Mystery book recommendations: “Bone Deep,” “The Cartographers” and more

Some mysteries to read in April:

“Bone Deep,” by Charles Bosworth Jr. and Joel J. Schwartz (Citadel Press)

In 2011, Russ Faria came home from a night of watching “Conan the Barbarian” with friends, to find his wife, Betsy, lying on the floor in a pool of blood.  A knife was sticking out of her neck.  In a state of panic, Faria called 911 to say he thought his terminally ill wife had committed suicide.

From the beginning, detectives dismissed the suicide angle and believed Faria had murdered Betsy. After all, she’d been stabbed 55 times. They ignored evidence that Betsy’s friend Pam Hupp was involved. Pam had just convinced Betsy to name her instead of Faria as beneficiary on an insurance policy. And she was the one who brought Betsy home from chemotherapy that night.

Faria was charged with murder. What followed was a miscarriage of justice. An incompetent judge refused to allow Faria’s attorney, “Bone Deep” co-author Joel J. Schwartz, to present evidence that Pam was the killer. And the judge allowed the prosecutor in her closing argument to use a vicious and fantastical theory that Faria and his friends had conspired to kill Betsy.

Despite a clear lack of evidence, Faia was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.  His stunned attorney vowed to not give up.

Although the guilty verdict and the real killer are no surprise to readers, non-fiction “Bone Deep” reads like a thriller. You can’t help but be caught up in Faria’s treatment by police and the injustice of the trial. The real mystery begins following the trial, as Schwartz and others work to overturn the verdict and indict Pam for the murder. The book has been turned into a miniseries, “The Thing About Pam.”

“The Cartographers,” by Peng Shepherd (William Morrow)

Nell Young, a budding cartographer, has been estranged from her father, Daniel, for seven years, ever since the two since got into a shouting match over a cheap 1930 highway map. Daniel was head of the New York Library’s map division, and Nell worked for him.  Now Daniel is dead, and Nell discovers that very map hidden in his desk. The map, Nell discovers, may be the only one in existence and is worth millions, thanks to a collector who has apparently bought up every other one.

Nell and her former boyfriend, Felix, who was fired from the NYPL along with Nell, search the map for a clue to why it’s so valuable and discover it lists the town of Agloe, a settlement that doesn’t exist.

Nell’s hunt to find out why her father kept the rare map leads her to a mysterious group of her father’s college associates who called themselves the Cartographers.  Both Nell’s father and her mother, who died in a fire when Nell was 3, were members.

The Cartographers try to protect Nell, just as her father did. In fact, her father fired her and ruined her career as a way of keeping her from danger, the Cartographers claim. Both Daniel and the museum head were murdered because of the map, they said. Nell could be next. The Cartographers warn her to leave the map alone. But, of course, she doesn’t.

The story and its secret are both intriguing and bizarre.

“Unmasked: My Life Solving Cold Cases,” by Paul Holes with Robin Gaby Fisher (Celadon)

Unmasked is the true story of Paul Holes, the California cold-case investigator who worked on well-known cases such as the Jaycee Dugard abduction and the Laci Peterson murder. But it was his capture of the Golden State Killer by using pioneering technology  that brought him international recognition.

Holes began working on the Golden State Killer case in 1994, not long after becoming a Contra Costa, Calif., county criminalist. Back then, the killer was known as the East Area Rapist. The killer, who raped, robbed and murdered, terrified California for some 40 years. Obsessed with the case, Holes followed it for 20 years, solving it only days before his retirement. He combined the killer’s DNA with an Ancestry-like search to identify a second cousin. That led to the serial killer, a former cop. Holes writes that there are some 2,000 serial killers out there, and that four of every 10 homicides goes unsolved.

“Unmasked” is a personal account of a man who spent so much time tracking cold-case killers that he sacrificed his first marriage and nearly his second to his obsession. He writes of crimes that he solved, and some that he didn’t, that drove him to drink. Holes is still solving crimes as a private investigator. He’s also a consultant for such television shows as “America’s Most Wanted.”

“Woman on Fire,” by Lisa Barr (Harper)

Jules Roth has barely talked herself into a job on a Chicago newspaper when her boss hands her a hush-hush assignment to find a missing painting. The painting, “Woman on Fire,” created in 1939, is the work of an artist who was fighting the Nazis. The Aryan model, the mistress of a German Jewish banker, was murdered by the Nazis. She leaves behind a young son, Ellis Baum, now an incredibly wealthy, high-fashion shoe manufacturer. He is dying and wants to recover the painting. So he turns to his closest friend, the newspaper editor, to find it.

Locating the painting is perilous. Margaux de Laurent, the psychopathic owner of a string of art galleries, is also on the trail of “Woman on Fire,” and she’s willing to kill for it. In fact, she already has, murdering the aging son of Hitler’s chief art dealer, who was hiding hundreds of stolen paintings. “Woman on Fire” reputedly is one of them.

Margaux is also the former lover of Adam Baum, Ellis Baum’s nephew.  A brilliant artist, Adam is a one-time heroin addict who’s now clean. And he’s enamored with Jules, to Margaux’s annoyance. Jules is also taken with Adam, as she stumbles along in her quest for the missing painting.

“Woman on Fire” is a complicated mystery with a lot of twists and turns.  And a lot of tearing off of clothes.

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