Staff Favorites from the August Newsletter
Wondering what the Mysterious Bookshop staff is reading these days? Here are our picks for April, as published in our August Newsletter.
Atkins’s versatility and professionalism as an author are exemplified by the fact that he publishes two books a year: this spring it was his sixth novel in Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, and now it’s his seventh to feature Quinn Colson, his own creation. Most mystery readers know Spenser but if you aren’t familiar with Colson, the cigar-smoking, turkey-hunting, Army Ranger-turned-North Mississippi lawman, it’s time you got acquainted. Quinn is the sheriff of Tibbehah County, a fictional region east of Oxford and crime writing’s equivalent of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha. He’s doing his best to clean up the county but a cast of outlaws and misfits always seems to get in the way. In The Fallen, Colson takes on a crew of bank robbers in Donald Trump masks who terrorize small town banks across the Mid-South while quoting the president’s “locker room talk” to threaten their victims. While the investigation develops, Colson gets pulled into a local feud between a truck stop brothel owner and a puritanical county supervisor who wants to make things “like they used to be.” In the in-between time, Colson hunts with his nephew, listens to Elvis with his mother, and courts a new love interest. The result is great fun, another excellent installment in one of the finest series set in the contemporary South. $27.00.
These days, it's easy to forget that Sherlock Holmes is a character created by a single author. Thanks to a seemingly endless supply of spin-offs, parodies, films, and scholarship, Holmes has become a household name, a kind of authorless mythical presence as often identified with Benedict Cumberbatch as he is with Arthur Conan Doyle. Confronted with the wealth of material in the present, it's hard to imagine a linear development of Sherlockiana spreading out from the original source, and tracing the character's proliferation through popular culture seems an insurmountable task; it is akin to the work of the etymologist who boldly endeavors to trace the rise of Romance languages from thier Latin roots. But, in From Holmes to Sherlock, Mattias Boström has done just that, beginning with the publication of the original stories and following various strands that sprung from those tales, including the work of fans across the globe to continue the life of the character in spite of efforts from the Doyle estate to suppress it. The result is a thorough, enjoyable work on Sherlock Holmes quite unlike other studies of the character; it bursts with historical detail, maintains a brisk pace throughout, and furthers our understanding of how the Holmes we know came to be. Personally, I've never read a work of literary criticism that is such a page-turner. Sherlock Holmes fans will devour it, as will any reader interested in the journey of a character from literary phenomenon to cultural icon. $28.00.
Ryan Gattis’s Safe is the rare thriller that maintains a pulse-pounding pace without sacrificing an ounce of character or heart. Ricky “Ghost” Mendoza Jr., a former criminal and drug addict, now works as a freelance safecracker for the DEA in Los Angeles. When confronted with a mammoth stash of cash, he enacts his long-fomenting plan to grab some for himself and become a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the criminally rich to pay off the mortgages of families on the verge of eviction. But no good deed goes unpunished, especially when it involves stealing millions from a drug cartel, and Ghost quickly finds himself teetering on a tightrope between pursuers on both sides of the law.
The strength of Safe lies in the details. From cracking safes, to avoiding police surveillance, the backdrop of L.A. gang culture is described with a visceral sense of knowing, and every character is rich and humanized, no matter how despicable their actions. Gattis keeps the tension building throughout, while slowly revealing the heartbreaking backstory that made Ghost the unlikely champion of the people willing to risk it all. To be signed. $26.00.
Detective Emile Cinq-Mars and his wife are vacationing in New Hampshire when scandal rocks the local university. A coed is found dead, a close friend of Emile’s niece. But why was her body so carefully arranged in death? Then, a professor shot in his own home, a cryptic note found upon his person. Another murder where the slain professor was known to have been on the scene raises more questions given the university’s curriculum of training in the art of spyhood. The French-Canadian sleuth is out of his jurisdiction but not out of his element and he proves adept at investigating under the radar, so to speak. The local authorities understandably resent outside interference in murder cases, but at the same time Cinq-Mars’ reputation precedes him and after all, who wouldn’t want assistance in such a grave matter? Ostensibly retired, Emile Cinq-Mars is back in the thick of a puzzle--just where he likes to be. To be signed. $25.99.
A rich widower is shot to death and Inspector Montalbano is called to the scene in the latest of this wonderful series. The list of suspects grows when a cache of photographs is discovered showing the victim with various very young women. A missing will, compromising letters, a man living in a cave, the victim's beautiful daughter, and a visit from Livia. This would be enough for any Inspector, but this being Montalbano there's always time for a lunch at Enzo's and a walk along the beach. PB. $16.00
A young woman, newly arrived in New York from Italy, is waiting at the pier for her fiance to meet her. When he arrives she is gone. In the second book of the series, Doctor Genevieve Summerford is drawn into the nightmare world of the white slave trade and The Black Hand. Ms. Overton deftly weaves historical detail into a riveting tale that is sadly all too timely. PB. $15.99.