“Wake,” “Blood and Ink,” and more mystery books to read this month

“Wake up” by Shelley Burr (William Morrow)

Wake by Shelley Burr (William Morrow)
Wake by Shelley Burr (William Morrow)

Mina McCreery’s 9-year-old twin sister, Evelyn, was abducted in what was Australia’s most famous missing children case, in Shelley Burr’s debut novel, “Wake”. The result was a media circus that made Mina feel lonely and suspicious of strangers. So when Lane Holland, a private investigator specializing in finding missing persons, turns up in the Australian outback town where McCreeery lives, she’s wary. Instead of working with him, she tricks him into looking for the missing sister of her best friend. The women are friends through a support group.

When Holland finds the sister, McCreery decides to trust him. He claims that she hopes to collect the reward money, which she will use for her sister’s education.

But there is something else at work here. Holland is desperate for the reward money, because his father is about to be released from prison and her sister is terrified that her father will find her. The money will allow Holland to take her away. But even without the reward, Holland is too invested in the kidnapping of Evelyn McCreery. It’s almost like she has a vested interest.

Aside from history, “Wake” tells of the lifelong trauma of those who don’t know the fate of their missing loved ones.

“Blood and Ink” by Joe Pompeo (William Morrow)

A century ago, the country was riveted by the real-life murders of a New Jersey adulterous preacher and his lover, choir singer Edward Hall and Eleanor Mills. The couple’s bodies were found near a lovers’ alley, both shot and with the woman’s throat cut, and arranged in a ritual manner. Both were married and may have been planning to elope to a foreign country with $40,000 that the minister had hidden.

Blood and Ink by Joe Pompeo (William Morrow)
Blood and Ink by Joe Pompeo (William Morrow)

The murders might have remained a local scandal if the tabloids hadn’t caught on. This was the height of the tabloid wars, and murder was red meat. The best reporters and photographers were sent to the New Jersey city where the murders occurred to hunt down the families of the victims. The harassment went on for months, years, in fact, until the minister’s wife and her brothers were tried for the murders.

The trial was a circus. The main prosecution witness was “the pig woman” who assured that she was on her mule looking for corn thieves when she heard the shots.

Joe Pompeo recounts the details of the murders and the role the tabloid wars played in forcing authorities to bring suspects to trial. His wife and brothers were found not guilty and, 100 years later, the identity of the killer remains a mystery.

“Wherever You Run” by Wanda M. Morris (William Morrow)

It’s 1964 in Jackson, Miss. Violet Richards, a black woman, has just murdered the white man who raped her and got away with it. She is afraid of southern justice if she gets caught. Eager to leave Jackson, she agrees to drive north with Dewey, a wealthy white boy, and marry him. But she has no intention of going through with it.

When they stop for lunch (Dewey walks into a restaurant, but Violet has to buy her food at the black window in the back), she steals his wallet and catches the first bus out of town. She ends up in Chillicothe, Georgia, and goes to work for a demanding white woman. After Violet finds out that the woman’s husband is the local sheriff with many questions about her background, Violet resigns.

At the same time, Violet’s sister, Marigold, has her own dilemma. She is pregnant. When she tells her father, a civil rights worker, he leaves for New York. Out of options, Marigold marries Roger, her longtime boyfriend, and moves to Ohio. He doesn’t know about the baby, and Marigold doesn’t know that he dreams of opening a nightclub and hopes that she will support him in the meantime. The marriage quickly goes sour and Roger becomes abusive.

Meanwhile, the despised Dewey hires Mercer, a useless white man, to track down Violet. With nothing to do, Mercer begins stalking Marigold and finds out that she and Roger are headed to Cleveland. He follows them there. Pretending to be an investor with money to back the nightclub, he befriends the gullible Roger.

Wanda M. Morris’s thriller is subtitled “Your Past Will Find You”, and that is precisely what Violet fears. As a black woman in the 1960s South, she is on her own. The book reminds us of the detrimental treatment of blacks only half a century ago. It is a moving story of a search for justice in America’s racist South.

“The favor” by Nicci French (William Morrow)

The favor of Nicci French (William Morrow)
The favor of Nicci French (William Morrow)

What happens when a first love calls years later and asks you for a favor? Would you agree to do it, even if you didn’t know what it was? Jude is now a doctor engaged to be married when Liam appears and asks her to take his car to a house in the country and then meet him at a train station. He even gives her his credit card for gas. When he gets home, he says he’ll explain what’s going on.

He doesn’t, of course, because he’s been killed. No one believes Jude’s strange story, especially her fiancé, since she told him that she was going to visit her grandmother.

When the police, and the newspapers, suspect Jude, her fiancé flees and her job is in jeopardy. So Jude sets out to find out who killed Liam and why she sent her on the mysterious mission. She calls Jude’s wife and discovers that the couple and her son were living with a host of suspicious characters in a dilapidated mansion. Unraveling the mysteries, Jude uncovers the clan’s secrets and reveals some of her own. It can be a turnoff to know at first that the favor backfires (she always does). But don’t let that stop you from delving into the book, because the story is good.

“Hunting Time” by Jeffery Deaver (Putnam)

Jeffrey Deaver’s detective Colter Shaw has just finished thwarting thieves trying to steal secrets from a nuclear company when the firm’s top scientist and his daughter go missing. So the company’s flamboyant CEO hires Shaw to find them.

Allison Parker’s violent alcoholic husband, Jon Merritt, in jail for trying to kill her, has been released early. She is convinced that he will succeed this time. A couple of the prisoners confess that Merritt told them that. So Allison and her daughter, Hannah, run away minutes before Jon gets to her house. Jon, a former detective, asks his police friends for help. Allison realizes that not only her ex-husband, but also a pair of bumbling assassins are on her trail.

Shaw finds Allison and Hannah first and convinces them to hide with him in a deserted cabin. But will he be able to protect them before the others show up? What do you think?

“Hunting Time” is full of plot twists, survivor skills, gunfights, murders, and an ending you won’t see coming.

“Bleeding Heart Courtyard” by Elly Griffiths (Mariner Books)

Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths (Mariner Books)
Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths (Mariner Books)

Harbinder Kaur has just been appointed Detective Inspector when she is assigned an investigation into the murder of a student at an exclusive London school. The victim, a member of Parliament, was attending her 21st meeting.

DI Kaur focuses on the half dozen members of the popular victim “Group,” as they were then called. Two decades later, they include a pop star, a famous actress and another congressman. The Group shares a secret that still haunts them. On the last day of school they agreed to scare a student who had raped one of the girls by threatening to throw him in front of a train. The incident failed and the child died.

As Kaur pressures the group to find who killed her friend, the members themselves bond, rekindling old friendships and even finding romance.

The solution to the murder may be off the mark, but the ending is satisfying.

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