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New Crime and Mystery Novels

Naturally, any pretense at equilibrium is shattered when Donovan and her bestie/partner-in-kinda-crime/nanny, Vero, discover a website that doubles as a hit list — and that Finlay’s irritating, condescending ex is on it. As satisfying as it would be to see him dispatched, she can’t do that to their children. She can, however, stretch the limits of acceptable behavior. Let’s just say “Weekend at Bernie’s” is paid homage to more than once.

If Finlay Donovan’s second appearance features a more convoluted plot than her first, it in no way decreases the overall entertainment value. Cosimano skillfully combines suspense and laughs in the manner of Janet Evanovich’s early (and best) novels, finished off with a metafictional twist.

Keeping with this column’s occasional highlighting of crime fiction reissues, we turn to the program begun by the Library of Congress a couple of years ago that excavates treasures by the likes of Anna Katharine Green and Seeley Regester. Its newest rerelease is THE METROPOLITAN OPERA MURDERS (Poisoned Pen/Library of Congress Crime Classics, 184 pp., paper, $14.99), first published in 1951 and little seen thereafter.

It’s a confection of insider knowledge and brio wrapped around a solid mystery plot concocted by its named author, Helen Traubel, then a soprano and concert singer of considerable reputation, in tandem with — as the new edition, edited and annotated by Leslie Klinger, reveals — the hard-boiled detective writer Harold Q. Masur. He was brought in by the book’s editor, Lee Wright, to shore up the structure and bring out Traubel’s literary voice more effectively.

The book leans a little too much on cutesy monikers (a detective named Sam Quentin, for starters) and its heroine, Elsa Vaughn, is clearly based on Traubel herself — “a tall woman constructed in the liberal proportions of the most Wagnerian sopranos. … Her manner was assuming and she seemed free from the temperament generally associated with prima donnas.” The window into the Met’s expensive opulence, however, as well as the folly of embarking upon a career that rewards so few, ups the enjoyment ante considerably.

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