October Reads: Reviews of Craig Johnson, Valerie Geary and Andrew Grant
Daylight saving time is on the horizon so it’s the perfect opportunity to curl up with a stack of new books. Here are six suggestions for your October reading list that should keep a crime fiction fan happy (and in some cases, perfectly creeped-out for Halloween).The Counterfeit Heiress Tasha Alexander (Minotaur, October 14)If your tastes tend toward the historical, Alexander’s ninth installment of her Victorian-era Lady Emily Hargreaves series should be right up your gas-lit alley. As befitting a lady, the heroine attends a fancy dress ball but in a less-than-ladylike—but very Emily-like—fashion finds herself investigating the murder of a fellow attendee. There’s an extra layer of intrigue when Lady Emily learns that the victim is not wealthy heiress Estella Lamar but rather a reclusive, middle-aged woman named Mary Darby, who’d impersonated Estella to gain entrance to the ball. Estella is nowhere to be found and Lady Emily’s search for the missing woman—and Darby’s killer—takes her and her husband, Colin, from London to Paris. Readers will enjoy trying to solve the mystery along with Lady Emily, as Alexander alternates between Emily’s point of view and that of Estella, whose predicament suggests a kidnapping. But like all of Alexander’s superbly researched works, everything is more complicated than it first appears.
Crooked River Valerie Geary (Morrow, October 14)
In her debut, Geary introduces readers to two intrepid sisters in rural Oregon, 10-year-old Ollie and 15-year-old Sam. Abandoned by their father and raised by their mother until her untimely death, the girls are closer to best friends than sisters. Forced to move in with Bear, their mountain man father, the girls think matters can’t get much worse, until they discover a body in the river running through Bear’s property. When their father is named the prime suspect, Ollie and Sam are determined to find the battered woman’s real killer and save Bear from a jail sentence, an act that’s equal parts genuine interest in the case and the desire to avoid the foster care system should their father be locked up. This is a solid whodunit with enough supernatural undertones—Ollie sees spirits that she dubs “The Shimmering”—to appeal to fans looking for a spooky fall read.
Run Andrew Grant (Ballantine, October 7)
It’s convenient when a husband and wife, both mystery novelists, have new books out at almost the same time. Grant, who’s married to Tasha Alexander, gives readers a thrilling rather than historical ride in this high-octane, stand-alone novel. IT consultant Marc Bowman is fired from his job at AmeriTel, a struggling tech company. Luckily—or as it turns out, unluckily—for Marc, he downloads sensitive data from the company’s servers as motivation to help him develop a new idea. Not only is Marc accused of stealing data—even his wife, fellow AmeriTel employee Carolyn, thinks he’s guilty—but he discovers that he’s now inadvertently in possession of either evidence of the company’s wrongdoing or a massive computer virus. Either way, he must go on the run and there’s no one to trust. With shifting loyalties and frenetic chases through the usually calm New York town of Westchester, this is the kind of book that will keep you up late into the night, unwilling to put it down because you’re so caught up in Marc’s hair-raising predicament.
An alternate title for this collection of Sheriff Walt Longmire short stories could be Waiting For Signs: Something Great to Read While You Wait for 2015’s Longmire Novel. Every Christmas, Johnson writes a new Longmire-centric short story and now they’re all available in one volume, with the added bonus of a brand-new story, “Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Bighorns” (just a little hint: Petunia is actually the name of a much sought-after sheep). Those readers who’ve always wanted to know more about the Wyoming sheriff’s relationship with his late wife, Martha, who’s already dead by the time the first book, Cold Dish, takes place, are in luck: Johnson gives several glimpses into the married life of the Longmires, helping to round out one of the most compelling characters in modern crime fiction. But it’s not all serious, as Walt and series regular, the elderly Cheyenne Lonnie Little Bird, help foil a robbery at a local diner with amusing results. With the fate of television’s Longmire still unknown—it was cancelled by A&E but producers are hopeful that they can sell it to a new network—this is the perfect pick-me-up to read while you’re bingeing on old episodes on Netflix.
Last Winter, We Parted Fuminori Nakamura (Soho Crime, October 21)
Certainly the darkest entry on this list, Nakamura’s stand-alone tale of a journalist’s increasingly disturbing interactions with a convicted murderer might make you turn on an extra light or two while you’re reading. The nameless narrator is hired to interview Tokyo photographer Yudai Kiharazaka, who’s awaiting execution for the murders of two women he allegedly burned alive. Far from a straightforward assignment, the narrator finds himself increasingly entangled in Kiharazaka’s twisted world, particularly the photographer’s sister, Akari, who’s arguably as dangerous as her brother. In a disturbing subplot, the narrator also delves into the world of a preeminent dollmaker whose reputation is built on fashioning eerily lifelike silicone dolls. As we wonder about the narrator’s sanity—frankly, everyone here is more than a little mentally unbalanced—a second story begins to creep in like fog, enveloping the first tale and creating a truly unsettling climax.