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Dexter is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay

Publisher: Vintage

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

No doubt by now most readers have heard of Dexter, the charming serial killer who only goes after those who deserve it.  Either they’ve seen the series on T.V. or have read one of Jeff Lindsay’s original novels.  Either way, this latest from Lindsay is one that will surely delight old and new fans alike.

This time out, Dexter, one of Miami’s top-notch blood splatter analysts who is accustomed to the abnormal, finds life suddenly becoming quite unusual and frightening when after the birth of his first child he finds himself suddenly besieged by real human emotions.  And for Dexter who has done some incredibly bad things, including several dismemberments of rather bad humans, this is nothing less than shocking and surreal.  Holding his new born daughter brings him – gasp – actual joy along with some other new tender feelings he’s never experienced.  And so with his new found heart, he vows to put aside his “Dark Passenger” persona that in the past has been known to take Dexter out at midnight for some rather nasty strolls and become an upstanding family man.

But just because Dexter has given up on crime, doesn’t mean crime in Miami has ended.  And when his sister pushes him into a case involving wanna be vampires and cannibals, Dexter is shocked at the disgust he feels and at his wariness in helping find the culprits that are leaving nothing but chewed up bones in their wake.  But where hardass sister Debbie leads, is now where the suddenly simpering Dexter follows, this time straight into a nightmare not even in his better days he could have devised.

Lindsay comes through on this one in more ways than one.  Dexter, always charming and always with a sly comment muttered under his breath that has always provided the much needed humor in an otherwise scary series, is made even more engaging in his newfound foray into the world of emotions.  Fumbling and awkward, Dexter’s discovery of what family and love and all the messy myriad of emotions that follow is nothing short of enchanting.  With his sister also suddenly showing some vulnerability, and the return of his brother who is worse than Dexter ever was, readers get a delightful glimpse into the world’s most dysfunctional family that still somehow makes it work.  Altogether a delightful, humorous and human read, this one tops the charts.

 

 

 

Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

After a savage attack by a group of young men, Samantha Moore,  a young woman whose life had been near-perfect before the attack with a great career and a marriage to the perfect man on the horizon, temporarily relocates to a small lake town in Minnesota to recuperate.  But it isn't easy to leave the bitterness behind at how drastically her life has changed, especially as she's still plagued by nightmares and an increasingly foreboding sense that something is very wrong in this small lake village.  There are some ugly secrets here tied to a woman who disappeared years ago, and now Samantha feels a danger coming ever closer to her.  But who can she trust and is the threat coming from someone much closer than she thinks?

 A quick read that has plenty of suspense and that is filled with more than one red herring to make the reader doubt just who is doing what should please fans of the genre.  And although the touch of the supernatural can be either distracting or tantalizing depending on your perspective, you're still left with a read that has enough pure adrenaline to keep one eagerly pursuing the finish line.

 

 

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

Publisher: Harper

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

It’s been twelve years since Amanda McCready went missing in Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone. Private investigator Patrick Kenzie’s resolution of that case—to return Amanda to a drug-abusing, neglectful mother—drove him and his partner/lover Angie Gennaro apart for a year. In Moonlight Mile, Lehane’s newest, they’re married, with a four-year-old daughter, trying to make ends meet. Angie’s in graduate school and Patrick is doing contract work for an exclusive, below the radar investigations firm that keeps him on the wrong side of what he thinks is right, protecting people he’d rather be putting away. He’d happily dismiss the full-time job they keep dangling in front of him, but he needs the health insurance.

Then Amanda’s aunt re-appears without warning to tell him the girl’s missing again, and begs him to help her. Kenzie wants no part of this, but the guilt of how things turned out before—Amanda’s uncle is still in prison for his part in taking her away—pulls him in.

Moonlight Mile is a logical extension of Gone, Baby, Gone. Kenzie brought Amanda back because it was what he was hired to do. Since then his professional life has been a series of examples of him doing quite well what he was hired to do, little of it coming out the way he would have like to see it. His dilemma is on every page. Quickly in over his head with the Russian mob, he wants nothing more than to walk away and be with his family, but he can’t. He said he’d find Amanda, and he has to. His word is his Achilles heel; he is doomed repeatedly by his own conscientious nature.

Usual Kenzie sidekick Bubba Rogowski plays a brief, but pivotal role, not enough to fully exercise Lehane’s gift for creating likeable psychos. Enter Russian mobster Yefim, a man of unflagging good humor and remorseless violence. It’s a shame he and Bubba never get together..

Lehane has few peers as a writer. His style isn’t as florid as James Lee Burke, nor as sparse and idiosyncratic as Ken Bruen. There’s none of the exhibitionism found in James Ellroy. The voice is conversational, but it’s the conversation of someone who knows how to turn a phrase, when to be funny, and how funny to be. Moonlight Mile isn’t as violent as many of his other books, but its violence is always uncomfortable, without ever rising to the level of torture porn. It’s rare to read a book without coming across the occasional clumsy sentence, one that requires two readings to be fully understood. There are none here.

For all that, Moonlight Mile is a mild disappointment. I’ll confess, I’m in the tank for Lehane, loved him from the first time I read him, and I wanted to like it more than I did. The first half holds up well, but the closer you get to the solution, the easier the blemishes are to see. Amanda has grown into a sixteen-year-old American version of Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, damaged and wise beyond anyone’s years, brilliant enough to pull off what experienced professionals would barely dream of. Angie has developed “mad” computer skills, able to pass through email firewalls with only the internet IP address of the originating computer. Doable, yes, but not in someone’s spare time, without practice.

Too much of what has to happen for the ending to work falls into place too nicely. A lot of conflicting moving parts have to come together just to set up the finale, some of them implausibly, and they all do, usually off-stage. Not exactly deus ex machina, but certainly scriptor ex machina. Cell phones work—and don’t work—too conveniently.

Lehane has always shown his social conscience in his writing. The Given Day, his historical novel dealing with the 1919 Boston police strike, is about little else. There the social commentary was the thread that made up the fabric of the story. Here it’s dropped in periodically, as though he wanted to be sure this point got made, but couldn’t work the demands of the story around it. The effect is to make those passages read like digressions, not the wood supporting the structure, but the veneer.

Patrick’s fatigue with what his profession has forced him to endure is palpable throughout the second half of Moonlight Mile, and the energy that has marked Lehane’s stories in the past takes a hit because of it. It’s appropriate. No one could have endured what he’s been through in the previous books and not be run down. Even the gathering of critical mass at the end feels inevitable the way a long drive in heavy traffic does: you know you’ll get there, but it’s a trudge more than a sprint.

Moonlight Mile is a fine book by a master in his prime. It’s only when measured against some of his other books (Mystic River, The Given Day, Gone, Baby, Gone) that it falls short. But a book can fall short of those examples and still be damned good, and this one is. It’s also a book that may grow on you. I’m much more favorably inclined toward the book now than I was when I finished the book a few days ago. That’s a pretty good recommendation, too.

 

 

 

 

A Murderer Among Us by Marilyn Levinson

Publisher: Wings E-books          

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Lydia Krause moved to the Twin Lakes gated community after her husband’s death, but when she meets Marshall Weill at a residents’ meting and recognises him as a convicted embezzler who was responsible for her kid sister’s death, she wonders if this was a good move.  Next morning Weill’s wife dies in a hit and run incident—and the car used is Lydia’s.  A handsome middle-aged policeman questions Lydia intensely about her possible motive, and keeps coming back more than his investigation seems to require. 

The babysitting demands of her elder daughter become more frequent, causing Lydia to wonder if Marilyn’s in some sort of trouble—especially when she sees her daughter’s car outside the supposedly vacant house of an elderly man, who just happens to have a handsome nephew.  While she’s trying to figure out how to talk to Marilyn, Marshall Weill comes to beg for Lydia’s assistance to find his wife’s murderer.  Totally against common sense, she agrees—and then Marshall himself is killed.  Luckily this time Lydia has a solid alibi, and in the best tradition of feisty widows with time on their hands, sets out to discover the truth.

This is a cosy murder mystery in the best traditions of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. You’ve got a small community, a varied pool of suspects, a gentlemanly policeman, a sharp-witted widow, and a touch of romance with a dash of danger.  What’s not to like?  With the cost of hardbacks soaring, e-books for light reading are becoming more and more popular.  Levinson should have no trouble marketing this pleasant read.

 

 

 

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

Publisher: Regan Arthur

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is one of the more intriguing and unusual mysteries of this year’s crop.   It’s hard to categorize, because it is part classic noir crime novel, part character-driven drama, and part Greek tragedy. 

The death of Irini Asimakopoulos would have been swept away out of sight on the small Greek island of Thiminos, had a mysterious fat man not arrived by ferry and begun questioning the local people.  Nobody knows why Hermes Diaktoros came to the island, other than his own statement to the chief of police, “I have been sent from Athens to assist in your investigation”. The chief wasn’t doing any investigating, having managed to get the death put down to ‘accident’. There was no post mortem, no lab tests, no real investigation at all.

The fat man talks to people constantly, seeming genial, but with a perceived menace under his probing questions.  Nobody wants to talk to him, but few of them seem able to avoid it.  Thread by thread he pulls apart the hastily woven fabric of the cover up.  The accident is exposed as suicide, then the suicide is exposed as murder—now all that remains is to identify the murderer.  Was it the cuckolded husband? The weak-willed lover?  A family member who feels betrayed or dishonoured?  The oily and sneaky police chief?  The candidates are legion, and Diaktoros is adamant that he will pick out the guilty one. 

Hermes Diaktoros is a fascinating and sometimes frightening protagonist. His implacable determination is irresistible to the simple islanders; the reader knows that somehow he will get through the lies and deceit and find the answer—but what will he do when he finds it?  To whom does he report?  What is his motivation in coming here? 

If you had to sum up the fat man in one sentence, it would be that his character owes something to Nero Wolfe, Mycroft Holmes, and the ancient goddess Nemesis, with a nod to some of the hardboiled antiheroes of the mid 20th century.   One expects to hear more of him.