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Until Proven Innocent by  Gene Grossman

Publisher:  Magic Lamp Press ISBN:  1882629515

Reviewed by  Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

If you like kids, boats and dogs, then you'll adore this story.  Talented author Gene Grossman has blended a different mix into the mystery genre and come up with a winner. 

While Peter Sharp does the legwork, a kid does the brainwork and lands him in some interesting situations that have fun results.  Like the case of two gals who work for a sex phone company. One is being stalked so she'd be willing to do an ad and the other is having apartment problems. Sharp combines their problems with a twist that will make you laugh.

His main case, however isn't humorous and Sharp finds himself defending a suspended cop who is reputed to have a racial bias and stands accused of shooting his temporary employer, a film director, with whom he'd been arguing. Sharp's investigation turns up some unexpected connections that provide others with a motive. 

Recommended as a well-plotted tale woven of several subplots that come together in a fun read that grips the reader's attention and keep you reading. A book any mystery buff will enjoy.  I sure did.

 

Thief in Retreat by Aimee and David Thurlo

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312290985

Thief in Retreat by Aimee and David Thurlo: Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Sister Agatha is an extern nun in a cloistered order near Bernalillo, New Mexico, and it is her job to do everything the nuns need to have done outside the walls.  She drives a Harley and is usually accompanied by an ex police dog named Pax. 

The Archbishop pays Mother Superior a visit and informs her that The Retreat, once a monastery, is now a hotel retreat in nearby Las Vegas.  Everything left behind by the monks is now in storage or on display at the retreat.  Religious art works are disappearing and he wants Sister Agatha to inventory the items and try to find the ones that have been stolen. When Sister arrives in Las Vegas she learns that Bernalillo sheriff Tom Green is attending a communications workshop there, and they set out to uncover the thief.

New Mexico is the "Land of Enchantment" and the Thurlo's write enchanting books about New Mexicans.  They certainly understand the culture and the customs.  They also now how to build a mystery plot to keep the readers interest.  Sister Agatha is a real pistol who keeps the readers chuckling.

 

A Cold and Silent Dying by Eleanor Taylor Bland

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312326653

A Cold and Silent Dying by Eleanor Taylor Bland: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The 12th in the series featuring Lincoln Prairie, OH detectives Marti MacAlister and her partner Vic, is reasonably entertaining, albeit a bit uneven.  This time out the two are the first to connect a rash of homeless deaths to one killer, but what they don't know is that it's connected to a man from Marti's past who is seeking revenge, and whose final plan includes her own death.  Sprinkled within this story line are the conflicts arising with their new supervisor who wants nothing better than to see them both out of a job.  So as the killer comes ever closer, they must deal with not only the politics of the precinct, but the threat from an unknown danger.

The major problem with this latest is that as a police procedural, these detectives seem to solve the case almost by pure luck.  Clues are generously given to them, only to be ignored until some undetermined point later in which they suddenly pop up again with the preceding jump in logic capable of stretching anyone's imagination near the breaking point.  But if rated solely on compassion and sensitivity, this one receives kudos for its take upon soldiers of war; those on far away lands, and those on our own city streets with nothing to call their own.  As a mildly engaging read, this will do the trick.      

 

Aspen Pulp by Patrick Hasburgh

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312331835

Aspen Pulp by Patrick Hasburgh: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

This is Hasburgh's first mystery and here's hoping it won't be his last.  In this utterly wry and sardonic tale, he takes on Aspen, a town of beauty and once you get behind closed doors, a town of some very dirty-dealing. 

Jack Wheller has just moved back to town after a couple of decades in Hollywood that left him broke and in recovery after enjoying too much of the good life as a writer.  He spends his days pretty much waiting for ski season to start and simply bumming around.  So when the Sheriff asks him to look into the disappearance of a wealthy teen, he jumps at the opportunity for some extra bucks.  And before you can say politically incorrect, he's knee deep in a mystery that will threaten his sober state of mind, and his life.

In this funny and satirical look at the rich and decadent and their crimes and misdemeanors, the reader is taken on a wild and thoroughly enjoyable ride.  Jack's skewed look at life, while sometimes a bit over the top and with a few too many quips, is still highly engaging.  The mystery itself is full of life and suspenseful enough to keep one up for a very late night of entertainment.  And as we watch Jack grow from sarcastic loner, to a slightly improved version of himself with just the right touch of vulnerability, we're left with an eager anticipation of what might next be in store for him, and this crazy town he calls home.

 

The Depths of Solitude by Jo Bannister

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312337124

The Depths of Solitude by Jo Bannister: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

If you're never read any of the previous three Brodie Farrell novels, this is not probably the best place to start.  While a delightful continuation of the saga involving Brodie- a finder of the lost, her best friend Daniel, and her boyfriend, DSI Jack Deacon, it works wonderfully for those familiar with the gang, but probably wouldn't for those who are not. 

In this outing, Brodie is suddenly besieged by a set of hostile threatening acts coming from an unknown stalker.  Along with that she is also dealing with the disappearance of her best friend Daniel, whose actions during her last case caused a huge rift in their relationship.  And as the threats begin to escalate, she must look at everyone she knows, including Daniel, as the possible suspect.  But as things begin to grow even more ominous, her confusion and concern mounts, as nothing is as it seems, and finding out who is stalking her is only the beginning in putting a stop to the threat that may just end her life.

While this is suspenseful and entertaining, as per usual, it lacks the fine characterization that marked the earlier Brodie outings.  And while we do learn a bit more about the characters, missing is the intimacy and sensitivity so inherent in the previous.  But definitely a worthwhile read, as it includes a remarkably gripping storyline and, of course, those very same characters that are so ultimately engaging.             

 

Moth and Flame by John Morgan Wilson

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312309848

Moth and Flame by John Morgan Wilson: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Fallen reporter Ben Justice has seen his share of misery in his 45 years.  Killed his father at 17, lost his lover of many years, won the Pulitzer only to lose it after his dishonesty was revealed, was raped and got AIDS, and finally lost an eye during a battle with a vicious killer.  Now on Prozac and attempting to make a new start of things, he gladly accepts the temporary job of writing up a brochure on West Hollywood's history. 

Replacing the previous author who was murdered, Ben is soon involved in the search for the killer, and with as many suspects as there are buildings aiming for the designation of Historical Landmark, Ben has his hands full.  Included on the suspect list are a politician, a developer, a professor, a steroid-crazed bodybuilder, and a young man who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And as the search continues, another murder will occur that will further reveal the ugly truth that may stretch back decades to the disappearance of a handsome playboy.   

Unfortunately, because of Ben's Prozac state of mind, the reader, and Ben, are denied access to the wonderfully passionate wanderings through his psyche which made previous outings all that more driven and immediate.  But still the reader can delight in Ben's frank and honest attitude regarding his homosexuality, along with the delightful history of the city that openly welcomes and encourages such diversity.  All in all, a sharp and clever mystery that will engage the reader from start to finish. 

 

The Unquiet Dead by Gay Longworth

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312310633

The Unquiet Dead by Gay Longworth: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

DI Jessie Driver is a nonbeliever of things she can't even touch, and so her new case has her spooked right from the start.  A body, a very old body, has been found in the deserted Marshall Street Baths in Soho, a place that many feel is haunted, with strange events occurring even as they attempt to collect the mummified body.  And so begins what will be a very cold case, stretching back decades to an unresolved event years before that left tragedy in its wake.  And at what first seems to be the solution, may just the beginning of an investigation that will force Jessie to question her beliefs, and maybe just open up her heart and soul a little bit.

This is only Longworth's second American outing, but it is altogether deliciously satisfying, with Jessie, gruff and hard-edged, showing her vulnerability in touching ways that easily bring the reader into her court.  The story itself winds its way to a very rewarding conclusion, filled along the way with truckloads of suspense and just a hint of romance.  Readers will also delight in just the right touch of the unknown, not enough to be a haunted house story, but just enough to bring some of those evocative questions to light.  This is one author we can't wait to hear more from, with Jessie being a worthwhile heroine who impresses as she entertains.  Highly recommended.