“He was unshaven, his eyes were bloodshot and he had a liver-colored scar running across one side of his face,” according to one such woman, upon meeting him for the first time. “But even if his face had something of the same brutality as Svein Finne, there was something that softened it, something that made it almost handsome.”
In an unexpected move, Nesbo resolves the business of the psycho fiancé rather early in the story, which necessitates the introduction of another slippery killer, as well as a chilling flashback to a military mission in Afghanistan. There’s an explicit description of that reliable old method of execution, “drawing and quartering,” if that’s your thing, plus many other throwaway delights, including a list of the eight categories of killers, of which No. 8 is “just plain bad and angry.”
They play great music in Ace Atkins’s down-home mystery, THE SHAMELESS (Putnam, 446 pp., $27). Fine country tunes like Waylon Jennings’s “Rainy Day Woman” (“Woke up this mornin’ to the sunshine / It sure as hell looks just like rain”). They also throw superior shindigs, like the annual Good Ole Boy, “a big gathering of every swindler, huckster and elected official in north Mississippi.” They’re just a little sloppy about observing the laws of the land.
A long time ago, the sheriff of Tibbehah County, Miss., ruled Brandon Taylor’s death a suicide; but 20 years later, two Brooklynites hope to prove otherwise on their true-crime podcast. The two reporters are bland white bread compared with the hell-raising locals they encounter down South — folks like Old Man Skinner, who thinks it’s a fine idea to build a 60-foot cross on the highway, and Fannie Hathcock, whose brothel sign would be hidden by the cross. There’s a plot in here somewhere, but it doesn’t intrude on the real fun, like catching up with the boys in the barbershop watching “Days of Our Lives.”
If you think of cozy mysteries as palate cleansers, THE BODY IN THE WAKE (Morrow/HarperCollins, 219 pp., $25.95) is your kind of book. Katherine Hall Page’s latest Faith Fairchild mystery (the 25th in a long-running series) sends her beloved amateur sleuth on a rare solo vacation to the family’s summer cottage in Maine. Her minister husband, Tom, is fine, as are their two grown children, so series fans need not worry. Faith, a professional caterer, plans to relax and help a bit in the kitchen of a friend whose daughter is getting married. (There’s a recipe for old-fashioned blueberry buckle at the back of the book that seems easy to make and sounds delicious — except you really need wild Maine blueberries, which are hellish to gather.)