Mostly Fiction BOOK REVIEWS


Favorite Sleuths

Series that feature our favorite Detectives & Amateur Sleuths

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Lethal Legacy
by Linda Fairstein

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Long Lost
by Harlan Coben

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Savage Season
by Joe R. Lansdale

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Mucho Mojo
by Joe R. Lansdale
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Humpty Dumpty
Was Pushed
by Marc Blatte
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The Deepest Cut
by Diane Emley

Recently Published Books in Hardcover:

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The Long Hill by Walter Mosley - A brand-new mystery series from one of the country’s best-known, best-loved writers: a new character, a new city, a new era. A new Walter Mosley. (March 2009) author page

Oh, Johnny by Jim Lehrer - PBS NewsHour anchor Lehrer mixes baseball, WWII and romance in his 19th novel . (March 2009)

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman - (March 2009) author page

Krapp's Last Cassette by Anne Argula - Quinn, a sharp-tongued private investigator in Seattle who’s been busy waving goodbye to her philandering husband while fanning her hot flashes with her other hand, has just bumped into a case that threatens to expose the compassionate heart beneath her hard-boiled exterior. (March 2009) author page

A Date You Can't Refuse by Harley Jane Kozak - Serial dater and greeting-card artist Wollie Shelley goes undercover in a media-training company suspected of video piracy, but when a dead body appears on the company’s property, she’s caught up in a conspiracy that goes way beyond some stolen DVDs. (March 2009) author page

Flipping Out by Marshall Karp - Nora Bannister is a bestselling mystery novelist who buys run-down houses in LA. While her business partners turn the house into a showpiece, Nora makes it the scene of a grisly murder in her House To Die For series. As soon as the new book goes on sale, so does the house — and the bidding frenzy begins. Just before Nora’s latest book hits the market, one of her house-flipping partners is murdered. LAPD Detectives Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs are assigned the case, but this one is a hot potato – the dead woman is also the wife of one of their fellow cops. (March 2009) author page

Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn - (March 2009) author page

Off Street Parking by Bill James - DC Sharon Mayfield is on routine surveillance when she spots a dead man in a car. The cars locks are sealed with superglue and Claude Huddarts face has been mutilated. As with most murders, theres a puzzle to be solved, but the pieces dont fit. Why is informant Jeremy Dince if thats his real name being so helpful? And theres just something that doesnt feel right about the grieving Alice Huddart. (March 2009) author page

Until It's Over by Nikki French - Astrid Bell has known most of her housemates for years, but while they have a tangled history together—romantic pairings, one-night stands, friendships—each of them also has a past. Astrid is on her way home one day when her neighbor accidentally knocks her off her bike. Bruised but not broken, her roommates help her home. The next day, they learn that same neighbor was beaten to death only hours after the accident. Each of them tells the police what little they know and are dismissed—until Astrid stumbles over another body. Two brutal murders in less than a week is more than just bad luck. (March 2009) author page

Promises in Death by J.D. Robb - In this 28th novel of this series, Lt. Det Eve Dallas takes down a cop killer. Amarylis Coltraine may have recently transferred to the New York City police force from Atlanta, but she’s been a cop long enough to know how to defend herself against an assailant. When she’s taken down just steps away from her apartment, killed with her own weapon, it is more than personal for Ever -- Coltraine was the girlfriend of one of her close friends. Set in the New York City of 2060. (February 2009)

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry - In this tightly plotted yet mind- expanding debut novel, an unlikely detective, armed only with an umbrella and a singular handbook, must untangle a string of crimes committed in and through people’s dreams. (February 2009)

The Deepest Cut by Diane Emley - Back from the dead. That’s how it feels for Nan Vining–a Pasadena homicide cop, a struggling single mother, and a woman determined to find the brutal madman who left her for dead a year ago. Now, in Dianne Emley’s brilliant new thriller, Nan Vining must face the truth: her attacker is still out there and he’s killed at least three other women. (February 2009) author page

Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein - In Linda Fairstein’s outstanding new novel, the New York Public Library houses dazzling treasures—and deadly secrets. (February 2009) author page

Whisper to the Blood by Dana Stabenow - a Kate Shugak Alaskan P.I. novel (February 2009) author page

All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson - Detectives Alan Banks and Annie Cabbot return in another electrifying novel (February 2009) author page

Revelation by C.J. Sansom - The year is 1543 and King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, a woman sympathetic to reform, whom he wants for his sixth wife— much to the dismay of Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court. Meanwhile, Matthew Shardlake is working to defend a teenage boy, a religious fanatic who is being held in the infamous Bedlam hospital for the insane. When an old friend of Shardlake’s is murdered, he vows to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him back to Bedlam but also to Catherine Parr... (February 2009) author page/ author page

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs must catch a madman before he commits murder on an unimaginable scale. (February 2009) author page

Sucker Punch by Ray Banks - In this, the second Cal Innes novel, Cal is looking forward to continuing his job as caretaker at Paolo's gym without the barbed-wire collar of parole. But a prodigal amateur boxer named Liam needs someone to go with him to his first major tournament in Los Angeles, and with rumors of a rigged competition, Cal's babysitting job swiftly turns into something dangerous. (February 2009) author page

The Mao Case by Qiu Xiaolong - Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department is the head of the Special Case group and is often put in charge of those cases that are considered politically "sensitive" since, as a rising party cadre, he's regarded by many as reliable. But Inspector Chen takes his job as a policeman very seriously, despite the pressures put upon him from within and without, and is unwilling to compromise his principles as a policeman in favor of political expedience. However, after the new Minister of Public Security insists that Chen personally take on a "special assignment," an investigation already begun by Internal Security, he may no longer be able to resist those pressures. (February 2009) author page

Blood and Bone by William Lashner - From the author of the Victor Carl series comes a stunning stand-alone novel about a young man forced to confront the dark truths of his past (February 2009) author page

Irish Tweed by Father Andew M. Greeley - A new tale of Nuala Anne McGrail, a fey, Irish-speaking woman blessed with the gift of second sight, and her husband and accomplice, Dermot Michael Coyne. (February 2009) author page

Lethally Blonde by Kate White - Bailey Weggins, crime reporter for Buzz magazine, makes her fifth appearance. (February 2009) author page

Murder at the Academy Awards: A Red Carpet Mystery by Jerrilyn Farmer and Joan Rivers (February 2009) author page

Cape Disappointment by Earl Emerson - In this extraordinary thriller by award-winning author Earl Emerson, Seattle private eye Thomas Black returns after more than a decade–and he must put together the shattered fragments of his life. His life and his country depend on it.(February 2009) author page

Run for Your Life by James Patterson with Michael Ledwidge - 2nd book in the Detective Michael Bennett series. (February 2009) author page

Death of a Witch by M. C. Beaton - In the 24th mystery to feature police constable Hamish Macbeth, the Scottish Highlands most stubborn (and romantically challenged) bachelor returns to his home village of Lochdubh from a disappointing vacation to discover a witch stirring up trouble. (February 2009) author page

Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage - 2nd in the Mario Silva series set in Brazil. (January 2009) author page

Murder at Deviation Junction by Andrew Martin - Another
thrilling mystery featuring railway detective Jim Stringer. (January 2009) author page

Desperately Seeking Sushi by Jerrilyn Farmer - (January 2009) author page

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo - Gripping and surprising, Nemesis is a nail-biting thriller from one of the biggest stars in crime fiction. (January 2009) author page

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich - The First Full Length Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novel! (January 2009) author page

A Darker Domain by Val McDermid - Past and present intertwine in this rare stand-alone novel of taut psychological drama—a brilliant exploration of loyalty and greed from the bestselling mistress of suspense. (January 2009) author page

Another Life: The Final Burke by Andrew Vachss - The only person Burke has ever called a father, known throughout the underground as "The Prof," is in a coma, barely clinging to life in the off-the-books hospital where the crew stashed him after their last job went off the rails. So when Pryce, a shadow-man with the best of government connections, offers the finest medical services for the Prof and a clean slate for all concerned, Burke takes the contract without
reading it. (December 2008) author page

Mounting Fears by Stuart Woods - President Will Lee is having a rough week. His vice president just died during surgery. Confirmation hearings for the new vice president are under way, but the squeaky-clean governor whom Will has nominated may have a few previously unnoticed skeletons in his closet. And Teddy Fay, the rogue CIA agent last seen in Shoot Him If He Runs, is plotting his revenge on CIA director Kate Rule Lee—the president’s wife. (December 2008)author page

A Matter of Justice by Charles Todd - In the stellar 11th Insp. Ian Rutledge mystery, Todd seamlessly combines a fair-play whodunit with a nuanced look into the heart of darkness in the human soul. (December 2008) author page

Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell - Leaving behind her private forensic pathology practice in Charleston, South Carolina, Kay Scarpetta accepts an assignment in New York City, where the NYPD has asked her to examine an injured man on Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric prison ward. The handcuffed and chained patient, Oscar Bane, has specifically asked for her, and when she literally has her gloved hands on him, he begins to talk—and the story he has to tell turns out to be one of the most bizarre she has ever heard. (December 2008) author page

Dead or Alive by Michael McGarrity - Living in London while his wife serves as a military attaché at the American Embassy, recently retired Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney gets an early morning phone call that changes everything and sends him hurrying home to his New Mexico ranch. (December 2008) author page

The Price of Butcher's Meat by Reginald Hill - After a close encounter with a bomb, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel recuperates at the Avalon Clinic in the quaint seaside resort of Sandytown. But soon he begins to suspect that those outside the convalescent home have just as many problems as the residents. (November 2008 )author page

Cross Country by James Patterson - When the home of Alex Cross's oldest friend, Ellie Cox, is turned into the worst murder scene Alex has ever seen, the destruction leads him to believe that he's chasing a horrible new breed of killer. As Alex and his girlfriend, Brianna Stone, become entangled in the deadly Nigerian underworld of Washington D.C., what they discover is shocking. (November 2008) author page

Dirty Water by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith - What is a baby - lightly drugged but otherwise healthy - doing abandoned in the players' chapel at Boston's Fenway Park? Meanwhile, the girlfriend of a player on the Red Sox's Portland, Maine, farm team is found beaten and drowned in Boston. Rocky Patel, a Boston PD homicide detective, catches both cases and quickly pieces together the connections between the two cases. But as good as Patel is, there's a blogger out there who always seems just a half step ahead of him and ultimately may be critical to solving the case. (October 2008) author page

The Right Mistake: The Further Philosophical Investigations of Socrates Fortlow by Walter Mosley - Ex-con Socrates Fortlow, the conscience of South Central Los Angeles, returns for another dozen interlinked adventures, most of them revolving around dialogues on tough or taboo subjects. (October 2008)

Burn Out by Marcia Muller - Traumatized by a recent life-or-death investigation, Sharon McCone flees to her ranch in California's high desert country to contemplate her future. Deep depression shadows her days and nights, and a chance encounter with a troubled, highly secretive Native American woman begins to haunt her dreams. Even though she is determined not to investigate anything during her stay--and perhaps not ever again--McCone is drawn into the plight of the young woman and her dysfunctional family. (October 2008) author page

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly - Things are finally looking up for defense attorney Mickey Haller. After two years of wrong turns, Haller is back in the courtroom. When Hollywood lawyer Jerry Vincent is murdered, Haller inherits his biggest case yet: the defense of Walter Elliott, a prominent studio executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover. (October 2008) author page

The Catch by Archer Mayor - Joe Gunther, a Vermont cop for most of his adult life and now the head of the VBI (Vermont Bureau of Investigation) gets the call that every law enforcement person hates and every friend and family member of a policeman fears -- a cop has been shot and killed. What brings Gunther and his team to the investigation is an attempt to shut down the major drug running operation operated out of Maine lobster community. (September 2008) author page

The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen - For untold years, the perfectly preserved mummy had lain forgotten in the dusty basement of Boston’s Crispin Museum. Now its sudden rediscovery by museum staff is both a major coup and an attention-grabbing mystery. Dubbed “Madam X,” the mummy–to all appearances, an ancient Egyptian artifact–seems a ghoulish godsend for the financially struggling institution. But medical examiner Maura Isles soon discovers a macabre message hidden within the corpse–horrifying proof that this “centuries-old” relic is instead a modern-day murder victim.(September 2008) author page

Blood Alone by James R. Benn - Billy Boyle awakens in a field hospital in Sicily with amnesia. In his pocket is a yellow silk handkerchief embroidered with the initial L. Gradually he remembers: he has been sent ashore in advance of the troops with this token from Lucky Luciano to contact the head of the Sicilian Mafia. Billy Boyle World War II mystery seriesl (September 2008) Read Review

The Night Stalker by James Swain - Swain's fine second suspense novel to feature South Florida PI Jack Carpenter. (September 2008) Read Review

Exit Music by Ian Rankin - It's late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong. (September 2008) Read Review

Precious Cargo by Clyde W. Ford - Marvin and Angela Baynes prepare to embark on their annual voyage to Alaska. Yet, as the boat anchor rises from the ocean floor, their excitement turns to horror as a ghastly image comes into view: the body of a young woman impaled on the anchor flukes. When detective Charlie Noble is called upon to investigate, he enlists the help of Raven, a Native American sea salvager. They find two more bodies. As the case unravels, Charlie and Raven make the connection that all of the dead females are Mexican, most likely young immigrants who have been murdered. (September 2008)

Hell Bent by William Tapply - Boston attorney Brady Coyne finds his own past coming back to haunt his professional life when his ex-girlfriend Alex Shaw, long out of touch, reappears, wanting Brady to represent her brother. (September 2008) author page

Blood Alone by James R. Benn - Third in the Billy Boyle WWII mysery series. (September 2008) author page

Silks by Dick Francis and Felix Frances - When defense lawyer Geoffrey Mason hears the judge’s ruling at London’s Old Bailey, he quietly hopes that a substantial sentence will be handed down to his arrogant young client. That Julian Trent only receives eight years seems all too lenient. Little does Mason realize that he’ll be looking Trent in the eyes again much sooner than that. (August 2008) cover

The Turnaround by George Pelecanos - On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever.Thirty five years later, one survivor of that day reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation.But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it.THE TURNAROUND takes us on a journey from the rock-and-soul streets of the '70s to the changing neighborhoods of D.C. today. (August 2008) author page

Death's Half Acre by Margaret Maron - 14th novel to feature Judge Deborah Knott series which charts the social changes in rural Colleton County, N.C., as housing developments and shopping malls squeeze out small farmers.(August 2008) author page

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs - (August 2008) author page

Lie Down with the Devil by Linda Barnes - 12th Carlotta Carlisle, Boston PI novel. (August 2008)author page

Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais - Elvis Cole was a hero when he cleared an innocent man of a murder charge. But when that innocent man is found dead three years later holding photos of the victim, Elvis is the one on trial. (July 2008) author page

Vicious Circle by Mike Carey - Carey presents his second hip supernatural thriller featuring freelance exorcist Felix Castor. (July 2008)

Swan PeakSwan Peak by James Lee Burke - Much beloved Louisiana lawman Dave Robicheaux is back again, this time in the brand new setting of the rugged Montana mountains. (July 2008) author page


Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry - In Barry's captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a dazed young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellersreturns to her hometown of Salem, Mass.. Soon after, her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play. (July 2008)

Fisherman's Bend by Linda Greenlaw - After solving a murder and surviving a couple of attempts on her life (recounted in the bestselling mystery Slipknot), Jane Bunker believes she's finally earned a respite from murder and intrigue. But if she thinks it's time for her to soak up the peace and quiet she's been seeking, she should think again. (July 2008) author page

Fuzzy Navel by J.A. Konrath (July 2008) author page

Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein - (July 2008) author page

4th WatcherThe Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan - Travel writer Poke Rafferty is ready to let go of his Looking for Trouble series of travel books and the dangerous lifestyle that goes with it, and settle down in Bangkok with his fiancée, Rose, and his newly adopted daughter, Miaow. But trouble isn't ready to let go of Poke. (June 2008) author page

Black Seconds by Karin Fossum - da Joner gets on her brand-new bike and sets off toward town. A good-natured, happy girl, she is looking forward to her tenth birthday. Thirty-five minutes after Ida should have come home, her mother starts to worry. She phones store owners, Ida’s friends—anyone who could have seen her. But no one has. Suspicion immediately falls on Emil Mork, a local character who lives alone and hasn’t spoken since childhood. (June 2008)author page

Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell - A new Chief Inspector Wexford mystery. (June 2008) author page

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver - New Lincoln Rhyme (June 2008) author page

Hit and Run by Lawrence Block - hitman John Keller mystery (June 2008) author page

The Evil That Men Do by Dave White - Stripped of his private investigator’s license and slumming it as a night security guard at a Jersey storage facility, Jackson Donne thinks he’s finally hit rock bottom. Then the bottom really falls out: The sister he hasn’t seen in years shows up, needing help. (june 2008) author page

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child (June 2008) author page

Fearless Fourteen by Stephanie Evanovich- (June 2008) author page

Whacked by Jules Asner - a dishy mix of Tinseltown hackdom, chick lit and, surprisingly, a chilling plot. (June 2008)

Shimura Trouble by Sujata Massey - (May 2008) author page


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Related to this Bookshelf:'s Mystery/Suspense bookshelf

Whodunit? How? Why? Mystery Genres explained

Women Sleuths

Twist, Slugs and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang

Cozies: A Selective List

Hard-Boiled Mysteries



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About this Bookshelf:

Each piece of the puzzle turns another page...I have always loved a good mystery, but with sleuth series, there is something extra. It's about continuity and having a book never really end because another will (hopefully) follow. And then when I pick up another in the series, it's like catching up with an old friend, sometimes they might even do things to annoy me, but like friends, I accept the short comings and get on with the story.  Sleuth series writers succeed in making their protagonist so real that we know the protagonist's name better known than the author's.

Like many girls of my generation, Nancy Drew was my hero. When I was a kid, our church library had a huge collection of her books and every Sunday I borrowed one of her mysteries (and one biography book). I can still smell the smoky binders from those books that lingered long after the church partially burned.  I tried other sleuths such as the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys, but they paled in comparison.  The significance of the favorite sleuth mystery series hit me a few years ago, while staying at a rental ski house. I found an old copy of a Nancy Drew mystery in my room and I was up all night reading it.  It was like I never left River Heights or my girlhood.  And for me this is the core of the best mystery series, you can go home again.

In the following pages, I've selected some of my favorite sleuths.  You'll find I'm not as discerning when it comes to this category. Most sleuth novels are fast reads and do not require a lot of brain power. For that reason alone they are fun. If I find myself clicking through TV channels with no set agenda, I  turn it off and pick up a book instead.  If I'm tired or in need of a vacation, sleuths series are my first choice.  It may be no more stimulating than a sit-com or drama on TV, but at least there are no commercials, no laugh tracks nor melodramatic music to tell me how I'm supposed to react. I'm simply among friends. And some of them are really funny!

Judi Clark, Editor
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