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Innocent Murderer by Suzanne F. Kingsmill

Publisher:  Dundurn Press ISBN:  978-1-55488-426-1

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader  

Cordi O'Callaghan lets herself be conned by her assistant into taking part in a conference for writers aboard a ship headed for the Arctic. The people attending the conference all seem to be tied to the person running the conference giving the reader and Cordi plenty of suspects when there is a double murder on board.

Author Suzanne F. Kingsmill has crafted a tale in two parts, one on shipboard and the other after the attendees are allowed to return home.  There are interesting subplots involving the people around Cordi, including someone's attempt to kill her.

The background description takes you into the story and you'll experience the fog, stormy seas to come away with a sense of having visited the Arctic.  The people are well drawn and you will either like or dislike them, and you will remember them long after the book is read.

Recommended as a fun read for any fan of mystery or suspense.  The only problem this reviewer found in the story was the inability of Cordi to say "No". 

Nonetheless, this tale is well plotted and well written by talented author Suzanne F. Kingsmill and you will want to check out her other books.

 

 

Murder Has a Sweet Tooth by Miranda Bliss

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN:  978-0-4425-23160-9

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A fun read for the mystery fan who enjoy the chaos that attends the planning of a wedding.  You’ll find it easy to empathize with the main character Annie Capshaw who wants a simple wedding, while her best friend wants to turn it into the wedding of the year with some extravagantly wild ideas.

But such wedding concerns will seem small when a cousin of Annie’s fiancé is accused of an ugly murder, being that he was found with the body and a bloody knife in his hand, leaving Annie determined to find the identify of  the real killer, so at the very least, the accused will be able to attend the wedding.  After all, she considers him a good friend as well.

The investigation into the murder of a wayward wife who is considered perfect in every way takes Annie into the lives of the dead woman’s friends.  And with  the killer thinking she’s getting too close to the truth, Annie becomes that much closer to being victim number two.

I’m pleased to recommend this fun read to any mystery fan who likes interesting characters and red herrings tossed across the trail when trying to figure out who the killer is.  This story has some interesting twists that will keep you reading, and is a fun read all the way through.

 

 

 

Lullaby for the Nameless by Sandra Ruttan

Publisher: Leisure Books  ISBN-10: 0843962860

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Ruttan brings back her trio of investigators from the Canadian Constables series that I’m assuming picks up where she last left off.  Beginning in present time, Tain and Ash are working together in the Vancouver area while Nolen is on yet another temporary assignment, when the discovery of a couple of young women’s bodies in their districts brings them back to the untied ends of a case from over a year ago. 

The previous case, involving several missing women, some of which were later found dead in a small village in British Columbia’s interior, while solved on paper with the culprits’ capture, is one that still haunts the three investigators, as many loose ends and the mistakes they had made never sat well with them.  So with the discovery of new bodies that tie to that case, they’re forced to return to the time and place that first brought them together, questioning if they caught the wrong ones, or if a new killer is at work.

Not having read the first two in the series led to a lot of confusion on my part, as crucial background events that had happened previously were thrown in with barely sketched details with the assumption that readers were up-to-date on the series.  And while some things were explained satisfactorily, enough was left out to make this a mostly frustrating read, with even the ending still leaving out resolutions to not only this outing, but ones from previous outings.  Which is unfortunate because the parts I was able to follow, along with the well-written characters, made it obvious this is an author with talent. Writing novels in the series format can work well if all readers are familiar with what’s come before, or if the writer takes enough care to make each stand alone or at least sufficiently covers those aspects.  In this case, Ruttan misses that boat, which is a disservice to her otherwise decent ability at compelling story telling.

 

 

 

Dead and Kicking by Wendy Roberts

Publisher:  Obsidian Mystery ISBN:  978-0-451-22862-8

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Sadie Novak attends her father’s funeral and returns to his house to find him there.  But, of course, it is his spirit and she is the only one who can see him.  Since seeing spirits is part of her life, she knows they hang around if they have unfinished business.  Now she must figure out why her father is still here.

As if that grief wasn’t enough, she and her love Zack take on the job of clearing out his old girlfriend’s mother’s house only to encounter a very angry spirit whose aim with boxes is very good, leaving Zack with a broken ankle.  The double exposure to his ex-girlfriend is too much, especially when further complications to their romance turn up.

Confronting the angry spirit at the house brings in the police when a mummified body is found in one of the boxes he’s thrown.  Lots of other complications follow, and Sadie soon finds her own life in danger.

An exciting tale with lots of action and suspense that I’m pleased to recommend to any mystery fan. The fun characters move through backgrounds readers can easily envision in their minds, such as the over-cluttered house that will seem very familiar to those who are packrats themselves, leaving some eyeing that pile of boxes in the attic or basement and wondering just what is in them.

This tale is one that will have you looking for other books by this very talented author.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

 

The Paris Enigma by Pablo de Santis (Translator:  Mara Lethem)

Publisher:  Harper ISBN:  0-06-1479683

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Sigmundo Salvatrio, Argentinian assistant to Renato Craig, one of The Twelve, a group of world renowned detectives, travels to Paris in his mentor’s stead to deliver the famous cane, Craig’s trademark in his detective work.  The trip is to place the cane on display among other artifacts belonging to the other eleven members of The Twelve which is being done as part of the Paris’ World Fair during the time the Eiffel Tower was being constructed. 

Each of The Twelve is introduced, his assistant, and it turns out that Sigmundo is the only assistant present without his mentor.  When one of The Twelve is murdered, he is drawn to assist Arzaky, his mentor’s old friend and co-founder of The Twelve.

The reader need beware of jumping to conclusions as the story unfolds.  You must bear in mind that you deal with 23 people involved in detecting and they are each, detective and his assistant, working in pairs to solve the case and, at the same time, try to figure out which clues are right and who has the motive and how the detectives will find him or her to identify the killer.

There is variety in the way the detectives work as told by talented author Pablo De Santis.  The flavoring of the city of Paris comes through the background and its characters who seem to live and breathe.

I’m pleased to recommend this book to any mystery fan who enjoys a complicated tale with lots going on in the foreground and the background at the same time.  The different personalities of the characters brings them to life and you’ll want to shake their hands and introduce yourself as a thirteenth detective. 

So grab up your magnifying glass and join the discussions and the hunt for a killer before he can strike again.

Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

 

Born to Run by James Grippando

Publisher: Harper  ISBN-10: 0061556157

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In the 8th outing featuring Miami defense attorney Jack Swyteck, Grippando comes back with a roar.  This time out, Jack’s father is in the running for the next vice president of the US when the current one dies of a mysterious heart attack.  And when a disgraced White House reporter is next to die after hinting about a big story that could blow the White House to pieces, Jack can’t help but get involved when he begins receiving emails that the sender knows of the big story that can fall the president, making Jack’s father the heir to the throne.  But it all comes for a price, one that might just cause Jack and those involved to lose their lives.

Grippando, one of the most successful legal thriller writers today, puts his focus on heavy hitting politics this time around in a fast-paced story that will keep you reading late into the night.  With a cast of characters who all seem to be hiding something, and a plot whose resolution is simply brilliant, Grippando’s Jack Swyteck successfully enters the corridors of high-powered politics with the same ease as he enters the courtroom.   This one is well worth the read with enough personal drama thrown in so that if politics isn’t your point of interest, there’s still plenty more that will be.

 

 

 

The Rook by Steven James

Publisher: Onyx  ISBN  0451412818

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Patrick Bowers is out for what was supposed to be a nice family meal with his step-daughter Tessa, when he witnesses the apparent suicide of a homeless man.  The man throws himself in front of a tram, and not long afterwards there’s a fire in the same area and Patrick is called back to the scene.  He’s a special agent for the FBI, the man you call when you have serious serial crimes.  Some days he thinks that’s probably easier than his other job, that of apprentice stepfather to a teenager.  He was just starting to realise how complex a relationship he had entered when his wife died, leaving him floundering in his attempts to be a parent.

Tessa has a certain grudging admiration for Patrick’s job, but she’s also determined to be independent, a desire which gets her into a very dangerous situation that parallels what’s happening to many other young women in the city.

It isn’t long before Patrick realises that his arsonist has a definite connection to not only the homeless suicide, but also the drowned young women that are being found all over the place.  And all three events connect up to a secret device that the Government doesn’t want anyone to know about, a device with far-reaching implications, something that could make nuclear warfare as obsolete as knights in armour. 

James has invented a villain of unsurpassed evil, a man you’d think you could never feel so much as a twinge of sympathy for until you learn what it is that sets him apart from the rest of humankind.  One wouldn’t go so far as to say “To understand all is to forgive all”, but understanding what drives Mellice does give you an insight into why he’d pay such a high and horrible price to get his heart’s desire.  The real villain, the one pulling the strings, evokes no such sympathy in the reader.

This is the second in the Patrick Bowers series, named, as was the previous book, for a chess piece.  The plot is very like a chess game, with pieces being sacrificed, unexpected moves being made, queens in peril, and some very intricate planning going on unseen in the minds of the players.

 

 

 

Exposé by Hannah Dennison

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN 978 0 425 23158 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Vicky Hill is back; still covering the obituary beat for the Gipping-on-Plym Gazette, but also now reporting on the exciting events of snail racing season.  (Gipping-on-Plym is the home of odd sports, including hedge jumping, as readers may recall from previous Vicky Hill outings.)

The new story opens with a clandestine funeral at an out-of-the-way church.  Scarlett Fleming, the lady of the manor and local VIP, has died suddenly, or so her husband says as he heads Vicky off at the lych-gate.  All her life Scarlet lived up to her name: why now is she being buried in such a furtive manner?  Vicky wonders, but isn’t able to get much information out of the supposedly grieving widower. 

Half the middle-aged spinsters in town are all but drowning in their own saliva upon hearing that Douglas Fleming is again single.  Eunice, Douglas’s childhood girlfriend, is determined to snag him, but before she can clinch the deal, Olive Larch, a mousy little heiress, elopes with Douglas, or so the town gossips believe. 

Vicky’s nemesis at the Gazette, the catty Annabel Lake, suddenly wants to be buddies with her.  Vicky is a bit suspicious, but being a kind-hearted girl, gives Annabel a chance, although keeping an eye out for any sudden moves towards sharp objects.  Annabel has been known to hijack Vicky’s exclusives in the past.  There’s also something fishy going on with her designer handbag knock-off business.

Vicky is convinced there’s something strange going on at Headcellars, the Flemings’ manor house, and she takes advantage of Douglas’s elopement to sneak in and investigate.  What she discovers makes her wish she’d stuck to covering the heats at the snail races—for sure it would have been safer than coming face to face with a murderer.

As well as the sports news, the obits and the investigating, Vicky has to juggle the three men in her life: hedge-jumper Dave; policeman Steve, and handsome sailor Robin.  None of them have yet made the running with the virginal Vicky, but perhaps one of these days she’ll decide to succumb.

This is a light-fast read that won’t tax your brain and should give you a few chuckles along the way.

 

 

 

 

Running With The Dead by Jay Brandon

Publisher: Forge Books ISBN: 0765347881

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

San Antonia District Attorney Chris Sinclair is enjoying the last days of summer running his large office of prosecutors, spending time with his girlfriend Annie, and melancholically sending his daughter Clarissa off to college, when suddenly two old cases come back to haunt him in a very real way.

Four years ago, Chris was a defense lawyer and had happily won an acquittal for his good friend Henry Claremont, a high teacher accused of sexually abusing one of his students.  But shortly after the acquittal, Henry was brutally beaten to death by an unknown assailant, unknown until now that is.  Hike Grimason, the high school coach at the time and now a superintendent of schools with his eye on a bigger piece of the political pie, has just been arrested for Henry's murder.  At the time of his murder Henry had been trying to prove that Hike had been taking bribes from parents and siphoning off athletic funds, and so with only this motive to rely on, virtually no evidence, and plenty of other suspects, it's going to be a heck of a case to prove.

The other case is that of Malachi Reese, a man on death row that Chris had successfully prosecuted a few years back, and one who is taking another last shot at an appeal; this time by claiming that he wasn't the one who was guilty of the murders he was charged with, alleging it was instead a man who bears an eerie resemblance to him.  And now this doppelganger that Reese claims to be the killer is stalking Chris and his daughter, and as events become ever more threatening to the two of them, Chris will have to find a way to prove that Reese is actually the one behind this looming danger that seems impossible to escape.

In this slightly uneven tale of one too many cases, Brandon still manages to put forth an exciting and entertaining read.  Unfortunately, it probably would have been a much better one with the focus on only one or the other, as it seemed too many threads were dropped at inopportune times and left dangling for much too long.  However, Chris is a likable enough guy, and the added tension from his problems with his girlfriend and his possible new romance add some delicious extra sparks to this still suspenseful read.  And with a nice cliffhanger of an ending, there's a mild anticipation left for Chris's next adventure. 

 

 

 

Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein

Publisher: Anchor ISBN-030738778X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When NY ADA Alex Cooper is called to the scene of a basement Manhattan apartment where a woman has been attacked, things go from just another crime to so much more when the mysterious woman disappears from the crime scene and only hours later a dead woman is found in the same apartment.  Searching for the connection to these attacks won’t be easy though for Cooper and her detective sidekicks, especially when the trail leads to some of the most prominent philanthropists in New York who all seem to have ties to a rumored treasure of an old map that may or may not exist.  And so as always, dealing with the rich, and dysfunctional, will once again put these investigators in the hot seat as they search for the truth that lies buried deep underneath.

Fairstein, in this latest in her Cooper series, strays from the more modern mystery plot involving corpses and gore to a mystery that is reminiscent of days gone by, by involving quests for hidden treasures and the villains who seek them.  But while this joyful tribute to books and maps may interest many, especially bibliophiles who are fascinated by the ins and outs regarding the collection of such, some might find the many details a bit much after awhile.  And so with the majority of the book focusing more on the minutiae of collecting and libraries, admittedly, including many fascinating details regarding one of the greatest libraries of all, the New York Library, those who love their dead bodies might be less then thrilled.  But, it must be said, Fairstein does an excellent job at reminding readers of the greatness and glory and pure joy that are libraries, along with a gentle warning at just how easily they could slip away in our modern times.

 

 

 

A Matter of Justice by Charles Todd

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks  ISBN: 978-0-06-1233609

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Set in England in 1920, there are plenty of evil deeds and misery to go around in A Matter of Justice.  Even Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, brought in to solve the murder at the heart of the story, remains haunted by the young Scot he killed in battle a year before.  While hearing Hamish’s voice, Rutledge must decipher the secrets kept by the local squire, baker, bookseller and even the church’s struggling organist during a time when police were barely politely tolerated.  In the small village of Cambury, the experiences suffered during World War I and the earlier South African Boer War scar the lives of veterans and their families, which results in murder well after the official battles ended. 

Rutledge travels to rural Cambury at the request of local Police Inspector Padgett, who proves to have secrets of his own as they investigate the death of London attorney and Cambury squire Harold Quarles.  Undignified and trussed up in a barn, Quarles’ body leaves plenty of questions as to why he was killed and handled in such a rough fashion.  During his investigation, Rutledge must uncover not only the realities of the present but also the sins of Quarles from the distant past while overcoming the obstacles set by Padgett and the other townspeople.  Quarles, perfectly respected in London, is detested for his boorish ways in his small town and truly hated by the few who know his biggest sin. 

Readers know from the beginning who is guilty but that doesn’t detract from the results at the end.   It’s interesting to see how events transpired to finally come to a head and to realize how very easily someone else might have felt strongly enough to murder Quarles before.  As one character notes, someone did Cambury a favor by killing the town’s “ogre”. 

Social conventions, spare language, and both seen and unseen scars restrict the story’s characters and leads to almost comic misunderstandings in the most serious of circumstances.  Rutledge wades through many suspects, each with ample justification to commit murder.  Interestingly, almost every character with motive is persuaded not to act because of fear of hanging. 

The book features a fitting symmetry and doles out justice where possible.  This mystery is about cycles, and considering the relevance of war to the story, this is an apt device.  Ironically, Todd includes a glaring error about an armed rebellion by dating the Easter Rising of 1916 one year later.  Still, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise engrossing depiction of murder in an unvarnished English village.

 

 

 

 

Exit Music by Ian Rankin

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company  ISBN-10: 0316018872

Reviewed by JL Roberts, New Mystery Reader
 
DI John Rebus is one week from retirement.  What begins as the murder of a Russian poet becomes much more complex.  Does it involve the Russians meeting with Edinburgh real estate agents and bankers?  How does it link with a second murder?  What is the connection to Rebus’ nemeses Ger Cafferty?

When Rebus gets suspended, it’s up to DS Siobhan Clark to work on the inside while Rebus keeps investigating from the outside.

I put off reading this book because I was concerned as to how Rankin would close out Rebus’ career.  I need not have worried. 

This is quintessential Rebus who has given up almost everything in his life for his job.  The case seemed to start off as a simple killing, but layers build upon layers and twists upon turns.  Rankin has done such a fine job creating Rebus, he is very real.  I don’t always like him, but you know that is intentional. 

Rankin hasn’t glamorized Edinburgh, as many authors do, but presents it as a city of people and problems as is any city, and he makes that city alive to us.  For me, the ending was perfect and just the right touch.  I’m anxious to see what Rankin does next, but I do sincerely hope Rebus reappears from time-to-time.  Bravo, Mr. Rankin.

 

 

 

A Face At the Window by Sarah Graves

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 0553591126

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It’s late August in the idyllic coastal town of Eastport, Maine, and so far things are pretty quiet when Jake (Jacobia) Tiptree is left by friends and family for various reasons giving  her some time to spend alone with only her best friend’s toddler daughter to keep her company.  But, as usual, the quiet doesn’t last for long. 

Jake’s peaceful time comes to an end when she becomes aware that her mother’s killer is finally going to trial for the murder; and even though it’s decades later, Jake is more than happy to send in her statement of what little she recalls from that day as a mere toddler.  And so when the young child in her charge is kidnapped, along with the young teen who was babysitting her for the day, Jake has no doubt who is responsible.  Unfortunately, nobody believes her, so it’ll be up to her to track down the culprits in order to save the innocent victims of her deadliest enemy.

Once again, Graves  latest proved to be more satisfying than expected.  Along with the usual home-repair tips, Graves also offers up a highly-charged, rocking suspense adventure that’s just about impossible to put down.  Additionally, she once again manages to fully flesh out her secondary characters to the point where they’re not just characters, but realistic villains and heroes of the first degree.  If you’re not a fan of the series, this is the perfect time to become one, as this latest provides all that’s been missing and more.

 

 

 

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Publisher: Picador  ISBN: 0312429258

Reviewer: Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Confident and precise, Maisie Dobbs runs her own investigative agency using her psychological training and substantial professional connections.  Set in London in December 1931, an economic depression and general malaise permeate the air, made worse by the visible mental and physical wounds suffered by thousands from the Great War. 

This malaise is briefly and disturbingly shifted when an unknown man publicly kills himself in an explosion that returns many bystanders to their own memories of the war and its deafening sounds and acrid smells.  Rather than being the end of a mystery, this act prompts the attention of Scotland Yard to scrutinize unusual gas poisonings of animals and escalating violence.  Because of Maisie’s unexpected connection to the evidence and her sturdy reputation, she helps Scotland Yard investigate the identity of the suicide and attempt to prevent a much larger catastrophe from occurring.

Maisie’s voice is sensible without being prim and she appears utterly resourceful.  Her character has the complexity of one who has nursed shattered soldiers and continues to function in male-dominated careers while dealing with her own losses of security and loved ones.  Maisie’s attention to detail allows her to navigate through many bureaucracies in order to find out small bits of information and she diligently builds her networks rather than blindly wrecking them as do the heroes of hard-boiled detective stories set in the same tough time period. 

Although mildly jarring when Maisie explains techniques to the senior inspectors, Among the Mad flows well and peers into the lives of the soldiers and nurses in the few years between the devastating World War I and World War II, the latter of which is a horror not yet dreamed.

 

 

 

Whisper to the Blood by Dana Stabenow

Publisher:  Minotaur Books   ISBN-10: 0312944071

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Stabenow, in her latest novel, thankfully returns to the series she does so well featuring PI Kate Shugak and the atmospheric environs of Alaska. 

Shugak, a part-time consultant with Alaskan law enforcement and full-time keeper of the peace in the isolated area of one of Alaska’s largest national parks, has her hands full when she’s voted to head up her tribe’s association. A job that comes with more than one headache, especially when it’s discovered that there’s some gold in them hills and corporate America wants it.  And they begin their campaign by sending out a very beautiful talking head who knows just how to woo the local villagers into letting them mine it.  But of course there’s a price to pay for the jobs that will result from the mine - a price that many aren’t willing to pay. 

And if that’s not enough, there’s been some random attacks on villagers coming back from the city after shopping for supplies, leaving the victims beaten and robbed. But when the attacks come to a sudden stop during Kate’s investigation, and she’s further stalled by a smug silence from the victims, Kate and the local trooper (also her lover) realize that maybe it’s not luck, but vigilantism that has ended the streak of crime. 

And then of course, there’s life otherwise, including love and raising a male teen-aged adopted son, that keeps Shugak wondering just how much she can take, and how far she will go to protect what she has.

Anyone who loves the mystic of Alaska will exalt in this latest from Stabenow.  She provides more than enough ambiance and atmosphere to enthuse even the most discriminate arm-chair wonderer.  But one warning, for those who are not familiar with the series, there might be a bit of confusion catching on to the continuation of events from the previous title.  There’s a lot going on in this one, with not just one plot, but instead many different events with their own questions and resolutions, and that’s really okay, as Stabenow makes it all more than worth it with her great cast of characters and her top notch setting.