Quick Review: THE MAID by Nita Prose (Harper/Ballantine)

ProseN-MaidUKHCAn intriguing mystery, starring an engaging protagonist

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?

But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between…

Molly is a dedicated, utterly focused maid at a boutique, exclusive hotel. Someone who struggles with social cues and reading others, she unwittingly becomes entangled in the strange goings-on at the Regency Grand Hotel. Through her eyes, we get an engaging, interesting view of society, relationships, and the motivations for murder. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: DOUBLE SOLITAIRE by Craig Nova (Arcade Crimewise)

NovaC-DoubleSolitaireUSIntroducing Quinn Farrell: Hollywood fixer

Quinn Farrell is a modern-day fixer in Los Angeles — he cleans up other people’s messes. Rich people’s messes. For a lot of money. He’s so good that he’s become indispensable to Hollywood moguls and he’s managed to construct a working moral framework so that he can live with himself. That is until a new neighbor moves next door, Rose Marie, who works with terminally ill teens. Against all his survival instincts, Farrell falls in love with Rose Marie and then her uncanny patients, who shine a spotlight into his soul.

When a client steps over the line and Farrell is hired to clean up after a reprehensible crime, his carefully constructed ethical house of cards comes crashing down. 

This is Craig Nova’s first crime novel, which introduces us to Hollywood/LA fixer, Quinn Farrell. Making a living cleaning up the (self-inflicted) messes made by the rich and famous, in Double Solitaire he’s introduced to the absolute worst that Hollywood can produce. An interesting introduction to a complicated new protagonist, this is a pretty good novel. Continue reading

Interview with T.A. WILLBERG

WillbergTA-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is T.A. Willberg?

I suppose I should call myself an author now but until four years ago, I was a full-time Chiropractor specialising in spinal deformities. Writing, other than for scientific papers and essays, just wasn’t a part of my life until I moved from my home country (South Africa) to live and work in Malta.

What else? I’m an outdoorsy, animal-loving introvert. I enjoy reading as much as writing, travelling as much as staying at home and chocolate as much as exercise.

Your new novel, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, will be published by Trapeze in May. It looks really intriguing: How would you introduce it to a potential reader. Is it part of a series?

Thanks! There’s a lot of genre-mixing going on in my novel so it’s always hard to describe, but I’ll give it a go: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a quirky locked-room murder mystery set in an alternative 1950’s London with elements of grounded fantasy and loads of steampunk gadgetry. Continue reading

Upcoming: THIEF OF SOULS/CITY OF ICE by Brian Klingborg (Minotaur/Headline)

KlingborgB-LF1-ThiefOfSoulsUSI spotted Brian Klingborg‘s upcoming novel in a catalogue a little while ago, and have been looking forward to reading it ever since. Earlier this week, I found the UK cover, so I decided to share the details here. Published in North America as Thief of Souls, and in the UK as City of Ice, it looks like an intriguing start to a new Chinese crime/mystery series. Here’s the synopsis:

The brutal murder of a young woman in a rural village in Northern China sends shockwaves all the way to Beijing — but seemingly only Inspector Lu Fei, living in exile in the small town, is interested in justice for the victim.

KlingborgB-LF1-CityOfIceUKLu Fei is a graduate of China’s top police college but he’s been assigned to a sleepy backwater town in northern China, where almost nothing happens and the theft of a few chickens represents a major crime wave. That is until a young woman is found dead, her organs removed, and joss paper stuffed in her mouth. The CID in Beijing — headed by a rising political star — is on the case but in an increasingly authoritarian China, prosperity and political stability are far more important than solving the murder of an insignificant village girl. As such, the CID head is interested in pinning the crime on the first available suspect rather than wading into uncomfortable truths, leaving Lu Fei on his own.

As Lu digs deeper into the gruesome murder, he finds himself facing old enemies and creating new ones in the form of local Communist Party bosses and corrupt business interests. Despite these rising obstacles, Lu remains determined to find the real killer, especially after he links the murder to other unsolved homicides. But the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he puts himself and his loved ones in danger.

Brian Klingborg’s first Inspector Lu Fei novel is due to be published on May 4th, 2021, in North America by Minotaur Books, as Thief of Souls; and in the UK by Headline as City of Ice.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: A MAN NAMED DOLL by Jonathan Ames (Mulholland/Pushkin Vertigo)

AmesJ-AManNamedDollUSIntroducing Happy “Hank” Doll, P.I.

Happy Doll is a charming, if occasionally inexpert, private detective living just one sheer cliff drop beneath the Hollywood sign with his beloved half-Chihuahua half-Terrier, George. A veteran of both the Navy and LAPD, Doll supplements his meager income as a P.I. by working through the night at a local Thai spa that offers its clients a number of special services. Armed with his sixteen-inch steel telescopic baton, biting dry humor, and just a bit of a hero complex, the ex-cop sets out to protect the women who work there from clients who have trouble understanding the word “no.”

Doll gets by just fine following his two basic rules: bark loudly and act first. But when things get out-of-hand with one particularly violent patron, even he finds himself wildly out of his depth, and then things take an even more dangerous twist when an old friend from his days as a cop shows up at his door with a bullet in his gut.

A Man Named Doll is more than just a fascinating introduction to one truly singular character, it is a highly addictive and completely unpredictable joyride through the sensuous and violent streets of LA.

This is the first novel by Jonathan Ames that I’ve read. It will not be the last. A noir-esque crime novel set in Los Angeles, it introduces readers to Happy “Hank” Doll: former veteran and LAPD officer, now a struggling private investigator. Over the course of a few days, Happy’s life is upended by a series of escalating, deadly encounters that threaten not only his own life, but those closest to him. A quickly-paced, enjoyable read. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides (Celadon/W&N)

MichaelidesA-MaidensUSThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides has been getting a fair amount of pre-publication buzz. It’s the author’s second novel (his debut was The Silent Patient). The synopsis suggests an intriguing campus thriller, and certainly piqued my interest:

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike-particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

MichaelidesA-MaidensUKMariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything-including her own life.

Alex Michaelides’s The Maidens is due to be published by Celadon Books in North America (June 15th) and W&N in the UK (June 10th). Looking forward to reading this.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram

Upcoming: VELVET WAS THE NIGHT by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)

MorenoGarciaS-VelvetWasTheNightUSLast year, Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s Mexican Gothic (justifiably) stormed all over the book charts. This year, the author returns with Velvet Was the Night, a mystery/noir/thriller novel set in 1970s Mexico. In addition to that great, eye-catching cover, the synopsis sounds suitably intriguing as well:

A riveting noir about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman that brings them together.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Really looking forward to reading this one. Velvet Was the Night is due to be published by Del Rey in North America and in the UK, on August 17th, 2021. New editions of the author’s The Beautiful Ones (April 27th) and Certain Dark Things (September 7th) are also due out this year, published by Tor Books.

Also on CR: Excerpt from Signal to Noise

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: POSSESSION by Katie Lowe (St. Martin’s Press)

LoweK-PossessionUSA true-crime podcast inches perilously close to the truth for Hannah…

The past haunts her. The present hunts her.

Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was brutally murdered in their home, and she (conveniently) doesn’t remember a thing about that night. But the police charged someone else—a stranger—and put him away for life. And Hannah packed up her six-year-old daughter and left London behind.

But now her hard-won countryside peace is threatened. Conviction, a viral true crime podcast known for getting cases reopened and old verdicts overturned, has turned its attention to Hannah’s husband’s murder for its new season. They say police framed the man who was found guilty, and that Hannah has more suspicious secrets than just her memory loss: a history of volatility; citations at the clinic where she worked as a psychiatrist; dependencies on alcohol and pills; and a familicidal grandmother, locked away in a Gothic insane asylum until her death. As Hannah loses the trust of everyone she loves, the only person she feels she can confide in is a former colleague, Darcy, who’s come back into her life—but who may have motives of her own. But Hannah can’t tell even Darcy her deepest secret: that she’s still tormented by the memory of her husband and the crater he carved through her life.

Possession is the new novel by the author of the much-buzzed-about The Furies. I thought it looked interesting, and I’ve been seeing a fair number of suspense/crime novels that feature a true-crime podcast at its centre. While I haven’t listened to many, my partner loves My Favorite Murder and a couple of others, so I thought it might be interesting to see how Lowe incorporates that cultural phenomenon into the novel. Turns out, the author does it very well. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Excerpt: SPOILS OF THE DEAD by Dana Stabenow (Head of Zeus)

StabenowD-LC5-SpoilsOfTheDeadToday, Head of Zeus has provided us with an excerpt from Spoils of the Dead, the fifth book in Dana Stabenow‘s Liam Campbell series. Due out next week, let’s start with the synopsis:

It’s Labor Day in Blewestown, Alaska, and it seems most of the town’s thirty-five hundred residents have turned out to celebrate – or to cause trouble. Not Liam Campbell, though. He’s checking out the local watering hole in his new town. He’s finally made it out of Newenham and is ready for a quiet life with his wife.

He’s been in town for about a week when an archaeologist invites him out to his dig site outside of town. He’s on the verge of a momentous discovery, one he says will be worth the State Trooper’s time.

Two days later, the archaeologist is dead, murdered on his own dig site. And Liam Campbell is about to learn that he’s traded one troubled bush town for another.

Now, on with the excerpt!

Continue reading

Excerpt: THE PACKAGE by Sebastian Fitzek (Head of Zeus)

FitzekS-PackageUKNext week (February 4th), Head of Zeus are due to publish the latest novel from Sebastian Fitzek in the UK: The Package.

Fitzek is one of Germany’s most successful and popular thriller/suspense novelists, with a growing fanbase around the world. This latest novel, translated by Jamie Bulloch, sounds particularly interesting and chilling. Here’s the synopsis:

All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.

Emma’s the one that got away.

The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the barber’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.

Or she thinks she was.

The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.

Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.

And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.

She has no idea what she’s let into her home.

The Package is due to be published by Head of Zeus on February 4th in the UK. The excerpt begins after the jump.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Continue reading