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Queen of the Night by J. A. Jance

Publisher: William Morrow  ISBN-10: 0061239240

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In this latest, Jance returns to her Arizona Walker family series in which she centers seemingly disparate cases loosely around the once a year summer blooming of the Queen of the Night flower. 

In one story, a couple’s celebration of their wedding anniversary in the desert is brought to a deadly ending when a gunman bent on revenge strikes with a quick and deadly force, his unexpected rampage resulting in more than one death and leaving only one survivor: a little girl whose life now is in danger as she was the only living witness to the event. 

In another story, a retired detective takes on the cold case that still haunts one of his dying fellow investigators involving a young coed killed decades before; all the while dealing with his wife's sudden onslaught of diminishing mental abilities.

And preceding all this horror is the slaughter of a once well-to-do family miles away. 

Putting this all together will take more than one agency, and more than one detective, and will involve characters Jance has made familiar in previous novels coming together in unexpected ways to tie all these threads together in a way that will bring the answers needed to prevent future bloodshed. 

Jance's seamless blending of these multiple story lines from past and present is nothing short of beautiful; her adeptness at weaving these separate events into one cohesive storyline that comes full circle being reminiscent of the traditional and awe-inspiring rug weavings of some of the Indian Nations she includes.  Having been long disappointed with the direction of her other two series, the passionate and compelling writing in this comes as a surprise.  Heartfelt and deeply stirring, filled with the rugged and spacious ambience of the desert, this latest provides suspense and depth that is greatly appreciated.   




Limelight: A Mystery Novel by Jim Sells

Publisher: Jim Sells

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Henry W. Gray is an old-school PI quietly tucked away in a small Atlanta office neighboring a credit repair business and a repo outfit but Grady manages an outsized charm despite the low-rent surroundings. Known as just “Grady”, the former military man and ex-cop agrees to take a high paying job normally way out of his league and in spite of his misgivings. Knowing full well that business moguls like Bary “Just one ‘R’” Houston would usually not darken a door as poorly adorned as his, Grady realizes Houston wants anonymity when his future star singer disappears just days before a big money-making event.

Captivated by Beth Ann’s apparent charisma in evident on an old videotape, Grady delves into the music business complete with easy drugs, overconfident bodyguards, and a tight time schedule. Amusing detours include Grady’s unusual relationships with a Vietnamese acquaintance and with Emma, Grady’s Great Dane. In fact, Emma’s welcome comfort and own considerable charms added to Grady’s no-nonsense style recall Robert B. Parker’s well known character Spenser and his ever-present Pearl.

Sell’s alternates Grady’s straightforward assessment of the case’s progression with the deadly intentions of “the Shadow”, a mysterious force with his own interest in Beth Ann’s disappearance. Grady’s self-awareness and knowing throwaway comments on things as regionally important as sweet tea with chewable sugar and local architecture gives Grady’s character a firm sense of place to go along with his likeability. Sells obviously feels comfortable with Grady’s voice and backstory, leaving the number of typos as the primary distraction from this testosterone-heavy PI investigation with insights into both delicacies such as true Southern sweet tea and a world in which threats appear from every direction.




Night Corridor  by Joan Hall Hovey

Publisher: Books We Love Publishing Partners (BWLPP)          

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Even scarier than being consigned unjustly to a mental hospital for nine years is the prospect of being put out of it, back into a world with which you are no longer engaged.  Caroline Hill had a baby when she was 17, a daughter who was torn from her arms at birth by people who claimed to know what was best for her.  Caroline fell into a depression so deep that a mental hospital seemed the only place for her.  While she was there her parents died in an accident, and as there was no other family, Caroline stayed on in care for year after year.

Eventually the darkness lifts from Caroline’s mind enough for her medical supervisors to feel she can be returned to the wider world.  Also, the state is trying to cut costs, so the more people it can move out of the wards, the better.  (You can see that in real life on the streets of any major city.)

Caroline is given a job washing dishes in a diner, and lodged in a boarding house with a kindly—if nosy—landlady.  There’s nothing really wrong with Caroline now except a painful shyness and a tendency to blurt out whatever’s on her mind without any dissembling.  She is well-liked at work, and everything looks as rosy for her future as it can, given her background.

Caroline finds it a bit off-putting that the girl who once lived across the hall in the boarding house was murdered, and despite her having no connection with the other girl, the police come to talk to her, which she finds both frightening and interesting.  Caroline begins to come out of her shell, and accepts an invitation to have a Christmas drink with Jeffrey, a piano player who lives on the top floor.  She’s starting to live nearly a normal life, although there’s something bothering her, something she senses but can’t put her finger on. 

Then bad things begin to happen to people who come into contact with her. The lecherous Mike from the diner lands in hospital after daring to accost Caroline, the woman in the dress shop is killed, then Jeffrey is attacked, and finally Caroline herself is kidnapped.

For someone whose mental health has been so hard won back after years of illness, being kidnapped by a madman is about the worst thing that could happen.  Fortunately, Caroline’s long incarceration has given her much insight into what makes mad people tick, and this serves her well during a harrowing road trip—but what will happen at the end of the trip?

This book makes for compelling reading, perhaps even more so if you know anything about how state mental institutions operate now and in the past.  You might want to sleep with the light on for a few nights…



The Faculty Club by Danny Tobey

Publisher: Atria 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Tobey’s debut novel is one that easily promises a great career ahead as this first by this promising author proves to be a challenging and smart read.

Jeremy Davis, a small-town Texas young man, is ecstatic over his acceptance to one of the most prestigious law schools in the country.  And upon arriving to the New England university, he’s even more excited when he feels the charm of the place, meets his amazingly intelligent fellow students, and gets hand-picked by one of the top professors as an assistant.  And then when he’s chosen to be one of the four students as a contender to join the secretive club that guarantees life-long success, he couldn’t be happier.  

But before he can get too carried away with these new-found promises of wealth and power, he’s quick to learn that only three of the four contenders will actually be accepted into the club. And, as these things go, it doesn’t take long for Jeremy to put aside his life long values in order to make the cut at any cost.  What happens next is something left for the reader to discover on their own, as anything more would spoil the excitement of this electrifying and wildly satisfying read.

This debut novel really is one that really has it all, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this one hits the big screen soon.  Yes, this is a well-told story with familiar questions:  What is the price of success?  How far would you go to achieve it?  Where would you draw the line if you had the choice between both worlds?  And could the sacrifice of one for the greater good be one too many?

Tobey confronts these questions with an intelligence that provokes, while at the same time attempts to answer them simply and irrevocably.  Sure, he could’ve obscured the answers by playing it safe with the hypothetical "happily ever after", but fortunately, Tobey doesn’t let us off that easy.  Instead he takes us down the road of “what if” and fills it with wild adventure and near misses that show what could happen when the easy choices are made without fully investigating their consequences.  An excellent debut, this one is a keeper.




Bodily Harm by Robert Dugoni

Publisher:  Pocket

Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader

What begins as a seemingly open and shut case of medical malpractice turns into something far more sinister and life-threatening.  David Sloane, the self-proclaimed ‘lawyer who does not lose’, wins a case for the McFarland family who have lost their young son, Austin, due to his flu-like symptoms being misdiagnosed by the family doctor that result in his death in the emergency room of a hospital that was unable to save him in time. 

Sloane was confident in his case and his ability to win for the McFarland’s --- that is, until a mysterious young man named Kyle Horgan confronts him on the way to the courthouse just prior to the jury’s verdict.  Horgan insists he has evidence that the doctor in the malpractice case was not responsible for Austin McFarland’s death --- he was!  Horgan presents Sloane with a folder of ‘evidence’ of his assertion and disappears.  Sloane reads the contents of the folder with horror --- but is too late to change his prosecution stance as the jury finds for the McFarland’s.  To further compound the tragedy and conflicted feelings of Sloane – the doctor accused of the malpractice takes his own life shortly after the verdict!

This is only the tip of the iceberg in Robert Dugoni’s utterly compelling new novel, BODILY HARM.  Kyle Horgan turns out to be a creative genius who had given a huge toy company --- Kendall Toys --- a prototype for a sure-fire top-selling new toy.  The toy, Metamorphis, operates similar to the famous Transformer toys whereby it has the ability to shape-shift into different objects.  However, the series of magnets that are at the heart of the Metamorphis toy pose a deadly threat if ingested by young children.  In fact, more than two ingested magnets could rip a hole in the digestive track and cause painful death.  The file Horgan has handed David Sloane outlines the trial testing of the Metamorphis toy and the fact that Kendall Toys has outsourced the production to a Chinese facility that is using a type of plastic that can easily crack, allowing the potentially deadly magnets to fall into the hands of unsuspecting children.

Horgan has evidence of second boy who died --- with the same flu-like symptoms that Austin McFarland displayed.  Sloane realizes with horror that his simple malpractice case was part of a much larger conspiracy.  It turns out that Kendall Toys is on the verge of bankruptcy and rival toy companies are clamoring to acquire them.  It would take a huge holiday toy to put them over the top and they believe they have that in Metamorphis.  Unfortunately, greed gets the best of certain executives within Kendall and the result is the toy being made cheaper abroad with unsafe materials.  There is also corporate espionage involved whereby the Product Safety commission is paid-off to turn a blind eye to the potential hazards of the Metamorphis prototype.

The individuals behind Metamorphis will go to any extent to insure this toy hits the market and makes them the multi-millions they need to salvage their company.  This includes committing murder.  Unfortunately, David Sloane is a target as he has begun to investigate Kyle Horgan’s claims of conspiracy against Kendall Toys and his involvement brings tragedy upon his family as an assassin breaks into their Seattle home and kills his wife during an altercation.

Driven by his sense of justice and now fueled by a need to avenge his murdered wife, David Sloane and his team go all out to uncover the conspiracy surrounding the Metamorphis toy and bring down the members of Kendall Toys that will do anything to see their product succeed.  Thrown into the mix of this already tension-packed novel is the fact that David Sloane must also do battle with his in-laws over the adoption of his step-son, Jake, that was set to occur just prior to the loss of his wife.  Can David Sloane, torn by grief and the desire to keep his small family together, pull it together to win both of these legal matters, exonerate the wrongly accused doctor that killed himself and find justice for the families that have lost their children due to a malfunctioning toy?  The pages will burn as this novel never lets up for a single moment and will keep the reader going long into the night to finish this exhilarating story!

Robert Dugoni has received blurbs comparing this novel to the work of John Grisham.  I find this an unfair comparison.  John Grisham’s last good novel was way in the past.  Dugoni’s superior novel, BODILY HARM, is the present leader in legal thriller fiction --- and I cannot wait for the future efforts in the David Sloane series!




The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

Publisher: Pocket

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

The Ice Princess delves into the bonds of friendship, childhood secrets, and the miles between social classes including in Sweden as deftly described in Lackberg’s well-crafted novel that easily translates into a great read for American audiences.

Writer Erica Falck’s year has been one of grief and self-imposed isolation as she tries to deal with the accidental death of both of her parents while also muddling through her latest biography of Swedish female authors.  Erica temporarily moved from her Stockholm apartment into her parents’ spacious family home in a seaside fishing village to sort through family things and regain inspiration for her latest book.  Because it’s winter, or the off-season for tourists, Erica has plenty of quiet and can reminiscence about her childhood before the picturesque town became a desirable coastal mecca for hordes of summer tourists.  Adding to her thoughts on her youth, her old childhood friend Alex Carlgren Wijkner suddenly makes an appearance. 

Erica remembers the striking, self-contained Alex as her best friend who gradually distanced herself before moving away at age ten.  Erica never understood Alex’s decision but Alex’s return moves her to remember their once intense closeness.  When Erica finds Alex with slit wrists in the Carlgren summer home, she becomes embroiled in the investigation to find out what happened over the decades to poor Alex.  Because the death happened in Erica’s hometown, she also has a chance to further her investigation by working with another old friend, Patrick Hedstrom, now a member of the police department and a solid detective in his own right.

Lackberg’s characters dwell in their secret pain while publicly showing uncracked facades.  Erica and Patrick never grow tedious nor do their investigative methods move outside the realm of possibility.  Primarily told through Erica’s eyes, The Ice Princess proves impossible to put down and remains captivating because of well-developed secondary characters that enrich Erica’s life while also supplementing the realism of the story.  Erica’s friend Dan and his wife Penmilla add layers to Erica’s youth while supplying a messy warmth to her life.

Lackberg’s thoughtfully detailed Swedish mystery has been well translated into English by Steven T. Murray, who also translated Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. 

Combining murder, mystery and romance steeped in the sturdy yet faintly exotic Swedish ambience that spawned countless IKEA furniture lines, Lackberg masterfully creates a remarkable mystery with excellent characters and surprising motivation.



The Rule of Nine by Steve Martini

Publisher: Harper

Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader

Steve Martini has been a best-selling author for the past few decades.  He started writing legal thrillers and stuck with that successful formula with a series of novels featuring defense attorney, Paul Madriani. With the release of his latest effort, THE RULE OF NINE, Martini has now firmly entered the field of political intrigue with a novel that finds Paul Madriani attempting to prevent a terrorist plot that threatens to destroy the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his previous novel, GUARDIAN OF LIES, Steve Martini’s lead character --- Paul Madriani --- valiantly helped avert a near nuclear explosion.  Unfortunately, his involvement in this event put him firmly within the cross-hairs of some really dangerous people and these newfound enemies are seeking to exact their revenge against Paul and all those close to him.

The novel opens with the mysterious death of a 23-year-old Senate staff gofer named Jimmie Snyder.  Jimmie is nervous that he may have gotten involved in exposing some top secret areas of the U.S. government operations to a man posing as an attorney.  Returning home to his apartment one night he is accosted by a homeless man laying on the stairway in his apartment building.  This homeless man attacks him and applies a deadly injection that kills him.  It turns out that this was no homeless man but a deadly Mexican assassin who is aptly called – Liquida.  It is also no coincidence that Jimmie’s father is the managing partner of a large law firm in Chicago.

What is even more interesting is the fact that a business card with Paul Madriani’s name is found on the body of the victim --- Jimmie Snyder.  The only problem for Paul is that he has no idea who Jimmie Snyder is.  All of this turns out to be a set-up to lure Paul and his team into the spotlight in an effort to expose them to Liquida and other assassins who want to eliminate them.  When a good friend of Madriani’s daughter is murdered in her bed by Liquida, Paul quickly recognizes that he must get his loved ones into hiding while continuing to find the people who want him eliminated.

As Madriani and his team of investigator’s continue to delve into these murders, they uncover a much larger plot.  It turns out that a radical extremist from the 1960’s --- who used to operate under the name, The Weatherman --- is now operating well within the ranks of the U.S. government and appears to be returning to his terrorist background.  Enlisting the aid of an international terrorist named Thorn, the Weatherman believes the time has come for a major change in the U.S Government.  Since he has no faith that change will ever be possible by traditional political means, he decides to target a main foundation of the Executive Branch --- the Supreme Court.

The title of the novel, THE RULE OF NINE, reflects the nine members of the Supreme Court and how their rule lasts until either their death or retirement. The Weatherman believes that no true change can occur until the President is able to replace all nine members of the Supreme Court --- including several that will support radical change and keep the government from falling into socialistic ideals. By creating various terrorist attacks upon the U.S. as a distraction for the real target, the Supreme Court justices, The Weatherman appears to have a clear path to fulfilling his radical plans.  Can Paul Madriani and his team --- which may include a mole working against their efforts --- thwart these plans in time?  Steve Martini has firmly stepped into Brad Thor territory with this novel that depicts a very realistic threat to our safety and mirrors the political landscape and fear of terrorism the U.S. currently exists in.




Holly Blues by Susan Wittig Albert

Publisher: Berkley 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Small town Texas city herb store owner and aficionado China Bayles has plenty on her plate dealing with the upcoming Christmas season with both harvesting the last of her seasonal herbs while making a home for her orphaned niece.  But when her husband’s ex-wife Sally blows into town desperately needing a place to stay, these previously challenging issues will seem small in comparison when a menacing stranger comes looking for Sally, who now seems to have disappeared.

Finding answers to these mysterious events won’t be easy though.  All China and her investigator husband have to go on is Sally’s desperate plea to look into a woman Sally claims knows who killed her wealthy parents years before.  But when that woman is found dead, followed by the discovery of Sally’s sister’s dead body, it becomes difficult to determine if Sally is the number one suspect, or the number one target of a killer whose secrets are worth killing for.

Like all the others that have come before in this series, this proves to be a cozy and breezy read.  And with each chapter beginning with some history on the vegetation connected with Christmas, there’s an additional interest to be had.  Although, admittedly, I found China’s continuous, adamant denial of getting involved in other people’s affairs and gossiping, as it was exactly the one thing she did all the way through, to be more and more exasperating as the end approached.

Why the denial?  It seems it would be easier to simply admit that China Boyles gets involved in countless mysteries because she IS involved and caught up in small town life, so why not go with that?  Angela Lansbury never needed a reason to solve a mystery, so Susan Wittig Albert should take note:  It’s okay to be involved in small town life; just go with the flow and feel free to solve the cases of those pesky mysterious deaths as they occur, no explanations are needed.  



The Hypnotist by M J Rose

Publisher: Mira 

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Many of us have a sneaking suspicion that we have been here before, that somehow we’ve lived another life.  Early in the 20th century there was a lot of money floating around in search of a cause, and Rose posits that a group of leading thinkers and visionaries set up a society for the investigation of paranormal possibilities, and in particular, reincarnation.

Fast forward to the present day.  FBI Special Agent Lucian Glass is the man to call when you’ve got a problem with missing art and cultural masterpieces, possible forgeries, or need a mysterious provenance sorted out.  Lucian carries a heavy guilt bundle with him due to the death of his young girlfriend 20 years ago—if he hadn’t been late getting to the picture framing shop where she worked with her father, Solange wouldn’t have had to face the robber alone, and she might never have been shot.  Rubbish, of course—the only one responsible for a villain’s acts is the villain himself, but try telling that to a psychic flagellant.

Lucian has bad headaches, and another problem: he has episodes of historical perception that might be flashbacks to a previous life or lives.  He’s undergoing some therapy with a psychologist, under an assumed name, but so far it has just led to more confusion.  He’s even more confused when he meets Emeline, a relative of Solange—but how close a relative?

Aside from his private life, Lucian is totally dedicated to his career.  His present project is trying to find the man who has acquired five great masterpieces of Impressionist art, and is threatening to destroy them all if he isn’t given an old statue of the god Hypnos in exchange.  To prove his point, he has sliced and diced a priceless Matisse and sent it to the museum in tatters.

The mad art collector isn’t the only one who wants the statue of Hypnos: the Iranians want it back, claiming it was looted from them illegally by one of the early sponsors of the museum, and the Greeks claim that the statue was stolen from them in the first place.  Dr. Malachi Samuels wants something he thinks is concealed in the statue, and will do almost anything to get his hands on it, including some unscrupulous behaviour that would probably have the AMA tossing him out on his ear, the Thin White Line notwithstanding.

Why do all these people want the beat-up old statue? Because legend has it that somehow it is connected with the Memory Tools, ancient artefacts that unlock the past.  Readers of Rose’s previous book will remember the flute and the music; this book focuses on another potential key to past ages.

The story moves fast, the many complex threads are drawn together neatly, dead bodies pile up at an alarming rate, and the interpersonal relationships from the past and present are satisfactorily linked up and explained.  For all of that, I was left feeling vaguely unsatisfied, as if something were missing.  Perhaps the feeling is due to expectations that there will be another in this series that will explain more?




Elegy for April by Benjamin Black  (pseud.)

Publisher: Picador

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Set in Dublin an unspecified mid-20th-century year, Elegy is part mystery, part time travelogue, and part psychological thriller, neatly sewn together with descriptive phrases that set the stage in your mind’s eye, whether you’ve ever been to Ireland or not:  … “the gloom of twilight was drifting into the fog and thickening it, like soot.”.  Black has a knack of quickly locating the reader in a scene; as in this description of an apartment that has been uninhabited for two months:  “Quirke’s flat had the sheepish and resentful air of an unruly classroom suddenly silenced by the unexpected return of the teacher.”  (You won’t be surprised to learn that Black is a nom de plume for a Booker Prize winner.)

Good writing alone isn’t enough to sustain a story, and Black’s plot provides a solid armature to hold up his words.  The premise is that a young doctor, April Latimer, has gone missing.  Her friends go to her flat and find what seems to be a bloodstain in the sink.  Her best friend Phoebe enlists the aid of her recovering alcoholic father, pathologist Dr Quirke.  Attempts to get April’s mother, brother and uncle involved in finding her meet with cold and stony refusal: April is the black ewe of the family and none of them want any trouble stirred up.  They are insistent that she’s probably just taken a holiday.

The plot darkens when forensic examination reveals that there’s blood on the floor of April’s bedroom, the sort of blood that indicates she must have had a miscarriage—or an abortion.  This leads to an investigation of her male friends, and suspicion lights on the obvious suspect, a black Nigerian doctor who is assumed guilty for no better reason than his skin colour, his foreignness, and his friendship with the missing girl.  He protests that April never permitted intimacy.

Phoebe and Quirke continue trying to identify April’s lover, and their persistence eventually results in a confrontation and a revelation of deep horror.  Repressed societies are the most likely to have secrets, and the Dublin of this period is no exception, but this secret is a bit strong even for the hardened pathologist Quirke. 

I make a point of ignoring the promotional material that arrives with books for review, so that I am not influenced by other people’s opinions of books—especially the publishers’ opinions.  Sometimes I read the material after I’ve done my review and sometimes I agree with it—but often I don’t.  Elegy for April is one of the rare books that deserves most of the superlatives that have been given it.


Elegy for April, as Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good

Mid-20th century Dublin remains a harsh place for the group of five young men and women who meet in the pub once a week to try to forget their cares.  Comprised of a jealously insecure reporter named Jimmy Minor; Isabel Galloway, an actress brittle when with her friends but altogether different in other situations; loyal friend Phoebe Griffin; Nigerian medical student Patrick Ojukwu; and the titular April Latimer, product of a wealthy family against whom she rebels with her independence.

Phoebe first notices April’s absence and worriedly tries to track her down with the help of her widowed uncle, pathologist and recovering alcoholic Dr. Quirke.  Since Phoebe only recently found out that her uncle was actually her biological father, Quirke and Phoebe are already uncomfortably navigating unknown emotional terrain and Quirke seems relieved at having a specific puzzle on which to concentrate.

Quirke, straddled between the group of confused young adults and the well-established peers who make their positions quite clear, follows Phoebe’s lead and reaches out for unofficial help from his friend, Police Inspector Hackett.  Hackett serves as a liaison between the amateur investigation and April’s estranged family, which has quickly tried to close itself off in the hopes of protecting careers and social status from any damaging fallout.

Because Black doesn’t believe in drenching the book with atmospheric details, readers can sometimes forget the 1950s setting until certain archaic beliefs casually infiltrate the conversations with the exception of the prominence of Quirke’s new car, a situation which offers its own amusement.  Throughout the quiet book, Black shows the tenuous ties between both blood and chosen family ties with carefully chosen conversations and a pace that takes its time without unnecessarily lagging.  Although set in Ireland, Elegy for April will most please readers interested in the mid-century era and a more understated European mystery rather than strict devotees of Irish atmosphere.

While ostensibly about the search for April, Elegy for April reveals that secrets are present in any family, most profoundly shown in the awkward attempts by father Quirke and daughter Phoebe to bridge their own while showcasing the similarities between them in their quest for the truth, no matter what it may cost them.



Intercept by Patrick Robinson

Publisher: Vanguard Press 

Reviewed by Daniel J. Donegan, New Mystery Reader 

In Guantanamo Bay, four vicious terrorist have been set free due to a lack of evidence.  Their American lawyers have been paid top dollar through al-Qaeda.  The world’s top intelligence agencies, notably the U.S.’s CIA and NSA and Israel’s Mossad are outraged.  They know these four men are cold blooded killers, and suspect they will attack the US or Israel the first chance they get. 

The problem the U.S agencies face is they cannot openly arrest them; after all, they’ve just been released by a U.S court.  Officially assassinating them is out of the question, not from someone on the U.S payroll anyway.  They cannot rely on a mercenary or gun for hire; they need a true Patriot they can trust. 

In comes Mack Bedford, an ex Navy Seal Commander.  He had been forced out of the Navy for shooting fourteen terrorist in Iraq that had killed members of his squad.  A warrior at heart, he is living quietly with his wife and child in Maine.  The CIA and NSA have found their perfect man for the mission, to assassinate these four terrorists discreetly and most importantly with deniability.  They offer Mack the one thing he really wants, a commission and promotion back in the Navy when the mission is complete.  

The terrorist arrive home with praise from al-Qaeda leadership.  The figurehead of al-Qaeda in that region is Shakir Khan, a wealthy Pakistani government official who in this instance was Osama Bin Laden’s banker.  He is the very man who arranged and financed their legal defense.  The four terrorist began planning what everyone has feared, a major attack on U.S soil that would triumph even the events of 9/11/2001.  The NSA, CIA, and Mossad work tirelessly together to figure out where these men have gone, and more importantly, where they are going.  It is not until a signal is Intercepted (hence the title) that the agencies have an idea on where the Four man terrorist team is going.

The hunt around the world takes the reader from the remote mountains of Pakistan, around al-Qaeda sympathetic towns in Europe, and eventually back to North America.  Robinson’s Intercept is definitely a page turner...most of the time.  The main character, Mack is likeable and respectable in his devotion to protecting the United States.  However there are several parts where the reader has to go through unnecessary side-story information that almost feels like a bit of filler.  It’s definitely a right-wing book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on the reader.  Even though Intercept had its few weak parts, it’s definitely a fun ride for its genre.  Readers who are fans of Vince Flynn’s novels would likely find this a book worth reading, I certainly did.    



The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron

Publisher: Minotaur Books 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Growing up wasn’t easy for Mike Bowditch; his father, never having recovered from the brutality of Viet Nam, and his mother never having forgiven his father for making his pain her own.  But despite all the pain of growing up in a dysfunctional family, Mike did take one thing with him that remains pure and good: the love for the untamed forests of Maine.  And now at a young 24, he has taken that love and the many lessons of the wilds taught by his father, sometimes sober, sometimes not, and is applying them to being the best Game Warden he can be back near where it all started.

But when one evening he returns home to find a desperate-sounding message from his estranged father that is cut-off before he knows why the call is made, Mike, against all of his personal odds with his father is quick to become concerned, especially when shortly after the call his father is named at the main suspect in a brutal double-homicide.  And so Mike sets out to find his father, now a fleeing felon, to prove his innocence despite the overwhelming evidence that says otherwise. 

While the book jacket’s description of this debut from Doiron  promises adventure, the more honest depiction of this novel is one of coming to terms with a father whose legend in a young boy’s mind falls short of the reality of who he really is.  This is definitely a heartfelt novel, and there is some adventure, but in the end, it’s the quest to answer the questions surrounding his father’s leaving that occupy the main character’s motivations.  A mostly heartbreaking tale of a boy, now a man, who wants love and loyalty from one who is less than capable of giving it, might resonate with some readers, but at the same time, might leave others begging him to move on.           





Crawl Space by Sarah Graves

Publisher: Bantam 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Fans of the series featuring Eastport Maine’s home repair guru and amateur sleuth Jake (Jacobia) Tiptree might find themselves a little bit surprised by this latest.  A bit different than her familiar type of mysteries, this one deviates a bit by offering up more of a swashbuckling type of adventure than a solve-by-number who-done-it. 

It all begins when a true crime writer and her assistant land in town, summoned by a mysterious email suggesting that a man thought dead is in fact alive and might also be responsible for the death of two elderly, wealthy sisters in town and has returned for his share of what they left behind.  And as Jake knows the assistant Chip from way back when he was a mentor for her troubled son, Jake is quick, albeit wary, to become involved when the writer he works for suddenly goes missing.  And when her son also goes missing, followed next by Chip, Jake and her housekeeper, now step-mother, head out to track them down despite the danger involved.

While there’s a lot going on here, there’s really not a whole lot of guessing why or who, as the mystery surrounding the sisters’ deaths and who is responsible for the bevy of missing persons is revealed early on.  But there is plenty of late-night boating and swimming and slugging through changing tides that keep things chilly and exciting.  And with more rescuers than victims, who then become victims themselves, this one will at least keep readers wanting to know who makes it out alive.        



The Limelight by Jim Sells

Publisher: Jim Sells

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Henry W. Gray is an old-school PI quietly tucked away in a small Atlanta office neighboring a credit repair business and a repo outfit but Grady manages an outsized charm despite the low-rent surroundings.  Known as just “Grady”, the former military man and ex-cop agrees to take a high paying job normally way out of his league and in spite of his misgivings.  Knowing full well that business moguls like Bary “Just one ‘R’” Houston would usually not darken a door as poorly adorned as his, Grady realizes Houston wants anonymity when his future star singer disappears just days before a big money-making event.

Captivated by Beth Ann’s apparent charisma in evident on an old videotape, Grady delves into the music business complete with easy drugs, overconfident bodyguards, and a tight time schedule.  Amusing detours include Grady’s unusual relationships with a Vietnamese acquaintance and with Emma, Grady’s Great Dane.  In fact, Emma’s welcome comfort and own considerable charms added to Grady’s no-nonsense style recall Robert B. Parker’s well known character Spenser and his ever-present Pearl. 

Sell’s alternates Grady’s straightforward assessment of the case’s progression with the deadly intentions of “the Shadow”, a mysterious force with his own interest in Beth Ann’s disappearance.  Grady’s self-awareness and knowing throwaway comments on things as regionally important as sweet tea with chewable sugar and local architecture gives Grady’s character a firm sense of place to go along with his likeability. Sells obviously feels comfortable with Grady’s voice and backstory, leaving the number of typos as the primary distraction from this testosterone-heavy PI investigation with insights into both delicacies such as true Southern sweet tea and a world in which threats appear from every direction.