Murder at the Residence by Stella Blómkvist

The mystery behind this series is just as intriguing as the books themselves. Stella Blomkvist is not just the character in the novels but is also the nom-de-plume used by the mysterious author no one has been able to uncover in over twenty-five years. Regardless of who wrote it, Murder at the Residence is a perfect example of Icelandic crime fiction at its best—atmospheric, relevant, and undeniably entertaining. Stella—the character—is a lawyer who would acquaint herself quite easily with most of the characters in the American hard-boiled tradition. In many ways, she is their female counterpart, isolated on a small-ish island where crime and corruption—both personal and political—hides just under the surface, not unlike Iceland’s volcanic nature, always threatening to blow.  What starts with a deadly beating of a financier quickly becomes more complicated as various citizens seek Stella’s guidance until ultimately the fate of Iceland itself is at risk. Short chapters and a stellar translation by the legendary Quentin Bates keep the pages turning well into the night. This beloved and long-running series may be unfamiliar to American audiences, but after reading Murder at the Residence, interest is sure to pique.

The Land of Lost Things by John Connolly

More than fifteen years after he graced the world with The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly returns to his magical fairytale kingdom for a companion novel. Not a direct sequel, The Land of Lost Things can be enjoyed by both longtime fans and newcomers, for very different reasons. This time out, the story is really about a mother’s love and how that unconditional bond can seem almost magical—and in this narrative that fantasy becomes tangible. Fans of folklore and vintage fairytales will find much to love in Connolly’s world, but like those stories, pain and heartbreak is central and very much a part of being human. The love of books and reading permeates every word of The Land of Lost Things, casting a spell that feels very similar to the experience Ceres has within the novel itself. The “Lost Things” duology may or may not be John Connolly’s crowning achievement, but to fans of this ethereal world they will always be a beacon calling out and luring us into the magical realm of the written word—a balm for trouble souls and hope for a better tomorrow.

It Ends with Knight by Yasmin Angoe

It Ends with Knight, the third and final book in Angoe’s Nena Knight series, is a fitting conclusion for a character that has shown readers that kick-ass heroines are more than capable of carrying an action series. After the death of her mentor, Nena Knight is forced into a political position she never asked for. When a kidnapping requires her to once again tap into her history as a trained assassin, Nena discovers that the past has an ugly way of infiltrating the present in the most unexpected ways. Balancing action, politics, and character-development is tricky, but Yasmin Angoe is a natural storyteller who instinctively knows where to focus the narrative at each critical juncture. While It Ends with Knight works fine as a stand-alone, for the most effective experience, readers should follow the trilogy from the beginning. Yasmin Angoe’s writing style reminds one of classic Robert Ludlum with the geo-political awareness of Octavia Butler.

The Hint of Light by Kristin Kisska

The Hint of Light is a perfect read for those who enjoy family secrets buried in a story about the resilience of women. After the sudden death of her alcoholic son, Kyle, a woman goes in search of the grand-daughter she never knew existed. This is a beautifully realized story about the long-term effects of trauma and a classic depiction of the unconditional love between parent and child. Told in tandem by the mother and grand-daughter, with past-event narrative from Kyle’s point-of-view, The Hint of Light is a structurally-complex story that packs more than a few emotional punches before ultimately reaching a shocking conclusion. While this book will most often be classified as women’s fiction, there is easily enough mystery to satisfy genre fans. Book clubs looking for a choice with the heft to carry a meeting, should look no further than Kristin Kisska’s debut.

Disclaimer: A print galley of these titles was provided to BOLO Books by the authors/publishers. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.