By Ragnar Jonasson
Minotaur, 363 pages, $36.99
In the latest of Icelandic writer Ragnar Jonasson’s chilling novels, four friends – a woman and three men – set out for a walk in early November in a remote part of the Icelandic countryside. A sudden and powerful snowstorm hits their trail. They take temporary and inadequate shelter in a rickety shed. It turns out that these four aren’t as good “friends” as they first let on, and each has a tricky piece of history with one or more of the others. Jonasson is a past master in two aspects of Icelandic noir: the first is the description of the frigid climate of his country; the other is managing murderous plots that tangle beyond expectation. He is in great shape in both specialties this time around.
The closed room
By Elly Griffiths
Mariner Books, 360 pages, $27.99
This is the thirteenth book by the inimitable Elly Griffiths (in thirteen years) featuring Norfolk forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. It is set in today’s tumultuous times, including COVID-19 and all its horrors. That might not sound like a recommendation, but oddly enough it is, with its depiction of a contemporary ailment that’s freshly illuminating. The book also includes the following tidbits: a more conventional murder plot (if anything in a Griffiths book can be called “conventional”); more updates on Ruth’s romance with Harry Nelson, the copper; the discovery of a mysterious new branch in the Galloway family tree; and other excitements beyond the imagination of anyone but the prolific Mrs. Griffiths.
By Philip Miller
Crime of Soho, 336 pages, $36.95
In this Scottish crime novel – “Tartan Noir” it’s labeled – two characters are gruesomely killed. But no one pays much attention to these particular murders, except as a source of clues for a related puzzle of major proportions. This last story, one of a kind and full of original plots, centers on a uniquely valuable painting of Edinburgh, possibly by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a watercolor named “The Goldenacre”. The family that has long owned it and now finds it necessary to sell may be honest dealers. Or maybe not. It’s up to two detectives to unravel the mysteries: one is an investigative journalist and the other is an expert on the provenance of famous paintings. The two sink deep. Probably far too deep for their own good, as it turns out grim.
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 story lies in the sidekick: a dog named Vira. Vira is a genius at sniffing out corpses. If you’re a reader who finds animals in crime novels too cute, read no further. But Burton has a deft hand at plotting, and in “The Lost” he does some interesting wonders with a suspicious character who’s devilishly wealthy (the dining room at this guy’s Chicago mansion has a masterpiece hanging from it). each of the four walls, a Gogh van, a Monet, a Vermeer, a Goya). Crime happens on the scene when his wife and daughter are kidnapped for ransom. Reid and Vira seize the case and, from then on, the twists follow one another in a more or less convincing way.
Jack Batten is a Toronto-based writer and freelance contributor to the Star