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The Highly Effective Detective Goes to the Dogs by Richard Yancey

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books ISBN:  978-0-312-34753-6

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

If you like mysteries with two levels, you will enjoy this tale of hunting a murderer combined with a searching for the understanding of God.  P.I. Teddy Ruzak and a cast of strange supporting characters will take you on a twisted trail of rants and reasoning for both.

Teddy is haunted by thoughts of a dead man he sees in an alley and further haunted by an elderly woman who seems obsessed with writing his lifeís story. He also seems haunted by a lack of truth in a relationship with his Maker.  

He thinks of adopting a dog and becomes involved with the girl working at the pound. His apartment building doesnít allow dogs and his present way of thinking doesnít allow for the relationship to develop even though he has an ongoing relationship of some sort it seems with his secretary. 

Author Richard Yancey takes the reader on a circuitous search to arrive at the identity of a killer during which you will find yourself examining your own religious beliefs. This is a tale for readers who enjoy philosophy as well as a mystery.

 

 

 

Mortal Curiosity by Ann Granger

Publisher:  St. Martinís Minotaur  ISBN:  978-0-312-36352-9

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Readers

In 1864 women worked at menial jobs if they worked, however the educated woman could take a job as a governess or companion to another woman.  Employment as a companion fell to Lizzie Martinís lot.  Her position with the widow of a family friend was not ideal and with mutual agreement, Lizzie took a position out of London

Her beau, Scotland Yard Detective Ben Ross, did not like the idea, no matter how temporary and he forecast bad things could happen.  It never dawned on either of them how prophetic his words could beóneither would have seen murder in that future.

Lizzieís new employer sent her to a desolated coastal area as companion to a young bride who had just lost her child and rumor seemed to indicate her mind also.  On meeting her Lizzie wasnít convinced and found the girlís situation very unsatisfactory as the two old aunts did nothing to make her welcome.

The death of a rat catcher brought Ben Ross in to investigate since he was found in the garden of a respectable household and respectability meant everything in their social set.  With the help of Lizzie, Ben reaches a conclusion that will catch the reader off guard. 

Talented author Ann Granger cleverly plants false clues and drags red herrings across the trail of a killer in this well told tale of a dysfunctional family in old England.  Iím pleased to recommend this book to any reader of mysteries or suspense.  At times there is almost a supernatural feel to the atmosphere and setting of this tale.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

 

Deceptionís Daughter by Cordelia Frances Biddle

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books ISBN:  978-0-312-35247-9

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

The two sides of wealth in the Philadelphia area are never more sharply illustrated than in this well-told, balanced tale by talented author Cordelia Frances Biddle. She shows us how well the monied class lives as against the soul killing poverty of those forced to live in work houses or make their way by stealing.

In this setting Martha Beale and her two adopted children contrast with others who reside in the workhouse. Martha is in love with a man truly called doubting Thomas Kelman who is a local constable, charged with solving a series of burglaries of rich homes. In one, a pregnant woman is assaulted by the burglar and this adds urgency to a resolution.

Thomasí investigation takes him to a workhouse where a woman recently drowned and residents were witness.  He must try to get the boys to talk, but the main witness has run away.  They meet later in this tale with interwoven plots and realistic characters youíll enjoy meeting.

The class problems seem to come between Thomas and Martha, but their hearts are insistent in the matter of love. The question is, will one or the other ignore such rules or will they part.

Iím pleased to recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a step back in time.  This particular story shows a forgotten time in splendid detail that brings Marthaís world alive for the reader.  Youíll hear the squeak of corsets and rustle of silks when ladies pass and noise of horse-drawn carriages on the streets. Enjoy. I did.

 

 

The Hanged Man by David Skibbins

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312377835

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Berkley tarot card reader Warren Ritter, a man still hiding his identity as part of the 60ís radical group The Weathermen, canít seem to stay away from trouble no matter how hard he tries.  This time out he gets roped into another case of murder when his loverís best friend, dominatrix Therese de Farge, is charged with the murder of one of San Franciscoís more wealthy computer geeks.  So, of course, Warren has no choice but to go undercover into the very different world of S & M assisting his lover Sally as she hacks her way through some of the most secure computer systems in the world, and Sallyís roommate Heather plays roaming reporter, all in the search of alternative suspects in what will prove to be yet another very dangerous case of murder that will jeopardize everything they hold dear.

The most interesting aspect about this very distinctive series has got to its delightfully entertaining counter-culture backdrop and the uniquely drawn characters that inhabit it.  And while thereís no doubt that this is a series that will not appeal to everyone, especially this latest with its rather detailed look into the S & M lifestyle, those who are not afraid to lean a bit off to the left will find its cheeky attitude refreshing and sincere. 

This is a delightful group of amateur detectives that are easy to root for, including the gifted hacker, wheel-chair bound Sally, the precocious teen-aged Heather, the honestly portrayed bi-polar Warren, and last but not least, Sallyís highly attuned dog Riley.  With so many mystery books coming out day after day that all too often seem filled with the same old, same old characters, this series provides a cast that is an engaging and welcomed change.     

 

 

 

A Job to Kill For by Janice Kaplan

Publisher: Touchstone  ISBN-10: 1416532137

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

While LA designer Lacy Fields might have the perfect career, husband, and kids, in addition to living a life of privilege full of the top designer labels that money can buy and easy access to Hollywoodís most glamorous and wealthy citizens, that doesnít mean she doesnít get a bit bored now and again.  Which might explain how she gets involved in another case of murder when the wife of a wealthy power broker dies from poisoning right before her eyes.  But thatís not the only reason Lacy gets involved; it seems that one of the top suspects in the crime is her best friend Molly, a single woman who had been spending a bit more time with the now widowed man than what might be considered appropriate.  But the deeper she digs, the more suspects she uncovers, bringing not only those who are unwilling to have their secrets revealed closer to herself and her family, but the killer as well. 

In this second outing, Kaplan brings back the impertinent, defiant, and refreshingly contended Lacy Fields, along with all the designer label/ Hollywood name-dropping that made her first such an enjoyable escape from reality.  Kaplan again manages to disassemble at the LA scene with a witty, irreverent eye, seemingly incapable of describing a mere shoe without the benefit of the designer label behind it. As a fan of the more darker side of mystery, even I have to admit this is a refreshingly breezy romp through murder and mayhem that proved to be much more entertaining than expected.

 

 

 

 

Blackout by Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, ISBN 978  0 8050 7960 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If youíre a mystery fan who feels there havenít been enough good police procedurals written recently, rejoice!  Garcia-Rozaís series featuring Inspector Espinosa will give you the fix youíve been missing, with the added benefit of an exotic location: Rio de Janeiro.

The story has the intense psychological insights of some of Simenonís best work, and draws the reader into the minds and mental states of the suspects as well as those of the Inspector himself. 

Espinosa tries to make sense of a senseless crime: whoíd kill a one-legged beggar?  The man had no enemies that can be discovered; he isnít even a resident of Rio.  His presence in the up-market suburb was apparently unplanned, so nobody could have premeditated his killingónevertheless, there he is, dead of a skilful shot to the heart, almost a professional hit, one might say.

Aided by the two assistants he knows he can trust, men as honest as he is in a town not noted for that virtue, Espinosa sets out to find out who the dead man is and who wanted him dead.  This takes a lot of hard slog through old hospital records, hoping to backtrack from the operation that the medical examiner says took the manís leg 20 years ago.

It isnít until the inspector starts looking at the crime from another angle that he begins to make progress.  Maybe the one-legged man wasnít killed for who he was, but for who someone thought he was.  Could the professional hit have been a lucky accident?  Once you start thinking along those lines, different motives suggest themselves, and different avenues of investigation open up.

Then thereís a second murder, which is almost certainly tied to the first, but it, too, seems senseless.  The victim seems to have led a blameless life, but then the routine police work turns up a startling fact, something totally unexpected.  The end, when it comes, is sudden and shocking, like the slamming of a prison cell door.  Highly recommended.