A Justice of Mysteries

Break Down
Sara Paretski
Putnam, $26.95
Paperback due December 2012

The Lost Women of Lost Lake
Ellen Hart
Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press
$25.95, cloth, Oct. 2011

Though Not Dead
Dana Stabenow
Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press
$7.99 mass market paperback

Ghost Hero
A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Novel
S.J. Rozan
Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press
$25.95, cloth, Oct. 2011
$15.99 paperback, Aug. 21, 2012

Ill Will: A Micky Knight Mystery
J.M. Redmann
Bold Strokes Books
$16.95 paperback

If it’s a covey of quail and a murder of crows, perhaps a group of mysteries might reasonably be called a justice? In any case, there are those days/weeks/months when the national politic or the randomness of health or something equally maddening leaves a woman craving some justice and the likeliest place to get it is a good mystery.

In Sara Paretsky’s Break Down V.I. Warshawski gets one of those midnight calls from her niece, this one about some teenagers who have skipped out from their book club, and suddenly finds herself in the midst of the most recent Buffy-like craze, a hostile media campaign against one of the girl’s mother, a progressive running for the Senate, and conflicting versions as to what really happened and who was (or wasn’t) a hero in Nazi-occupied Lithuania. Paretsky’s worlds are never simple and therein lies the pleasure. As always, Lottie Hershel provides counter balance and patches up Vic as needed. And, as always, Paretsky offers a deep and satisfying social commentary on justice and and injustice in America. Or maybe I just have a weakness for aging (50ish) detectives who just won’t back down.

In Lost Women Ellen Hart offers a shorter and lighter read while also considering the impact of the past on the present and the complexities of our chosen families and our histories on the commitments of love. And she also takes the opportunity to dip into the legacy of the passions and politics of the anti-war movements and police brutality of the sixties. All while Jane Lawless (and Cordelia, of course) are visiting old friends to lend a hand at their lakeside resort. I have to admit that I enjoyed the journey more than the conclusion — except for the epilogue when Jane, finally, resolves her dilemma about being a PI or staying a restaurateur in a way the leaves room for plenty many more Jane Lawless tales to come. Hart’s Jane Lawless mysteries are a dependable pleasure.

Guilty pleasures: I have a serious weakness for Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugat series. Shugat, an Aleut, grew up and lives in a generic national Park/Native community in Alaska. Her primary relationship is with Mutt, a half-husky, half-wolf. Neither is lesbian (alas), but Shugat is picky about her men, and both have a particular passion for sticking up for battered and abused kids. In other words, she’s one of the finest, if undersung, of the tough women detectives that sprung full-blown out of the women’s movement. The books are as much about evolution of the complex history and relationships that make up community as they are mysteries. I long for a series this rich and complex about a lesbian community.
      This one Though Not Dead , the 18th in the series, digs into the history of the community. There’s another, Restless in the Grave, that I haven’t read (yet). If you haven’t read this series, it would probably be worth going back to the beginning. Enjoy.

I stumbled onto S.J. Rozan when I read that Ghost Hero had won the Dilys Award,  which goes to the book that mystery booksellers most enjoy selling. Who could resist that? It turns out it’s the eleventh in the series to feature 20-something American-Born-Chinese Lydia Chin and her 40-something white-guy colleague Bill Smith. Politics, culture, history, contradictions (just try being a PI while still living with your mother!), all while trying to track down the provenance of some new as-yet-unseen of new paintings by a Chinese artist who was killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising. Delicious! And well-deserving of the Dilys.

Ill Willis the seventh in  J.M. Redmann’s series about Mickey Knight and the lesbian community in New Orleans. Still trying to sort out her relationship with Cordelia and life and work in the aftermath of Katrina, Mickey stumbles into a hornet’s nest of snake oil salesmen selling bogus miracle cures to people who’ve fallen under the radar of the city’s compromised health care system. I’ve always loved the politics and passion that inform Redmann’s hard-boiled tales. And, like many things in the post-Katrina years, the editing and consistency in this one are better than in the first book to come out after Katrina. Whew!

One Response to “A Justice of Mysteries”

  1. I sure miss getting BTWOF. Any chance you’ll start it up again?