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First Clue - Alafair Burke's Ellie Hatcher is Back!

First Clue
I often wonder about music videos. How did we all decide that each song had to be accompanied by a little movie? A visual accompaniment to music isn’t the only possibility. When music videos began, music was bought in stores and it could have come along with something to eat or drink, or a fragrance, or something to read or touch.
Happily, we can create combo experiences ourselves for the art we enjoy, including books. Tara Lush’s Cold Brew Coffee, reviewed below, features a happening coffee shop on an island north of Miami; it obviously lends itself to being read with a cup of Java, but some Cuban food probably wouldn’t go amiss either. Andrew Bourelle’s 48 Hours to Kill moves at such a breakneck speed that you won’t have time for anything else, but with Alafair Burke’s Find Me set in the Hamptons, get one of those candles that recreates the smell of the ocean. Joshua Moehling’s And There He Kept Her and Clea Simon’s Hold Me Down both feature booze aplenty…don’t operate any heavy machinery is all I’m saying.—Henrietta Verma 

Reno 911
Bourelle, Andrew. 48 Hours to Kill. December. 352p. Crooked Lane Books.
A gripping thriller that is begging to be made into a motion picture. Ethan Lockhart, serving time in a Nevada jail for armed robbery, is released on a 48 hour furlough to attend the funeral of his younger sister, Abby. Ethan is devastated—he and Abby were super tight—but he’s also suspicious: his sister Abby was clearly assaulted in her home, but her body was never found. Ethan suspects Shark, his former boss, a one-time minor loan shark who’s now a major Reno crime boss. Ethan teams up with Abby’s best friend, Whitney—sparks fly!—and they descend into the criminal underground he had hoped to have left behind. The plot never wavers, and the few subplots all add to the story. Bourelle really cranks up the pace—the book just flies—and each chapter is ingeniously named after how many hours are left before Ethan needs to turn himself in. Netflix, please get on this!Brian Kenney  
Finding Hope
Burke, Alafair. Find Me (Ellie Hatcher Series, Book 6). January 2022. 320p. Harper.
Hope Miller, as she’s known these days, is stuck in a legal no-man’s land. After she was found injured in a car crash, she never regained her memory, doesn’t know who she is, and has continued to live, for years, as a kind of foster daughter of a whole New Jersey town. Police pretend not to notice that she’s driving without a license. She works cash jobs. And her best friend, defense lawyer Lindsay Kelly, who found Hope in the wreck of her car all those years ago, carefully tends to her friend’s safety. Lindsay tries to understand when Hope moves to the Hamptons and asks for no contact for a while, but she’s frantic when the vulnerable woman disappears from the Hamptons home. Looking for Hope, and trying to remain loyal to her while uncovering disturbing truths, has Lindsay examining the case of an already-captured serial killer who stalked women a thousand miles from New York decades before. She’s assisted in the investigation by gutsy NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher, whom readers will know from the previous five books in this series. Also familiar will be Burke’s talent at gripping storytelling, creating thought-provoking characters that make readers squirm with ambivalence, and oh-so-clever endings. There’s no need to read the other books to follow this one, but you’ll want to.—Henrietta Verma 
Coffee, Yoga, Gossip: Perfection
Lush, Tara. Cold Brew Corpse: A Coffee Lovers Mystery #2. December. 320p. Crooked Lane Books.
A mystery with all the right ingredients, in all the right proportions: compelling crime, eccentric characters, dishy police chief, fascinating location, and above all else, Lana Lewis, a quirky, smart, witty, and sarcastic protagonist. After getting laid off from her job as a journalist in Miami, Lana moved back to her hometown of Devil’s Beach, a barrier island north of the city, and opened Perkatory, a happening coffee shop. When Raina—who owns the hot yoga studio next door—goes missing, Lana dusts off her journalism creds and heads into the contentious, and gossip-ridden, world of yoga to cover the story for the local paper. But finding Raina takes a village, and Lana gets help from a wonderful cast, including her yoga-loving, hippie Dad—whose  medical marijuana prescription is always filled—and Noah Garcia, the aforementioned police chief. Lana and Noah’s burgeoning relationship, despite plenty of professional conflict, is a strong element in the novel. But at the book’s heart is Lana, a complex character who’s recovering  from a divorce, wary of romance, and uncertain about her career, yet with a great sense of humor. If I can’t spend the afternoon hanging out with Lana in Perkatory, then please get me the next volume in this series ASAP.—Brian Kenney
Move Up the Pub Date!
⭐Moehling, Joshua. And There He Kept Her. June 2022. 320p. Poisoned Pen Press.
Here’s the premise: two teens, a boy and a girl, break into Emmett Burr’s house in search of opiates. The house is remote, set on Sandy Lake in northern Minnesota, and the kids just assume that Emmett, old and immensely obese, will be passed out. But everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Emmett shoots and kills the boy, while the girl, Jenny, is chained and left in a cell in the basement. It’s clear that she’s just the latest in a series of girls who’ve been locked up, abused, and eventually murdered. Fortunately, Jenny’s mother is quick to notice that her daughter is missing; she calls  Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Packard, and the search is on. Ben, who recently moved from Minneapolis, spent his childhood summers on the lake; in fact, he’s related to Jenny. Packard’s search takes him to the dark underbelly of Sandy Lake, where alcoholism and drug abuse and violence and crime rule. Low-key Packard, who has his own secrets—he’s gay and just inching out of the closet—is as compelling and potentially as complex a cop as Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache. This is a remarkable debutsharp, suspenseful, and emotionally powerfulsure to appeal to readers of Karin Slaughter and Lisa Gardner.Brian Kenney
A Deadly Reunion
Simon, Clea. Hold Me Down. October. 320p. Polis Books.
Simon, prolific author of the Witch Cats of Cambridge series, here mines her past as a rock critic. The tale looks at former rockers visiting their own past when they reunite for a benefit after former bandmate Aimee dies. During the concert, Gal Raver, frontwoman of the band and of the book, sees a familiar face in the crowd. It’s TK, the band’s old roadie, who’s later found dead in an alleyway behind the club. Walter, Aimee’s husband, is charged with murdering TK and seems curiously apathetic when Gal tries to help him fight the accusation. Finding out what happened involves numerous murky flashbacks to Gal’s past as a messy, angry drug and alcohol addict, and her behavior and the battle for fleeting success give the book a feeling of darkness. Simon’s evocative writing puts readers inside sweaty clubs that stink of beer and vomit (so much vomit!), and reaches its first height when describing the moment the fledgling band finally gels onstage. The music fades in the last part of the novel, which explores hard truths and the differing ways they can be remembered, with Simon’s depiction of Gal’s slowly unfurling memories a second high point. Note that rape is described here in some detail. For readers who enjoy dark stories and fans of music-themed mysteries.Henrietta Verma 
Pubbing This Week
The Heron’s Cry from Anne Cleeves, the second volume in her Two Rivers series, is out Sept. 7. We starred it, writing that “Subtle and nuanced, this novel is the prolific Cleeves at the top of her game.”
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Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney
Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney @1stClueReviews

The mission of First Clue is simple: to provide succinct reviews of crime fiction far in advance of publication. Our intent is for First Clue to help librarians and booksellers select titles and make recommendations, and readers find that next great read. We’re especially interested in books by authors of color, LGBTQ writers, first novelists, books that are first in a series, as well as translations and titles from smaller publishers. We give stars to books we love or which do a great job at accomplishing what they set out to do.

We are two, New York City-based librarians and former editors at leading review magazines—Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. We hope you'll subscribe—it’s free!—and after that, watch your email box every Thursday for our recommendations.

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