Detective novels today show that murder can happen anywhere; in the woods of northern Minnesota, on a North Atlantic lobster boat or at a storytelling festival.
“Death of a Starling” by Linda Norlander (Best Level Books, $ 16.95).
Thinking of Whitacre and the city’s quest to keep quiet, it still didn’t feel right. The shooting had taken place two years ago, but the conspiracy of silence continued to have an element of fear that didn’t make sense. Were they trying to protect students and families from those killed and injured, or were they hiding something?
Norlander, a former Northern Minnesota alumnus who lives in Tacoma, Wash., Launched her A Cabin by the Lake Mystery series last year with “Death of an Editor.” We were introduced to Jamie Forest, who escaped New York City to her family’s cabin in the northern woods with her beloved dog Bronte after her husband left her for a makeup artist and she was shot. out of bed by drug officers who mistook her for another person.
This book was fun and exciting and Norlander goes above and beyond in “Death of a Starling”. Jamie didn’t get off to a good start in her tight-knit community in the first book when she opposed mining in the area, and she’s even worse in “Death of a Starling,” which doesn’t speak not a bird but a high school counselor, Winston Starling, who was killed as he ran off the road.
The high school is in the town of Cascade, a dying place since the mines closed, which Jamie feels badly. Having no money to get through the coming winter except for what she gets by editing poorly written romances, she offers the New Yorker an idea about the high school teacher and two students – all of them. Native Americans – died in school shooting two years earlier. The perpetrator, a nice boy who everyone loved, ran away and committed suicide.
But no one in town will talk to Jamie except some of the kids who want to discuss the shooting with adults who tell them to “move on,” including the high school principal, married to a beauty who wears a Hermès bag with a value of five digits. . Jamie also gets help from Starling’s cousin, a state soldier she loves very much, while her lover Jim, also a soldier, is out of town.
Jamie is threatened while driving down a dark road and on the phone, and she knows she is being watched by the Red Caps, a supremacist group from the former KKK. She thinks, she should drop the story. But shouldn’t the victims be honored by telling their story?
Sometimes reckless and often scared to death, Jamie continues the story with the help of George, an outspoken Indian, and some of the kids who were in the classroom during the filming. When she discovers a map of a desert island, she finds herself in a knee-deep swamp, an empty hut and the possible end of her life and several more.
Best of all is Bronte (named after Jamie’s useless MFA in poetry), a friendly dog who acts like Jamie’s confidant. Their conversations about the romance novels she publishes, including one about Vladess, a vampire woman, add a light touch.
Norland gave us a believable character in Jamie, she keeps the pace alive, there are some really scary moments and one hell of a concluding chapter.
Jenifer LeClair’s “Sea Smoke and Mirrors” (Fog Harbor Press, $ 16.99)
No, she felt like they were just starting to scratch the surface of what lay beneath these crimes. But they had positioned themselves well. Cast their net wide enough that they are positioned to collect a myriad of information. Would two months be enough to close the case? She believed in it. Could they all stay safe until then? She thought of the footprints outside the house, under their window, and a shiver ran through her. It was his job to make sure they did.
A City of Secrets is also the setting for Jenifer LeClair’s seventh Windjammer mystery starring Brie Beaumont, a former homicide detective from Minneapolis who left Minnesota after her partner died from a bullet aimed at her. She found work in Maine as a crew on the schooner Maine Wind and is in love with Captain John DuLac.
It is January and the Maine Wind is out of the water for maintenance. Brie, who worked with Maine State Police, is charged with investigating the suspicious deaths of four lobster fishermen on a remote island in the North Atlantic. Lobster fishing is a tough life and men often disappear in cold and dangerous waters, but four in several months raise suspicion.
Brie and John infiltrate as husband and wife, with retired detective Jack La Beau playing the role of grandfather. John is supposed to take over his fictional uncle’s lobster boat, and George Dupopolis, the chef of the Maine Wind, enlists as the lobster boat’s helper, claiming he doesn’t know the others. Angus, a huge-headed and friendly Newfie who loves cold and snow, joins the team.
As the team slowly integrate into life on the island, where families have crossed paths for generations, they realize that there is more to it than just dead men and drugs, which are a big deal. . There is also a feeling of fear among the residents.
When Brie volunteers at the local history center, she stumbles upon an old crime that hints at their ongoing investigation.
At 355 pages, it’s a quiet storytelling that could have been tightened up a bit. LeClair explains in detail the set-up of the infiltration and what each member of the team does, as well as their conversations when they meet to think about the “murder board”, a large sheet of paper that bears the names, history and possible suspects. And they are afraid of blowing up their blankets.
We also learn something about the lobster fishery, how the territories are passed down from generation to generation, the toll it takes on human bodies and how lobsters are disappearing in warming waters further south.
LeClair, who lives in the heights of Vadnais and has sailed there, does an excellent job of plunging the reader into the icy and dangerous waters of the North Atlantic, with sudden squalls and sea smoke obscuring all moving on water – including a ship swooping down on you.
Ultimately – and we won’t reveal it – maritime justice is served.
A chicane; it would have been helpful for the readers of this character-filled story to have the names of the actors at the beginning of the book. Four dead men, each with a different background, their relatives and various townspeople are all characters for a reader to follow.
(LeClair will launch his book from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, July 30, at Lake Country Booksellers, 4766 Washington Square, White Bear Lake; and from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 31, at Once Upon a Crime, 604 W. 26th St. ., deputies.)
“The Last Louie Story” by Glenn Ickler (Outskirts Press, $ 15.99)
Al raised the camera and took a picture of the men loading the stretcher into the ambulance. “You can call this one ‘the end of the story’,” Al said.
“In fact, this is the start of Louie’s last story,” I said. “And it’s our job to say so.”
This intrepid couple of journalists – writer Mitch Mitchell and photographer Al Jeffrey – are on vacation with their wives at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn. During an evening after the show, they meet master storyteller Louie Stein, 82, who promises them he’ll tell a story like they’ve never heard the next day.
His story is never told, as Stein is found dead, so severely mutilated that Al, who took pictures of disasters, turns gray in his gills. Stein’s from New Ulm, and Mitch and Al consider this to be their story for the St. Paul Daily Dispatch.
Who would murder an old storyteller, especially one who seemed to be loved by his peers. Everyone Mitch interviewed said how great a guy Louie was – until he digs deeper (he’s a good reporter) and finds a few people who hated the man because he embarrassed them by meddling their personal lives to its stories.
Louie’s middle-aged son, Shelly, is arrested for murder, only because he was living with his father in the trailer and someone heard loud voices coming from the vehicle. Thanks to Mitch’s lawyer wife, Martha Todd, they find someone from his law firm to represent him.
The storytellers are a colorful bunch and one from Duluth, who goes by the name of Thumbelina, suggests on her blog that she knows the identity of the killer. She too is found dead with the same horrific dismemberment that Louie suffered.
Mitch and Al continue the story to Minnesota, where they discover the killer hunt is at an impasse in Janesborough and St. Paul.
Police in both jurisdictions never disclosed what the mutilation was, so Mitch believes that if he questions anyone who knows, he must be the killer. It takes a lot of digging, a lot of phone calls before he and Al find out. As usual, they put themselves in danger of tracking down the criminal.
This book is quick and witty, with business jokes from Al and Mitch. Al is taking a Shakespeare class so there are a lot of quotes from the bard. The sets are familiar places everywhere in Saint-Paul, including Harriet Island and the highways. A subplot about the arrest of Al and Carol’s teenage son for hosting an Oktoberfest adds a layer of family concerns, and the author gives us some interesting tidbits of the actual festival, which draws 10,000 people. every year.
Ickler, a native of Minnesota who lives in Massachusetts, has had a long career in newspapers, most notably on the editorial staff of St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press. Several characters bear the names of our former colleagues, including a columnist whose name pays tribute to the late Don Boxmeyer. The scenes that take place in the newspaper town hall are straight out of conversations you might hear every day in a daily newspaper.