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The Rosetta Key by William Dietrich

Publisher: Harper Books ISBN  978 06 1239569

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The scapegrace Ethan Gage is back, once more a thorn in the side of the man who wants to rule all Europe.

Napoleon has heard about an ancient book of great power, and he’d like to have it.  The villainous Count Silano steals the book and ingratiates himself with the would-be emperor, convincing him that the book will deliver the ultimate prize to him: the control of France.  There’s a little catch: the book needs to be translated, and only Ethan has the key to do that.  The key happens to be written in henna on the back of Ethan’s lady friend Astiza.

After much travel and a number of narrow escapes from death, Ethan and Astiza make common cause with Josephine, who’s worried about Napoleon’s imminent discovery of her adultery.  Ethan persuades her that they can work together to cut out Count Silano, regain the book, and take it away to where it can’t harm Napoleon or anyone else. 

Unfortunately, Josephine doublecrosses the lovers and they find themselves in prison facing an uncertain but probably short future.   There’s nothing for it but to suborn their jailer and get him to help them find the book.  This is easier than they had expected and they begin to think they will succeed when the evil Count turns up again.

Things are looking pretty bleak for the hero and heroine; then there is an interesting twist in the story.  Anyone who knows a little about how Napoleon’s mind worked in his early career will find the twist strange but believable.  It sets the stage for a possible Book Three in the series.

This is a large and entertaining story that would make a great movie with whoever is being touted as ‘the young Harrison Ford’ these days as Ethan and, maybe, Cote de Pablo as Astiza.  A great bit of escapism for young and old.

 

 

 

A Skeleton in the Closet by Judith K Ivie

Publisher: Mainly Murder Press  ISBN 978 0 615 26899 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you ‘re looking for a break from big block-buster thriller-style mysteries, why not take a trip to Old Wethersfield Connecticut and meet Kate Lawrence and her friends and relatives?  It’s a pleasant trip with (mostly) nice people, no horror, sadism, or gratuitous sleazy sex scenes, and all done with a lightly humorous touch.

Kate and her partners in real estate, Margo and Charlene-called-Strutter find themselves involved with two little old ladies who might have come from a rep company’s production of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’.  The Henstock sisters have been living in their large and increasingly decrepit mansion for 80 years, but rising costs and galloping dry rot have forced them to consider selling.

Strutter goes along to the property to answer a question about valuation at the request of the old ladies.  Their question concerns the discovery of a very, very dead woman in a secret closet in the cellar that morning.  Strutter rushes back to the office to inform her partners of the ghastly find.  Margo informs her boyfriend Lt John Harkness and he goes to the house but finds nothing scarier than two old ladies drinking tea and fretting about what the finding of a mummy in their cellar may do to their chances of selling the property.  The mummy itself, if it existed, has taken off.

This could have all been passed off as mass hallucination, except that later on when Kate is taking pictures of a family of swans on the town lake, she discovers she’s also snapped a picture of a bony arm in the reeds.  The police retrieve the body and the ME says it’s a white woman who’s been dead 60-odd years, but there the investigation stalls.  Nobody seems able to identify the dead woman.

Meanwhile, back at the real estate office, some very peculiar and disquieting mail has been arriving nearly every day.  Is there a poison pen operating in Wethersfield, and if so, who is his or her target?  What’s going on with Strutter; she’s clearly hiding something, but what and why?  And can Kate and her main man Armando really make a go of cohabiting after having spent most of their adult lives independently?  He’s a pack rat; she’s organised to the teeth: can this not-quite-marriage be saved?

This is a quick, enjoyable read which is perfect for one of those summer afternoons when you can find an excuse to spend a few hours in a shady hammock with a pitcher of something cool and tasty beside you. 

 

 

 

Death Takes the Cake by Melinda Wells

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN: 978-0-425-22642-1

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Cooking instructor Della Carmichael’s literally cooking with danger when she decides to investigate a murder—even though her sleuthing efforts may implicate her own close friends as primary suspects in the crime.

As a minor celebrity with a cable cooking show, Della reluctantly agrees to participate in a baking contest to improve her ratings and win prize money to keep her beloved culinary school from going bankrupt.  The contest is hosted by Reggi-Mixx, maker of a tasteless cake mix and owned by Della’s frenemy Regina Davis.  Regina alternately disdains Della and cries on her shoulder, leaving little sympathy for the wealthy, friendless woman.  After Regina is found murdered—in Della’s own contest workspace—potential suspects pop up like a perfect soufflé.  Meanwhile, Della balances her on again/off again relationship with flirtatious reporter Nicholas and offer relationship advice to her niece Eileen, who may have just found her perfect man.  Suspects multiply and motives abound, keeping Della busy in both her kitchens and on the trail.  This self-reliant and industrious widow manages to find clues in her spare time—but she may have finally found the one kitchen too hot for her to handle.

For those inspired by the mouth-watering luscious descriptions of the entrees and desserts, author Melinda Wells has included several recipes at the end for readers to try in their own “test kitchens”.  Wells has created a well-rounded world filled with interesting characters including Tuffy, her beloved black standard poodle, three separate investigations (journalist, police, and Della’s) and a surprising motive for smug Regina King’s ill-timed murder.

 

 

 

 

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

Publisher:  Walker & Company  ISBN:  080271742X

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

If you like real life crime or historical crimes or are a fan of crimes done in the Victorian era, this is a book you won’t want to miss.  The flavor of the Victorian home is very well presented and you’ll come away with a realistic picture of how life was lived in this period and how it felt to be part of a household where a child was murdered.

Detective Inspector Jonathan Whicher of Scotland Yard was sent to the village of Road where a child had disappeared from his bed. The searchers had found the body in an outhouse. There was no understanding how this had happened. Or what motive the killer had.

This tale is a study in how the reputation of a family would suffer from such a death, how servants and neighbors reacted, and the conduction of the investigation.  Raw emotions are on display, there seem to be many possible motives such as dislike of the father of the child by the neighbors, servants and family members who had secrets the tattletale child might have told. 

A well told tale by talented author Kate Summerscale whose thorough research brings the period into sharp focus so the reader comes away with a feeling of “having been there”.  This is a story with surprises and red herrings to satisfy fiction lovers as well. 

I’m pleased to recommend this tale as one not soon to be forgotten by true crime fans.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

 

Malice in Miniature by Margaret Grace

Publisher: Berkeley Prime Crime  ISBN: 978-0-425-22558-5

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader 

Malice in Miniature, referencing one of Lincoln’s most famous phrases, opens with the transformation of modern Lincoln Point, California, into an antebellum-era Illinois town during arrangements for the re-enactment of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debate.  Hopeful actors dressed as Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas swarm the grounds while painters finish their highly sought commissions and miniaturist Geraldine Porter crafts her tiny scale replica of the original debate.  Gerry, aided by her smart eleven year-old granddaughter Maddie, loves being in the center of the busy preparations, which suddenly take a gloomy turn with the shocking murder of one of the artists.  Casting a grim pall on the debate plans, the artists and actors remain uneasy, especially if there is no guarantee that it’s a one-time crime of passion by the artist’s girlfriend or something more sinister, such as someone purposely stalking the artists.  As always, Gerry finds herself in the center of this less pleasant business, made even messier when she is asked by the murder suspect’s best friend to investigate—in spite of Gerry’s nephew being the arresting officer! 

Like a grandmotherly Sherlock Holmes armed with crafting tools and a keen eye, Gerry has just the right skills to solve the murder.  Malice in Miniature offers a great setting, especially with the debates, and the use of miniatures is fascinating as a plain shadow box becomes a realistic outdoor panorama with ordinary objects and tiny furniture.  The book would flow better with fewer parenthetical statements in the middle of the story but this is a minor flaw.  Margaret Grace also chooses to ensure that Gerry isn’t too perfect since Gerry habitually analyzes everyone she has contact with using talk show style psychiatry.  Fortunately, Gerry’s tendency of keeping her loved ones well supplied with ice cream makes up for it with her family and her investigative attention to minute detail—in and out of the shadow box—keeps the reader engrossed to see what this energetic crafting sleuth will find next!

 

 

Depth of Field by  Michael Blair

Publisher:  Dundurn ISBN:  978-1-55002-3

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Talented author Michael Blair has crafted a fun read in Depth of Field about photographer Tom McCall's latest case for the mystery fan who enjoys something different and a good read.

Tom Mcall is in the middle of moving his studio, setting up to take pictures for a calendar, and enjoying a bit of free time when a woman claiming to be the owner of a boat moored at a local marina asks him to take pictures of it for a pending sale. He lets his partner, Bobbi Brooks, take the assignment because he has a prior commitment.

Bobbi goes missing and turns up nearly dead from a beating. This sets Tom on the track of the person responsible even though the police are also investigating the crime. Tom soon learns the people involved aren't who they say they are.  Since it was Tom who was supposed to go to the boat, he realizes Bobbi took the beating meant for him.

The murder strikes again, and with the escalating excitement, the reader will willingly follow Tom into danger as the plot thickens.  There is a tension in this tale that holds the reader's attention, pulling you into the story as a silent partner to Tom, making you want to tell him to "Watch out" at times. 

A very well told tale written in an easy-to-read style, a balanced plot , and with well drawn characters who you will want to meet again in this imaginative author’s other books.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

 

Mummy Dearest by Joan Hess

Publisher:  Minotaur Books  ISBN 0312365659

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Honeymooning in Egypt, with romantic dahabeeyahs sailing down the limpid Nile past your hotel balcony: everyone’s dream of perfection, right?

Well, maybe not.  Claire Malloy is on her honeymoon but mostly without her new husband Lt. Pete Rosen, who’s out and about doing some hush-hush international police work, leaving her to cope with her drama-queen daughter Caron and Caron’s friend Inez.

The Winter Palace Hotel is full to the brim with people who could have been sent by Central Casting to work on an Agatha Christie film, or maybe a dramatization of one of the many Elizabeth Peters Egyptian crime novels.   (Hess pays tribute to the doyenne of exotic crime in her Afterword: one can only stand agape in envy for the experience of attending a real dig with a real Egyptologist.)  Every covert organisation known to man and a few new ones turn up at one point or another in this tale of tomb robbers, art forgery and murder.

Besides the romantic locale, and the eccentric characters, the book has everything you could want in a crime novel: murder, theft, kidnapping, intrigue, hair-raising car trips, and teen-aged angst.  OK, maybe Claire could have done without the latter, but when you have two teenaged girls on your honeymoon, angst is a given.

If you don’t enjoy this book it isn’t for want of Joan Hess’s trying.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

 

 

 

 

Cabal of the Westford Knight by David S Brody

Publisher: Martin and Lawrence Press ISBN 978 9 9773898 7 1

Reviewer: Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you thought ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was just a bit over the top; and that ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ was a bit thin on facts, this book might be for you.  There are some real clues carved in stones, lots of tantalizing mysteries (who did build the Newport Tower?) and a veritable travel guide to ancient New England in Brody’s latest book.

Trying to protect his clients from an aggressive would-be buyer of their family home, attorney Cameron Thorne find himself hip-deep in trouble before you can say ‘secret society’. Cam’s cousin Brandon is blown up when he turns on the ignition of his Bobcat, Cam’s dog is shot with an arrow and left to die painfully and McLovick, the pushy buyer, is found dead.

Suspected of murder, and on the run with nothing but a backpack and his blood sugar testing kit, Cameron tries to figure out what’s going on.  Clearly the ancient stone structure on his clients’ property is at the bottom of the mystery, but what is it and why is it important?  With the help of  Amanda Spencer, an English girl who works for a shadowy group which is dedicated to the care and preservation of the Westford Knight, Cam works his way through layers and levels of information that involves Freemasons, the Knights Templar, early Scottish/Norse explorers of the new world, and the Catholic Church.  (Why is it that Presbyterians and Congregationalists never seem upset by these ancient supposed secrets?)

It gets harder and harder to figure out what is legend and what is fact; what has been made up or faked, and what’s real.  Half the so-called experts laugh off the very idea that anyone settled in New England before the Pilgrims.  But other people think there’s fact hidden in the myth, and treasure behind it all.  Is the treasure gold, or something more valuable?  Some people will kill to get to the treasure.  And some will kill to prevent it ever being found.

Cameron and Amanda are being tracked by at least two groups of desperate people, and it takes most of their efforts to stay alive as they follow the clues around New England, up and down the Merrimack River, in and out of Newport, and even to Tyngsboro.  (Nothing against Tyngsboro, it’s a nice little town with an interesting cemetery.)  Brody puts plenty of maps and photographs into the book to further your understanding of the places and things he has worked into the plot.

This is a fast moving story with some interesting characters, including a villain you find yourself getting to like.  He and Cameron discover they are joined by an unexpected thread but that doesn’t stop him being willing to kill Cameron if he has to.  You may find the very final scene acceptable, or a bit of a reach.  No doubt some people will be offended by the book’s premise, perhaps they can just not read it.  For the rest of us, this is a rousing adventure worth the price of admission.

 

 

 

 

Red Mandarin Dress by Qui Xiaolong

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN 031253969X

Reviewed by Harvey Lau and Geraldine Young, New Mystery Reader 

Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau, the main character in four other books in this mystery series, is an unlikely poet or lover of classical literature, having become famous for solving crimes in his native city in China. He however decides to pursue a master’s degree in classical Chinese literature at the local university, declining to become involved in a corruption case that has sensitive political overtones, and also leaving much of  a sensational murder investigation to his assistant Detective Yu Guangming and the rest of the police department.

Chen however becomes caught up in this new murder mystery, which involves a young woman dressed in a torn red mandarin dress and found murdered in a flower bed near a busy intersection. The case becomes more immediate when a second and then a third body are found in similar surroundings and situations, dressed in identical red mandarin dresses.

Chen and Yu, with the help of Yu’s wife, do intensive research, focusing on the dresses, the old-fashioned and expensive material used, the approximate time they would have been made, by what class of person, and so on. They put together a profile of a serial killer, eliminate several suspects, and then try to trick the final suspect into revealing himself.

More than a murder mystery, this is also a novel of detailed police procedure that uses modern psychology and other methods to ferret out the details of a crime that has a background set in the cruel past of the Cultural Revolution of China in the1960s.

The novel also includes other cultural aspects of ancient China, as Inspector Chen, a published poet and student of the classics, quotes Tang and Sung poets as well as the philosopher Confucius. Though many of the Confucian sayings the author chooses to quote are unremarkable in insight or depth of feeling, one gets the impression that he is attempting to explain an ancient Chinese vision to his readers.

Diehard readers of thrillers or detective mysteries might be impatient with these excursions into the literary, but as the author quotes from another writer, “Literature is of significance for a thousand autumns.”

 

 

Bookmarked for Death by Lorna Barrett

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime ISBN:  978-0-425-22641-4

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Stoneham, NH, is the place to visit if you are looking for delicious pastries and good reads. It was a dying town that came back to life as a town of many bookstores that offers every variety of reading material. 

Haven’t Got a Clue ia a mystery book store where author Zoe Carter is to do a book signing and owner Tricia Miles is understandably nervous. Zoe disappears during the signing and is found murdered in the bookstore bathroom. 

And Tricia must find the killer to get her life back to normal. The number one suspect on her list is Zoe’s niece who is not a very nice person at the signing.  But the list grows as Tricia continues to dig into Zoe’s past to find the identity of her enemies.

Tricia finds she has an enemy in the person of the sheriff who doesn’t seem to be doing much on the case.

Secrets are uncovered and they provide a motive for murder but first Tricia must prove her case.  Talented author Lorna Barrett has crafted  a tale that is sure to keep your attention, wanting to know what other books she has written.

The added benefit is recipes if you’re interested in cooking too.  I’m pleased to recommend this tale to any mystery buff who enjoys bookstore mysteries and cooking.  Enjoy. I did.

 

 

Another Thing To Fall by Laura Lippman

Publisher: Harper  ISBN- 0061128880

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In her latest outing featuring Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan, Lippman brings Hollywood to town in a scintillating mystery that goes behind the camera to reveal some of its more scandalous and, in this case, deadly secrets. 

It all begins when Tess is nearly run down by a shooting crew filming a scene on the river where she’s doing her morning row, an event that leads to her being hired to watch over the young Brittney Spears-like female star of the show.  It seems the set has been plagued by someone who is out to sabotage the new TV series, and the producers have their fears as to who is doing it and why, a fear only worsened when a crew member is murdered.  And the deeper Tess gets involved, the more she’ll discover that just about everyone involved has secrets to hide, some worth killing for.

While Lippman’s latest might not be as emotionally satisfying as some of her previous outings, with the tone being a bit more light-hearted than usual, it still proves to be a stimulating read.  Offering plenty of suspects to choose from, she provides a guessing game that makes for an interesting puzzle for readers to solve; a challenge that’s made even more entertaining by the insider’s view of what goes on behind the scenes in a Hollywood production.  Lippman’s return to her vivid and lively depictions of Baltimore, along with her fresh and provocative look at Hollywood, will easily please her old fans while no doubt garnering a new batch for the next.

 

 

 

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, Volume Two by Gordon Dahlquist

Publisher: Bantam Dell  ISBN: 978-0-553-38586-1

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Very proper Miss Temple finds herself quite entranced by the hedonistic visions from the blue glass and forces herself, with the extreme resolve that she uses in every decision, to tear herself away from the dream world and instead return to the hellish fight within the cabal’s compound.

With a mix of science-fiction/fantasy, conspiracy theory and mystery in Victorian England, the Glass Books of the Dream Eaters centers on the cabal who uses the blue glass books and cards to learn the political and societal leaders’ secrets and to control the powerful.  Only three people can possibly stop their hidden machinations: Miss Temple; Cardinal Chang, a broken down mercenary who has fallen in love with a prostitute named Angelique; and Doctor Svenson, who wrestles with his Hippocratic Oath against self-defense and then nonchalant expediency.  This unlikely group of three has met only recently and the book, set almost entirely in the claustrophobic horseshoe-shaped stronghold of the cabal, jumps from each point of view to tell the story.  Echoing the claustrophobia are the constant reminders that the Victorian era equated physical pleasure with sin and evil, so in this book, only the bad guys (or those immersed in the blue glass) realize enjoyment.

Dahlquist’s work as a playwright shows in each exquisitely imagined scene.  Because the book’s network of characters proves complicated, readers should finish Volume One first before delving into Volume Two.  The mystery is less vital to the story than the action-adventure and sci-fi/fantasy elements, but the triumvirate of good (and the readers) will want to know how the cabal’s plans unfold and, more interestingly, the inner-workings of the cabal as they leave  shattered minds and broken bodies in their wake.

 

 

Turn Up the Heat by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime ISBN:  978-0-425-22663-6

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Attention readers.  If you enjoy eating at classy restaurants or are considering opening your own restaurant, this is one for you.  This is your chance to see what goes on in the kitchens and see the struggles of new restaurants and their staff to make a go of a challenging business.

Chloe Carter has a chef for a boyfriend, Josh, who runs the kitchen at Simmer, the new in-place on Newbury Street. While he works long days she fills her time with studies and searching for a killer in this fun tale Turn Up the Heat by talented authors Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant.

A waitress from Simmer is found murdered in the freezer compartment of Chloe’s friend’s fish truck. He, Owen, is suspected, but Chloe never believed he could have done such a thing. 

Without a clue Chloe puts herself in danger as she asks questions that someone doesn’t want answered. Thank goodness she has friends who keep tabs on her. 

I’m pleased to recommend this fun tale to any mystery fan, especially those who are food and cooking enthusiasts.  Recipes are a bonus you’re sure to enjoy.  A read well worth the time.  Enjoy.  I did. 

 

 

 

 

Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb

Publisher: Harper Perennial  ISBN-10: 0061284653

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When it's discovered that upstate New York hometown literary hero Rob Castor has killed his girlfriend and then committed suicide, those he left behind are devastated and filled with unanswered questions; especially his boyhood best friend Nick Framingham who has deeply admired and envied Rob for 30 years.  And so it's Nick who is hit the hardest, the news only escalating his regretful awareness surrounding the downward spiral of his disintegrating marriage and once contended life even further.  So with only his memories and grief to guide him, he is forced to travel down a mysterious road for answers that will not only shock him, but redefine a life he only thought he knew. 

While this fascinating read might not necessarily fit the definitive description of mystery, it offers up enough questions and surprises to make it more than suspenseful and provocative for any reader who appreciates quality suspense that falls outside the norm. It’s capacity for heartbreak, middle-aged angst, old and new secrets, and the perils behind a disconnected life make this read filled with enough poignancy and pain to make this emotionally difficult read more than worthwhile. 

 

 

 

Nameless Night by G.M. Ford

Publisher: Harper  ISBN-10: 0060874430

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

After being found close to death, Paul Hardy, a name given to him when he was found almost fatally wounded with no memory of who he was, spent the next few years working as a landscaper and living in a home for the developmentally disabled, his awareness and ability to communicate virtually nonexistent.  But when he’s struck down by a speeding car seven years later, this time he wakes up from his near fatal wounds with a new face and shadowy memories of a distant past.  And so with this new found awareness, he determinedly hits the road in search for answers to who he might be.  Unfortunately, he’s not alone in his desperate search, because the closer he gets to the truth, the closer he gets to revealing the conspiracy that led to his near demise and might just again.

Fans of G.M. Ford’s two successful series might at first be disappointed that Ford has this time out chosen to write a stand-alone thriller.  That feeling will last all about a minute or two, certainly not even past the first page, and by the last page, most will be clamoring for G.M. to follow this latest up with a new third series.  It’s hard to choose which is the most enticing aspect of this read:  the adventurous road trip filled with beautifully written characters; the greed and lies that all too often motivate the powerful; or simply the poignant and heart-pounding thrill-a-minute delivery.  Either way, this one’s a winner and one that shouldn’t be missed.

 

 

 

Stranger In Paradise by Robert B. Parker

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN- 042522628X

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

Jesse Stone returns in Stranger In Paradise, another solid entry in yet another solid series for Grandmaster Parker.

Dovetailing events from previous Stone adventures, primarily Trouble In Paradise, the noisiest of all the Stone novels, this is an exciting, character-rich excursion that series fans will enjoy, and a good “jumping-on” point for people new to the series.

As things commence, one of the principle players in the island takeover from that book, Wilson “Crow” Cromartie, strolls into Jesse’s office to lay some groundwork for his temporary presence in Paradise. Seems he’s been hired to locate some people, and wants to make sure he can work in relative openness. After determining that the statute of limitations have passed for all but the most heinous of potential charges (for which he has no evidence), Jesse gives him a most-wary pass to operate in the area.

Parker continues to have loads of fun with the characters here, most notably Molly Crane, who has been clearly made the female anchor of the series, as opposed to Jenn Stone, Jesse’s hot-but-troubled ex-wife/current playpal.  Molly’s ability to keep Jesse level has become a major highlight of this series.

While we watch Crow do what he does, Parker develops a side-plot involving some of the snootier residents attempting to block establishment of a pilot school for disadvantaged kids in what once was a mansion on their hill. It’s racism disguised as concern for property values, and Jesse properly skewers their intentions by riding on the bus with the kids. Parker’s ease with dialogue, and awareness Jesse’s power creates some great scenes with Jesse and the kids.

One of Parker’s topics here is the honor of men, no matter their duties.  There’s a point at which Crow is ordered to kill one of the targets of his search, an order he will not follow because, well, he likes women. Pretty good reason, really. 

Along the way, we learn a LOT more about Suitcase Simpson (heh), Jesse’s favorite foil. We also have more sessions with Dex, Jesse’s shrink. And YES, Parker is developing character archetypes for each of his three series. Some of them are the same characters, performing different roles in different series (see: Susan Silverman), but those familiar with all three will find them. It’s actually a good thing.  Many will no doubt sniff that Parker’s just being lazy, but the functions these characters perform obviously interest him, and are valuable to the evolution of the series, so give him some slack, ok?

The back half of the book primarily describes, in typically exciting Parker style, the efforts of Crow and Jesse to protect these women and neutralize a particularly nasty gang from a neighboring township.

The other joy of Stranger In Paradise is the journey of the title character, Amber Francisco. Introduced as a discarded goth-punk, Parker creates a path for the re-discovery of her humanity, via her exposure to Crow, Jesse, and, believe it or not, Jenn. It’s both effective and affecting, not cloying or trite, which is a tricky line for a writer to walk.

The action-infused conclusion ties both Amber’s journey and the afore-mentioned plot together with the violence and pathos we’ve come to expect from Parker, and as always, it’s very satisfying.

Yep, very solid.

 

 

 

The Purrfect Murder by Rita Mae Brown

Publisher:  Bantam  ISBN:  0553586831

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Change is coming to Crozet, Virginia in the form of extravagant new homes being built for the wealthy clients of Tazio Chappars, an architect recently settled in Crozet. While Tazio has adapted herself to the pace of life found here, her new clients often do not. One, such as Carla Paulson, is nasty to everyone except those few with more money than she has or being from the old line Virginia blueblood.

When a much loved local doctor is shot in his office, Carla sheds actual tears over it. There is much speculation over the doctor’s death until the killer turns himself in, adding to more rumor and talk. 

Another murder leads to the arrest of Tazio and because Harry is sure she didn’t commit this foul deed, Harry comes to her defense with the aid of her three pets.  Do the two deaths have a connection? How?

The very talented author Rita Mae Brown has crafted another tale of life in Crozet filled with old friends and new for her fans, while new readers will enjoy this tale and look for her other books for further enjoyable reads. The complications in this story are sometimes in the open and sometimes cloaked in secrecy and you will want to read this fun story all in one setting just to see what happens next.

I’m pleased to recommend The Purrfect Murder as a story well worth the time to read and one you will be glad you read.  Crozet will become like a second home to readers and the residents will seem like family and old friends. Enjoy. I certainly did.