9 mystery books for the summer
The sunny days of summer are back! What better way to celebrate than with a dark and gripping read? The Next Chapter's mystery panel has come with their top picks to read in the summer of 2019.
The panel is composed of J.D. Singh, co-owner of The Sleuth of Baker Street, Margaret Cannon, mystery book columnist for The Globe and Mail and P.K. Rangachari, professor at McMaster University.
Margaret Cannon: "This is the hot book of the season. It has overtones of colonialism, racism, classism — you name it, it's got it. A young woman is lured to the farm, which is a ritzy spa-type place where young immigrant women and poor women serve as gestational uteruses for billionaire babies. They're promised a great deal of money when their nine months is over, but, of course, we all know that something horrible is going to happen. The one flaw in this is that the head of the farm, a Chinese entrepreneur and Harvard Business School graduate, is a bit of a cartoon. But this is the first novel so Ramos is entitled to a couple of 'over-the-tops.' The Farm is a terrific novel."
P.K. Rangachari: "Elly Griffiths has written a lot of other books so this is supposed to be a standalone. There's a gothic horror story in the background and it basically all plays out in this English school. There's a lot of references to Wilkie Collins and Tennyson. It is actually a very funny book and the funniest person in it is this detective sergeant called Harbinder Kaur. She's witty, sardonic, sarcastic. She lives with her parents. They're Punjabis hoping to get her married off, but she's a lesbian and doesn't want to let them know. The book is a fast read and very funny and I do hope that Harbinder Kaur carries on as a detective in the canon because she'll be a great addition."
J.D. Singh: "My first pick is a book from about 10 years ago called A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez. He's written three novels with these two characters, Detective Inspector Jack Carrigan and his sergeant Geneva Miller. The story starts off with the murder of a Ugandan student. Carrigan thinks that this is the work of a serial killer. But Miller is pretty sure that this murder relates to the young woman's work on African politics. Now Carrigan is not sure whether he can trust Miller because he thinks she's a spy for his superior. Nonetheless, this is how they proceed... What was really quite interesting about the story was that it is set in parts of London that most people probably are not that familiar with and that is amongst the Ugandan community. This adds another interesting dimension to this wonderfully dark, dangerous story."
Margaret Cannon: "It's a terrific espionage novel. For some reads, I like a little bit of a romance — not one that takes away from the blood and guts, but this one has a little romance that fits in rather well. But the novel is also an homage to the film Casablanca, which is one of my favourite films of all time. So I found this book just irresistible in so many ways. The spy in it is codenamed Laszlo, spelled exactly the way it is in the film, and much of the action takes place in Casablanca. It has, in many ways, everything going for it for a summer novel. It's espionage, it's romantic, it's in North Africa. It's very relevant with the migration crisis. Wonderful book."
P.K. Rangachari: "This is Gothic horror in terms of visual arts. The inspector MacNeice is faced with a serial killer who stages his murders like a painting. He kills his victims and he arranges them in such a way to look like a tableau that reproduces classic paintings. The mystery is, why is he doing it? Of course, there are undercurrents of what these paintings represent. There's a lot of discussion of paintings, visual arts, photography, jazz. It's a very interesting book."
J.D. Singh: "It's the first of two novels by an author of the name of Joanna Schaffhausen. Our heroine is a woman by the name of Ellery Hathaway who knows a thing or two about serial killers. She's currently working as a police officer in a small sleepy town, a place where even a bicycle theft is front page news. But she was once Victim Number 17 of a serial killer and she was the only one that survived. Now the person who saved her was FBI agent named Reed Markham. Flash forward to today and in this small town a number of people have gone missing. Ellery is convinced that these are not unrelated events. There's one person behind it and the ultimate target is herself. But she can't seem to convince anyone to proceed on that basis until she calls Reed Markham, who then comes in and they work on this together. There are a few holes in this story, but with most crime novels they don't stand real close scrutiny that well so I wouldn't worry about it. Just go ahead and read it."
P.K. Rangachari: "It's about a young boy called Jasper. He has two clinical conditions: synesthesia and face blindness. He can't recognize faces. He can only recognize voices and the voices come out in colours. It's actually a very funny and interesting book. You should actually read it along with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is what I did. It bears some resemblance to it, though I think this is in some ways a more complex book, but quite funny. It's a very fast read."
J.D. Singh: "It took me 20 years to get to Daniel Silva. He's the author of 19 novels featuring this Israeli art restorer, a spy and assassin by the name of Gabriel Allon. All 19 novels have been New York Times bestsellers and I think six or seven of them actually made it to number one. In this one, which was published in 2000, Gabriel has given up the spy business because his wife and daughter were killed and is now working as a restorer. But of course, Gabriel is enticed to go back to the business because only he can sort out the things that need sorting out. The author knows a great deal about the Middle East so be ready for a long convoluted story with, as Kirkus Reviews says, 'more twists and turns than you can shake an olive branch at.'"
Margaret Cannon: "The last book by the great, late great Philip Kerr, Metropolis fills in the final chapter in the story of Bernie Gunther. It's a prequel. It goes back to Bernie's beginnings in the homicide department of the Berlin police and the Weimar Republic. I understand from publicists that Kerr was burning up the computer to finish this before his untimely death. It's a brilliant book, like all the Bernie Gunther books. It's great. It's a wonderful novel and is the last novel in a great series."
Margaret Cannon, P.K. Rangachari and J.D. Singh's comments have been edited for length and clarity.