New crime fiction reviews

From the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Cannon, reviews of a new crop of crime fiction, by super-star writers.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye

By Michael Connelly

Little, Brown, 392 pages, $38

We are well past the usual burnout for series characters but Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books continue to enchant and engage. The Wrong Side of Goodbye manages to be every bit as good as early masterpieces such as The Concrete Blonde and Trunk Music. As fans know, Harry is retired from the LAPD and spends his days working as a part-time private investigator as well as investigating cold cases for the San Fernando PD. The only caveat is that he cannot use police information in his PI work. That doesn’t seem to be a problem until two cases converge in unusual ways. The cold case is that of a serial rapist – clues have been lost, witnesses long gone. The private case involves octogenarian-billionaire Whitney Vance. Sixty-five-years ago, Vance fell in love, impregnated his 16-year-old girlfriend and then his father forced the pair to part. The girl – along with the baby – disappeared. Vance never loved another woman. He wants to know if there’s an heir or heiress out there somewhere. He offers Harry $10,000 just for one meeting. It’s detection and romance, how can Harry resist? Just how Harry solves both his mysteries requires a couple of coincidences and a tiny bit of contrivance at the end, but I wasn’t disappointed. This is a terrific Connelly book.

The Keys of My Prison

By Frances Shelley Wees

Véhicule Press, 188 pages, $14.95

Have you heard of the great Canadian author Margaret Millar? She was one of the hottest bestsellers in North America in the 1950s. Working right behind her in talent, but relatively unknown, we have Frances Shelley Wees, whose plots ran to Canadian pulp, and who, if this reissued classic is any indication, really knew her way around a psychological thriller. The setting is Toronto’s Rosedale. The story begins with a man in a coma and his devoted wife sitting next to him. Rafe Johnson is the perfect husband; attentive, charming, gracious, all any woman could want. He’s also the heir to a fortune and, at this moment, on the cusp of death. Rafe survives, but the man who comes out of the hospital is a complete stranger to his wife and family. Gone are the kind, pleasant ways. The new Rafe is coarse and vulgar, drinking away his days and ignoring his wife. Can a personality change? Or is something more sinister afoot? The plot leads to psychologist Dr. Merrill and his assistant, Henry Lake. Just what is the truth about Rafe Johnson? Thankfully, Véhicule is bringing out more of Wees’s novels. I love period pulp.

Rather Be the Devil

By Ian Rankin

Orion, 354 pages, $32

John Rebus returns in this superb mystery set in Edinburgh with a murder 40 years cold. To add to the psychological twist, Rebus has quit smoking and, as any former smoker knows, to go from a two-pack-a-day habit to nothing is no small matter. When his girlfriend, pathologist Deborah Quant, sends him a jar of diseased lung, she has no idea that there’s more than one reason Rebus has sworn off the devil weed. Rebus wants to celebrate a bit, so he arranges a dinner for himself and Deborah at a notorious hotel. In the 1970s, the Caledonian was the haunt of rock stars and prostitutes. It was also the scene of the never-solved murder of Maria Turquand. Rebus is interested in the cold case, but his ex-partner, DI Siobhan Clarke, has a more recent crime he can help with: A local crime leader has been beaten senseless on his own doorstep and the rumour is that Rebus’s old friend/nemesis, “Big Ger” Cafferty, is responsible. Clarke’s current case and Rebus’s cold one converge when Turquand’s husband turns out to be an employee of a very wealthy (and possibly criminally connected) banker. Rankin plays off the lavish lifestyles of past celebrities with the even more opulent surroundings of today’s ultrarich. When there’s no shortage of wealth, life is cheap.

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