Before I list my picks for June, I'd like to share with you that my mother, Ermie Macknee, the woman who raised me to be a mystery reader, died in mid-May. We had different tastes within the genre — in a nutshell, she was more Barbara Vine, I'm more Ruth Rendell — but growing up in a household of readers laid the foundation and our shared love of mysteries endured to the very end of her life as the family read aloud from favorite writers at mom's bedside.
"Three Days Missing" by Kimberly Belle. Park Row Books, 352 pages.
There should be more mysteries that feature mothers of schoolkids and revolve around class trips. It's a much more relatable scenario than, say, arcane religious codes or nuclear thrillers.
Off-the-charts brilliant student Ethan goes missing from an overnight class trip, but when the kidnapper makes his call, it's to the wrong mom's cell phone. The target was the mayor's son but a single mother's child was accidentally taken instead. Kimberly Belle focuses on the mothers' internal struggles as both families try to help police uncover the motive and recover the kidnapped child.
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"The Real Michael Swann" by Bryan Reardon. Dutton, 341 pages.
A survivor of a bombing at Penn Station wanders away with amnesia from a head injury and has to rely on clues in the briefcase he's carrying to figure out that he's Michael Swann of Westchester, Pa. Meanwhile Michael's wife is at home dealing with the barrage of media and police attention that arises when he is declared the prime suspect in the bombing.
As he tries to work his way back to his wife and family, flashbacks to their romance and marriage provide a solid basis for her decision to try and find him before the police do. And flashbacks to his disgruntled mood provide a possible motive for a seemingly happy family man to go off the rails.
Bryan Reardon keeps the action moving so expertly that I read this one nearly in one sitting and I bet you'll want to, too.
"Splinter in the Blood" by Ashley Dyer. William Morrow, 400 pages.
Greg Carver, lead detective on a serial killer investigation, is found shot in his living room. We know what the police don't: that his partner Ruth Lake's first act on finding him was to scrub his apartment of clues. Ashley Dyer is pitch-perfect as she slowly reveals why Ruth Lake is hiding evidence and in fact has made a lifelong practice of hiding secrets.
I don't normally recommend "inside the mind of a serial killer" stories, but this one skips the gore and titillation that usually turn me off. There's plenty here for the fans of forensics, and for those who like a good psychological thriller. The killer, the police and even the victims all turn out to have secrets.
I'll post a contest on my ObserverMysteries Facebook page to win a copy of one of these June picks. See you there!