The Ninja's Blade
By Tori Eldridge. (Agora, 320 pages, $16.95.)
The combination is irresistible. A female Chinese American private investigator who is also a skilled Ninja. Right?! There's more. Lily Wong also has a heightened sense of indignation, a keen sense of social justice and a smart mouth. In Tori Eldridge's "The Ninja's Blade," Wong stalks the mean streets of Los Angeles in search of a missing prostitute while she also battles a street gang. Then Wong's scary grandparents arrive from Hong Kong and things get super-complicated. Eldridge has written a swift, slick PI novel that takes on sex trafficking and social injustice with the sharpness of a, well, Ninja's blade.
CAROLE E. BARROWMAN
And Now She's Gone By Rachel Howzell Hall. (Forge, 384 pages, $27.99.)
Grayson Sykes may not be a Ninja, but she's a warrior nonetheless. Like Wong, Sykes operates in Los Angeles, where her first case as a PI is to find a missing woman (Isabel "Izzy" Lincoln) who might not want to be found. Rachel Howzell Hall's smashing suspense novel "And Now She's Gone" chronicles Sykes' investigation. It's a doozy (the case and the novel). Hall has crafted a story steered by a main character whose eye for seeing clues among cultural clutter is original and whose voice is pretty perfect. Take Gray's description of Izzy's parents. They "looked like the couple who hoarded petrified copies of Jet in the attic and had watched Soul Train every Saturday morning. … They were black black." Is Izzy's white cardiologist lover to blame for her disappearance? Had Izzy "smelled the crazy on him and didn't want it to get into her favorite coat" and fled? Or is something deeper and more disturbing at play? C.E.B.
In a Midnight Wood By Ellen Hart. (Minotaur, 320 pages, $26.99.)
One of my longtime favorite investigators, Jane Lawless (one of the best names for a PI ever), is also on a missing person case. Only this one is cold. Minnesota author and Mystery Grandmaster Ellen Hart's "In a Midnight Wood" is a stirring small-town mystery. Lawless heads to Castle Rock, Minn., to visit friends and take in an art festival. When a backpack, a billfold and bones are excavated from a grave, everyone assumes they belong to teenager Sam Romilly, who disappeared in 1999. Lawless feels compelled to investigate, but uncovers more lies and buried secrets than she expects. The story shifts deftly between the events surrounding Sam's disappearance and the investigation in the present. This is Hart's 27th Lawless mystery. I'm happy to report that character and creator are in fine form.