As attorney Mia Quinn talks on the phone with a prosecutor friend, she hears gunshots through the phone. She rushes to her friend’s house and discovers her dead body. The other prosecutors worry that the murder is related to work, and Quinn gets pulled into the investigation. She can’t stand the detective in charge, and at home her teenage son is causing problems. Wiehl successfully weds a page-turning police procedural with a family drama that has Quinn dealing with tight finances, a struggling teenage son, and a father who has had a spiritual rebirth. Though he was often absent during her childhood, he wants now to be involved in a way she finds difficult to trust.
Private detective Vish Puri is an Indian Hercule Poirot, a slightly ridiculous and self-important detective, who solves crimes with the help of his sidekicks. One of his employees moonlights as a volunteer with the Love Commandos, a group that believes arranged marriages are impeding Indian development. When a Dalit man asks for help eloping with his Brahmin girlfriend, the Love Commandos go to work. Their plan falls apart when the boyfriend disappears, and Puri suspects the girl’s ruthless father has kidnapped him. Hall portrays India’s charm and uses a light touch to expose the ugliness of the caste system, which still exerts influence, especially in rural areas. His knowledge of Indian culture comes through in scenes of daily life and descriptions of mouth-watering meals.
Tony Hillerman, who died in 2008, wrote novels exploring the tensions between modernity and the traditional Navajo way. His daughter Anne wants to keep his Navajo police series alive, and in her first attempt consigns her father’s two Navajo policemen—Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee—to supporting roles. A minor character, Bernadette Manualito, assumes center stage. After she witnesses an attack on Leaphorn, Manualito—now married to Chee—gets sidelined from the investigation but finds a way to stay involved. Anne Hillerman is not yet the writer her father was, but those looking for clean mysteries with a sense of place will be glad she’s taking up the challenge.
Visitation Street takes place in Red Hook, a neighborhood in Brooklyn hovering between decay and gentrification. The story involves two teenage girls who decide to float into the East River on a flimsy rubber raft. Only one of them survives. What happened to the other becomes fodder for gossip and suspicion, with the most intense scrutiny resting on Cree, a young man whose mother still hasn’t recovered from his father’s senseless murder. Most of the characters are urban loners, isolated by their pasts, family circumstances, and culture. Pochoda offers glimmers of hope—a young woman singing gospel hymns at the end—but the world she portrays in this R-rated novel (language and sexual situations) is a bleak one.
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (Morrow, 2014) is a story of a flawed father and two plucky daughters who need him to step up. With the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire as backdrop, the novel begins when the daughters, Easter and Ruby, find their mother dead from an overdose. They end up in a foster home. They know their father to be a loser who signed away his parental rights. He shows up and wants them to run away with him, and they decide that being with him is better than being sent to Alaska and grandparents they’ve never met. It doesn’t take long for them to find out that someone dangerous is chasing their father. The daughters’ court-appointed advocate—a disgraced former cop looking to redeem himself—also pursues them. The chase heads west, culminating at Busch Stadium on the last day of the 1998 season. —S.O.