Reviews of the Week with Cara Black, Randy Ribay, Michael Connelly, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The spirited and spot-on narration of a beloved mystery series; Aimée Leduc’s nineteenth adventure, complete with international politics and familial intrigue; a stunning exploration of Filipino history and current events; a steadfast audio portrayal of Detective Bosch from Connelly’s latest crime thriller; the epic return of a middle-grade crime-fighting society. Read and listen to all your favorite gumshoes in the Reviews of the Day from the second week of Mystery Month, all posted between May 6–May 10, below.

Monday, May 6

The Golden Tresses of the Dead, by Alan Bradley and narrated by Jayne Entwistle

This just in: Jayne Entwistle is Flavia de Luce. No other reader could capture Flavia’s spirit the way Entwistle does. In Flavia’s latest adventures, she and Dogger have opened their own detective agency. Their first case involves a severed finger found in sister Ophelia’s wedding cake and the poisoning of a client who claims that some of her letters had been stolen. As Flavia and Dogger examine the evidence and search for clues, they came across the usual assortment of quirky characters and chemistry-based investigations. Entwistle flips easily among British, American, and German accents, even singing as needed to voice minor characters. Dogger is patient and kind; visiting missionaries deceptively brusque, and little cousin Undine comes into her own. But precocious Flavia is Entwistle’s masterwork. It’s easy to forget that Flavia is only 12 years old when she expounds on chemical compounds, proposes poisonous plots, and shows off her considerable vocabulary.

Tuesday, May 7

Murder in Bel-Air, by Cara Black

Aimée Leduc’s nineteenth adventure is one of her best, both because the plot is notably rich, incorporating the complex relationship between France and its former colony, Côte d’Ivoire, and because the ongoing domestic drama in the extended Leduc household has become a thoroughly involving serial novel of its own. In a manner similar to how Donna Leon builds Guido Brunetti’s family life into the fabric of her series, Black tells a parallel story in every book about single-mother Aimée’s relationships in the present and her lingering parental issues, whose roots are in the past and involve both her dead father (killed under suspicion of being a corrupt cop) and American mother, Sydney (vanished for years but now back in Paris, swearing to no longer be a CIA agent). Precariously back in the family’s good graces, helping out with child care while Aimée recovers from a concussion, Sydney reverts to form here, abandoning young Chloe at her playgroup and disappearing yet again.

Wednesday, May 8

Patron Saints of Nothing, by Randy Ribay

After finding out about his cousin Jun’s violent death, Jay Reguero travels from America to the Philippines to uncover how such a gentle person met such a grim end. He finds that the place that he remembers—the place of his birth—has changed in the face of a sweeping drug war initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte, a war that Jun’s father, Tito Maning, enthusiastically endorses. Jay digs into the circumstances of Jun’s death, while navigating the sinuous history between family members, including the schism created by his own father’s decision to raise his children in America. Jay’s investigations are an intriguing setup for what is actually a deep, nuanced, and painfully real family drama. Jay himself is a relatable character for biracial readers straddling two different cultures. This dynamic comes into play both when he tries to convey his feelings to his American friends and when he travels abroad and is treated like an outsider by other Filipinos despite looking the same.

Thursday, May 9

Dark Sacred Night, by Michael Connelly and narrated by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin

Although retired from the Los Angeles Police Department, Harry Bosch, Connelly’s long running detective, is a reserve police officer working cold cases for the San Fernando Valley PD. Detective Renee Ballard, introduced in 2017’s The Late Show, is with the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department and has been transferred to the graveyard shift from homicide after bringing a harassment charge against a former lieutenant. She learns about Daisy Clayton, murdered nine years ago with no arrests for the crime, and discovers that Harry Bosch is working the cold case. Ballard finds and introduces herself to him, convincing Bosch to let her in on the case. The differences between the two investigators are honed by dual narrators. Welliver, the actor who portrays Bosch in the Amazon television series of the same name, lets Bosch’s rich, bombastic tones ring out in contrast to Ballard’s quieter, softer voice, intense but restrained in Lakin’s portrayal.

Friday, May 10

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages, by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society is back! The cast has aged, but the criminal contingent, amped-up action, and derring-do remain the same. Now teenagers, bright-bulb Reynie, intrepid Kate, and Sticky, he of the photographic memory, have the biggest fight ever on their hands. All of the bad guys from previous books (a baker’s dozen of them) have returned with revenge on their minds and nefarious plans in their pockets, along with all sorts of instruments of evil. Also in attendance is the ever-contrary Constance Contraire, now a preteen, and with her is a telepath like herself, the adorable, five-year-old Tai. There’s no point in trying to describe the ins and outs of the adventure, other than to say that at times it’s convoluted but always high octane. What Stewart does so well here is hearken back to the first book, where the characters were introduced and readers got inside their heads and their evolving relationships. Now old enough to think about lives outside the Society, Reynie, Sticky, and Kate are doing just that. But the notion that things might and can change, depending on their own decisions, brings a new awkwardness to their relationships, along with the trepidation that even kids who aren’t geniuses face.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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