Booked and Printed
Robert C. Hahn
Peter Lovesey’s long career has earned him both the Diamond Dagger (Lifetime Achievement) Award from the Crime Writers Association in the UK and the Agatha Lifetime Achievement award from Malice Domestic in the US. In addition he has won major awards for books in three different series and his stand-alone novels have copped another three major awards or nominations.
As remarkable as his career is, it is surpassed by the love and admiration he has earned from his peers, and that has given birth to Motives for Murder: Stories by the Detection Club for Peter Lovesey (Crippen & Landru, $45 hardcover/$19 trade), a celebration in honor of his eightieth birthday.
Editor Martin Edwards, current president of the Detection Club, was able to find eager and distinguished contributors for this collection—authors willing to create stories on a very short timetable and share personal memories and observation about Lovesey.
The result is both strong on merit and evidence of the strong emotions Lovesey inspires in his fellow authors. The stories, of course, offer an amusing and inventive range of approaches. Andrew Taylor makes Lovesey a putative tax inspector in “The False Inspector Lovesey,” with the title playing on Lovesey’s own The False Inspector Dew, which won the Gold Dagger Award in 1982.
Ann Cleeves remarks on Lovesey’s “charm and warmth” and then delivers a very short, very clever story about one woman’s strong desire to see Peter again at a book signing.
David Roberts, whose favorite Lovesey book is Swing, Swing Together borrows Lovesey’s Victorian policemen Richard Cribb and Edward Thackeray for his “Unfinished Business” in which they investigate a killing at Eton.
Kate Charles, another author who admires Lovesey’s superb stand-alone novels, offers a fine story about a young woman who gets a chance at a new life courtesy of the Nazi blitz of London.
Kate Ellis introduces a young constable, a nephew of Edward Thackeray, who makes the most of an opportunity to solve a crime and impress Sergeant Cribb with his potential.
Liza Cody recalls the U.S. tour she made in 1990 with Lovesey, Michael Z. Lewin, and Paula Gosling. The quartet of mystery authors enjoyed their performances almost as much as their audiences did.
The other contributors, all of whom heap admiration, gratitude, and love upon Lovesey, include Marjorie Eccles, Martin Edwards, Lewin, Michael Ridpath, and Ruth Dudley Edwards.
There’s nothing subtle about Jim Nesbitt’s second rough and tumble thriller The Right Wrong Number: An Ed Earl Burch Novel (Spotted Mule Press, $14.99), as the Dallas P.I. tangles with she-devil Savannah Crowe, a former lover who’s already betrayed him once but comes back into his life with a (collect) phone call and a plea for help. Savannah’s not the only one the former homicide cop has to deal with. There’s her husband Jason Willard Crowe, an ex-football star turned investment counselor and “import-export” (read drugs) hotshot. There’s also Detective Cider Jones who blames Burch for his former partner’s death in a shootout, and plenty of other rich guys, bad guys, drug guys, and deadly gals.
Jason has disappeared with a lot of money and goods belonging to some serious bad guys, who think Savannah is either in on the theft or knows where Jason has gone. Burch needs to find Jason before the others do and, if possible, recover the goods.
All of that is merely a mundane setup because the real attraction of Nesbitt’s thriller is the raw passion of his prose, which holds nothing back whether writing about a roll in the hay, a tortured corpse, or a shootout with a Colt 1911 against a pump action shotgun.
A far different approach is taken by Kay Hooper in her series about the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit staffed by psychic agents and headed by Special Agent Noah Bishop. The various agents of this unit not only have different psychic abilities but are also in different stages of learning to use or control those abilities. In her seventeenth entry in the series, Wait For Dark (Berkley, $27) Hooper continues to follow these special agents as they test their knowledge and abilities against paranormal criminals.
Sheriff Malachi Gordon of Clarity, North Carolina, (pop. 10,000) contacts the unit after four improbable if not impossible fatal accidents strike citizens in just four months. At least three of the victims had received a text message at precisely three o’clock that simply read: “wait for dark.”
Bishop sends four of his special agents to the town. Hollis Templeton is a medium whose talents are still evolving even though she’s appeared in ten books in the series. Returning character Reese DeMarco, a military-trained sniper, is a telepath. The empath Kirby Bell and clairvoyant Cullen Sheridan make their series debut in this novel.
Shortly after their arrival in Clarity, another victim is discovered. Perla Cross was hurled from the attic of her home through a window and impaled on the deliberately sharpened limbs of a large oak tree.
Kay Hooper gives voice to the mysterious killer as he continues to plot crimes so heinous that “no one would ever forget him.” Hooper also spends a great deal of time on the developing relationships among the agents. They possess powerful psychic abilities, but they are also very vulnerable because of those same powers. The Clarity killer will test the agents as he matches his abilities against theirs. More nasty murders and more surprises await them, and some of the agents will develop new abilities while others may not survive before the unexpected killer is uncovered.
Randy Wayne White’s twenty-fourth thriller to feature Marion “Doc” Ford and his friend Sighurdhr M. Tomlinson, Mangrove Lightning (Putnam, $27), once again builds on bits of little-known Florida history.
Doc Ford is both a marine biologist and, sometimes, a government agent who combines scientific knowledge, tech savvy, and combat training. Tootsie Barlow, a retired fishing guide and a friend of Tomlinson’s, lives near Chino Hole in the Everglades. Weird accidents have been plaguing Barlow’s family, and now his teenaged niece Gracie Barlow has disappeared. When police aren’t interested in investigating, Barlow calls Tomlinson.
Barlow shows Tomlinson Chino Hole and tells him about its gruesome history, where Chinese immigrants were brought over as virtual slaves and used to make whiskey—Mangrove Lightning—in the largest still in Florida. There Walter Lambeth, called the Bird Man, ran things and killed the Chinese with impunity. In 1925, when lawmen attempted to shut down the moonshiners, a deputy, his wife, and their two kids mysteriously disappeared in what was known as the Marco Island war.
Now Lambeth’s huge foundry and still are decaying, but it is still occupied by Lambeth’s offspring, including his mentally handicapped daughter (or granddaughter—Barlow isn’t clear on that point), Ivy Lambeth.
Meanwhile Ford rescues a woman being mauled by a hotel masseur in Nassau, and finds himself involved with Britisher Gillian Cobourg, whose problems become his when he discovers who she is; his good deed will haunt him later.
White develops more about the grisly business of Chinese slavery and the depredations of Lambeth, while it becomes clear that a contemporary man also calling himself Mr. Bird is continuing the family tradition of torture with the help of Ivy.
White has again unearthed a relatively unknown piece of Florida history, combined it with his extensive knowledge of Florida’s natural history, and turned it into a solid thriller as Ford and Tomlinson deal with the ugly legacy of the Lambeths.