Mysteries

Mysteries: Strong-willed Spellmans squabble again

smacknee@mcclatchy.comJuly 13, 2013 

The Last Word: A Spellman Novel, by Lisa Lutz. Simon & Schuster. 352 pages.

Probably all I really need to tell you is that there’s a new Spellman Files book, and if you’ve ever read these you’ll immediately go look for it. If you haven’t read them, welcome to the perfect series for light summer reading.

Lisa Lutz tells the story of Izzy Spellman and her family – “strong-willed,” down to the toddlers – whose private investigations firm seems to spend as much time tailing and surveilling each other as on client work. In this sixth outing, Izzy has staged a hostile takeover of the firm, and her parents are reacting in typical Spellman fashion, refusing to work or even get out of their PJs.

The Never List, by Koethi Zan. Viking. 305 pages.

Koethi Zan’s storytelling is so strong that I am uncharacteristically recommending a book with torture in it.

I recommend it because the story is more about the victims’ triumph over the experience than another entry in the “torture porn” genre. Zan does not lovingly linger over prurient details; she paints the captivity of four college girls by a charismatic psychology professor with brisk strokes and no specifics (smart; let the reader’s imagination do the dirty work) and spends much more time showing how the experience first cripples them, causing them to seek security in their individual ways, and how they then reunite to fight back.

Visitation Street, by Ivy Pochoda. HarperCollins. 306 pages.

Two teenage girls in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn take a blow-up raft out into the bay on a hot summer night. One washes ashore, barely alive; the other is lost.

The bones of this book are the police investigation and the intertwined stories of the survivor, Val, and kids from the neighboring public housing project. The flesh of the story is so much more than that. The sounds, smells, sights of Red Hook; the longing of the teens and the resignation of the adults; the family with second sight who speak to the dead; a ghostly figure in a hoodie who is shadowing and protecting the teens.

This is the second book in HarperCollins’ Dennis Lehane imprint, and Lehane knows how to pick ’em. I’ll keep an eye out for more of these titles.

A Murder in Passing, by Mark de Castrique. Poisoned Pen Press. 262 pages.

Sam Blackman literally stumbles into a case that explores miscegenation laws, repealed in the 1960s, and an interracial romance that led to murder. As always, our homeboy Mark de Castrique salts the story with plenty of North Carolina scenery and some fascinating history as well. He’ll have you Googling things you never knew about your state.

The Mojito Coast, by Richard Helms. Five Star. 236 pages.

Another award-winning Carolinas writer, Rick Helms, bring us a tight, colorful detective story set in pre-Castro Cuba. Pick this one up for some Raymond-Chandleresque private eye action, for a little summer trip to 1950s Havana, or if you just enjoy inventive language skillfully used. It’s a treat!

Macknee: smacknee@mcclatchy.com

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