Alaksa native Dana Stabenow is the author of two popular crime series set in her home state: nearly a score of titles featuring kickass Aleut private eye Kate Shugak, and a quartet of titles centering on straight-shooting state trooper Liam Campbell. The pair finally meet in Stabenow’s newest title, Restless in the Grave, released on Valentine’s Day. Dana took a moment from her busy tour schedule to share with us some of the books that have been keeping her up nights, including new releases and neglected classics just crying out to be reprinted.
One of my favorite recent reads is Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police. St. Denis is a small village in Perigord in the south of present-day France. The first chapter opens on a beautiful day in May, with Bruno Courreges, St. Denis’s chief of police, surveying his village from upon high with no little satisfaction, but with no illusions, either. St. Denis has its problems, including feuding World War II vets and interfering EU inspectors, but Bruno, a refugee from war himself, has found a home in this little valley along the Dordogne River and his love for it does not blind him to its realities. One of which, this glorious May day, manifests itself in the body of one of the aforementioned war veterans, discovered most brutally murdered in his own home. Follow the clues, you might get there before Bruno does, but the red herrings are numerous and convincing, beginning with slacker teens, neo-Nazis and Dutch drug dealers. The very satisfying resolution proves to be much closer to home, and no cheating, either, and the characters are iconic without being stereotypical. It’s not quite cosy, not quite hard-boiled, something along the lines of Miss Marple’s St. Mary Mead crossed with A Year in Provence. Delightful. And in the third book in the series, Black Diamond? There are truffles.
I really liked PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley, where James picks up the Darcys’ story six years after Pride and Prejudice. On the eve of Pemberley’s annual ball commemorating Darcy’s mother, a body is discovered in Pemberley woods. Victim and suspect are both well known to you, as is the plot, which includes an almost case file exposition of crime scene, investigation, inquest and trial. It’s sort of Law and Order: UK, circa 1803. BUM-bum.
I’m always hand-selling copies of Michael Gilbert’s books, as in The Queen Against Karl Mullen, the best courtroom drama since Witness for the Prosecution, The Long Journey Home, a tale of presumed loss, return and revenge worthy of Shakespeare, and Fear to Tread, featuring one of my favorite Gilbert characters, Mr. Weatherall, and my favorite Gilbertian line, “Now Mr. Weatherall had meant to be good.” There is also The Danger Within, a story of British officers in a WWII Italian POW camp that is a cross between The Great Escape, Hart’s War, and Stalag 17, and my personal favorite, The Night of the Twelfth. The bodies of three mutilated children have been found in the peaceful Surrey countryside, and the third murder yields a single clue that leads the Surrey Constabulary to the general vicinity of Trenchard House Preparatory School. The plot will be dear to every puzzle lover’s heart and the villain is ghoulish enough to creep out all but the most hardened reader, but the real stars of this novel are the boys, each rendered whole and individual in that iconicly economic Gilbertian style.
Dana Stabenow will be appearing at 2 p.m. this Saturday, February 18, at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle; be sure to stop on by to get signed copies of the series, and hear about her latest.