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First Clue - Vinyl Resting Place by Olivia Blacke, Forsaken Country by Allen Eskens, Exiles by Jane Harper, The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes, You Must Remember This by Kat Rosenfield

Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
This week we’ve enjoyed the launch of a new cozy series by Olivia Blacke that is full of all kinds of promise for the future. We then followed a former homocide detective in a “thriller [that] does a remarkable job of contrasting evil and love throughout” according to Etta in her review of Forsaken Country.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on Jane Harper‘s forthcoming novel, Exiles. Is she the best crime writer working today? She might very well be.
The House in the Pines is a debut, and you know how we love debuts. Not only did the book not disappoint, it left us ruminating about the story all week.
Speaking of houses, the mansion in the Gothic tale You Must Remember This is called The Whispers—which pretty much says it all. The novel is a good reminder that the people we most have to fear are the ones closest to us: family.
Till next week,
Brian Kenney

All Y’all Will Love This
Blacke, Olivia. Vinyl Resting Place. December. 304p. St. Martin’s. 
More than most other kinds of mysteries, successful cozies rely on a strong community that we would like to return to and a cast of characters we would like to know more aboutand Blacke’s first in this new series succeeds delightfully at both. Juni Jessup is back in Cedar River, Texas after six years in the Pacific Northwest. Laid off from her tech job and a bit homesick, she’s returned mainly to join her two sisters as partners in Sip & Spin, a record store and cafe. But at their blow-out opening party, the body of a young woman is found in the supply closet. Very dead. That’s bad enough, but she’s also clutching Uncle Calvin’s card. Calvin is arrested, the sisters put their shop up for collateral, then Calvin skips bail and disappears. This leaves the sisters with a double-headed mystery: who killed the victim and where in the world did Calvin get to? This is your sort of poke-around mystery, in which Juni bikes around town asking questions, although the way gossip flies in Cedar River, all you really need to do is stand in one place long enough and listen. But Juni’s a great storyteller, the small-town Texas-ness of it all is lots of fun, and there’s not one but two possible romances. What else could you ask for?—Brian Kenney
Fear and Loathing in Minnesota
Eskens, Allen. Forsaken Country. September. 352p. Mulholland Books.
Living a remote, punishing existence—he even asks to have the power to his cabin switched off in the Minnesota winter—former homicide detective Max Rupert has run away from his job more than retired from it. All readers know for most of the book is that he shoved a man through a hole in a frozen lake and is living with the aftermath of that choice. But why he did it, and whether he can allow himself to rejoin society, is a mystery. On a visit to town he runs into Lyle Voight, the former sheriff who’s been voted out of the job in favor of a corrupt newbie, and the man’s daughter, Sandy, and grandson, Pip. Seeing a family gives Max an unfamiliar and slightly disturbing feeling—happiness—and he’s helplessly drawn to jump in when, shortly after, Sandy and Pip vanish suddenly from their home. Puzzlingly, all signs point toward a planned absence. Next, we meet the sinister—and I mean sinister—duo behind the disappearance, and soon the chase is on, helped by Max’s former partner, Niki Vang. This thriller does a remarkable job of contrasting evil and love throughout, in the characters’ actions and dialog as well as in Max’s inner struggle between the positive force that keeps him going and the weight of self-loathing that holds him back. The three-dimensional portrayal of Niki, a wise-cracking and kind Vietnamese American detective and love interest, is a bonus. This is one to get lost in.Henrietta Verma
Tangles and Torment
⭐Harper, Jane. Exiles. January 2023. 368p. Flatiron.
Marralee, a town in South Australian wine country, is in many ways like any small place. Childhood friendships grow into marriages and divorces; there are second marriages to other childhood friends. Making it distinctive, though, is that the town has seen two disappearances in recent years. One was of a well-liked local accountant whose body was found after a year in the local quarry lake, apparently the victim of a hit and run. The other is of Kim, a woman who in the book’s present-day sections has been missing for a year. Describing Kim’s relationships illuminates Harper’s perfect creation of a small town. Kim is married to childhood friend Rohan and now has baby Zoe; she also has an older daughter, Zara, with her previous husband, Charlie, another childhood friend. Charlie’s brother is Greg (stay with me here), and Greg is friends with Aaron, a financial crimes officer who, while visiting his hometown from Victoria, can’t help getting involved in the mystery of where Kim went. As in her other books, Harper creates an engrossing mystery that’s populated with well-fleshed-out characters of all kinds; even minor actors are fully realized and contribute to the twists and turns. Going back and forth from the time of the disappearance to a year later ratchets up the suspense and the relationship drama, and when the last third of the book switches to a different, unexpected narrator, we’re rapt. Think Maeve Binchy characterization mixed with Ruth Ware’s mysteries and pick up Harper’s The Survivors while you’re waiting for this title.Henrietta Verma
The Baleful Berkshires
Reyes, Ana. The House in the Pines. January, 2023. 336p. Dutton. 
Maya is several years out of college, and she may just be getting past a pivotal memory—seeing Aubrey, her best high-school buddy, keel over dead, with only their odd friend, Frank, to witness it. Or did he, in some way, cause it? Now living in Boston with her law-school boyfriend, and trying to quit her secret Klonopin addiction, Maya flips out when a YouTube video goes viral that captures another woman likewise collapsing and dying, likewise while sitting across from Frank. Maya realizes she can no longer repress her memories and heads back to her Mom and their home in western Massachusetts to try to understand how these deaths are possible. The narrative ricochets between Maya and Aubrey in their teen years,  and their first encounters with Frank, to Maya in the present as she investigates Frank and slowly reconnects with him. Readers will be biting their nails watching Maya take the risks that are necessary if she will ever be free. A subtle, beautifully written thriller with strong characters and a great sense of place.Brian Kenney   
Home is Where the Horror Is
Rosenfield, Kat. You Must Remember This. January 2023. 320p. Morrow. 
A slow boil of a Gothic tale, perfect for readers who like intense family drama, plenty of gossip, and a shocking resolution. It’s Christmas, and everyone in the small Caravasios family has returned to The Whispers, the creaky mansion on Maine’s Mount Desert Island that the family has called home for decades. This includes Mimi, the matriarch, suffering from dementia but still sprung from her nursing home to celebrate what everyone hopes will be her final Christmas. Mimi, as you may have guessed, has money. Loads of it. Like moths to a flame, Miriam’s three children; Delphine, her granddaughter and a bit of a loser (“The problem was, I had no passions”); and several hangers-on gather round Mimi, waiting for the inevitable. In a way that’s wonderfully engaging, the book alternates between Mimi’s memories of the past and Delphine’s observations of the present, with some surprising similarities between the two. When the whole house of cards —built on money, sex, privilege, infidelity, greed, murder, and lies—collapses, it’s deeply satisfying.Brian Kenney
Extra Credit
An Introduction to Irish Crime Fiction
Meg Gardiner's 6 favorite crime fiction books | The Week
'Things will never be the same again': The Muslim women who are transforming crime fiction
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Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney
Henrietta Verma & Brian Kenney @1stClueReviews

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