Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Velvet Was the Night (2021)

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Velvet Was the Night

Format: E-book

Pages: 304

Series: –

The newest Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s book is a historical noir mystery/crime, set in the simmering danger of 1970s Mexico, when both the people and the country seemed inescapably gripped in a continuous, dispiriting turmoil. Whatever else you’ve read by this author, Velvet Was the Night might still surprise you. There’s not a whiff of supernatural anywhere; well, except for the very real horror that humans are capable of. There’s also not much of a romance, or beauty. Indeed, Velvet Was the Night is a surprisingly political book, depicting violent actions of increasingly more desperate, more ruthless factions of an internal conflict fueled by ideology, economy, and foreign interests. While its scope and stakes seem small – no grand assassinations or rebellions, no dramatic political shifts, just common people caught between a rock and a hard place – the ultimate price is still paid in the most valuable currency: human life and decency. 

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Nicola West, Catch Us the Foxes (2021)

Author: Nicola West

Title: Catch Us The Foxes 

Format: E-book

Pages: 384

Series: –

Firstly, an announcement. Catch Us the Foxes is officially the worst book I’ve read this year – I know, I know, the year hasn’t ended yet, but I sincerely hope I won’t read anything worse than this – and it really had some solid contenders for this dubious award. But none of the other horrible books of 2021 seems written specifically with money in mind and nothing else. Well, there’s always a first. Now that the weight is off my chest and I can breathe freely, I can muster my writing skill to explain why I think that you should avoid this book like a plague.

And to think that it all started so innocuously. I was asked to review a thriller written by an Australian writer about “a small Aussie town and its secrets – and I thought, “what can go wrong?” What indeed. The list of what didn’t would be much, much shorter, but as I really need to share my misery with you, you’ll be treated to at least some of the cardinal sins of Catch Us the Foxes.

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Katherine Addison, The Witness for the Dead (2021)

Author: Katherine Addison

Title: The Witness for the Dead

Format: E-book

Pages: 240

Series: The Goblin Emperor #2

I’ve had a veritable avalanche of NG books for May and June, and still haven’t reviewed even half of them 😉 I’m getting there, though, and July and August seem much calmer (or I got wiser, and don’t request every shiny new book I think might be good ;)). The Witness for the Dead, however, had been sent to me by the publisher – so many thanks to Tor Books for this opportunity! The new Addison’s book hits the shelves today, so it’s only fitting that my review follows.

I’ve read The Goblin Emperor ages ago and while I enjoyed it, I also had a few choice words to say about the things that I felt didn’t work so well. Ah, those were the days when my tongue was very sharp indeed and my tolerance much lower than it is today 😉 

Having read Addison’s The Angel of the Crows more recently (and finding that book so bad that I only wrote a short GR review for it) I approached The Witness for the Dead with certain trepidation. I needn’t have worried, however. If jumping straight into the highly regulated and intricate world of elves’ and goblins’ steam-powered fin de siecle is what you were waiting for, The Witness for the Dead delivers it in spades.

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Andrew Mayne, Black Coral (2021)

Author: Andrew Mayne

Title: Black Coral

Format: e-book

Pages: 317

Series: Underwater Investigation Unit #2

Andrew Mayne has been getting a lot of good reviews – and a lot of publicity – in recent years. Specializing in well, specialist police procedurals/mystery thrillers, where the protagonists have each unique skillsets and viewpoints markedly different from your run-of-the-mill police detectives, Mayne made a name for himself. I guess his previous career as an illusionist gave him a lot of experience in creating intricate structures and patience in preparing the big show in incremental, consecutive steps, because that approach is clearly noticeable in his newest book, Black Coral. Black Coral is the second installment in the Underwater Investigation Unit series, but can be read as standalone.

I confess that I chose this book from NG on a whim, not having read anything by Mayne before. But the premise, promising a special diving unit solving crimes in Florida, sounded really cool – and my own experience with crime thriller series (from Nesbo’s Harry Hole to Rankin’s Inspector Rebus to Larsson’s Millenium, or even Peters’s Brother Cadfael) is that I’m usually happier NOT reading them in the chronological order. This way there’s more to discover:  I can have more fun with the mystery puzzle pieces and the inner workings of protagonist and/or their team, as well as the psychological makeup of the characters, and I don’t get bored by the ever-growing historical background :D.

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Olivier Barde-Cabuçon, The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths (2020)

Author: Olivier Barde-Cabuçon

Title: The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths

Format: E-book

Pages: 384

Series: The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths #1

The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths, from now on TISUD for the sake of me finishing this review this year and you ever reading it in full, is the first instalment in a 7-book series, a recipient of a Prix Sang d’encre for 2012, and the only Barde-Cabuçon book currently translated to English. Published by Pushkin Vertigo imprint in their series of non-English mysteries and crime novels, it had earlier existed on the market under a probably less sellable but more faithful to the original title, Casanova and a Faceless Woman. So, if you’ve read Casanova, TISUD is not a sequel, but the same exact book, just republished 😉. Ooof. Since this book is about mysterious, mistaken and hidden identities, the whole affair with the English title is simply delightfully ironic.

TISUD is a historical crime novel, and a very peculiar one at that. It takes place in 1759 in decadent Paris, somewhere between the shiny halls of Versailles ruled by debauched Louis XV and his cohorts, and the dirty, dangerous hovels of Parisian suburbs inhabited by the desperate poor. The social climate is the most compelling character in this novel, as the general population of Paris is seething with resentment, misery and anger, and seems on a brink of revolution, while the decadent elites seem oblivious to both the inequity and the inherent risks (and since it’s historical fiction, TISUD gets this part to a t).

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