The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (Touchstone, $15). A perfect jewel of a book. It's not a murder mystery; indeed, it's not clear any crime has even been committed. A British schoolgirl accuses an older woman and her middle-aged daughter of abducting her. The girl describes the women's home perfectly, though they claim to have never seen her before.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Co., $16). One of the earliest murder investigations by police. Summerscale follows Inspector "Jack" Whicher, one of the original Scotland Yard detectives, as he investigates the murder of a child in Victorian England. A chilling true tale. Whicher all but invented the detection of homicide — and almost lost his job and his mind.
Longitude by Dava Sobel (Walker & Co., $14). Who knew that longitude was something that had to be invented? I didn't even care, frankly — until about a paragraph into this riveting account of the race to solve what was known as the "longitude problem."
A Fish Caught in Time by Samantha Weinberg (Harper, $14). Weinberg also takes an obscure topic and makes it read like a thriller. In this case, it's the true story of how a fisherman off the African coast brought up a coelacanth — a fish with arms, thought to be the missing link between fish and tetrapods. Soon the hunt was on to find whether the coelacanth held the key to many evolutionary mysteries.
Save Me by Lisa Scottoline (St. Martin's, $28). A searing mystery that, at its considerable heart, is an examination of the power of a mother's love. Rose McKenna's daughter is being bullied. Then one day a bomb goes off at the girl's school and Rose has to make a decision — to search for her daughter or save the girl who bullied her.
Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler (out of print). One of my all-time favorite Canadian books. Richler alternately skewers and celebrates Montreal's Jewish community in this hilarious, exuberant, irreverent romp through an improbable history and its many detours into wishful thinking.
The Canadian novelist and former journalist Louise Penny is the author of several best-selling works of crime fiction. Her latest novel, A Trick of the Light, continues the saga of Quebecois detective Armand Gamache.
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