Read your way around the world: New mystery and crime novels

Three world mysteries set against a backdrop of the Venice canals

If I were not King of France, I would choose to be a citizen of Venice.

Henry III of France

Location is of the utmost importance to many crime and thriller novels, and this month’s selection is no exception. Many authors in the genre treat a novel’s location almost like an extra character — think of Rebus’s Edinburgh or Inspector Morse’s Oxford, or even Inspector Montalbano‘s setting of a fictitious Sicilian town (heavily based on the author’s own hometown of Porto Empedocle).

The atmospheric labyrinthine city of Venice and its canals are at the core of one such pick this month — The angels of Venice, by Philip Gwynne Jones. Jones is actually a resident of the city, and he has weaved his knowledge of its architecture, art, politics and rich history into a haunting thriller set in modern times. The background for the mystery is the devastating floods of 2019 — which flooded nearly 85% of the city, causing death and millions of euros worth of damage. It is into these real-life events that Philip Gwynne Jones places his fictional victim, a dead art historian floating in an antiquarian bookshop. Mystery and intrigue follows.

Also in this month’s selection is another new translation of Seishi Yokomizo’s famous crime novel Death on Gokumon Island, regarded by many as the pinnacle of his work. The novel is a locked room mystery, and is said to be loosely based on And then there were none by Agatha Christie. Also keep a look out below for two new Aotearoa / New Zealand crime novels — Surveillance by Riley Chance (set in suburban New Zealand), and One heart one spade by Alistair Luke (set in our very own Wellington). Lastly, see if you can spot a mystery novel below set in ancient Ireland circa AD 672.

The angels of Venice / Jones, Philip Gwynne
“It’s the night of 12 November 2019. The worst flooding in 50 years hits the city of Venice. And the body of Dr Jennifer Whiteread – a British art historian, specialising in the depiction of angels in Venetian painting – is found floating in a flooded antique bookshop. As the local police struggle to restore order to the city, Nathan Sutherland sets out to discover the truth behind Whiteread’s death. The trail leads to the ‘Markham Foundation’, a charity working to preserve the ancient city. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Death on Gokumon Island / Yokomizo, Seishi
” Detective Kosuke Kindaichi arrives on the remote Gokumon Island bearing tragic news–the son of one of the island’s most important families has died on a troop transport ship bringing him back home after the Second World War. But Kindaichi has not come merely as a messenger–with his last words, the dying man warned that his three step-sisters’ lives would now be in danger. The scruffy detective is determined to get to the bottom of this mysterious prophesy, and to protect the three women if he can. As Kindaichi attempts to unravel the island’s secrets, a series of gruesome murders begins. He investigates, but soon finds himself in mortal danger .” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Surveillance / Chance, Riley
“Journalist Grace Marks, needing a story to boost her career and finances, is intrigued by a surge in minor crime in New Zealand suburbs. She discovers it’s organised, but why? Her investigations lead her to Will Manilow, CEO of Erebus Optics, whose security company uses innovative technology from America. Manilow’s business is booming but he’s suspicious of his American owner’s motives. While searching through their internal website he stumbles over a document that outlines what they are planning, and what’s at stake.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

One heart one spade / Luke, Alistair
“Wellington, December 1977. Felicity Daniels is missing, and a murdered drug dealer has complicated things for Detective Lucas Cole. Around him the Criminal Investigation Branch starts to unravel. As the questions surface, Cole starts to wonder if one of their own is responsible. New bonds form, and old ones wilt under the pressure. Facts become fictions and fictions become facts, the most trusted becoming the most likely. With his own relationship on the rocks, Lucas is led down a path he might regret as he negotiates the personal and the professional to find both Felicity and his own soul. One Heart, One Spade is a compelling crime story about family, love and loss in 1970s New Zealand.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Death of a heretic : a mystery of ancient Ireland / Tremayne, Peter
“Ireland. AD 672. The abbey of Muman at Imleach Iubhair is being renovated when its guest house burns to the ground. There is one fatality: Bishop Brodulf of Luxovium. Sister Fidelma is asked by Abbot Cuán to investigate the unfortunate incident and soon finds that the bishop had been stabbed to death before the fire had even started. Thrown into a world of treachery and jealousy, where religious beliefs are vehemently disputed, Fidelma and her companions, Eadulf and Enda, face a barrier of deceit…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dear little corpses / Upson, Nicola
September, 1939. As the mass evacuation takes place across Britain, thousands of children leave London for the countryside, but when a little girl vanishes without trace, the reality of separation becomes more desperate and more deadly for those who love her. In the chaos and uncertainty of war, Josephine struggles with the prospect of change. As a cloud of suspicion falls across the small Suffolk village she has come to love, the conflict becomes personal, and events take a dark and sinister turn..” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

A botanist’s guide to parties and poisons / Khavari, Kate
“Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin. Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The fall / Blok, Rachael
“On Good Friday, the verger of St Albans cathedral was supposed to be preparing the Easter service. Instead he discovers a man lying dead, fallen from the famous fifty-foot-high spire. Did he jump, or was he pushed? For DCI Maarten Jansen, it’s a simple case of suspected suicide. Until a stranger, Willow, who witnessed the jump, prompts a deeper investigation into a long-buried past, involving a mental hospital, a pregnant woman, and fifty years of silence. As Willow’s own family history entwines with the case, Jaansen starts to wonder how everything is connected.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

“Life isn’t a loan; it is a payment fraud”: Recent crime and mystery books

happy old school GIF by Feliks Tomasz Konczakowski

Life isn’t a loan; it is a payment fraud. – Antti Tuomainen, The Rabbit Factor

A magician who also doubles as a  detective, two mysteries that involve libraries and a different take on the world of Sherlock Holmes — you can find all of these in this month’s selection of recently acquired crime and mystery titles.

Included in our selection this month as well, is Antti Tuomainen’s The rabbit factor — a quirky, witty, and darkly humorous Scandi Noir outing that revolves around an insurance mathematician who inherits an adventure park, and features (at various points) both a giant mechanical rabbit and a lot of debt to loan sharks.

Amusement and adventure parks are of course popular around the world, and intriguing settings in their own right. They evolved from Medieval European fairs and pleasure gardens, but probably gained the form we are more familiar with in the 18th and 19th centuries, when mechanical rides, such as the steam-powered carousel, came into play. Disneyland, one of the most famous amusement parks in the world, opened in 1955 and expanded the popular imagination even further.

Helsinki, where Antti Tuomainen was born, boasts its very own amusement park called Linnanmäki. Linnanmäki opened in 1950 and is run as a non-profit organisation, with all monies collected being passed on to children’s charities. Some of the attractions it boasts include: a wooden roller coaster, a carousel built in 1896, a river rapids ride,  a Ferris wheel  and various spinning rides. In total Linnanmäki has 43 rides and is visited by over one million visitors annually. So far it has contributed over 120 million euros to the charities it supports.

So — some interesting background to one of our titles this month. And here they all are:

The rabbit factor / Tuomainen, Antti
“What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal. And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back. But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Death and the conjuror / Mead, Tom
“In 1930s London, celebrity psychiatrist Anselm Rees is discovered dead in his locked study, and there seems to be no way that a killer could have escaped unseen. There are no clues, no witnesses, and no evidence of the murder weapon. Stumped by the confounding scene, the Scotland Yard detective on the case calls on retired stage magician-turned-part-time sleuth Joseph Spector. For who better to make sense of the impossible than one who traffics in illusions? Spector has a knack for explaining the inexplicable, but even he finds that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The woman in the library : a novel / Gentill, Sulari
“The beautifully ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is completely silent one weekday morning, until a woman’s terrified scream echoes through the room. Security guards immediately appear and instruct everyone inside to stay put until they determine there is no threat. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers who had been sitting in the reading room get to chatting and quickly become friendly. Harriet, Marigold, Whit, and Caine each have their own reasons for being in the reading room that morning–and it just happens that one of them may turn out to be a murderer. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Silence in the library / Schellman, Katharine
“London, 1815. Lily Adler is settling into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. One morning Lily arrives to find Lady Wyatt’s husband, Sir Charles, has died. All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night, but Bow Street constable Simon Page suspects foul play. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, Lily and Simon learn anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi … until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The return of Faraz Ali / Ahmad, Aamina
“Not since childhood has Faraz returned to the Mohalla, Lahore’s infamous walled inner city, where women still pass down the profession of courtesan to their daughters. But he still remembers the day he was abducted from the home he shared with his mother and sister there, at the direction of his powerful father, who wanted to give him a chance at a respectable life. Now Wajid, once more dictating his fate from afar, has sent Faraz back to Lahore, installing him as head of the Mohalla police station and charging him with a mission: to cover up the violent death of a young kanjari. It should be a simple assignment to carry out in a marginalized community, but for the first time in his career, Faraz finds himself unable to follow orders. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Observations by gaslight : stories from the world of Sherlock Holmes / Faye, Lyndsay
“A new collection of Sherlockian tales that shows the Great Detective and his partner, Watson, as their acquaintances saw them. How well did those who worked with Sherlock Holmes know him? The peripheral characters — Irene Adler, Geoffrey Lestrade; witnesses to the cases; even his cook and housekeeper, Martha Hudson — what did they think of the man and his methods? Discover aspects of Holmes and Watson that you have never seen before.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Kalmann / Schmidt, Joachim B.
“Kalmann Odinsson is the self-appointed Sheriff of his town. Day by day, he treks the wide plains which surround the almost deserted village, hunts Arctic foxes and lays bait in the sea — to catch the gigantic Greenland sharks he turns into the Icelandic fermented delicacy, hákarl. There is nothing anyone needs to worry about. Kalmann has everything under control. Inside his head, however, the wheels sometimes spin backwards. One winter, after he discovers a pool of blood in the snow, the swiftly unfolding events threaten to overwhelm him. But he knows that his native wisdom and pure-hearted courage will see him through. There really is no need to worry. How can anything go wrong with Kalmann in charge? He knows everything a man needs to know about life – well, almost.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rock of ages : a Junior Bender mystery / Hallinan, Timothy
“Four of Dressler’s old gangster colleagues have put together a national tour of once-popular rock bands they own a piece of: three nights of concerts by guys (and a few gals) who were big shots back in the 1960s and 1970s, and who are now hoping for one more gasp of glory with this nostalgia exhibition. The Rock of Ages tour has proved itself to be anything but a love fest: plenty of the bandmates have been feuding for forty years, and-perhaps unsurprisingly-drugs and bad behavior have created health, wellness, and legal problems for the musicians and managers. Can Junior recover Dressler’s money, prevent a murder, talk his daughter out of pursuing a life of crime, and somehow survive all that bad music?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Newly acquired Crime & Mystery titles

“Photography, like alcohol, should only be allowed to those who can do without it.”
– Walter Sickert

As is often the case, there is a rich and wide variety of newly-acquired crime and mystery titles in this month’s list; in fact, books to suit every crime and mystery taste.

From Murder at the National Gallery by Jim Eldridge, a title in which the real-life artist Walter Sickert is suspected for murdering an artist’s model and perhaps implicated in the Jack the Ripper series of murders. The premise of this novel is not without some foundation – several researchers have linked Sickert to these crimes; indeed, crime writer Patricia Cornwell even bought several Sickert paintings, hoping to find DNA in them that would directly link him to the cases. But whilst Sickert did have a morbid fascination with the killer, even producing a painting called The Ripper’s Bedroom, these theories have largely been discounted. At the other end of the scale, we have The Bangalore Detective’s Club; a perfect read if you are a fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. This month’s list also includes two New Zealand crime novels – Hives of Lies, featuring accountant Claire Connor who uses her sleuthing and accountant skills to solve what initially appears to be deaths caused by bee stings, and The Final Call – a gritty crime tale set in Auckland in 1979 from a twice-nominated finalist of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. With so much on offer, there really is something for everyone.

Murder at the national gallery / Eldridge, Jim
“1897, London. The capital is shocked to learn that the body of a woman has been found at the National Gallery, eviscerated in a manner that recalls all too strongly the exploits of the infamous Jack the Ripper. Daniel Wilson and Abigail Fenton are contacted by a curator of the National Gallery for their assistance. The dead woman, an artist’s model and lady of the night, had links to artist Walter Sickert, who was a suspect during the Ripper’s spree of killings. Scotland Yard have arrested Sickert on suspicion of this fresh murder but it is not the last… Copycat murders of the Ripper’s crimes implicate the artist who loves to shock, but Sickert insists that he is innocent. Who would want to frame him? ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Bangalore Detectives Club / Nagendra, Harini
“When clever, headstrong Kaveri moves to Bangalore to marry handsome young doctor Ramu, she’s resigned herself to a quiet life. But that all changes the night of the party at the Century Club, where she escapes to the garden for some peace and quiet–and instead spots an uninvited guest in the shadows. Half an hour later, the party turns into a murder scene. When a vulnerable woman is connected to the crime, Kaveri becomes determined to save her and launches a private investigation to find the killer, tracing his steps from an illustrious brothel to an Englishman’s mansion. She soon finds that sleuthing in a sari isn’t as hard as it seems when you have a talent for mathematics, a head for logic, and a doctor for a husband… .” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Hive of lies / Robinson, Diane
“Who knew accounting could be dangerous? Could Claire Connor’s first day at her new job get any worse? Hostile staff, an embarrassing skirt incident … But then the body of her friend Anne is found at a honey-producer client, apparently stung to death. Anne wasn’t due to start the audit for a few days, so why was she there? When another colleague dies in unusual circumstances, Claire’s firm finds itself under siege from the media, and losing clients. Accident prone and inclined to recklessness, can Claire uncover what really happened to her colleagues without suffering a similar fate?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The final call / Shieff, Jen
“Who is out to destroy Carmel O’Sullivan and her sister Tess, top call-girls in Rita Saunders’ gentlemen’s club? Who will be next? When Tess is murdered and younger sister Maxine is among the passengers on the ill-fated Air New Zealand flight to Mt Erebus, Carmel feels God has turned away from her family. Secrets emerge as the police investigate. The spotlight shifts incessantly. Hungarian immigrant Istvan Ziegler loves Carmel, offering her the safety and respectability she craves, but he has to compete with Rita for Carmel’s affection and commitment.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This is the night they come for you / Goddard, Robert
“On a stifling afternoon at Police HQ in Algiers, Superintendent Taleb, coasting towards retirement, with not even an air-conditioned office to show for his long years of service, is handed a ticking time bomb of a case which will take him deep into Algeria’s troubled past and its fraught relationship with France. To his dismay, he is assigned to work with Agent Hidouchi, an intimidating representative of the country’s feared secret service, who makes it clear she intends to call the shots. They are instructed to pursue a former agent, now on the run after twenty years in prison for his part in a high-level corruption scandal…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The vanishing type / Adams, Ellery
“When a deputy asks for help with a wedding proposal and a man connected to his future wife is found dead, Nora Pennington and her fellow readers investigate the connection to the woman’s past and the secret she is hiding from everyone.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook. 

 

 

One-shot Harry / Phillips, Gary
“Los Angeles, 1963: African American Korean War veteran Harry Ingram earns a living as a news photographer and occasional process server: chasing police radio calls and dodging baseball bats. With racial tensions running high on the eve of Martin Luther King’s Freedom Rally, Ingram risks ending up one of the victims at every crime scene he photographs. When Ingram hears a call over the police scanner to the scene of a deadly automobile accident, he recognizes the vehicle described as belonging to his good friend and old army buddy, the white jazz trumpeter Ben Kingslow, with whom he’d only just reconnected……” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Murder on Madison Square / Thompson, Victoria
” Former policeman Frank Malloy is frustrated when a woman requests his private detective services to implicate her wealthy husband in adultery, the only legal grounds for divorce in New York state. Although Mrs. Bing seems genuinely distressed about her marriage and desperate to end it, she refuses to tell Frank the reason she absolutely must divorce her husband and admits she has no legal grounds. Frank explains he won’t manufacture evidence for her and sends her on her way. A few days later, the newspapers report that millionaire Alvin Bing has been found dead, pinned beneath one of the wheels of his very own motorcar…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The investigator Kosuke Kindaichi mysteries

“Why is it that all men like to lie?”

― Seishi Yokomizo, The Village of Eight Graves

It is widely said in the book world that one of the genres of translated fiction that gains a wide and popular readership worldwide is that of crime and mystery detective novels. It seems that crime novels have a universal appeal.

And in this month’s newly acquired crime and mystery novels we have an excellent example of this, in the form of the The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo. The Village of Eight Graves is the first English translation of the third instalment of the most popular murder mystery series ever in Japan. Originally published in 1949, the investigator Kosuke Kindaichi books were a Japanese smash hit phenomenon and eventually ran to seventy-six titles, spawned numerous television, film and theatre adaptations and sold five million copies of the series in Japan alone. Indeed, many people regard the first book in the series, The Honjin Murders, as the finest Japanese detective novel ever written and now, thanks to its much-delayed translated release, we can find out for ourselves what the excitement was all about. We’ve also included a few other recently acquired crime and mystery novels that caught our attention; for more details read on below.

The village of eight graves / Yokomizo, Seishi
“Nestled deep in the mist-shrouded mountains, The Village of Eight Graves takes its name from a bloody legend: in the Sixteenth Century eight samurais, who had taken refuge there along with a secret treasure, were murdered by the inhabitants, bringing a terrible curse down upon their village. Centuries later a mysterious young man named Tatsuya arrives in town, bringing a spate of deadly poisonings in his wake. The inimitably scruffy and brilliant Kosuke Kindaichi investigates.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Murder most fancy / McCourt, Kellie
“Home for just 48 hours, billion-heiress Indigo-Daisy-Violet-Amber Hasluck-Royce-Jones-Bombberg has already committed two  felonies, reignited a childhood feud, been (possibly) humiliated (again) by her first love, and fallen over a nameless homeless dead man.  Grandmother’s kindly neighbour, Dame Elizabeth Holly, wants to spring the anonymous corpse from the coroner’s freezer. She’s convinced Indigo and her parolee personal assistant Esmerelda can unearth the man’s identity, thus allowing his burial. Meanwhile Grandmother wants the unlikely duo to locate Dame Holly’s possibly missing gentleman friend… ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Disappearance of a scribe / Stabenow, Dana
“After two Alexandrian fishermen discover a skeleton anchored by a cement weight, Queen Cleopatra charges Tetisheri, her new Eye of Isis, to uncover the identities of the victim and the killers.47 B.C. Two Alexandrian fishermen come across the body of a skeleton floating upright at the bottom of the sea, anchored in place by a cement weight around his feet. In Alexandria’s rough-and-tumble construction trade they call that ‘being fitted with a pair of Rhakotis sandals’ and what’s worse, he is the second such victim in two years. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Darkness falls : a Kate Marshall thriller / Bryndza, Robert
“Kate Marshall’s investigation into a journalist’s disappearance sends her down an unexpectedly twisted path in a riveting thriller by the author of Shadow Sands. Kate Marshall’s fledgling PI agency takes off when she and her partner, Tristan Harper, are hired for their first big case. It’s a cold one. Twelve years before, journalist Joanna Duncan disappeared after exposing a political scandal. Most people have moved on. Joanna’s mother refuses to let go. When Kate and Tristan gain access to the original case files, they revisit the same suspects and follow the same leads–but not to the same dead ends. Among Joanna’s personal effects, Kate discovers the names of two young men who also vanished without a trace.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Jane Austen’s lost letters / Cleland, Jane K
“Antiques appraiser Josie Prescott is in the midst of filming a segment for her new television show. Josie’s Antiques, when the assistant director interrupts to let her know she has a visitor. Veronica Sutton introduces herself as an old friend of Josie’s father, who had died twenty years earlier. Veronica hands Josie a brown paper-wrapped package. Mystified, Josie opens the package, and gasps when she sees what’s inside: a notecard bearing her name–in her father’s handwriting–and a green leather box. Inside the box are two letters in transparent plastic sleeves. The first bears the salutation, “My dear Cassandra,” the latter, “Dearest Fanny.” Both are signed “Jane Austen.”  (Adapted from Catalogue)

Silent parade / Higashino, Keigo
“A popular young girl disappears without a trace, her skeletal remains discovered three years later in the ashes of a burnt-out house. And this isn’t the first time he’s been suspected of the murder of a young girl: nearly twenty years ago he was tried and released due to lack of evidence. Chief Inspector Kusanagi of the Homicide Division of the Tokyo Police worked both cases.  Chief Inspector Kusanagi turns once again to his college friend, Physics professor and occasional police consultant Manabu Yukawa, known as Detective Galileo, to help solve the string of seemingly impossible murders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Family business / Rozan, S. J
“The death of Chinatown’s most powerful mogul, a powerful Chinatown crime boss, thrusts private eye Lydia Chin and her partner Bill Smith into a world of double-dealing, murder, and real estate scandal . Choi has left the Tong headquarters building to his niece, who hires Lydia and her partner, Bill Smith, to accompany her to inspect it. The building is at the center of a tug-of-war between Chinatown preservation interests–including Lydia’s brother Tim–and a real estate developer who’s desperate to get his hands on it. Entering Choi’s private living quarters they find the murdered body of Choi’s chief lieutenant.  Can Lydia and Bill escape being caught in the crossfire?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Easter bonnet murder / Meier, Leslie
“Known for its cheerful staff and elaborate annual Easter Bonnet Contest, the Heritage House senior center regularly attracts new residents and positive press. But once the town’s retired librarian, Miss Julia Tilley, checks in to recover from an illness, Lucy sees a side of the facility that isn’t quite so perfect and pristine. And the place may soon be making headlines for different reasons following an unexplained disappearance . Gathering clues as flimsy as a half-eaten milk chocolate bunny, Lucy must discover what happened to Agnes–before her own story becomes another springtime tragedy left unsolved .” (Adapted from Catalogue)