She Loves Amalfi, Aperol and Killing Off Her Ex in Fiction

Eleanor Dash, the Aperol spritz-loving narrator of Catherine Mack’s fizzy series debut, EVERY TIME I GO ON VACATION, SOMEONE DIES (Minotaur, 340 pp., $28) is a chatty, self-aware sort, a novelist with a best-selling series called “Vacation Mysteries.” Her books feature the devastatingly handsome detective Connor Smith, who bears the same name as the man who has vexed her life — romantically and financially — for an entire decade. But no more: She’s going to kill him off in fiction. Too bad someone’s trying to kill the real-life Connor, too.

Eleanor has arrived in Amalfi for a 10-day trip with Connor and a group of lucky fans who have won a “once in a lifetime Italian vacation” with their favorite author. Not long after Connor informs her that he was pushed into the path of “one of those hop-on, hop-off buses full of bleeding tourists,” Eleanor starts to think someone might want her dead, too.

Mack, a pseudonym for the veteran Canadian suspense writer Catherine McKenzie, gleefully pokes fun at genre tropes while evoking Eleanor’s zany world. To my shock, I found all of it hilarious and not at all annoying — even the many, many footnotes, which advance the plot and Eleanor’s character.

ROUGH TRADE (MCD/FSG, 374 pp., $28) is Katrina Carrasco’s second historical thriller to feature the gutsy, Pinkerton-trained opium smuggler Alma Rosales, who loves nothing more than a good brawl. The novel brims with the sights, smells and sounds of Tacoma, Wash., in 1888, full of docks and taverns and illicit back rooms where all manner of appetites are explored discreetly, where secrets swirl and betrayals come quickly.

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