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Scalpel and Hatchet by John G. McConahy

Publisher:  Authorhouse ISBN:  1418469157

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Thomas MacKaye, doctor and frontiersman, is plunged headlong into adventure just after his birth when his parents are lost in a storm at sea and he is rescued by Atsego, an Indian friend of his father. Atsego and Dr. Henry Woodward undertake the task to serve as godfathers to the boy and raise him, endowing him with skills taught by both.

The final touch to Tom's maturity comes when he is sent to England to mingle with the upper classes and acquire polish and manners.  Which he does, until he steps into a duel with a favorite of the king and kills him. Forced to flee, he returns to the colonies.

Instead of being allowed to settle in the city and practice medicine, tragedy forces him into the wilds where his wilderness lore stands him in good stead and keeps him alive as he is stalked by enemies.

Love and adventure and a cast of characters that will take you back to The Deerstalker days will keep you reading.  A satisfying read for any reader who likes tales of the frontier with loads of adventure and suspense.  Enjoy.

 

 

City of Glass by Paul Auster

Publisher: Picador (August 1, 2004) ISBN: 0312423608

Reviewed by Paul Kane, New Mystery Reader

Paul Auster’s fine 1985 novella, the first part of his New York Trilogy, has here been adapted into a harshly drawn graphic novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli.  City of Glass (as those who have read it will know) was, and remains, an existential thriller that conjures comparisons with Eye of the Beholder by Marc Behm and William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel (this latter novel later became Angel Heart, a movie directed by Alan Parker).

City of Glass concerns a writer, Daniel Quinn. He writes mysteries under the name of William Watson (a clear nod to Poe, the originator of the detective story, who wrote a doppelganger tale with this very title) which feature Private Investigator Max Work.  After receiving a late-night phone call, Quinn finds that he must himself assume the role of PI, as he embarks on a personal quest for authenticity and meaning.  And like Pandora before him, Quinn will discover that knowledge – including especially self-knowledge – is a dangerous thing; and that it comes at a cost to the soul.

Intriguingly, Karasik and Mazzucchelli’s artwork develops Auster’s source story with classic film noir in mind: I scoped references to The Big Sleep and Out of the Past, amongst others.  Their subtle and, as it were, “extra-mural” allusions will provide many a reader with resonances not present in the original novella.

Moreover, the graphic novel format, perhaps because we associate comics with childhood, is somehow able to foreground the romantic and fairy tale roots of the PI novel.  After all, isn’t the PI engaged in a kind of Arthurian quest?  In City of Glass, Manhattan is marvellously rendered as a monochrome cityscape of menace and alienation.  Here, the PI-cum-Arthurian Knight is confronted by a New York which is also a dark forest haunted by malign spirits, a labyrinth in which it is easy to lose yourself.

To be sure, there are few “pure” genre pleasures here, and Auster’s unnerving fictions may not be to everyone’s taste - but for the interested and curious reader this is an excellent introduction to his work.  Incidentally, the actual introduction to City of Glass is provided by Art Spiegelman, whom some may known as the author of Maus, a graphic novel that addressed the subject of the Holocaust.

City of Glass is one of the best graphic novels of recent years.

 

Lemon City by Elaine Meryl Brown

Publisher: One World/Strivers Row ISBN: 0812970330

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A delightful change of pace, Lemon City will be like a visit home. Reading it will leave you with a satisfied, warm and fuzzy feeling. The people are very real and this is a guaranteed fun read.

Freed slaves settled a parcel of land in the Blue Ridge foothills after the Civil War where they developed a town and a satisfying way of life. They lived according to the Ten Rules and most were happy with their lots in life. Except for Faye Dunlap. She broke Rule Number One and married an outsider, Harry Lee Thompson.

Faye wanted a life away from Lemon City where she could take part in the exciting changes that were coming for the Black people and thought marriage to Harry was one way to make it happen.  Presenting the marriage to her family as a done deed, she learned was a mistake.  Grandaddy took matters in hand to keep her in Lemon City and things began to change.

You'll love meeting the Dunlap family and their neighbors, especially Ole Miss Johnson who had a running rivalry with Faye's grandmother over being the annual Tomato Queen. These people could step off the page and shake your hand and welcome you to Lemon City. 

I highly recommend Lemon City by a very talented author whose work you will really enjoy.  There is a mystery woven so well throughout the story, you are only aware of its being just below the surface of the daily routine as these characters go about their lives in the present and remembering certain past events.  Enjoy. I sure did.

 

 

THE MANHATTAN ISLAND CLUBS Brent Monahan

St Martin’s Minotaur ISBN 0312303599

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Locked room murders, secret panels, lost jewels,  disinherited heirs, identical twins, beautiful women: Brent Monahan has supplied all the trappings of the classic murder mysteries of the past in this, his third book featuring the retired Georgia police detective John le Brun.

It’s Summer 1906, and le Brun is just about to unpack from a trip when his protege and nephew by marriage Warfield Tidewell turns up with an offer too good to refuse.  J P Morgan is willing to pay le Brun handsomely if he quickly and discreetly solves the murder that happened in the august halls of the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan.  Le Brun has no fondness for Morgan or for exclusive men’s clubs, but the puzzle presented to him is a tantalizing one, and truth to tell, he’s getting bored with the life of retirement.

It doesn’t take le Brun long to discover that the murdered man wasn’t who everyone thought him to be.  Hard on this discovery comes a second murder, and then a third.  le Brun doesn’t lack for suspects: unfortunately, they include the lovely Lordis,  to whom he is seriously attracted.   Now the solving of the crime is personal: le Brun knows there’s no future with Lordis unless the cloud of supicion is lifted, and the only way to do that is to find the real killer or killers.

Ably assisted, first by the nephew-in-law and later by a police
detective with aspirations to higher office, and most of all by Lordis, le Brun hacks away the undergrowth obscuring the motive for the crimes.

Methodically working his way through the suspects, le Brun  eventually discovers who planned the crimes, hired the murderer and then disposed of him as well.   When the man brings about his own death in a manner worthy of a Wagnerian opera, it looks as if everything’s settled.

Not so.  In a surprising denoument, le Brun discovers yet another twist to a plot that’s already as convuluted as a nest of garter snakes.   Along the way he discovers the long-lost jewel hoard.

Monahan has filled the story with real people of the day, including
Sanford White, Joseph Pulitzer, J P Morgan and other notables.   Among the cameo roles appears John Drew, one of the leading actors of the day, but now only remembered as the progenitor of Drew Barrymore.

This is a ripping good yarn and is highly recommended.

 

Dead Soul by James D. Doss

 Publisher: St. Martin's  ISBN: 0312994621

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Charlie Moon, a tribal investigative consultant in Southern Colorado, is called on to help track down the man responsible for the death of a fellow tribe member, he once again leaves the care taking of his large ranch to the more able hands of his cowboys.  The victim, a driver for the powerful Colorado Senator Patch Davidson, is only the tip of the ice-burg in what will turn out to be a case of huge proportions.  Meanwhile, his Aunt Daisy, the old curmudgeon of the wild visions, is seeing danger in every corner.  So in a story filled with wild-west shoot-outs, government conspiracies, and North American mysticism, we are taken on a wild ride of the first order.         

Charlie Moon’s world would be a wonderful place to live in.  Not just the beautiful landscape of Southern Colorado, or the eccentric characters who call it home (especially his wonderful Aunt Daisy), but Charlie Moon himself.  This completely engaging character is what really makes this tale soar.  His sly humor, his sense of spiritual awareness, and his inner calm all provide something that we might just learn from.  This is not a world of black and white, but of shades of gray deep with meaning.  And this latest story, one of sure-handed suspense, and sweet resolution, is simply a darned good tale, and one that makes us deeply eager for the next.  This song, wrapped within a story, comes highly recommended.             

 

Everyone Dies by Michael McGarrity

 Publisher: Onyx Books  ISBN: ISBN: 0451411471

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In the 8th outing featuring Santa Fe police chief Kevin Kerney, things get personal.  Someone is stalking Kerney and has already killed others involved in the criminal justice system with ties to Kerney in previous cases.  With a wife whose only days from delivering their son, Kerney must track this killer before he kills his truly intended victims, Kerney and his family.

Racing from scene to scene, this gripping novel is perhaps the best in the series.  Extremely fast-paced and suspenseful, fans will be delighted with the more personal aspect to the story, including the scenes with Kerney’s other son, Clayton Istee, whose family is also a target.  McGarrity also interweaves the wonderful ambiance of Santa Fe, and other New Mexico communities flawlessly into the story, bringing his true understanding of this unique place into play.  This is a winner, and sure to please his fans of old, and attract new ones as well.

 

The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen

 Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN: 0345458923

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When two nuns are viciously attacked, Dr. Maura Isles, a.k.a. Queen of the Dead, is called in to inspect the gruesome scene.  Along with Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli, the two are soon led down a trail that takes them to some surprising destinations.  As seemingly unrelated events are soon connected, the truth somehow becomes even more obscured.  The innocent can’t be trusted, and the guilty remain but vague shadows.  And if that wasn’t enough, Dr. Isles must come to terms with the return of her ex-husband, and Rizzoli must confront a startling personal discovery that includes her ex-lover, FBI agent Gabriel Dean.  So as the snow continues to fall in chilly Boston, the two struggle to find the answers that may lead them to salvation.           

Once you get past the overly graphic opening scenes, this latest from Gerritsen sails effortlessly through a story filled with suspense, secrets, and wild emotion.  And although Dr. Isles plays center stage, there’s also enough of Jane Rizzoli to keep old fans satisfied.  And while watching these two strong and independent women kick butt and take names is a joy and a triumph, finally seeing more of their romantic and vulnerable sides is more than refreshing.  So if incredible suspense, wonderful plotting, and take-charge characters are what you seek, look no further, it’s all here and then some.     

 

NO GRAVES AS YET Anne Perry

Ballentine Books ISBN  034545653X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Except for the fact that this book is concerned with murder and
conspiracy, it really does not fall into the 'murder mystery' genre.

"No Graves as Yet" is nearly a literary novel, well-written in an
elegiac style reminiscent of Waugh.

Set in England in the six weeks immediately prior to the outbreak of World War I, the book is one of Anne Perry's finest yet.  It opens with the road accident deaths of Joseph and Matthew Reavley's parents.   Very soon, the brothers learn that the deaths were no accident, but murder.  Hard on this discovery comes the apparent murder of Sebastian Allard,  one of Houseman's "golden lads", and a student of Joseph at Cambridge University.   As Matthew and Joseph go deeper into the investigation of their parents' deaths, Joseph also discovers the dark side of Sebastian.

Central to the plot is the mysterious document that could destroy
England, which Reavley senior was bringing to London to show his younger son.   Matthew works for a shadowy government agency concerned with espionage.  At first, the brothers are not  sure the document still exists, but it's clear that someone else does, someone who killed their parents to obtain it.   The Reaveley house is searched while the family is attending their parents' funeral, and Matthew is convinced that someone  eavesdropped on his phone conversation with  his father.

The brothers pursue their investigations separately, but  eventually their paths converge: it's clear Sebastian's death is connected with  the parents' murder, and that the apparent suicide of a tutor is also linked.  Running alongside the unofficial investigation is the official police investigation, led by Inspector Perth, a man with the tenacity of a rat terrier.  Convinced that Perth will dig out every secret and turn the calm life of the University on its head, Joseph descends from his ivory tower to try to solve Sebastian's murder first.

Always, under the main plot threads, runs the dark weft of
international politics, moving inexorably to war, despite the
thoughtless optimism of most Englishmen.   Looking into Perry's time capsule, the reader can't help feel a frisson for the coming horror: one wants to yell out to the characters to beware, all the while knowing it wouldn't do any good.

The brothers Matthew and Joseph are the main characters in the story, and the point of view switches from one to the other.  However, there are also a dozen or so secondary characters, well-developed and likable or loatheable according to the nature Perry has given them.
 

Last Lessons of Summer by Margaret Maron

Publisher: Warner Books  ISBN: 044661422X 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Amy Steadman’s grandmother is murdered in her North Carolina home, Amy impulsively decides to take it upon herself to head to the small town to close out the estate.  Surrounded by a myriad of cousins, aunts, and uncles, she’s soon thrust into a mystery that reaches all the way back to her mother’s questionable suicide.  And as she attempts to unravel the many secrets that surround her family, and their successful business of children’s books, she unwittingly puts herself in danger.  Not knowing whom to trust, as it appears almost everyone has a motive, she must uncover the truth if she’s to come out alive.   

This novel of family secrets will most likely appeal to fans of Maron, and her Deborah Knott series.  Although a stand-alone mystery, its huge Southern influence will attract those already familiar with Maron’s writing, and most likely draw in new fans as well.  But be warned, the family tree diagram introduced at the beginning isn’t just for show.  Keeping track of this huge family base isn’t simple, and unfortunately sometimes detracts from what otherwise is a well-plotted story.  The family betrayals and secrets that Amy sets out to uncover are delicately unfolded with the proper amount of suspense and tension, leading the reader down a well-developed path of intrigue.  And although some of the romance is a bit far-fetched, this too adds to the story.  All in all, a decent summer read.  

 

 

I Love my Smith & Wesson by David Bowker

Publisher: St. Martin's ISBN: 0312328257 

Reviewed by Marcus Brandt, New Mystery Reader

“I love my smith & Wesson” is the story of a crazed villain named Rawhead, who has been terrorizing the underworld of Manchester, England for decades.  For those familiar with “the Godfather”, particularly the novel, this character is definitely in the Luca Brasi mold - the one man that the greatest crimelords fear above all else. He takes his best friend since childhood under his wing, and champions him and a wimpy crimelord’s son in a perverse loyalty that is wryly humorous in a (very) black comic sort of way.  The best friend and their relationship is presented as a sort of theme to the book, however, that theme distracts from the real centerpiece, Rawhead.  A further examination of his persona might have made for a better feel to the book. But, if you take it as an extreme character portrait, he is thoroughly enjoyable. 

Definitely not a book for the faint of heart or stomach, a very adult novel. Lots of swearing, and, shall we say, “unusual situations”. But I enjoyed this book a great deal. It even made me laugh aloud at some points.  A great combination of humor and gore, crime figures with a Mafioso bent, and an odd romanticism.

 

Dynamite Road by Andrew Klavan

Publisher: Forge ISBN: 076534694X

Reviewed by Marcus Brandt, New Mystery Reader

I found this book to be a very enjoyable read.  It’s the story of a… well… it’s a lot of stories.  The overall theme of the book-- the things that people will and won’t do for their dreams, fears, love and the almighty dollar, involves one intimately with all the characters.  There are elements of metaphysics, true crime, Sam Spade, sex and blood and gore, not to mention a lot of musing on the nature of life amongst the whiskey and stealth helicopters. Pretty heavy stuff. I’m not really so sure that the plot, especially the “ultimate story”, is quite believable, but I got caught up enough in the story that I just didn’t care. All the characters were interesting and reasonably plausible, especially the main three, an aging 40s style detective with a touch of Sherlock Holmes, a ne’er do well pilot, and the mercenary who gets more and more deeply involved as he fights, screws, and manipulates his way through the story and the bad guys’ lives.

One of the things I liked most about the book was that it was written in the vernacular, with people speaking much like real people would speak, and the narrative the same.  There was nothing clunky or awkward about the writer’s style.  A little short, and I would have liked more, but I’m not sure if that’s a criticism or a compliment. Very highly recommended, and one of the better books that I have read in the style. 

 

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345463943 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

FBI agents Miranda Cahill and Will Fletcher are teamed up to work a series of murders.  They know they must identify future targets before they become victims.  When they determine that Miranda may be on the hit list the game gets deadly.

This is the third in a trilogy of novels, but each book stands on its own merit and is complete in itself.  The main characters are dedicated hard hitting FBI agents and cunning ex-convicts with hit lists.  Stewart packs her novels with enough action to keep the reader turning pages in anticipation.  She also works another case into the plot, which leads the reader to believe it will be the crux of her next novel.  Always keeping the the reader on tenterhooks, we eagerly await for her next book to hit the shelves.

 

A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060534052

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Grant County’s Chief of Police, Jeffery Tolliver, is called in to handle a suspected suicide of a college student, he summons his ex-wife and current lover, Sara Linton, who is the medical examiner to assist on the case.  She brings along her pregnant sister Tess, and what follows is nothing short of tragedy when Tess is brutally attacked and left for dead.  Following this event is yet another suicide, and when it’s discovered that these deaths are in fact murder, all eyes turn to Lena Adams, an ex-cop who now works security for the college, as the prime suspect.  Lena, still recovering from an attack which nearly left her dead the previous year, is on the brink of complete self-destruction, and the events that follow may only bring her closer.   

A dark and disturbing book, Slaughter delivers yet again.  Feeling like the emotional equivalent to a punch in the gut, this powerful and evocative portrayal of lives in anguish is brutal in its honesty.  To say the suspense is high is an understatement, and says nothing of the deep and often tormented depiction of these flawlessly rendered characters, especially Lena, whose spiraling descent into near-tragedy is so utterly wrenching, it will leave the reader breathless.  This is a must read for the intelligent mystery lover, and we can’t wait for the next in this remarkable series.       

 

Hello Darkness by Sandra Brown

 Publisher: Pocket Star ISBN: 0743466756 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Austin DJ Paris Gibson receives a startling call one night during her show, it comes from a man calling himself Valentino and he claims to have abducted a young girl and is threatening to kill her within 72 hours.  The girl had rejected him, and blaming Paris and her advice during one of her shows, he now vows to make them both pay. Police psychologist Dean Malloy is called in to the case, and all too soon the past Paris and Dean once shared comes back to haunt them, bringing along some frightening repercussions for the mistakes they once made.  But if they can find the killer, they just might have a shot at the future.            

Looks like Brown has another sure-fired hit on her hands.  This rousing read is both thrilling and suspenseful, with just enough red herrings to keep the most avid reader glued to the pages.  And although the romance is bit tepid and clichéd, it will most likely be enough to thrill her many fans.  Her characters could have perhaps used a bit more work as well, but will surely suffice, as the narrative itself rushes along as such a break-neck speed that this particular lack of depth is hardly noticed.  A fun and worthwhile read, fans won’t want to miss this latest thriller from Ms. Brown.

 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Blaine Anderson survives the bombing of a women's clinic and slowly makes her way to her husband's office.  Dazed, burned, bleeding and ragged, she hides in the building's garage waiting for her husband to drive by.  Resting in the shadows she overhears a conversation that convinces her that she was the intended victim, and that if she is not dead they will go after her husband.  Blaine decides that she cannot go home until the bomber is caught, and slinks away to begin living her life on the streets as Mary Blaine.

Mark Anderson identifies the burned body of a woman who was found clutching his wife's rings in her hand when she died.  When he hears that a homeless woman has left Blaine's gym bag on a bench at the bus stop, he begins walking the streets at night to find her.

The author keeps the reader on the edge throughout the entire book with escalating tension and action.  Blaine is a shy lady who learns that she is in fact a very gutsy woman.  John is a very dedicated attorney who learns that he has been ignoring the best thing in his life.  Mary's new homeless friends include an alcoholic, two elderly ladies who are apparently victims of deinstitutionalization, and a Viet Nam vet suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.  This is a good, well plotted novel that holds the reader spellbound,  and is intriguing enough to be read in one or two sittings.

 

The Last Good Day by Peter Blauner

Publisher: Warner: ISBN: 0446614270 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Lynn and Barry Schulman have returned to Lynn’s childhood home, a suburb outside of New York, where they hope to raise their children in a safe and friendly neighborhood.  But when Lynn’s best friend is found decapitated, and the main suspect, Lynn’s ex-boyfriend, begins to stalk her, they realize nothing is safe, not even the perfect neighborhood of manicured lawns in which they live. 

One of the more intelligently written thrillers I’ve read in a while, this latest from Blauner is a sure winner.  Taking apart the life of the suburbanite soccer moms and commuter dads, and showing the fissures underneath the surfaces of these seemingly placid lives, Blauner takes us on a journey that’s far closer to home than we could possibly imagine.  Part  treatise on not being able to ever go home again, and part suburban nightmare, this unflinching look at life after 9-11, stock market crashes, and the never-ending battle to keep up with the Joneses, Blauner rips apart the mirage of safety in suburbia.  A stimulating, if somewhat depressing read, this clever thriller definitely belongs on your bookshelf.