Mysteries: Travis McGee tribute puts us aboard a boat in Hawaii

January 12, 2013 

Aloha, Lady Blue, by Charley Memminger. Minotaur. 320 pages.

This is not the first Travis McGee tribute, but it’s a good one. Retired reporter Stryker McBride lives on a boat in Hawaii – not a houseboat, but it is named the Travis McGee. Author Charley Memminger also sets the readers on a little scavenger hunt: How many John D. MacDonald titles can you find sprinkled into the story?

Memminger assumes an interest on our part in the real Hawaii, so we get lots of detail about daily life and cultural heritage, but blended with such a light touch that the tone feels almost closer to Carl Hiaasen than to MacDonald.

The Accidental Pallbearer, by Frank Lentricchia. Melville International Crime. 208 pages.

Frank Lentricchia is a Duke University professor but not exactly a regional author as he sensibly writes about his own home of Utica, N.Y., and not his current surroundings. There’s a Quentin Tarantino masculinity to this story of a private investigator known for solving knotty problems in not-quite-lawful ways.

Miss Dimple Suspects, by Mignon Ballard. Minotaur. 272 pages.

For fans of cozies, Fort Mill, S.C., author Mignon Ballard brings us a new tale of wartime nostalgia featuring Miss Dimple, a first-grade teacher in a small Georgia town during World War II.

A recluse who paints pictures is murdered, and her Asian companion is top suspect among the townspeople.

A Killer in the Wind, by Andrew Klavan. Mysterious Press. 304 pages.

If you haven’t read Andrew Klavan, you’re in for a treat. He tells vivid stories with a conversational style that’s deceptively simple but does not waste a word.

His hero here is a small-town sheriff’s deputy who is obsessed with a sex trafficker known as the Fat Woman. He remembers finding out about her when he was a New York vice detective, but as the story progresses, suppressed memories start coming back and he finds that he has actually been looking for her since his childhood.

He discovers that the ghost child who haunts him was a real boy he knew, and he meets in the flesh a woman he thought he had dreamed up in the throes of drug withdrawal. Together, they dodge a superhuman pair of twin killers sent by the Fat Woman.

Watching the Dark, by Peter Robinson. William Morrow. 368 pages.

Chief Inspector Alan Banks investigates the crossbow killing of a detective recuperating at a police nursing home.

Looking at the victim’s case files for a possible revenge motive, Banks is drawn to a cold case involving a missing British girl who disappeared in Estonia.

The investigation also seems to link to schemes that create indentured servitude and substandard living conditions for immigrant labor.

I didn’t find this entry in the series “unputdownable,” I have to admit. The detailed lists of what Alan Banks was reading, listening to, eating and drinking held my interest more than the plot.


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