Two recent mysteries set in Michigan feature well-defined characters, convoluted plots and intriguing crimes.
“And Then There Was One” by Patricia Gussin (Oceanview, $25.95) is a highly entertaining tale that focuses on family members who have to deal with the puzzling disappearance of young children.
Set in Auburn Hills, the gripping novel opens when Katie Monroe, a forensic pediatric psychologist and the mother of identical nine year old triplets, gets word that two of them have disappeared from a local theater complex.
Jackie, the third triplet, is okay, but her mother, a forensic pediatric psychologist, calls her husband, former New York Yankee catcher Scott Monroe, to let him know the situation.
The plot becomes more complicated as Gussin throws in many possible suspects, including a former lover who’s now out of jail and a wealthy defendant in Florida who’s involved in a nasty child abuse case.
The FBI is called in, but few new leads surface; soon the focus shifts and the bizarre real reason for the disappearance is clarified.
Gussin, a physician who grew up in Grand Rapids, has written a top-notch thriller that’s tough to put down, offering an emotional roller coaster ride full of tense suspense.
“Shelf Ice” by Aaron Stander (Writers and Editors, $15.95) is the fourth in his well-crafted series starring Sheriff Ray Elkins, of Cedar County in northern Michigan.
The first chapter is likely to entice readers to continue, as Elkins and his second-in-command are run over in their car by a huge diesel snowplow while en route to a possible crime scene.
A reclusive local artist is discovered badly injured in her isolated home and is taken away to a hospital. Elkins and his staff try to figure out what’s going on, and what the role of a local, charismatic TV evangelist. When the artist dies, Elkins increase his efforts, trying to sort through an odd group of potential suspects.
Stander, who hosts an Interlochen radio show about writers, has put together a highly atmospheric crime tale with crossover appeal to those who love reading books set in northern Michigan.
It’s best to read Stander’s absorbing works in order to fully appreciate the growth of Elkins and other characters. Earlier books in the series are “Summer People”, “Local Color” and “Deer Season.”
Originally published on October 10, 2010 in the Lansing State Journal.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers regularly since 1987.