July Mystery 2010


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The Price of Life by Greg McCarthy

Publisher: Otherworld Publications ISBN 09826494 5 2

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

There arenít many things worse to contemplate than the death of your child, and itís particularly hard for Julie and Ed Haller.   Their beloved daughter died from a brain tumour which, if it had been diagnosed early, was curable.  Edís learning how to deal with a prosthetic leg after one of his own was blown off in Iraq during his fourth tour of duty.  Julie is trying to understand how so much could have gone wrong so fast, and seems to be barely holding on to her reason.  Nothing will bring Jennifer back, but both Ed and Julie feel the need for some sort of justice and turn to lawyer Grant Mercer for help.

This is the sort of case that nobody wins, Grant thinks, but the Hallersí pain is so great that he accepts their fight as his own and is determined to do his best for them.  Thanks to some draconian legislation which seems to have been intended to stop trivial litigation, thereís been a cap put on settlements for medical malpractice, and the most Grant can hope to get for the Hallers is a quarter of a million dollars.  This wonít have much of an impact on the system that allowed Jennifer to die, but itís all Grant can do.

Thanks to Grantís interrogation skills and the help of a specialist neurosurgeon, the Hallersí malpractice case takes a turn for the better and it looks as if they might win after all, despite the might of a big insurance company and its massed ranks of expert opinion givers. 

Meanwhile in a seemingly unrelated thread of the story, several murders take place.  Itís only when the third one happens that the connection to the other two is made, and then is brought to Grantís attention.  He has an uneasy feeling, which gets worse when the doctor accused of the malpractice in the Haller case vanishes.

This is a grim little morality tale that has more than a few insights into how the system works when big money is involved in peopleís health.  McCarthyís own legal background is clearly visible throughout this story, and one has the feeling that much of what is here presented as fiction has a grounding in his own experiences at the bar.  If this book leaves you with the feeling that you ought to be taking up a placard and marching on some office somewhere, you wouldnít be the only one.



Intelligence by Susan Hasler

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books ISBN-10: 031257603X

Reviewed by Danny Donegan, New Mystery Reader

Maddie James is a veteran counterterrorist intelligence operative (apparently alchemist is the correct terminology) for the CIA. Due to her work, especially post 9-11, sheís tired, angry, and possibly a bit insane. Her team along with other intelligence agencies took the brunt of the blame for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. As Mrs. Hasler puts it in her book, ďThere are no policy failures, only intelligence failures." Maddieís teamís warning of the attack were mostly ignored, and when they did occur they still got the wrath of the media and government.

Maddie and her team, a very close group (considering her mother and ex-stepfather in law work alongside her), are on the verge of discovering a new threat to the United States. In doing so they face not only the threat of terrorism, but bureaucratic obstacles making their job only that much more difficult.

A person with no name (later revealed) is an extreme jihhadist with a liking to theatrical displays of terror. He is in the U.S posing as an old country boy and is out for American Blood.

It is up to Maddie and her team of Alchemist to find out when, where, and how the attack is going to take place.

Disclaimer: Intelligence gives out a significant part of the story on the book jacket, which while maybe being not so intelligent on their part, it could be because they considered the the action afterward more important. I must say, however, they would have been better leaving it off as that would have provided more unexpected thrills for the reader. Kind of like seeing a movie trailer that shows all the best parts.

Still Intelligence is a fascinating book that really gives an in depth look into the CIA. I think when most people think of the CIA, they think of super-computers and rooms laid out with all kinds of futuristic hardware. Hasler reveals that the teams seem to be working in cramped offices with out-of-date hardware instead.

It also offers some interesting points concerning the misleading of the American people, which may or may not happened during Haslerís tenure at the CIA, as to the reasons why this country has gone to war, and reasons why it may do so again in the future.

Personally, the most interesting parts of this book were the details given surrounding the CIA in action; maybe it really isnít the entire truth, but Iíll take Mrs. Haslerís words over the ďMission ImpossibleĒ movies.





Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 0553807242

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It was 25 years ago that Danielle Burton managed to survive the gruesome attack on her family that left her the sole survivor.  Now working as a nurse in a pediatric psyche ward, while she finds the work challenging and fulfilling, her life remains a solitary one; her fear of others too much to overcome. 

Meanwhile, single mother Victoria Oliver too lives a lonely life, watching over her emotionally and mentally challenged young son.  Her daily life being little more than a battle to keep the two secure and safe during his fits of rage.

And in the same city when another family becomes the victim of what is known as "family annihilation," the lives of these two women and the detectives working on the case will begin to fuse in the most unforeseen and terrifying ways.  And as the first family isn't the last in this deadly rampage, discovering if and how the past and present of all involved relate might come too late for the next family.

In this masterful tale of suspense, Gardner manages to not only give the reader an astonishing fast-paced ride, but also informs the reader of some alarming facts surrounding the often misunderstood subject of childhood mental illness.  Heartbreaking and disturbingly realistic, this read effortlessly brings home to the reader just how serious and timely this ever-increasing crisis of our children has become.  While switching back and forth from Danielle, Victoria, and the familiar detectives from previous tales, readers also get a story that blends the lives of these fascinating characters into a cohesive and brilliant story.  How Gardner manages to continue providing such quality novels is just as amazing.  A true master of her craft, Gardner does it again and some might argue even better than before.   




Thrillers: 100 Must Reads  Edited by David Morrell & Hank Wagner

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing  ISBN 978 1 933515 56 4

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is the perfect bedside book: itís got 100 short chapters, each one about a different book in the Ďthrillerí genre, starting with The Iliad and Odyssey and going down through the centuries to The Da Vinci Code, via Beowulf, The Woman in White, and Deliverance.

The book is the perfect readerís companion for either brushing up your memory of a book you read in college, or getting a quick overview of a book you always meant to read but didnít get to.  The individual chapters are written by 100 writers, all of whom write thrillers themselves.  Being Ďin the tradeí they are uniquely placed to critique and dissect a thriller.   

As well as being a compendium of short synopses of former best-sellers, this is also an entertaining read for its own sake: you will find many different styles in these 370 pages, and if you are a learner-writer yourself, itís better than a mail order course from Dept C 14, Dearborn, Michigan.  You may be surprised about the books to which some famous writers attribute their early inspiration.

You might quibble about which 100 books youíd put on your own Thriller Must-read list, but probably better than 75% of these would make the cut.  Itís like a platter of antipasto, you can have a bit here and a bit there and not get over-full or bored with the selection.

A definite keeper!



Snowbound by Blake Crouch

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Five years ago it seemed like the Innis family had it all.  Will and Rachael had a sturdy and happy marriage, and despite the challenges of raising a young daughter with a debilitating disease, they were happy. But that all changed one stormy night when Rachael disappeared on her way home along a deserted Arizona highway.

Naturally, Will is the first to come under suspicion, and even though it's more than apparent he's not guilty of whatever crime may have been committed, the detectives involved have set their sights on him.  And so fearing that his daughter will be left in the hands of an uncaring government if he's charged, Will and his young daughter Devlin take off in the middle of the night for places unknown.

It's five years later when the reader catches up with Will and Devlin.  Making their way in a small Colorado town with new names has left them weary, but together, and even sometimes content.  But when an FBI agent shows up with knowledge of Will's past, everything is about to change.  Not only does she know who Will is, but she claims to know where his wife was taken, and by whom.  And soon the trio are on their way to one of the most remote places in the Alaskan wilderness and facing off with the worst of the worst type of criminals in what will prove to be a deadly came of cat and mouse that all might not survive.

Personally, I'm a big fan of Crouch's distinctive story-telling abilities.  And while this latest leaves out some of the more unique aspects that can be found in his previous tales, it by no means is less of a great read.  Not only is there the poignant overriding feeling  that comes from the loyalty and love that surrounds the bonds of a tight-knit family, but add to that a wild adventure that stretches from Arizona to Alaska, and throw in some damned scary criminals, blizzards and wild wolves, and you have all it takes for a top-notch read.  This is one that should appeal to most everyone.