘meeting’ with someone in Pirelli’s gang. So instead, he calls his friend Jason Choi and asks him to help get rid of the body. Choi agrees and the two men get to work. But they soon discover that finding a place to dispose of the body is going to be the least of their problems…
Paddy Richardson’s Cross Fingers was also released this year. In that novel, Wellington television journalist Rebecca Thorne is working on an exposé of dubious land developer Denny Graham. Graham has apparently fleeced several clients of all of their savings, and Thorne’s gathering names, amounts of money, and so on. But then, her boss asks her to switch her focus and do a story on the 30th anniversary of the Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand. ‘The Tour’ was extremely controversial because of South Africa’s then-in-place policy of Apartheid. There were protests, reports of police abuse, and a lot of divisions and conflicts. At first Thorne’s reluctant to pursue the story, as she feels it’s already been done. But then she discovers an unsolved murder from that time. Now she’s got the fresh angle she wants. She also finds out that there are some people who do not want that murder solved.
Also released this past year was Angela Savage’s The Dying Beach. Bangkok-based PI Jayne Keeney and her partner Rajiv Patel are enjoying some time off from work at Krabi, on the Thai coast. While they’re there, they take a tour guided by a young woman who calls herself Pla. Both are very upset when they learn later that Pla’s body has been found in a cave. The official report is that she drowned, either accidentally or by suicide. But Keeney doesn’t believe it. For one thing, Pla was an expert swimmer. For another, the forensics findings are not really consistent with death by drowning. So Keeney decides to ask some questions. She and Patel learn that Pla was working on a project with an environmental group. Her job was to attend meetings between villagers and a development company and ensure that the villagers’ questions and concerns were heard and addressed. On one level then, it seems that no-one would have wanted to kill Pla; the villagers benefited from her presence, and the company needed her to prove its responsiveness to local needs. But as Keeney and Patel dig deeper, they find that Pla had learned something that it wasn’t safe for her to know. That knowledge cost the young woman her life.
Martin Edwards’ The Frozen Shroud is the sixth in his Lake District series that features DCI Hannah Scarlett and Oxford historian Daniel Kind. In this outing, which takes place in the small town of Ravesbank, Scarlett and her team investigate three murders committed many years apart. One is the murder of a housemaid Gertrude Smith, which occurred just before World War I. The next is the five-year-old murder of Shenagh Moss, who had settled into the same house. That’s when Kind gets interested in what might link the murders. And then another occurs, one that strikes closer to home. Each victim is a young woman who’s murdered at Hallowe’en. And each victim is found with her face covered by a cloth that seems to serve as a shroud…
For those who like historical mysteries, William Ryan’s The Twelfth Department was also released this year. It’s the third in his Alexei Korolev series, which takes place in pre-World War II Stalinist Moscow. In this novel, Moscow CID Captain Korolev and his assistant Sergeant Nadezhda Slivka are assigned to investigate the murder of an eminent scientist Boris Azarov. His work is considered both important and top-secret, so the NKVD wants the case handled as quietly as possible. All signs point to one particular person, but then that person too is murdered. Now there will have to be a further investigation, and as Korolev and Slivka dig deeper, they find out that the truth about Azarov’s work and his murder is very dangerous indeed.
Another historical mystery that came out this year was K.B. Owen’s Dangerous and Unseemly, the first in her Concordia Wells series that takes place beginning in 1896. Wells is a professor at Hartford Women’s College, where she’s kept busy with classes, preparations for the school’s production of The Scottish Play, and of course, the many needs and issues that arise when a group of students is away from home for the first time. Then, college bursar Ruth Lyman is found dead, apparently a suicide. There are also some very malicious pranks and even arson to contend with at the school. Matters come to a head when Wells’ sister Mary dies. It’s already been made clear to Wells that she’s expected to act with decorum – ‘like a lady’ – and not play hero. But she is determined to find out who’s responsible for what’s going on at the school. Oh, and what’s really exciting is that the second in this series, Unseemly Pursuits, has just been released. More on that soon!
Prefer a cosy mystery? Elizabeth Spann Craig’s had a few releases this year. One is Rubbed Out, the fourth in her Memphis Barbecue series which she writes as Riley Adams. Aunt Pat’s Barbecue, which is owned and run by Lulu Taylor, is one of Memphis’ most popular restaurants and it keeps Lulu busy. But she’s persuaded to attend the Rock and Ribs Competition. Then, one of the other competitors Rueben Shaw is murdered. Lulu’s friend Cherry Hayes had an argument with him shortly before the murder, so of course, she’s a suspect. Lulu knows her friend’s not a killer though, and determines to clear her name.
Another release from Spann Craig is Knot What it Seams, the second in her Southern Quilting series. In this novel, Beatrice Coleman has joined the Village Quilters guild in Dappled Hills, North Carolina. She’s settled into small-town life and has made friends. Then, the guild’s newest member Jo Paxton dies in what looks like a tragic car accident. But when it turns out that someone tampered with her brakes, the Village Quilters know that one of them may be a murderer…
Also published this year was Jill Edmondson’s Frisky Business, the fourth in her Sasha Jackson series. In this story, Raven Greywolf hires Jackson to find out what happened to her friend Julia McPhee, who went by the name of Kitty Vixen. McPhee was a porn film actress who was beaten to death and found at a construction site. The case hasn’t been solved, and Greywolf doesn’t think the police are going to do much about it. Jackson agrees to take the case and begins to look into the victim’s life. There are plenty of possibilities too. For one thing, she worked for a sleazy porn film company where the actors aren’t treated well and not expected to complain. The problem for the company was that McPhee had started agitating for better protection for the film workers and better working conditions. And then there’s her personal past. Jackson finds more than one suspect there, too. Bit by bit, Jackson gets to the truth about McPhee’s last days and weeks and finds out who really killed her and why.
Oh, and a very special thanks to Martin Edwards, Lesley Fletcher, Pamela Griffiths, Paula K. Randall, Jane Risdon, Elizabeth Spann Craig and Sarah Ward for their hard work on In a Word: Murder, an anthology of stories about crime in the publishing, writing, editing and blogging fields. Their stories are excellent, folks. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you’ll want to. Not only are you getting some great stories, but you’re doing good as well, since all the proceeds from this anthology go in aid of Princess Alice Hospice.
Yes, it’s been quite a year for some terrific releases. If you haven’t had a chance to check these out, you may just want to add them to your 2014 reading list.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Beatles’ I’ve Got a Feeling.