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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four new mysteries reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "The rise of localism," March 12, 2011

The Spider's Web

The 15th Wind River mystery again features Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Catholic priest John O'Malley-but Coel here moves the spotlight from their personal lives to the murder of a young Arapaho who returned to the reservation to get his life back on track. They need to figure out what the young man was up to when he was living off the reservation. Two young punks might be the killers, but are they the big brains? What about the two girls who both loved the victim? One was present when he was murdered: Did she do it, or was she a victim also? What about his Arapaho sweetheart? Coel manages to portray the reservation as both a place of terrible suffering and a place of great vitality.

Bury Your Dead

Louise Penny's series features Chief Inspector Gamache, a French Canadian who oozes wisdom. Set in Three Pines, the cozy murder-prone hamlet on the Vermont/Canadian border, the series has garnered all the major prizes for detective fiction. This sixth entry has Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir working on separate mysteries while recovering from injuries suffered in a botched hostage rescue. Gamache looks into a murder with historical connections and Beauvoir must undo a previous injustice. Penny interweaves the story of the botched rescue with Quebec history, English/French relations, and the two current cases. The novel is over-written (or under-edited) and has some bad language.

A Lonely Death

The 13th volume of this series again stars Ian Rutledge, the shell-shocked survivor of World War I who solves crimes for Scotland Yard. Here Rutledge confronts a case in Sussex where men who fought in the same regiment are being murdered, one after the other. Because the bodies are found with soldier's IDs in their mouths, Rutledge assumes their deaths are connected to their service. Scotland Yard politics interfere with his investigation, searing memories of his battlefield service drive him to despair, and frustration that he can't stop the murderer feeds his guilt. This well-crafted mystery touches on modern concerns about bullying without losing sight of the need to tell a good story.

A Question of Belief

Venice is a central character in Donna Leon's long-running series featuring Commisario Guido Brunetti: In this entry, Venice is sweltering and Leon paints it in all its non-air-conditioned misery. Brunetti is investigating for a colleague the mystery of where an elderly aunt is spending her euros, and just as he plans to escape to the mountains with his family, police find the bludgeoned body of a bureaucrat. Leon rewards her readers with lush descriptions of food, Brunetti's wise musings on life, and an eye for stories rising out of fallen human nature. Corruption may be a river running through Venice, but Brunetti finds refuge in his family, good food, and history.

Spotlight

Daniel Silva's spy novels are rooted in an old-fashioned virtue: patriotism, in this case love for Israel and its existential right of survival. Israeli agents led by Gabriel Allon, a fine art restorer and Israeli assassin, do the dirty work so that the rest of the world won't have to. (The Israelis cooperate with Britain and America but aren't bound by the same rules and political niceties.) In The Rembrandt Affair, officially retired Allon takes up an informal request to track down a missing Rembrandt. His search uncovers the painting's shady provenance, and its connection to a Swiss industrialist and nuclear Iran. Silva's plots highlight tough-minded, smart, well-trained operatives, tradecraft, and complicated schemes. When the unforeseeable goes wrong, the Israelis risk everything to save their own people, caring not at all for their reputation in the world.

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