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It’s a Mystery: “Morality is like an industry, you use what you have”

October 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery: “Morality is like an industry, you use what you have”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Fear is a contagious disease”

September 1, 2014
Stitched Panorama

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.

It’s a Mystery: “My world is a jungle of threats”

August 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery:  “My world is a jungle of threats”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “It’s hard to be murdered for any reason”

July 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery: “It’s hard to be murdered for any reason”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Destiny is invincible; it always triumphs in the end”

June 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery: “Destiny is invincible; it always triumphs in the end”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “The past lies like a nightmare upon the present”

May 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery:  “The past lies like a nightmare upon the present”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Memory: that place where personal recollections collide with history”

April 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery: “Memory: that place where personal recollections collide with history”

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?

It’s a Mystery: “The past lies in wait to ambush the present”

March 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery: “The past lies in wait to ambush the present”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Always take the favor over money”

February 1, 2014
It’s a Mystery: “Always take the favor over money”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “There’s no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself”

January 1, 2014
Mayhem 72 dpi copy

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.

It’s a Mystery: “There’s no score worth dying for”

December 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery:  “There’s no score worth dying for”

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

It’s a Mystery: “A man who lets guilt ruin pleasure is the pincushion of fate”

November 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery:  “A man who lets guilt ruin pleasure is the pincushion of fate”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “It is always easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission”

October 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery: “It is always easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission”

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.”

It’s a Mystery: “Only dead men and idiots believe in coincidence”

September 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery: “Only dead men and idiots believe in coincidence”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “The Devil’s lair never looks like you expect”

August 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery: “The Devil’s lair never looks like you expect”

From the surfeit of Scandinavian thrillers comes one that stands out with the best: Bad Blood by Arne Dahl.

It’s a Mystery: “There is within every man and woman a core of evil only lightly held in check”

July 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery: “There is within every man and woman a core of evil only lightly held in check”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one”

June 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery:  “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one”

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Half of the future is buried in the past”

May 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery: “Half of the future is buried in the past”

Two seductive thrillers: one starring a fearless female cop, the other a boatload of washed-up MI5 spies.

It’s a Mystery: “Never share intelligence you don’t need to share”

April 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery: “Never share intelligence you don’t need to share”

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”

It’s a Mystery: “The most successful criminals don’t look the part”

March 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery:  “The most successful criminals don’t look the part”

Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs, is a dazzling debut that deserves a place as a benchmark of the crime-thriller genre

It’s a Mystery: “To the dead we owe only truth”

February 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery:  “To the dead we owe only truth”

Watching the Dark, the latest in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series, shows the master crime writer at the top of his form.

It’s a Mystery: “Life is what happens to ‘trust no one’”

January 1, 2013
It’s a Mystery: “Life is what happens to ‘trust no one’”

Dan Fesperman’s The Double Game is a complex literary novel of intrigue that makes spy fiction a central character, “doubling” the reading pleasure.

It’s A Mystery: “Three things that come without asking: fear, love and jealousy.”

December 1, 2012
Blackhouse

A city in northern England and a remote Scottish island are appropriately bleak settings to launch two impressive new series.

It’s a Mystery: “The only way a man learns the true spirit of a rock is to stub his toe on it”

November 1, 2012
It’s a Mystery: “The only way a man learns the true spirit of a rock is to stub his toe on it”

William Kent Krueger and Steve Hamilton, authors of two critically acclaimed series, have winning new detective novels. Irma Heldman reviews.

It’s a Mystery: “Nobody escaped the desire for vengeance. Nobody.”

October 1, 2012
It’s a Mystery: “Nobody escaped the desire for vengeance. Nobody.”

The seventeenth Lee Child is vintage Jack Reacher and the eighth Louise Penny is, as always, compelling and charismatic

It’s a Mystery: “No one is infallible or invisible”

September 1, 2012
FranckThilliez

A rare film is the centerpiece of Syndrome E, a cutting-edge, mesmerizing thriller.

It’s a Mystery: “Every man has his price”

August 1, 2012
HouseBlood

Two scalpel-sharp political thrillers that mark the welcome return of the thoroughly winning, charismatic protagonists: Charlie Muffin and Joe DeMarco.

It’s a Mystery: “A good detective assumes nothing”

July 1, 2012
PLovesey

Cop to Corpse, the 12th in Peter Lovesey’s Detective Supt. Peter
Diamond series, finds the master at the top of his form.

It’s a Mystery: “Life is an ever-unfolding panoply of marvels”

June 1, 2012
nicevillecarstenstroud

Carsten Stroud’s Niceville is a wildly edgy thriller with the heart of a dark comedy–our resident mystery maven reviews

It’s a Mystery: “The world is a great honeycombed thing”

April 1, 2012
NHarkaway

In Nick Harkaway’s altogether remarkable novel Angelmaker, blistering gangster noir meets Rabelaisian comedy

A Talent for Deception

March 1, 2012
Curtain

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.

It’s a Mystery: “He’s the gray cardinal of the Kremlin”

February 1, 2012
ChrisMorganJones

The Silent Oligarch is a smashing debut thriller that has Chris Morgan Jones assuming the le Carré mantle in his own very original way

It’s a Mystery: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery”

January 1, 2012
prideandprejudice

P.D. James takes on Jane Austen: a match made in elite whodunit heaven.

It’s a Mystery: “Small clues save you. Small errors kill.”

December 1, 2011
casinoroyale

Carte Blanche is bestselling author Jeffrey Deaver’s new take on James Bond—bringing Agent 007 into the post-9/11 age.

It’s a Mystery: “A Father’s No Shield for His Child”

November 1, 2011
authors

A gripping thriller, the debut collaborative work from a duo of Danish writers, is the first in a trilogy you won’t soon forget.

It’s A Mystery: “He had never tried to hide from himself his taste for the hazard of sin.”

October 1, 2011
1 R UMAX     PowerLook III    X1.6 [2]

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.

It’s A Mystery: “This was either an accident, murder or an act of nature.”

September 1, 2011
CCotterill

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.

It’s A Mystery: “God was not an intelligence officer.”

August 1, 2011
DavidIgnatius

David Ignatius writes superb novels of espionage from the perspective of the consummate insider. The latest is Bloodmoney.

It’s A Mystery: “He’s Satan in the skin of Everyman.”

July 1, 2011
JohnVerdon

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.

It’s A Mystery: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

June 1, 2011
craigjohnson

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.

It’s a Mystery: “No person is without a shadow”

May 1, 2011
mankell

Kurt Wallander’s touching swan song shows why his creator Henning Mankell is an acknowledged master of the police procedural.

It’s a Mystery: “A spy causes far more trouble when he’s caught”

April 1, 2011
trinitysix

The premise of this elegantly wrought thriller puts a chilling new spin on the notorious British spy ring, “The Cambridge Five.”

It’s a Mystery: “Time ages a person’s soul”

March 1, 2011
It’s a Mystery:  “Time ages a person’s soul”

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

It’s a Mystery: “As My Whimsy Takes Me”

February 1, 2011
jill-paton-walsh

“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.

It’s a Mystery: “As we say in the trade, we’re going in barefoot”

December 1, 2010
traitor

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.

It’s a Mystery: “There’s nothing, nothing on earth as dumb as a teenage boy”

November 1, 2010
tafoya2

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Every kidnapper who ever did a snatch says no cops!”

October 1, 2010
ontheline

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.

It’s a Mystery: “After all is said and done, we’re just dust”

September 1, 2010
james_lee_burke,0

James Lee Burke’s 18th novel featuring his slightly crazy, completely charismatic Cajun cop, Dave Robicheaux, may just be his best.

It’s A Mystery: “Truth is the daughter of time”

August 1, 2010
author_upson

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

It’s A Mystery: “His job was to save her life”

July 1, 2010
Noomi_Rapace_05

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

It’s A Mystery: “Death, it seems, is taking her own sweet time”

June 1, 2010
normangreen

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Motive is the mercury of any case”

May 1, 2010
ellenhoran

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Three things come unbidden: fear, love, and jealousy”

April 1, 2010
Erin_Hart2

In her latest novel, False Mermaid, Erin Hart once again connects an ancient Celtic crime to a thoroughly modern mystery.

It’s a Mystery: “A violin is always female”

March 1, 2010
pauladam

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.

It’s A Mystery: “Sometimes the fake relics are more valuable than the real.”

February 1, 2010
louberney

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.

It’s A Mystery: “The deity who kills for pleasure will also heal”

January 1, 2010
Louise Penney

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.

It’s a Mystery: “Sooner or later, everybody pays”

December 1, 2009
ghostsbelfast

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.

It’s A Mystery: Mum’s Always The Word

November 1, 2009
redtoblack

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.

It’s A Mystery: “Men engaged in warfare are all ghosts in the making”

October 1, 2009
dutytothedead

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.

It’s a Mystery: History Plays for Keeps

September 1, 2009
armsmaker

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.

It’s a Mystery: With Caviar Comes Money

August 1, 2009
londongradgood

Meet Artie Cohen, a Russian Jewish cop with a conscience. In Reggie Nadelson’s Londongrad, he’s got the weight of the world on one shoulder and New York crime on the other. Irma Heldman follows his travels in the latest “It’s a Mystery.”

It’s a Mystery: “She has a bag full of gold just like Pippi Longstocking”

July 1, 2009
girlplayed

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.

“You can change your name…your job description… But really, nothing changes.”

June 1, 2009
tourist1

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.

It’s A Mystery: “Ah, what the stage lost when I opted for the police”

May 1, 2009
aboutface

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.

It’s a Mystery: “I’ve got a mind like a comic book”

April 1, 2009
kerronefrom

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.

It’s A Mystery: “Don’t be so sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be”

March 1, 2009
spade

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.”

It’s a Mystery: The Trouble with Harry

February 1, 2009
redbreastgood

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.

It’s a Mystery: Imaginative Eyes

December 1, 2008
larsson

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!

It’s a Mystery: All Hail the Queen

November 1, 2008
privatejames

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!