View profile

First Clue - We Knew All Along by Mina Hardy, The Local by Joey Hartstone, The Cloisters by Katy Hays, Death in Heels by Kitty Murphy

What do this week’s books have in common? Pretty much nothing!
Which is what I enjoy most about crime fiction: the vast range of settings, the unexpected characters, the plots that surprise and shock.
Since we’re kicking of LGBTQ pride month this week, we’ve got Death in Heels, a Dublin series—just be careful of those Irish drag queens. They’re a tough bunch.
Our other titles take you deep into the New York museum world, never as innocent as it seems; provide a fascinating legal drama, perfect for those just finishing Netflix’s the “Lincoln Lawyer”; and demonstrate the sheer evil that is always simmering beneath school reunions.
Finally, thanks to all the publishers who sent us paper galleys last week. If you missed our call and can ship us some of your fall titles, drop me a line and I’ll send our addresses:
Best wishes,
Brian Kenney

I'm Still Recovering
Hardy, Mina. We Knew All Along. December. Pagination unavailable. Crooked Lane Books.
Jewelann Jordan attends her high-school reunion to nonchalantly run into her former, sort-of-boyfriend, Christian Campbell, and dump him later that night as revenge for his behavior when they were teens. Christian, who reveals that he’s now a surgeon, and who takes more than one reunion attendee back to his hotel room, doesn’t take well to rejection. A few days later, Jewelann’s controlling husband, Ken, announces that he’s  renting out their carriage house, has already found a tenant, and by the way he’s here already. You can guess who it is. Thus begins a fraught game. Jewelann believes Ken’s business trips are covering an affair, but she’s scared to confront him. And what if he knows about what Jewelann and Christian used to get up to in that carriage house, activities that Christian wants to continue and is threatening to reveal? The maelstrom of emotions and abuse boils over in the most shocking way, and readers will not be ready for the whoa-that’s-way-out-there ending. Hardy is a pseudonym for author Megan Hart, whose just released Coming Up for Air also opens with reunion shenanigans.—Henrietta Verma
One for Grisham Fans
⭐Hartstone, Joey. The Local. June. 320p. Doubleday.
Hartstone’s debut draws on the real-life town of Marshall, Texas: a quarter of all patent cases in the country are heard there. In the 1990s, Judge T. John Ward made his courtroom in the Eastern District of Texas, or EDTX, a kind of patent-trial machine, using timers when lawyers spoke and limiting the number of pages they could file. In addition, Marshall’s juries award unusually high amounts in damages, all making EDTX attractive to those suing for patent infringement. Judge Ward is called Gardner here, but the practices are the same. Appearing in his court is Amir Zawar, whose rideshare app may have stolen another product’s design. Representing Zawar is James Euchre, a lawyer who tells himself he’s quit smoking…he only has a few per day, after all…and is trying to limit himself to three drinks a day. His resolve is tested when his client is, shall we say, reluctant to go along with court decorum. It’s not a great idea to hit your lawyer and threaten the judge’s life, but it’s even worse when the judge is later found dead. Euchre has never worked on a criminal case before, let alone one that could involve the death penalty, but Zawar insists he stay in the lead counsel seat, with both characters, along with Euchre’s love-interest coworker in the trial, taking readers on a tension-filled ride to justice. Lawyers, such as one Mr. Grisham, have long written compelling legal thrillers; this book, by an experienced TV writer, stacks up favorably against the legal greats.Henrietta Verma 
⭐Hays, Katy. The Cloisters. November. 320p. Atria.
A wonderfully dark novel rich in characterization. After Ann Stillwell graduates from college, she doesn’t waste a minute more in Walla Walla, WA, and heads to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), where she has secured a summer position as curatorial associate. But there’s a mix up, and Ann ends up at the Cloisters, the Met’s museum and garden devoted to medieval art, located at the remote northern tip of Manhattan. Here she ends up working with Rachel Mondray, who is everything Ann isn’t: Yale educated, Harvard bound, immensely wealthy. Will they be friends, enemies, or frenemies? Friends, it turns out, providing they stick to Rachel’s terms. Under the tutelage of Patrick, the curator-in-charge, they research early Renaissance tarot cards in preparation for an upcoming exhibit. But the cards aren’t just visually beguiling. They are powerful in ways that go well beyond art history, capable of inspiring evil today. Hays does a wonderful job of opening up the lives of both Ann and Rachel, who forge an alliance—like the contestants in a Survivor-like TV show—that will see them safely through the summer. Or will it? Fans of Shapiro’s The Art Forger, Perez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel and Santlofer’s The Last Mona Lisa will love this book.—Brian Kenney
Dublin is Burning
Murphy, Kitty. Death in Heels (Dublin Drag Mysteries). November. Thomas & Mercer.
Irish drag queens may not get much sunlight, but they can still throw plenty of shade. Centered on a drag family that performs at the Dublin dive bar TRASH, the novel follows Fiona (Fi) McKinnery and her best friend and roommate Robyn/Mae B as Mae B makes her debut on the TRASH stage, lip-syncing to Julie London. She’s a huge success, until Eve, a nasty little queen, does a parody of Mae B’s act, ruining the night. When, later that evening, Eve is found dead, face down in an overflowing gutter, is anyone surprised? While everyone, from the gay community to the Gardaí (police), is willing to accept the death as an accident, Fi—who discovered the body on her way home from the club—is convinced it’s murder. When she speculates about Eve’s murder on her blog, she draws the ire of the queens who would rather forget about the whole thing and quickly turn their misogyny on Fi, dubbing her “Hagatha Christie.” Unfortunately, ensuing incidents only support Fi’s speculation. A charming novel about growing up and growing apart, the power of family—both your own and the one you create—and the danger of repression.—Brian Kenney  
Extra Credit
A List of Feminist Thrillers | CrimeReads
Dan Chaon Doesn’t Want to Hear About Your Middle-Class Norwegian Life | The New York Times
Anthony Bidulka On the Road to Beautiful | Lavender Magazine
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