Originally created 08/21/05

Crimes 'speak now' in matrimonial mysteries



A wedding can be interrupted when anyone who might object to the union is invited to "speak now or forever hold your peace."

And wedding plans can be disrupted by a crime - as is the case in three new whodunits.

Those nuptial novels, by Margaret Maron, Simon Brett and Rhys Bowen, are among the latest hardcover mystery and suspense fiction, which also includes books by M.C. Beaton, Kay Hooper and Sandra Brown.

Deborah Knott is about to get hitched in "Rituals of the Season" (Mysterious Press), Maron's 11th book starring the North Carolina judge. Her wedding is only days away and Knott is still tied up with last-minute details when a friend and colleague is shot and killed on the Interstate. Matters are complicated when the officer put in charge of the investigation turns out to be Deputy Sheriff Dwight Bryant - Knott's intended.

Readers who are tickled by Brett's "Fethering" series will welcome its sixth installment, "The Witness at the Wedding" (Berkley Prime Crime). Series regular Carole Seddon, Home Office retiree and amateur sleuth, is busy with preparations for her son's wedding, although the bride's parents show little interest in the plans. They also seem uncomfortable with the attention the wedding is generating - and perhaps with good reason, as the father of the bride disappears during an engagement party and is later found dead.

In "Evan Blessed" (St. Martin's Minotaur), the future groom is none other than series star Evan Evans. In this ninth in Bowen's series featuring the Welsh village constable, the wedding is still two weeks off and all the plans are in place, so Evans can relax - or can he? A young hiker asks him to look for his girlfriend, who has disappeared on Mount Snowdon. What Evans finds instead is a bunker outfitted with chains and handcuffs. Soon, another young woman vanishes - Evans' fiancee, Brownen.

The English Cotswolds are the perfect setting for "The Perfect Paragon" (St. Martin's Minotaur), Beaton's 16th outing for private eye Agatha Raisin. Raisin's latest client is a pompous chap named Robert Smedley, who wants her to uncover evidence that his wife is being unfaithful. Soon, though, Smedley is dead - poisoned with weed killer - and his wife, the prime suspect, hires Raisin to prove her innocence and find her husband's killer.

There's a chill in the air in two new thrillers:

-In "Chill of Fear" (Bantam), Hooper offers a ninth book about the FBI's Special Crimes Unit, which uses ESP in its investigations. Agent Quentin Hayes has been preoccupied by an unsolved murder that took place years ago in The Lodge, a secluded Victorian-era resort in Tennessee. At The Lodge searching for clues, he meets a guest, a young woman whose nightmares about a long-lost child lead Hayes to believe that she might have a sixth sense which could help his case.

-And in Brown's "Chill Factor" (Simon & Schuster), five women have disappeared in the otherwise quiet mountain town of Cleary, N.C., and the only clue has been a blue ribbon left at the abduction site. When magazine editor Lilly Martin goes to the mountains to complete the sale of her cabin, a blizzard traps her there with an injured stranger whom she begins to suspect is the "blue-ribbon" abductor.

In other new mysteries:

A hospital proves less than hospitable in Jack Higgins' "Without Mercy" (Putnam), in which British intelligence agent Sean Dillon and colleagues seek revenge when one of their own is murdered while being treated for an injury; and in "Vanish" (Ballantine) by Tess Gerritsen, in which a female "corpse" that stirs in the morgue is rushed to a hospital, where she springs to life, kills a guard and takes hostages, including a pregnant homicide detective.

In "The Patriots Club" (Delacorte) by Christopher Reich, a Wall Street banker escapes from his kidnappers and uncovers a sinister plot that originated with America's founding fathers and involves high-ranking officials; and the mysterious deaths of four high-ranking officials provide a case for investigator Sano Ichiro in "The Assassin's Touch" (St. Martin's Minotaur), Laura Joh Rowland's 10th in the series set in 17th-century Japan.

In "Breaking Faith" by Jo Bannister, the corpse of a young woman is unearthed when a hole is dug for the swimming pool at a rock star's new house; and in "Hole in One" by Catherine Aird, British police detective C.D. Sloan investigates when a corpse is found in the bunker at the golf course (both St. Martin's Minotaur).

"Belle Ruin" (Viking) is Martha Grimes' story about a curious 12-year-old girl who tries to solve a crime that occurred 40 years ago at a luxury hotel which is now in ruins; and a man's plan to end his life at a luxury spa in Morocco is put on hold when he unexpectedly becomes involved in a murder investigation in "The Last Resort" (Random House) by Carmen Posadas.

Married FBI agents Savitch and Sherlock hunt for a killer who is taunting them by telephone in "Point Blank" (Putnam) by Catherine Coulter.

A Minnesota county sheriff investigates when the body of a Chicago businessman is found perched above a waterfall in "Mercy Falls" (Atria) by William Kent Krueger.

And a free South Pacific cruise for cousins and amateur sleuths Judith and Renie hits a sour note when the ship's piano yields the stabbed-to-death body of the cruise line's CEO in "Dead Man Docking" (Morrow) by Mary Daheim.