On the crime beat: New mysteries by Martin Limón, Mike Lawson and Tana French
New in crime fiction: fresh mysteries by Seattle-area authors Martin Limón and Mike Lawson, plus new work by Tana French, Martin Walker and Marco Vichi.
Special to The Seattle Times
Three local writers — two with new books, one with a new honor — spearhead this month's selection of crime fiction.
"The Joy Brigade" (Soho, 288 pp., $25) continues Seattleite Martin Limón's evocative and empathetic series about Army investigators in South Korea in the 1970s.
Sergeant George Sueño ventures beyond his usual turf, the demimonde of Seoul's nightlife, to stop an invasion by North Korea. Taken prisoner in the North, and without his impetuous partner Ernie Bascom to watch his back, Sueño has only his wits and a shaky group of co-conspirators (in it for the money, ideology or emotional reasons) as backup.
Martin Limón will sign "The Joy Brigade" at noon Wednesday at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, 206-587-5737; www.seattlemystery.com).
Joe DeMarco, a shrewd fixer-of-messes for a powerful Congressman, stars in Seattle writer Mike Lawson's thrillers, which are always stocked with wry humor, memorable characters and an easy familiarity with politics, shady or otherwise.
"House Blood" (Atlantic, 432 pp., $24) has all those ingredients. It finds DeMarco drawn (rather reluctantly) into exposing a drug company's use of a disaster-relief agency as cover for secret pharmaceutical trials. (The drug being developed isn't revealed until well into the book, but it's hot stuff.)
Mike Lawson will sign "House Blood" at 3 p.m.. July 8 at Magnolia's Bookstore, (206-283-1062, www.magnoliasbookstore.com).
Beyond the Northwest: "Scorcher" Kennedy, a secondary character in Tana French's previous novels about Irish homicide investigators, steps into the spotlight in "Broken Harbor" (Viking, 451 pp., $27.95). Kennedy's brief: investigating an apparent murder-suicide that left three members of a family dead and a fourth barely alive.
French's beautifully rendered story is set against a heartbreaking background: Ireland's economic collapse, which (as in America) finds millions of people struggling. Did a once-happy family's financial woes create tragedy? Betrayal — by friends, relatives, colleagues — is also a running theme, in the investigation and in Kennedy's own troubled life.
In Martin Walker's delightful series about Bruno, chief of police in a small Dordogne village, the charm of rural France is regularly disrupted — but not too much.
"The Crowded Grave" (Knopf, 336 pp., $24.95) finds affable Bruno juggling a complex love life while investigating three mysteries. Basque terrorists pose a threat to an upcoming conference. An archaeological dig reveals a recently deceased body. And animal-rights terrorists target farmers who force-feed ducks and geese to make the region's famed paté de foie gras.
Bruno is a casual, unfussy gourmand, the kind of guy who hums the Marseillaise to time how long to sauté foie gras. But the cop is a gourmand nonetheless, so it's hard to say which has a higher priority: solving murders or protecting his beloved paté from attack.
Marco Vichi's "Death in August" (Pegasus, 232 pp., $25, translated by Stephen Sartarelli), set in 1960s Florence, stars the intriguingly named Inspector Bordelli (it means "brothels"). Sweltering in the summer heat, Bordelli investigates the death of a wealthy old woman whose family eagerly awaits the reading of the will.
The book's style is eccentric and bumpy. On one level it's a classic mystery a la Agatha Christie (small pool of oddball suspects, gadgety murder weapon). But it also takes baffling side trips into Bordelli's memories of childhood and the still-vivid war.
Despite this unevenness, Bordelli is fine company — not least because, like Dashiell Hammett's Nick Charles, he enjoys a circle of friends encompassing both high- and lowlife, especially crooks he once jailed but who remain pals.
Finally, a tip of the fedora to Olalla's Gregg Olsen. Olsen reports that his young-adult novel "Envy" (published last year) is the Washington State Library's selection as the only entry from here in the Pavilion of the States at the National Book Festival to be held in Washington, D.C., in September.
Adam Woog's column on crime and mystery fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Seattle Times.