1 If you miss the late Dick Francis’s racetrack thrillers, you’ll be intrigued by Sasscer Hill’s Racing From Death (Wildside; paperback, $13.99), set trackside in Maryland and Virginia. Nikki Latrelle, a jockey and aspiring trainer, is alarmed when a fellow rider collapses and dies after a race. A second death raises questions about who’s distributing dangerous “diet cocktails” to ease jockeys’ constant weight struggles. Nikki has suspicions about a backstretch bad boy, and she’s also baffled by a burned body, mysterious hand-crafted dolls and a vanishing exercise rider. Her responsibility is a barnful of thoroughbreds, but her determination to protect those close to her makes Nikki a target for someone with more to lose than a horse race.
2 Tote Bags and Toe Tags , by Dorothy Howell (Kensington, $23), is the latest adventure of wisecracking Haley Randolph, designer-purse fanatic and frappuccino fan now on a “whole-new-me” crusade. Her boyfriend, thrilled by her recent UM degree and unaware that it’s from the University of Mixology, helps her land a corporate job as an events planner. But before HR maven Violet Hamilton can complete a background check, Violet is found dead in her office, and Haley is a murder suspect. Haley’s sleuthing skill, so useful in spotting retail bargains, leads her to some unsettling company secrets. Talk about a hostile work environment!
3 Elizabeth Craig’s Quilt or Innocence (Obsidian; paperback, $7.99) introduces Beatrice, who wants to retire in Dappled Hills, to relax in a hammock with a novel and her Welsh Corgi. But an energetic neighbor propels her into a quilting group. The members are alarmed that the Patchwork Cottage Quilt Shop is about to close because landlady Judith has upped the rent. The day after Beatrice and Judith get into an argument, her body is found. Then Beatrice and the town dowager are mugged. One quilter tells Beatrice, “You’re probably aware that people are saying that it’s an odd coincidence that all this violence seemed to start as soon as you came to town.”How can retirement be so perilous?
4 In Dead Man Waltzing , by Ella Barrick (Obsidian; paperback, $7.99), dance champion Stacy Graysin is shocked by the sudden death of Corinne Blakely, ballroom’s best-known diva. She’s even more dismayed that her friend Maurice, a dance instructor, is a prime suspect. The manuscript for Corinne’s memoir, rumored to be jammed with juicy details, is nowhere to be found — and those in the dance worldhope it stays that way. Stacy believes the book will point toward Corinne’s killer, but her plan to clear Maurice places her in competition with the murderer.
5 Animal behaviorist Pru Marlowe knows that Cats Can’t Shoot (Poisoned Pen, $24.95). But when a blue-eyed white Persian in Clea Simon’s new mystery is accused of pulling the trigger that killed her owner, Pru is on the case. She’s desperate to clear the traumatized cat, starting with getting the feline’s take on how a vintage dueling pistol was fired. “I have a strange skill. I can hear what animals are thinking,” she says. “It’s not that they talk to me. . . . It’s more like I pick up what’s on their minds.”The victim’s widow wants the cat sold, but Pru knows this Persian has plenty to say — if only someone will listen.
Blumenstock is a Washington writer.