Articles by Irma Heldman
January sees an electrifying duo: A stunning debut novel from Australia and an atmospheric noir thriller that matches the legacies of Chandler and Hammett.
A splendid new Jack Reacher novel and a posthumous gem by P.D. James – what better way to usher in the New Year?
Alan Parsons’ single-minded, two-fisted policeman sleuth Max Wolfe returns in The Hanging Club.
This month’s pairing: Carol O’Connell’s beloved star detective returns, and spy-novel master John Le Carre writes raconteur’s memoir about travel and writing.
The French countryside, the death-camp of Auschwitz, and a mansion in County Cork – a trio of new mystery-thrillers takes readers on exotic ventures in search of justice – or payback.
Computer wizardry in Minneapolis and sexual abuse in North Yorkshire: the latest gripping books from two veteran mystery authors.
A mystery debut featuring a “human bloodhound” and a veteran author’s latest featuring a dogged Frenchman split the billing in Irma Heldman’s latest column.
Stoicism and betrayal vie at the heart of two new mystery thrillers from veterans of the genre.
Crime columnist Irma Heldman attends the 2016 Edgar Awards, and reports on the winners and highlights
Old loyalties lead to explosive new dangers in two new mystery-thrillers set in North Carolina and Northern Ireland.
The 11th novel in Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series and the 2nd novel in John Lawton’s Joe Wilderness series share plenty of thrills and character insights in common.
Locations don’t get much different than the Venice of Donna Leon and the Duluth of Brian Freeman, but as two new mysteries show, they have one thing in common: murder!
In two new mysteries – one the start of a new series, one the start of a new career – intricate plots take readers from Upstate New York to the Northern Cascades.
Complex plotting runs through a darkly humorous new caper from Thomas Perry and the third book in Mick Herron’s series about the disgraced spies at MI5’s Slough House.
It’s a Mystery: “Love doesn’t visit often, even when it comes, it can always change its mind and walk away”
A promising debut joins to veteran onging series in a trio of new crime dramas spanning the globe from Santa Fe to Venice to Echo Park.
A Banquet of Consequences is an elegant addition to Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series. Bernard Minier’s mesmerizing The Circle more than fulfills the promise of last year’s auspicious debut The Frozen Dead. And Felix Francis just keeps getting better as he proves with Front Runner.
Three nifty new thrillers star some reigning champs of the genre: Lisbeth Salander, Jack Reacher, and James Bond.
A mystery trio: Louise Penny’s 11th Gamache novel is a stellar addition to the series; Elsa Hart’s debut is a fine historical murder mystery set in 18th-century China; Bernhard Aichner’s first appearance in English is spine-chilling.
From the Perigord region of France to North Yorkshire, England to the Appalachian Trail – the locations of this trio of new mysteries by old hands might be far-flung, but for our mystery maven, crime is a universal language!
A trio of mysteries cum thrillers from Stephen King, Peter Lovesey, and Mike Lawson—each one in its own way stylish, suspenseful, and sharp.
The dark, crime-ridden world of Putin’s Kremlin and Victorian Scotland Yard aren’t as different as you might think – as two gripping new mysteries demonstrate.
Crime columnist Irma Heldman reports on the winners, the sinners, and the dinner at the 2015 Edgar Awards
Donna Leon’s 24th book starring the charismatic Commissario Guido Brunetti, Falling in Love, is every bit as spellbinding as we expect it to be. Martin Walker’s seventh featuring Bruno, Dordogne’s favorite chief of police, The Children Return, finds his small town shockingly targeted by a terrorist network.
Two grand novels of crime and passion from a pair of stars in the field: The Lady from Zagreb by Philip Kerr and Dennis Lehane’s World Gone By.
The Friendship of Criminals by Robert Glinski is a fresh, original and totally entertaining perspective on mob relationships; A Murder of Magpies is Judith Flanders deliciously wry take on murder and publishing.
A veteran and a newcomer give us two gripping thrillers: The Big Finish by the critically acclaimed master of suspense, James W. Hall, and The Life We Bury, a mesmerizing debut by Allen Eskens.
Felix Francis continues to artfully follow in his late father’s footsteps with his newest thriller, Dick Francis’s Damage. The Button Man, Mark Pryor’s fourth Hugo Marston novel, is a prequel that adds a fascinating dimension to the highly charismatic protagonist of this splendid series.
Sophie Hannah revives Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with panache in The Monogram Murders, and Joe Gannon’s debut thriller Night of the Jaguar is a tightly wound, gut-wrenching read.
A tightly drawn disturbing novel, The Frozen Dead is Bernard Minier’s auspicious debut. The Long Way Home is the tenth in Louise Penny’s celebrated Armand Gamache series.
A Colder War is the latest from Charles Cumming, one of the best at depicting the frail and brutal world of spydom. Neely Tucker’s The Ways of the Dead marks the debut of what promises to be a first-rate series.
Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, those supersmart, sophisticated sleuths, are back in The Late Scholar, a savvy new detective story by Jill Paton Walsh.
Our mystery columnist looks at a highly anticipated debut, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, as well as the second novel in Jonathan Holt’s brilliant Carnivia trilogy, The Abduction.
Irma Heldman, Open Letters’ resident mystery expert, attended this year’s Edgar Awards. She reports back on the highlights (and the banquet’s best themed desserts).
A troika of mysteries—one a gripping debut, Precious Thing by Colette McBeth, the others superb new novels from two very special authors: Peter Robinson returns with Children of the Revolution and Donna Leon is back with By Its Cover.
The Cairo Affair is an elegant new espionage thriller from the highly accomplished Olen Steinhauer. And in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, Vaughn Entwistle teams Arthur Conan Doyle with Oscar Wilde – what could be better?
A veteran master of suspense, Gerald Seymour enhances his track record with The Dealer and the Dead. Scott O’Connor’s Half World is a chilling fictional take on a secret CIA mind control program activated in the middle of the last century.
Martha Grimes’ The Way of All Fish is a delectable satire set in the cutthroat world of New York publishing. Max Kinnings’ Baptism is a taut thriller of unbridled terror in the London subway.
Two fine, first-rate thrillers usher in the New Year. One centers on a major drug bust in a cutting edge contemporary setting, the other tackles one of the most baffling and notorious crime sprees of the Victorian era.
Shoot the Woman First is the third in Wallace Stroby’s Crissa Stone series, featuring one of crime fiction’s newest and best bad girls
The splendid Tatiana is Martin Cruz Smith’s eighth Arkady Renko novel, while Sins of the Flesh is the fifth thriller to feature Colleen McCullough’s offbeat detective Carmine Delmonico.
Never Go Back, Lee Child’s 18th Jack Reacher adventure, is a winner; plus, the second in a nifty new series, Mortal Bonds by Michael Sears, redefines “follow the money.”
Two special thrillers, The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton and Alex by Pierre Lemaitre: They “star” a duo of sexual predators—each a particularly nasty piece of work that makes for heart stopping suspense.
From the surfeit of Scandinavian thrillers comes one that stands out with the best: Bad Blood by Arne Dahl.
An auspicious debut, The Abomination is a riveting conspiracy thriller by Jonathan
Holt. Plus, Philip Kerr’s cheeky, charismatic Berlin cop Bernie Gunther is back in A Man Without Breath.
John le Carré, the pre-eminent spy writer of the 20th century and beyond, dazzles us again with A Delicate Truth. Plus a debut addition to the ranks of the genre, Red Sparrow, might just earn the author Jason Matthews a pat on the back from the master.
Two seductive thrillers: one starring a fearless female cop, the other a boatload of washed-up MI5 spies.
In a duo of new thrillers – one a debut, the other by a practiced hand – two tough, enterprising female FBI agents add new twists to the template first popularized by Agent Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs”
Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs, is a dazzling debut that deserves a place as a benchmark of the crime-thriller genre
Watching the Dark, the latest in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series, shows the master crime writer at the top of his form.
Dan Fesperman’s The Double Game is a complex literary novel of intrigue that makes spy fiction a central character, “doubling” the reading pleasure.
A city in northern England and a remote Scottish island are appropriately bleak settings to launch two impressive new series.
William Kent Krueger and Steve Hamilton, authors of two critically acclaimed series, have winning new detective novels. Irma Heldman reviews.
The seventeenth Lee Child is vintage Jack Reacher and the eighth Louise Penny is, as always, compelling and charismatic
A rare film is the centerpiece of Syndrome E, a cutting-edge, mesmerizing thriller.
Two scalpel-sharp political thrillers that mark the welcome return of the thoroughly winning, charismatic protagonists: Charlie Muffin and Joe DeMarco.
Cop to Corpse, the 12th in Peter Lovesey’s Detective Supt. Peter
Diamond series, finds the master at the top of his form.
Carsten Stroud’s Niceville is a wildly edgy thriller with the heart of a dark comedy–our resident mystery maven reviews
In Nick Harkaway’s altogether remarkable novel Angelmaker, blistering gangster noir meets Rabelaisian comedy
Agatha Christie has received praise from wide and varied corners, and mystery columnist Irma Heldman adds to the chorus with this retrospective on the life and work of the Queen of Crime.
The Silent Oligarch is a smashing debut thriller that has Chris Morgan Jones assuming the le Carré mantle in his own very original way
P.D. James takes on Jane Austen: a match made in elite whodunit heaven.
Carte Blanche is bestselling author Jeffrey Deaver’s new take on James Bond—bringing Agent 007 into the post-9/11 age.
A gripping thriller, the debut collaborative work from a duo of Danish writers, is the first in a trilogy you won’t soon forget.
A Death in Summer is the fourth and best addition to the literate, elegant mystery series by Benjamin Black, the pen name of an award-winning author.
A promising new series is launched with a thoroughly captivating, quirky mystery set well off the beaten path, in a tiny village in Southern Thailand.
David Ignatius writes superb novels of espionage from the perspective of the consummate insider. The latest is Bloodmoney.
In the crowded field of new thrillers, John Verdon’s Shut Your Eyes Tight is right up there with the very best and not to be missed.
The seventh in Craig Johnson’s award-winning Sheriff Walt Longmire series, Hell Is Empty proves that when it comes to putting a contemporary spin on the lore of the old West, few writers do it better.
Kurt Wallander’s touching swan song shows why his creator Henning Mankell is an acknowledged master of the police procedural.
The premise of this elegantly wrought thriller puts a chilling new spin on the notorious British spy ring, “The Cambridge Five.”
Irma Heldman reviews Taylor Stevens’ “The Informationist” and concludes that not since “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has there been a debut novel like it
“The Attenbury Emeralds” is the third novel by Jill Paton Walsh to bring Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane, Mervyn Bunter, and their companions back to vividly realized life.
John le Carré’s new work is an elegant espionage novel, part Hitchcock, post-Jack Bauer — the kind they almost don’t make any more.
Dennis Tafoya’s second crime novel, “The Wolves of Fairmount Park,” confirms that he is a brilliant new voice with a finely tuned modern noir sensibility.
In S.J. Rozan’s “On the Line” the irresistible P.I. partners in crime, Bill Smith and Lydia Chin, unwittingly enter into a high stakes game of cat and mouse with a psychopath.
James Lee Burke’s 18th novel featuring his slightly crazy, completely charismatic Cajun cop, Dave Robicheaux, may just be his best.
The first two novels of Nicola Upson’s highly promising, thoroughly engaging series stars the great mystery writer Josephine Tey as a sleuth she herself might have invented
The final book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, leaves no doubt that Lisbeth Salander, his punk hacker protagonist, has no equal in the annals of crime fiction
Norman Green’s Sick Like That features Alessandra “Al” Martillo, a sassy, sexy, edgy, endearing female P.I. whose turf is the mean streets of Brooklyn.
31 Bond Street, Ellen Horan’s debut novel, is a compelling reconstruction of mid-nineteenth century New York and one of its most sensational murders.
In her latest novel, False Mermaid, Erin Hart once again connects an ancient Celtic crime to a thoroughly modern mystery.
There is not a false note in Paganini’s Ghost, Paul Adam’s superbly calibrated mystery that unfolds around the intrigue generated by a priceless instrument and its keepers.
Lou Berney in his fast and funny debut novel, Gutshot Straight, owes more than a little to Elmore Leonard, in the best of all possible ways. As for Elmore Leonard’s latest, Road Dogs, the master is in top form.
Louise Penny’s newest novel, The Brutal Telling, plunges Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the star of the famed homicide department of the Sûreté du Quebec, into the darkest, most disturbing case of his career. Irma Heldman goes north of the border.
Irma Heldman reviews The Ghosts of Belfast, Stuart Neville’s grand Irish thriller debut in which the anti-hero, Gerry Fegan, a former IRA hitman, is “touched” as in crazy, and long ago would have been given the death sentence if they’d had anyone with the moxie to kill him.
Red to Black, reports Irma Heldman, is a superb debut novel of espionage set in post-glasnost Russia. Its author Alex Dryden is a pseudonymous British journalist with many years experience on the Russian scene—a fact that only serves to heighten the chilling reality behind the riveting read.
From Charles Todd, author of the critically acclaimed Ian Rutledge series, comes A Duty to the Dead, introducing Bess Crawford, a World War I nurse, who is feisty, fearless, and fascinating. Irma Heldman joins Crawford on her inaugural adventure.
In Dan Fesperman’s meticulously crafted World War II thriller, The Arms Maker of Berlin, he opens up old war chests and lets the genies of the past wreak havoc upon the present. Irma Heldman is on the case.
They’re back! Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire marks the return of Mikael Blomkvist, the intrepid investigative journalist, and his sidekick Lisbeth Salander, the world-class punk hacker. Irma Heldman is on their trail.
With The Tourist, Olen Steinhauer takes his place in the panoply of classic spy fiction—at the very top with Deighton, Greene, and Le Carré. Irma Heldman is on the inside and tells all.
Donna Leon’s eighteenth Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery About Face has Irma Heldman once again seduced by the witty, erudite Venetian cop with a passion for ancient philosophers, modern women, elegant food, and the constant need to make sense out of the often senseless law.
Bernie Gunther is back! In the newest incarnations of Philip Kerr’s crime series, the charismatic, cynical P.I.—more ready with a ribald wisecrack than a gun—has survived the decadent dog days of the Weimar Republic only to get down and dirty on the mean streets of Munich. Irma Heldman tags along after him.
Dashiell Hammett’s daughter, Josephine Hammett Marshall, hand picked the very talented, three-time Edgar winner Joe Gores to write Spade & Archer, the prequel to The Maltese Falcon. The result, Irma Heldman says, surely has Hammett smiling among the “angels.”
Norwegian Jo Nesbø, a musician, songwriter and economist, is also one of Europe’s most acclaimed crime writers who, to date, has given us two thrillers that are beautifully spun and deeply evocative. Veteran mystery maven Irma Heldman explores the latest hit from Scandinavia.
Irma Heldman dives into a rollicking, bawdy yarn depicting an infamous, turn-of-the century caper masterminded by Professor Moriarty—Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy. Then she matches wits with a cheeky mini-tome refuting the great detective’s solution to his most illustrious case.
It was a year full of fine additions to the genre, but according to regular “It’s a Mystery” columnist Irma Heldman, two among them were decidedly the cream of the crop. One is a first and one a twenty-first!
With this cheery account of the reigning royalty of murder mysteries, P.D. James, Irma Heldman inaugurates her monthly mystery column in these webpages. Irma once delighted fans of her “On the Docket” column under the pen-name O.L. Bailey, and Open Letters proudly welcomes her back to the beat she made her own!