Sunday, March 19, 2006

DID YOU DECLARE THE CORPSE? by Patricia Sprinkle (Signet)

Georgia magistrate MacLaren Yarborough joins a bus tour of the Scottish Highlands as part of a search for her roots. She's been warned by her husband and her travel companion that she's not to look for murder. What can she do, though, when murder comes looking for her companions? Sprinkle does what so few authors do--she throws a busload of new characters at the reader and then sketches them so fully that each is identifiable without recourse to a cast of characters—or my personal worst, page flipping. The murder happens in the first chapter, but we don't know who's the victim until much, much later. The is not only a good mystery, it's a primer in how to write a compelling story. Additionally, Jan Karon fans who like mysteries will love Mac!

DEATH OF A BORE and DEATH OF A DREAMER by M.C. Beaton (Mysterious Press)

Highlands Constable Hamish Macbeth is one of my favorite fictional police officers. Hamish grows as a character throughout the series, and Beaton continues bringing in new characters who keep things fresh. In BORE, a "famous" writer moves into the area and offers to teach his craft to villagers. Hamish doesn't think his canny villagers will be duped by the promise, but he's surprised to see a crowd at the first class. You know who is killed, but iyou may be surprised at the killer.

In DREAMER, it's an artist who's the victim, a woman who moved into the Highlands over the cold winter. There are plenty of suspects--villagers and newcomers alike. Beaton does a particularly good job in recycling characters in this one, giving Hamish and the reader plenty of suspects.

Enjoy your visit to the Scottish Highlands!

THE CIRCLE by Peter Lovesey (SOHO Crime)

A guest speaker at a writer's circle is killed when his house is set on fire. Police immediately arrest the chair of the writer's circle. There was reason to suspect the chair--after being told his book was nearing publication, he was told he'd need to pay to have it published. Another death within the circle itself cast doubts on the police theory, even while members of the group are working to clear their leader. Parallel investigations, one professional, one amateur, keep the reader turning pages while wondering who, how, and most of all why. This is another keeper in the long string of great crime fiction by the charming and clever Peter Lovesey.

THE SUMMER SNOW by Rebecca Pawel (Soho Crime)

The death of a rich old woman who called in the police on a regular basis shouldn't have prompted a full-scale investigation. The old woman, however was special. She changed her will almost as much as she called the police and her will is missing. Not only that, the administrator of her will is the father of Lt. Carlos Tejada of the Guardia. The investigation not only plunges Tejada into family intrigue, but it forces him to reconcile his young wife and son with the haughty aristocratic family he left behind when he joined the force. The story is further complicated by its setting: Post World War II Spain, still recovering from the Red Menace. Pawel won the Edgar for the first in this series, DEATH OF A NATIONALIST.