It's summertime and the living is dark, dangerous and dastardly — but if not, then check out these five mystery books that will raise your heart rate and keep you reading 'til the end of summer.
"The Devil's Feast," by M.J. Carter, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $26, 432 pages (f)
The third volume in writer M.J. Carter's Blake and Avery detective series, "The Devil's Feast" finds Captain William Avery hitting London's mean streets by himself. His Holmes-esque partner Jeremiah Blake has willingly chosen debtors' prison instead of freedom, leaving Avery alone to find who — if anyone — is poisoning the wealthy and aristocratic Liberals of London's male-only Reform Club. As Avery races to find the killer before an important political dinner with international implications, characters twist in and out of the plot, including the Victorian era's most celebrated chef, the very real French chef Alexis Soyer. Carter takes full advantage of her gastronomic setting, lingering over detailed descriptions of food as well as murderous deeds. No need to have read the other Blake and Avery books; this fast-pace stand-alone story will keep readers turning pages and reaching for a treat.
Content advisory: "The Devil's Feast" contains occasional strong language and scenes of violence.
— Cristy Meiners
"Fierce Kingdom," by Gin Philips, Viking, $25, 288 pages (f)
In Gin Philips' "Fierce Kingdom," the main character Joan is leaving the zoo after a languid afternoon with her son, who is 4, when gunfire near the exit sends her scrambling to find a hiding place. But how do you stay hidden, keep a lively little boy quiet and make a survival plan? "Fierce Kingdom" is about the kind of "what-if" domestic terror that feels all too real in light of current events. But it's also an exploration of motherhood at its most fierce and vulnerable. During three hours of terror, Joan will learn exactly who and what she's willing to sacrifice in order to keep her own child safe and exactly how far she'll go to stay alive. It's an intense, visceral read that leaves the reader wondering, "What would I do?"
Content advisory: "Fierce Kingdom" contains strong language and violence.
— Lois Collins
"Final Girls," by Riley Sager, Dutton, $26, 352 pages (f)
Plenty of books, television shows and movies have ended with a lone female heroine surviving. But what happens after the scene cuts to black? That's what author Riley Sager explores in her new hit novel "Final Girls." From the perspective of massacre survivor Quincy Carpenter, readers learn what it's like to deal with the popularity and fame that comes from surviving a killer's attack. There are twists at the end of every short chapter, and flashbacks to the night of the massacre to show that Quincy is hiding something. Readers won't want to put this intense thriller down on the beach blanket — though that blanket may come in handy for hiding under during some of the book's scarier moments.
Content advisory: "Final Girls" contains some strong language, sexual content, references to sexual assault and violence.
— Herb Scribner
"Jane Steele," by Lyndsay Faye, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $11, 448 pages (f)
Jane Steele admits on the first page of this delightful mystery that she is a murderer, but just how, why and who are only part of the fast-paced journey writer Lyndsay Faye takes her readers on. The story mirrors Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre," but it's likely Ms. Eyre would not have approved of the other Jane's penchant for bumping off noxious characters. However, there are plenty of other things to love about this intelligent, kind-hearted (truly) and feisty heroine with a strong sense of social justice — like her engaging first-person narration, for one. For fans of atmospheric mysteries, this one has it all: sooty London streets, women in hoop skirts, Sikhs with swords, passionate horseback riding and lost treasure.
Content advisory: "Jane Steele" contains murder, sex and violence but none of it graphic.
— Cristy Meiners
"Spring Break," by Gerald Elias, Severn House Publishers, $28.99, 224 pages (f)
Local author Gerald Elias — who was associate concertmaster with the Utah Symphony for many years and is still an adjunct professor for violin in the University of Utah's music department — is now on his sixth Daniel Jacobus mystery. "Spring Break" takes the cantankerous and blind violinist detective to the fictional Kinderhoek Conservatory of Music located in New York State's lush green hills, where a former student asked him to conduct a master class for the school's annual music festival. As bad (or good?) luck would have it, a suspicious death found him even in that rural setting, and soon the violinist-turned-detective has a case to solve. Elias cleverly puts his musical training to good use by making Jacobus blind, thus allowing the detective to identify suspects and witnesses by the different sounds of their voices.
Content advisory: "Spring Break" has some strong language.
— Cristy Meiners