THE DARK HEART OF FLORENCE: A LADY EMILY MYSTERY by Tasha Alexander (St. Martin's). The sixteenth of a series that might as well be acknowledged, at last, as classic (you noticed, “sixteenth?”). …
THE DARK HEART OF FLORENCE: A LADY EMILY MYSTERY by Tasha Alexander (St. Martin's). The sixteenth of a series that might as well be acknowledged, at last, as classic (you noticed, “sixteenth?”). They rather resisted the column, early on; the author is contemporary, and an American, but the novels are historical (Edwardian London), and the writing is not just formal, rather distinctly archaic, and so easy for a certain narrow-snooty sensibility to set aside as trying too hard. But paid attention to, it quickly becomes perfectly clear and—what it surely aims at—as charming as well-made jewelry, and all the more convincing in evoking its period and setting. They are, then (hardly a surprise) beautifully made, plotted, resolved mysteries, but also rich historical novels. This one takes intrepid, no-nonsense Lady Emily from her London home to Italy, as the title promises, and the reader to two different timelines: Florence in the time present of the series, but also Florence in the Renaissance era; and manages it all beautifully and never loses its breath.
SUPER HOST by Kate Russo (Putnam). Smart, enjoyable, clever but earnest contemporary comic novel about a likable, seemingly hapless—but resourceful, as it turns out—failing artist who sublets his quite fancy apartment to fairly well off nuisances. This novel is just for fun, but more fun with less meanness than most comic fiction manages—though that's not to say none.
WIN by Harlan Coben (Grand Central). A column favorite of long standing, Coben; this is the quite daring first of a brand new series, featuring (not for the first time from this author) an easy to dislike central figure (and narrator) that you'll crab at but never stop listening to. Coben just won't be denied; the milieu and the plotting are that commanding, and that narrator guy grows on you, anyway—he's quite witty, including at his own expense.
LIGHTSEEKERS by Femi Kayode (Mulholland). Another very satisfying, and also promising, series-opener crime novel. Set in Nigeria, featuring a smart and likable investigator, a psychologist rather than a police officer, Nigerian but American educated, and having lived in America for some years. Fairly hard to read just the first couple of pages (not the writing, even for a moment—but the awful killings, which will be investigated and understood), but then works very well as crime fiction and as character study and even, in passing, as a sort of travel book; this could be a great series.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE by Carola Lovering (Minotaur). A virtuoso's domestic suspense novel, intricately plotted and cleverly told in three distinctive voices, each clear and recognizable (one of them is a liar, but we discover that soon enough). Full of surprises, honestly earned and believable.
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