New in crime fiction: page-turners by Cara Black, Walter Mosley and Denise Mina
Adam Woog's March crime-fiction column features new titles by Cara Black ("Murder in the Palais Royal"), Walter Mosley ("Known to Evil") and Denise Mina ("Still Midnight"). Black and Mosley have upcoming readings in the Seattle area.
Special to The Seattle Times
A trio of detectives — two of them private, one a policewoman — offer adventure in three very different cities this month.
"Murder in the Palais Royal" (Soho, 304 pp., $24) continues Cara Black's series about Aimée Leduc, a private eye whose jobs take her to different arrondissements of Paris, thus providing a reliably pleasurable serial guide and a parade of fashionable footwear, thanks to the well-shod Leduc.
Set in 1997 (hence references to francs, not euros, and to Chirac, not Sarkozy), the book kicks off when Leduc's professional partner is nearly killed by a woman disguised as Leduc, making her a prime suspect. (Her alibi, a handsome cad, weasels out of vouching for her — it turns out he's married and won't tell the cops they were together.)
The crime is connected somehow to a prison murder that was made to look like suicide, an unsolicited deposit in Leduc's bank account, and the death of a girl mixed up in blackmail. Black's tales can be a little thin on the rich history of her locales, but otherwise they're corkers.
Cara Black will sign "Murder in the Palais Royal" at noon on March 17 at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 117 Cherry St., Seattle; (206-587-5737, www.seattlemystery.com); and will read and sign "Murder in the Palais Royal" at 7 p.m. on March 17 at the Bellevue Regional Library, 1111 110th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, (425-450-1765, www.kcls.org/bellevue/)
Walter Mosley has retired his celebrated series about Easy Rawlins, the reluctant private eye and fixer whose history mirrored race relations in Los Angeles over the decades. In his place we now have Leonid McGill, ex-mob fixer turned private eye. McGill's change in profession was an attempt to find some kind of redemption for his troubled soul, something that it sorely needed after what McGill did for his mob bosses.
In "Known to Evil" (Riverhead, 326 pp., $25.95) the spirited and principled P.I. rises to the occasion for a thankless task: One of New York's most powerful kingmakers asks him — orders him, really — to find a young woman who has fled a murder scene.
There's a big problem, though: no one, the kingmaker included, will tell McGill who the girl is or why she resists finding. Mosley's invigorating, staccato prose and understanding of racial, moral and social subtleties are in full force here.
Walter Mosley will read from and sign "Known to Evil" at 7 p.m. April 2 at the Seattle Public Library's central branch (206-386-4636; www.spl.org). Sponsored by Elliott Bay Book Company (206-624-6600; www.elliottbaybook.com).
Thugs stage a home invasion in a blue-collar Glasgow neighborhood, insisting that its Pakistani owners turn over "Bob." The terrified victims have no idea who Bob might be. In the chaos, a woman is maimed — accidentally shot in the hand — and a frail, elderly man is kidnapped in place of the mysterious Bob.
That's the setup for Denise Mina's "Still Midnight" (Little, Brown, 344 pp., $24.99). As the kidnappers make increasingly outrageous demands for the return of the old man, demands the family can't fulfill, the book splits into parallel stories.
One concerns a growing bond between the terrified but passive hostage and one of the not-very-bright amateur criminals. The other concerns policewoman Alex Morrow, who tamps down her own volatility while chasing the criminals through thickets of barely concealed racism and a serious case of stupidity within the police force.
As in earlier books, Mina is adept at portraying Glasgow's blunt and often harsh nature — but also at finding sparks of humanity and humor in even the dumbest of criminals.
RIP: One of crime fiction's icons, multiple Edgar Award winner Dick Francis, died last month at 89. A Briton, Francis was a championship jockey and wartime pilot before turning to writing. Most of his 42 books were set in the author's beloved world of horse racing, with research help coming from his wife, Mary, and (after her death) from their son, Felix.
Another popular mystery writer, Ralph McInerny, died in January at 80. McInerny was a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame University for 53 years and the author of over 50 novels, many of them starring his amateur sleuth, Father Dowling.
Seattle writer Adam Woog's column on crime fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times