Paula's Mystery Picks
During the runup to WWII, a communist operative is sent to a German railroad town to test the loyalty of members of the party - will they participate in sabatoging the Nazis, or have they changed their stripes? The agent rents a room in a boarding house, giving Downing a set of characters whose varying experiences give the book texture and depth. A detailed look at a fascinating time by the author of the "Zoo Station" series.
For fans of Maisie Dobbs. Our heroine is Perveen Mistry, who wants to become the first female lawyer in 1920's Bombay. It's a fascinating look at competing and often conflicting codes of law and religion. The central mystery concerns the three secluded widows of a rich muslim man and the thorny issue of their individual inheritances.
If you like your thrillers to straddle the line between commercial and literary, and the phrase "mossad agent / art restorer / assassin" sounds intriguing, then Silva's Gabriel Alon series might interest you. There are many entries in the series, but this recent one, with a Cambridge spy twist, is one I especially enjoyed.
I'm a fan of Connelly's Harry Bosch series, but was hesitant to dig into his new character, a younger female detective named Renee Ballard. I shouldn't have worried, because Renee is, in her own way, as flawed and heroic and annoying and admirable as Harry. Renee works the night shift, and the particular details of responding to crimes in the middle of the night make a great setting.
The first in a new series by Vera and Shetland creator Ann Cleeves. It takes place in Devon, where Cleeves grew up, and the sense of place is finely detailed and sunnier than the Vera and Shetland locales. The crimes that detective Matthew Venn investigates, however, are just as dark.
Marie Mitchell wants to build a career in the FBI in 1980's New York. There are just two things keeping her from being taken seriously by her colleagues - she is a woman and she's black. The intricate plot involves black power groups in New York, interventionist politics in Africa, and is framed by Marie's flight to Martinique with her two young sons. One of Barack Obama's recent favs!
MI6 and ISIS are both on the trail of a refugee with valuable information - the British want his intel, the terrorists want to shut him up. The target is a 13-year-old who's been making his way from Syria to Greece and is heading north to Germany. The details of what it's like for refugees trying to move through Europe is what makes this novel stand out.
This "social crime novel" starts in Rodney King era Los Angeles and moves to the present day. It follows two families, one Korean-American and one African-American, that are connected by circumstance and fate. At times it has an almost Shakespearean feel, but also reminded me of Richard Price's Lush Life. Steph Cha creates a cast of flawed and sometimes unsympathetic characters, yet by the end I had empathy for them all.