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Suitable For Framing by Diane Marquette

Publisher: Cambridge Books  ISBN 1 59431 711 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Jill McCormack’s life is not very enjoyable at the moment: her mother’s nursing may close due to an elder-abuse scandal; her boss Mitch is also her boyfriend and wants more of a commitment than she can give; she’s not really that happy with her work as a deputy sheriff, and now she’s lumbered with a mind-numbingly boring job protecting the Governor of Maryland’s wife.

Jill is told to bodyguard Tiffany during the Governor’s annual staff retreat at the Chesapeake Conference Center.  She’s been tapped for the job partly because she knows the center well, having once worked there, and partly because Governor Travers was roommates with Mitch and trusts him to provide the best security possible for Tiffany.

Tiffany, a former Miss Maryland, seems to have the mental capacity of a pancake, but after a few days in her company, Jill drops the idea of strangling her and begins to have a certain amount of sympathy for the girl, who is desperately trying to find a place in a world she isn’t trained for, in the shadow of the dead first wife, the sainted Cynthia.  Someone has been sending threatening letters, suggesting that if the Governor signs into law a bill about the development of farmland, Tiffany might suffer for it.

Jill does her best to guard Tiffany, which isn’t all that hard, since the girl spends a great deal of her time having long showers or massages or facials or doing her makeup.  The conference center is infested with lawmen of one sort of another, all trying to be sure no bad guys sneak into the venue and harm the Governor, his wife or his staff.  What could go wrong?  Silly question: all it takes is one mis-directing phone call and all the carefully constructed security falls apart.  Can Jill save the life she’s been trying to protect, or is it already too late?

This is a light, fast read that won’t tax your brain as some of the more complex recent crime novels do.  You won’t need any inside knowledge about cryptograms or ancient Urdu, you can just read and enjoy.

 

 

 

The Dead Husband by R.J. Brown

Publisher: Big River Press  ISBN-10: 0979874475

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Husband and wife teams of writers are a rare species in the Mystery genre. There are, of course, the Kellermans: Jonathan and Faye; Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio (who jointly write under the pseudonym Michael Gregorio); Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Crichton, who joined hands for TWISTER; John Mortimer and Penelope Mortimer etc,. And here is the latest addition to these ranks --  R. J. Brown, who with a little technical help from published author and husband D.H. Brown, debuts with her first mystery, a cozy titled THE DEAD HUSBAND. R. J. Brown is the wife of D. H. Brown, whose Citizen Warrior Series consisting of HONOR DUE and HONOR DEFENDED has already become a rage over the past couple of years. And I am eagerly waiting for the third in the trilogy HONOR REDEEMED. 

D. H. Brown has made a name for himself writing renegade military thrillers, and when my copy of his wife’s THE DEAD HUSBAND reached me, I was expecting something along the same lines. What I got my hands on was a neat cozy mystery. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this particular genre, and I truly enjoyed it. I finished the book at one go….rather, I devoured it, and it was like eating a warm chocolate pastry. It reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple classics, or, even more, of the Alfred Hitchcock movie THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY and the Cary Grant comedy ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. I’m not saying that there’s any similarity between THE DEAD HUSBAND and the aforementioned, it’s just that I felt the same charm and joy while reading it.

Sally Collier is a naturalized American from Britain and a self-proclaimed charwoman who runs her own cleaning company in Port Townsend, Washington. One morning she finds the body of a client, actually the dog found it, half-buried at the bottom of the garden, and her work schedule turns topsy-turvy. What follows is a cozy-cozy mystery with something to say about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness and, to put it mildly, is one great read.

I wouldn’t be surprised if another Sally Collier mystery hits the stands soon. And if ever there’s an award for the best first lines of a mystery, THE DEAD HUSBAND is a sure shot winner.  And to find out what that is, you’ll simply have to read the book for yourself!

 

 

 

Little Blue Whales by Kenneth R Lewis

Publisher: Krill Press   ISBN 978 0 9821443 0 5

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is another good read from a small press which probably won’t get the appreciation it deserves due to not having the huge distribution and publicity apparatus that big publishers possess.

On the surface it’s a common enough story: Kevin Kearnes, a small-town policeman, is trying to regain his mental balance after a particularly horrific experience on the job, an experience which has also stirred up some long-past horrors from his childhood.  The story moves from that point backwards, to track Kearnes’s path to the therapist’s office.

Kearnes took the job as chief of the Cutter Point police force to get away from the tragedy of a broken marriage and the loss of his two much-loved sons.  But as his therapist, John Grand, tells him “Running from your past is like running in a race for your life while holding your breath…it can’t be done with the expectation that you will survive to the end.”

A child-molesting serial killer has come to the area, and Kearnes does his best to track him down.  Cutter Point’s mayor is more hindrance than help, as is most of the police department, who resent a stranger coming in to take over.  Mayor Bouchet is a character straight out of late-night television, a man who made his former living conning the gullible, and who is now full of his own importance.  It’s when the Mayor orders a beached dead whale blown up that Kearnes gets the best break he’s had in years: he meets Britt, whose car has been damaged by chunks of falling whale, and she’s stuck in Cutter’s Point for a while. She might be able to fill the hole in Kearne’s heart—that’s if she survives being caught up in the hunt for the serial killer.

This is a complex and involving story that can hold its own against many publications of larger publishing houses.

 

 

 

A Night at the Operation by Jeffrey Cohen

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN-10: 0425228150

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

The creaky old movie house may be literally falling apart and the small staff is overworked and under-informed, but for Comedy Tonight’s owner, Elliot Freed, the final potential show-stopper occurs after his ex-wife suddenly vanishes.  Unlike most divorced couples, Elliot and Sharon have remained friends and even made plans to celebrate their upcoming wedding anniversary together.  On the afternoon that she disappears, Dr. Sharon Simon-Freed holds an unusual private patient consultation with a multi-millionaire—not only leaving Elliot in distress, but also burdening him with the millionaire’s daughters after their father unexpectedly commits suicide on the same day.

The likable cast of characters serves as a perfect foil for Elliot’s random classic comedy quotes as he bounces between his theatre family, the police detectives and his ex-wife’s own small office staff.  Elliot manages to ingratiate himself even when he’s annoying the police or prying into his ex-wife’s life with her soon-to-be second ex-husband during his sometimes comic attempts to find Sharon.  In this third Double Feature series offering, Jeffrey Cohen succeeds in creating a classic comedy caper with a large cast, chaotic situations, and relentless self-aware quips harkening back to the masters of movie humor.  After all, with characters named Lennon and Hendrix, two happy ex-spouses, and a movie theatre trying to catch itself on fire, there’s a bevy of Marx-style comedy just waiting to happen.

 

 

 

Sparrow Nights by David Gilmour

Publisher: Counterpoint/Berkeley ISBN 978 1 58243 478 0

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Nobody who knew French Literature professor Darius Holloway would ever have suspected him of shooting someone and then burning the body in his house furnace. 

The killing is one of the few moments of high drama in Holloway’s life, with the exception of the few years spent with the libidinous Emma, a young woman of unrestrained appetites who inexplicably is drawn to the older academic.   Holloway seems to take her for granted until one day she comes out with the odd sentence ”I am leaning in the direction of not being in love with you anymore.”  Holloway is nonplussed; the reader may be as well.

It is Emma’s departure that starts Holloway off on a strange wandering journey through the fringes of the sex trade, as he goes from one massage parlor to another almost by accident.   In one of these places he meets Passion, and suggests that she might like to freelance at his home sometime.  Passion cherishes a dream to get into a different line of work—in the Customs department of all things—and she takes him up on his offer.

Waking the next morning, Holloway finds a number of easily negotiable bibelots are missing from his house.  He feels hard done by; the reader may well be thinking “No fool like an old fool”.

The robbery sets in train events which culminate in the shooting of the massage parlor’s doorman-cum-pimp.   The book meanders along after that and eventually reaches the last page.   

This is an infuriating book.  The writing is excellent for the most part; there are undertones of Kafka and Mann; there are moments of humor; there are some memorable phrases—but I found Darius Holloway so dislikeable, so self-absorbed, such a desiccated cicada skin of a human being that I find it difficult to be fair in giving the book a rating.  Read it for yourself and decide. 

 

 

 

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN 0446402397

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is an exciting, depressing, scary but almost triumphant story, set in the dark days of Stalin’s Russia. 

It’s late winter, 1953, four o’clock in the morning.  The “arresting hour,” the time when they come to roust the guilty and innocent alike.  State Security officer Leo Demidov and his wife Raisa are dragged off with no notice to an icy railway station departure hall, then caught up in the hysteria that arises when Stalin suddenly dies.  Tempted to run, Leo knows that there’s no place to go, because the MGB will track them down and kill them for sure.  Better to pretend a calm acceptance of whatever’s coming.

That turns out to be ‘employed exile’ far from home, in Voualsk.  Leo has been demoted to a sort of janitor-cum-jailer, but in his new station, he knows there will always be suspicion that he’s a spy for the higher-ups in Moscow.

All of Leo’s current and future misery is caused by Vasili, once his subordinate, who hates him and wants to degrade him and his entire family.  Leo once humiliated Vasili in front of witnesses, striking him for murdering a pair of harmless farmers,  Leo trusted in The State to deliver a harsher punishment—but that didn’t happen.  Vasili has planned revenge for the affront, and finally achieves it. 

Betrayed by the state he tried to believe in, Leo finds himself alone and friendless, except for Raisa, the wife he has perhaps valued too little, yet loved in his own way.  When three children are murdered in the town of his exile, Leo’s investigation leads him into the horrors of his own past, and a terrible journey.

For reasons unknown, the designer has chosen to eschew the conventional quotation marks, and to indicate direct speech by using dashes and italics.  This is very hard to overlook and makes the reading a choppy experience.  If you can persevere, you will find this a very involving story.

 

 

 

Blind Rage by Terri Persons

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425224961

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In her follow-up to her stunning debut novel BLIND SPOT, Person easily proves that her first success was definitely not a one-hit-wonder.

This time out, Twin City’s FBI Agent Bernadette (aka-Cat) Saint Claire’s special skills are needed to help discover what’s behind the rash of alleged suicides being committed by troubled young college women.  And while suicide initially does seem the logical cause of death of these young women with suicidal tendencies – their bodies being found in surrounding rivers, thus easily leading investigators to the assumption they jumped to their death - when bodies of women begin to show up in their own bathtubs with evidence of having been in a struggle, it becomes all too clear that someone is targeting the area’s troubled young women for murder.  And with more than one suspect on the list, including a psychiatrist and his brother whose troubled pasts raise alarm bells, along with a professor who teaches classes based on suicide and seems to attract more than his fair share of disturbed souls, finding the culprit, won’t be easy.

But if anyone can solve these cases it might be Cat, who has her own way of solving murders; her ability to see through the eyes of the killers when touching something they have touched leading her down trails that only she can see, trails that often times lead her straight to the killer’s soul.  But her sight doesn’t come without its own dangers because all too often while looking into the heart of darkness, she risks falling in herself.

While this is the second in the series, no worries for those just joining the party; this latest can easily stand alone without having read the first.  As for those returning to the series, you’ll find Person’s characterizations, plotting, pace, and natural rhythm to be just as satisfying as before.  And while this second outing relies a bit less on Cat’s “second site,” the scenes with her ghostly ex-partner are just as amusing, and her visions into a killer’s eyes just as terrifying. 

Also, as an added bonus for those who like romance is the burgeoning attraction between Cat and her very alive boss Tony Garcia; a subtly written blossoming that promises much to come.  Once again, Person once again shows how she instinctively knows how to keep the reader so caught up in suspense that the ending comes much to fast, making that the only disappointment to be had in this second extraordinary read.    

 

 

 

Shadow of Power by Steve Martini

Publisher: Harper  ISBN  978 0 06 1230898

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is another in the Paul Madriani series, which takes legal thrillers to a new height.  It starts out with a bloody murder and a quick arrest.  Carl Arnsberg has a record, and he belongs to an Aryan Supremacist group, and it doesn’t take much to convince the police and the public that he killed Terry Scarborough, writer of a recent best seller about slavery, oppression, and dark plots.

Scarborough has made millions of dollars from his first book, and his second book promises to make even more money, as well as stir up more controversy, racial violence, civil unrest and political turmoil.  At the heart of the project is a mysterious letter, which purports to be an account of a plot by the founding fathers to keep slavery enshrined in the Constitution, for the base motive of political expediency.  The letter was stolen when Scarborough was killed, but it takes a lot of effort to convince the prosecutor of this.  And even when Paul succeeds in this, the letter is still missing and therefore no use to his case.

Paul Madriani and his partner Harry Hinds are floundering to find a way to defend their client, whom everyone believes is as guilty as sin.  After a bit of digging, it became apparent that there were a great number of other people who weren’t sad to see Scarborough dead.    A teacher provides them with a reason to believe that Carl could not have known what the missing letter was about; then another clue drops into their laps when the missing letter shows up under their front door.  The DA cries foul, of course, but Paul and Harry were smart enough to document everything from the moment they knew what was in their hands.

The scene where the DA tries to shake the testimony of Paul and Harry’s junior assistant is one of the great moments in legal drama, worthy of the best of Perry Mason vs. Hamilton Burger.

This is a really good read, even for those who normally wouldn’t go for legal thrillers. 

 

 

 

Cheating at Solitaire by Jane Haddam

Publisher: Minotaur Books  ISBN-0312943407

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

With more than a couple of months to go until his big wedding day, and with his Philly neighborhood of friends causing a bit of an uproar with the planning, when crime consultant Gregor Demarkian receives a call from an old friend to help out on a case on an island off the cost of Cape Cod, he’s more than happy to withdraw himself from the madness for a bit.  But, as the case involves the murder of a young man working for a filming crew, and with the accused being the beautiful young starlet of movie being shot, he’s about to be introduced to a whole different kind of madness – Hollywood.  And so as he battles the paparazzi that seem to have glued themselves to the tiny island, and with more than one unsavory secret haunting this glamorous cast and crew, he’ll find each step in solving the puzzle more complicated than the last, with the answers to it all being far from what anyone ever suspected.

In this latest featuring the charming yet inscrutable Armenian American detective Demarkian, Haddam once again shows her talent at revealing the underside of society’s norms. There’s obviously no love lost in her depiction of Hollywood, its bad young starlets, and the paparazzi that define our news stories of the day.  The scandals too often exposed and glorified for ratings will seem more than familiar to most. Yes, there’s a well-written mystery here as well, but it’s really in Haddam’s final denouement in the ultimate triviality of it all that makes this one a winner.  A well told and timely story that resounds with truth, this is one of her best.        

 

 

 

The Blue Religion Edited by Michael Connolly

Publisher: Back Bay Books   ISBN 0 316 012653

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

It takes more than a bunch of stories to make a readable anthology.  Don’t be put off by its title; this a really good anthology, a collection of stories of surprising depth and breadth, which looks at the human condition from a variety of angles, but always through the blue filter of the police force.

Peter Robinson’s “The Price of Love” starts with a toy badge and ends with a stern justice that colours a man’s whole life.  In “Contact and Cover”, Greg Rucka shows how three women police officers deal with a dangerous bully who’s supposed to be a colleague.  In “Rule Number One”, Bev Vincent has an interesting twist to the ‘crook with a heart’ plot, and in “What a Wonderful World”, Paul Guyot tells a bittersweet story of a cop whose obsession with a case overcomes his reason, commonsense and finally his career.

“Winning” looks at the burden a police officer’s family carries, and how one man deals with it.  “Fathers’ Day,” by the editor, Michael Conolly, is a story that could have been ‘ripped from today’s headlines’ to quote the old show.  It follows the apparently accidental death of an infant into a dark and twisted place we can all relate to but hope we never have to experience.

“The Blue Religion” is as good a crime anthology as you’re likely to find this year.  Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

Empty Ever After by Reed Farrel Coleman

Publisher: Bleak House Books  ISBN-10: 1932557652

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

For over two decades PI Moe Prager has seen more than his fair share of twisted and deadly cases of murder, but while his success rate remains high, the devastating toll it’s long since taken on his marriage and family cannot be denied.  And now two years later after solving the long-ago disappearance of his wife’s troubled brother in a case that put the final nail in his marriage, all the secrets he’s kept, and all the enemies he’s made will come back to haunt him in the most frightening of ways.  With his ex-wife getting calls from the brother she long thought dead, and her repeated sightings of him, the mystery now for Prager to solve is whether someone from his past is out for revenge, or if ghosts really do exist.  But with so many enemies and so many secrets, finding the truth will be deadly and will leave behind much more destruction than just a failed marriage.

Moe Prager is an easy guy to like, regardless of how ill thought out his good intentions always seem to be; usually leading to more sorrow than anything; yet one has to admire his tenacity when seeking answers to the most difficult of questions, no matter the price.  And in this latest mystery, fans will be shocked at just how high a price he eventually pays.  Revisiting his most frightening cases in search of answers to this latest deadly mystery, those who have read this tremendously talented author will easily remember the PI’s many horrors from the past, and those who haven’t, will get a glimpse at what has brought Prager and his family to where they are now.  Coleman balances this act well, without boring those in the know or confusing those who are not, in a satisfying story that we hope is to be continued.

 

 

 

Cross by Ken Bruen

Publisher: Minotaur Books  ISBN-0312538847

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

To say that Bruen’s Jack Taylor has an attitude would be the understatement of the decade.  And after seeing the man fall and rise as a result of his addictions, precarious relationships, and confrontations with death more times than most could survive through, one would think he’d be dead by now.  But in Bruen’s latest, he once again returns with a vengeance, and literally so.  With his protégé in the hospital near death from a situation most likely caused by one of Jack’s many lethal mistakes, a new case involving the brutal murder of  a young man found crucified, and his ongoing battle against the temptation of drink and drugs, Jack once again faces critical mass.

As is usual with Bruen’s darkly noir outings featuring Galway’s Jack Taylor, the reader is treated to more of an expose on Ireland’s latest grievances, along with the murmurings of a man who daily walks along both the edges of his disappearing country and the ruins of his past, than a mystery full of investigative detail.  And, as usual, this is more than welcomed.  Some readers might be put-off by the violence, the language, and the brutal insights that Bruen unapologetically offers up by way of Jack and his travails, and for those that do, they’re missing out on a read that has as much impact as a punch in the gut.  Bruen, again, doesn’t make it easy for the reader to empathize, nor would we want him to, which is to say he does it up right yet again.

 

 

 

Death Walked In by Carolyn Hart

Publisher:  Avon  ISBN:  0060724145

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A winner!  For any mystery lover of cozies, this is a tale sure to please.  From the first page to the last, you’ll be so engrossed you won’t want to put it down. A perfect book for a rainy night, a cozy chair by a fire, and a hot chocolate sitting on the table nearby.

The theft of valuable gold coins, repeated break-ins at Max and Annie’s new house, a body, shots fired in the dark—all combine to build a story you’ll feel compelled to finish.  Who is the killer, who is the thief? Who entered the Franklin house?  A mystery lover’s joy—lots of clues, lots of suspects and lots of motives.  Also, plenty of red herrings. 

Mystery author Carolyn Hart is at the top of her game with this book. You’ll want to read all of the books by this very talented author whose characters seem like old friends to her fans, a group you’ll be joining after reading Death Walked In.

When you open the book, it’s a visit to a place you could call home, having visited it before. The people are individuals you’ll enjoy meeting and remembering and you’ll look forward to that next encounter.

I’m pleased to recommend this tale to any reader as one you will enjoy and may want to read again for the fun of it.  Happy readings. 

 

 

 

Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425227030

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Ex big city lawyer China Boyles, herbalist and restaurateur, wants nothing to do with her PI husband’s latest case of finding out how and why her father really died 16 years ago, nor does she want much to do with the step-brother she recently discovered existed.  But when her brother, while seeking answers to their father’s death, dies in a mysterious manner, she too is drawn into the decade’s old case involving cover-ups and politics.  And soon she will unwillingly find herself facing the death of her distant and uncaring father she never really knew, nor even much liked, and his many secrets that are still proving to be deadly to this day.

With the author herself admitting in her prelude that unfamiliar readers might have difficulty following this third in a trilogy surrounding China’s past, it doesn’t come as a big surprise for those of us newbies to the series to become quickly lost in all the players and past plotlines that are being recalled.  Not to say that this is not worth the read, far from it; Witting’s tone, pace, and characterizations are all worth the cover price, but that being said, it might be recommended to start from the beginning, as undoubtedly that would make this read far more enticing than it already is.  And as such, this is an author I plan to start from the beginning with, because if she can prove to be this entertaining while battling my unfamiliarity, she must be even better for those in the know.     

 

 

 

The Surest Poison by Chester D Campbell

Publisher: Night Shadows Press  ISBN-10: 097991678X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Don’t we all wish we had a cabin in the woods to escape to when life serves us one foul ball after another?  Sid Chance was lucky to be able to do that after his job as police chief was ruined by a set-up drug deal, orchestrated by people who’d rather their sheriff be a half-blind lap dog than hard-working crime-buster.

That wasn’t Sid’s first brush with people who don’t play nice, so his retreat to the hills and woods was understandable.  However, he still had friends, and they pushed him into a new career as a PI, something for which he had an innate knack.

When lawyer Arnie Bailey hires Sid to get to the bottom of an environmental pollution case, Sid isn’t sure he wants the job, because it would take him back to Ashland City, scene of his ruined career.  Also, this isn’t going to be an easy case, because the pollution has caused birth defects, and the local people are ready to lynch someone—anyone—because of what’s happened.

Sid accepts the job and very soon finds out that the people responsible for the original pollution for which his new client is being blamed are tied up tighter than a bucket of noodles with his former persecutors.  The plot, as they say, thickens.  Or sickens.

How Sid gets to the bottom of the noodle bucket and what he finds when he gets there forms a suspenseful reading experience.  Chester Campbell turns in a workman-like job with a good number of twists and that should keep your inner armchair detective on the edge of his/her seat.  Campbell has some nice turns of phrase that convey a lot with a few words: “Bailey launched his short, chubby body through the door like a well-dressed groundhog storming out of hibernation.” You can just see the guy, can’t you?

 

 

South of Shiloh by Chuck Logan

Publisher: Harper  ISBN  0061136700

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This isn’t a book I expected to enjoy much, not being into the whole Civil War re-enactment scene.    I’d only gone a few chapters into it when I realized that there was a great deal more to the story than a bunch of overgrown boys running around in blue and gray uniforms.

This is a very complex story of human interactions, with a strong plot and a fast-moving timeline.  For sure not a book to start reading when you have a lot of ‘must do’ projects on hand; better to start it on a rainy weekend when you can devour it in a sitting.

Civil War re-enactor Paul Edin and his wife Jenny are agonizing about telling their daughter Molly that Paul isn’t her biological father, and asking John Rane, the real father, to provide a DNA swab so they can get a full picture of Molly’s genetic heritage.  Paul goes off to a battle re-enactment and is killed, at first apparently in an accident, but it later there’s a strong rumour that Paul died by accident, and the real target was a policeman, Kenny Beeman.

Beeman has an ongoing mutual hatred going with local bad boy Mitchell Lee Nickels, maybe for good reason.  Mitchell Lee has a number of unsavory relatives with whom he carries on some business that wouldn’t appear in the Forbes list.

Jenny doesn’t know where to turn, so she calls John Rane, with whom she hasn’t spoken in 11 years. He’s at loose ends, having been suspended from his news photographer job for two weeks for losing an expensive telephoto lens while getting a front page story for his paper.

John drives south and connects with Beeman and finds that the two men have much more in common than at first appears.   They form a wary partnership because both of them want to know what really happened when Paul died.    Behind their backs a complex plot is being worked out with a particular outcome in mind.  Rane and Beeman sense this , but can’t see any way forward other than just going forward.  The final scene is worthy of a Rambo movie; not for the squeamish, but integral to the entire story.

You will be fascinated by how author Logan polishes and fits the bits of his jigsaw, and how they all come together in the final picture.

 

 

 

Guilty by Karen Robards

Publisher Signet  ISBN: 0451226690

Reviewed by Kathryn Lawson, New Mystery Reader

Plenty of people hate rainy Monday mornings, but Assistant District Attorney Kate White had more reason than most to hate this particular one.  After dashing through the downpour (in a pair of sadistic black pumps) to make it to court on time, she forgets to turn off her cell phone and she and the packed courtroom are subjected to the unprofessional strains of a custom ringtone.  Before her mortification has fully hit home, gunmen strike the courtroom and Kate is taken hostage.  She is able to walk away from the massacre physically unharmed, but only because she makes an unethical bargain with a shadowy figure from a past she would rather forget.  Sexy homicide detective Tom Braga is suspicious of her story almost immediately and Kate finds herself struggling to keep her end of the bargain, protect herself and her son, maintain a daunting caseload at work, and keep handsome Braga out of her business and her bed.

Bestseller Karen Robards is an expert at creating the kind of romantic suspense that keeps readers impatiently turning pages, eager to find out what happens next.  Robards doesn’t disappoint in Guilty, which is unpredictable right up to the explosive conclusion.  The sexual tension between Kate and Braga sizzles, and is nicely balanced by mutual affection.  And if Kate White is noticeably similar to Sarah Mason, the heroine in Vanished (both single mothers abandoned by their ne’er-do-well husbands when barely out of their teens, who struggle to make it through law school and become prosecutors with male would-be protectors sleeping on their sofas), at least it’s a character worth repeating, and the plot lines of both books are significantly different.  Overall, an intriguing and immensely satisfying read.

 

 

 

A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks  ISBN 0061252417

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

This is the first in a projected series by a new writing team.  There haven’t been many successful double acts, and only a handful stand out:  Manfred B Lee and Frederic Dannay, the Lockridges, and one or two others.  Going by this maiden effort, it seems that Michael Sears/Stanley Trollip will become one of the memorable literary pairs.

The story is set in Botswana, but not the cozy, folksy Botswana of Precious Ramotswe; this is a tougher, grittier place entirely.  It starts with the finding of a much-chewed over body.  Detective David Bengu of the Botswana CID , known as “Kubu’, seTswana for hippopotamus, is assigned to the case.   It doesn’t take long for him to reach the conclusion that there’s something extremely fishy going on. 

Despite the corpse’s lack of clothing and teeth, eventually Kubu identifies it as the son and heir of a rich and noted white family. That would be fine if the same man hadn’t already been identified as having died miles away on the coast of South Africa, attacked by a shark.   Many witnesses testify that they spoke to the man and he was alive and well weeks after most of his body was already rotting under the desert sun.

Kubu knows some sort of scam is running here, but even with the help of his opposite number in the South African Police, Bakkies Swanepoels, he can’t figure out what’s really going on.  Then a chance clue helps bring the disparate pieces together, but the resulting scenario is so bizarre that Kubu knows he is going to have an uphill battle to get his superior officers to let him attempt to prove it.  Director Mabaku isn’t going to stick his neck on the chopping block without some heavy evidence to support Kubu’s weird theory.

You don’t need to be familiar with Southern Africa to enjoy this book, but if you have ever been there, you will gain an extra dimension of enjoyment.  Michael Stanley has managed to convey the flavour of the society, the feel of the sun and dust, the frustrations that the new democracies still experience with the remnants of the old order.  A thoroughly enjoyable read, highly recommended.