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October 10, 2020
February 29 2020
First, my apologies. This is the issue of RTE I had ready to go on the last day of February this year. I didn't get to upload it as on that very day I found myself in the hospital from which I did not emerge for some considerable time. When I thought about what to do with it, I felt that it would be a pity to waste all the hard work the reviewers had gone to, despite the months-long delay. The original date was special in a way - it was due to come out on Leap Day, February 29, I think for the first time in our history. This date this weekend is not as rare, being Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, but still special and one I am especially happy to celebrate this year.
Now to the books: THE COMMITTEE, by Sterling Watson, is based on relatively recent historical events - the activities of a Florida investigative committee and how they impacted an English Department in a real Florida university. Though set sixty years ago, it still seemed sadly relevant to me and offered a compelling recollection of a decade that some people today may imagine was a happier time. But it is not only the past that carries warnings. It is also possible to look ahead, to the near future, to see what may lie in store. John Straley does in WHAT IS TIME TO A PIG?, set in a high tech prison in Alaska, sometime soon but not quite yet. Barbara Fister reports that this hallucinatory narrative may not be for everyone, but "willing readers will be rewarded by sharp commentary on our times and equal parts poetry and offbeat humor."
It's not absolutely certain when ALONE IN THE WILD by Kelley Armstrong takes place but it is the next entry in Armstrong's Rockton series set in that hidden town somewhere in the Yukon. Sharon Mensing tells us that she has loved every one of these and the present (fifth) does not disappoint. On the other hand, Lori Rader-Day's THE LUCKY ONE is set in the present, though it does deal with a cold case. Lourdes Venard thinks that "readers of cold cases and psychological thrillers should enjoy this latest from Rader-Day."
For most of us in these virus-ridden days, travel may not be an option. Luckily, we can visit warmer climes at least in our imagination, thanks to fiction set in places we'd really like to be. Meredith Frazier made this sort of journey via Serena Kent's DEATH IN AVIGNON, set in Avignon and filled with the sights and the delicacies of Provence. She enjoyed the trip as well as the mystery and says that the author creates a whole world that you will want to spend some time in.
Another sort of travel is back to the past and Meredith not only got a trip to Italy in 1902 but back to Pompeii just before the volcano did its thing. In short, she read the current entry in Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series IN THE SHADOW OF VESUVIUS. She reports that Alexander's meticulous research brings both ancient and turn-of-the-20th century Pompeii to vivid life.
Not as warm and certainly not as sunny is late Victorian London and, inevitably, additions to the ever-increasing list of Sherlockiana. Rebecca Nesvet reviews two of these. The first, THE MANIFESTATIONS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, by James Lovegrove, is a collection of short stories. Rebecca states these are among Lovegrove's best work, just as Conan Doyle was at his best in the original Holmes short fiction. Michelle Birkby's first foray into Holmes' world, ALL ROADS LEAD TO WHITECHAPEL, Rebecca found less successful but then neither was Conan Doyle's first Holmes appearance. She looks forward to seeing where Birkby takes her characters going forward.
Ian Rankin's WESTWIND represents an altogether different (and rarer) kind of time travel. First published some thirty years ago, it is a techno-thriller that the young Rankin hoped would further his career as a novelist. It didn't, but Jim Napier says that it remains a revealing portrait of the author at the outset of his career, a career that would earn him much-deserved acclaim and provide his readers with great pleasure.
We have two serial killers this time. One is in the third of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's Children's House series and like the earlier books, deals with the murder of children. Susan Hoover says it is a tightly-wound and well-crafted tale of bullying and violence, one that leaves her anticipating the next in the series. Allison Brennan's THE THIRD TO DIE is sadly not so much, according to Meg Westley, who thought it lacked narrative drive up until the last bit, when the author finally grabs the reader's attention and provides a satisfying ending.
Steve Berry's Cotton Malone series of thrillers is long standing (this, THE WARSAW PROTOCOL, is the fifteenth) but Susan tells us that Berry has not lost his touch with chase scenes, something she is quite fond of. These are "among the most exciting and complicated I have read in long time," she remarks. And the lesson in Polish history is also rewarding.
For cosies we have two, both reviewed by Ruth Castleberry. THE BOOK OF CANDLELIGHT, by Ellery Adams, is a more complex cosy than most and its well-developed characters, smart dialogue, and steady pace will totally engage the reader. Ruth also liked DEATH WITH A DARK ROSE, by Julia Buckley. She says Buckley's Blue Lake series is "a must read for the discerning cosy fan." And, happily, animal lovers will not be disappointed either.
And there you have it for now.
Our friends across the sea at CRIMEREVIEW have been reading a lot too and you should drop by an take a look.
One more bit of news. After twelve years (or so) of editing RTE, I am stepping back though not wholly departing. Happily, Rebecca Nesvet, who has long been associated with the site and whose reviews I am sure you have read and enjoyed over the years, has agreed to assume the editorship and will be gradually taking over the responsibilities in the next few months. No one can be gladder than I am to know that RTE will continue its almost unique project of providing unbiased and serious reviews of the crime fiction we all love.
We'll be back sometime in next month, date to be decided. If you want to know when, you might subscribe to the RSS feed by tapping the button on our masthead, or drop me a line with your email and I'll put you on the notification list.
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Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.
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