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Mysteries

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Mysteries: Best books of the month

By Salem Macknee
smacknee@mcclatchy.com

Ice Shear, by M.P.Cooley. William Morrow, 320 pages.

Ex-FBI agent June Lyons, grieving for a husband lost to cancer, has backpedaled to a job on a small-town police force in upstate New York, but suddenly she’s back in the big time as murders, meth labs and motorcycle gangs converge on her little town.

A congresswoman’s daughter is found impaled on river ice, and it turns out she had rebelliously married into a biker dynasty. Lyons finds that the biker husband actually seems to be reformed, although his family still hopes to draw him back into the fold.

M.P. Cooley hooked me with the small-town personalities and kept me reading with Lyons’ good-humored competence and compassion for her townspeople. Also, she gets to show up a hostile district attorney, so that’s fun.

The Bone Orchard, by Paul Doiron. Minotaur, 320 pages.

Mike Bowditch has quit the game warden game because he just can’t play by the rules. But even as a fishing guide, he still has a hard time not policing his little corner of the wilderness.

His resolve to stay a civilian is shaken when his former mentor, on suspension after the “suicide by cop” of a disfigured veteran, is attacked. Although he has no official status, he starts following up on leads he feels the police are overlooking. In his usual fashion he seems to almost go out of his way to find rules to break. Paul Doiron has created a character I keep coming back to, book after book.

Never Coming Back, by Tim Weaver. Viking. 376 pages.

This is the first U.S. release of a book in the David Raker series (three were previously published in the U.K.), and it’s interesting to be dropped into the story after characters have had several books to build up backstories and relationships. It’s like real life, where stories don’t have beginnings or ends; it’s all one big middle.

Raker finds missing people, but it’s not a vocation for him. It’s an obsession, and even after being hurt badly by an attacker and alienated from loved ones who can’t understand his passion, he still does not hesitate when an old girlfriend asks him to look for her sister’s family.

The family of four disappeared in the midst of their evening dinner preparations in the manner of the legendary Marie Celeste: food cooking, table set, the people vanished into thin air.

Even that central story takes its time to unfold. We start with a chance encounter in Las Vegas in 2007, then fast-forward to a body that washes up in a British fishing village in 2012. Flashbacks tell part of the story in 2011. It’s an organic approach that really works, especially with Tim Weaver’s gift for nuance. Characters pay attention to conversational rhythms and silences. There is lots of dissecting of intent; lots of second-guessing. In the end what precipitated this unthinkable crime turns out to be a harmless-seeming photo and an ill-timed phone call.

Macknee: smacknee@mcclatchy.com
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