Dead Man’s Chest
Poisoned Pen Press, 2010
Also available in trade paperback
The Hon. Phryne Fisher makes her 16th appearance in this novel wherein she deservedly takes her entourage, including daughters Ruth and Jane, companion Dot, and pet Molly, on a vacation to the Australian coastal resort of Queenscliff where they are to spend relaxing time, i.e., no crimes or murders, at a house loaned to them by an anthropologist Phryne met just once at a party. (We should all have acquaintances like that!) The house, supposedly attended by a husband and wife team, the Johnsons, is vacant when the group arrives, with the back door unlocked, the servants’ furniture missing and all manner of provisions absent. So much for a vacation from mysteries.
The plot is relatively light (they are, after all, on vacation), allowing the author to address various mundane activities, such as Ruth, the aspiring cook, taking over the kitchen in the absence of servants and preparing gourmet dinners, Jane enriching her scientific mind, and Phryne easily coming up with the necessary answers to satisfy any questions raised. No need to summarize what they are since we heartily encourage you to read this latest entry in a delightful series.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2011.
Murder in Passy
Soho Crime, March 2011
As Bogey said: “We’ll always have Paris.” Or at least as long as Cara Black keeps writing the Aimee Leduc series, set in the City of Lights. This is the 11th entry in the series, and is a bit different from its predecessors. While its setting is still a particular area of Paris, this time a “posh” neighborhood, the plot is different, involving the Basque “independence” movement rather than some criminal mystery, and the charms of Paris get but fleeting mentions along the way.
The essential mystery is the murder of Commissaire Morbier’s girlfriend, for which he is being charged. Apparently, he is being pressured to reveal the identity of an informant, and is being given no choice, unless Aimee comes up with the real murderer.
Written with the customary charm of a native Parisian (although the author is really based in San Francisco), Aimee once again shows the characteristics of Superwoman, bounding high fences and even more daunting feats. A fast read, but no less enjoyable for that.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2011.
Guilt by Association
Mulholland Books ,April 2011
New York City has its former prosecutor-turned-novelist in Linda Fairstein. Now Los Angeles has its own, Marcia Clark, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial and subsequently wrote a best-selling non-fiction book on her experiences. However, that’s where the similarity ends. Ms Fairstein, of course, centers her wonderful plots on various Big Apple landmarks, weaving them into the thread of the crimes. On the other hand, Ms. Clark seems to overly dwell on a never-ending series of LA restaurants and bars, as well as the love lives (such as they are) of assistant DA Rachel Knight and her two female friends, another assistant DA, Toni, and Bailey, a detective.
This observation aside, the novel has quite a lot going for it. The thrust of the book is two seemingly unrelated murders: An apparent murder-suicide involving a much-liked assistant DA whose body is found in a seedy motel room with that of a teenage male hustler, and the death of a suspected rapist. While the first case is taken over by the FBI because of a conflict of interest, it falls to Rachel and Bailey to solve the mysteries.
For a first novel, the effort is fairly well done, with good dialogue and plot movement, as well as some subtle twists. It could have used some more editing and tightening, especially in the first half of the book. After initially wandering and giving varied background information, it really gets going in the second part, and is recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2011.