Cops for our times: K.C. Constantine and Barbara D’Amato

Brushback by K.C. Constantine Mysterious (first), 1998 Good Cop, Bad Cop by Barbara D’Amato Forge (first), 1998 The present febrile atmosphere may have long-term effects, such as limiting the appetite for public life to all but the most ego-enthralled office-seekers. In the end, this could be one of those periods in history remembered more for the ferocity of their prosecutions than for the severity of their crimes. Few such eras are remembered fondly. Joe Klein, The New Yorker, February 2, 1998 The protagonists of these compelling new mysteries are office-holders, rather than office-seekers, but the impulse to hold a position […]

Continue reading

Death’s Autograph by Marianne Macdonald

St. Martin’s (first), 1997 A satisfying but flawed first novel. Dido Hoare is nearly run off the road one night, then her antiquarian bookshop is robbed and searched, then her apartment is surreptitiously rifled. Meanwhile, Dido’s ne’er-do-well ex-husband Davey turns up, ostensibly looking for work. The object of the searches and of Davey’s attentions is a book in which a familiar poem was scribbled centuries ago, possibly by the author himself: Shakespeare. Despite all this, Death’s Autograph is slow to engage the reader. Dido is a merely competent narrator blessed with a good story to tell; the more interesting character […]

Continue reading

Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron

Bantam (first), 1998 “The actress’s magnificent form limned itself on the paving stones at my feet, like an enchantress materialising out of the common snow and dirt, and I knew her immediately for a woman any man might die to possess.” Surely Jane Austen would not have described a glimpse of a shadow in these grandiloquent terms. But  though Stephanie Barron cannot approach the style and talent of her protagonist, in presenting her readers with Austen-as-sleuth she is on to a very good thing. In the third mystery in this series, a guest at a masquerade ball is stabbed just […]

Continue reading

The Running Woman by Patricia Carlon

Soho (first), 1998 An alluring eeriness characterizes Carlon’s books — heightened, or exacerbated, for her newer readers because her books come to us not only across the hemispheres but, in tumbled fashion, across decades. Their taut suspense, intensified by calm prose and apparently commonplace settings and events, created a coterie of eager readers; her American publishers have responded with The Running Woman, billed as “a new mystery set in a small town in Australia.” A mystery set in Australia, surely, but new only in the sense of being unfamiliar: rather than a book written in response to readers’ eagerness, we […]

Continue reading

Suspense by Parnell Hall

Mysterious (first), 1998 Hall’s satiric plot centers around bestselling author Kenneth P Winnington. Winnington and his trophy wife hire Stanley for protection following threatening phone calls. And everywhere that Stanley goes, the lam is sure to follow because every suspect our hero interviews dies shortly thereafter. One succumbs with Stanley’s name clutched in his hand minutes after he leaves his office, putting Stanley on the run from both the bad guy and the police. Clues are sparse but they all point to Stanley. Worse,  several characters refer to our hero’s version of what’s going on with the same refrain, “What […]

Continue reading