Murder and mayhem star in fiction from Northwest masters of mystery

"Two of the Deadliest" - Elizabeth George

Harper - 480 pages - $25.99

"Fire and Ice" - J.A. Jance

William Morrow - 352 pages - $25.99

It would be criminal to let the summer go by without indulging in a little escapist reading in the mystery genre. Two of the Northwest's bestselling suspense authors have come out with books that should satisfy every sleuth-tooth.

Whidbey Island writer Elizabeth George, perhaps best known for her popular Inspector Lynley series, has edited "Two of the Deadliest," a collection of 23 never-before-published stories, most of them submitted by some of the top female crime writers at work today. But also included are stories from five up-and-coming writers from George's own writing classes.

All of the selections focus on lust and greed, transgressions that (as the title suggests) fuel some pretty abhorrent crimes.

Some tales in this book are downright chilling, although the contributions by the Northwest-based authors seem to have a bit lighter touch. George and another one of her bestselling writer-pals, Bainbridge Island author Susan Wiggs, each serve up stories having to do with false identities and misbegotten romance. Eugene, Ore., author Elizabeth Engstrom writes about siblings gathered together for the reading of their dad's will.

This anthology, with its variety of stories, is a good way for fans of crime writing to discover new favorite authors.

'Fire and Ice'

If you're hankering for a full-length mystery this summer, check out "Fire and Ice."

Not for the first time, Seattle author J.A. Jance has arranged to have the characters from her two separate bestselling series cross paths in a grisly murder mystery.

As a member of the Washington state attorney general's special homicide investigation team, J.P. Beaumont is working on a case involving the murder of a young woman whose charred corpse has been found on a logging road off Interstate 90.

Down in Arizona, meanwhile, Cochise County Sheriff Joanna Brady is investigating a homicide in which the caretaker of an ATV park was run over multiple times out in the desert and left to die.

Over the years, it has been engaging to watch both Beaumont and Brady grow older and wiser in their respective series. The great care that Jance has invested in developing her characters pays off in our caring about them, too.

Rich supporting cast

This is true not only for the leads but also for the varied cast of supporting characters in every story.

This time that includes the tough-as-nails big sister of one of the murder victims, the beleaguered warden of a medium-security California state prison, a long-haul trucker in Federal Way, the prostitute who became Washington state's first Powerball winner, and many more.

In long but page-turning chapters, Jance cuts back and forth between the separate Beaumont and Brady investigations as they unspool chronologically - and eventually twine together.

Northwest readers especially will enjoy the ride as Beaumont and his bride, the savvy and glamorous Mel Majors Soames, (who is also a cop) carom from Ellensburg to Black Diamond to Gig Harbor in pursuit of the truth.

"Fire and Ice" is a perfect summertime read - riveting and well-crafted.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at

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