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Whodunit: This cold case is burning up
LAPD cold case investigator Harry Bosch has gotten older and crankier at the same rate I have, so I always look forward to each new chapter in his saga, largely to see what new life lessons I might learn from my unwitting role model. In Michael Connelly’s The Burning Room, Bosch is confronted by an unusual situation: A man shot 10 years ago has recently died from complications from his bullet wound, so what was once an investigation of a probable gangland drive-by has now escalated into a full-blown murder case, and every clue is a decade old. Bosch and his talented rookie partner, Lucia Soto, quickly establish that the shooting was in no way random, but rather the work of a dedicated hit man. As each clue provides a new piece of the puzzle, a disturbing connection to another crime begins to establish itself—a crime near and dear to Bosch’s new protégé. Drawn in by Soto’s zeal and personal involvement, Bosch broadens the investigation, a misstep that could cost him his job and his pension. But will that stop Harry Bosch? Not bloody likely! This is another in an unbroken series of do-not-miss novels from Connelly.
This year, Ruth Rendell celebrates her 50th year in fiction; in the interim, she has cranked out more than one book a year, an enviably prolific record. In The Girl Next Door, she mines a different vein than many of her contemporaries, with a tale of murder that has its roots in the closing days of WWII, when a group of English school children used an abandoned construction site as their playhouse. Fast-forward 60-some years, when a rather grisly discovery has been made at the site: a pair of skeletal hands, severed at the wrist, clasped together in a tin box. The investigator assigned to the case could scarcely be more blasé; after all, who cares about a case where the perpetrator is likely dead or at least well into his or her 70s? But when the living members of the onetime school chums are gathered together for questioning, random old memories begin to gel into a plausible narrative for the crime. And when old flames rekindle and long-forgotten animosities bubble to the surface, anything can happen, even among people who, by most measures, should be old enough to know better.
SMELL WHAT’S COOKING
Changes are afoot on Tlokweng Road as The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café, opens. In Alexander McCall Smith’s 15th (really, 15th?) novel of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the lovable but overbearing Grace Makutsi has been promoted to co-director of Precious Ramotswe’s agency, leaving the position of secretary to be filled by lackadaisical apprentice mechanic Charlie, recently laid off from his job at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. The three have their work cut out for them as they attempt to unearth the true identity of a woman with amnesia, who mysteriously showed up at the home of a prominent family in Botswana’s small Indian community. Meanwhile, Makutsi has her fingers in another sort of pie entirely: the opening of what she envisions will be the most stylish restaurant the capital city of Gaborone has ever seen, the eponymous Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café. And if all of that weren’t enough to keep her harried around the clock, she carries a new baby astride one of her ample, “traditionally built” hips. And what of the other “traditionally built” heroine of the series, Ramotswe? Well, you can be sure she is on hand, doing the detecting, calming the waters and dispensing her own brand of morality, Botswana style, in the manner that has won Smith worldwide readership almost since day one.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
It really doesn’t matter whether you prefer serious, get-it-done heroes like Jack Reacher or Dave Robicheaux or wisecracking sleuths along the lines of Elvis Cole or Shell Scott, you have to love Timothy Hallinan’s protagonist, travel writer/adventurer Poke Rafferty. Based in Bangkok, Rafferty is the author of a series of travel books, Looking for Trouble in (fill in the name of an exotic-sounding southeast Asian city). In his latest adventure, For the Dead, however, it seems he has passed the trouble baton to his adopted daughter, Miaow, whose small but deceitful act of loyalty for a friend sets off a chain of reactions that nobody (least of all the reader) can anticipate. If the bad guy had simply followed instructions, there would have been no story. He should have pitched the iPhone into the Chao Phraya River, and everything would have been fine. (Well, fine for the bad guys, at least—not for the two cops they murdered.) But instead, for the sake of a few extra baht, he sold it to a dodgy electronics shop, where Miaow bought it a short time later, taking next to no time to find the damning photos that could go a long way toward toppling the Thai tower of power—if, that is, she and her family live to see tomorrow. In five words: Could. Not. Put. It. Down