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Mystery reviews: Syrian refugees, an Oktoberfest killing and a murderous child headline new books

October 3, 2018

Mystery reviews: Syrian refugees, an Oktoberfest killing and a murderous child headline new books

Ausma Zehanat Khan

A Dangerous Crossing Minotaur Books, 342 pp. $25.99

One of the most exciting newer names in the mystery field is that of British-Canadian-American novelist Ausma Zehanat Khan. Khan, who holds a Ph.D. in international human rights, is the rare writer who can blend both a serious social justice agenda with a top-notch plot that makes sure it never comes across as didactic. In her previous mysteries featuring Toronto detectives Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak, all published since 2015, Khan has taken on topics from the fallout of the wars in the former Yugoslavia to the war on terror to life in contemporary Iran. Her latest is the most topical yet. “A Dangerous Crossing,” set mostly on the Greek isle of Lesvos, takes on the Syrian refugee crisis in a story that is relevant, heartbreaking and a page-turning mystery.   When Canadian Audrey Claire, an employee of a NGO, goes missing on Lesvos while on a refugee crisis mission, the potential political fallout means Getty and Khattak are sent to investigate. The sheer scale of human misery they find on Lesvos shocks even these hardened police. But can they find out what happened to Audrey, too? Khan has crafted a provocative thriller.

Grade: A

 

Ellie Alexander

The Pint of No Return Minotaur Books, 304 pp., $26.99

Think all cozy mysteries feature little old ladies, cats and/or quaint bookshops? Think again. Pacific Northwest author Ellie Alexander’s cozy new series features young and soon-to-be-divorced brewmaster Sloan Krause. She lives in the picturesque small Washington town of Leavenworth, where she’s balancing her messy personal life - it’s very complicated - with managing her pub and making her seasonal Cherrywizen. So when a sexy movie star arrives in town to film during Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest, it’s a distraction Sloan doesn’t need. Nor is a murder. The second book to feature the sleuthing brewmaster is a light, seasonal read. The perfect brew for a fall afternoon.

Grade: B

Judith Flanders A Howl of Wolves   Minotaur, 304 pp., $26.99

London book editor Sam Clair is like a sleuthing Bridget Jones, one of the more delightful  mystery series leads to emerge in recent years. She’s a witty, self-effacing, smarter than she lets on Londoner. The latest in Flanders’ charming series finds Sam and her hot Scotland Yard detective boyfriend heading out to attend a gory West End play that happens to star a neighbor. When one of the bodies on stage turns out to be not a dummy, but rather the loathed director, Sam’s amateur sleuthing skills kick in (to boyfriend Jake’s chagrin, at times). What follows is an entertaining puzzle, but as with Flanders previous books, it’s Sam’s often laugh-out-loud wry internal, and sometimes external, dialogue that’s the real appeal of the series.

Grade: B

Camilla Way The Lies We Told Berkley, 336 pp., $16

What do you do when your child scares you? English mother Beth doesn’t know ... and that scares her even more.. The follow-up to author Camilla Way’s 2016 “Watching Edie” doesn’t disappoint. Like her first book, it’s a twisty psychological thriller. Told in two intertwined narratives – Cambridgeshire in the ’80s and London in 2017 - the twisty and twisted plot links together the story of Beth and daughter Hannah in the past, and the disappearance of a young man named Luke in the present. A man whose sister once knew Hannah. Think you have the plot figured out? Think again. There are no easy answers in Way’s dark, compelling story.

Grade: A

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