Quirky characters and unexpected situations abound in three entertaining recent crime novels.
"Whiplash River" by Lou Berney (William Morrow, $14.99) is an oddball, oversized paperback that showcases former mob getaway driver Charles "Shake" Bouchon, star of "Gutshot Straight".
Now living in Belize, Bouchon is trying to make a living running his own restaurant. He runs into real problems when he gets into debt with a nasty local drug dealer.
His challenges intensify when two freelance assassins appear; a beautiful FBI agent is on his trail, too. When Shake's restaurant explodes in flames, he goes for help to Quinn, a mysterious elderly customer.
Tensions mount, Shake doesn't realize what dangerous situations lie ahead. With strong characterization and fast pacing, Berney has created an unusual tale set mostly in foreign countries, where justice is swift and deadly.
"The 13th Target" by Mark DeCastrique (Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95) introduces Russell Mullins, a former secret service agent who's hired by a Washington DC private protection agency.
"Murder on the Half Shelf" by Lorna Barrett (Berkley Prime Crime, $24.95) is the latest in her enjoyable, cozy, Booktown Mystery series set in Stoneham, N.H.
Amateur sleuth and mystery bookshop owner Tricia Miles gets into a lot of trouble, as expected. She comes across a dead body during an overnight preview stay at a new bed and breakfast inn in town.
The prime suspect is Harry Tyler, a former lover of Miles who's been believed dead for nearly 20 years. There are other usual and unusual suspects; Miles goes all out to uncover the real killer.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, September 16, 2012.