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The Jinx by Jennifer Sturman

Publisher: Red Dress Ink ISBN: 0373895402

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Rachel Benjamin is hoping to mix business with pleasure on her trip to Boston to interview Harvard business students interested in employment with Winslow, Brown.  In between interviews, Rachel plans to spend time with her college roommates and with her new long distance boyfriend Peter who is also in Boston for business.  All starts out well, but things go downhill when Peter starts missing dates due to work and Rachel realizes that Abigail, Peter’s assistant is very attractive as well as smart and is spending far too much time with her guy.  To make matters worse a serial killer is on the loose and a good friend of Rachel’s is attacked.  Rachel worries that she is really “jinxed” and that she is losing her guy while her friend is fighting a hostile takeover of the family business.  Rachel decides to become an amateur sleuth to see if there are ties between the murders, the attack of her friend and the hostile takeover. 

The Jinx is the sequel to The Pact and the second opportunity for Rachel Benjamin to combine business with murder.  The author has created a warm, entertaining, cozy mystery with a bit of romance interlaced.  The plot takes a number of twists and turns as Rachel draws wrong conclusions and stumbles through the whodunit.  Although the ending of the novel is a bit predictable but still delightful it provides the reader with a “feel good” ending to the book with all the loose ends resolved.  The Jinx is an enjoyable cozy mystery that I recommend.

 

An Ensuing Evil and Others by Peter Tremayne

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312342284

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In the 17th century it was quite common for bodies to be fished out of the Thames River in London.  When the body of a well dressed man with a slit throat was brought in, Master Hardy Drew, Constable of the bay side watch, was brought in. Finding a playbill in the man's pocket he decided to investigate.  Going to the theater where the play was being performed he was directed to the Globe Theater where the King's Men performed works done by such greats as William Shakespeare.  Applying reasonable logic to the interviews conducted, Drew closes in on the killer.

This is only one of fourteen short stories continued in this collection.  Tremayne has apparently done extensive research into historical periods.  His stories cover a period from the 7th century to the 20th century.  The setting for all of the themes is the British Empire.  Reading his stories you cringe at the unsanitary conditions in London in the 17th century and the resulting disease, and the open prejudice voiced against other countries in the empire.  The short stories are for people who like history and logical approaches to murder and mayhem.  

 

Death Goes Dutch by Albert A. Bell Jr.

Claystone Books/Ingalls Publishing Co    ISBN 978 1 932158 65 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Sarah De Graaf is something new on the detecting scene: a tall, green-eyed Korean-American adoptee whose career is reuniting mothers and children separated at birth.

It's with her usual enthusiasm that she takes up the job of reuniting Josh Adams with his birth family.  It goes easily at first, but when Sarah starts to find out that there's a lot Josh hasn't told her, she starts to fear she's become involved in some sort of scam.  On the home front, Sarah's having trouble adjusting to the loss of her former live-in boyfriend, a policeman, whom she discovers has a new and gorgeous female partner.

Josh's grandmother welcomes him warmly, but his dead mother's siblings are quite another matter and things start to go badly wrong.  When Josh ends up in prison and then in intensive care, Sarah wonders if she should just walk away before something worse happens.  No, she can't do that: now that she's found out that there's something evil going on, she has to see the case through.  

As you'd expect from a determined and dedicated amateur detective, Sarah finds herself in a very nasty situation, alone with a murderer and a technologically-challenged frail old lady who could die at any moment.

Those Tae Kwon Do classes weren't wasted on our heroine, but will they be any use against a cornered rat with a gun?

This is a really enjoyable book with lots hairpin turns in the plot that will keep you flipping the pages to see what stonewall Sarah runs into next.  (And for those of us who prefer our mysteries without what is now cutely termed 'strong language' , Sarah manages to solve the case without saying anything worse than 'damn'.)

 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Christian Gillette is elected Chairman of the Board of Everest Capital when his boss is found dead.  There are hard feelings among the other top managers.  Leaving his boss's funeral reception, his limousine blows up 30 seconds before he reaches it.  Within the first week of his chairmanship Christian is approached by every financial tycoon who thinks he knows how Everest should be run and every politician who wants major backing. Before the week is out the company seems to be loosing major ground and there are two more attempts on his life. He must find out who is behind it and stop them.

This is a novel about the top echelon of the financial and political arenas who play hard ball with billions of dollars.  One mistake could be disastrous.  One too many risks could topple the empire.  Pushing ahead with confidence and determination could put you on top of the world.  The suspense keeps you continually on the edge and the manipulations eliminate the characters who are not strong enough to play the game.   Frey knows how to build a plot and keep the readers attention with every page.

 

LUX  by   Maria Flook

Publisher: Back Bay Books  ISBN 0 316 010693

Lux by Maria Flook: Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

This is a strange but involving book which for some reason calls to mind the writing of a long-past age.  There's something almost Chaucerian about the characters: the maybe-widow Alden; the tortured Lux with his orphan disease, the old man and his canary, and an assortment of skilfully sketched supporting roles: night cooks, police, laborers, and a lot of damaged people trying to cope in whatever way they can.

Continuing the medieval metaphor, the main characters both have a Quest, their own version of the Grail journey.  For Alden, it's her obsession with a baby she rescued at a traffic accident.  She wants to be the foster mother who saves the child from his own mother, a paint-sniffing good-time girl described by the police as 'trash on fire'. The baby and his welfare begin to overtake Alden's previous constant preoccupation with learning what happened to her husband, who disappeared one day, leaving her in marital limbo.

The obsession for Lux is Alden.  He watches her, he's aware of her, he wants to know her every move.  This isn't just a twisted romantic devotion, however, there's a darker reason for his compulsion.  While we watch him watch her we get an insight to the troublesome neuropathology Lux has had to live with all his life.  He isn't likeable, but he's fascinating; he's also a bit frightening., but strangely seductive.

There is some wonderfully descriptive writing.  We instantly know what Flook means with this line about Alden, the unofficial widow, as she tries to resume a normal life: "Dating this man was like being rescued from a shipwreck by a hero who arrives in a leaky boat with snakes climbing in over the gunnels."

This is a really different sort of book, by no means a main-line 'murder mystery', but eminently readable.

 

Hot Wired by Jane Isenberg

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060577533

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

New Jersey's 50-something community college professor Bel Barrett is getting ready for the ending of another enjoyable term teaching when once again all hell breaks loose and involves her in yet another case to solve using her amazing amateur sleuth skills.  This one begins when she is pointed to a student web site that evaluates professors, a site that now includes a very negative evaluation written on her in a rap style language that she soon traces to a student she failed a few years ago.   

Entering the world of rap and hip-hop are soon on her agenda when the young man is killed by being pushed on the tracks of an oncoming train, and because of the evaluation all fingers point directly back to her.  Can this post-menopausal woman solve this mystery and, more importantly, can she really understand this world of rap that's meant for the young?  You'll have to read this enjoyable and charming tale to find out.

Seems as if most mysteries these days have some sort of theme going on, and this one showcasing a woman in her post-menopausal years is anything if not unique.  And although the appeal might be to a limited audience, it's definitely an audience who will appreciate her entertaining look at aging from a woman's perspective.  Delightful and breezy, fans will once again appreciate another visit with this engaging sleuth.     

 

The Blackjack Conspiracy by David Kent

Publisher: Pocket ISBN: 0743497511

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

In his third "Department Thirty" novel, Kent once again takes the reader into the highly secretive government agency that gives criminals a new identity in exchange for information.  This time out agent Faith Kelly is given her first full case, that of Alex Bridge, a young woman accused of embezzling from a large media company and killing a federal agent, with the department wanting some incriminating evidence on the corporation in exchange for Alex being given a new life. 

But things are far from what they seem in this outwardly simple case of a corporation gone greedy.  And soon Faith will discover that behind the scenes is a man manipulating events, and Alex's life, in order to expose the truth behind a conspiracy involving the Comanche Indians begun years before, another involving a man in power and his connections to murder, and the cover-up that is still being perpetuated today.  And the further Faith digs, the more danger she'll face, as those protecting these deadly secrets will do anything to keep them under wraps. 

Not a big fan of the "conspiracy thriller", I was pleasantly surprised to find myself gobbling up this read with vigorous intent.  Kent manages to infuse it with interesting and viable characters that easily come alive under his capable hand, making it much more than just a thriller of action and plot which, fortunately, it also has in abundance.  An intriguing and fascinating novel that will surprisingly appeal to fans of any mystery genre, this is one that shouldn't be missed.        

 

Legacy of Masks by Sallie Bissell

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0553584952

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Easily one of the best series out there, if you haven't read any of Bissell's thrillers featuring Mary Crow, Southern lawyer with the Cherokee roots, you're missing out.  And with this latest proving to be the best of the lot, now would be a good time to start.

In this outing Mary Crow is finally returning home to her small town roots of Pisgah County, North Carolina, and hopefully to the arms of her only love, Jonathan Walkingstick.  Hoping to resume her career as a prosecutor, she's shocked and dismayed when she discovers the promised job is no longer available.  However, Mary is determined to stay and so she set up shop as a defense attorney, with her first client being a young Cherokee accused of the murder of his teenaged girlfriend.  But what she doesn't know, and what we do, is that there is a child molester ruling the streets of Pisgah County, a man of wealth and power, and a man who will stop at nothing to keep his ugly desires a secret.

Populated with a wealth of interesting and well-drawn characters, this highly absorbing novel charms just as easily as it thrills.   Mary, as complex and independent as ever, is of course the major draw, but many others in the story also add to the marvelously created ambience of a small Southern town , resulting in a satisfying mix of both Indian and Southern culture.  Start this one when you have plenty of time, because it unfortunately rolls by all too quickly, but oh so satisfyingly.  

 

Alone by Lisa Gardner

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0553584537

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Gardner starts this one with a bang and ends it with the same, but easily the best thrills come from the sweet tension she creates through her fiendish cast of characters, none of whom are to be trusted.  Bobby Dodge, a member of Boston's highly regarded STOP team, is called out suddenly one night to aid in a domestic hostage situation.  And in a split second he's forced into firing the shot, taking a life, and putting himself into a lifetime of doubt.  The man he's shot dead is wealthy, his father a highly regarded judge, and his wife possibly a psychopath who has never recovered from a horrendous event she suffered as a child.  And as Bobby becomes the target of revenge from every side, he's forced to wonder if it was all a set-up, and if the beautiful enigmatic wife of the dead man was the one pulling the strings all along.     

This one will have you coming and going, providing delicious doubt with every page turned.  And as I always give credit to men who are able to write from a woman's point of view with credibility and realism, it's time to give some kudos to Gardner for writing a male character just as a man might've written it.  She knows her guns, understands male angst and bravado, and judiciously perceives just how a man's strings conceivably might be pulled by a beautiful woman.  And if this isn't enough to keep you furiously turning the pages, the madly deceptive road to the truth will surely do the trick.  

 

Bye, Bye, Love  by Virginia Swift

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060543329

Bye, Bye, Love by Virginia Swift: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

In this crazy and wild adventure readers are taken on a madcap journey through the wilds of Wyoming, and treated to a delicious and passionate romp involving fanatical environmentalists, animal rights activists, and 60's folk music heroes.

Laramie Professor Sally Alder, aka "Mustang Sally", is blown away when popular musician Stone Jackson contacts her regarding his ex-wife Nina Cruz, also a popular musician, who Stone is deeply concerned about, with fears that her life may be in danger.  His worries are soon found to be reality when Nina's body is discovered, shot dead as the deer that lies not to far from her.  So Sally jumps at the chance to get involved once again, and once again she places her own life in jeopardy in her daring attempts to uncover the ghastly truth.

This latest from Swift is one big funfest with characters that amuse and charm to no end.  The plot ain't half bad either, with plenty of humor and depth to satisfy those who like their mysteries to be both fun and passionate.  And the chill given off by the scenes of an approaching winter in Laramie is worth its weight in gold as well, all making for one worthy read that shouldn't be missed.   

 

Dark House by Theresa Monsour

Publisher: Berkley ISBN: 0425204278

In this absorbing and ingeniously original outing featuring Minnesota detective Paris , Monsour once again supplies the reader with an intelligent and suspenseful read.

Paris is enjoying some time off with her husband Jack in the sunnier climate of Arizona when she's called back home when her father has a heart attack.  And though she's still on vacation, she can't help but stop by the station allegedly seeking distraction.  Once there, she's asked to look into a case involving a couple of disappearances in a small town up North.  A bartender seems to have gone missing, along with a hard case small time criminal, and no one is sure whether the two are connected, or if even foul play is involved.  But it soon becomes clear that the bad guy is dead, and that the bartender has left for parts unknown with a strange older woman.  But still confusing to all involved is the question of just who is responsible for the death, the criminal himself, the strange older woman, or the bartender?  What exactly happened that stormy night when the three met up at closing time? 

Throughout, the reader is treated to both sides of the story, one being the riveting and dysfunctional tale of the absconded duo's noxious connection, the other being Paris's perplexed investigation along with her usual marital woes.  A decidedly different type of tale, with the reader never being sure which of the antagonists is more evil and, more importantly, if not for the precipitating events, and each other, would either have surrendered to the darkness at all.  But it's in this shrewd portrayal of the pair's interdependent and slowly escalating malevolence that makes the ensuing events all that more almost chillingly rational.   Ironically, it's Paris's actions that exceedingly lack sensibility, once again skewing her priorities of family and marriage into an unrecognizable mess.  But this is the Paris we've grown to know and love, and so while frustrating, it is by no means surprising.  So if you want something a little unusual, this one more than suffices.

 

The Crediton Killings by Michael Jecks

Publisher: Avon ISBN-10: 0060846542

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

A band of mercenary soldiers arrives in Crediton at the same time as the Bishop of Exeter.  Sir Baldwin Furnshill, a former Knight Templar and Keeper of the King's Peace, and his long time friend Simon Puttock, Bailiff of Lyford, are invited to join the Bishop's party.  When a young woman is found dead Sir Baldwin and Simon are called to duty to investigate the crime.  A string of murders, apparently unconnected, follows and they have to find the connections to solve the case.

Jecks builds his plot around Sir Baldwin who uses logic to unravel the puzzle and who will not be satisfied until every loose end is either connected to the plot or discarded.  He is a meticulous investigator who never gives up regardless of where the clues lead and any danger he may fall into.  Readers will find themselves totally engrossed in the plot right to the very end.