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New mystery book reviews in paperback.  Click on titles for buying info.

Acts of Mercy by Mariah Stewart

Publisher:  Ballantine Books ISBN:  978-0-345-50614-6

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A new organization is founded and funded by a rich man whose infant son disappeared after a car crash. The intent is to help people find out what happened to their loved ones, as in one case that comes to them where a caring man is found murdered behind a mission where he volunteered.

His wife hopes the new group can find a killer after the police have reached a dead end.  This brings ex-FBI profiler Sam DelVecchio into the case.

While Sam searches for a killer using his contacts from his old job, renewed hope is given when the founder of the organization learns his son may still be alive and the search is renewed.

Talented author Maria Stewart has crafted a complex tale involving interesting and realistic characters whose pain you will share as they try to sort out their lives.

Recommended for any reader who likes thrillers or suspense as well as mystery.  Surprises lay in store so don’t jump to conclusions as you match wits with the investigators.  Enjoy. I did.

 

 

 

The Bordeaux Betrayal by Ellen Crosby

Publisher: Pocket Books Mystery  ISBN-10: 143911238X

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Turn the pages of Crosby’s latest wine country mystery and step into the lovely Virginia countryside, filled with rich historic tradition invoking passions ranging from the American Civil War to wine preferences, both of which are hotly (and fondly) debated by the local residents of this state so central to both the Colonial and Civil War eras. 

Lucie Montgomery continues to live on the farm that has been in her family for generations, only now the Montgomery farm produces wine grapes instead of food crops.  Harvest time will be busier than usual because of an anticipated wine auction, the proceeds of which are designated to help disabled children.  The wine auction has gained national attention after the donation of a special bottle of Margaux, believed to be an intended gift from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, although Washington never actually received the wine.  Simultaneously, the annual Goose Creek Hunt will bring fox-hunters through several farms during the weekend of the charity auction.

Adding to the seasonal excitement, visiting wine buyer Valerie Beauvais dies in her overturned vehicle in Goose Creek and Lucie discovers her body in the rapidly rising water.  Lucie wonders if Valerie’s death was an accident or resulted in someone’s unbridled intention to acquire the Washington Margaux without Valerie’s interference.  True to form, the small town’s residents are abuzz with possible murder suspects, especially after incidents of vandalism occur on the suddenly controversial fox hunt route.

Somewhat guarded after a life-changing accident, Lucie spends most of her time at her winery with her staff, including Quinn Santori, a Hawaiian shirt-wearing, jewelry-adorned winemaker who helps Lucie perfect her blends.  Quinn, whose past includes accusations of fraud at the California winery where he previously worked, proves just as damaged as Lucie when an unexpected reminder from California shows up.  Lucie’s friendship with Quinn becomes rockier and more complicated as they irritate each other just when they need to nurture their wine to encourage a delicate finish.

In The Bordeaux Betrayal, readers become quickly immersed in the competitive world of acquiring and enjoying specific vintages, with their inherent history, personal tales, expensive price tags and, of course, taste.  Author Ellen Crosby includes an “Introduction to Bordeaux” in the back as well as a few pages of her next book featuring Lucie Montgomery, The Riesling Retribution.

Crosby evidently loves a good vintage and devotes proper attention to educating readers about wine without being monotonous.  Stories of the Founding Fathers, an obsession with wines and a dash of European reminiscences blend together to make an enjoyable addition to the Wine Country Mystery series.

 

 

 

Inked Up by Terri Thayer

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN:  978-0-425-22912-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Halloween is coming to Aldenville, Pennsylvania, and April Buchert and her friends are planning the annual Pumpkin Express as a way to advertise local businesses and raise funds. One of the must-see places is the corn maze at her friend Suzi’s nursery.

The evening is ruined when a body is found in the corn maze by April and her boyfriend, Mitch.  Unfortunately, the body is that of the woman who was supposed to get the low income house that Mitch was constructing, a woman who had no known enemies.

April’s search for a killer puts her in danger and she is nearly a murder victim too. 

This tale is a blend of several events going on at once as in real life and the reader will enjoy them all.  If you like creating stamps to decorate with, or use them to decorate with, you will enjoy this tale; if you enjoy Halloween, the planning and events of that holiday add a great flavor to this story and act as a background of both time and place for a murder; and lastly trying to figure out who would kill two women and why, when their lifestyles are so different. 

I’m pleased to recommend this tale to any mystery fan who enjoys reading about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

 

 

 

Black & White and Dead All Over by John Darnton

Publisher: Anchor  ISBN-10: 0307387429

Reviewed by Scott D. Parker, New Mystery Reader

You ask any person under twenty-five what’s black, white, and re(a)d all over, they might look at you askance and put their nose back to their smart phone and surf the ‘net. Such is the changing world that John Darnton shows us in Black &White and Dead All Over. A reporter with forty years on the job and Pulitzer to his credit, Darnton’s tale is a murder/mystery that takes place inside the not-so-fictional world of a big city newspaper.

The body of Theodore Ratnoff, the top editor at the New York Globe, is found in his office with an editor’s spike through the heart. This is the very spike that he used to kill numerous stories throughout his career. Jude Hurley, a reporter from the Globe who never toes the company line, is assigned the story. Detective Priscilla Bollingsworth catches the case and she quickly realizes her problem: just about everyone at the Globe could be a suspect. She allows Hurley to tag along and acts as her guide through the turbulent waters that is the changing way we consumers get our news...and how it affects those people who bring us the news.

It’s a rare modern book that warrants the adjective “Dickensian.” The plot is fairly straightforward—unlike most of Dickens’ novels—with just enough clues so that the adept reader might deduce the culprit before the big reveal. No, the Dickensian aspect in this book is the names. They are wonderful and go a long way to revealing each character without the need for much additional description. The dead man Ratnoff pretty much says it all. Bollingsworth as a detective name is certainly an oddity and Hurley comments on it. Skeeter Diamond is one of the assistant editors so you already know how hard he can be. The city desk editor is Bernie Grabble, a man who talks a mile a minute but has only a few good ideas. The above-it-all publisher gets a name Mr. Dickens would approve of: Elisha R. Hagenbuckle. The culinary reporter (who has her own cooking show on TV) is Dinah Outsalot while Peregrin Whibbleby is the gossip columnist. Needless to say, the many names were perfectly chosen.

The book starts a bit slow since Darnton occasionally stops the forward flowing action for some backstory for every character that’s introduced. Most of the backstory is interesting but might’ve been worked in through dialogue or in conversation between Hurley and Bollingsworth. The chemistry between the two protagonists is gentle and there’s a respect there. It’s not too unlike the TV show “Castle” but Darnton doesn’t beat you over the head with their feelings about each other, even as Hurley’s on-again/off-again girlfriend keeps sticking her nose in the story.

The true star of the story, however, is the newspaper, the insights into how it operates, and its place in our modern world. There may be a glamorous side to working for a newspaper—the prizes, the notoriety—but the grueling work done with no spotlight makes even the most zealous reporter jaded over time. The internet and the 24-hour news cycles on cable television seem to be the real villains here. Even Rupert Murdoch makes a not-so-veiled appearance in the book. Darnton (through Hurley) is a reporter so he stays true to the end. But he sees the future and realizes it’s already washed over the shores of traditional newspapers. All that’s left to do is cope.

 

 

 

Sew Deadly by Elizabeth Lynn Casey

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN:  978-0-425-22910-1

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

New in town? Join a sewing circle and make new friends. Or so Tori Sinclear, new librarian in Sweet Briar, South Carolina, thought.  But she runs into resentment when faced by the now retired librarian and her chums.

Then, when a town’s southern belle is found dead behind the library, many people are ready to believe that Tori did it out of jealousy over a teacher who has taken a liking to Tori. So the gossip begins.

Tori does find a few women willing to accept her and her ideas to expand the library’s usefulness but the suspicion is hurtful. Thankfully she finds some peace during the meetings of the sewing circle, though aware of those who decided they don’t trust her.

With so much against her, including the policeman investigating the murder, Tori is forced to conduct her own investigation with the help of a few new friends.

This is a tale that works well and has interesting characters but I found the sudden sweetness of some minor characters a little unbelievable toward the last part of the story given their attitudes throughout the rest of the book. 

Recommended for any mystery fan who enjoys tales set in a small town with a well drawn atmosphere and settings.  A pleasant story with surprises along the way.

 

 

Uneasy Relations by Aaron Elkins

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN 0425229084

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The Skeleton Detective, Gideon Oliver, is back in his 15th adventure, of which I have read five or six, and this is as good as any of them.

Oliver and his park ranger wife Julie are invited to Gibralter for a conference to mark the anniversary of the discovery of Gibralter Woman and her child in a cave at the tip of the great rock island several years ago.

Controversy has raged about these two skeletons for some time: are they proof of the long-theorised interbreeding of Neanderthal and modern humans, or are the bones merely atypical ones that prove nothing?  Gideon was one of those involved in testing the incomplete remains and he has never been able to give a definitive opinion one way or the other.

As well as presenting a paper at this conference,  Gideon  and  several other colleagues will be feting Ivan Gunderson, Grand Old Man of archaeology, the one responsible for the great find in the cave.   Ivan is past his use by date, and saying some odd things which cause concern to one of the colleagues in particular.  After several ‘accidents’, Gideon begins to think someone wants him dead, but cannot imagine why.  Then there’s another accident, a fatal one, and that leads to the discovery of a murder, and it’s up to the Skeleton Detective to make sense of what’s happened.  His sleek and savvy friend, inspector Sotomayor, doesn’t take long to realize that Gideon is on to something, and unlike many fictional policemen, encourages the academic to solve the mystery.

Elkins has great fun informing us about Gibralter; I feel that if dropped down there one day, i could find my way to the police station, the main street, a hotel or two , and several decent restaurants.  This is all done smoothly, without any of that “Listen up, I am going to show you how carefully I have researched my location” stuff with which less skillful writers interlard their stories.

A thoroughly enjoyable and education read, in the nicest possible way. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

Line of Fire by Edward Butts

Publisher:  Dundurn Press ISBN:  978-1-55488-391-2

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Talented author Edward Butts has crafted an enlightening book based on tales of the Canadian police and Mounties from the archives of Canadian records.  Line of Fire is an interesting and informative read for any history buff or fan of police work.

Beginning in 1804 with the loss of the Speedy on Lake Ontario he recounts the heroic deeds and tragic deaths of several law officers the nation could ill afford to lose. Even though Canada did not suffer the epidemic of killings and other criminal activities the US did, they did share a long border with the US that was easily crossed by criminals from both nations.

The establishment of the Mounted Police brought a sense of connection to the rest of the country and the law to its isolated corners. So the loss of any man was deeply felt. Besides criminals and other dangerous threats, the police often faced terrible weather, with one tale being the loss of a patrol in the freezing temperatures of an Arctic winter.

This is a book that brings home to the reader the dangers men faced in bring law and order to the Canadian wilds.  I’m pleased to recommend this book as an interesting read well worth the time.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

 

Exposed by Alex Kava

Publisher: MIRA Books. ISBN: 978-0-7783-26403

Reviewed by Jim Sells, New Mystery Reader

In a world focused upon terrorism, Kava’s latest offering hits a chord. The novel opens upon a boat crossing Africa’s Lake Victoria. Traveling with a cage of sick monkeys, a man soon succumbs to an unknown illness.

Across the Atlantic, the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit receives a threatening note hidden at the bottom of a box of donuts. Responding to what they perceive as a bomb threat, Agents Maggie O’Dell and her boss are thrust into the opening act of a series of bio-terror attacks as well as exposed to an unknown virus. The insane genius behind the plot uses methods and patterns learned from such notorious criminals as the Unabomber, the Tylenol killer, and the Beltway Snipers with new tricks and “red herrings” to mislead the authorities. Knowing the danger to the public, the US Army biological warfare experts are brought in. Maggie and her boss are placed in quarantine at an isolation facility known as “The Slammer”. While there, Maggie meets an Army doctor – Colonel Platt - and they both come to suspect an insider of the acts.

Meanwhile, Agent RJ Tully – Maggie’s partner – has been spared exposure due to family business. Tully works from on the outside until Platt takes it upon himself to release Maggie.

As the story nears an end, the players are beginning to realize that the acts are much more personal than they seemed at first. Relatives of several characters have received packages containing cash tainted with Ebola virus. Finally there arises the question of whether this realization will be enough to save the major players and countless others.

Kava’s novel has the feel of an early Michael Crichton work. Kava delivers the reader suspense and technical content in a well-written style.

 

 

 

Spackled and Spooked by Jennie Bentley

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime ISBN:  978-0-425-22913-2

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Talented author Jennie Bentley has crafted a tale that will hold your interest and provide lots of fun in Spackled and Spooked.  If you are a mystery fan who likes surprises, join Avery and Derek as they begin renovations on an old house where a murder-suicide had taken place many years before.

As the renovations begin they find the flooring in the kitchen must be repaired.  As Derek is working in the crawl space he discovers a bone and decides they need to call the police. He has had medical training and recognizes the bone as human, so it's only natural he should become suspicious.

Regrettably, the repairs are put on hold as a result and so Avery does a little investigating by asking questions and looking into disappearances of people from the area.  The results are surprising and expose secrets long kept in the small town that is now her new home.

From nosy neighbors, smirking real estate agents, creepy noises in the night, weird looking visitors, to the simple intent to redo an old house over and sell it, you will find plenty of action and mystery.  There are times your skin will prickle as you feel watched by the unseen. This one comes with plenty of surprises for the reader who likes older homes and hard work.

 

 

 

Play Dead by David Rosenfelt

Publishers: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN: 0446614521

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

The most wicked and craziest legal thriller of the year- that’s PLAY DEAD, the 6th in the legal thriller series featuring lawyer Andy Carpenter by David Rosenfelt.

For the novice Rosenfelt reader- here is some background info- Andy Carpenter is, on a good day, the most wild, maverick, and wise-assed attorney you might hope to find, both inside and outside a courtroom.

And this time round, Carpenter is feeling great, he has just won a case that would become a precedent, a groundbreaking case that would be written and carved in the annals of legal history- he has just saved a golden retriever from death row. And there is more to it, the very thankful doggy, Yogi, has in no unmistakable terms ‘communicated’ to Andy that Yogi was a witness to a murder that took place a while back. And Andy knows that Yogi’s testimony (the law of canine testimony which will be soon a subject for study in the law of evidence classes, in law schools worldwide, right next to the law of voir dire), will be the crucial turning point between life and death for Andy’s client who is accused of murder.

Customs officer Richard Evans is accused of murder of his girlfriend, and the only witness to the same was Yogi.  But Evans, though he might be innocent of murder, seems to be involved in some shady deals, and he might have had something to do with the Mafia. And it is Andy’s word against an almost prejudiced jury. And it’s up to Andy, his golden retriever Tara, and Yogi to free Evans from the shackles of the law.

What follows is humour at its best, culminating in, well, this one you'll want have to read to find out.

 

 

 

Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson

Publisher: Zebra  ISBN  978-1-4201-01277-2

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Resuming where her last in the series ended, Jackson continues her tale of the search for the “Star Crossed Killer,” the deadly monster who has left a trail of murdered women behind in the snow-filled forests of Wyoming. 

Now, after a copy-cat capture had temporarily lulled all into thinking it was over, the small police force of Pinewood County is determined to catch the killer whose MO involves shooting out a woman’s tire on the less-traveled roads in the mountainous terrain, only to present himself as their savior who after aiding them back to health, leads them naked into the woods to perish from the elements.  And when one of their own disappears, Detective Regan Pescoli, a single mother of two, their hunt for the killer takes on an even more desperate and concentrated effort.  But with blizzards raging, and the madness that accompanies the approaching holidays, time will be their enemy as it ticks down ever closer to her death.  

While any season might be a good time to read this book, reading it in the dead heat of summer definitely adds to its already outstanding allure.  With Jackson’s detailed descriptions of blizzards and snow-ravaged mountain terrains, she creates an ambience that easily brings chills and shivers no matter how hot it is outside.  But while this is a more than welcomed respite from sizzling, summer temperatures, her exhilarating plot serves as an even better distraction.  Switching viewpoints that include the captured woman, her worried lover, her terrified children, her abrasive and determined partner, and the cunningly elusive killer who is closer thank anyone thinks, combine to make this one heck of an exciting read.  Not a dull moment, this is escapist fiction at its best, and one that comes highly recommended.       

 

 

The Gaudi Key by Esteban Martín and Andreu Carranza

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks  ISBN 0061434922

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

“The Da Vinci Code” set off a whole new genre of mystery thrillers, of which this is yet another example.

The premise of “The Gaudi Key” is that Antonio Gaudi, the amazing Spanish architect responsible for many of the 20th century’s most marvellous buildings, was the heir of an ancient secret society, the Knights of Moriah, going back to the days of King Solomon.

Gaudi died when he was run down by a tram.  The authors have made the assumption that this was no accident, and that he was killed in an attempt to find the ‘key’ that was given him by the last Grand Master.  The killers worked for another secret group, the Corbel, a group Satanists as old as the Knights of Moriah, dedicated defeating the works of light and preventing the rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon.

The story proper begins with Maria and her ancient uncle, who was Gaudi’s apprentice.  The uncle has moments of lucidity in his deepening dementia, and in one of these moments charges Maria with finding the key and bringing the secret to the light after centuries in hiding.

Maria’s fiancé Miguel, a mathematician, and their friend Taimatsu, a Japanese devotee of Gaudi’s work, set out to solve the puzzle the old man has left, conscious that there’s a very tight time limit.  The danger of what they are doing becomes apparent when one after another of the people who knew the old man die horribly.

Step by step, aided by her memories from childhood, and by Miguel’s mathematical mind, Maria draws closer to the hidden secret, dogged through the streets of Barcelona by the evil Corbel.  A surprising turn of events depletes the number of villains, but Maria and Miguel aren’t home free just yet.

The final scene takes place in Gaudi’s (still uncompleted) masterwork, La Sagrada Familia, the Temple of the Holy Family.  Unfortunately it is not quite clear what is happening and the final act ends abruptly, leaving one feeling somehow cheated after all the complex, intricate plot twists and turns.  There’s also a deus ex machina final chapter that seems to be grafted on as an afterthought; the sort of surprise that hasn’t had any groundwork laid for it.  You get the general idea of what the writers meant to be the climax of the story, but it doesn’t quite work.  This may be a genuine case of something ‘lost in translation’.

There is a great deal of horrific torture and murder in this book that one feels could have been toned down considerably with no loss to the story.  There are also some clumsy spots of dialogue and a few egregious factual errors; however, all in all this is an absorbing adventure.  Those who look up a few of Gaudi’s buildings on the Web will add to their reading enjoyment.

 

 

 

Alibi by Sydney Bauer

Publisher:  Jove  ISBN:  978-0-515-14659-2 

Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader  

“It is the choices we don’t make in life that we live to regret – not the ones that we do.”

These words, spoken by the murder victim – Jessica Nagoshi – are an eerie foretelling of her own future as she is found brutally murdered in the greenhouse of her father’s vast estate.  The focus very quickly falls upon her law-student boyfriend, James Matheson, who is apprehended and charged with her murder.  To make matters more complicated, Jessica was pregnant with James’ child at the time she was murdered and the advantageous D.A. is seeking an unprecedented double-murder count for Jessica’s death and the feticide of the unborn child she carried.

Thus begins the latest novel by former Australian journalist and TV executive, Sydney Bauer, entitled ALIBI.  The story is set within Boston, MA, and the victim and lead suspect both attended the prestigious Deane University.  Additionally, Jessica Nagoshi was the only daughter of John Nagoshi --- founder and owner of Nagoshi Incorporated.  John Nagoshi takes matters into his own hands and immediately offers a 2 million dollar reward for the capture and conviction of his daughter and grand-child’s killer.  Mr. Nagoshi was not aware of the budding love affair between his daughter and future legal star, James Matheson.

Matheson’s defense is led by Attorney David Cavanaugh with an assist by his girl-friend and co-counsel, Sara Davis.  It turns out Matheson was a young protégé of Cavanaugh’s and swears his innocence to David.  Working the case from the homicide angle are Boston Detectives Mannix and McKay --- Mannix being an old friend of David Cavanaugh’s.  The responsibility for trying the case for the prosecution is the highly unlikable D.A., Roger “The Kat” Katz.  Clouding the waters in the case of Matheson’s two best friends at Deane --- H. Edgar Simpson (the ‘H’ ironically enough standing for Homer) and Heath Westinghouse --- two silver-spoon and privileged young men who have a nefarious interest in the case that is less than upstanding.

Bauer presents many suspects throughout ALIBI.  In addition to those already mentioned, there is the jealous and enterprising brother of Jessica Nagoshi, Peter, who now has a clear path to his families business as well as  young activist Sawyer Jones, who worked with Jessica on various ‘green’ issues on campus and carried a serious torch for her.  Cavanaugh realizes that there is no concrete evidence to convict or release his client ---

the only outstanding clues at the murder scene are the strangulation marks on Jessica’s

neck, the indentation on her forehead where it was crushed by a rock following strangulation and the odd fact that someone took her shoes and removed them from the scene.

What transpires once the court battle ensues is thoroughly engaging, as is the entire novel, and the reader will be left guessing at every turn as to how things might eventually turn out.  Several Australian publications have praised Sydney Bauer for being ‘another Grisham’.  I have to revise this statement by saying Bauer compares to the earlier works of Grisham --- before his latter novels became bogged down with melodrama and unrealistic plot twists.  With ALIBI, Sydney Bauer has created a work where all the characters are very real people and the plot twists believable and surprising.  I look forward to her next effort!

 

 

Badlands by Richard Montanari

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN-10: 0345492439

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It doesn’t take long for Philly detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne, now working on the cold case squad after some previous cases gone bad, to get their first cold case – one that begins when their unit is given a tip that leads to the murder of a teenaged runaway girl months before.  But when the tipster, an older woman who denies placing any calls, suddenly jumps out her 10 story window, the detectives are left with only confusion regarding the mysterious tip that connects the runaway’s death to an old abandoned building and now possibly the older woman’s suicide. 

And their confusion will only grow when their cold case turns hot with the discovery of another young runaway’s corpse, followed by yet another. And when the killer suddenly contacts them and begins to play games with them, literally, dropping mysterious clues and referring to intricate puzzles, the chase is on, drawing the detectives deep into a battle against a cunning master of evil like they’ve never known before.

Montanari, whose previous novel Merciless has just come out in paperback, shows that he certainly grasps the meaning of that particular word in this latest.  This is one guy who truly understands how to hold an audience captive - creating an entirely unique and electrifying reality that is more than capable of keeping the reader unwilling and, at times, unable to put it aside. 

Brilliant plotting aside, Montanari manages to not only successfully bring back the engagingly imperfect duo of saviors from his previous novels in the series, but also adds a special young heroine called Lilly who is deserving of her own novel; her soulful tale of courage and deliverance worth this one read alone.  And if it’s villains that are your thing, Montanari delivers that as well, this latest one being so diabolically cunning that even the most egotistical arm chair detectives will have to admit they couldn’t have done any better in catching this particular killer sooner. 

Arcane puzzles and magic tricks older than the hills, ingeniously dropped clues that challenge, a bit of Philly history, and a cast that soars above the norm all flawlessly combine to create this astonishingly clever read that might just be Montanari’s best.

 

 

 

A Job to Kill For by Janice Kaplan

Publisher: Touchstone  ISBN-10: 1416532145

Reviewer: Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader 

If you’re looking for a travel guide exhorting you to visit the land of the beautiful people—this isn’t it.

Set in LA and peopled by those in the film industry, A Job to Kill For features over-indulged moguls, jaded stars, and the intrepid interior designer who witnessed a murder and intends to clear her best friend from suspicion.

Lacy Fields, likeable in spite of some questionable childrearing ways which have rewarded her with a bratty shop-lifting teen-age daughter and a great teenage son, seems to be one of the few not involved in affairs or other ethically questionable activities in the land of dreams.  She’s actually a bit too perfect, with a loving husband, infinite patience and a thriving interior design business catering to the richest and most famous of Hollywood’s elite.  When her client suddenly dies in Lacy’s newest design, she’s struck by horror and a little sympathy for the late, lovely young woman.

Thanks to her unshakeable friendship with Molly, owner of a premiere casting agency and frequent companion to the dead woman’s sleazy husband, Lacy finds herself in a genuinely awkward position between wanting to trust her friend and finding out who could have committed murder.  Lacy’s always willing to throw caution to the wind and meet possible murder suspects in remote areas leading to surprising situations and keeping the murderer’s identity in question. 

It’s unfortunate that the titles in the Lacy Fields mystery series are grammatically jarring but this lapse does not intrude upon the well-written, fast-paced story inside.  There’s plenty of name-dropping for Hollywood stars and A-list fashion designers which can be a bit much for the Target crowd, but A Job to Kill For makes a great beach read.

 

 

 

Too Close To Home by Linwood Barclay

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 05535943X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Promise Falls, a small town in upstate New York, has always been a safe and peaceful community.  At least until the night when the Cutter’s next door neighbors, criminal defense attorney Albert Langley, his wife, and teenaged son are shot to death in their own home.  And while initially the police and frightened members of the community believe the crime must be tied to the attorney’s not so stellar client list, when some new evidence comes out that the Cutter’s own teen-aged son was in the house at the time of the killings, he becomes the top suspect and is soon arrested.

But there’s much more to this crime than meets the eye, including the fact that the Langley’s might not have even been the target, but instead it was the Cutters who were supposed to die that night.  And as the case progresses, several deep and dark secrets about some of the towns most notable citizens will come to light, including some deadly secrets involving the Cutters themselves.

This latest stand-alone suspense thriller from Barclay again proves the author’s adeptness at tight plotting and razor sharp suspense.  Knowing just when to reveal each secret for maximum effect, this reads like a 21st century Peyton Place with it’s slow unveiling  of the complicated lives being lived played out  behind the well-tended and upright facades of this sterling silver community.  This is definitely a read that will keep readers on their toes- with each of its new revelations bringing into play yet another potential suspect- most of whom, while not guilty for this particular crime, are far from innocent.  And with so many juicy secrets available to provide a decent challenge that even if you do suspect how it’s going to end, you’ll still no doubt enjoy the enjoy the scandalous ride that takes you there.

 

 

Man in the Middle by Brian Haig

Publishers: Warner Books;  ISBN: 0446616672

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

After a two year hiatus, Haig is back and so is good ol’ Sean Drummond- you know the smartass, wise-guy, maverick JAG lawyer- the series protagonist of many a Haig work.

In 2005 while reading The President’s Assassin, I was a little disappointed that Drummond has become somewhat subdued and more serious in approach. However, Mr. Haig has brought back to life the ‘old’ Sean Drummond- the one which we have grown to respect and love- back in flamboyant style in this the latest work MAN IN THE MIDDLE.

In this outing, Haig delivers more of a political legal thriller rather than his customary military legal thriller, and while there is the military background, the more important political setting overshadows the military background. The action takes place in Iraq with Sean Drummond, along with Officer Brain Tran, investigating the death of a senior defense colonel who has supposedly committed suicide, with events eventually placing Drummond in some rather messy political dealings.  And more the JAG lawyer investigates, the deeper it gets.

The author’s strong view-point on Iraq is well highlighted and poignantly articulated, his respect for the soldiers who fight the battle unaffected either way.  All told, a good novel- a polemic of the present turbulent political times-that makes for a grand and thoughtful read.

 

 

 

Good People by Marcus Sakey

Publisher: Onyx  ISBN-10: 0451412745

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Tom and Anna Reed seem to have a pretty decent life in Chicago: they own their own home and have solid careers, yet the one thing still missing is a child.  And after having spent their life savings and going deep into debt with fertility treatments, it’s no mystery why they make the decision to keep the money found hidden in their tenant’s apartment after his sudden death.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars can buy a lot of fertility treatments, not to mention get them out of debt, and so it’s no wonder this seems like the answer to their prayers.  But what these normally law-abiding citizens don’t at first understand is that money found hidden is most likely connected to some dirty dealings and comes with a very high price, a truth they will soon find out when their safe lives explode into a frenzy of violence and terror when some very bad guys come looking for it.

Marcus Sakey, one of the best new authors to come along in the mystery genre lately, comes out of the gate with a roar in his latest title.  While often times reading a lot like the latest blockbuster Hollywood movie treatment, Sakey does manage to permeate this wild ride with enough compelling characterizations and riveting drama to appeal no matter how you prefer to receive your adrenaline infusion.  And after reading this, it’s not difficult to understand how good people can so very easily make wrong choices, his provocatively offered set of circumstances being such that it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to conceive just how tempting such a situation would be to most of us.  

This could be you, or I, or somebody we know and love, which makes this one hell of a personal read that will leave most hesitating when next time out at the grocery store to even snatch that plump grape that sits there so tempting in the produce aisle. 

 

 

 

Folly du Jour by Barbara Cleverly

Publisher: Delta  ISBN-10: 0385341849

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Sir George Jardine is enjoying his vacation in Paris, especially when he unexpectedly receives a token for a free ticket to the hottest show in town—risqué dancer Josephine Baker in her magnificent prime.  In the theatre’s royal box, his lovely and formidable nemesis of many aliases joins him for a drink and reminiscence while obviously trying to overcome her nerves about some mysterious problem.  Simultaneously, Sir George recognizes a former military man in the audience—one whose career was shattered after Sir George exposed his horrific war crimes.  By the end of the evening, Sir George is discovered with a body and quickly arrested by the no-nonsense French police.

Fortunately for Sir George, Scotland Yard has sent one its best over for a conference dedicated to, among other things, improving international relations between professional detectives.  Joe Sandilands has the curious position for a policeman that he knows that his old friend must be innocent so his detective skills are put to the test to clear him in a foreign country where his interference will be tolerated only if he’s lucky.

Sandilands, quick with a quip, instinctively knows how to gain the trust of his French colleagues in spite of a rough start.  His cordial work with young Frenchman Bonnefoye makes for an excellent team and plenty of mysteries abound with the very worldly cast of characters.  There’s definitely a bit of hard-boiled detective style here but with smarter women and (slightly) more talkative men.  Occasional modern references (a town is “tricked out”) are jarring but Folly du Jour maintains an overall sense of the modern culture and excitement of sophisticated 1920s Paris, an effect heightened by the breathless arrival of Charles Lindburgh on the same night that Sandilands flies into Paris.  Filled with great Parisian details from food to scenery to the people, Cleverly’s prose bristles with intelligence and purpose.

 

 

 

Larceny and Lace by Annette Blair

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN:  978-0-425-22911-8

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

For the reader who enjoys tales of magic or the paranormal type mystery, Larceny and Lace by talented author Annette Blair will provide a relaxing and very enjoyable read. 

A vintage clothing shop set up in a former funeral home with its own ghost, bones in a quilt, a fire, and a murder, all lead into a mystery of why someone would break into Madeira Cutler’s new shop before it opens to steal bones from their hiding place.

The resident ghost who can be seen by Madeira and her aunt who is a witch is no real help, and Madeira puts her life on the line when she begins to unravel the identity of the bones with the help of her friend Eve.

Many characters like Dolly in this great tale are endearing and warm while the villains are devious and nasty.  You’ll enjoy meeting one and all. Maddy’s talent of seeing bits of the past lives of those whose clothes she handles makes for a different slant on finding clues to a murder. If you enjoy fashions, you will love the descriptions of the apparel in her shop. Join the witches as they shop for an upcoming costume ball to be held in Vintage Magic.

I’m pleased to highly recommend this book with all its charms to any reader. Guaranteed to provide reading satisfaction and a pleasant experience. You’ll want more of this talented author’s work.  Enjoy. I sure did.

 

 

 

Dead Time by Stephen White

Publisher: Signet  ISBN-0451223772

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

After the death of his good friend and neighbor from a bombing in Israel, Boulder psychologist Alan Gregory suddenly finds himself not only dealing with the ongoing issues that seem to be threatening his marriage, but also with the added pressure of his newly appointed role as guardian of his murdered friend’s young son.  But things are only about to get even more complicated when his ex-wife calls him a few weeks later asking his help in finding the surrogate mother of her unborn child. And so as his wife and daughter head unexpectedly choose this time to head off in one direction in search of the adoptive daughter his wife gave up years before, Alan heads off in another in his attempt to track down the missing pregnant woman.

With his search taking him from New York to LA, and with a little help from his friend Sam, it doesn’t take long for the pair to begin to see a connection between this disappearance and those of a few other young adults that had all been part of a camping group in the Grand Canyon just a few short years earlier.  And as the truth slowly reveals itself, not only will Gregory be forced to confront the possibility that his ex-wife’s fiancé might be somehow involved, but that he too is not safe from a killer who will do anything to keep his secrets from being revealed.      

As always, White not only provides a creative and suspenseful read that is difficult to put down, but again shares some interesting insights into the psychology behind marriage, friendship, trust, and the ties that bind.  And so being fortified with these worthy aspects, it’s not too difficult to forgive White’s fantastical forays into the magical land where he and Sam get hit on by just about every woman they cross paths with; a plot ploy most likely meant to test and prove their commitments, but one that instead comes off as sounding like a wishful fantasy that only grows more and more unconvincing with each occurrence.  But that aside, he keeps the story flowing with his narrative’s altering perspectives from some pretty interesting characters, some very stimulating action sequences both past and present, and a plethora of secondary lively characters that all seamlessly combine for another worthwhile read from this very talented author.     

 

 

 

It Only Takes a Moment by Mary Jane Clark

Publisher: Avon  ISBN 978 0 06 1286109

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

As a television journalist, Eliza Blake knows better than most people what can happen to a kidnapped child, so when her seven-year-old Janie vanishes without a trace, it’s very hard for her to take an optimistic view of the possibilities.

The pain and stress aren’t made any easier to bear by Eliza’s life being broadcast coast-to-coast every day.  At first it looks as if Eliza’s trusted housekeeper may have been involved in the kidnapping, but Mrs Garcia is in fact another victim.  Despite this, her daughter and family go into hiding, fearing that whatever the outcome of the case, they will be blamed and deported at the very least.  For a while the FBI seems to be considering that Eliza may have done arranged the kidnapping herself, which just adds to the distraught mother’s suffering.

There seems to be a break in the case when a known pedophile is linked to the disappearance, but this, like so many other leads, turns out to be a false trail.  The only person who seems to be helping is a psychic, but her information is coming in measured drips, not enough and not fast enough.   Against all received wisdom, Eliza consults the psychic again and gets a lead to where Janie may be.  Will this be the bit of information that brings Janie home, or is it another heart-breaking dead-end?

This is a disquieting read for any parent who’s ever had a child get home late from school.  It’s a fast-moving story that carries the reader along like a millrace, turning the pages of the short, sharp chapters to find out what happens next.  If you weren’t a speed reader when you picked up the book, you will be by the end.

 

 

 

Lie Down With The Devil by Linda Barnes

Publisher:  Minotaur Books  ISBN-10: 0312356455

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Boston PI Carlotta Carlyle is asked by a bride-to-be to follow her fiancée who she thinks might be having an affair, Carla reluctantly takes the case, her weariness stemming from a couple of previous cases that didn’t go down too well.  But when the woman ends up dead and the cops come knocking on her door, Carla is shocked to discover that the woman is not who she appeared to be, nor was the man she trailed her fiancée. 

But that’s not all Carla has to contend with; her own fiancée, Sam Gianelli, a big-time mobster’s son, has left the country to escape an arrest for a possible murder, but as he’s not sharing the details, Carla has no idea just how deeply he really is involved.  And as the cases begin to connect in the most mysterious of ways, Carla will find herself questioning not only her relationship with her fiancée, but also her feelings for a good man who stands on the other side of the law, all while she fights to unravel a deadly truth that is creeping closer everyday. 

So very few series are able to keep up their appeal, which usually seems to start fading after number 3 or so.  But Linda Barnes is that rare breed that seems to just get better and better with each outing, her stories remaining fresh and alive, her characters continuing to grow and evolve with increasing depth and realism. 

In this latest, she finally puts the beloved anti-heroine Carlotta in front of a big mirror and makes her ask herself how much she’s willing to ignore for the man she loves, and what it says about her own character in doing so.  And while the questions may be difficult to answer, Carlotta in her interminable quest for the truth, once again looks past the simple black and white and delves deeply into the more ambiguous shades of grey that usually accompany it, making for a challenging and provocative read.  If you haven’t yet read this series, it’s never too late to start, as each title can stand on its own and each one offers up its own unique dose of suspense and thrills; just be warned, once you do, you’ll want to start at the beginning and read them all.