Monday, January 7, 2008

Spring 2008 Preview - Mysteries

Continuing my posts previewing the books I'm most excited about in 2008, here are some mysteries and crime novels to start putting your holds on:
I have to admit that mysteries often fall way down to the bottom of my to-be-read piles or wait for the airport. Which is absolutely ridiculous given how much I enjoy reading them and how well they sell in the library market particularly. I suppose since I can sell a "brand" mystery writer easily without having read the book, I feel guilty indulging. But I'm definitely going to rectify this in the future - thank God Rebus has retired!

I'll start with two novels set in Canada. Buffalo Jump by Howard Shrier features Jonah Geller, a Toronto investigator who gets caught up in a pharmaceutical scam that has Jonah doing some cross-border jumping. And my colleagues are raving about The Calling by Inger Wolfe, the pseudonym for a North American literary author. Maclean's has an article in their latest issue speculating it might be Jane Urquhart, but some of their reasons seemed a bit flimsy to me. At any rate, I have no idea who it is and wouldn't tell you if I did. Regardless, the mystery features Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef who has to figure out why someone is killing the terminally ill, and promises a cross-Canada manhunt.

Even though I'm two books behind, I'm very excited that there is going to be a new Maisie Dobbs book, An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie was a former suffragist and nurse during WWI, and now is a private investigator whose cases, no matter how many years after the end of the war, inevitably concern themselves with the emotional impact of that horrific time. I've also got several of the latest Dalziel and Pascoe books sitting on my shelves unread yet, but Reginald Hill's latest, The Roar of the Butterflies, is a Joe Sixsmith outing, so I have time to catch up. I adore Alan Furst's writing but again, haven't read him in ages. The Spies of Warsaw will remedy this, I'm sure. It promises to weave the stories of no less than twenty-one spies in 1937 Warsaw and includes a passionate love affair between a handsome aristocrat and lawyer for the League of Nations.

I am doing better with Fred Vargas whose books are just terrific. Her latest, just about to come out is This Night's Foul Work and is another Adamsberg adventure. This time, the deaths of two drug dealers leads to disturbed graves of virgins and a strange search for the elixar of eternal youth. Meanwhile, a new member of Adamsberg's team has ties to him from his childhood and is mysteriously involving himself in Adamsberg's personal life. Many fictional detectives have a quirky sidekick or two; Adamsberg has a whole department of them. It's part of what makes Vargas's novels so complex and satisfying to read, along with her superb plotting skills. This one kept me up till 3:30 am (even though the alarm goes off at 6:00). And another of my favourites - Susan Hill - has a brand new Simon Serailler novel out in June. Vows of Silence has a most delicious plotline. People are getting murdered in the small town of Lafferton, but the only thing in common between all the victims is that they've recently gotten married. (I haven't read this - but wouldn't be surprised if the bridesmaid did it!). A new British writer I'm eyeing is Nigel McCrery, who in Still Waters, has created a detective who suffers from synaesthesia, a neurological condition that causes him to "taste" sound. And I've already heard from one librarian thrilled that a fourth Matthew Shardlake novel will be coming this spring. Revelation by C.J. Sansom will be out in May. His mysteries are set in the Tudor period and feature a hunchbacked lawyer.

I love Nordic crime and am a fan of Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indridason and Karin Fossum. Fossum's latest is called Broken and the plot sounds like fun - an author has her house broken into - by no less than one of her characters! And I've just started reading a new Norweigan discovery - Jo Nesbo, whose latest, Nemesis, begins with a tense bank robbery.

Michael Dibdin sadly passed away last year but if you're a fan of crime set in Italy, NYRB has recently brought back into print Carlo Emilio Gadda's That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana, (sounds like the title of a Noel Coward song, doesn't it?) featuring Detective Ciccio who investigates the murder of a woman in an apartment building in Rome and discovers that all of the building's residents are connected to the case. I love the book's concluding description: "Unquestionably, it is a work of universal significance and protean genius: a rich social novel, a comic opera, an act of political resistance, a blazing feat of baroque wordplay, and a haunting story of life and death. Can't really ask for more than that, can you? Also check out the work of Leonardo Sciascia.

Lahring has long been recommending Michelle Wan's "Death in the Dordogne" series as much for the locale and the descriptions of food as for the mystery. The next in the series is A Twist of Orchids. She's also a fan of Lisa Unger whose latest, Black Out, comes out in May. Unger may be a bit too creepy for me though. As is Japanese author Natsuo Kirino, but my colleagues are full of praise for her. She's known for her edgy portrayals of women's lives in contemporary Japan (see her previous work, Grotesque, which comes out in paperback in February - great cover, huh - or Out). So I may give one of these or her new novel, Real World a try.

It wouldn't be a new publishing season if there wasn't a new Alexander McCall Smith mystery out. The latest in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective series is The Miracle at Speedy Motors. Finally, I'm intrigued by an upcoming mystery called An Expert in Murder: A New Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey by Nicola Upson - the first in a series with the famous crime novelist actually solving cases in the 1930s. Tey's The Daughter of Time is one of my favourite books.

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