Crime is 'in the air,' everywhere in new mystery fiction books


Published: Sunday, January 29, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 11:33 p.m.
Crime is definitely "in the air" in Stephen King's new thriller.
And crime is just about everywhere else, from the Pantheon to Pickax, and from 1919 London to 2059 New York, in other new hardcover novels of mystery and suspense by David Hewson, Lilian Jackson Bruan, Charles Todd and J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts).
The air bears crime in cell phone signals that are penetrating the ears and minds of America's millions of cell phone users and driving them instantly and violently insane, in King's "Cell" (Scribner). The few phoneless Americans are left to cope with the chaos and sort things out, led by an artist who's making his way home from Boston to Maine (available Jan. 24).
A murder victim is discovered on the marble floor of Rome's Pantheon in Hewson's "The Sacred Cut" (Delacorte Press). The victim is an American woman whose back bears distinctive carvings similar to those found on other victims at other monuments worldwide. The FBI moves in on the investigation, much to the displeasure of local authorities.
The Moose County town of Pickax is again the crime scene in "The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell" (Putnam), the 28th in Braun's series featuring newspaper columnist Jim Qwilleran and his two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum. Plans for a celebration marking the town's 150th anniversary are under way despite a series of odd events: Koko has inexplicably leapt onto the head of a man whose aunt and uncle from a nearby town have disappeared, and a self-proclaimed psychic predicts that a murder is imminent.
Charles Todd's "A Long Shadow" (Morrow) marks the eighth outing for Inspector Ian Rutledge, who has returned to Scotland Yard after his traumatic battlefront experiences in World War I. As he is leaving a friend's house in London on New Year's Eve 1919, he finds on the steps a brass machine-gun casing with an unusual carving. When another such shell turns up on the seat of his car parked in a remote part of England, Rutledge suspects that he is being stalked.
Set 140 years later - almost to the day - during Christmas 2059 is "Memory in Death" (Putnam), Robb's 22nd book featuring the futuristic exploits of Lt. Eve Dallas of the New York police. Dallas has an unexpected visitor - the cruel foster mother who took in 7-year-old Eve after she killed her father in self-defense. Her mission: extort money from Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke to protect her childhood secret. But the point soon becomes moot when the malevolent mom is found murdered in her hotel room.
Other new mysteries: In "The Hostage" (Putnam) by W.E.B. Griffin, a U.S. diplomat is murdered and his children's lives threatened by someone seeking the whereabouts of his widow's brother, who's involved in the U.N.-Iraq oil-for-food scandal.
Visit Northern California in "All Night Long" (Putnam) by Jayne Ann Krentz, in which a cryptic message calls a newspaper reporter back to her hometown, where she discovers that a longtime friend has been murdered, and in "The Hunt Club" (Dutton), John Lescroart's tale of a TV legal commentator in San Francisco who disappears soon after a federal judge she knows is found murdered.
The CIA is involved in "Blindfold Game" (St. Martin's Minotaur) by Dana Stabenow, in which an analyst takes matters into his own hands when his superiors dismiss his suspicions that radioactive materials are being smuggled into the U.S., and in "On the Run" (Bantam), Iris Johansen's story about a former operative living under protective custody who fears that her security has been compromised.
Mysteries set in ancient times include "The Sempster's Tale" (Berkley Prime Crime), Margaret Frazer's 15th installment for the 15th century's Dame Frivesse, who becomes involved in a murder investigation when she tries to recover funds for her recently widowed cousin; and "The Leper's Bell" (St. Martin's Minotaur) by Peter Tremayne, the 15th in the series about Sister Fidelma of seventh-century Ireland, whose son has been kidnapped and his nurse murdered.
The victims have vanished in "Every Breath You Take" (Ballantine), Judith McNaught's tale about a restaurateur who falls for a wealthy man and the suspect in the disappearance of his half brother, and in "The Shape of Sand" (Thomas Dunne) by Marjorie Eccles, in which workers in England unearth documents that might hold clues to a 40-year-old missing-persons case.
In "Turning Angel" (Scribner) by Greg Iles, the investigation into the rape and murder of a seemingly upstanding teenager reveals her sordid secret past, including a drug connection.
In "An Unacceptable Death" (Thomas Dunne), the eighth in Barbara Saranella's series, auto mechanic "Munch" Mancini infiltrates the drug scene seeking an explanation for the mysterious death of her fiance, a police officer.
After a wild night on the town, a successful young businesswoman becomes convinced she is being stalked, in Nicci French's "Catch Me When I Fall" (Warner Books).

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