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book review

Detail of illustration prepared for print version of this storySam Kalda/The Globe and Mail

The Bone Man
By Wolf Haas, Melville House, 176 pages, $14.95

Wolf Haas is Austria's best-known crime writer, and The Bone Man is the second in his series featuring the droll private detective Simon Brenner. This excellent translation by Annie Janusch is full of wit and sparkle; it's a novel that leaves you laughing even as you work to solve the mystery.

Brenner's job this time takes him to the verdant spring countryside and the Loeschenkohl Grill. This is the place where Viennese food snobs go to chow down on fried chicken. It's big, plain, greasy and, in the basement, there's a man feeding a ton of chicken bones a day into a grinder. The manager of Loeschenkohl's has hired Brenner because a human bone has turned up among the drumsticks.

As Brenner chases the clues amid the picture-book countryside (one waits for a chorus of Edelweiss), he encounters sex workers, fake tour guides, war profiteers, slimy art dealers and even a white slaver. Fans of Carl Hiaasen ought to love this series, and there are at least seven more books awaiting translation.

Rage Against The Dying
By Becky Masterman, Penguin Canada, 320 pages, $22

This smart and funny debut novel introduces Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI undercover agent living in Tuscon, which she describes as "a lot like Siberia, only hot." Brigid may be retired but she's not about to settle into a routine of golf and smoothies. In fact, we meet her encountering a dangerous man who preys on what he calls "hot grannies." After chapter one with Brigid, he's reconsidering both heat and age.

Masterman has a great character here and she goes all out to set up future books. This opener has a few plot problems, but nothing that won't be ironed out later. Brigid Quinn is a name to watch.

The Corpse With The Golden Nose
By Cathy Ace, TouchWood, 240 pages, $14.99

If you're a lover of classic mystery, this second Cait Morgan novel is for you. Ace takes her foodie/criminologist into B.C. wine country for a murder with touches of Christie or Marsh but with a bouquet of Kinsey Millhone.

The dead person is a vintner, famous and disliked. Is it murder, as Cait believes? Or is it suicide, as retired cop Bud Anderson insists? Another death ends the conflict and Cait and Bud start questioning the neighbours to find out who might be a killer and who may be the next victim.

Three Graves Full
By Jamie Mason, Simon & Schuster, 320 pages, $28.99

"There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard." That's the opening line of this terrific debut novel by Jamie Mason.

The man with the body is Jason Getty and he's an amateur murderer. His meek and mild façade hides his crime and his fears of getting caught. Then the police arrive and two bodies turn up in Jason's yard, but they're not the ones he put there. From that point on, Mason is on a lark in a plot that careens and provides laughs right to the final page.