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Liars Anonymous by Louise Ure

Publisher: St. Martins Griffin  ISBN-10: 0312614934

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

For Jessie Dancing, working at a call center in Phoenix that handles live emergency calls from customers in trouble on the road has been a steady paycheck since her move from Tucson after being acquitted of murder 3 years ago.   But that all changes late one night when during her shift she receives a frantic call from a subscriber who sounds like he’s being murdered on the spot.  And when the caller is disconnected, Jessie can’t help but begin her own investigation into what might have happened during and after that fateful cry for help. 

When her investigation leads her back to her hometown of Tucson, and a past she’d hoped would be long forgotten, she’s alarmed to find disturbing connections between then and now, and even more troubling, a disquieting truth that could change everything she once believed in, and everything she might have hoped for the future. 

Admittedly, the above description leaves much to be desired for those who really want to know what this novel is about.  However, revealing anything more would be giving away much of what makes this novel so unique and so completely unexpected, which is also what makes this an entirely refreshing yet unsettling read.  Ure puts the truth out there, knowing it just might hurt more than it helps, and she shows no mercy for the unsuspecting reader who is hoping for a tidy resolution wrapped in champagne and flowers.  Expect the unexpected with this one, with the assurance it’s worth it in the end.

 

 

 

The Killing Room by Peter May

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press  ISBN: 1590585682

Reviewed by Kathryn Lawson, New Mystery Reader

A groundbreaking celebration of a joint business venture between China and the United States turns into a public relations fiasco when an American businessman tumbles into a mass grave of dismembered bodies.  Beijing detective Li Yan is called to Shanghai to investigate and finds himself confronted by corruption, infidelities, and political intrigue.  When Li turns to American pathologist Margaret Campbell, his lover, for assistance with the case, the fault lines in their relationship are deepened.  They struggle to preserve their love while they rush to solve the case before more lives are lost.  Complicating these efforts is Li’s counterpart in Shanghai, Mei-Ling, who is interested in more than professional collaboration and makes no secret of her antipathy for Margaret.

Peter May offers readers a vivid depiction of modern China, drawing sharp distinctions between Shanghai and Beijing.  Against this atmospheric backdrop, May creates a fast-paced crime story that transitions smoothly between the police investigation and the characters’ personal lives. The struggles in Li’s relationship with Margaret, in particular, are described with aching authenticity.  A highly enjoyable read that should not be missed.

 

 

Lords of Corruption by Kyle Mills

Publisher: Vanguard Press  ISBN 978 159315 5670

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Why doesn’t the good-looking high-achieving Josh Hagarty succeed in getting a good job offer in the pre-graduation interviews? Partly it’s because of an early minor criminal record, and partly it’s because the NewAfrica charity has been white-anting him to prevent anyone else hiring him.  Josh doesn’t know this, of course, and goes off to an African nation that bears a striking resemblance to Uganda to run an agricultural program.

What Josh soon finds out is that the project is planned to fail and the charity is just a smokescreeen for a wicked plot to enrich some shady characters, including the Idi Amin-like president Mtiti.

Where there’s greed, there’s danger, and Josh soon finds himself on the run through hostile territory with a female aid worker for company and just about every soldier in the army on his trail, not to mention a couple of seriously  unhappy executives of NewAfrica.  Things get more complicated and more dangerous when the baddies try to kidnap his sister in order to put pressure on him to return the hard evidence of their corruption.

In the tradition of many adventurers before him, Josh makes common cause with the disenfranchised minority people who would be glad to be rid of Mtiti, but this results in more harm to the innocent.   Can Josh and Annika stay free long enough for Flannary, the journalist, to break the story in New York?   Good question.

Despite being a work of fiction, this book has some factual basis, as anyone who has ever worked in the developing world will spot quickly.  It’s a nail biter that should keep you reading well past bedtime—and perhaps more thoroughly considering the sort of aid projects to which you donate.

 

 

 

Nightwalker by Heather Graham

Publisher: Mira Books, ISBN 978 0 7783 27582

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

It was bad enough when a large man fell and died on Jessy Sparhawk just as she was betting her last dollar at the craps table, but when  the same man’s ghost starts stalking her she knows she needs help.

Enter Dillon Wolf, a private investigator and nightwalker, one who can see and talk with ghosts.  There’s an instant spark between Jessy and the big man, and it’s not just their shared part-native American ancestry.

Dillon is contracted to a local businessman who is convinced someone’s out to get him.  The dead man, Tanner Green  was a bodyguard to the same man.  Dillon and Jessy  set out to discover what  Green is trying to do, but being newly dead, he doesn’t know the ropes and it takes a while to establish any real communication.  Dillon and Jessy are helped by Ringo, a ghost who’s been hanging around for 100 years seeking the resolution of his own sudden and violent death.

This is a quick and engaging read, with history, romance, murder and mystery in equal parts, making a good mix with which to pass a dull afternoon.

 

 

 

Lay Down My Sword and Shield By James Lee Burke

Publisher: Gallery  ISBN-10: 1439165459 (Re-release)

Reviewed by Carol Reid. New Mystery Reader

This early (1971) novel by Grand Master James Lee Burke marks the first appearance of Hackberry Holland, hero of Burke’s recent bestseller, Rain Gods.

Hack is a habitual drunk, a sharp, but erratic, lawyer and a reluctant congressional candidate, lingering in a sham marriage with the ambitious Verisa and a shaky practice with his long-suffering brother, Bailey. Hack is drowning in his own tormented conscience, a dark night of the soul stemming from his internment in a horrific Korean POW camp. A communication from an old buddy from the service brings about Hack’s involvement in the rising Farm Workers’ Union movement and sets forces into play which will ultimately redeem or destroy him.

Many of Burke’s literary chops are evident in this early work—the rhythmic and richly detailed prose style, the exploration of tortured minds and relationships, the deft evocation of a deeply flawed but enthralling Southern culture.

Some of the dialogue is inane and dated enough to be distracting, especially in the first exchanges between Hack and civil rights worker Rie Velasquez with whom he falls deeply in love. (Within the space of a page she tells him, “You’re out of sight”, and “Wow, you really let it hang out.”)

However, the long chapter in which Hack speaks for the first time about his experiences in the Korean camp is an exciting precursor of the master Burke would become, and a literary experience for his legion of fans.

“We were of every background and mental complexion; the helpless who already had the smell of their dying in their clothes; the strong ones, the gladiators, with iron in their bodies, who knew they could live through anything and boiled their fish heads into broth for the sick; the brave and the terrified, the cowards and the Shylocks, the hoarders, the dealers, the religious, and those whose self-sacrifice made them glow, in the hush of their deaths, with the aura of early martyrs.”

Lay Down My Sword And Shield is a multi-layered, compelling story of corruption and suspense, by one of the most consistently superior novelists working today. Recommended.

 

 

 

Above the Law by Tim Green

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN 978 0 446 4015107

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

We all admire people who sacrifice a life of ease for one of poverty and public service, but not many of us would actually do it.  Casey Jordan did: she gave up a blue-ribbon law practice in a posh office to scrape a living trying to give hope and help to the forgotten women who are beneath society’s awareness.

Operating out of an abandoned gas station with bad plumbing, Casey and three like-minded companions do their best to get justice for Mexican women with problems, everything from domestic violence to Green Card trouble.  When Elijandro Torres’s widow comes to her with a story of miscarried justice, Casey initially doesn’t want to take the case, but Isadora is so persuasive, and her baby is so cute that Casey gives in.

It isn’t long before the publically accepted story of Elijandro’s death in an accidental shooting starts to look a bit thin to Casey.  The high-profile senator who pulled the trigger is apparently untouchable, and the unsupported story about Elijandro’s involvement with drugs leads to Isadora’s summary deportation along with her baby, who’s an American citizen.  The story would have ended there, except for Casey: once she gets her teeth into a problem she’s like a rat terrier.  With the aid of private eye José O’Brien, Casey soon uncovers a lot of dirty secrets that a rich and powerful man would prefer stayed hidden, and this leads across the UU/Mexico border into deep, dark trouble.

There’s a full cast of bad guys in this story, and your credulity will be stretched a bit as you wonder how someone like Casey could possibly survive a determined effort by people that well-connected and powerful if they really wanted her out of the way.  Put it down to her being pure of heart—and having a tough guy partner—and just go along with this fast-moving story.  Tim Green is rapidly  moving up the ranks of ‘writers I’d take on a long plane trip’, and he makes Casey and her band of sisters in the law a very likeable and believable bunch.

 

 

 

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin  ISBN-10: 0312380739

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Philadelphia reporter Ellie Gleeson is quite content with her life as a single mother of her adopted 3 year old son Will -- even after considering the layoffs going on at the newspaper, her unrequited lust for her boss, and a back-stabbing co-worker.  But her contentment is quickly shattered when while going through her daily mail one winter morning, she comes across a missing child postcard displaying the image of a toddler that bares an eerie resemblance to her own son.  And unable to put her questions and doubts aside, she begins a search for the truth behind the boy in the picture and his connection to the little boy who now lives in her heart and her home.  A search that just might separate them forever or, even worse, get them killed.

In her latest, Scottoline not only uses a heart-felt approach in bringing up the type of confounding dilemma that no adopting parent would ever want to confront, but she does it with such grace and understanding that she also manages to effortlessly draw the reader so completely into this intensely vivid drama that they too feel the emotional investment throughout.  By combining her powerful case for the ties that can exist regardless of bloodlines, Scottoline compounds this suspenseful read with an intensity of emotion that could most likely survive without the compelling mystery that surrounds the basic puzzle.  A unique and forceful read, this is one of her best.

 

 

 

Sleeping With the Anemone by Kate Collins

Publisher: Signet  ISBN-10: 0451228901

Reviewed by Bonnie Bergsma, New Mystery Reader

In Kate Collins ninth “flower shop mystery,” our main character Abby can once again be found keeping up with business as usual with her flower shop “Bloomers.” However, what seems to be a picturesque life driving around town in her beloved yellow vette, having the perfect boyfriend, and having an appearance that is quite striking, is all about to change beginning with what seems to be one simple petition. 

The petition in question is one attempting to shut down the proposed Uniworld dairy farm before it can even open, as Abby and others have come to learn that they use unethical hormones and unfit living conditions for cows in order to produce mass quantities of milk.

The plot further thickens when amongst one of the orders of flowers an odd brooch is found. Abby’s mother takes interest in the piece and starts duplicating it and tries to sell them at Abby’s shop. However, what Abby’s mother doesn’t realize is that they are all being stolen. Is there a link with the brooch and Abby’s attempts to keep Uniworld from opening its plant, or is it sheer coincidence?

Even with the constant protection Abby is getting from Marco, she never is really safe and neither are her friends and family. Abby’s flower shop gets trashed, a flaming brick is thrown through her store front window, and her niece and cousin both get kidnapped because of mistaken identity. All this is going on while Abby tries to run her business, drum up signatures for her petition, question her upcoming marriage, and does some of her own snooping around for answers. 

This book does not fall short on raw fast paced action, lip biting moments where no one can say for sure what will happen next. The red herrings throughout this story are worth the read alone as they pull you in further in to find out what’s really going on.  And Abby Knight and her beau Marco are memorable characters that force you to keep reading as well, and you just might find yourself falling in love with both of them. 

Collins’ new title hits the ground running and I enjoyed it immensely.

 

 

 

All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson

Publisher: Harper  ISBN-10: 0061362948

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Ever have someone ask you to recommend a mystery? First thing you probably ask is, “What do you like?” And they say, “You know, a mystery. Something with a good story I won’t be able to figure out too easily, but won’t confuse me. Not too much bad language, sex, or violence. Some love interest is nice, so long as it’s not stupid and doesn’t slow things down. You know, like that.”

You could slap this person and get away with it. (A good slapping is probably needed here.) Or you could recommend Peter Robinson’s newest Inspector Banks mystery, All the Colors of Darkness. No one will fault you; you might even make a friend.

Schoolchildren playing in a popular wooded spot find Mark Hardcastle hanging from a tree. Foul play doesn’t appear to be involved, though he has enough blood on him to imply he’s been around some recently. When his lover Laurence Silbert is found beaten to death with a cricket bat, two scenarios present themselves: Hardcastle killed Silbert and hanged himself out of remorse; or Hardcastle found the body and did a Dutch act out of grief.

DI Annie Cabbot gets the call while Banks is on vacation with his new flame, but is quickly requested to call him back, even though it’s officially an open and shut murder-suicide. This position gains credibility when Hardcastle’s history of anger management issues is revealed, and potential infidelity on Silbert’s part is discovered. It’s not helped a bit when Silbert is learned to be a retired member of MI6.

Did Silbert’s past as a spook come back to haunt him? How did Hardcastle come into possession of photographs that show Silbert with another man? Why does the police hierarchy want the case closed so quickly, and why does Banks get so much pressure from so many sources?

Robinson has all these elements and more at his disposal, and knows how to use them. He keeps the reader on a tether, making solutions more or less plausible as new evidence accumulates. He doesn’t mind that some of Banks’s theories don’t hold a lot of water; Cabbot is quick to mention it. This forces Banks to refine the theory, as well as making the reader aware Robinson knows this one is a stretch. Unless…

All the Colors of Darkness is a solid mainstream mystery. Those who like more grit in their crime fiction, or more stylistic risk-taking, may find parts a little slow, and the book could be somewhat shorter. So it goes; no writer ever pleases everyone. Robinson has been doing this for over twenty years, and understands his audience. His fans will not be disappointed by Banks’s newest case, nor, most likely, will the friend you recommended it to.

 

 

 

Live to Tell by Wendy Corsi Staub

Publisher: Avon  ISBN-10: 0061895067

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Lauren Walsh’s soon-to-be ex husband retrieves what he assumes to be his daughter’s favorite stuffed animal from Grand Central Station’s lost and found, nobody in this broken family is prepared for the dangerous events that follow. 

Hidden in the mistakenly retrieved toy is a file that can bring down a rich and powerful man, and the secrets it reveals are not only career killing secrets, but ones that can destroy his family and his reputation as a morally upstanding citizen, leading to a path of destruction and death for anyone who comes in contact with the file.  All of which puts this Lauren’s family in jeopardy as those that seek the file become more desperate to find it, wiping out anyone on their path.

Corsi Staub has long been a personal favorite of mine; her mastery at domestic suspense almost unrivaled.  And now that she’s settled in with a new publisher, thankfully it seems that she intends to continue writing what she’s so good at without pause.  Blending nonstop thrills with closer-to-home family dramas such as divorce, raising teenagers, and the fallout for a family broken by betrayal, she brings readers a novel that is both exciting and heartfelt.  

As this seems like the first in a series, get in now, as what’s to follow will surely be just as good.

 

 

 

The Proof Is In The Pudding by Melinda Wells

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime ISBN:  978-0-425-23311-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Della Carmichael, the star of a local TV network cooking show, is placed on a judge’s panel for a cook-off where the cooking is done by celebrities.  All she has to do is judge the best dish.

Well, that should have been all, but one of the contestants is murdered on the floor while the contest is going on and suspicion falls on the policeman father of a girl the victim had seduced. The father is a good friend and the girl means even more to Della, so she puts her thinking cap on over her chef’s hat and begins her own investigation.

Murder, politics, and the victim’s past all make for an exciting tale set against a cooking background - the combination of which will keep any mystery fan happily reading for hours. In this satisfying read, talented author Melinda Wells has crafted a tale that will make you want to read other books by her.

 

 

 

Avenging Angels by Mary Stanton

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 042523309X

Reviewed by Bonnie Bergsma, New Mystery Reader

Mary Stanton has definitely caught my attention as an author, and I am really interested in reading the two previous novels in the “Beaufort & company mysteries.” I usually dislike starting in the middle of a series; however,  I found it an easy pick up and read.

Mary Stanton has done an excellent job of opening up our minds to “legal rights for the dead.” What if you were able to speak to the dead and could help bring there murderer to justice. In the case of our main character Brianna Winston-Beaufort that is exactly what she tries to do.

After finishing law school Brianna inherits her great uncle’s law firm, but it being a haunted one makes it a little more complicated, especially when the staff are all celestial beings. And when Brianna and her sister Bree hit an auction looking for a few items for Bree’s sister’s theatre group, what Brianna finds only adds to the out of the world experiences going on. She spots an antique desk previously owned by the late Russell O’Rourke, a high profile ex-banker from Savannah. Brianna touches the desk and seems to open the lines of communication with the dead. Someone speaks to her saying “I want to go home, let me out.”

Brianna takes the case of what really happened to Russell O’Rourke, because according to several sources Russell shot himself, but his widow doesn’t seem to think so.

All is not what it seems in the land of the living and the dead. What if it’s not really Russell’s spirit speaking to Brianna and by a strange twist of fate Brianna will help another soul move on to the light? What if, as Mary Stanton words it, “There is a love so selfish, it doesn’t care,” as when you grieve the loss of a loved one so much that their soul is stuck in limbo until you let them go.

This book it had all the right elements. It gives you good insight to the main character Brianna, a nicely woven plot that leaves you guessing, and then comes together with a clean finish. In the book the tapestry of characters are a little reminiscent of those in the game “Clue” which I found to be enjoyable. I loved the supernatural elements throughout and found it added a richness that some mysteries tend to fall short on.

There are a few questions to be answered during this read. Why did Russell O’Rourke supposedly shoot himself? Was it Russell’s spirit that spoke to Brianna that day at the auction? Also nearing the end of the book there is something about Brianna herself that left me asking the question “what if?” See if you notice anything otherworldly.

This was a fun read and I look forward to the next novels to come from Mary Stanton.

 

 

 

The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris

Publisher:  Plume  ISBN:  0452295963

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

From the pen of talented author Paul Harris comes The Secret Keeper, a tale set in Sierra Leone that tells of the political instability as the government of that nation fights for survival. The past returns to haunt Danny Kellerman when he receives a note from an old girl friend that is a cry for help.

It has been four years since Danny last saw that war torn nation or the American woman he loved and who now asks for his help. He answers the call only to find he is too late.  Then he wants to know the truth behind her death.

The newly stabilized land is much changed as he finds in the people’s accommodation of former enemies who share power with their leaders. Gone is the old feeling of trust and sureness of who was a friend. 

Danny’s search for the truth leads him into the hands of enemies who are disguised as friends and he learns things about the woman he loved that he would rather not know.  Nothing is as simple as it seems.

Recommended as a read that will satisfy the fans of political intrigue in settings with a different atmosphere.  A well told tale that speaks to us of the reality of corruption and fear in a land that hasn’t come to terms with any real peace.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Shot To Death by Stephen D Rogers

Publisher: Mainly Murder Press  ISBN  978 0 9825899 0 8

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is the perfect bedside book if you like a shot of mayhem before bed.  Thirty-one little gems, some more polished than others, await you in this collection.

There are slick operators and gorgeous gals; bent coppers and wicked waitresses; an aged crime boss who hasn’t lost his touch, and criminals so dumb that a corned beef sandwich could out-think them. 

If you like a story of revenge, try “Custody Battle at Red Creek”, where the narrator is a bit off the mark with his first attempt, but zeroes in for a bullseye on the last page.  Is sugar in the gas tank a fair offset for four slashed tires? No? Then wait until you see how the unnamed protagonist gets back at dirty Dan Discher.

Interested in a really novel way to smuggle drugs onto a college campus?  Try “A Dog Named Mule”; I guarantee you’ll think twice about buying recreational chemicals ever again.    Thinking of a career change? Don’t become a hired killer, it’s just too complicated, as The Grip and Scott find out in “Whacking for Gomez”.

“Shot to Death” is an entertaining read and a much better way to spend fifteen bucks than on an artery-clogging giant size pizza with everything.

 

 

 

The Pendragon Murders by J. M. C. Blair

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN:  978-0-425-23312-2

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

For the reader who enjoys historical mysteries set in a mythical past, you’ll find The Pendragon Murders by talented author J. M. C. Blair to be just what you want. This is a tale with a lot of subplots that add to the reading pleasure as you try to solve the riddles they present.

For instance, King Arthur seeks an heir, having had no issue of his marriage to Guinevere. Or Merlin and his two assistants head for a festival that ends in disaster and fear. So does their stop at the castle of a new lord.  These events are followed by a trip in which King Arthur must restore an artifact back to its original resting place and they have run-ins with Morgan Le Fay, Arthur’s sister, who wishes to rule in his place.

Suspicion is everywhere, and you will enjoy the familiar and strange characters who are so well drawn in this tale - heroes and villains or villainesses alike.  A trip into a fantastical past that you will thoroughly enjoy and wish for more by this same imaginative author.

I’m pleased to highly recommend The Pendragon Murders as a story to satisfy any reading appetite, especially those who like a complicate story with lots of false trails and villains to boo.

It is a story that will have you looking for other books by J. M. C. Blair.  Guaranteed pleasant reading.

 

 

 

Bloodprint by Kitty Sewall

Publisher: Touchstone  ISBN-10: 141658515X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Madeleine Frank, a sometime-artist and a full-time therapist, has seen her share of pain, with her childhood shattered by her mother’s institutionalization for mental illness and her father’s fame as a world famous artist whose narcissism kept her always at a distance.   A pain that was only made more tragic when her husband, the man of her dreams, was taken by a deadly hurricane in Florida 8 years previous.  Now relocated to the idyllic village of Bath in England, she lives a secluded and lonely life, her only distractions being her job of dealing with wealthy, insecure patients, and a serial killer she visits in prison as her good deed. 

But her dull and dreary life takes a dramatic change when a young, mysterious woman comes seeking her help - her story being that of a single mother on the run from an abusive and violent lover.  And the more she gets to know this young woman, the more she begins to suspect that this woman is hiding much more than she originally thought.  A feeling that turns out to be true, and one that will shake both their lives to their very foundations as the truth slowly comes out.

There’s a lot more going on than this brief synopsis can even come close to revealing, but to share more would give much away that is better left for readers to discover on their own.  But it must be said, Sewall does a great job at combining some very different aspects into her novel that one wouldn’t think to mix, including the religion of Santeria, the ethereal and deeply held bond between mother and daughter, the inexplicable ties between killer and therapist, and the roads required to travel when all hope is gone.   At times a suspenseful book, at others a sorrowful one, but always a compelling and heartfelt one that comes highly recommended.      

 

 

 

 

Pursuit by Karen Robards

Publisher: Signet  ISBN-10: 0451229525

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Recent law school graduate Jessica Ford is thrilled to work for John Davenport, one of the most powerful men in the country.  Thanks to Davenport’s close friendship with the President and his wife, Jess receives an urgent phone call to help First Lady Annette Cooper with the panicked instructions to avoid the ever-present press.  Always willing to follow her boss’ orders, Jess finds the usually elegant First Lady dressed in a track suit and downing shots in a bar filled with drunken fans watching a basketball game.  Annette seems morose and paranoid, urging Jess to hide her from her own Secret Service agents as they quickly flee from a potentially devastating media disaster. 

Jess wakes up to find that she has been in a horrific car accident and the other three people in the hired car died in the crash.  While in the hospital, she is given Secret Service protection but is attacked in her own hospital room, escaping only by thrashing her partially paralyzed body onto the floor.  Jess tries to make sense of her fragmented memories while steadfastly denying any memory of the crash to the constant stream of government interrogators.  Her nurses consider her attack just a hallucination but Jess can’t shake her fear from that night.  As she recovers, she learns that the personable First Lady constantly fought with her husband and nursed a drug problem, which only elevates Jess’ sense of unease about the events of that night. 

Helping her to make sense of the situation is Mark Ryan, a Secret Service agent who was in charge of the First Lady’s detail.  For his own piece of mind, Mark needs to find how something so terrible could happen on his watch that could permanently mar the unblemished image of his beloved Secret Service.  Horrified to think that his own team could be involved, Mark joins Jess as he protects the final survivor of the car crash that has stunned America.  Thanks to his professional expertise, Mark knows what methods and technology the other Secret Service agents will use to find them—and he’s her only hope to stay alive.

Best-selling author Karen Robards keeps the energy high and the pace fast even while Mark and Jessica admit their deepening feeling for one another while trying to figure out who could be guilty of so many terrible crimes—and why.  The identity of the guilty party and the unexpected motive promise to surprise!

 

 

 

Saturday’s Child by Ray Banks

Publisher:  Mariner Books  ISBN-0156034573

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

This is NOT your father’s British Crime Novel. It’s not even your older brother’s British Crime Novel. It’s not Crombie, either (although we think she’s spectacular).

If Saturday’s Child has any kin, it’s probably the first two Guy Ritchie movies (you know, the GOOD ones)--Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

Those of you who, like us, loved the early Pelecanos novels featuring Nick Stefanos will also find comfort with Banks and his character, ex-con-turned-sorta-private-eye Cal Innes. You’d like to see him battle some demons greater than his own, and you know it’s probably not gonna happen.

Multiple narratives are a big part of Banks’ work here, and be ready for some adjustment, as one of them is in such a thick dialect that us basic Yanks will be challenged at the outset. It gets easier as they progress, of course, and Banks does a fine job of tying them together.

We first meet Cal Innes as he is getting the crap kicked out of him in an alleyway by someone in even worse shape than he is in, so that’s fun.

Then, he’s hired by Uncle Morris Tiernan who was, basically, responsible for his prison stretch, to locate an errant casino employee, and has to deal with Uncle Morris’ wacked-out son, Mo, who is of course resentful for the hiring and is determined to undermine Cal’s success, and then make it his own.

Throw in a cop who’s fairly dedicated to re-incarcerating Cal, and you have a hefty brew of violence, humor and deft character development that bodes well for the rather presumptive tag of “The First Cal Innes Novel”.

Declarative bravado aside, Saturday’s Child does indeed prime our interest for, uh, The Next Cal Innes Novel.

 

 

 

 

The Crazy School by Cornelia Read

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing ISBN-10: 044619820X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor,  New Mystery Reader

Madeline Dare is back, a welcome return for those who enjoyed her debut in “A Field of Darkness” last year.

In need of a job, Madeline accepts work teaching at the Santangelo Academy in the beauteous Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.   This is a school for mentally and emotionally disturbed kids, those who ‘have issues’ with authority and civilised behaviour.   Despite her classroom difficulties, Madeline soon wonders if maybe the staff isn't crazier than the kids.  She is drawn into the lives of several of the students almost against her will, and her own life becomes complicated as she tries to juggle her teaching schedule, the secrets she’s keeping for the students, and trying to fake her way through the enforced group counselling sessions for staff.

She hasn’t been at the school very long when she finds herself framed for murder.   The police don’t have a lot of trouble accepting her as a suspect, given that she killed a man once, in self-defence, but it can be twisted to look otherwise.  Fortunately Madeline has a good lawyer, (“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”) but even so things look pretty grim for a while.

Read tells her story well; some phrases particularly expressive.  Take this, concerning Madeline’s out-of-work husband.  “A month into his search for work, stoic was giving way to cranky, with scattered showers of bitter.”  Anyone who’s ever had a job-hunting partner will instantly know how things are with Madeline’s husband.  And there’s “…trying to sneak up on the oasis of sleep, only to have it shimmer away, á la mirage, every time I thought I was about to reach the shade of its beckoning palm trees.”

Life could hardly get any worse, Madeline thinks, but worse happens soon enough with another two deaths, and finally Madeline and a murderer up on a wintry roof. 

The book has some surprisingly light moments despite the heavy themes, and Madeline’s friend Lulu is a great antidote to the rest of the school staff, who are as big a bunch of navel-gazing neurotics as you’ll every come across.

 

 

 

The Diva Paints the Town by Krista Davis

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425233448

Reviewed by Bonnie Chalmers, New Mystery Reader

The enjoyable aspect of reading mystery novels isn’t just about the mystery unraveling as you move through the pages, it is also the painting of the side stories and characters that add to the grand finale of the picture for the person whom is reading the story. Krista Davis offers up just that with her third delicious installment in the domestic diva series.

Would you feel honored or horrified if the recluse next door left you in his will? Well, for Sophie, it comes with mixed emotions, especially when she never bothered to befriend her neighbor Professor Mordecai Artemus. And, to top it off, in his will Mordecai leaves a bequest asking Sophie to hold a dinner party in his memory, but with some very specific details that only a domestic diva like Sophie can pull off.

In the meantime, Sophie’s arch enemy Natasha the interior designer catches wind that the house is empty, and so to her all is fair in the war to redecorate and renovate. The only thing standing in the way is the owner of the house, Mordecai’s beloved Pomeranian Emmaline. But Natasha will stop at nothing to get her hands on the house, hoping she can Reno her way to the big win in the “Rooms and Blooms” expo.

There is a lot underway at Mordecai’s house and, for some, more then they could ever realize. However, Sophie is the unfortunate one to find a body inside the window seat in the “family room.”  But when she leads police to the spot, both parties discover the body has gone missing. What exactly transpired within the walls of this house, not only now, but many years ago? Are some things merely an illusion?

Every home has a story to tell and only you can unravel the clues by reading the book. It’s surprising how many unclaimed corpses can turn up during a renovation.

I have to admit, I almost felt sorry for Mordecai, even though he had passed away; it seems that not only can the past affect you in this lifetime, but beyond.  Mordecai’s bequest, however, just might help to expose the truth - much like the sunlight has revealed the beauty in his freshly painted rooms.  For the reader, either way, having the helpful decorating tips at the start of each chapter proves to be a clever extra.

So round up your book club group and dip in to some of the recipes at the end of the book and have a great night with friends, food, and the love of mystery.

 

 

 

Night And Day by Robert B. Parker

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN--0425232999

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

With Night And Day, Parker brings us back to Paradise MA, and the world of its’ troubled but gallant Police Chief Jesse Stone.  In the process, Parker advances the characters in two of his three Boston-set series, announces the death of another (sniff), and spends a fair amount of time on the subject of obsession.

As things get under way, civilian complaints about a School Mistress’ “dress code enforcement” are taking up the time of our Laconic Hero. A meeting with some escalated parents at the Jr. High gym reveals that longtime-principal Mrs. Ingersoll is taking what some believe is an inappropriate interest in their daughters’ undergarments (ick).

Lest Parker allow us to forget, Jesse has a blind spot for his ex-wife, and she soon announces to him that she has a new job in New York, courtesy of one of her “special friends”, an immediate punch in the gut for Jesse. So a goodly portion is spent, Jesse processing her departure and all that it implies, primarily via his own special friend, Sunny Randall. Parker makes some moves that promise a continued relationship with these two, and does so with his usual seamless technique.

Oh---and there’s also a peeper in town, and he seems ready to “evolve”.  He calls himself the Night Hawk, and the voice Parker uses for those chapters displays a nice creepy edge we’re not used to seeing in his stuff—it’s very welcome.  It’s the primary, but not only, venue for the whole obsession thing we talked about earlier.

The bonus pleasure of the Stone books is, of course, Molly Crane. Parker is having a great time developing her in the last few, it continues here to great effect, WE LOVE MOLLY!!!

Some will undoubtedly whine that Parker spends too much time with character/drama and not enough with crime.  We say it creates a great balance for a series, and when the characters are drawn with Parker’s deft pen, it’s the reason we’re here, so get over it!  Oh, and Rita Fiore’s here too, still panting for Jesse.  All of it big time fun.

The pursuit of The Night Hawk lead Jesse and his team to, among others, a local “swingers club”, and Parker has much fun setting that whole scene, and puncturing the concepts with their own needle. 

There is no “shocking twist” here. Jesse is a capable officer, and uses his tools to bring conclusion to the crimes at hand.  In Night And Day, it’s the characters that are playing the tune, and it sounds just fine.

 

 

Cape Disappointment by Earl Emerson

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN-10: 0345493028

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Thomas Black and his wife Kathy have always had a better than average marriage, one that is only slightly impacted when they begin working opposite sides for the Washington State senatorial campaign.  And even while Thomas, working on Sheffield’s campaign, a republican whose winning vote could tip the Senate towards a favorable majority, doesn’t really believe in the candidate and would much rather see his wife’s candidate win, he owes a favor to the man he is now having to support. 

But when he witnesses the opposing camp’s plane crashing into the ocean that was carrying his wife, the incumbent senator she supported, along with the usual support staff, everything he once believed in goes down with it.  And when living his life in a blur of grief is interrupted first by his best friend’s brother, a man with a very mysterious past that involves ties to covert government agencies who warns him that the crash was intentional, followed by a bombing in which is own life is nearly taken, Black’s questions  regarding what really happened turns into a dangerous hunt for the truth.  A hunt that could very well get him killed.

After a few years of writing some stand-alone thrillers, Emerson returns with Thomas Black, his indomitable hero who was once the mainstay of Emerson’s very successful series.  And not having read any of them, this one made me wish I had. 

If you like a good, believable conspiracy story, one that’s filled with heavy doses of suspense, shocks, and true love, then this one will easily do the trick.  While some readers might find it easy to blow off the conspiracies hinted at within, not only the one focused in the plot, but other true-life ones as well, Emerson does an amazing job of convincing most that some of what he writes is alarmingly plausible.  And yes, of course there’s a few holes along the way that manage to go unfilled, but this does little to detract from the bigger question of “What if”?  At the very least, this one will leave you wondering, and that alone makes it worthwhile. 

 

 

 

 

If Books Could Kill by Kate Carlisle

Publisher: Obsidian Books  ISBN-10: 045122891X

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Brooklyn Wainwright looks forward to an enjoyable getaway when she travels to Edinburgh, Scotland, for an international convention of fellow book restoration experts.  She carefully packs her book binding tools and beautifully gilded examples of her work in anticipation of the many workshops and vaunted contest planned at the convention.  Unfortunately Brooklyn, her sense of calm quickly changes to panic when, once again, she find a body—this time, her ex-boyfriend Kyle McVee.

As in a previous case, Brooklyn is accompanied by security business owner Derek Stone, but this time, he believes her when she protests her innocence and runs interference between Brooklyn and Detective Inspector Angus MacCloud.  The list of suspects quickly lengthens as Kyle’s brother and business partner Royce shows his dour presence and Kyle’s wife Serena suddenly appears.  To further muddy the waters, Brooklyn’s friend Helen announces that she and Kyle were engaged, enraging her controlling husband Martin, who is still seething over their separation.

If Books Could Kill takes an unexpected lighter turn when Brooklyn’s best friend Robin, who also grew up in the same ironically lucrative New Age commune, shows up on a European jaunt with Brooklyn’s parents in tow.  Becky and Jim do their own bit to help their daughter get out of trouble while causing the normally well-controlled Derek Stone to guffaw, much to their daughter’s chagrin.

Published in early 2010, Carlisle’s romantic mystery benefits from a secondary mystery centering on the ubiquitous legends of famous Scottish poet Robert Burns near the annual celebration of Burns night, held each year around the poet’s birthday on January 25.  While Burns’ fans might find Brooklyn’s question about Burns to be unsettling or defamatory, Carlisle allows Brooklyn’s very American education to work through the subject in a way typical of someone educated primarily in the American tradition rather than the British-centric version.

Carlisle writes with a light-hearted approach in the latest mystery of the Bibliophile Mystery series.  Cheerful blonde Brooklyn Wainwright seems to lead a happy, charmed life in spite of her propensity to finding dead people but her devotion to the craft of book binding in addition to the entertaining supporting characters make If Books Could Kill a quick light read.  When Brooklyn Wainwright finds a body, her family and friends will make any occasion into a good time for a reunion, completing the decidedly Scottish feel to this amateur investigative mystery.