New Novels Brimming With Mystery, Mayhem and Quite a Bit of Murder

Glory Broussard, the star of Danielle Arceneaux’s fabulous debut mystery, GLORY BE (Pegasus Crime, 257 pp., $26.95), differs from most of the other Black women in Lafayette, La. She’s recently divorced in a community that prizes enduring marriage, regardless of what’s behind closed doors. She’s of a certain age, body type and temperament — “not a hoarder, but a collector,” she snaps. And while her Acadiana Red Hat Society peers spend their Sunday mornings in church, “Sundays were when she made her money, and she had to get to work.” Specifically, as a part-time bookie.

When Glory learns that her lifelong friend Amity — once a partygoer, lately a nun — has died, she’s immediately suspicious, despite the fact that the police and the coroner rule it a suicide. “No one is coming to save us,” Glory tells her daughter, Delphine, a lawyer who’s come to town for Amity’s funeral but sticks around to help her mother do some de-cluttering. “If we want the truth, we’re going to have to go out and find it.”

This involves an environmental scandal, a priest up to no good and several acts of violence. But Glory is up for the challenge.

“The speed at which you invent the most elaborate lies is impressive and horrifying,” Delphine tells her.

“If you’re gonna lie, you gotta go big or go home,” replies Glory, who is a character for the ages.

In WEST HEART KILL (Knopf, 274 pp., $28), Dann McDorman tries to turn the locked-room mystery on its head. Merely having potent ingredients — characters gathered at a hard-to-reach hunting club in upstate New York just as a storm barrels in and knocks out the power — isn’t enough for him, nor is letting loose his enigmatic dark-haired detective, Adam McAnnis, to probe why people at the lodge keep turning up dead. So he nestles his whodunit within a metaphysical consideration of the genre.

From the first page, McDorman addresses the reader directly as he discourses at length about plots, detective novel tropes, postmodern writers (Jorge Luis Borges is repeatedly name-checked) and the metaphorical significance of locked-room mysteries. All of this could slow down the narrative, except that it soon becomes clear that these asides are, in fact, the narrative.

Does this approach work? Occasionally. McDorman’s genre knowledge is abundant, as is his cleverness. But the whole time I was reading I just wanted him to relax, to stop showing us what he knows and have some confidence in his own mystery.

Syd Walker has come home to Oklahoma. She’s spent the past few years in Rhode Island, happily married to her wife and fulfilled by her archaeological work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where her colleagues don’t know she’s Cherokee — “I look white, and I refuse to be the white woman who brings up her Cherokee heritage when it’s convenient.” Syd has never really had any desire to revisit her past, especially after the horrific triple homicide 15 years ago that claimed her best friend, Luna. But buried ghosts have a way of reanimating, as Vanessa Lillie ably demonstrates in her newest suspense novel, BLOOD SISTERS (Berkley, 384 pp., $27).

Two things bring Syd back to Oklahoma: the discovery of one of her old IDs wedged in the skull of a murder victim, and the disappearance of her sister Emma Lou, who has struggled with addiction. Most folks seem to think she’s dead. Syd, however, senses otherwise, thanks to a specter who follows her around and “knows me. Knows where I work. Knows what I do.”

“Blood Sisters” is about Syd and Emma Lou, as well as the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women whose cases are never solved, if they’re investigated at all.

“This epidemic of girls going missing has a chokehold on Native people everywhere,” Syd’s Aunt Mercy tells her. “No one is listening, so we gotta solve it ourselves.”

Those looking for a grittier mystery should pick up EDGE OF THE GRAVE (Bantam, 416 pp., paperback, $18), Robbie Morrison’s brawling series debut. Originally published in the U.K. in 2021, it introduces Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn, who wades into the boggy waters of 1932 Glasgow with his partner Archie McDaid — nicknamed “Bonnie” for “the fine figure he cut swaggering along Sauchiehall Street in full Highland dress.” Glasgow a century ago was a brutally violent city starkly divided between the haves and the have-nots; in the course of their police work, Dreghorn and McDaid dodge blades, fists, bottles, even cauldrons of boiling soup.

They’ve been assigned to investigate the murder of Charles Geddes, found floating in the River Clyde with his throat slashed. Dreghorn, who has a complicated history with Geddes’s wife, is put through his paces before “Edge of the Grave” reaches its last page, but never fear — the detective survives for the second book, “Cast a Cold Eye,” which is already out in the U.K. and will arrive on these shores next year.

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