“Wake,” “Blood and Ink” and more mystery books to read this month

“Wake” by Shelley Burr (William Morrow)

Mina McCreery’s 9-year-old twin sister, Evelyn, was kidnapped in what was Australia’s most famous missing child case, in Shelley Burr’s debut novel “Wake.” The result was a media circus that made Mina lonely and leery of outsiders.  So when Lane Holland, a PI specializing in finding missing persons, shows up in the outback Australian town where McCreeery lives, she’s cautious.  Instead of working with him, she tricks him into hunting for her best friend’s missing sister.  The women are friends through a support group.

When Holland finds the sister, McCreery decides to trust him.  He claims he’s hoping to collect the reward money, which he’ll use for his sister’s education.

But there’s something else at work here. Holland is desperate for the reward money, because his father is about to be released from prison and his sister is terrified the father will find her.  The money will allow Holland to take her away. But even without the reward, Holland is too invested in Evelyn McCreery’s abduction. It’s almost as if he has a personal interest.

Quite apart from the story, “Wake” tells about the lifetime trauma of those not knowing the fate of missing loved ones.

“Blood & Ink” by Joe Pompeo (William Morrow)

A century ago, the country was riveted on the real-life murders of an adulterous New Jersey preacher and his choir singer lover, Edward Hall and Eleanor Mills. The bodies of the pair were found near a lovers’ lane, both shot and the woman’s throat cut, and laid out ritualistically. Both were married, and they may have been planning to abscond to a foreign country with $40,000 that the minister had squirreled away.

The killings might have remained a local scandal if the tabloids hadn’t discovered them. This was the heyday of the tabloid wars, and the murders were red meat.  Top reporters and photographers were sent to the New Jersey town where the murders took place to pursue the families of the victims. The harassment went on for months — years, in fact, until the minister’s wife and her brothers were tried for the murders.

The trial was a circus.  The main prosecution witness was “the pig woman” who claimed she was out on her mule looking for corn thieves when she heard the shots.

Joe Pompeo recounts the details of the murders and the part that the tabloid wars played in forcing the authorities to put the suspects on trial. The wife and her brothers were found not guilty, and 100 years later, the identity of the killer remains a mystery.

“Anywhere You Run” by Wanda M. Morris (William Morrow)

It’s 1964 in Jackson, Miss. Violet Richards, a black woman, has just murdered the white man who raped her and got away with it.  She’s afraid of Southern justice if she’s caught. Anxious to leave Jackson, she agrees to drive north with Dewey, a wealthy white boy, and marry him. But she has no intention of following through with it.

When they stop to eat (Dewey goes inside a restaurant, but Violet has to buy her meal at the black-only window in the back), she swipes his wallet and takes the first bus leaving town.  She winds up in Chillicothe, Ga., and goes to work for a demanding white woman.  After Violet finds out the woman’s husband is the local sheriff with a lot of questions about her background, Violet quits.

At the same time, Violet’s sister Marigold has her own dilemma.  She’s pregnant.  When she tells the father, a civil rights worker, he takes off for New York.  With no options, Marigold marries her longtime boyfriend, Roger, and moves to Ohio.  He doesn’t know about the baby, and Marigold doesn’t know he has dreams of opening a nightclub and expects her to support him in the meantime.  The marriage quickly goes sour, and Roger turns abusive.

Meanwhile, the spurned Dewey hires Mercer, a white ne’er-do-well, to track down Violet.  With nothing to go on, Mercer begins stalking Marigold and discovers she and Roger are headed for Cleveland. He follows them there.  Pretending to be an investor with money to back the nightclub, he makes friends with the gullible Roger.

Wanda M. Morris’ thriller is subtitled “Your past will find you” — and that’s just what Violet is afraid of.  As a black woman in the 1960s South, she is on her own.  The book reminds us of the prejudicial treatment of blacks only a half-century ago. It is a poignant story of a search for justice in America’s racist South.

“The Favor” by Nicci French (William Morrow)

What happens when a first love calls years later and asks for a favor? Would you agree to do it, even if you didn’t know what it was?  Jude is now a doctor engaged to be married when Liam shows up and asks her to take his car to a house in the country, then meet him at a train station. He even gives her his credit card for gas. When he gets to the house, he says, he’ll explain what’s going on.

He doesn’t, of course, because he’s murdered.  Nobody believes Jude’s bizarre story, especially her fiancé, since she’d told him she was going to visit her grandmother.

When the police — and the newspapers — deem Jude a suspect, her fiancé bolts, and her job is in jeopardy.  So Jude sets out to find out who killed Liam and why he sent her on the mysterious mission.  She calls on Jude’s wife and discovers the pair and their son lived with a whole slew of suspicious characters in a crumbling mansion.  In unraveling the mysteries, Jude discovers the clan’s secrets and reveals a few of her own. It may be a turnoff to know at the beginning that the favor backfires (it always does). But don’t let that stop you from delving into the book, because the story is a good one.

“Hunting Time” by Jeffery Deaver (Putnam)

Jeffrey Deaver’s sleuth Colter Shaw has just finished foiling thieves who tried to steal secrets from a nuclear company when the firm’s top scientist and her daughter disappear.  So the company’s quirky CEO engages Shaw to find them.

Allison Parker’s violent alcoholic husband, Jon Merritt, in jail for attempting to kill her, was released from prison early.  She’s convinced he’s going to succeed this time.  A couple of prisoners confess Merritt told them as much.   So Allison and her daughter, Hannah, flee just minutes before Jon arrives at her house.  Jon, a former detective, calls on cop friends for help.  Allison realizes that not only her former husband but a couple of bungling killers are on her trail.

Shaw finds Allison and Hannah first and convinces them to hide out with him in a deserted cabin. But can he protect them before the others show up?  What do you think?

“Hunting Time” is filled with plot twists, survivor skills, shootouts, murders, and an ending you won’t see coming.

“Bleeding Heart Yard” by Elly Griffiths (Mariner Books)

Harbinder Kaur has just been named detective inspector when she’s assigned an investigation into the murder of an alumnus of an exclusive London school.  The victim, a member of Parliament, was attending his 21st reunion.

DI Kaur zeros in on the half-dozen members of the victim’s popular “Group,” as they were called back then.  Two decades later, they include a pop star, a famous actress and another MP. The Group shares a secret that still haunts them. On the last day of school, they agreed to scare a student who had raped one of the girls, by threatening to throw him in front of a train.  The incident backfired, and the boy was killed.

As Kaur pushes the group to find which one killed their friend, the members themselves band together, rekindle old friendships and even find romance.

The solution to the murder may be out of left field, but the ending is satisfying.

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