Stel­lar new sleuth takes on grim case

Winnipeg Free Press - - I FICTION BOOKS - NICK MAR­TIN

CAN a Peak Dis­trict fam­ily of doc­tors and lawyers re­ally be­lieve the area’s cursed, and that the Grim Reaper lit­er­ally lurks in such rugged beauty?

It’s ridicu­lous, yet the ev­er­grow­ing num­ber of mys­te­ri­ous deaths should pro­vide a hint.

Self-dep­re­cat­ing de­tec­tive in­spec­tor Meg Lawton catches the case in Roz Watkins’ The Devil’s Dice (HQ, 351 pages, $22), a smash­ing de­but with a ter­rific plot and a nifty new sleuth.

With a se­cret guilt, a limp she won’t ex­plain, con­stant aware­ness of her weight and an acid wit that Lawton tries not to ut­ter out loud, this some­what younger ver­sion of Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stan­hope de­serves many more ad­ven­tures.

Jack and Syd­ney can’t be­lieve their luck when they win the bid­ding war for a house in Lon­don, full of all kinds of weird stuff the owner left be­hind.

Then even weirder stuff starts hap­pen­ing, like Syd­ney feel­ing Jack’s cold hands in bed when he’s down­stairs (shud­der), and what Jack finds in the at­tic (trem­ble).

And the lit­tle girl down the lane, with a mon­ster of a fa­ther that evokes mem­o­ries in Syd­ney — well, you’ll find out.

Si­mon Lelic’s The House (Pen­guin, 340 pages, $17), told first­per­son al­ter­na­tively by Jack and Syd­ney, is an ab­so­lutely bril­liant thriller.

Make sure your doors are locked be­fore you start read­ing, and be ab­so­lutely, like to­tally sure, that no one’s al­ready in­side.

Lon­don cop­pers Tom Thorne and Nicola Tan­ner are hunt­ing a sick sus­pect slaugh­ter­ing cats — know­ing, as pro­fil­ers do, that it’s of­ten a first step taken by se­rial killers.

Mean­while, drug deal­ers are smug­gling their poi­son into prison, get­ting in­mates hooked and then col­lect­ing their debts when the men are re­leased — some­times in money, and some­times deadly as­sign­ments.

Mark Billing­ham’s The Killing Habit (Ha­chette, 417 pages, $25) is an­other tough but ut­terly in­trigu­ing en­try in one of the best Bri­tish po­lice de­tec­tive se­ries go­ing.

Sleuthing psy­chol­o­gist Joe O’Lough­lin rushes to the hos­pi­tal where his 80-year-old-ish su­per­doc­tor/cold/dis­tant dad is in a coma and is greeted not by his mom, but by The Other Wife (Michael Robotham, Sphere, 385 pages, $25). That of­ten doesn’t go well.

His fa­ther hav­ing a se­cret sec­ond fam­ily is just the start of the vi­o­lence, dan­ger and in­trigue for O’Lough­lin, a wid­ower rais­ing two daugh­ters while Parkin­son’s slowly takes his body.

The ninth in a se­ries, The Other Wife is a whizzbang of a mys­tery which Robotham says could be the last — say it ain’t so, Joe.

The mur­der of an un­pop­u­lar Pol­ish labourer in ru­ral Eng­land is at the heart of the sleuthing for se­nior cop­per Domenic Je­je­une in Steve Bur­rows’ A Tid­ing of Magpies (Dun­durn, 384 pages, $15).

Je­je­une is a Cana­dian work­ing in the English coun­try­side, which author Bur­rows never ex­plains to us, just as he tells us noth­ing — like, zero — about two key on­go­ing story threads that be­gan in pre­vi­ous books.

Je­je­une is an avid birder, but there’s noth­ing whim­si­cal about this se­ri­ous mys­tery, which is quite the downer that will leave new read­ers be­wil­dered.

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