Alexander McCall-Smith keeps adding to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and I keep enjoying the adventures of Precious Ramotswe. This time the difficult situations are a little too close to home for the Precious and her assistant, Grace Makutsi. The best auto repair assistant of Mma Ramotswe’s husband is arrested for auto theft, then Grace and her husband hire a contractor to begin building their home but the builder comes into question when one of his worker’s leaves doubt in their minds. The renowned Clovis Anderson, author of The Principles of Private Detection, comes for a visit and helps them with the terrible trouble of the dismissal of Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Satisfactory solutions result and we continue to applaud the wisdom of Precious Ramotswe and her allies.
by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager
Last year I wrote about how the bestselling novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, had fueled an explosion of interest in Scandinavian crime novels and in international mysteries in general. They continue to be in high demand with readers, and publishers have responded with more and more hot titles from around the world. Mysteries with an international setting combine exposure to unfamiliar cultures, the atmospherics of an exotic locale, and the intellectual challenges of a crime story into an absorbing and satisfying reading experience. Here’s a list of more great international mysteries at Manhattan Public Library.
Greece: Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger. Newly promoted to police chief of the island paradise of Mykonos, Andreas Kaldis must catch a killer while navigating the island’s convoluted local politics and religious orthodoxy, and without risking the island’s tourism.
Turkey: The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Somer. Called “a delightfully over-the-top drag queen campfest” by one reviewer, this unexpected and entertaining mystery set in Istanbul features a transvestite sleuth, a quirky and refreshingly human cast of characters, and delicious dialogue.
Denmark: The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol. A noir mystery investigating criminal mistreatment of women and children, written by two women and starring female characters. The New York Times called this “another winning entry in the emotionally lacerating Scandinavian mystery sweepstakes.”
Mongolia: The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters. It’s winter in post-Soviet Mongolia, and Minister Negrui, Harvard MBA and head of the Serious Crimes Unit, is working with a visiting British police inspector to find a serial killer. Booklist recommends this series for readers “who like plots filled with global political complexity.”
Canada: Still Life by Louise Penny. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec investigates a murder in the tiny village of Three Pines, south of Montreal. This is a traditional procedural mystery, full of clues hidden in plain sight, red herrings, engaging characters, and complex relationships. Author Penny has been compared to P. D. James, Ruth Rendell, Martha Grimes – and even Agatha Christie.
Ghana: Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey. Darko Dawson, police inspector in Ghana’s Criminal Investigation Division, has been sent to investigate the murder of a young female medical student and AIDS worker in a village outside the city of Accra. There he confronts powerful traditional beliefs, brutal local authority, and a long-standing mystery in his own life.
France: Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker. One reviewer wrote, “If you can’t afford that vacation in the south of France this year, Bruno may be the next best thing.” In the quiet, friendly village of St. Denis, chief of police Bruno Courrèges, formerly with UN forces in Bosnia, hopes to find a peaceful life, but crime and the problems of contemporary French life inevitably intrude.
Israel: The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Rees. For many years, Omar Yussef, a good man in a tragic and difficult place, has taught history to the children of Bethlehem. When Israeli snipers kill a PLO soldier, one of Omar’s former students, a Palestinian Christian, is accused of being an Israeli collaborator and faces almost-certain retribution. Omar determines to save his friend, and his investigations take him deep into the complicated, violent, and corrupt world of the occupied West Bank.
Botswana: A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley. Game park rangers in the Kalahari come across a hyena feasting on a human corpse, and Detective Kubu (“Hippopotamus”) Bengu is called in to investigate. Kubu, like his namesake, is huge, amiable, determined, and ferocious. Publishers Weekly said, “The intricate plotting, a grisly sense of realism, and numerous topical motifs (the plight of the Kalahari Bushmen, diamond smuggling, poaching, the homogenization of African culture, etc.) make this a compulsively readable novel.”
Saudi Arabia: Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. In this literary mystery-thriller set in contemporary Jeddah, the teenaged daughter of a wealthy family disappears days before her marriage and is soon found dead – and pregnant. Her family turns to conservative Muslim Palestinian Nayir al-Sharqi to investigate the death, and he turns to Katya Hijazi, medical examiner and highly-educated modern woman, for assistance. An engrossing look into the complexities and cultural struggles of modern Saudi society.
India: The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall. Vish Puri is India’s Most Private Investigator and the Indian answer to Rumpole or Precious Ramotswe in this series full of humor, food, and delightful dialogue. Nicknamed “Chubby,” Vish is “portly, persistent, and unmistakably Punjabi,” and he draws on up-to-date investigative techniques as well as ancient Indian principles in order to solve mysteries in modern Delhi.
Defending Jacob is the third legal thriller by Dagger Award winner William Landay and it is well worth the read. In the picturesque town of Newton, Massachusetts, a well-to-do suburb of Boston, a murder has just been committed. Fourteen year old Ben Rifkin’s body is found in a popular park with three stab wounds to his chest. Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber takes the case in spite of a potential conflict of interest. His son Jacob attended the same school as Ben and is in the same grade. At first, the investigation points to a pedophile who lives near the park. Soon, however, based on physical evidence and comments on Facebook, Jacob becomes the primary suspect. Andy is taken off the case, and instead of prosecutor he is now helping to defend his own son. To do that he must face up to his own secrets that he has kept from his wife Laurie and his son, that he is descended from a line of murderers. He worries that the prosecutor may argue that Jacob has the “murder gene” because of his family history. Andy is convinced that his son is not possibly capable of committing such a horrific crime, although his actions at times speak differently. Laurie, on the other hand, seems to waver back and forth on Jacob’s guilt or innocence. Each character is well developed and the family drama is just as compelling as the legal drama. Combine this with a couple of twists at the end, and it makes for a great read!
>Dave Gurney, retired NYPD Homicide Detective, is lured from retirement by an old college acquaintance, Mark Mellery. Mellery has received threatening notes in the mail, the most recent of which asked him to Think of a Number. When a letter with his number appears, Mellery is convinced that the threats are authored by someone who can read his mind. Gurney is a master at unraveling puzzles and becomes deeply involved in the case, much to the dismay of his wife– they are supposed to be enjoying retirement. Mellery is found murdered and the criminal leaves behind very specific clues–but are they leading police on a false trail and taunting them for their ineptness? Gurney realizes that the murder is part of a series committed by a serial killer and the hunt is on. Verdon has created interesting characters with depth and complexity. The suspense unfolds as Gurney follows the clues of the crimes with a thoughtful and methodical process that leads to a final confrontation with the killer. This is a thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. The next title in the Dave Gurney series is
Shut Your Eyes Tight.
>Set in the stark and breathtakingly beautiful Connemara area of Ireland, this DVD set continues the story of Jack Driscoll, Sergeant in the local Garda. As one of two policemen in the remote and rural area, Jack is enmeshed in the events of the local community and his work and private lives are intertwined. He is following in his fathers footsteps as the local garda, but is constantly trying to distance himself from the corruption and influence that his father wielded in the community. Jack has grown up in this community and knows the local residents and their families well, making it more difficult for him to investigate crimes. Intelligently written and with compelling stories and complex characters, this police drama differs from many others as it lacks car chases and shootings, instead emphasizing relationships and the dark undercurrents in the community. This set contains 3 2-part stories, all with plot twists and turns, and with excellent acting by the cast. Single-Handed 2 is an engrossing drama about a man trying to maintain his honor when surrounded by corruption–an excellent drama from Irish television. MPL also has the first episodes of Single-Handed available.
Los Angeles police detective, Harry Bosch, has been placed on The DROP, (the Deferred Retirement Option Plan) and is facing retirement in three years. But never one to slow down, Bosch seeks challenging cases to test his mental, physical and moral strength. Good for Harry! He gets two new cases: the DNA match of an eight-year-old boy associated with the rape of a teenage girl in 1989 and the surprising death of a city councilman’s son who was pushed from a hotel window. Connelly tightly twists the two cases, still giving a light touch of family, romance and many unexpected snafus. This is the 17th book in this police procedural which began with , the Black Echo.
Mega-chain store, PyeMart is coming to small town Butternut Falls, Minnesota. Apparently not everyone is happy about this development. Bombs start going off, the first one in PyeMart headquarters in Michigan and the second at the local PyeMart construction site in Butternut Falls, killing and injuring several people. Virgil, who works for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is sent to Butternut to help the local law enforcement and the ATF with the investigation. The plot is suspenseful and moves along at a rapid pace as Virgil attempts to solve the crime before more people are killed. Unfortunately for him, it seems that half the town is unhappy with PyeMart, including many local merchants, as well as trout fishermen who don’t want the Butternut River polluted. Finding out the exact motives of the bomber proves difficult until Virgil decides to use some unorthodox methods to attempt to narrow down the search for the bomber quickly. Not only is the plot compelling, but Virgil himself is an extremely likeable and believable character with a string of ex- wives, long hair, a fishing boat, and a wardrobe consisting of classic rock band tee shirts. Shock Wave is the 5th novel by John Sandford starring detective Virgil Flowers. Although it is helpful as far as some of the character development, it is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series.
>While house-sitting for her Uncle Nicco, Micayla (Mick) Lange, a police detective, is awakened from sleep by an odd noise. Investigating the sound, she discovers a burglar in the process of breaking into her uncle’s safe. Her police training kicks in and she attempts to subdue the criminal. During their struggle, Mick sees incriminating photos involving her uncle fall from the safe and she realizes her life is now in danger. On the run for their lives, Mick and the burglar Jason must brave the Michigan winter to escape. Neither trusts the other, but Mick and Jason must join forces to survive. Robards has created a tense romantic suspense novel in Sleepwalker, one filled with plot twists, turns and surprises–an exciting new thriller!
Gideon’s Corpse by Douglas J. Preston and Lincoln Child.
A plume of radiation above New York City hints that a major city will be vaporized. Ten days to find the terrorists. And Gideon Crew, tracking the mysterious terrorist cell from the suburbs of New York to the mountains of New Mexico, learns the end may be something worse–far worse–than mere Armageddon.
In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault is a cold case mystery. The current year is 2006, and Nora has just been contacted by her old best friend Charlotte, to tell her that the body of their babysitter, Rose, who went missing when the girls where 11 years old in 1990, has just been found. Nora returns to her hometown after hearing this information and old memories are dredged up that Nora would rather forget. The story flashes between the present day, the months before and after Rose disappeared, and 1996, when the girls were in high school. Although the book is a mystery, it is not your typical whodunit. There is a focus on Nora, her relationship with Rose and Charlotte, and how Rose’s disappearance has affected Nora throughout her life. As the book continues, the reader gets the feeling that Nora somehow holds the key to figuring out what really happened to Rose. The question remains whether Nora is willing, as an adult, to put the pieces together or run from all of the questions like she did when she was a kid. This is a great book if you like psychological mysteries and/or coming of age stories.
Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery by Michael Stanley (authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) is a mystery set in the Kalahari area of Botswana. An unpopular game ranger is found in the Kalahari dying of a severe head injury. He is surrounded by three Bushmen who appear to be trying to help him. The question is, were they helping him or were they his murderers? Detective “Kubu” Bengu is urged to help with the case by an old school friend, Khumanego, a Bushman himself, who believes the Bushmen will be railroaded even if they are truly innocent. The case quickly becomes more complicated as two more murders are committed. Not only is the culture and landscape of Botswana fascinating, but Kubu is a lovable character, somewhat reminiscent of Columbo. He seems rather lazy on the surface and more interested with having a good meal and some wine than anything else, but he is actually a competent detective. Michael Stanley has also written two previous books, A Carrion Death and The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu, both of which star detective Kubu.
Julian Monroe returns to his English home, Ravenscar, after 3 years away, time spent mourning the mysterious death of his wife Lily. There are those in Lily’s family who believe that Julian murdered his wife and are looking for revenge. His mother is overjoyed that Julian has returned home and chooses Sophie Wilkie, the daughter of a dear friend, as the woman she wishes her son to marry. Sophie and her aunt Roxanne are invited to Ravenscar, where they are joined by Julian’s friend and nephew, Devlin Brabante. Sophie and Roxanne are strong, independent women who are witty and intelligent. Devlin and Justin are intelligent, handsome and honorable men, and the four are embroiled in past mysteries and in kidnappings and plots of revenge. Julian comes to learn about his father and their relationship and why his father referred to him as The Prince of Ravenscar. Filled with witty dialog and gothic romance, Coulter’s latest novel provides an entertaining escape into the past.
>The year is 1803 and the Darcy’s are preparing for Lady Anne’s Ball, a long-standing tradition at Pemberley. Darcy and Elizabeth have been married several years and have settled into life at the estate with their two sons and with Bingley and Jane living near-by. In the midst of their preparations, a carriage races up to the house with a hysterical Lydia Wickham inside. Her plan was to surprise Elizabeth by showing up at the ball uninvited, with Wickham (who has not been welcome for many years at Pemberley) remaining at a local inn with his friend Captain Denney. During the dark and rainy ride through the woodlands, Denny and Wickham argue, with Denny leaving the carriage and Wickham following him into the woods. Shots are fired, Lydia races to Pemberley, a search party is formed and Darcy and Fitzwilliam find Wickham bent over the bloody and dead body of Denny. Wickham is arrested as the main suspect and is placed on trial for the murder of his friend.
James has captured the original spirit of Pride and Prejudice and introduces new aspects of many of the chararacters that are so appealing in Austen’s work. James also conveys interesting information about the English legal system as well as the social system of the time. Death Comes to Pemberley offers a new view of life at Pemberley and a plot with twists and turns and an unexpected conclusion–an entertaining return to the world of the Darcy’s.
Nick Heller, private “spy”, is called upon to investigate the kidnapping of Alexa Marcus, the daughter of a friend and billionaire. Heller is a former Navy Seal/Black Ops agent with connections in various government agencies, and he uses those contacts in his efforts to learn why Alexa was taken, who are the kidnappers and what do they want? As a video feed comes into her father’s computer showing Alexa buried underground, and left with a limited supply of air, food and water, Heller realizes that this is a life-or-death race to locate her. In a shadowy world of secrets and conspiracies, Heller fights to find the truth and is drawn into a world of international subterfuge and deadly opponents. This is a fast paced, suspenseful thriller with interesting characters and many plot twists and turns. Author Joseph Finder has created a fascinating and complex main character in Nick Heller–first introduced in the book Vanished. Buried Secrets is a novel that will draw you in from the start and will keep you glued to the pages until the end–a wonderfully written story!
Sixteen-year-old Cat’s best childhood friend, openly gay Patrick, is in a coma, a victim of a brutal hate crime. The local sheriff is ready to pin the crime on out-of-towners, but Cat’ssuspicions lie elsewhere. For the past three years, Cat has retreated from most of her friends after being sexually abused by one of her brother’s friends. Cat slowly learns about her old friends in the meth-addled underbelly of her hill-country Southern town. Despite ominous warnings to leave it be, Catfinds the will to expose the homegrown hatred that gave rise to Patrick’sattack. Shine is a bleak story leavened by the things Cat learns about herself (and the attack) in the course of her investigation.