New mysteries at the library

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011

The public libraries’ shelves are full of new mystery novels, from experimental to traditional cozies and who-dunnits for adult readers.

“The Detroit Electric Scheme,” by D.E. Johnson. Will Anderson is the son of the founder of Detroit Electric, and the nominal heir if only he can pull himself out of his alcoholic depression. Shock may help: after responding to a message that his ex-fiance is in danger, he finds a man crushed to death by a hydraulic press in the factory. The man is his friend and romantic rival, John Cooper, and all the evidence points to Will as the murderer. As Will attempts to clear his name, he finds himself dragged deeper into the seamier side of life in 1910 Detroit. Corruption, drugs, the mob, and warring car companies are here in spades, but so is the vigor and energy of the Motor City at the turn of the century.

“Shadow Play,” by Rajorshi Chakraborti. This subtle, disturbing novel twines the story of an unhappy middle-aged writer together with that of a kidnapped serial killer into something that may be a mystery, if only we could catch all the clues. As if playing with a cat, Chakraborti dangles answers in front of his readers, but keeps them just out of reach. Is the writer responsible for a journalist’s murder? Is he himself being stalked by a killer? And what about Charles, the killer – will he find his new life as an employee as enjoyable as his old life as a lone assassin? Fans of Murakami’s eclectic writing or of Kafka’s dreamlike tales will find enjoyable parallels here, but readers who prefer cut-and-dried mysteries should approach with an open mind.

“Stein, Stoned,” by Hal Ackerman. Once upon a time, Harry Stein was the one to go to with cannabis questions, but now he’s gone straight and is sharing custody of his 15-year old daughter, whose mother would take her away at the first hint of his old life. But then a crop of one of the finest strains Harry ever developed disappears from a local hospice supplier’s drying house and Harry is asked to help. It sounds simple, really - since the grower knows who stole the crop, all he needs is for Harry to authenticate it. At the same time, there’s a problem with missing shampoo at Harry’s day job. Soon things on both ends are out of control and Harry’s entangled in a problem that could cost him his daughter.

“Wanna Get Lucky?” by Deborah Coonts. With an emphasis on light-hearted fun over mystery (think Janet Evanovich), this is a raucous behind-the-scenes look at Las Vegas. Lucky O’Toole is in charge of customer relations at the Strip’s newest, most extravagant casino and resort, and she’s great at her job. But, after dealing with the passed-out naked guy in the stairwell, the regular customer who needs his evening hug, the Japanese businessman who dented his rental Ferrari, and missing a meeting with the Big Boss, she’s feeling a little overwhelmed. Finding out that one of Lucky’s mother’s favorite former employees has committed suicide is the icing on the cake. But tantalizing clues point to murder, and Lucky knows just the questions to ask.

“The Bone Fire,” by Christine Barber. After the huge wood-and-paper figure called Zozobra burns to the ground, a small skull is found in the ashes. The burning figure is a 300-year old tradition in the Santa Fe community: the skull is not. It belongs to Brianna Rodriguez, a two-year old who disappeared in a flash flood the year before, and while the police are relieved that they can at least give her parents closure, they wonder how her skull got into the fire and where the rest of her body is. Soon, other grisly displays begin appearing at religious sites around the city, and Detective Sgt. Gilbert Montoya is afraid there might be a psychopath on the loose. With the help of newspaper editor Lucy Newroe, Montoya scours the highest and lowest levels of Santa Fe society to find out what is going on, following a twisted trail of secrets to expose the truth.

There’s still time to pick up a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and join the discussion on Feb. 9 or watch the film on Feb. 16, both at the Douglas Library at 6 p.m.

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