Connecting murders past and present provides a welcome challenge for coffeehouse cozy fans.


A coffeehouse owner gets ensnared in a murder when she befriends the prospective proprietor of a tea shop.

What could be cuter than Uncommon Grounds, the name of the coffeehouse co-owned by Maggy Thorsen and Sarah Kingston? How about The Big Steep, a new project underway by film buff Philip Woodward and his wife, Vivian? Philip supplies the wit and vision, Vivian the facilities: a rustic cottage on land once owned by her grandparents Ray and Matilda Koeppler. Back in the day, the Koepplers, who renamed themselves Paz and Harmony, lived in the cottage with an ever changing band of hippy-dippy pals. College students, draft evaders, and every sort of counterculture wannabe drifted in and out of their lives. Eventually, a baby named Nirvana drifted in, and a few years later Paz drifted out. Nirvana escaped too, running away at 18 with an older man and giving birth to Vivian less than nine months later. The cottage somehow passes down to Vivian even though Nirvana, now Vana Shropshire, is still very much alive. In fact, she’s made her way to Brookhills, Wisconsin, to see just what her daughter intends to do with her parents’ old home. Which is pretty much nothing, because progress on The Big Steep stalls when Maggy’s dog, Frank, digs up a bone that turns out to be the femur of a months-old infant. Maggy’s fiance, Jake Pavlik, takes charge of the case, but Maggy gets involved too, especially after more corpses turn up.

Connecting murders past and present provides a welcome challenge for coffeehouse cozy fans.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7278-9058-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

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Meet today’s LAPD, with both good and bad apples reduced to reacting to crimes defensively instead of trying to prevent them, unless of course they’re willing to break the rules.

New Year’s Eve 2020 finds Detective Renée Ballard, survivor of rape and Covid-19, partnered with Detective Lisa Moore, of Hollywood’s Sexual Assault Unit, in search of leads on the Midnight Men, a tag team of rapists who assaulted women on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve without leaving any forensic evidence behind. The pair are called to the scene of a shooting that would have gone to West Bureau Homicide if the unit weren’t already stretched to the limit, a case that should be handed over to West Bureau ASAP. But Ballard gets her teeth into the murder of body shop owner Javier Raffa, who reportedly bought his way out of the gang Las Palmas. The news that Raffa’s been shot by the same weapon that killed rapper Albert Lee 10 years ago sends Ballard once more to Harry Bosch, the poster boy for retirements that drive the LAPD crazy. Both victims had taken on silent partners in order to liquidate their debts, and there’s every indication that the partners were linked. That’s enough for Ballard and Bosch to launch a shadow investigation even as Ballard, abandoned by Moore, who’s flown the coop for the weekend, works feverishly to identify the Midnight Men on her own. As usual in this stellar series, the path to the last act is paved with false leads, interdepartmental squabbles, and personal betrayals, and the structure sometimes sways in the breeze. But no one who follows Ballard and Bosch to the end will be disappointed.

A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48564-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Slow moving and richly layered.


A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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