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    Friday, July 19, 2024

    5 mystery novels to savor this summer

    This season brings a wonderful array of mystery novels from beloved authors and some who are sure to become so. Amid the murder and mayhem, there’s history, far-flung locales — and even love.

    1. ‘Close to Death,’ by Anthony Horowitz

    Just when you thought Horowitz couldn’t further stretch his boundary-bending Daniel Hawthorne detective series, he concocts yet another way to involve readers in his story.

    Here we peer over Horowitz’s shoulder as he writes about one of Hawthorne’s past cases. Hawthorne in turn is watching over Horowitz’s shoulder, trying to keep him in the dark. The case involved the murder of a resident in a gated community; the victim was universally loathed by the neighbors, giving them all the same motive.

    As always, one of this series’ most entertaining elements is the meta-humor sparked by Horowitz’s brilliant decision to make himself one of the two main characters, playing a rather dim Dr. Watson to Hawthorne’s exceedingly clever Sherlock Holmes.

    2. ‘Missing White Woman,’ by Kellye Garrett

    Garrett’s novel opens with a romantic getaway gone awry. Bree Wright awakens in her luxury rental apartment to find a dead woman in the foyer and her boyfriend, Tyler, gone. The situation worsens when police identify the corpse as a missing White woman; both Bree and Tyler are Black, and Tyler’s disappearance makes him the leading suspect for the slaying. Meanwhile, Bree also is under police scrutiny as a possible suspect because she served time for drug possession — despite her insistence that she was framed. Bree, who believes Tyler is innocent, desperately searches for him while trying to find the real killer.

    The murder becomes a racially charged cause célèbre on nationwide social media, putting Bree under further pressure to quickly solve the crime.

    3. ‘Circle in the Water,’ by Marcia Muller

    It’s been nearly three years since Marcia Muller published a new book in her acclaimed Sharon McCone series, but her latest mystery is evidence that Muller, regarded as the “mother” of the hard-boiled American female private eye, remains a master.

    Here, Muller details how McCone is hired by a group of homeowners, each of whom has a house on one of San Francisco’s more than 200 privately owned streets. The homeowners are concerned about vandalism and want McCone and her private-investigation agency to find the culprits. As McCone digs deeper into the case, she recognizes that the pranks are just cover for far more serious crimes — and her life is threatened.

    Fans of the Sharon McCone books will welcome this latest installment, but newcomers to the series also will enjoy Muller’s elegant writing and McCone’s many-faceted character.

    4. ‘The Accidental Joe,’ by Tom Straw

    Suspense, humor and romance meld beautifully in Straw’s latest. Celebrity chef Sebastian Pike reluctantly agrees to allow the CIA to use his TV show, “Hangry Globe,” as a cover for an espionage operation.

    The CIA vows that Pike won’t be in any danger, and in fact, officials jokingly call him their MVB — “most valuable bystander.” But Pike, working in the south of France, quickly discovers the flimsiness of that promise when he’s targeted by a terrorist group out to foil the CIA’s plan, which involves safely extricating a valuable double agent from Russia. Pike’s only consolation is a CIA operative who is assigned to act as the show’s producer so she can keep an eye on him while figuring out how to use the show to execute the agency’s rescue mission.

    The story is peppered with much food and wine talk and, though much darker, is reminiscent of Peter Mayle’s marvelous quartet of Sam Levitt spy capers.

    5. ‘A Nest of Vipers,’ by Harini Nagendra

    In this third volume of the Bangalore Detectives Club series, Das, the star magician at the Maximilian Circus, vanishes — for real — in the midst of his latest act.

    His teen son asks Kaveri Murthy to find him. Concerned that Das might have been murdered, Kaveri nevertheless agrees to investigate, despite warnings from the local British and Indian police to stay out of it. The authorities are on high alert because the impending January 1922 visit of Edward, Prince of Wales, has sparked protests by the Indian nationalists who want to end British rule.

    As they search for Das, the intrepid Kaveri and her detectives become entangled in a web of political intrigue that threatens to turn deadly.

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