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The Anniversary by Amy Gutman

Publisher: Little Brown & Company  ISBN: 0316381209

The Anniversary is author Amy Gutman’s second book following the marvelous success of Equivocal Death.

I haven’t read Equivocal Death, but I understand that it was a superb piece of work. In The Anniversary, Gutman proves that she was not just a flash in the pan and that she is an author to watch out for- watch out for in the bestseller racks- in the future.

The Anniversary is the story of three women who have been connected with the trial and the final execution of a psychopath- Steven Gage. Five years thence, each woman has moved forward in life. Gage’s attorney has got rid of herself of the stigma involved in defending Gage, a true crime reporter who wrote a bestseller on the Gage trial is now a hotshot author and even Gage’s girlfriend has now a life of her own, one far, far away from the past horrors. But each woman receives a private note exactly five years from the date of execution… a chilling message… a threat…. That Gage’s legacy of terror still continues. Someone or something is behind all these

From then onwards it is a race against time to see that, that someone/something is caught before a new nightmare of terror begins….

The Anniversary is a mighty good read- its fast and pacey and bound to enjoy both the whodunit/whydunit lover and the horror-lover. Part I Know What you Did Last Summer and part The Scream- The Anniversary provides a tense and nail biting read.

Enjoyed it, recommended.

Please visit Amy's website for a great interview at www.amygutman.com/ed/qa.htm

                                                                              

Accustomed to the Dark by Walter Satterthwait 

Publisher: University of New Mexico Press ISBN: 0826333486 (Reissue edition)

Reviewed by Paul Kane, New Mystery Reader 

Let me tell you about one of the great services that the University of New Mexico Press is rendering for the benefit of mankind - and for the benefit of yours truly, in particular.  They are reissuing Walter Satterthwait's Joshua Croft mysteries.  These PI novels, along with those of James Crumley, Jonathan Valin (a writer who is sadly neglected at the moment; his novels seem to be out-of-print) and a few others, were a great staple of my early youth.  Accustomed to the Dark is the latest novel to be released, and it provides as good an opportunity as any to see whether this series stands the test of time.

In Accustomed to the Dark, Joshua Croft's partner Rita Mondragon is shot, the bullet wound placing her in a coma and on the brink of death.  Unable to sit around patiently while surgeons decide Rita’s fate, Croft goes off in search of her shooter and would-be killer.  And so begins a quest that will lead him from the heart of New Mexico to a showdown in the Florida swamplands (a climax that recalls the closing scenes of Cape Fear).  Here, Croft is aided in his mission to capture Rita's assassin by a vegetarian survivalist who collects Barbie dolls.  A surreal touch, maybe, but one that engages the heart: the man collects Barbie dolls because his dead daughter loved them.

Satterthwait's vivid and engaging prose allows and invites us to share Joshua's journey, even as it intersects with others.  Other journeys, other stories and sympathies. Such as the journey of Sylvia Miller, a lonely damaged woman whose attempt to escape from a desolate existence is ultimately unsuccessful.  As Joshua reflects at her end:

Sylvia had found another Dark now, and she had all of forever to grow accustomed to its secrets. (186) 

Of all his many strengths as a writer, Satterthwait’s greatest triumph surely lies in the character of his Private Investigator, Joshua Croft.  Joshua is tough and single-minded (though "asshole" seems to be the near-universal judgment of those law enforcement officers with whom he comes into contact), but by no means does he fit the caricature of the Private Eye as wisecracking tough guy.  Perhaps it is his flawed moral integrity that is the give-away.  Croft knows he will feel "sickened and soiled" after beating up an ex-con to get information; but he beats him up nonetheless. He is perceptive about people, but also cynical, observing at one point that "sometimes the truth can be useful" to get people on your side. 

Throughout Accustomed to the Dark (the title comes from an Emily Dickinson poem, by the way) Croft's life, challenged by tragedy, is changing.  He is developing as a person, though this seems to be too simple and optimistic a way of putting it.   For at the novel’s end, his fragility is apparent; he is perhaps on the brink of alcoholism. 

As intimated, I was a little curious as to whether this series would hold up over time.  Were the novels as good as I remembered them?  I need not have worried.  Satterthwait, one of the true heirs of Ross MacDonald, is a superb writer whose excellence age cannot wither, and nor can custom stale his infinite variety.  Accustomed to the Dark keeps its raven sheen; it is a superb addition to a classic series. 

 

Too Close To Evil by Elizabeth Terrell

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.; ISBN: 0595305180

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

The stuff Hollywood movies are made of.- That, in short would describe Too Close to Evil. Suspense, intrigue, mystery, hi-fi action all the ingredients fo a staple thriller movie are there in the correct proportion in Too Close to Evil.

The story begins with the classic- at the wrong place at the wrong time situation. Mildly maverick, wise- cracking Private Detective Jared McKean had only chivalry in his mind when he set out to protect a battered woman, Heather who was escaping from someone called ‘Ronny.’ A one- night- stand followed, but the next morning Heather had left. However, the next day Jared reads a new item in the paper of the murder of one Amanda Hartwell, and it seems that Jared is the prime suspect. After years of work in the homicide sector, for the first time McKean understands what it is like to be the accused. Evidence, fool proof evidence is there against him, including DNA, … but the most intriguing thing is that, McKean had never, ever, met the deceased woman before.  What follows is page-turning suspense action where a man tries to clear his name, slowly finding out some unwelcome, hidden truths about his friends, about the deceased, and above all about himself.

With a Sam Spade/ Phillip Marlowe touch in narration (but the work is not a noir novel), Terrell, a Sports Message Therapist by profession, delivers a punching thriller- that’s pure Hitchcockian in suspense. Enjoyed it a lot.

When’s the movie gonna be out???

 

The Fifth Angel by Tim Green

Publisher: Warner Books  ISBN: ISBN: 0446613770

Reviewer:    Narayan Radhakrishnan

Following the success of The Letter of Law and The Fourth Perimeter New York lawyer and former football player, Tim Green, delivers a top-notch chiller-thriller in The Fifth Angel. Former Prosecutor and successful attorney Jack Ruskin had everything he wanted. A good career, a caring wife and a loving daughter.  But one day, his life totally changes- his 15 year daughter has become a victim of a sex crime. Though the physical wounds have healed, the scars it has left, has made her mentally deranged and she often screams at even the sight of a male, including her father. Ruskin slowly understands the true feelings of the parents and loved ones of such a victim of a sex crime. The lawyer slowly understands the intensity and impact of the crime and the threat such offenders are to society. The most chilling aspect however is that most perpetrators go scot-free and the few that are caught, are back in the streets within a couple of years. Either way real justice is not ever secured to the victim, or their families. Ruskin decides to secure real justice to the victims and their families. He decides to kill each such offender, and decides that the earth is a better place without the presence of such criminals. Without even leaving a trace of evidence Ruskin begins to bump off such offender.

Soon sex offenders are being killed, and the police are called to investigate. Able and gritty FBI Agent Amanda Lee is in charge- though she wants to find the killer, she is actually thankful that the criminals themselves are being killed. What follows is top-notch action that culminates in an exciting and disturbing finish.


I believe this book would be of particular interest to the lawyer and the connoisseur of legal thrillers. The story raises a poignant question- how do we really secure justice to the victim of a sex crime? Can the father of a child who has been one such victim, be accused of murder when the law goes soft on the offender?  How can we remedy this malady?

The Fifth Angel is a page-turning read and I was glued to the book. The author’s flowing narration and crispy dialogue in this background of a situation, that borders on reality makes The Fifth Angel a chilling read. To call it enjoyable wouldn’t be proper- it is disturbing, enjoyably disturbing.

 

Close To Home by Peter Robinson

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0061031097 

While on vacation in Greece, Inspector Alan Banks learns that the body of his childhood friend, missing for years, has been found.  Unable to shake his remorse at his inability to aide at the time of the disappearance, Alan flies home to assist in bringing the culprit to justice.  Meanwhile, Annie Cabbot, Alan’s ex lover, is dealing with the death of another teenager, this one who was older than his years, and who had his own number of secrets.  Alan is soon drawn into this investigation as well, and as the two separate stories find their way to conclusions, we see that not much has changed with the passing of time in a society that doesn’t always recognize the intelligence that can be found behind a youthful veneer.  

Rich in detail, this tightly woven narrative is once again right on the money.  Robinson’s police procedurals, while meticulously written, still convey a personable and intimate tone.  This one especially, as it deals with much of Bank’s past: his regrets, his emotionally charged adolescence, and his relations with family.  Banks is someone truly worth getting to know, so these glimpses into these aspects of his character adds a lot to this multi-dimensional story.  Also appreciated is the recognition of the burden on children, then and now, to deal with an ever-changing society that doesn’t always let one be who they wish to be.  Once again Robinson has written a novel that is highly charged, highly readable, and comes highly recommended.       

 

The White Road  by John Connolly

 Publisher: Atria Books  ISBN: 0743456386

Charlie Parker, once a detective with the NYPD, is at last finding peace from his shattered past when he is asked to come help out on a case in South Carolina from an old friend.  The daughter of a wealthy Southerner has been murdered, and the accused, her boyfriend who just happens to be poor and black which is not a good thing in the South,  just may be innocent.  The deeper Charlie gets into the case, the more he realizes nothing is as it seems, not even his long-time friend.  And even worse yet, voices from the past are also coming back to haunt Charlie, and as current events seem to be tied to the past, Charlie must do all he can to save his future and his unborn child.  A deep Southern atmosphere that’s far from pretty and Charlie’s ability to see beyond the living play their prominent roles in this wonderful latest from Connolly.       

This is a violent and disturbing book, yet somehow it also maintains its sense of humanity and compassion.  In a story where the bad guys are very bad, and the good guys are not always so good, this realistic portrayal of the characters is definitely one of its finest points.  Charlie Parker is by far one of the most original characters to come along in this genre in quite awhile, and his ability to see beyond the norm adds to his richness and depth.  And although at times the plot seems to scatter in too many directions, by the end all the dangling strings are tied together in a package that is both highly suspenseful, and deeply enthralling.  And although you might not always agree with the methods involved, you will most likely agree with the motivations.  A fine and rich story, this is a book that deserves to be read….but perhaps during the daylight hours is best, because it can get very creepy.    

 

Clean Cut by Theresa Monsour

 Publisher: Jove Books ISBN: 0515137057

When the first prostitute is murdered, Detective Paris Murphy knows that this won’t be the last.  Sure enough, other killings follow, and soon Murphy is hot on the trail of a manipulative and devious murderer.  He’s a skilled surgeon, handsome and rich, so who’s going to believe he’s capable of murder?  And when he sets his sights on Murphy herself, making believers out of skeptics becomes a life or death matter.       

This is a magnificent debut novel from Monsour.  Written with the skill and aplomb of an old pro, yet maintaining the originality and freshness of a novice, this is a true winner.  Paris Murphy is one of the most unique and convincing female detectives to come along in awhile, with both strengths and weaknesses that we can all appreciate.  And as for the villain, watch out, he’s as disturbing as they come.  The secondary characters also shine, and Monsour has definitely left enough things up in the air concerning a few of them, that we can’t wait to read the next one.  This is a thriller that’s just about guaranteed to generate Monsour a huge fan base, and we expect a few bestsellers down the road from this very gifted novelist.  

 

City of Masks by Daniel Hecht

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; ISBN: 1582343594

Mixing science and psychology, Cree attempts to uncover the hidden meaning behind Lila’s seemingly repressed memories that somehow have come alive in the form of some very frightening ghosts.  Not knowing if the ghost is that of a murdered previous resident only a few short years previously, or that of someone long before, Cree must search the past of the house and its inhabitants in order to find answers.  As she searches for answers, she must also face the harsh realities in her own life, mainly her inability to let her dead husband go and learn to live again.      

Richly textured, and highly atmospheric, Hecht deftly combines many elements into one breath-taking novel.  The characters, especially Cree Black, are completely drawn to life-sized portraits, adding reality and depth.  And the ghosts themselves are almost more symbolic of haunted pasts, regrets, and repressed memories than anything else, bringing in a highly psychological component that adds deeply to this ghostly narrative.

Approach this one with an open mind, so that by the time you turn the final page, you may end up feeling a bit enlightened.  And if not, if the whole premise is just a bit too much to swallow, at the very least you’ll have been highly entertained.  Either way, you’ll eagerly anticipate the return of Cree Black.

Interview with Daniel Hecht

 

Resurrection Men  by Ian Rankin

Publisher: Little Brown & Company ISBN: 0316608491

The latest from Ian Rankin- Resurrection Men is one that re-affirms Rankin’s status as the master of police procedurals.

            This time around Rankin’s series sleuth Detective Inspector Rebus is called on to investigate a murder, in fact two murders. What follows is traditional Rankin ‘action’, with Rebus caught in the midst of ‘bad cops and good villains’. The book sort of reminded me, in some places, of the Stallone thriller movie Copland. I can’t explain where and how- but the perceptive reader might agree with me.

 I haven’t read all the Inspector Rebus novels, but have enjoyed all what I have read. I liked Knots and Crosses, was enthralled by Let it Bleed, and disappointed by Mortal Causes. And so how does Resurrection Men fare. Well, it is not as good as Let it Bleed but is much better than Knots and Crosses. Well, I think that’s a proper way to rate this book.

            British thriller authors that have attained worldwide fame are only a few in number, and procedural thriller authors- legal or police procedurals are even fewer. Ian Rankin fills this gap admirably well and for the Rankin fan, Resurrection Men is a must read and a must buy.

                                                                   Narayan Radhakrishnan