March is certainly living up to its reputation and coming in like a lion this year. But that’s all the more reason to curl up with a stack of new books and wait until it’s more “lamb”-like to venture outside. This month sees the return of several series favorites plus standalone efforts from genre veterans. Murder on the Champ de MarsCara Black (Soho Crime, March 3)Parisian PI Aimée Leduc—now with her six-month-old daughter Chloé in tow—returns for more crime fighting in Black’s engaging 15th installment of her popular series. Battling the constant fatigue that plagues all new mothers, Aimée is reluctant to take on a new case, but she makes an exception for Nicu, a manouche (or Gypsy) boy who insists that his dying mother has an important message for Aimée. When she learns that the secret is related to her own father’s unsolved murder, there’s no way Aimée can refuse. Since nothing can be too easy for this French detective, what should be a simple visit to the hospital to speak to a dying woman turns into a complicated kidnapping case involving secrets someone seems ready to kill to keep buried.All the Old Knives
Olen Steinhauer (Minotaur, March 10)
In his second standalone thriller, following 2014’s The Cairo Affair, Steinhauer weaves together the intersecting stories of two American spies, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, who served (and slept) together in Vienna six years earlier when everything went horribly wrong. Now Celia’s left the CIA behind, moved to California, and is a happily married mother of two. Henry, who was a street operative while Celia worked behind a desk, is investigating a potential leak related to the events in Vienna that resulted in a deadly terrorist attack. They meet in the tranquil beauty of Carmel-by-the-Sea to hash out not only the days and hours leading up to the Vienna disaster but also the implosion of their own relationship. Steinhauer’s clever plotting will keep readers guessing until the final page about who’s ultimately playing who.
Life or Death
Michael Robotham (Mulholland, March 10)
Taking a break from his long-running, UK-set series featuring psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and retired copper Vincent Ruiz, Robotham tries his hand at a Texas prison break tale. The day before he’s due to be released after serving ten hard years in prison for an armored car robbery that left four people dead and $7,000,000 still unaccounted for, Audie Palmer flies the coop. His escape immediately puts him on the radar of local law enforcement, the Feds, and less honorable folks who desperately want to know where Audie stashed the cash. As Audie tries to stay off the grid, Robotham incorporates flashbacks of his life before prison, and it becomes clear not only that the crime didn’t go down the way it was reported, but also that the conspiracy that surrounds it goes deeper than even Audie thought possible.
A Dangerous Place
Jacqueline Winspear (Morrow, March 17)
Still reeling from the death of her husband in a Canadian aviation accident, Maisie Dobbs isn’t quite ready to return to her native England, which she left four years earlier. Winspear sets her 11th series installment in the British garrison town of Gibraltar. It’s spring 1937, and Spain is on the brink of civil war just across the border. Maisie finds herself enmeshed, quite literally, in the murder investigation of Sebastian Babayoff, a photographer whose body she stumbles upon while out for a walk. A member of Gibraltar’s sizable Sephardic Jewish population, Babayoff is a man of many secrets, and Maisie’s continued digging into his life and political affiliations draws the attention of the British Secret Service, among others. Winspear ably intertwines Maisie’s personal struggles with the looming threat of the Spanish Civil War, setting her heroine up for many adventures to come.
Behind Closed Doors
Elizabeth Haynes (Harper Paperbacks, March 31)
In this dark sequel to 2014’s Under a Silent Moon, an unsolved case returns to haunt Detective Inspector Louisa “Lou” Smith. Ten years earlier, 15-year-old Scarlett Rainsford disappeared while on holiday in Greece with her parents and younger sister, Juliette. As a young cop, Lou was part of the UK-based team that investigated Scarlett’s disappearance, all to no avail. The case went cold almost immediately but now, a decade later, Scarlett turns up during a Special Branch raid of a Briarstone brothel. Lou and her Major Crime squad, already dealing with two big cases, are invited to interview Scarlett more as a courtesy than anything else. It turns out that Scarlett was the victim of sex trafficking and spent the last ten years in various European cities being forced to have sex; some of the most riveting and disturbing scenes are those told from Scarlett’s point of view from her time under the control of the traffickers. But that still doesn’t explain what Scarlett’s doing back in England and why she never contacted her family. Lou, along with DS Sam Hollands, knows there’s more to the story than Scarlett is telling, but neither detective quite grasps the horrific scope until it’s all laid bare.