Sunday, July 3, 2011

Likable heroes fill two new mysteries

Likable heroes and nasty killers abound in a pair of recent highly entertaining police procedural crime novels.
“Buried Prey” by best-selling author John Sandford (Putnam, $27.95) is the 21st in his exceptionally popular series starring Lucas Davenport, head of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Two mummified bodies of young girls are discovered underneath an old house that’s being torn down. Two sisters disappeared in 1985 and their bodies were never found; a homeless man was accused in the case.

It was Lucas’ first case when he was just a young cop bring promoted out of uniform, but it was one he never forgot; he was dissatisfied with the outcome.

The first part of the book is set in 1985; it examines Davenport’s involvement, tracking down suspicious leads in a complicated case.

Now he’s trying to figure out who really was responsible. He goes all out in his efforts, utilizing his staff and the latest technology. There are no easy answers, but a nasty scheming villain and a few real surprises.

This is another fine performance by one of America’s best crime fiction novelists; while it’s helpful to read earlier volumes in this series to fully appreciate Davenport’s career and growth, it’s not essential.

“Love Dies” by Timothy Sheard (Hard Ball Press, $15) is a stand-alone paperback crime novel set in New York City, a few years after the 9/11 attack.

It introduces Nicholas Andreas, who works for the NYC Department of Health as an epidemiologist. Evaluating health facts and risk factors since the catastrophic event, Andreas escapes the tedium by scanning the daily obituaries.

He discovers that numerous very wealthy individuals have recently died accidentally and decides to investigate. Andreas gets help from Stanley Bezlin, a neighbor and former Brooklyn cop.
Alex Germaine, a frustrated mystery author, has come up with a devious plan. He attends high profile divorce court proceedings in disguise; later he quietly offers to “accidentally” eliminate the battling husband or wife for $50,000.

As the body count rises, Andreas’ suspicions increase; soon he becomes a target for the clever killer.
Sheard, who’s written four other crime novels starring medical labor activist Lenny Moss, has created a compelling tale with flawed, realistic characters, an unusual plot and lots of fast-paced action.

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

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, July 3, 2011.

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