An entertaining whodunit that finds plenty of toxic rot in a seemingly wholesome setting.

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PESTICIDE

Swiss detectives dig into the cutthroat world of organic farming in Hays’ twisty murder mystery series starter.

The city of Bern—Switzerland’s clean, orderly capital—has a rare moment of mayhem when a policeman named Jonas Pauli is accused of clubbing Simon Etter to death during a riot. Det. Giuliana Linder is assigned to investigate the incident and subtly pressured by police brass to find another culprit to take the heat off Jonas, who swears he hit Simon only once, lightly, and that the second, fatal blow must have been struck by someone else. Giuliana feels torn by the case: She’d like to exonerate Jonas, but she’s also primed to believe the worst because of her immersion in Bern’s counterculture as a student, her leftist journalist husband Ueli’s distrust of all police (except her, she hopes), and her 15-year-old daughter’s arrest for rioting on the night of the murder. Pauli’s story gains credence when Giuliana turns up evidence that Simon was a drug dealer who might have had enemies. But the case takes a swerve when Giuliana’s colleague Renzo Donatelli links it to the murder of an organic farmer named Frank Schwab, who was found beaten, smothered to death, and drenched in pesticide—a substance the doctrinaire Frank never allowed on his farm. The prime suspect is a suspicious young man known as Simu, who was often around Frank’s farm—and turns out to be someone connected to Giuliana’s other case. The plot thickens as Giuliana ties Simon to an Albanian drug kingpin and Renzo probes the harsh economics of organic farming. Meanwhile, Giuliana and the handsome Renzo struggle to fend off their intensifying desire for each other as their marriages fray.

This first installment of Hays’ Linder and Donatelli mystery series steeps readers in intricate procedural details, such as turning horrific photos of a dead victim’s bloated face into recognizable artist’s sketches; piecing together timelines to verify alibis; and even sussing out the niceties of organic certification and agricultural subsidies. Hays’ plotting is first-rate as she keeps the sleuthing believable and offers up earned revelations, which make sense of the clues even when they go in unexpected directions. Her punchy, evocative prose looks beneath Switzerland’s veneer of antiseptic quaintness to find grungy atmospherics, as in a description of an informant: “A piercing through the nasal septum reminded her of snot dangling from each nostril, and tattoos of thorny vines covered what she could see of his arms. Steel plugs had stretched his earlobes into gaping tunnels.” The author is equally good at painting the inner worlds of her characters, from overworked cops and worried parents to fog-brained criminals: “Christ, he was blitzed....The shots of schnapps—that’d been his mistake. Still, he’d managed; he’d managed everything. Things were set up the way he wanted them. And if he’d messed up somewhere…well, it could be fixed. Later.” The result is an engrossing page-turner.

An entertaining whodunit that finds plenty of toxic rot in a seemingly wholesome setting.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64506-046-8

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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Not the best of Connelly’s procedurals, but nobody else does them better than his second-best.

DESERT STAR

A snap of the yo-yo string yanks Harry Bosch out of retirement yet again.

Los Angeles Councilman Jake Pearlman has resurrected the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit in order to reopen the case of his kid sister, Sarah, whose 1994 murder was instantly eclipsed in the press by the O.J. Simpson case when it broke a day later. Since not even a councilor can reconstitute a police unit for a single favored case, Det. Renée Ballard and her mostly volunteer (read: unpaid) crew are expected to reopen some other cold cases as well, giving Bosch a fresh opportunity to gather evidence against Finbar McShane, the crooked manager he’s convinced executed industrial contractor Stephen Gallagher, his wife, and their two children in 2013 and buried them in a single desert grave. The case has haunted Bosch more than any other he failed to close, and he’s fine to work the Pearlman homicide if it’ll give him another crack at McShane. As it turns out, the Pearlman case is considerably more interesting—partly because the break that leads the unit to a surprising new suspect turns out to be both fraught and misleading, partly because identifying the killer is only the beginning of Bosch’s problems. The windup of the Gallagher murders, a testament to sweating every detail and following every lead wherever it goes, is more heartfelt but less wily and dramatic. Fans of the aging detective who fear that he might be mellowing will be happy to hear that “putting him on a team did not make him a team player.”

Not the best of Connelly’s procedurals, but nobody else does them better than his second-best.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-48565-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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Penny will have you turning the pages as fast as you can to see how she'll manage to tie everything together.

A WORLD OF CURIOSITIES

Welcome to Three Pines, the idyllic-seeming Canadian capital of murder.

At the heart of Penny’s series of mysteries set in the tiny Quebec town of Three Pines is the relationship between Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the empathetic and capable head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, and his headstrong second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, now also his son-in-law. Gamache has a talent for finding officers who’ve been languishing in their previous jobs and turning them into trusted allies, and Penny has frequently mentioned the way Beauvoir had been “banished to the basement” in an out-of-the-way bureau and that there was something “lean and feral…something dangerous” about him before Gamache swooped in and brought him to the homicide squad. Now, in her 18th installment, Penny flashes back to the case that brought the two men together. A woman named Clotilde Arsenault has been found dead in a remote lake, and Gamache shows up at the local detachment to investigate the case himself. Clotilde had two children, 13-year-old Fiona and Sam, 10, and it turns out she had been prostituting them. In the book’s present-day strand, Fiona is graduating from college after having served time in prison for killing her mother; Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, have supported her, almost folding her into their own family, but they’ve never trusted Sam, who will also be at the graduation ceremony. This chapter in Penny's chronicle of Three Pines contains all the elements that she sometimes divides up between different books: There's a cozy-feeling present-day mystery concerning a hidden room Fiona discovers by looking at the roofline of Myrna's bookstore, and the strange painting found inside; the harrowing story of how Gamache and Beauvoir cracked the case of Clotilde's murder; and a story of corruption within the institutions that are supposed to be protecting us. The plotting is complex and the characters as vivid as ever, but the opportunity to watch Gamache and Beauvoir's relationship develop is what makes this book one of Penny's best.

Penny will have you turning the pages as fast as you can to see how she'll manage to tie everything together.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2501-4529-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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