Meghan Collins Sullivan/NPR
The game’s afoot — and for “game,” read “spring.”
Here in D.C. the cherry trees have blossomed and we’re all eager to get outside for favorite activities.
For some of us, favorite outside activities include finding a green space, laying out a blanket and lying down to read. This roundup of mysteries and thrillers includes virtual travel to 1950s London, 1920s Manhattan, 21st-century Finland, and more. Happy al fresco reading!
The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear
Legions of readers love Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series, set during and after World War I in Britain. Now the author brings a darker and quieter standalone novel to her audience, a story that features a Kentish village in, a young family seeking refuge and a haunted woman named Elinor White whose service in two wars has made her a near hermit. With focus on White’s interior experience and a subplot involving the post-war London crime syndicates, this book sees Winspear taking things up several notches in terms of theme and character development. However, she also turns up suspense with a structure that toggles between present, her war-torn childhood and her Special Operations Executive doings during World War II.
The Lost Americans by Christopher Bollen
If you haven’t read a Christopher Bollen novel yet, you’re missing out. From his 2015 Orient to 2020’s A Beautiful Crime, Bollen has proven that building a mystery doesn’t mean leaving out plenty of atmosphere. Whether he takes readers to coastal Long Island, Venice, Greece and now Cairo, he does his research in order to bring a place to life according to the interests and intrigue his characters (often, but not solely, queer men). The Lost Americans follows Cate Castle, arriving in Cairo because her brother Eric has supposedly died by suicide. She suspects foul play, as Eric worked for a defense firm with ties to various government and underground organizations. Along the way, Bollen considers civil rights for more than one group, forcing no conclusions yet making readers think hard about what we’re really protecting these days.
Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb
One of 2022’s most exciting books was The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb (which I reviewed for NPR Books here), in which the origin and rights of Black Americans in the classical music world took center stage. Slocumb’s second novel doesn’t disappoint; if anything, it’s better than his first, fueled less by getting to a secret (although that secret in Conspiracy was pretty great), and more by a passion for giving underrepresented figures full development. Here, an African-American music scholar, Bern Hendricks, receives a lifechanging call from a foundation that represents a white icon of composition named Frederick Delaney. The Delaney Foundation wishes Hendricks to re-score a previously unknown opera, but when he finds that the white Delaney not only had a relationship with the Black woman named Josephine Reed, but that Reed may have had an important role in the opera’s creation, he knows he’s going to find trouble.
The Moose Paradox by Antti Tuomainen
Since the 2017 publication of The Man Who Died, the translations of Finnish mystery writer Tuomainen have gotten increasingly funny and increasingly popular. Who knew that such a quiet country could contain a hot seaside destination (Palm Beach, Finland) and an adventure park (The Rabbit Factor)? Tuomainen now releases the second book in this adventure park series, and since there’s a film adaptation underway with Steve Carell playing mild-mannered actuary Henri Koksinen, catch up now on how Koksinen inherited the park, YouMeFun, from his brother. The Moose Paradox finds our hero entangled with suspicious equipment suppliers and the plot is funny enough – but the author’s mordant humor is even funnier. Take a break from Nordic noir and enjoy this Nordic nuttiness.
Dirty Laundry by Disha Bose
In Ciara Dunphy’s Irish village, things seem quiet and sedate. However, her best friend Mishti Guha has problems, starting with her arranged marriage (done back home in Calcutta). When Ciara winds up murdered and her beautiful life is revealed as fake, Mishti and her new friend Lauren Doyle come under suspicion and have to find a way to clear their names without implicating themselves further. If you loved Bad Sisters on Netflix, you’ll love this everyone-done-it with similar modern characters and concerns, from Instagram influencers to tension between working moms and stay-at-home moms. Bose, born in India, lives in Cork and earned her master’s from University College Dublin before having this debut snapped up in a six-figure deal. It will be great to see where she goes with her next book.
Bethanne Patrick is a freelance writer and critic who tweets @TheBookMaven and hosts the podcast Missing Pages.
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