Review by New York Times Review
IT SOMETIMES SEEMS as if there's a support group for every lost soul on our planet. In kill the NEXT ONE (Mulholland/Little, Brown, $26), we're even introduced to a source of reinforcement for would-be suicides. There's a perverse symmetry to the way things work in this mind-bending psychological thriller by the Argentine author Federico Axat, translated here by David Frye. Let's say that someone like Ted McKay, who has just learned he has an inoperable brain tumor, decides to kill himself. A shadowy organization (known as the Organization) will send someone like Justin Lynch to his door with the suggestion that he first take out two other people - one a vicious killer who has eluded justice and the other a sad sack like himself who wants only to die. ("He knows all about it; he'll be waiting for you.") For his efforts, the next person in this "suicide circle" will relieve McKay of his own suffering: "Think about the difference it will make for your family when they find out a stranger has come into your house and shot you, compared with a suicide." McKay executes his first kill and takes pride in getting off a perfect shot. But he discovers he's been misled about the would-be victims in this macabre daisy chain. (One hadn't even wanted to commit suicide.) "I admit that I concealed some information," the sinister Lynch confesses. But by then, the damage has already been done. Or has it? Truth, illusion and downright deceit keep crossing invisible lines in this hallucinatory plot, so it becomes easy to lose focus on who's who and what's what. The shape-shifting characters and fantastic events keep sending McKay to his therapist (and us to ours) for clarification. While Axat stubbornly withholds that clarity, he expands on these mystifying events in imaginative ways. Strange totems, like a talismanic horseshoe McKay clutches for dear life, come and go, and a psychiatric hospital with the calming name of Lavender Memorial might be anything but therapeutic. And what are we to make of the rogue possum that no one but McKay seems able to see? Federico Axat is the kind of hypnotic writer you love to read but can never entirely trust. WHEN THE DAYS grow short and winter draws in, you can count on Val McDermid for a good reason to stay indoors. Especially when her latest novel, out of bounds (Atlantic Monthly, $25), features Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, head of Police Scotland's Historic Cases Unit and one of the prolific Scottish author's most personable sleuths. This tightly plotted procedural opens on what appears to be a routine, if horrific, accident after a group of bored teenagers hot-wire a Land Rover and take it for a joy ride. Karen gets involved when the DNA from the sole survivor triggers a "familial" match to evidence from a 20-year-old rape and murder case. After all these years, it looks as if a 24-year-old hairdresser named Tina McDonald might finally be granted a measure of justice. No "silly wee lassie" like some of the clueless young characters she writes about so sympathetically, McDermid applies her formidable intelligence and muscular style to the kind of urban crime novel that gives Scotland its tough rep and vigorous lingo. ("Bampot" and "bawbag" are far more colorful than plain old "idiot.") In McDermid's fiction, plot is always front and center, and this plot is a good one. But it's the brawny characters and their beefy dialect that really keep us coming back to this superior series. SCANDINAVIAN AUTHORS are famously unsentimental, but Kjell Eriksson could move a man-eating shark to tears. You might be tempted to avert your eyes from an early scene in stone COFFIN (Thomas Dunne/Minotaur, $25.99), in which a young mother and her little girl are deliberately mowed down on a rural road near the Swedish city of Uppsala. As she lies dying, the woman's last words - "Why are you killing us?" - cast a distinct chill. Ann Lindell, an officer in the Violent Crimes unit, finds this one hard to take. So do the other cops, such tender hearts that they can't imagine living in a home without the comfort of plants. But let's not forget that Sweden is a nation where ministers are also called to crime scenes. In this translation by Ebba Segerberg, Eriksson acknowledges deep emotion without becoming maudlin. Even a grumpy old cop who suggests the woman's missing husband killed his wife and child and fled to the Caribbean to play golf is, in his own way, unbiased. "He hates us all," swears a colleague. VAL MCDERMID WOULD hardly recognize the image of Scotland in PLAID AND PLAGIARISM (Pegasus Crime, $25.95), Molly MacRae's mystery about murder and mayhem in the Highlands. In the tourist town of Inversgail, to be precise, where four women have acquired Yon Bonnie Books, a shop on the picturesque High Street. After a spot of vandalism at her home, Janet Marsh and her partners are open for business, which they hope to expand eventually by adding on a tearoom and a B&B. But for now, MacRae is content to establish the guidelines and goal posts of a new cozy mystery series - which means the violence is largely offstage and the drama is tempered with humor. If it weren't for the corpse that turns up in a shed in Janet's back garden, you'd hardly know there's a murderer in paradise.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [December 11, 2016]
Review by Booklist Review
In a multigenerational retirement plan, four women who buy a bookshop in the Scottish Highlands find themselves involved with murder. Longtime friends librarian Janet Marsh and social worker Christine Robertson join forces with Janet's daughter, Tallie, a lawyer, and her former college roommate, Summer Jacobs, a reporter, to run Yon Bonnie Books in scenic Inversgail, Christine's hometown. Then come the snags: Janet's Inversgail house is literally trashed, and the body of Una Graham, the local paper's advice columnist, is found in its backyard shed. It's not that the four women don't trust the local constable and colleagues to solve the crime; it's just that they have a stake in it and can't stop probing, even as they continue work to add a tea shop and bed-and-breakfast to their store. As they dig, they turn up intriguing anonymous letters that castigate local residents. From the author of the Haunted Yarn Shop series, this first in the Highland Bookshop series is a somewhat scattered but still likable cozy with an engaging quartet of protagonists, plus the bookstore appeal.--Leber, Michele Copyright 2016 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Four women open a bookstore in Inversgail, Scotland, in this charming series debut from MacRae (Knot the Usual Suspects and four other Haunted Yarn mysteries). Janet Marsh, a former Illinois librarian, is seeking a new life after a painful divorce; Janet's 38-year-old daughter, Tallie, is a burned-out law professor; and Tallie's former college roommate, Summer Jacobs, is an ex-reporter. The fourth friend, Christine Robertson, was born in the Highland town but has spent most of her married life in Illinois. They have bought not only Yon Bonnie Books but the adjoining space (future tearoom) and the bedrooms upstairs (future B and B). Their ambitious plans hit one snag after another, including renters who trash Janet's house and a body in the shed at the bottom of the garden. In an effort to move the police investigation along, the four poke around, learning that many locals (a) didn't like the victim and (b) don't like a lot of "foreigners" in Inversgail. It will be fun to see what these independent, resourceful, and likable women do next. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Janet Marsh has been visiting the Scottish town of Inversgail for years, having owned a vacation home there. When her husband decamped with a female graduate student, Janet got the house. Now, with daughter Tallie, best friend -Christine Robertson, and Tallie's friend Summer, Janet has bought the local bookstore with plans to open a cafe next door and bed-and-breakfast upstairs. But murder rears its ugly head when Una Graham, a disagreeable newspaper columnist, is found dead in Janet's back shed. The investigation by the intrepid foursome uncovers a vast array of suspects, including the reclusive author who lives next door to Janet and the local real-estate broker. -VERDICT Full of fascinating local characters and Highland color, this series debut will charm everyone who loves Scotland. MacRae also writes the "Haunted Yarn Shop" series and brings the same cozy sensibilities here. Recommend for -enthusiasts of Ann Ripley or Dicey Deere. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Four ladies whove purchased a bookshop in the Scottish Highlands find murder messing up their plans. Illinois native Janet Marsh is no stranger to Inversgail, a charming west Highland coastal village where shes owned a vacation home for many years. After her husband, Curtis, had an affair with one of his graduate students, Janet got the house free and clear in the divorce proceedings. Now she and her Scottish friend Christine Robertson, who's lived in Illinois for decades and whose parents live in Inversgail, have settled in the town, along with Janets 38-year-old daughter,nbsp;Tallie, and her friend Summer, planning to run the bookstore along with a tea room and a BB. For some reason Janet hasn't been able to get into her house, though she gave the real estate agent who's been renting it out plenty of notice, and when she strolls over to take a look, she sees the kitchen piled high with reeking garbage. But thats not the worst of it. The body of Una Graham, the local agony aunt and troublemaker, is soon found in the garden shed with a sickle in her neck. Neither the local constable nor the specialists sent in have much to say. So the four ladies decide to do some sleuthing on their own. Janets realtor thought Una was persecuting her and was the one who dumped the garbage. Janets next-door neighbor, a famous and self-centered author of mysteries, had his own problems with Una. And when they find a cache of threatening letters probably written by Una hidden in the unfinished tea room, they realize she must have had lots of enemies. Their investigation turns up many sad stories that could provide motives for murder. Now they just have to find the right one before the killer strikes again. This series kickoff from MacRae (Wilder Rumors, 2007, etc.) is chock-full of intriguing characters and Highland charm. Maybe a little too full: it could have done with some judicious pruning. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.