Roundup of October’s 4 Best New Crime Fiction Books

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long shadows

By David Baldaci

Grand Central, 432 pages, $37

This is David Baldacci’s 51st detective book, his seventh featuring Amos Decker, the FBI agent with a chilling and phenomenal memory. Events find Decker in the very bad office books. He dresses too casually for his spic-and-span bosses, doesn’t mask his contempt for their book-compliant methods, has an annoying hit for a guy working an unorthodox investigation for all its worth. In the new book, Decker is assigned to murder a (female) Naples, Florida judge and his (male) bodyguard. It’s a case that Decker describes as living “in near total darkness with a few faint points of light.” Since Baldacci is the absolute master of provocative mini-twists in his plots, the narrative glides through a maze of zigs and zags, a list that includes puzzling issues of sex, big business, and politics.

In the spirit of 13

By the Ladies of Mayhem

Carrick, 408 pages, $19.99

Fantasy can be difficult to master. That doesn’t stop some of the free-spirited ladies from Mayhem, a group of Canadian female mystery writers, from inserting some of it into the fifth anthology of stories, 22 of them. The thing is, rather than sticking to conventional crime stories, the writers opted to traffic in ghosts, hobgoblins, and other whimsical forms. This is how we get stories featuring a fake psychic, a dybbuk, and a Korean ghost. More space is reserved for entities that are simply old – featuring a Hollywood background, Charles Lindbergh and characters from the speakeasy era. It’s not all about it, but there’s more than enough to enlighten and surprise readers for many nights of fun, some of it in laid-back fantasy.

Sinister Graves

By Marcie R. Rendon

Soho, 240 pages, $36.95

Sinister Graves, by Marcie R. Rendon, Soho, 240 pages, $36.95

It’s 1970s rural Minnesota, and the question isn’t so much whether a 19-year-old Ojibwa woman named Cash Blackbear will solve the murder; it’s about whether she’ll survive her own rambling lifestyle of chain smoking and beer drinking. Cash, overall quite an engaging character, is also an award-winning student at the local college and blends her superior intelligence with an otherworldly ability to interpret the thoughts of strangers. Cash has a part-time job as an assistant to the sheriff of a nearby town and when floodwaters sweep into view the body of a woman who is clearly a murder victim, the sheriff assigns Cash to the case. . As a detective, she has a surprisingly traditional detective approach, but she also draws a bit from her specialty of mind-reading and examples of Native spirituality.

Before there were skeletons

By Judy Penz Sheluk

Superior Shores Press, 261 pages, $19.99

Before There Were Skeletons, by Judy Penz Sheluk, Superior Shores Press, 261 pages, $19.99

Calamity Barnstable, the Ontario private investigator specializing in missing persons, takes her first name from the figure of the Wild West, but her personality from the version played in Doris Day’s films: a little clever, but reasoned and charming. It operates out of Marketville, a town one hour north of Toronto. In this book, the fourth in the series, our Callie has three missing women on her hands, all thin and aged between 18 and 20 when they disappeared in the winter of 1995, one of them being part of Callie’s own family. Do they kidnap victims? Are the offenses related? Besides, the three, perhaps, are they still alive? Callie’s detective is smart, determined, and the stuff of solid black.

J.B.

Jack Batten is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor to the Star

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