City Of Fallen Angels
By Howard Engel, Cormorant, 226 pages, $20
Mike Ward is back. More than 20 years ago he was the reporter at the centre of Murder In Montparnasse, Howard Engel's crime novel set in Paris in the twenties. It was not Engel's best book, but Ward was a solid character, based on John Glassco, a young, delightfully shallow and callow gent who wrote of his adventures in Memoir Of Montparnasse and then, sadly, died young. The new book picks up Ward in 1940 saying goodbye to his beloved Paris. "It's a city for the young," he muses. Ward's new assignment is L.A., specifically Hollywood, with a mandate to dig the dirt. He heads west with no illusions and lots of booze. L.A. is everything he fears – dazzlingly sunny and full of fantasy – but then a suicide turns into a murder and Ward's oldest instincts come alive to investigate crime. This is a terrific novel from one of Canada's most celebrated authors. It has all Engel's trademark wit, with his superb command of the noir genre in a style uniquely his own.
By Peter Robinson, McClelland & Stewart, 367 pages, $29.95
Peter Robinson's long-running Alan Banks series is one of the best Canadian crime series we have. Abattoir Blues, the latest, is another well-plotted, elegantly written, and beautifully set book that takes us to the heart of the Yorkshire dales for some solid deductive detection. Two boys have disappeared from rural hamlets outside Eastvale. Banks and his team have no clues. Are the boys dead or just runaways? Then a burning caravan provides the police and the community with more suspicion but no more information until something surfaces in an old Second World War plane hangar. This is one of Robinson's best books to date.
No Known Grave
By Maureen Jennings, McClelland & Stewart, 341 pages, $24.95
Another great historical mystery from Jennings, whose popular Murdoch series is a television staple. It's 1942. Detective Inspector Tom Tyler has been assigned to the small town of Ludlow in Shropshire. It could be a quiet backwater for Tyler, after the bombs in London, but he's barely in town before a particularly grisly double murder occurs at St. Anne's Convalescent Hospital. There appears no possible motive or suspects. The hospital is run by Anglican nuns and the patients are all horribly injured servicemen, most with multiple amputations, blind, helpless. Visitors are screened and the faint of heart or stomach kept out. It is not a place easily accessed. In short, we have an excellent historical mystery with a good locked-room plot and Jennings keeps the suspense going right to the end. Television series, anyone?
The Silent Boy
By Andrew Taylor, HarperCollins, 424 pages, $21.99
Edward Savill, the earnest civil servant of The Scent of Death, returns in this terrific mix of murder, revolution, and betrayal set against the French Terror of 1792. Taylor is one of Britain's most accomplished and inventive historical novelists and fans of Hilary Mantel should love this book. Savill has comfortably settled in London with his daughter, when he's summoned by his superior of 16 years ago, Mr. Rampton, who is also the uncle of his estranged wife, Augusta. "She is dead, sir," is the greeting from Rampton. There is a child, a boy, not Savill's , but under British law, belonging to him. Rampton wants the child, in the care of French refugees, to be reared in England by English relatives. Savill has the legal and moral claim. This is a complex tale, told from multiple points of view, with many twists. As always, Taylor's historical backgrounds are wonderfully constructed and his characters, particularly the boy, irresistible.