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No Rest For The Dead edited by Andrew F. Gulli and Lamia J. Gulli, Editors

Publisher: Touchstone

Reviewed by Ray Palen for New Mystery Reader

Described as a ‘once-in-a-generation collaboration of New York Times bestselling authors’, NO REST FOR THE DEAD brings together the talents of 26 of the top mystery/thriller writers working today to create an intriguing mystery.

The job of putting this novel together, and handling all the many egos that go along with it, go to the brother-and-sister editing team of Andrew and Lamia Gulli.  More importantly, all of the proceeds of this effort (excluding contributor expenses) will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

OK --- the novel has a philanthropic purpose and an introduction written by the great David Baldacci --- I’m already hooked.  The end result is an interesting mystery that deftly weaves the contributions of these great authors into a surprisingly cogent and surprising mystery.  Jonathan Santlofer provides the prologue that is sent 10 years in the past.  We are inside Valley State Prison for Women where the convicted murderess, Rosemary Thomas, is about to be put to death.  There to witness the final moments of her life is the man primarily responsible for putting her there, Detective Joe Nunn.  The only trouble is that Nunn has had serious second thoughts about Rosemary’s guilt and believes, deep inside, that he is about to witness an innocent woman put to death because of the evidence he provided at her trial.

Joe Nunn’s conscience provides a good deal of the novel as several chapters are devoted to his diary (the first written by Andrew F. Gulli, himself).  The murder that Rosemary was convicted of was that of her husband, Christopher Thomas.  A ruthless museum curator based in San Francisco, Christopher was capable of double-dealing and perhaps more.  At the time of his murder, he was estranged from his wife Rosemary as she was in the process of seeking a divorce from her unscrupulous and adulterous husband.  When his body turns up inside an ancient torture device --- an iron maiden --- Rosemary is the number one suspect as many people saw them arguing the night Christopher disappeared.

NO REST FOR THE DEAD mainly takes place after Rosemary’s execution as Detective Joe Nunn relentlessly pursues all of the previous leads and unanswered questions he turned up in the initial investigation. This time, he is on a personal mission to find out what actually happened to Christopher Thomas and hopefully vindicate the memory of Rosemary Thomas (and clear his own conscience in the process).  What Nunn uncovers

 

is a finely woven web of deceit where no one can be trusted and the circumstances of Christopher Thomas’ murder are turned upside down --- with the truth hiding beneath the surface waiting for Nunn to grasp it.

Serial novels like NO REST FOR THE DEAD, featuring over 31 Chapters, are sometimes challenged to sustain the tension since the various writing styles of the different writers involved can sometimes bring things to a crashing halt. Thankfully, that does not occur here.  The only criticism I have is that a few of the chapters are ultra-short (one in particular, is only a few paragraphs in length).  I find that to be an awful waste of the author’s talent.  Some of the stand-out chapters for me were written by: Matthew Pearl, Michael Palmer, Peter James, Tess Gerritsen and Jeffery Deaver.  Of special interest are the Forensic Police Reports composed by Kathy Reichs, which give a real investigative feel to the murderous proceedings of the novel. 

NO REST FOR THE DEAD is far more than a novelty and I hope there are more collaborations like this in the future for fans of mystery/thrillers to relish!

 

Bones of a Feather by Carolyn Haines

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

When PI Sarah Booth Delaney and her partner Tinkie accept their next case they really believe that there is little danger involved. Since they have promised the men in their lives that they will pass on the cases that might put them in harms way; confirming theft in an insurance investigation seems to be fairly harmless. A multi-million dollar heirloom necklace was stolen from the mansion where twin sisters, Monica and Eleanor Levert live. Sarah Booth and Tinkie travel to Natchez, Mississippi to meet their clients and complete the investigation. What begins as a straightforward case of theft, morphs into a kidnapping and possible murder when Monica Levert disappears. The kidnappers want the insurance money but the insurance company and the bank put up roadblocks while Monica’s life is in jeopardy. Things get even worse when a handsome and extremely sexy mystery man shows up in Natchez claiming to be the illegitimate son of one of the Levert sisters. Quickly, Sarah Booth and Tinkie sense that something is very wrong and they begin to wonder if the twins are up their genteel necks in a fraud scam.

Bones of a Feather is a wildly entertaining whodunit that captures the reader from the very first page. Sarah Booth and Tinkie are delightful characters who are steeped in the social moirés of the Southern upper crust but possess an unexpectedly large dose of moxie which they need to survive in their line of business. Although Bones of a Feather is the 11th book in the series, it can be read as a standalone cozy mystery but is sure to lure the reader into wanting to experience more of the adventures of Sarah Booth and Tinkie.

 

 

 

 

Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Reviewed by Ray Palen for New Mystery Reader

CIA Agent, Sam Capra, is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie.  This fact is mentioned no less than three times in the stunning new thriller by author Jeff Abbott.  Capra may live on the edge, but he is not prepared for the actions about to take place that literally will rock his world.

While assigned to a team in London he receives a mysterious call at the office one day from his wife, Lucy.  She asks him to leave the building immediately.  Without asking why, Sam follows his wife’s advice --- only to have the entire building blow up once he is safely outside, killing all who were trapped within.  While dealing with the immediate shock of this tragic event, Sam witnesses his wife Lucy speeding off in a car driven by a strange man with a scar running down his face.  As his pregnant wife is whisked away by this mysterious stranger, Sam passes out only to awake inside a prison cell.

Sam is instantly labeled by his CIA leaders as being a traitor.  They do not believe that he received any phone call from his wife alerting him to leave his office just prior to it being blown to bits. They are even less interested in Sam’s stories about a mysterious villain with a scar running down his face that kidnapped his wife and must be the real person behind this act of extreme terrorism.  Sam Capra now finds himself in a precarious situation.  He must not only free himself from his CIA jail cell but must disappear on his own and try to find his wife and unborn child while simultaneously clear his own name.

Sam uses every trick in the book from his covert CIA training to quickly immerse himself within the European underworld to try and put the pieces together to the puzzle that surrounds him.  He is befriended by a strange woman named Mila, a Russian national who has her own agenda but one that links some common goals to Sam’s own personal mission.  He agrees to help her uncover a large crime ring seeking to ship a load of illegal weapons to the United States.  In return, Mila and her group will help Sam find his wife Lucy and avenge his good name.

Things are not always as easy as they seem and no one in this fast-paced novel are what they appear to be. A quote that opens up Part Two of ADRENALINE from Marshal Ferdinand Foch reads: “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire”.  Nothing could be a more true description for Sam Capra and his personal mission.  Mila owns a bar in London, ironically called Adrenaline, and it is this location that the truth behind the secret mission is finally uncovered.  In short, Sam Capra must go back to working for his CIA team and return to the United States to stop an assassination plot that may be targeting as many as fifty people at a New York Yankees game at the world famous Yankee Stadium.

Jeff Abbott knows how to write a thriller --- and ADRENALINE may be his finest to date.  Additionally, Sam Capra is a terrific character and reminds me very much of the Michael Westen character on USA’s show BURN NOTICE.  The novel leaves things wide open for Sam Capra and I trust that this is indicative of a new action/adventure series starting with this engaging and very resourceful character.

 

 

 

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Sara Gallaher has always know she's adopted; her sense of distance with her family a shadow that's followed her her whole life.  But when she finally begins to look for her biological parents, she's shocked to learn that her mother is the only surviving victim of a serial killer known as the Campsite Killer, a killer never caught, and a killer that is also her father.  A father that soon makes contact with Sara hoping to establish a relationship and one that the police are convinced Sara should pursue in order to help them catch him.  But there is danger in this plan and surprisingly it might not be coming from where Sara thinks.

The narrative, told in a series of sessions with Sara's therapist, is a bit off-putting at first when trying to get into the rhythm of the time and place of the tale.  But once that's done, the story moves along at a rapid pace and does end with a wallop, making this a pretty decent second read from Chevy Stevens.    

 

 

 

Dreams of the Dead by Perri O'Shaughnessy

Publisher: Gallery

It's been a couple of years since South Lake Tahoe attorney Nina O'Reilly lost her husband in an avalanche set off by a psychopath.  And while her good friend PI Paul van Wagoner has assured Nina that she will not have to worry about the man showing his face ever again, that all comes into question when his name pops up in a lawsuit initiated by him concerning his family's ski resort.  And as it seems the past has come back to haunt Nina and associates, they'll not only have to confront this past nightmare but a new one when the killing starts again. 

This latest from the O'Shaughnessy sisters seems a bit disjointed at times with  some plotlines fizzling out unexpectedly while others seem to be approached in a long and round-about way that requires some patience.  But, still, fans of this long-running series will no doubt be glad to welcome back Nina and the beautiful environs of South Lake Tahoe.     

 

 

 

The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies by Susan Wittig Albert

Publisher: Berkley

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

In 1930, Darling, Alabama along with the rest of the United States is struggling through The Great Depression. The members of the Dahlia garden club use their “green thumbs” to brighten the dark days and the hardships that all the townsfolk of Darling are experiencing. Whenever newcomers visit Darling the town becomes abuzz with excitement. Nona Jean Jamison and her friend Miss Lake moved to Darling from Chicago to take care of Nona’s ailing aunt, Miss Hamer. Verna Tidwell, treasurer of the Darling Dahlias garden club is convinced that Miss Jamison is the star of a risqué Ziegfeld Frolic burlesque show and that her stage name is Lorelei LaMotte. Miss Lake was her partner and they were billed as the Naughty and Nice Sisters. When confronted, Nona Jean swears that she is not LaMotte and was never in the Ziegfeld Frolic. It quickly becomes clear that there is mystery surrounding the ladies; is Nona Jean really Miss Hamer’s niece and why are they hiding from something or someone in Darling. When Nona Jean hears that another visitor has come to Darling, she is overcome with fear and frantically works on disguising her appearance by dyeing and cutting her fabulously chic platinum hair. No one knows what Miss Lake looks like because she arrived in town wearing a veil over her face and has kept to her room ever since. The Darling Dahlias know that something is not right and they focus on finding out why the Naughty and Nice Sisters are hiding their true identity and why has the mysterious Mr. Gold come to Darling looking for them.

The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies is the second book of the series and a welcome return to Darling, Alabama. Susan Wittig Albert effortlessly creates a “time capsule” to the past with her attention to historical and cultural details of the 1930s, to include the impact of the Great Depression and the societal customs of the Deep South. Wittig delivers a delightful book that interweaves fascinating information about flowers and gardening, wonderful recipes, and the mystery surrounding the Naughty and Nice Sisters. The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies is a well-written and extremely entertaining cozy mystery with a cast of characters who are absolutely delightful.

 

 

 

Creep by Jennifer Hillier

Publisher: Gallery

University Psychology Professor Sheila Tao is on the brink of having it all after successfully battling a past filled with all kinds of nasty addictions.  Only problem is, before she can complete her wedding plans to her wonderful fiancé, she has to break off her affair with her T.A.  And so she does, but his obsession for her means he's not going to let her go quietly. 

In this debut novel from Hillier, although filled with mostly unlikable characters, she brings readers a disturbing and suspenseful tale of  obsession, trust, and betrayal with a diabolical twist at the end most won't see coming.

 

 

The Minnesota Mysteries (a series by Larry Millett)   

University of Minnesota Press  

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you feel at home in the foggy, gas-lit streets of Victorian London, and you think that Sherlock Holmes is a realer person than many allegedly human folk you know, then you need to get hold of Larry Millett’s “Minnesota Mysteries”.

Based solidly in real places and filled with real people, these books transport you to a place where you can forget the Global Financial Crisis, the Greek bankruptcy and anything to do with teenage YouTube phenomenons.  Yes, “America’s Got Talent”, and it’s in her writers.

Millet has researched the late 19th and early 20th century history and geography of Minnesota, so when he describes railroad magnate James J Hill’s mansion, you’d know where to find the peanut butter if you were able to pay a visit, or which train to catch if you want to go from Chicago to St. Paul on a Tuesday morning.   Extensively and fascinatingly footnoted, Millett’s stories are a treasure for the trivia buff . (I was delighted to discover that one of the architects of the Hill mansion was in fact one of my own ancestors!)

The University of Minnesota Press has reprinted the first two books in the series.   Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon, deals with the fires that burned up huge swathes of the Midwest in 1884, and investigates their causes.  Using the device of a long-hidden manuscript of Dr Watson, Millett brings Holmes to James Hill’s aid and after some hair-raisingly narrow escapes, brings the story to a tidy conclusion.  A number of intriguing fictional characters are mixed with the real historical figures.

The next book, also just reprinted by UMP, Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders, delivers another intriguing mystery, also heavily annotated with real facts.  Millett has cleverly picked periods in the Holmes ‘history’ where the original writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, left voids, and inserted his new adventures therein.  A new character is introduced to help Holmes solve the crimes, Shadwell Rafferty, a jolly saloonkeeper with connections to all sorts of useful—and sometimes frightening—people.  There’s a particularly gruesome murder, a very clever new way of concealing a body, and assorted mayhem and mystery until all is explained in the final chapter in a denouement worthy of Hercule Poirot.

There were another three mysteries in the series and then this year a new one was published, The Magic Bullet , which stars Shadwell Rafferty as the lead detective, but has some useful input from Holmes himself, from a distance.  How was the Wizard of Wall Street killed inside a secure office, and was the motive connected with his financial activity, or something more personal?  Those of us who have read and enjoyed John Dickson Carr’s locked room mysteries will be delighted with Millett’s treatment of this intriguing sub-genre of murder mystery. 

There is a final book in the series foreshadowed in the epilogue of The Magic Bullet and devotees of classic detective fiction will be awaiting it with keen interest.