August and September have been great months for mysteries. Three standouts I got to curl up with featured two old favorites, and one new favorite. We will go in 3-2-1 order – third in a series, second in a series, and first in what I hope is a new series.
“Dead Soon Enough” (Juniper Song book #3) by Steph Cha
published August 11, 2015
I love Cha’s flawed young heroine Juniper Song and am always pleased to see a new entry in this excellent series. “Dead Soon Enough,” is the third title featuring Song, who has evolved from wayward Ivy League dropout to officially licensed private investigator (like her hero Philip Marlowe) working for her P.I. mentors at the firm Lindley & Flores. Song is hired by Rubina Gasparian to shadow her cousin Lusig who is carrying a child as a surrogate for her. She is concerned that stress and despair over the recent disappearance of Lusig’s best friend Nora, an active blogger and vocal activist, may endanger her and the baby’s health. It doesn’t take long for the investigation to widen and complicate, with Song’s noir-ish inner monologue moving the story to its complex resolution. If you haven’t met Juniper Song, put her on your list of sleuths to get to know.
“Two Bronze Pennies” (Tom Harper Mystery #2) by Chris Nickson
Severn House Publishers
August 1, 2015
Chris Nickson has been producing excellent Leeds-based historical mysteries for a while now and I have yet to be disappointed. His first series set in the first half of the 18th centurty featured Constable Richard Notingham. “Two Bronze Pennies” features a somewhat more modern Leeds crime solver – Detective Inspector Tom Harper. Harper’s second outing (after 2014’s “Gods of Gold”) opens on Christmas Eve 1890 with the detective content at home with his new wife looking forward to having the holiday off. Their cozy evening is interrupted when Harper is summoned to the scene of a murder. The victim, a young man, is a resident of the Leylands, a poverty-stricken Jewish neighborhood of Leeds. Harper and his partner Billy Reed must race to find a killer or killers that might be striking out against London’s immigrant Jews before the young men of the community, many second-generation, grow too impatient and take matters into their own hands.
Nickson’s evocations of historic Leeds are one reason I never miss a new Nottingham or Harper mystery. The excellent development of characters and relationships over the course of a series is another. Add a top-notch police procedural and you have a book I can most definitely recommend to lovers of historical mysteries.
A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Mystery) by Deanna Raybourn
September 1, 2015
Deanna Raybourn’s new heroine Veronica Speedwell is a pure delight – sensible, resourceful, independent, with an adventurer’s heart, a quick wit, and a sharp tongue. Set in 1887, the amateur lepidopterist (butterfly specialist and collector) has buried her last living relative, a spinster aunt who, along with a second aunt, was her guardian since she was a baby.
Hers was a peripatetic childhood with the aunts periodically and with little notice pulling up stakes for a new location. As an adult she does not let moss grow under her feet and has undertaken many solo expeditions to procure exotic butterfly specimens for wealthy sponsors. But soon after the funeral a near-kidnapping and the appearance of a man who claims to have known her mother convinces her to delay her next overseas adventure and instead lay low with a grumpy taxidermist named Stoker.
The mystery in “A Curious Beginning” is not overly complicated. The real enjoyment of this book comes from Veronica’s laugh-out-loud observations, and exhuberant – a bit exaggerated but not overdone – pluck. Raybourn has developed a promising team with Veronica and Stoker. I would recommend this to fans of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody.