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Easy Rawlins returns, and other new crime fiction worth a look

Detail of illustration prepared for the print version of this story

Sam Kalda/The Globe and Mail

Little Green

By Walter Mosley, Doubleday, 291 pages, $30

Only the very greatest of crime writers are able to provide the perfect character to evoke the heart and spirit of a place and time: Raymond Chandler's Marlowe in L.A., Robert B. Parker's Spenser in Boston, James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux in rural Louisiana and New Orleans. From the very first line of his first novel, Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series set in post-Second World War Los Angeles was one of those greats. Anyone who read Devil In A Blue Dress knew that something great was coming and, 12 books on, it's still arriving.

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Little Green is faster, smarter, and more gutsy than any of its predecessors. It takes us into the L.A. of the Sixties when sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll ruled the world.

Fans know that in the last novel, Easy was in a car going over a cliff. He's survived physically, but mentally he's a wreck. When he and Mouse undertake the search for a missing man, "Little Green," they are led to hard drugs and a conjure woman whose potent "Gator's Blood" gives Easy more than a new take on life. Those of us old enough to remember 1967 and all that promise will get our own revival. Mosley writes mysteries but they're also literary jewels and priceless social history.

The Missing File

By D.A. Mishani, HarperCollins, 289 pages, $22.99

This brilliant debut novel by Israeli editor and crime fiction expert introduces Detective Avraham Avraham in an extraordinary case of a missing child. The setting is Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, and the case is further confounded by the intrusive "help" of a local schoolteacher who soon becomes a potential suspect.

Don't expect a nice little tourism package. This is a gritty police procedural in the finest European fashion. Avraham is a "grey man" from suit to visage to outlook, and the case depends on solid detection. One of the best crime books ever to come from Israel.

Tuesday's Gone

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By Nicci French, Viking, 370 pages, $29.50

The husband-and-wife team of Sean French and Nicci Gerrard have, until now, kept away from the recurring character psychotherapist Frieda Klein, first seen in Blue Monday, proved too good a character to drop. Frieda returns, along with DCI Karlson in a very chilling thriller about death and madness.

The story begins with a social worker visiting one of her mental patients. The woman is serving tea and buns to a naked corpse with a missing finger. This brings in DCI Karlson, who hopes that Frieda Klein can make some sense of the confused woman's ramblings and find out how the body got into her flat. This is a great psychological thriller with all the Nicci French touches. Not to be missed.

Stranglehold

By Robert Rotenberg, Simon & Schuster, 358 pages, $19.99

Toronto criminal lawyer Robert Rotenberg is back with his fourth and best mystery featuring Detective Ari Greene. Fans know that Rotenberg is a master of the classic courtroom drama, but he's also highly knowledgeable about Canadian police procedure. In this case, where Greene himself is the suspect in a murder, you get a double shot where the police job is to find the evidence to convict while Greene, on house arrest and unable to tap his usual police resources, is in search of evidence to save himself. There are lots of twists here and it's fun for Toronto readers to follow the clues on streets we know.

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The End Of The World In Breslau

By Marek Krajewski, Melville International Crime, 294 pages, $25.95

Fans of Bernie Gunther take note: Criminal Counsellor Eberhard Mock of Breslau, Poland, is just as cerebral and atmospheric and Marek Krajewski's plot lines are every bit as complicated as Philip Kerr's. If you haven't already discovered Mock, this is the perfect book to begin

It's 1927 and Breslau is booming in every way. When two elaborately staged murders occur, it's up to Detective Mock to find the culprit and clean up the mess. But the two victims – a musician and a locksmith – have nothing in common but their deaths and the killer's signature, a calendar page of the date. The trail leads to Breslau's underbelly, a place Mock knows too well. As he hunts for a killer, his wife comes under suspicion. When you've finished this one, you're going to want the two earlier novels and you can always re-read Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir.

Solea

By Jean-Claude Izzo, World Noir, 211 pages, U.S. $15

Gutsy, gritty, grimy – all the "G" words belong to Jean-Claude Izzo's brilliant Marseilles Trilogy. Solea is the last (and alas, one of the author's final works), but, if you haven't read Chourmo and Total Chaos, the first two, you'll want to start at the beginning.

Here the Italian Mafia is after an old girlfriend of ex-cop Fabio Montale and she begs him for help. He barely says yes before he's getting sinister phone calls and he knows that he's on his way back to the mental maelstrom of Marseilles. Izzo virtually created the subgenre of "Mediterranean Noir" and Solea includes a eulogy by Massimo Carlotto, author of Gomorrah, that adds a lot to the tale. Definitely not your tourist view of Marseilles but a fabulous summer escape just the same.

Lifetime

By Liza Marklund, Random House Canada, 463 pages, $21

Liza Marklund has co-written a book with James Patterson (Postcards); that's really all you need to know about this Swedish "Queen of Crime." The murders are going to be grisly and often and the chase is non-stop. Lifetime, the fourth book featuring reporter Annika Bengtzon, is the best of the crop so far.

The crime scene is horrific. The most famous cop in Sweden has been gunned down in his bedroom. His wife is blood-soaked but unharmed and his four-year-old son is missing. The wife, Julia, behaves strangely, and is obviously in need of psychiatric care. Could she be a murderer? But where is the child? Annika Bengtzon believes there was someone else in the apartment, but who and why? This is a must for Patterson fans.

Fire on the Runway

By Mel Bradshaw, Dundurn, 272 pages, $17.95

Whoopee! Mel Bradshaw takes us to the Jazz Age in Toronto just in time for the Great Gatsby party. Historical reconstruction is Bradshaw's forte (his early Victorian mystery, Death In The Age Of Steam, was short-listed for an Arthur Ellis Award) and he's at the top of his game here with mysterious maidens and hot jazz. The detective, Paul Shenstone, is another returned First World War vet with memories of trenches. The difference here is that there may be another war on the way and he's got to prevent it. This is a nice, slight book for a weekend getaway.

The Unknown Masterpiece

By John Brooke, Signature Editions, 284 pages, $18.95

Every so often, John Brooke gives us a clever book featuring Inspector Aliette Nouvelle, who chases down criminals just inside the French border. In this novel, she's called to Switzerland to investigate the murder of a Basel art dealer. But the book begins with the death of Aliette's dearest and most cherished friend. If I weren't already a fan, the death of Piaf the cat would make me one for life. Brooke knows how to tell a story and maintain suspense, but his strength is in his carefully crafted characters. This is the best Aliette Nouvelle so far.

Riverside Drive: Border City Blues

By Michael Januska, Dundurn, 256 pages, $17.99

Windsor, Canada, 1920. There's Prohibition in the United States, but Canada is awash in spirits to ship south. That's the background for this debut mystery from Januska, whose previous book was on the history of Canadian football.

The detective is Jack McClosky, veteran of the Great War and a promising boxer. That leads him to Detroit and gangsters and a lucrative new career. Soon, he's part of a larger crime family that plans to take over the border cities and control Canada's illegal trade with the United States.

Januska staggers a bit in this book. He has two separate story lines going and, while they eventually mesh, it's a stretch. But too many plots is forgivable in a first book and there's enough character in McCloskey to lead to a second tale. This is a writer to watch.

Sowing Poison

By Janet Kellough, Dundurn, 359 pages, $11.99

This is a great creepy little ghost mystery set in 1844 in Wellington, Ont. Kellough, who hails from Prince Edward County, knows the history and lore of the place and she's used it to perfection in this book.

Nathan Elliott returns to his hometown after a long absence to attend to his dying father. Then Nathan disappears without a trace. The village is mystified and then Nathan's wife appears claiming to be able to contact the dead. Suddenly it's séances in the parlour and suspicious behaviour everywhere. This is a thoroughly well-done historical mystery.

The Christie Curse

By Victoria Abbott, Berkley Prime Crime, 295 pages, $8.99

Who doesn't love a clever whodunit? When combined with the 1926 disappearance of Agatha Christie, it's a sure winner. This first novel from the mother-daughter team of Ottawa's Mary Jane Maffini and daughter Victoria, introduces Jordan Bingham, a rare-books researcher, and promises to be the start of a new series of mysteries about book collecting.

Those who believe that print is dead haven't been to a book collectors' convention where ordinarily kind and decent people claw and fight to get a signed copy of a favourite author's work. So Jordan's search for a missing Christie play has just the touch of authenticity this story needs. Every Canadian cottage needs a book just like this. You can read it with ease between drinks, naps and dinner and finish it before the weekend ends.

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