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First Clue - Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge, Misfire by Tammy Euliano, The Poison Machine by Robert J. Lloyd, Killer Story by Matt Witten

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If you’re like me and work in a business where the end of the fiscal year is, well, interesting, congratulations on finding the energy to open First Clue this week! We hope the reviews can take you far from the fray. Or at least distract you from the full-body sobs.
This week we’re featuring some encores. In the author’s note that opens Misfire, Tammy Euliano notes that her writing career is such an endeavor; she’s moved from administering anesthetics to writing medical mysteries that star an anesthesiologist main character.
In First Clue re-do’s, two of our featured authors are folks we featured before. Robert J. Lloyd’s The Bloodless Boy was reviewed in these pages (so to speak) last year, as was Colleen Cambridge’s Murder at Mallowan Hall; Lloyd is back with The Poison Machine, a sequel to his New York Times-lauded debut, and Cambridge’s upcoming Mastering the Art of French Murder starts a new series, “An American in Paris.” Also treating us to an encore is Matt Witten; he returned to crime fiction last year with The Necklace, and is now back with Killer Story.
Enjoy, and see you next week!—Henrietta Verma

L'Art Du Crime
⭐Cambridge, Colleen. Mastering the Art of French Murder (An American in Paris #1). April 2023. 304p. Kensington.
Cambridge’s newest series has everything going for it. A magical setting: Paris awakening after World War II, with its fabled lights returning and food overflowing in the marketplaces. A great lead: sophisticated Tabitha Knight, who’s abandoned Detroit, and a dull fiancé, to live with her older French uncle and his longtime partner. Plus some star power: Tabitha’s buddy and neighbor, the young Julia Child, a student at Le Cordon Bleu who can always be found in her kitchen, stuffing some poor bird. Cambridge does a brilliant job capturing Julia with her quirky diction, fluty enunciation, and joie de vivre. But some of that joie flies out the window when a young woman is found dead in Julia’s basement; the murder weapon is a knife from Julia’s kitchen; and a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, is found on the woman’s person. Tabitha—every bit the modern, independent woman—heads off to track down leads, break into the victim’s apartment, and befriend an American theater group, all the while drawing the ire—and maybe admiration?—of the taciturn, but so very handsome, Inspector Merveille. A first-rate traditional mystery with strong characterization that is certain to appeal to a broad readership, especially fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Rhys Bowen, and Cambridge’s own Phyllida Bright series.Brian Kenney
Heart Attacks
Euliano, Tammy. Misfire (Kate Downey Medical Mysteries #2). January 2023. 368p. Oceanview.
Romance? Check. Medical thriller? Check. Cozy? Mmm…sort of. This book has something for a range of readers, from those who like a second-chance romance to fans of Michael Crichton’s medical thrillers as well as readers who get a kick out of elderly relatives as sleuthing sidekicks. It stars Dr. Kate Downey, a young, widowed anesthesiologist (same profession as the author) who lives with her opinionated Aunt Irm. Irm has recently had an AICD implanted, an internal defibrillator that can shock the heart back to the right rhythm if necessary. (An author’s note explains that Dick Cheney had his AICD’s wireless capability disabled while he was Vice President so that nobody could control it and kill him.) At work, Kate sees a frightening pattern developing over a matter of days. Several AICD users have “misfires,” meaning that their device shocks them at just the wrong moment in a heartbeat, greatly endangering their lives. The suddenness and frequency of these issues seem suspect. As Kate rushes to protect Aunt Irm, she gains the help of a man she’s interested in, but is it too soon since her husband’s death, and what about her new love’s involvement in the business that makes the aberrant AICDs? Get ready for realistic and emotionally intertwined characters throughout this fast-moving tech puzzle; the shocking ending leaves much to ponder, making this a great choice for book clubs (discussion guide included).—Henrietta Verma
An Intriguing Imposter
⭐Lloyd, Robert J. The Poison Machine (A Hunt & Hooke Novel #2). October. 464p. Melville House.
When Lloyd first introduced Harry Hunt in The Bloodless Boy (a First Clue starred review and a New York Times Best New Historical Novel of 2021), the 17th-century physicist was Robert Hooke’s assistant and the investigator of the gruesome murders of London boys. Here Hunt’s fortunes are doing both worse and better. On the glum side, we see his humiliating failure to replace Hooke as Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, with Lloyd’s almost-tactile picture of academic politicking giving the book a strangely modern feel. Hunt still finds prestigious work though: when the skeleton of a dwarf is found, Queen Catherine requests Hunt as investigator. Captain Jeffrey Hudson was “her” dwarf, and Hunt is tasked with finding out both who killed him and who the still-living man is who claims to be Hudson but is taller. The physicist’s urgent work this time (“the body will not keepe”) takes him far from the Thames shores he clung to in The Bloodless Boy. France is a major setting in the book and a final lengthy and very exciting scene takes us to the Queen’s Catholic Consult, where restrictions against the much-loathed group will be discussed. Lloyd again succeeds in creating an immersive look at the various layers of life his hero encounters, one that draws enough on real events to treat readers to intriguing history, but that also adds just the right fictional elements to keep the plot rich. Another winner.—Henrietta Verma
Seek Truth and Report It?
Witten, Matt. Killer Story. January, 2023. 320p. Oceanview. 
It’s great to have Matt Witten publishing crime fiction again. The author of one of my favorite series, the Jacob Burns mysteries, he returned to crime fiction last year with the riveting thriller The Necklace. Killer Story is in the thriller vein, and like The Necklace it provides the reader with plenty to dwell on instead of  just rushing to the end—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Petra Kovach is a bright young journalist in a contracting industry. No sooner does she land a job than a year later she’s out the door, a victim of downsizing. It’s happening again, this time at the “Boston Clarion,” and to bide two more weeks she pitches her boss a true-crime podcast that would reopen the violent murder of super right-wing Olivia, a Harvard undergrad—and YouTuber—who had an enormous following. For Petra, this is personal. She was Olivia’s counselor at summer camp, and the two remained tight ever since, despite their political differences. But as Petra tracks down possible murderers, and as her audience grows by the thousands then the millions, she sheds first any journalistic ethics, then any ethics at all. Witten sustains the suspense, with the narrative just leaping ahead, chapter by chapter, while at the same time most readers will be wondering: does the end justify the means? And how far can Petra go? Perfect for fans of Dervla McTiernan and Hank Phillippi Ryan.Brian Kenney
Extra Credit
We Need More Crime Novels In Which Women Make Choices About Reproduction | CrimeReads
The Woman Who Vanished From Her Family’s Lush California Estate
Chris Pavone Is Reinventing the Revenge Novel
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Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney
Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney @1stClueReviews

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