A Spider on the Stairs by Cassandra Chan
Set at Christmastime, Chan's agreeable fourth contemporary cozy (after 2008's Trick of the Mind) finds London manabout-town Phillip Bethancourt unhappily ensconced at his parents' house in Yorks
hire for the holidays. Hoping to dodge his inquisitive
family's questions abo
ut his turbulent personal life, Phillip jumps at the chance to help his Scotland Yard friend, Det. Sgt.
Jack Gibbons, when Jack travels north to investigate a murder possibly committed by the notorious Ashdon killer. When Jack decides the crime scene, a York bookshop, and the victim, a freespirited young woman, don't bear the serial killer's hallmarks, he turns his sights on the bookshop staff. The well-connected Phillip provides ready access to cocktail party gossip and more substantial information. Though the seasoned mystery reader may guess the culprit before the methodical Jack, this is an enjo
yable outing into Dorothy Sayers territory.
Betrayers by Bill Pronzini
We're told that there are seven deadly sins; not on the list is the deadliest of them all: Betrayal. For each of the detectives at the agency, a betrayal becomes not only the driving force behind an investigation, but the source of the kind of resolve that cannot be derailed by threats. Tamara's case began as something personal but explodes as her investigation of her former lover leads to a scam that bilks charitie
s in the name of helping the homeless and indigent. For Nameless, trying to find out who is gaslighting an old woman only exposes the ugly side of family. Runyon has a different difficult
y: his case of a bail-jumper with some bad family ties is easy enough as these things go, but he's being confronted by a demon that is going to try to force him into a betrayal...
Devils Amongst The Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb
In 1935, the case of an Appalachian schoolteacher arrested for murdering her father becomes a national news story, seized on by the press for its sensationalism and the opportunity to mock the rural inhabitants involved. Competing with a brigade of city journalists is novice Tennessee newspaperman Carl Jenkins, whose obsession with the truth leads him to call in his cousin Nora, gifted with second sight—but what, exactly, can he report with no concrete evidence? The latest in McCrumb's Appalachian Ballad series (after 2003's Ghost Riders) is decidedly mixed; McCrumb's grasp of setting and character instantly immerses readers in the worlds of both the sympathetic locals and the cynical city press.
Bone Appetit by Carolyn Haines
Starred Review. Di
stinctive characters and a clever cooking background make Haines's 10th Sarah Booth Delaney mystery (after 2009's Greedy Bones) the best yet in this Southern cozy series. Sarah Booth, who's seeking solace after a miscarriage, and her best friend and fellow PI, Tinkie Bellecase Richmond, come to Greenwood, Miss., to attend classes at the Viking Cooking School, but soon get involved in a beauty contest/cook-off and mayhem. The trouble begins when contestant Karrie Kompton bites into a chocolate-covered cockroach. Next, Babs Lafitte falls to the stage and goes into convulsions. After Brook Oniada suffers fatal burns during her flaming baton routine and Janet Menton dies after eating poisoned pastry, suspicion falls on Janet's roommate, Hedy Lamarr Blackledge, who hires Sarah and Tinkie to clear her name. Sarah's ever-entertaining ghost companion, Jitty, provides support as Sa
rah winds up finding the crazed beauty contest gone bad a blessing in disguise. (PW)
As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs
Starred Review. Bestseller Isaacs draws on tony Long Island, gritty New York City, and a tabloid-friendly murder for this smart-alecky whodunit/surprisingly sweet love story. Susan is left alone with her three boys, big suburban house, and nagging questions when plastic surgeon hubby Jonah Gersten turns up dead in a hooker's Upper East Side
apartment. Though the police and prosecutors wind up their case against call girl Dorinda Dillon, it's far from settled for Susan. It simply didn't add up, in either my head or my heart, she confesses. And what better sidekick to track down the truth than Susan's rogue granny, Ethel. What follows is an intricate and fascinating dissection of Susan's marriage, family, husband's medical practice and partners, and the unwitting call girl at the center of it all. Isaacs (Past Perfect) brings it all together in this fast and furious ride through wanton greed, fragile relationships, and love worth fighting for.