Spanish whodunit digs up a winner
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Senior citizen University of Toronto archeologists Beatrix and Bill lead an expedition of students to an isolated church in the Spanish mountains in 1967 in search of the bones of a medieval knight. Progressive and sexually aware (blush) Canadians loose in Franco’s fascist state: what could go wrong?
Well, a murder, for one thing, and ghastly doings in the night, while first-person narrator Beatrix annoyingly starts every sentence with “Goodness…”
But Beatrix and Bill prove to be pretty cool, and Danee Wilson’s Murder at San Miguel (Radiant Press, 282 pages, $22) provides a decent whodunit combined with a lot of teachable moments about archeological digs and a largely forgotten fascist leader.
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Tragedy-swamped upstate New York cop Natalie Lockhart doesn’t believe the curse placed on her small town full of descendants galore by three witches burned at the stake — until someone(s) ties a loved-by-all Wiccan good witch to the railroad tracks. (Train whistle, desperate brakes, eeewww gross).
Alice Blanchard’s The Witching Tree (Minotaur Books, 336 pages, $24 paperback) is quite the dandy murder mystery with lots of fascinating characters and terrific history.
But speaking of curses — maybe there should be a hex on author Alice Blanchard, whose last three written words should more appropriately have been “to be continued.”
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Brighton detective superintendent Roy Grace must become an instant expert on 1700s French art after the murder of an art dealer claiming to have found a lost masterpiece — alas, nowhere to be found — and a local older couple dazzling Antiques Roadshow with a painting found at a garage sale.
One of the better entries in the long series, Peter James’ Picture You Dead (MacMillan, 435 pages, $37) has evil art collectors, old-fashioned burglars stealing to order, killer thugs, nasty henchpersons and assorted scoundrels, while the coppers deal with umpteen personal issues.
Like a follow-the-hidden-pea carnival game, try to keep track of who has the original as James delivers expert lessons in art forgery — go ahead, try. Good luck with that.
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Three couples with really big secrets go to a luxury backwoods resort with a creepy owner, villains lurking in the trees, weird staff, a sordid history and an impending hurricane — which, of course, they ignore.
Meanwhile, there’s a juxtaposed backstory of an orphan whose mother was murdered, somehow linked to the seriously high mortality rate among the progeny of a prolific mystery sperm donor.
Lisa Unger’s Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six (Park Row, 400 pages, $35) works pretty well, though it wraps a tad too tidily, and the hurricane kind of comes and goes conveniently. Cautionary tale that vacationing with your in-laws can be deadly — who knew?
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Elderly residents of an English retirement home who’ve formed the Thursday Murder Club investigate the cold case of a murdered TV reporter who was sleuthing a ginormous money-laundering criminal empire that didn’t care to be sleuthed.
Richard Osman’s The Bullet That Missed (Viking, 352 pages, $37) is quite the quirky entertainment, with oodles of fascinating characters and subplots, reinforcing the notion that old people still have their mojo.
Heads up, though: Osman doesn’t provide a Basil Exposition character — he just assumes you know a dozen major and minor characters going in, along with their relationships and backstories.
Retired Free Press reporter Nick Martin wonders how long he could begin every sentence with ‘Goodness …’ before his family performed an intervention.
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