A sign-off to a beloved series, a not-so-accidental death and a sleuth who just might be the next Jack Reacher.
★ The Delightful Life of a Suicide Pilot
The latest Dr. Siri book by Colin Cotterill, The Delightful Life of a Suicide Pilot, is the last in a quirky, fiendishly clever series that has long been one of my absolute favorites. It’s 1981, and Siri Paiboun, the former national coroner of Laos, has received a mysterious gift: the diary of a Japanese kamikaze pilot who was stationed with occupation forces in Laos during World War II. The diary is fascinating for many reasons, not least of which is the officer’s evident descent into madness as the journal unfolds. Written half in Lao and half in Japanese, the diary ends abruptly and is missing a half-dozen pages—pages that may hold the key to the location of a gold fortune that mysteriously went AWOL as the Japanese beat their retreat from Southeast Asia. Furthering the intrigue, the notebook’s anonymous donor attached a note: “Dr. Siri, we need your help most urgently.” Although Siri, at his advanced age, is relatively unmotivated by hidden treasure, he and his wife, Madame Daeng, cannot resist a good mystery. And folks, neither can I. If this is indeed the final volume of the Siri series, he and Cotterill leave it on a high note. You cannot ask for more out of life than that.
Once You Go This Far
At first glance, Columbus, Ohio, doesn’t seem a likely candidate for the epicenter of private investigations, but there are certainly enough cases to keep PI Roxane Weary busy, as evidenced by Kristen Lepionka’s fourth novel about her, Once You Go This Far. The book starts with what appears to be an accident: A woman suffers an unfortunate, fatal fall from a park trail, and Roxane discovers the body during a morning hike. The daughter of the deceased woman thinks it was no accident and strongly suspects the victim’s ex-husband of having given his ex-wife the heave-ho in more ways than one. And who better to investigate than Roxane Weary, PI? It doesn’t take her long to find out that the ex is a real piece of work (not my first choice of descriptors, but hey, this is a family publication). That doesn’t necessarily make him a killer, however. Further muddying the waters is the victim’s connection to a cultish church, or perhaps a churchish cult, which in either case is a clear and present danger to both the resolution of the case and perhaps the safety of anyone who gets a bit too close to the group’s secrets. Read this one and see if it doesn’t send you scurrying in search of the previous three books in Lepionka’s series.
The Shadows is the second in a series by British author Alex North, set in the small (and fictional) English town of Featherbank, which was rocked by a bloody murder 25 years back and is now the scene of what may well be a copycat killing. Or worse, perhaps the new homicide marks the return of the original killer, who was never apprehended nor, for that matter, conclusively identified (although there was little doubt in anyone’s mind as to who the responsible party was). Paul Adams was friends with both the key suspect, Charlie Crabtree, and the killer’s victim. He has just made his way back to Featherbank to take care of his ailing mother, whom he has not seen in the intervening years. Although she is suffering from dementia, Paul’s mother is clearly frightened out of her wits about something, and her fear quickly becomes contagious. There are elements of the supernatural, or at least the not conventionally explainable, in the book, but more in the manner of John Connolly or T. Jefferson Parker than of, say, Stephen King. But it’s still probably not a good idea for late-night reading in a house with creaky doors. . . .
A Dangerous Breed
When Van Shaw receives a reunion invitation addressed to his dead mother, he hardly realizes it will be his stepping-off point to a whole new existence. Glen Erik Hamilton’s critically acclaimed suspense series returns with A Dangerous Breed. Van’s mother, Moira, lived a short but troubled life, leaving her young son to be raised by his stern yet criminally inclined grandfather. This upbringing put young Van in touch with some decidedly unsavory characters, a number of whom he nowadays counts as his closest friends. While doing a bit of sleuthing into his mom’s past, he stumbles onto information that hints at his father’s identity; it seems he could be a man well known in crime circles as someone not to be trifled with. Meanwhile, courtesy of one of his ne’er-do-well friends, Van is drawn into an extortion scheme that leaves him forced to choose between committing an act of domestic terrorism or watching several of his closest friends die slow and agonizing deaths. In best mystery fashion, nothing is quite what it seems, and as our hero begins to make some connections, he gets closer to an understanding that will place him directly in the crosshairs. If you’re a Jack Reacher fan, you’ll love Van Shaw.