This week, for a change of pace, I thought I'd look at new paperback mysteries. My eye was caught by a reissued from Poisoned Pen Press. The first title, from 1997, is titled An Embarrassment of Corpses, from Alan Beechey. The publisher writes "Scotland Yard is hunting the worst kind of serial killer one with a sense of humor. When children's book author Oliver Swithin, reluctant creator of the notorious "Finsbury the Ferret," finds an old friend's body floating in a Trafalgar Square fountain, he can't convince the police to treat the death as a murder. But then more corpses turn up daily on a tube station platform, in a botanical gardens hothouse, even in the middle of Piccadilly Circus each murdered in an increasingly bizarre manner. It seems that a serial killer is at play, using London's landscape as his game board." A chidlren's book writer as detective? Why has it taken so long? Here's Beechey interviewed with his dog Leila on the Coffee with a Canine blog.And I just want to note I'm a huge fan of this cover treatment. Take a look at the newest book in the series, This Private Plot.
June is International Crime month, don't you know, so it's no surprise we venture to Melbourne for our next pick, Murder in the Telephone Exchange. June Wright's mystery from Dark Passage/Verse Chorus Press, originally published in 1948, features feisty young operator-heroine Maggie Bynes, whose curiosity and sense of justice is piqued when a colleague, not a popular one, mind you, is murdered. To those of you under thirty who have no idea what a telephone exchange is, I dare you to look as glamorous as Ms. Wright does in this photo while you're solving crimes while Skyping. Publishers Weekly called this "an engaging porthole to the past."
Speaking of times past, a new collection of four mysteries set in British academia of the 1960s from James Runcie is called Sidney James and the Promise of Evil (Bloomsbury). Runcie has a particularly fascinating pedigree. Son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, director of the Bath Literary Festival, author of several novels including The Discovery of Chocolate, and also an award-winning filmmaker, who directed a documentary about J.K. Rowling. The series, called The Grandchester Mysteries, has been compared to the work of G.K. Chesterton. More press on the Runcie round-up.
Not an archbishop of anywhere but a medical textbook acquisitions editor has a new title called Rage Against the Dying that has nice quotes from Peter Robinson and Linwood Barclay. Oh, and Gillian Flynn. A police detective who specializes in sexual predators retires to Tucson with her new husband, only to have a man confess to crimes worse than she's ever heard, including the killing of her young protege. Minotaur did a hard-soft publication on this first novel, and it paid off, as Janet Maslin reviewed it in The New York Times (and didn't list the paperback, only the hardcover), no, I should say raved about it. "In one final demonstration that she has learned the lessons of crime fiction well, Ms. Masterman hides important evidence in the unlikeliest place: within plain sight. But this book is too cleverly manipulative for readers to get ahead of Brigid in making such startling discoveries." I also love that Becky Masterman's heroine is rounding sixty.
Europa's also got an old find, the first in a series called Laidlaw, by Joe McIlvanney. First published in 1977, Joe Laidlaw's case involves the rape an murder of a young woman, the daughter of a notorious Glasgow gangster. This is said to be the novel that gave birth to Tartan Noir. Have yourself a little Glaswegian holiday, albeit a bloody one. Wikipedia calls him Scotland's Albert Camus. And here's a story from Doug Gladstone in the (UK) Guardian about how McIlvanney tarted up Tarton Noir. "Today, you only have to look at the cover of the new edition to see the debt the tartan-noir scene owes to McIlvanney. Cover quotes from Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Peter May and Chris Brookmyre, all effusive with praise"
And finally, here's the latest from Malla Nunn, Present Darkness (Emily Bestler/Atria), featuring Emmanuel Cooper. Set in the corrupt unforgiving world of South Africa's Apartheid, the newest, which has always gotten our mysterian-in-residence, Anne's endorsement, is set as Cooper sets off on a vacation to Mozambique. Kirkus Reviews writes "There’s never much doubt who’s really behind the attacks on Ian and Martha Brewer, but Nunn, who provides enough action and suspicion to keep the pot boiling, doesn’t need much of a mystery to bring the sad racial divisions of apartheid once more into sharp relief." And here's a nice review from Aunt Agatha's, a mystery specialty store in Ann Arbor: "This is also a terrific crime story, not just a portrait of a difficult and brutal time in history. When all the threads of the story are at last woven together, the resolution seems a natural one."
I think these are all trade paperback originals, with the caveat that two of the books are resissued older titles. It wasn't that long ago that genre stores were still demanding hardcovers followed by mass markets. There is apparently still issues with trade paper collectibility, which is why I think that the new titles that are American originals (Becky Masterman, Alan Beechey's latest) are published as dual editions, with a hardcover also available.