Murder mysteries abound for winter reading

A woman raised Amish returns to her small town to open and bed and breakfast and finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation in Emma Miller’s “Plain Murder.”

Rachel has found a new world as a B&B owner and friend to several of the town residents. She also keeps in touch as much as she can with her Amish relatives, though the relationship between she and her mother is strained. When a local man who quarreled with her uncle is found murdered on her uncle’s property, Rachel wants to make sure her uncle is fairly represented. But trying to get him to understand the “English” law system is hard and he resists Rachel’s offers of help. Rachel’s family beg her to use her position in the community to do her own investigation – will she uncover the truth?

This is a good mystery of murder in a small town that will keep readers guessing. Rachel is a good protagonist too.

“Plain Murder” is published by Kensington. It is $15 and 260 pages long.

*

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger tells a story of psychopaths in “In the Blood.”

Lana is a graduate psychology student, whose advisor works with a school for troubled children who are just short of being labeled psychopath. Knowing her area of study, he helps her get a job as a babysitter to a troubled young man named Luke. Luke’s mother, Rachel, seems almost bullied by her child, and Luke is a dangerous manipulator, but Lana takes the job anyway. When her best friend goes missing after a fight she and Lana had, Lana is being eyed by the police, especially since one of her other roommates disappeared a year ago – and was found dead.

Soon Lana is caught up in a murder investigation, an oddly troubling scavenger hunt from Luke, and a secret from her past which is quickly coming to the forefront. And Lana may soon have the answer to the question – are psychopaths born that way or are they made?

There are so many twists and turns in this book, readers’ heads will spin. Just when you think you know everything – you don’t. I was second-guessing every character in the book by the end and enjoyed every bit of it.

“In the Blood” is published by Touchstone. It is $25.99 and 352 pages long.

*

Crime noir gets a futuristic twist in Adam Sternbergh’s “Shovel Ready.”

The man only known as Spademan really did used to be a garbage man – before the United States was savaged by dirty bombs. Now the elite have taken to their homes and live in virtual reality while the poor must suffer in the real world. And Spademan is a contract killer – he doesn’t care to know your reasons, he just wants a name. But this time, the name is of a young daughter of the most popular evangelist in the country. And when Spademan finds the girl now known as Persephone, he finds she is also pregnant, and that is one kind of job he does not take. When Persephone asks him for help, Spademan finds not only himself and everyone he knows in danger from her powerful father.

This is a slick, grim and gritty noir story with a hard as nails protagonist, a dame in trouble and plenty of mayhem along the way. It’s a taunt page turner.

“Shovel Ready”is published by Crown. It is $24 and 243 pages long.

*

Contact Amy Phelps at aphelps@newsandsentinel.com