Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Gone, Baby, Gone" is missing yet again

Two new crime novels feature strong characterization and careful plotting, with likable, dedicated investigators trying to solve puzzling cases.

Both books use East Coast locales and are the latest volumes in long-running series. Each offers a surprising, unexpected ending.

“Moonlight Mile” by best-selling writer Dennis Lehane (William Morrow, $26.99) marks the return of Boston private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.

This is the sixth book in the series and is directly related to events that occurred in “Gone Baby, Gone.” Twelve years have passed since the private investigators found missing four-year-old Amanda McCready and returned her to her neglectful mother.

Amanda, now a brilliant but aloof teen-ager, has gone missing again; her worried aunt seeks help from the investigators. Kenzie and Gennaro are married, with a precocious young daughter of their own; they’ve never felt satisfied about the decisions they made years earlier.

Their search for truth leads to many unusual, dangerous situations; finding Amanda is only one part of a complicated case.

Well-developed and interesting characters abound, including identity thieves, meth dealers, twitchy Russian gang members, a disgraced doctor and many more.

Lehane is one of America’s best crime novelists; this book could easily become as memorable a film as two of his other spellbinding novels, “Mystic River” and “Shutter Island”. (“Red Herring” by Archer Mayor (Minotaur Books, $24.99)

"Red Herring" by Archer Mayor (Minotaur Books, $24.99) again showcases Joe Gunther, the hard-working head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation.

Gunther and his diligent crew are called in to try to solve a puzzling series of deaths, where a single drop of unexplained blood was found at the crime scenes.

Forensic investigation reveals that the blood came from three different unknown people, raising even more questions.

Digging deep into the background of the victims, Gunther and his staff unearth dark secrets, using old-fashioned police methods as well as cutting-edge DNA technology.

Gunther’s life becomes a bit more challenging as Gail Zigman, a former girlfriend, runs for Governor of Vermont in a heated campaign. This is a solid, satisfying police procedural with an intriguing cast of characters and a devious, nasty villain.

A realistic but shocking conclusion will cause more emotional problems for Gunther, who’s appeared in twenty earlier books in the series.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir mysteries regularly since 1987.

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