Karin Fossum’s strong 13th Konrad Sejer police procedural, “The Whisperer,” chronicles the life of an elderly woman who may or may not have committed a murder.

Ragna Riegel is a woman of routine who lives alone in a small Norwegian town. She leads a solitary life that some might call antisocial and unusual. She keeps to herself, minds her business. Her interaction with other people is minimal, and the noticeable thick scar on her neck, an injury she received years ago, creates a cryptic clue for the mysterious plotline.

One night, a stranger visits her, standing across the street watching her from the sidewalk, globed in light and shadow. The man’s involvement in Ragna’s life is revealed through Fossum’s signature suspense. Told mostly in flashbacks, the slow, quiet reveal of Ragna’s night visitor will keep readers guessing until the very end of the novel.

When the man breaks into Ragna’s house late one night, a murder is committed, and all clues point to the elderly woman. But could an arthritic woman overpower an assailant twice her size and commit such a heinous crime?

Fossum’s study of human behavior is one of her many strong suits, which keeps the tension taut as it gradually builds through the intricate tapestry of the compelling narrative. “The Whisperer” is a must-read for mystery readers.

“A Time for Murder”

The 50th Murder She Wrote whodunit, “A Time for Murder,” is a unique blend of nostalgia and mystery.

Land turns the clock back for America’s favorite fictional sleuth and busybody, Jessica Fletcher, as she solves her very first mystery before moving to the infamous town of Cabot Cove, ME. The satisfying narrative introduces readers to Jessica’s early life in Appleton, ME before she moved to Cabot Cove with her husband Frank Fletcher. Jessica, then a young high school English teacher, stumbles across the dead body of the beloved principal and is embroiled in a real life investigation.

When she is invited to a present-day high school colleague’s retirement party, and said colleague turns up dead, Jessica learns that the murder is connected to the twenty-year-old case in Appleton.

Land handles the solid plot of both murders nicely, shifting time frames between Jessica’s lives in both Maine towns.

When memorable faces from the TV and book series start to show up in the novel, Murder She Wrote fans will find a lot to enjoy in Land’s newest tour de force. It is a gratifying read from start to finish.

“The Whisper Man”

Alex North’s debut, “The Whisper Man,” is a relatively spooky story, but banal in its execution.

“If you leave the door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.” According to locals, the legend is real. The Whisper Man comes at night to abduct and murder children.

For widower Tom and his five-year-old son Jake, the nightmare is just beginning. After the horrible tragedy of losing his wife Rebecca, Tom moves his son to the small town of Featherbank to begin a fresh, new life.

The house Tom purchases has a dark past, and he starts hearing unexplainable noises late at night, somebody walking through the house. But then things get more frightening when Tom sees shape shifting shadows in the house, a small child standing at the foot of his bed, and the most disturbing of all: he overhears his son talking to somebody. But when Tom checks on his son, there is nobody in the room but Jake and his unsettling drawings of butterflies.

In the second half of the story, Tom encounters a man in his backyard trying to get inside the locked garage. The man approaches Tom and tells him that he used to live at the residence, but with minimal explanation for his trespassing, the old man flees the property, only to be discovered later in the novel for his is involved in the ongoing investigation of five missing children who were murdered years earlier.

“The Whisper Man” starts out slowly, and the reader is in the dark for the first 100 pages, unclear what is happening. Chapters are short, which advances the narrative, but North would have done better with more showing and less telling.

Thomas Grant Bruso is a Plattsburgh resident who writes fiction and has been an avid reader of genre fiction since he was a kid. Readers and writers are invited to connect and discuss books and writing at www.facebook.com/ thomasgrantbruso.

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