Mysteries

The Delta, death, and a dose of Bosch and Christie

November 10, 2012 

Beluga, by Rick Gavin. Minotaur. 258 pages.

In the follow-up to his hilarious debut, “Ranchero,” Rick Gavin is still riffing on life on the wild side in the Mississippi Delta. Returning characters Nick and Desmond reluctantly bankroll a shady deal that has no chance of succeeding, just to stay on the good side of Desmond’s ex, Shawnica. When the job, unsurprisingly, goes wrong, people who were involved start turning up in hospital ERs.

I have a soft spot for this series because Nick and Desmond spend a lot of time in my hometown, Greenville, Miss. Oddly enough they never mention me, but Gavin does paint an evocative picture of a decaying town that was built for grander things. He does for Mississippi what Carl Hiaasen does for Florida, including coming up with a few characters you will not see anywhere outside the pages of a book. (Ninja schoolgirl assassin, anyone?)

A Question of Identity, by Susan Hill. Overlook. 368 pages.

This new entry in the intelligent Simon Serrailler series deals with the deaths of elderly women in a senior housing project. Since the book begins with the story of a similar case 10 years ago, we as readers have an inkling that the earlier case will come to bear in some way on the new one, but there’s still plenty of mystery in finding that connection.

Susan Hill writes a police procedural with a healthy side of multi-generational family dynamics, this time with a focus on care of the elderly, including hospice and home care.

The Black Box, by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown. 416 pages. Due out Nov. 26.

Harry Bosch gets a new break in a 20-year-old cold case: the fatal shooting of a foreign journalist during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. While following this new lead, he is also dealing with inept management, romantic tension and worries about his relationship with his daughter. Typical problems – but only Harry bonds with his teenage daughter over small arms at a “shoot/don’t shoot” police simulator.

The “black box” of the title is a clue that relates two elements of the case that had previously seemed random, opening up a whole new line of investigation. It connects the crime scene in L.A. to the first Gulf War, which the Danish photojournalist also covered.

Michael Connelly is an ex-newspaperman, which shows in his active use of language. He doesn’t waste words, and he knows when to tell (exposition) and when to show (action and dialogue).

The Grand Tour: Around the World With the Queen of Mystery, Edited by Matthew Prichard. Harper. 384 pages.

Here’s a wonderful treat for mystery lovers: Agatha Christie’s collected letters home from a year-long journey around the British Empire with her husband, Archie. Edited by the beloved author’s grandson, it’s a pure delight for fans, a sort of memoir-travelogue in the delightful voice of a favorite writer, and chock-full of photos, postcards and reproductions of the letters.

Macknee: smacknee@mcclatchy.com

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