3 noteworthy summer mysteries
These summer thrillers offer adrenaline-fueled trips to Saudi Arabia,Dublin, and the ski slopes.
From a prizewinning literary novelist to a bestselling author with a brand-new hit TV show, this summer offers three noteworthy new mysteries intricate enough to keep amateur sleuths glued to their armchairs, the better to keep their gumshoes from melting in the heat. (To help cool you off, one of them even takes place during a snowstorm.)
City of Veils, by Zoë Ferraris, (Little, Brown) $24.99
Katya Hijazi and Nayir Sharqi have logistical difficulties Nick and Nora never imagined. Forget solving crimes: It’s illegal for them to be seen in public together. As a result, in City of Veils, author Zoë Ferraris has to do some rather swift maneuvering to reunite the duo who made her debut novel, “Finding Nouf,” so memorable.
Katya is now pretending to be married to keep her job in forensics, while desert guide Nayir is pining for Katya and trying to reconcile his feelings with his formerly strict faith.
Then a woman’s beaten body is found on a beach in Jeddah, and Katya asks Nayir to help her research the case on the sly. It turns out the young woman was a documentary filmmaker whose work on sexual hypocrisy pushed plenty of buttons, although it may have been her work with a controversial Koranic scholar that got her killed. Meanwhile, an American woman searches for her husband, a security contractor who went missing the night he picked her up from the airport, and Katya’s boss, a police detective, discovers that he might not be the enlightened feminist he thought. (Ferraris stumbles here: Detective Osama Ibrahim’s soul-searching could have been quite interesting, but his home life gets shortchanged.)
Where Ferraris, who lived in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, continues to shine is in her depiction of the ways in which women’s lives are circumscribed in that country – take a scene at an airport room where lone women are stored like unclaimed umbrellas – and the risks her characters run in circumventing the rules.
Faithful Place, by Tana French, (Viking) $25.95
A suitcase found stuffed up a chimney in a derelict house belongs to Rosie Daly, the girl he planned to elope with all those years before. So, the good news: His childhood sweetheart didn’t dump him, after all. The bad news: That’s because she was probably murdered.
Faithful Place – heck, Frank’s own family – is so full of petty criminals and blighted lives, it’s hard to know where to begin. (“You don’t meet my family,” he tells his ex-wife, “you open hostilities.”) To complicate matters, the lead detective is eyeing Frank with growing suspicion, as are most of his nearest and dearest, who can’t abide cops on principle.
Edgar Award-winner French, who was already better than 95 percent of mystery writers out there, just gets stronger with every book. The stubborn, hotheaded Frank could have hailed from central casting, but French employs pitch-perfect narration as her protagonist uses every underhanded trick he’s learned, including suborning a promising rookie, to find out what happened to Rosie.
Finding an answer and righting wrongs are two entirely different things. “Faithful Place” resists restoring order in a way that would have Hercule Poirot pulling out his mustache. With her third novel, French trades the dreamy, locked-house puzzle of “The Likeness” for a grinding banality that feels completely real.
She might change narrators with every novel, but her interest in emotional isolation continues to make her one of the most resonant writers in any genre.
Ice Cold, by Tess Gerritsen, (Ballantine) $26
Forensic pathologist Maura Isles isn’t a terribly spontaneous gal. So when an old classmate invites her on an impromptu ski weekend with his daughter and some friends, she’s shocked when she says yes. One car crash later, and Maura is never going to deviate from her day planner again.
The skiers take shelter in a valley of homes that have been eerily abandoned – with dinner still on the tables and cars still parked in garages. Hint: The homes belong to a creepy religious cult (as opposed to all those benevolent, life-affirming ones out there).
Given that TNT now has a companion hit to “The Closer” in “Rizzoli & Isles,” readers should expect that there’s more going on than meets the eye in Gerritsen’s eighth mystery featuring the two women. Ice Cold isn’t the greatest choice for newcomers, since the duo spends most of the book apart. But Gerritsen works in a couple of satisfying twists, and the whole novel goes down easily in one gulp.
Yvonne Zipp regularly reviews fiction for the Monitor.