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Wolfskin by  Juliet Marillier

Publisher: Tor Books ISBN: 0765306735

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

I am not a fan of fantasy mysteries/thrillers. I generally tend to avoid the genre, with the sole exception being the Ben Holiday works by Terry Brooks and of course those by J.R.R. Tolkein.

So it was with least expectations that I picked up the copy of  Wolfskin- with a pre- determined feeling that it would be boring- AND WAS I EVER SO WRONG. The book is a nicely crafted saga of love and honor, of betrayal and sacrifice- and has all the hallmark elements of a modern day classic. Set in the land of Vikings, Wolfskin follows the life of two friends, an unlikely pair who become friends in the strangest of circumstances. Young Eyvind, a Viking warrior by birth dreams of being the “Wolfskin Warrior of Thor. His friend Somerled is of noble origin, but has a cruel streak in him, which Eyvind often finds disturbing. But when Eyvind’s brother Ulf, plans to go for an adventurous voyage in seek of a magic land of unimaginable treasures, Eyvind jumps in along with Somerled; and together the trio goes on an exciting voyage- to a place, “far, far away.”

They reach the Scottish islands of Orkney- where they are met with caution. The trio befriends the monarch- and soon Eyvind is enamored by Nessa, a priestess and niece of the king. But when the relation between Somerled and the natives turn sour and when Eyvind learns that Somerled has some hidden agenda- he is caught in turmoil. What follows is a gripping tale of a young man caught in a deadlock triangle- where the Wolfskin’s honor, spirit, friendship and love are tested to the maximum.

The Viking setting reminded me a lot of the Michael Crichton work- The Eaters of the Dead. There is a Starwars touch in narration- which enhances the ‘grippiability’ of the work.

Enjoyable and recommended for a light evening read.

 

Hostile Witness by Rebecca Forster

Publisher: Signet Book ISBN: 0451211634 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

LA attorney Josie Baylor-Bates is living the mellow life these days, working in a neighborhood law firm in Hermosa Beach, only taking on the small stuff.  She learned the hard way to avoid the life and death cases, when after defending a client and getting her acquitted, the client was soon on the street committing her most atrocious act ever.  

But her quiet life is about to rage once again when she's contacted by an old college buddy who wants Josie to defend her daughter who is being accused of setting a fire and killing her step-grandfather, a man who just happened to be a California State Supreme Justice.  And shortly after meeting the young teen, Josie soon finds herself committed as she was once before, when the truth wasn't revealed until it was too late.  And the deeper she digs, the more she comes to believe the young girl, as ugly truths surrounding her glamorous and wealthy life begin to unfold.  But can she trust her own judgment anymore?  What is the truth?  And as this story of mothers and daughters begins to unfold, Josie's own abandonment issues with her own mother raise even more turmoil as the reader races from to scene to exciting scene in this wonderfully drawn story of the ties that bind.        

This is a stunningly suspenseful first thriller from this incredibly talented author.  Josie is one of the most compassionate and genuine heroines to come along in awhile and her enticing mixture of vulnerabilities and strengths are perfectly combined, making this passionate and intelligent story that much more believable and tantalizing.  Bravo to Ms. Forster, we look forward to Josie's return. 

 

The Scylla Hexagram by Paul Riva

Publishers: iUniverse, 2004 ISBN: 0595307337

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

The Scylla Hexagram begins like a Hollywood action movie-

Picture this – the mesmerizing Himalayan mountains, the deep valleys, the silver river streak deep down below- and a beautiful heroine on the run from a hooded killer. She runs, he chases- and suddenly she falls into the raging rivers down below…..

Not exactly the beginning of a corporate crime thriller right??- Now 18 years have passed since the incident (mentioned above), the heroine, Kym Blaze is very much alive, but the scars, the fears have not left her. Now Blaze, a botanist and secret service agent is assigned the task to identify the same hooded killer, codenamed The Unicorn- a criminal with a difference, he is a master manipulator of global finance markets, or as the author puts it- a ‘financial terrorist’.

The novel then follows the exploits of Kym Blaze and her efforts to find out the Unicorn, overcoming her past fears and again putting her life in jeopardy.  Kym has just six days to find out the Unicorn, and to find Unicorn she has to unravel the mystery of  The Scylla Hexagram- what it is, is for you to find out, dear reader….

The novel is a good debut. Paul Riva has put into good use his knowledge as a treasury specialist to provide a thriller. Good financial thrillers are hard to come by- and Paul Riva is a welcome relief and pleasure to readers of financial mysteries. A $$$,$$$, $$$,$$$, debut.

Then, why just three bolts, you may ask- its because the cover art is horrible, just down right horrible- and a real put- off . I hope the publishers will change the cover to something more pleasant, in the future editions.

 

 

Wages of Sin by Penelope Williamson

Publisher: Warner Books    ISBN: 0446528412

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Like many recent crime publications, "The Wages of Sin" is a historical murder mystery.  This one is set just at the edge of living memory, in 1927.  There are no men in tights or overdone English dialects: just the steamy streets and decayed gentry of New Orleans in the days before air conditioning. 

The author is a retired Marine Captain, and she writes tough prose about a tough time.  Wiliamson presents New Orleans as a Jekyll-and-Hyde town, and weaves a complicated story using the contrasts of rich and poor, black and white, crooked and honest citizens, all stirred in the hot damp atmosphere of sin, sex, and saxaphones. 

Police Officer Daman Rourke knows the minute he sees the body that solving the murder of a crucified priest is going to be difficult.  The Church likes to keep its dirty laundry at home, and getting information even from his own brother, a priest in the same parish, proves to be Rourke's biggest challenge.  The result of the post mortem provides an even bigger twist to the plot, and offers another reason someone may have wanted Father Walsh dead.  More digging uncovers more dirt and more complications, and Rourke begins to wonder if he'll ever get this mess untangled.  Along the way the author introduces a number of characters that could easily find work in a Tennessee Williams play.   

Meanwhile a parallel plot unfolds: who is terrorising Rourke's girl friend, the movie star Remy LeLourie?  And could this have anything to do with a number of young girls from her fan club who've gone missing?  The answer is both yes and no, and as Remy gets on the train at the end of the book, you almost want to cry out "Don't do it!" because you can see the one loose thread Rourke hasn't accounted for is likely to prove lethal. 

This is not a cosy book: it is grim in spots and unflinching in nasty details; however that is not done gratuitously.  The author verges on the poetic in some of her descriptions, and offers occasional light relief through Rourke's partner, daughter and housekeeper.  This keeps the story from being excessively depressing, which it could easily have been, given the themes. 

Highly recommended unless the reader is very squeamish. 

                                                                                               

Silent Partner by Stephen Frey

Publisher: Publisher: Fawcett Books ISBN: 0345443276

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Sumter bank employee Angela Day is approached by multi-billionaire Jake Lawrence to aid him in a buy-out, Angela hesitantly agrees.  For Jake is offering Angela something of great importance in return, her six year old son lost in a custody battle years before.  Angela soon finds herself in the midst of a far-reaching conspiracy of racists where no one is to be trusted and no one is who they appear to be.  And the further she gets in learning about this all-important deal, the more her own life becomes threatened.   

Although some of the plot lines are a bit implausible, this is still a highly compelling and entertaining read.  Rarely does the suspense slow enough for the reader to even consider doing something other than racing through to the next chapter.  The issues of race and the subtle segregation techniques that banks have been to known to employ were also of great interest and a true learning experience for this particular reader.  It was also appealing to have a female protagonist in this usually male-dominated arena, one that had no problem holding her own, and with plenty of chutzpah at that.  This is a highly electrifying and thrilling read, peppered with characters we hope to run into again someday.

Please visit Bookreporter. com for a great interview with Stephen Frey!

 

Soul Circus  by George Pelecanos

Publisher: Little Brown & Company    ISBN: 0446611425

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

George Pelecano’s latest Derek Strange and Terry Quinn thriller Soul Circus is one that will keep the fans of the series happy.  The usual ingredients- murder, crime, suspense all are in abundance in this new powerful urban thriller. This time round Pelecanos voices his concern over teen violence and the growing menace over the same in America today.

            Crime don Granville Oliver is awaiting trial for all crimes he has committed- there is thick evidence against him, with his right-hand man Phillip Wood dancing to the tunes of the police- and Oliver’s future as a free man looks bleak. Oliver’s attorney hires the services of PI Derek Strange of Strange Investigations to convince a key witness in the Oliver trial to testify for him. The witness is Devra Stokes, one-time girlfriend of Wood’s and against whom she had filed a brutality complaint. Oliver’s attorney believes that the testimony of Stokes can be used to discredit the reliability of Wood’s testimony.  While Strange is busy with his investigations, his partner Terry Quinn also has his sets of problems- He is on the search for the missing girlfriend of another criminal Mario Dunham. Mario Durham and his brother are hardened criminals engaged in drug deals and black market weapon dealing.  What follows is hard-hitting action through the alleys of Washington DC, where both Strange and Quinn realizes that there is something more in their investigations…

            Soul Circus is a potboiler. A classic urban thriller with a noir touch- the book provides a suspenseful but somber read. Enjoyed the book, rather disturbingly enjoyed the book- only one question remains- when will the movie version be out??

 

Flash House by Aimee Liu

Publisher: Warner Books  0446691216

Reviewed by Melissa Brown, New Mystery Reader

When Joanna Shaw's husband, Aidan, is labeled a communist during the Red Scare, they flee to India until they can prove their true allegiances.  But to what lengths will Aidan go to prove Senator McCarthy wrong?

Joanna takes a job as the administrator of a rescue home for wayward girls when she discovers a child in the Red Light District of town.  The girl, known as Kamla, escapes the "Flash House" she had been sold into and show's up on the doorstep of Joanna's safe house.  After taking Kamla under her wing, Joanna receives news that Aidan, a newspaper reporter, is missing in
the snow-covered mountains of India.  Convinced that he is still alive, Joanna quits her job and begins searching for him, with her son Simon and Kamla in tow.

The hunt takes them on a trek across rugged terrain and steep mountains.  Add to that a Communist Revolution, and you have the equation for disaster.  Joanna and the children encounter avalanches, rebel soldiers, and freezing temperatures in their fruitless search for Aidan-a journey that takes them all the way to China.  Upon returning to India, Joanna is welcomed with the
news that Aidan has defected-and become the communist that Joe McCarthy accused him of being!  Will Joanna ever find out the truth and be reunited with her husband?

Full of vivid details and emotional scenes, FLASH HOUSE takes the reader on an amazing journey.  Liu's writing is passionate and full of action.  The startling turns in the plot make the book exciting and a fast read.  A wonderful espionage thriller!

 

Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton

Publisher: Pocket Star ISBN: 0743482212

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It’s a bad weekend for murder in L.A. when the numbers creep up over thirty.  Reporter Eve Diamond suddenly finds herself immersed in attempting to resolve what appears to be three unrelated cases that all too soon prove themselves to be connected.  First there’s the death of a young prep school student who was known to hang out with a certain group of street kids, and then there’s the death of a young Hispanic male whose relationship to a wealthy concert promoter brings Eve into a romantic entanglement she’s not prepared for, and then lastly there’s the murder of a street kid that Eve has begun to get a bit too attached to.  Eve is suddenly thrust into the world of Latino music, the lives of kids on the street, and the lives of the rich and famous as she attempts to tie the cases together.        

Although this is the second Eve Diamond mystery from Hamilton, it was a first for me, and an utterly fantastic one at that.  While too many people today tend to disregard much of the Latino culture, especially those from across the border, Hamilton takes the much more enlightened path, giving the proper respect as it is certainly due.  Never condescending, and completely open-minded, we follow Eve’s quest to understand this culture, as well as the culture surrounding kids on the street.  We are left with the gift of perhaps an increased understanding ourselves, along with a wonderfully written mystery that’s high on suspense, believable characters, and a plot that fairly turns its own pages.  I for one am going to go out and get the first Eve Diamond mystery as I’m sure it will match the quality of the second.