View profile

First Clue - Death at the Savoy by Ron Base & Prudence Emery, Secret Lives by Mark de Castrique, Dark Rivers to Cross by Lynne Reeves, Downfall by Mark Rubinstein

firstCLUE
What do three out of this week’s four books have in common? They all deeply involve family.
In Secret Lies, 75-year-old Ethel Crestwater has only one remaining relative, Jesse, her double-first-cousin-twice-removed. Despite grad student Jesse’s remote relationship, he’s the one person Ethel trusts implicitly.
Dark Rivers to Cross features Lena Blackwell, who has raised her family in seclusion in Maine. Now one of her sons is becoming restless, and, according to Etta, “..present-day determination, exasperation, and love bring us closer to an unpredictable and scary finale.”
Finally, in Downfall, we meet a pair of NYPD detectives who are investigating two murders. One victim is a stunning doppelgänger for Dr. Rick Shepherd, and is found murdered outside Rick’s office. Then Rick’s father is discovered murdered as well. What’s with this creepy version of “All in the Family”?
Till next week,
Brian Kenney

Where Agents Fear to Tread
De Castrique, Mark. Secret Lives. October. 288p. Poisoned Pen.
A high energy foray into cryptocurrency and government corruption. At the center of the novel is petite, running-suit clad, 75-year-old Ethel Crestwater, a former FBI agent who operates a boarding house in Arlington, VA for law enforcement folk who need a temporary home in the DC area. Never married and with no kids, Ethel starts every morning in her basement with a round of RBG’s exercises. The latest addition to her clan is Jesse, a remote relative, but her only relation, who’s moved to DC for graduate work in computing. When one of “her” agents is gunned down in front of her house, Ethel, assisted by double-first-cousin-twice-removed Jesse, catapults into action. It helps that Ethel knows—and is owed favors by—a range of characters, from the director of the FBI to the Secret Service to the local Arlington detective; part of the fun of the book is watching the territorial struggles among the different agencies. Yes, wise-cracking Ethel is highly entertaining, but to de Castrique’s credit, she’s no cutesy stereotype of a gun-wielding grandma. She’s got her own story, and it’s a complex one. Ethel and sidekick Jesse make a great team; how about Jesse drops out of school and they take up sleuthing full time? Bonus: this book is a helpful primer for the uninitiated on cryptocurrency and how it works. Readers who enjoy this novel will also appreciate Deanna Raybourn’s Killers of a Certain Age.Brian Kenney
Paging Austin Powers
⭐Emery, Prudence and Ron Base. Death at the Savoy (A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 1) October. 320p. Douglas & McIntyre. 
We’re in the mad, mod, mini-skirted world of London, 1968—the height of the swinging sixties. Where better to catch all the action than from a perch at the world-famous Savoy Hotel? Nowhere, unless you are young Priscilla Tempest, head of the Savoy’s press office, and arrive at work only to discover that your date from the previous night—Mr. Room 705—has been found quite dead. Odd, since when you left him he was a little too alive. Plus, it turns out that he’s a bit of an arms dealer, and not the caviar dealer he claimed. So begins Prudence’s crusade to clear her name, if not her reputation, keep her job, and maybe even stay alive. This book is outrageously funny, peppered throughout with all-too-realistic cameo appearances from the likes of Noël Coward, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and even a member of the royal family. Add to the mix a Soviet spy, a louche but handsome reporter, a fanatical monarchist from Scotland Yard, a Spanish gigolo, and serve it all accompanied by a nice flute of Bucks Fizz—that’s what the British call a Mimosa. And who said you don’t learn from fiction? Anglophiles, lovers of comic crime fiction, and anyone in need of a break from the present day will adore this book. I’m off to The Carlyle for a Fizz myself, don’t bother ringing until Book 2 is out.—Brian Kenney
A Deadly Secret
Reeves, Lynne. Dark Rivers to Cross. November. 288p. Crooked Lane.
Jonah and Luke Blackwell are teen brothers-by-adoption who are close in age, and close generally. But they disagree on one big thing: whether to find out their origins. Adopting from foster care, Lena Blackwell was planning to take in one child, but on the big day found him holding hands with a smaller boy, and the rest is history. But it’s history that Jonah can’t leave alone. Lena is at first mildly dissuasive, saying only that the adoption was closed for a reason. As time goes on, however, she grows increasingly frightened that Jonah will uncover why she’s a virtual recluse at the Millinocket, Maine inn that she and Luke run while Jonah attends college. Curious too is why the inn is owned by Coop, the Native Penobscot man whom the boys thought was an employee. And why, when a guest arrives at the inn who seems to know Lena from the past, is she bundled off to stay with the competition? As flashbacks that are haunted with fear take readers back to Lena’s long-ago struggles and her arrival in Millinocket, present-day determination, exasperation, and love bring us closer to an unpredictable and scary finale. This fast read is for those who enjoy strong protagonists digging their way out of tough circumstances.Henrietta Verma
Why Doctors Don't Do House Calls Anymore
Rubinstein, Mark. Downfall. April 2023. 336p. Oceanview.
Veteran NYPD Detective Art Nager and his newbie partner, Liz Callaghan, might have the makings of a cold case on their hands. Or two cold cases…nobody’s sure. Arriving at his Manhattan Upper East Side office, Dr. Rick Shepherd is stopped by police. Somebody’s been shot in the back, on the steps. When the victim is shown later on the news, Rick and his wife are shocked: he could be the doctor’s twin. In a lengthy, wryly funny scene, we see a jaded cop brush off the coincidence, but it doesn’t seem so random the next day when Rick’s father is also murdered, also shot in the back. The elder Dr. Shepherd was on a house call. But maybe it was more. Or could it be that a low-life whom Rick’s sister dated had enough of her family’s dislike? Perhaps a disgruntled patient? And is the second murder connected to the first, and to the creepy silent phone calls to Rick’s home? The detectives have their work cut out, and they portray the best of a police-procedural duo: camaraderie, doggedness in pursuit of the truth, and revelations of past relationships on and off the job. Narrator Nager’s growing feeling that this relationship could become more adds that something extra that makes this read comforting as well as a great puzzle. Did I mention the closing twist?—Henrietta Verma
Extra Credit
The Price You Pay: Of Crimes and Closets
Cheryl Head On Using Crime Fiction To Tell The Story of Her Grandfather’s Murder | CrimeReads
Did you enjoy this issue? Yes No
Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney
Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney @1stClueReviews

At firstCLUE we read crime novels way in advance of their publication and share our favorite finds with you. We hope that firstCLUE will help librarians and booksellers select titles and make recommendations, and readers find that next great read. If we really love a book we put a star on it.

Any fiction that involves crime we consider to be fair game. 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 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.

In the first week of every month we publish a list of the titles we have reviewed that are publishing that month.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Created with Revue by Twitter.
84-12 35th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY 11372