Jarrett Creek, Texas, exemplifies small-town living. Neighbors look out for one another, or so you’d think. When a beloved local baking wizard, Loretta Singletary, turns up missing, police Chief Samuel Craddock realizes he missed several changes in his friend’s appearance that may have been clues. A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary is an old-fashioned story with a modern problem at its center. Terry Shames’ latest book finds the town divided over church involvement in a goat rodeo when Loretta goes missing. The discovery that she was considering online matchmaking services is mildly scandalous, and Craddock must explore the world of online dating in order to begin the investigation. The tension ratchets up when a body is found and linked back to the same dating sites, and the search for Loretta intensifies. The resolution to this tale is a bit offbeat, but the setting is lush and absorbing, and the tension builds perfectly along the way.
Bryant & May: Hall of Mirrors is Christopher Fowler’s 16th tale of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and this time we’re off to London in the swinging ’60s. Even in their youth, detectives Bryant and May had a habit of doing things their own way, and a simple assignment—keep a man alive for a weekend and get him to court to testify on Monday morning—takes several hard left turns. There’s slapstick comedy and swift wordplay (the duo’s word games are briefly upstaged by Bryant dangling upside down from a trellis during a window escape) as well as food for thought. Standout moments include exchanges between hippies in love with the idea of freedom and the elders who fought in World War II but don’t see their own definition of “freedom” in loose morals and patchouli fumes. If this is your first outing with Bryant and May, you’ll want to read them all.
It seems that Major Sir Robert and Lady Lucy Kurland need only drop in on a new city for a death to occur. Thankfully they’ve become so adept at sleuthing they can almost schedule it alongside their travel itinerary. In Death Comes to Bath, the sixth in Catherine Lloyd’s series, Robert has had a medical setback, so the pair, along with Lucy’s sister, travels to “take the waters” in England’s famed Roman baths. After befriending an older gentleman, the pair is dismayed when he drowns, and foul play is apparent. Lloyd balances period history (Robert was injured in the Battle of Waterloo), a tense romantic subplot and some extravagant vacation shopping while respecting the grave nature of the crime. Class divisions—and the way money can help one surmount them—make for a rich suspect pool. It may be cruel to hope Robert and Lucy keep visiting new cities, given what tends to happen, but watching this duo in action is a joy.
This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.