A frothy retro cocktail with a whodunit chaser.

SHANGHAI SECRETS

A carefree cadre of Australian artists probe a shocking murder in war-torn 1935 Shanghai.

Despite his status as the family’s renegade, suave Sydney artist Rowland Sinclair is tapped by his starchy elder brother, Wilfred, to go to Shanghai to handle international wool negotiations for Sinclair Holdings. Intrigued by the city’s vibrancy and turmoil, Rowland’s friends—poet Milton Isaacs, artist Clyde Watson Jones, and sculptress and model Edna Higgins—accompany him and take up residence in the posh Cathay Hotel. Gentill opens each chapter with a short news item from the time, adding welcome context to the story by describing the dangerous encroachment of Japan, the threat of Communism, and the influx of Russian refugee women and German Jews, weaving each development into the story. Making lively banter and diving into local culture are high on the visitors’ agenda. On a night out at The Jazz Club, Rowland dances twice with beautiful Russian Alexandra Romanova, and they make a date for tea the following afternoon. The next day, he’s horrified to discover Alexandra’s corpse in his suite. Grim Inspector Randolph regards him as the prime suspect. Rowland's peril, coupled with the deep grief of Alexandra’s brother, Sergei, prompts the party to investigate, leading to even more elaborate explorations of Shanghai. A subplot that should delight series fans brings Rowland and Edna within a whisker of progressing from the friendship zone to unabashed romance.

A frothy retro cocktail with a whodunit chaser.  

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4642-1361-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

THE SCORPION'S TAIL

Past and present collide on a trail of death in the second in the authors’ Nora Kelly series, begun with Old Bones (2019).

When a local sheriff investigates the illegal activity of relic hunters in an abandoned, middle-of-nowhere New Mexico gold-mining town called High Lonesome, he discovers a mummified corpse and a fabulous cross of gold. The discovery is on federal land, so the FBI gets involved. Special Agent Corrie Swanson would have liked a juicier assignment than checking out some old bones in the high desert, but she has a degree in forensic anthropology, and she’s a rookie. She persuades a reluctant Dr. Nora Kelly, senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to help puzzle out what happened to the man, as it’s unclear whether a crime has been committed. Forensics determine that the gold is slightly radioactive, and there’s a pack animal skull with a bullet hole. And by the looks of the decades-old corpse, the poor man suffered a horrible death. High Lonesome is on the Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Journey, the bleak and dismal trail that connected Mexico City and Santa Fe during Spanish colonial rule. The authors are expert plotters and storytellers with smart, engaging characters—Kelly is an experienced pro who thinks Swanson “looked very much the rookie.” Newbie Swanson had barely passed her firearms qualification, and being a lousy shot may bring tragic consequences and a guilty conscience. Luckily, Sheriff Watts has practiced his quick draw since he was a preschooler. Meanwhile, some of those relic hunters are dangerous men searching for an object—not the gold—unknown to Kelly and Swanson. To a descendant of the dead man, “most people would have thought his precious item fit only to line a henhouse with.” Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay.

This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4727-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A layered and nuanced mystery.

THE SURVIVORS

It’s been 12 years since Kieran Elliot left his hometown of Evelyn Bay under a dark cloud.

Evelyn Bay, on the Tasmanian coast, is a small, quiet town where everyone knows each other and the days roll by like the waves that lap at its secluded beaches. Now, Kieran has returned with his partner, Mia, and their 3-month-old daughter, Audrey, to help his mother move house so she can be closer to his father, who has dementia and will be moving into a nursing home. Kieran is glad to see old friends Ash, Olivia, and Sean, but tensions linger. After all, there are those who still blame Kieran for a boating accident that killed his older brother, Finn, and Sean’s brother, Toby. The vicious storm that raged that night also supposedly claimed the life of Olivia’s 14-year-old sister, Gabby, though her body was never recovered. When the body of Olivia’s housemate, art student Bronte, is found on the beach, a darkness as relentless as the tides comes pulsing to the surface, and it seems everyone has something to hide. As rumors spread on the community’s web page and alarm mounts about the possibility of a killer in their midst, the town’s secrets are steadily unfurled, coalescing into a few unexpected revelations. While this novel isn’t quite as suspenseful as Harper’s previous books, she’s a master at creating atmospheric settings, and it’s easy to fall under her spell.

A layered and nuanced mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23242-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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