THE WASHINGTON POST – The beach read has become the bunker read for a lot of mystery and thriller fans. Either way, here are five summer escapes in which the characters shake hands, eat out and inhale droplets – often criminally. Enjoy.
THE CABINETS OF BARNABY MAYNE, BY ELSA HART (MINOTAUR)
The author of three mysteries set in 18th-Century China brings her talented raconteur’s voice to 1703 London, where gentlemen of leisure can hang in coffeehouses debating topics like whether “Noah kept a fishbowl in the ark”. Enter Lady Cecily Kay, an engaging early-feminist botanist who visits Sir Barnaby Mayne’s museum-like townhouse just in time for the host to be stabbed to death while fellow collectors of natural history oddments are touring the premises. When a hapless young curator is wrongly accused, Lady Kay methodically fixes everything in BBC Sundays-at-9 high style.
ADDIS ABABA NOIR, EDITED BY MAAZA MENGISTE (AKASHIC)
The latest in Akashic’s series of crime story anthologies set in a particular place – Brooklyn was first – is “noir” in the broadest sense, showing human beings at their damaged and wounded worst. The Ethiopian capital is an apt setting, for it remains haunted by the “red terror” mass murders following the overthrow of the feudal Haile Selassie regime in 1974. Several of the 14 stories here, most of them striking and accomplished, involve post-revolution loss, guilt and revenge. Some are surreal – fitting for a culture where, as Mengiste writes in her introduction, “there are men who live in the mountains of Ethiopia and can turn into hyenas”.
THE GLASS KINGDOM, BY LAWRENCE OSBORNE (HOGARTH)
Osborne, a journalist and novelist, distinguished himself in 2018 with Only to Sleep, featuring a semi-retired septuagenarian Philip Marlowe tottering around coastal Mexico with a silver-tipped cane. Osborne brings the same canny way with displaced characters to a politically turbulent, monsoon-drenched Bangkok in this unhurried but beautifully textured tale. In it, a New Yorker winds up with a suitcase full of her employer’s cash in a condo complex where most of the tenants and all of the Thai staff harbour either guilty secrets or the fervent desire to accumulate a few.
THE SILENT WIFE , BY KARIN SLAUGHTER (MORROW)
Parts of Slaughter’s 19th thriller featuring either Georgia medical examiner Sara Linton, or state police investigator Will Trent, or both, is so Lars Kepler-style grisly, Slaughter could be granted honorary citizenship in any number of Scandinavian countries. Slaughter has said she wants to make violence against women real to people who don’t get it. She succeeds in The Silent Wife, about a psycho who rapes, mutilates and murders young women, cruelly rendering them helpless by puncturing their spines with an awl. The novel also portrays Linton and Trent’s troubled romance, which some mystery readers will regard as too much love stuff and others will eat up.
LOVE & OTHER CRIMES: STORIES, BY SARA PARETSKY (HARPERCOLLINS)
Paretsky shows she’s as superior a writer of the short-form crime story as she is of the novel in this consistently entertaining collection of 14 stories, many of which feature the estimable V I Warshawski at various stages of her life and career as a PI. In Wildcat, she’s only 10 and tries to protect her non-bigoted cop father during the 1966 Chicago race riots. In the title story, Vic helps one of the Litvaks she grew up with, a family “who turn dysfunction into an art form”. Paretsky is a master of the one-line sketch.