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Four recent mysteries

Books

Four recent mysteries

The Hemingway Files

H.K. Bush

Bush’s literary mystery begins when an old professor receives a mysterious package that contains a first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, along with various letters, instructions, and a manuscript. The package comes posthumously from a former graduate student who as a young man taught in Japan. Now, two decades later, he has a mysterious tale of literary obsession to tell. Although the action is slower than in many thrillers, the writing is tight, and Bush’s fish-out-of-water tale includes terrific descriptions of Japanese culture and academic politics.

Knife Creek

Paul Doiron

Set in Maine and featuring game warden Mike Bowditch, Knife Creek is the most recent in Doiron’s series of crime novels that explore man’s capacity for cruelty. When Bowditch discovers a dead baby left in a wallow for wild boars to eat, he digs into an old case of a college girl who was missing and presumed dead. Doiron writes beautifully about the natural world and perceptively about human nature. It’s not necessary to read the books in order, though they build on each other. Cautions: some R-rated language, and Bowditch lives with his girlfriend.

The Late Show

Michael Connelly

Best-selling author Connelly’s new series features tough LAPD detective Renée Ballard, who has been exiled to the Late Show (11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift) at Hollywood station because she accused her last lieutenant of sexual harassment. She has a chip on her shoulder and a desire to see cases through to the finish—something that doesn’t happen on the night shift. Here she solves a multiple murder and an unrelated assault on a trans woman. The book contains lots of R-rated language, includes a sexual assault, and surveys the seediest side of LA.

Do Not Become Alarmed

Maile Meloy

This page-turning novel taps into parental fears and guilt. Six children disappear while on a day’s excursion from a Central American cruise. Dads golf rather than accompany their families on a zip line adventure, and moms don’t pay close enough attention. One mom satisfies a momentary lustful urge when she should be watching. The book also taps into Americans’ guilt over their wealth and privilege: The parents depend on the fact that their children are more valuable in the eyes of law enforcement than local children. Many expletives and several sexual situations, including one violent one.

Jamie Drew

Sarah Perry (Jamie Drew)

Afterword

Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent (Serpent’s Tail, 2016) tells the story of Cora, a wealthy Victorian widow who considers her cruel husband’s death a chance to shuck off society’s expectations and pursue her passion for fossils. An amateur paleontologist and fervent follower of Darwin, Cora leaves London on the trail of a mysterious serpent said to be terrorizing a small Essex town. She hopes it’s a living dinosaur. There she meets vicar William Ransome, who sees his congregation being overtaken by contagious fear of this unseen beast. He is married to the lovely Stella, who is wasting away with consumption. Perry fills her book with interesting characters, subplots, and lush descriptions of the natural world. Most interesting are the debates between Ransome and Cora over science and the nature of God. Neither Ransome’s rationalistic faith nor Cora’s science seems sufficient to explain all of creation’s mysteries. Caution: one brief instance of adultery. —S.O.