By Ragnar Jonasson
Minotaur, 363 pages, $36.99
In the latest of the Icelandic writer Ragnar Jonasson’s chilling novels, four friends — one woman and three men — set out on an early November stroll through a remote slice of Iceland’s countryside. A sudden and powerful snow storm hits their trail. They take temporary and inadequate shelter in a rickety shed. As it happens, these four are not as good “friends” as they at first let on, and each has a tricky piece of history with one or more of the rest. Jonasson is a master at two aspects of Icelandic noir: one is the description of his country’s withering weather; the other is the handling of murderous plots that are tangled beyond all expectations. He’s in top form in both specialties this time out.
The Locked Room
By Elly Griffiths
Mariner Books, 360 pages, $27.99
This is the inimitable Elly Griffiths’s thirteenth book (in thirteen years) featuring the Norfolk forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway. It’s set in today’s tumultuous times, most vividly including COVID-19 and all its horrors. That may not sound like much of a recommendation, but oddly enough it most definitely is, with its description of a contemporary affection that is freshly enlightening. The book also includes the following treats: a more conventional murder plot (if anything in a Griffiths book can be labeled “conventional”); more updating of Ruth’s romance with Harry Nelson, the copper; the discovery of a mysterious new branch in the Galloway family tree; and further excitements that are beyond imagining by anyone except the fecund Ms Griffiths.
By Philip Miller
Soho Crime, 336 pages, $36.95
In this Scottish crime novel — “Tartan Noir” it’s labeled — two characters are gruesomely killed. But nobody pays much attention to these particular murders except as the source of clues to a related puzzle of major proportions. The latter story, which is one of a kind and loaded with original plotting, focuses on a uniquely valuable Edinburgh painting, perhaps by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a watercolor named “The Goldenacre.” The family who have long owned it and now find it necessary to sell may be honest dealers. Or maybe not. It’s the business of two sleuths to sort out the mysteries: one is an investigative newspaper reporter and the other is an expert in the provenance of famous paintings. Both get in deep. Probably far too deep for their own good, as it sinisterly turns out.
By Jeffrey B Burton
Minotaur, 288 pages, $35.99
This is the third book in the series featuring a cop named Mace Reid and his sidekick. The catch in the narrative lies with the sidekick: a dog named Vira. Vira’s a whiz at sniffing out cadavers. If you’re a reader who finds animals in crime novels too cute, then read no further. But Burton possesses a deft hand for plotting, and in “The Lost,” he works interesting wonders with a suspicious character who is fiendishly rich (the dining room in this guy’s Chicago mansion has a masterpiece hanging on each of the four walls, a van Gogh, a Monet, a Vermeer, a Goya). Crime arrives on the scene when his wife and daughter are kidnapped for ransom. Reid and Vira take on the case and, from then on, the twists and turns fall into a regular pattern in more or less convincing fashion.
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