Mary Dahiem’s winning 26th Emma Lord mystery, “The Alpine Zen,” finds the series characters searching for answers to the unrecognizable remains of a male body that emerges at the town dumpsite.
It is one of the many peculiar incidences in the book’s busy storyline that keeps this mystery unique. Lord, publisher and editor at the Alpine Advocate, works alongside her irascible husband, Sheriff Milo Dodge, to help unravel the baffling puzzle. As husband and wife try to work together in order to meet their own deadlines, tempers flare and emotions are tested.
As a summer heat wave rolls into the small, picturesque town, Lord must also deal with the unruly personality of her House & Home editor, Vida Runkel, who seems out of character, preoccupied and standoffish toward her fellow colleagues.
Midway through the story, Vida disappears from Alpine, which sets Emma and the rest of the staff at the Advocate on edge.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office is inundated with calls from townspeople complaining about a lurker peeking in windows of people’s homes and businesses. Sheriff Dodge and his fellow officers work tirelessly to help keep the place he calls home safe from further danger.
Series fans will enjoy revisiting their favorite mystery series with “The Alpine Zen,” however newcomers are advised to start at the beginning with “The Alpine Advocate” to help familiarize themselves with Daheim’s long list of appealing cast of characters.
'THE COLUMBO COLLECTION'
William Link, writer and creator of various 1960s, '70s and '80s popular TV mystery series, compiles a laundry list of short stories in “The Columbo Collection.”
In these 12 distinctive short stories, Link re-establishes the frumpy, cigar-smoking Columbo for the printed page, which, at times, has a distinctive feeling of long-lost television episodes.
In his signature line, “Just one more thing,” the inquisitive Columbo dons his rumpled raincoat and cigar as he delves into perplexing procedurals from hypnosis to damsels in distress and crooked L.A. attorneys and cops.
In the collection’s opening story, “The Criminal Criminal Attorney,” Columbo is on the case of a shady defense lawyer suspected of killing his own client. In his usual off-the-cuff manner, Columbo sifts through the small amount of evidence he has given to expose the real killer.
“The Gun that Wasn’t” focuses on an incident involving an inside job within the police force. Columbo is put on the case. But as he starts unscrambling clues leading to the why and who of the investigation, he is shocked to discover the real reason behind the dastardly crime.
“Requiem for a Hitman” is one of the collection's highlights and has a characteristic feeling of a missing “Columbo” episode. The opening scene with a woman meeting her husband’s killer in a public location sets the tone for the absorbing climax. What looks like a customary meeting between two old friends turns into a case of cold-blooded vengeance.
For mystery readers, many of the stories presented in this collection are rare treats and a fine excursion down memory lane. Recommended reading.
'A DISGUISE TO DIE FOR'
Diane Vallere’s first in a new Costume Shop Mystery series, “A Disguise to Die For,” will keep readers turning pages.
Margo Tamblyn, a former magician’s assistant and loving daughter to her wheelchair-bound father, tries to clear her friend’s name in a perplexing murder case.
Tamblyn moves back to her hometown, Proper City, Nevada, to help manage and run her family’s costume shop, Disguise DeLimit. Her first order of costumes comes with a fatal price when wealthy businessman Blitz Manners arrives at the shop demanding 40 handmade costumes for a detective-themed birthday affair.
For Margo, this is only the beginning of a long, nightmarish endeavor. Things take a turn when Margo’s friend and party planner Ebony is caught standing over Blitz’s dead body with a knife during the evening’s festivities.
Margo must clear her friend’s name and hunt down the real masked killer before Margo’s own life goes up in smoke.
With wonderful characterizations and backstory on the main and minor characters, “A Disguise to Die For” is a thoroughly engaging mystery. I am looking forward to the next installment, “Masking for Trouble,” coming October 2016.
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.