With "The Quincunx," Palliser proved himself adroit at crafting a cunning Victorian mystery with a Dickensian cast and flavor. In this novel (Washington Square Press, $13.95, paperback), he again wraps riddles inside of Gothic puzzles in shivery, literate style as historian Edward Courtine visits an old, estranged friend, Austin Fickling, a few days before Christmas in the Cathedral Close of Thurchester. The year is 1882, but Courtine is interested in a possibly lost manuscript in the cathedral library dealing with Anglo-Saxon history, while Austin brings up a centuries-old murder and a ghost. But then present-day intrigues surface including the brutal killing of a reclusive banker. Even as Courtine unravels the knotty secrets of the past, he is forced to confront his own buried misconceptions and mysteries.
"On the day Lizzie came back from the dead, the police and family and neighbors had already begun the search for her body." Now there's a first sentence guaranteed to keep you reading, but one has come to expect no less from the talented Rendell. In the latest of her compelling Inspector Wexford novels (Vintage/Black Lizard, $12, paperback), it appears as if she might be doing a variation on the Josephine Tey classic "The Franchise Affair." But then the well-read Wexford asks a kidnapping victim with an odd story if she's ever read Tey's novel. Rendell, via Wexford, tackles the sad and tawdry world of domestic violence, child abuse and pedophilia as a young girl disappears, a child molester is released from prison, a woman calls the help-line of a shelter for battered women.
Lying With the Enemy
It's 1943, and Europe is being devastated by war. But for the contingent of German officers stationed on small, isolated Guernsey in the Channel Islands the only British territory occupied during World War II the good life continues. Binding's layered, atmospheric novel (Carroll & Graf, $12.95, paperback) is both a suspenseful wartime thriller and a provocative murder mystery as British police inspector Ned Luscombe, whose loyalties lie with his fellow islanders, is faced with the murder of a young woman. She was once his lover but more recently has been the mistress of a German major, who becomes his unlikely ally.
BBC meteorologist Perry Stuart, who specializes in racetrack forecasts, ends up being pummeled by a hurricane in Francis' well-paced tale (Jove, $6.99, paperback). It's all because his friend Kris wants to fly into the eye of a hurricane, and wealthy Floridian Robin Darcy puts a small plane at their disposal. Turns out Robin wants Kris to make a side trip to tiny, uninhabited Trox Island to pick up a package.