July Paperback Mystery 2008
 

 

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Child of Darkness, Child of Light by Dennis Dufour

Publisher:  Trafford Publishing  ISBN:  142514115-6

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Police Detective Simon Reynolds must catch a killer who is leaving cryptic messages cut into the flesh of his victims.  He has problems trying to decipher what the mysterious numbers mean.

By the time he does figure out who the killer is and learns how a secret from his own past is connected, his wife is dead, a victim of this killer. The quest to catch the killer becomes personal then.

Talented author Dennis Defour has crafted a well-told tale that will hold any reader’s interest. Interesting and realistic characters walk the pages and you may come to believe they could be real.

I’m pleased to recommend this tale as a read well worth the time.  It gives us a look into the world of female boxers, something I’m sure most of us know nothing about.  Enjoy. I did.

 

 

The Black Hand by Will Thomas

Publisher: Touchstone  ISBN:  9781416558958

Reviewed by JL Roberts, New Mystery Reader

Enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn are called to the docks.  The bodies of an Italian assassin and his wife have been found in a barrel floating in the Thames.  Baker’s French chef is attacked and left with a threatening note signed with the imprint of a black hand.  It appears the Mafia are attempting to move into London.

Thomas’ book is wonderful.  It is clever, smart and filled with plenty of suspense, intrigue and action balanced with humor.  After the prologue, the story was a bit slow in building momentum, but very good once it did. 

The sense of time and place is excellent as is his inclusion of historical information.  I particularly enjoyed that we learn a bit more about the pasts of the characters in a way that moves the series forward.  This is a delightful series and one I hope to see continue.

 

 

Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter

Publisher: Dell  ISBN- 0440293224

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Slaughter returns with another outing featuring Grant County, Georgia's police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, his wife pediatrician and medical examiner Sara Linton and, of course, the seriously dysfunctional detective Lena Adams.  In this latest, Lena has found herself once again in serious trouble when the uncle who raised her, ex-drug addict Hank Norton, goes missing from her home town.  Deciding to look into it, Lena heads home to the poverty stricken hellhole that she swore she would never involve herself with again; a decision that will leave her running from the law when she's implicated in a brutal murder.  And as she digs for the truth, with Jeffrey and Sara hot on her trail, she'll uncover deadly corruption, long held secrets from her past, and a conspiracy of hatred that just might get them all killed.

With Slaughter's previous outings in the series being way above average for the genre, there's no doubt her fans have been eager for this latest addition; however, it might not take long for anticipation to turn into a bit of disenchantment once the story gets truly underway.  The plot, centering around drugs and corruption, is one that is so often told that its propensity for inciting suspenseful drama is just about nil.  Yes, meth is bad, and yes, it leads to heartache, corruption, and ruin; there's nothing new there.   So while she does add some stunning twists in regard to Lena's own private history, some interesting insights into white supremacy groups, and a kicker ending that shocks, it's still an overly familiar road that readers must travel to get to the good stuff.  That being said, fans will still no doubt want to read it, as a mediocre outing from Slaughter remains superior to the alternatives.           

 

By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks  ISBN-0312945485

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Algonquin Bay detective John Cardinal has spent over 30 years patiently and tenderly dealing with his beloved wife's depression and manic episodes, so when the authorities call her tragic fall from a tall building a suicide, John is overcome with grief.  But when he begins to receive menacing sympathy cards in the mail he begins to reconsider the conclusion of suicide, thinking instead that perhaps foul play was involved, leading him to a search for answers that will ultimately risk his career and reputation. 

Meanwhile, detective Lise Delorme is attempting to track down the victim of a sexual predator, her only lead being the young girl's pictures taken from the Internet, the background of each indicating they were taken nearby.  And the closer she gets to discovering the girl's identity, the closer she gets to revealing a predator who has already found his next victim.    

And with these two cases now and again colliding, the two detectives will be reminded how easily madness, treachery, and murder can be hidden behind a trusting and friendly face.

Blunt once again provides fans with an intricately woven mystery that engrosses from beginning to end, skillfully entwining the two distinctive plots with a clever assuredness that thrills.  And with a main villain that is so uniquely warped, readers are also treated to a refreshingly new form of madness that also keeps the pages turning.  And while some may find the portrayals of grief and of depression disheartening, Blunt's empathetic approach to both is illuminating and compassionate, adding yet another dimension to this already multi-faceted read.  Highly recommended, this is another great read from an author who consistently delivers.

 

 

 

The Face of Death by Cody McFadyen

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 0553589946

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Special Agent Smoky Barrett knows violence and grief, having suffered at the hands of a serial killer that wiped out her family and left her scarred for life.  Now working on a special team that handles the most ugliest of cases, she's handed a case of a young teenaged girl whose adopted family has just been brutally murdered.  Sarah, the sole survivor of the killer's brutal attack, will only speak to Smoky, and what she has to say is stunning:  The killer has been following her for years and has killed everyone Sarah has ever loved; a claim that most have never believed.  But further investigation will soon show that it's all too real, and that the killer is far from finished with this evil plot of retribution.

I put this book down more than once, so appalled by the scenes of violence so thoroughly and horribly depicted that I was unable to continue.  But, being unable to leave a book half read, I continued the reading until it was done, nightmares be damned.  And, yes, it was worth it.  So while this comes with a strong warning, the plot, the detail, the horror being so unerringly displayed, it too should be said that it also comes with hope and redemption.  Not an easy one to get through but, if you dare, you might find it worth it in the end.

 

 

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks   ISBN 0312997922

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Meg Langslow's father was excavating a place for a swimming pool for 13 visiting penguins in his daughter's cellar--as one does--when he unearthed a human hand.  Things sort of went downhill there for a while, but picked up with the arrival of a troup of llamas, three laughing hyenas, some ring-tailed lemurs, and a wonderfully delineated David Attenborough clone, Dr Mongomery Blake.

The human hand proved to be attached to the recently dead zoo owner, who was on the verge of bankruptcy when death intervened by way of a crossbow bolt. 

The assorted animals that keep turning up at Meg's rambling Victorian mansion were 'farmed out' with local families by the now defunct zoo, and Meg's father, a keen amateur naturalist, has let it be known he's willing to foster these animals until a permanent home can be found for them.  Rather than upset his wife with a sudden deluge of wildlife, Dad has chosen to upset Meg.

Meg was already busy enough, moving into her new home with her fiance, and making plans to elope with him in a few days.  The dead body causes complications, as does the claustrophobic medical examiner who can't bear dark cellars, small cars, or vampires.  He takes up residence in an Adirondack chair on the lawn, while Meg's cousin Rose ministers to him with an assortment of aromatherapies and accupressure massage.

Then the wolves turn up at the front door, a couple of peculiar locals begin excavating Meg's lawn in search of their dead Uncle Plantagenet, and a local boy goes missing.  Meg's life can't get much more complicated than this, can it?

Depends on whether you'd define a complication as ending up in a deep trench with a broken leg, while an injured wildcat lurks at the other end and a murderer prances around above you trying to get a good shot with the crossbow.

This is a marvelously funny romp with a likable cast of characters and a really unforeseen ending.  Get it before they sell out.

 

 

 

The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Publisher:  Vision  ISBN 978 0 446 618683

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Readers of supernatural thrillers will no doubt be familiar with this team who are both best-selling authors in their own rights.  Perhaps best known for the spine-chilling “Relic”, this is their 12th collaboration.

As with most stories that have a vein of the supernatural, this one requires the reader to suspend disbelief higher than a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.  You have to swallow the basic premise that not only is there a monastery in Tibet that has escaped the notice of the Chinese occupying troops, but also that the monks in this place would accept a young, beautiful Western woman as a student.

Gulp.  If you got that down, the rest is easy.  Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast brings his ward Constance Greene to the Gsalrig Chongg monastery in a hidden valley in Tibet.  Constance is recovering from some heavy spiritual and physical damage from a previous adventure. Two months pass in a paragraph; then one of the senior monks tells Aloysius a frightening story.

A relic of sorts has been stolen from the monastery by a young Westerner.  This thing, the Agozyen, supposedly has the power to bring about the end of human life on earth.  So begins a hunt across the world for the young man and his horrific burden.  The job is made more difficult because the monks cannot describe the artefact.  All they can tell Aloysius is that it is in an old, narrow wooden box covered with ancient writing.

Much of the story takes place on a huge ocean liner, the Britannia, which is on her maiden voyage to New York from England across an iceberg-infested North Atlantic, captained by a single-minded fanatic.  (Don’t say it.)  Strange things begin to happen aboard the ship, which Aloysius suspects are tied to the mysterious Agozyen.  People disappear, are murdered, go mad—and then the ship has a nervous breakdown.  The Britannia is reminiscent of Hal in “2001: A Space Odyssey” –but without the personality.  Once she’s locked into an action, nothing and no one can stop her.  Have Aloysius and Constance gone through so much, only to die in a common shipwreck?

The final chapter of the book contains another gobbet of incredibility that you’ll have to gulp even harder to get down, but it brings things to an end in a nicely rounded manner; so open that mental gullet and make an effort.

The secondary characters are a good mix of believable people, but you may find Special Agent Pendergast rather wooden, a bit like David Duchovny before he discovered sleaze.

All in all not a bad read.

 

 

High Season by Jon Loomis

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312945213

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It's been years since Frank Coffin left his post as a homicide detective in Baltimore for the relative calm of his home town of Cape Cod's Provincetown, a move that remained mostly uneventful for eight blissful years.  But it all comes to a crashing end when an anti-gay evangelist is found dead on the beach, his body clothed in a rather unbecoming outfit of sensible pumps and a colorful muumuu.   And while the outfit is far from shocking to this progressive resort town, especially in high season, murder is. 

Asked by the city council to look into the murder, behind the backs of the State investigators, Frank is wary but without choice, and so he begins an investigation that will eventually lead him to uncover some disturbing secrets, a greedy conspiracy or two, and some very deadly and dangerous threats from someone he only thought he knew.

In his debut mystery novel, Loomis puts together such an intelligent and witty plot so chuck full of endearing characters, provocative and timely issues, and vividly rendered  scenic details, that readers will find themselves clamoring for more.  And while the battle between generations of land-owners and greedy developers is nothing new, Loomis' approach to it reads as both fresh and immediate - this is not a gentle reminder he provides us with, but a warning.  Highly recommended, this first novel from Loomis shows great promise for what's to come.

 

 

 

City of Fire by Robert Ellis

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312366140

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When a young and beautiful woman is found gruesomely murdered in her upscale LA home, it's initially her husband who is the main suspect.  But when yet another beautiful woman is found murdered in the same way, Detective Lena Gamble, new to LA's elite Robbery-Homicide Division, begins to have her doubts, her instincts telling her that these killings are just the first in a madman's reign of terror. 

Still struggling to put her own brother's death behind her, Lena is shocked when yet another gruesome scene of murder is discovered, one that, while at first, seems to be the work of the serial killer, closer inspection begins to reveal clues relating to the murder of her brother five years ago.  And as a raging fire begins to envelop the city, Lena will find herself the target of a killer who may be closer than she thinks, throwing everyone and everything she once thought as true into question.   

In this gripping tale of madness, betrayal, courage, and terror, Ellis provides the reader with a crafty mystery that's so full of twists and turns, that the only disappointment is seeing it all end.  But even more appreciated is his adept ability to get into the female perspective, creating a compelling and cunning heroine who remains convincingly real throughout.  This is one story that readers will want to see continued, with characters and a setting that have more than enough potential to keep the fire burning. 

 

 

 

The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor

Publisher: Penguin ISBN 978 0 13 311340 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Imagine Franz Kafka has been thawed from some literary deep-freeze and introduced to Woody Allen.  That’s a vague approximation of how this story may strike the reader.

Englishman James Purdew has been living happily with Ingrid in her Amsterdam apartment for a number of years when she comes home one day and announces she has obtained a transfer to her hometown, a promotion, and a chance at the life she always wanted.  A pretty house in a nice suburb, and a job for James in her father’s business; marriage; a family sometime in the future: will James come with her? 

Unfortunately James doesn’t share her dream of paradise, and when she packs and leaves, he remains in the nearly empty apartment, nursing his mending broken leg and becoming more and more obsessed with his past.  He re-reads his diaries to try and find out who he is.  Some of them are in a locked box and for some reason he doesn’t just break it open, no, he obsesses about them without touching them.

The more James thinks about his past, the more bothered he becomes about a three-year block of time which he can’t remember.  Eventually he packs up his diaries and goes back to the university town where the missing three years may be unearthed.  He gets a cheap room and applies for a job renovating a large house which would give him a modest wage and free rent while he works his way through room after room, rewiring and painting and cleaning.  The prospective employer is a strange anonymous person who may have something to do with James’ missing memories.

In pursuit of his lost memories, James meets Dr Lanark, who purports to be able to help him.  The Doctor is a strange character—as indeed are many of the people in this book—and he’s a lot closer to Mengele than to Freud. 

This book is long, involved, complex, strange, oddly compelling, and requires very close attention for the reader not to lose the plot.   Much of the time we aren’t sure if James is going to kill himself—or perhaps already has done so—or if he will  find his way out of the labyrinth off his own mind  before being  devoured by the Minotaur.  Maybe he is the Minotaur.    (Don’t give this book to a bi-polar friend to cheer him up.)

 

 

Bone Yard by Michelle Gagnon

Publisher: Mira  ISBN-10: 0778325393

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Readre

FBI special agent Kelly Jones has been looking forward to her vacation for quite awhile, so when several bones are discovered in a mass grave along the Appalachian Trail and she’s called in to investigate, she’s not too pleased.  Upon arriving, she’ll find herself facing one of the most daunting cases of her career, with the first near impossible task being that of identifying the bodies.  And things only get more complicated when after concluding there’s a serial killer targeting young male prostitutes, a new body is discovered killed with nearly the same MO, yet slightly different, leading to the possibility of not only one killer, but two.

Gagnon’s latest starts off on the right foot and keeps up a steadily compelling pace for a bit before she goes a bit off-track by bringing in the battle of the serial killers.  While this is a daring direction to go in, it ends up being just a little too off the beaten track to really follow with conviction.  But, interestingly enough, with that being said she does create an oddly sympathetic character in her copy-cat killer, with his motive being so ironic it verges on being almost darkly humorous.  Kelly herself is also more appealing than not, her ambiguous feelings towards her career and love-life keeping her, at least, believably real.   In the end, this is a suspenseful read that has enough good moments to make it worthwhile, but with a warning: if you are squeamish in any way, you’ll find the torture scenes to be more than off-putting, so read it at your own risk.   

 

 

A Nail Through the Heart by Timothy Hallinan

Publisher:  Harper Papberbacks,  ISBN: 0061257222

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Thailand is rapidly increasing its profile in crime fiction, thanks to John Burdett’s mysteries, and, more recently, Timothy Hallinan’s excellent A Nail Through the Heart. Where Burdett’s Detective Jitpleecheep makes his observations on Thai society with tongue firmly planted in cheek, Hallinan has a darker vision.

Poke Rafferty is a travel writer with his own niche, writing books for those who want to travel to the world’s most unsavory, yet entertaining, locations. Living now in Bangkok, he’s trying to create a family with Rose, a prostitute-turned-businesswoman who is starting up a maid service consisting primarily of retired hookers; and Miaow, an eight-year-old girl he and Rose have rescued from the streets.

Poke has time on his hands and a reputation as someone who can find things or people. First he finds Superman, an eleven-year-old going on fifty, who befriended Miaow before Rafferty found her; now Miaow hopes to return the favor and get the boy off the streets. Then an Australian woman hires Rafferty to find her missing uncle, whose interest in children is different from Rafferty’s in ways that cannot be described in a G-rated publication.

Rafferty’s search for the uncle brings him into peripheral contact with Madame Wing, who hires him to recover some stolen photographs. She refuses to say what they are, but her cryptic instructions and the amount of money she’s willing to pay imply there’s more in them than a youthful dalliance. Trying to keep all these balls in the air brings Rafferty in touch with an orphanage, a child pornography ring, corrupt cops, and remnants of the Khmer Rouge.

Hallinan steers his complex plot with a sure hand. His tightly written prose has a good natural pace and nothing seems to have been struggled over, which is harder than it looks. His characters talk to each other instead of making speeches – with a few exceptions – and even the most vile carry a spark of humanity under the surface.

Hallinan’s greatest gift may be his gift for providing just enough description. He has axes to grind, but understands melodrama undercuts the effectiveness of his message. (Michael Moore, pay attention.) Depictions of torture and brutality become uncomfortable, never grotesque or gratuitous. He never makes the reader cringe; he lets you cringe, knowing his subject matter is powerful enough not to need any help. Rafferty’s resolution of the climactic standoff is unexpected, but perfect, and happens quickly enough to surprise while seeming, in retrospect, to be inevitable.

Nothing is easy for Rafferty. Miaow’s trust is fragile; Superman’s is nonexistent. Rose’s history combines with their cultural differences to cause problems Rafferty is barely aware of, and which Rose may find insurmountable. His cop friend, Arthit, is a great sidekick, caring for people in his own way while struggling to keep his cynicism from overpowering him.

Hallinan’s Thailand is a land of poverty and hopelessness for all but a lucky few, far removed from Burdett’s raucous depravity. Rafferty, Rose, Miaow, and Arthit are lights that make this Asian abyss not only bearable, but worth another visit. A Nail Through the Heart is a powerful book, content to rest its case on the strength of its content and the caliber of its writing, and is well worth anyone’s investment.

(For an interview with Timothy Hallinan!)

 

 

The Excalibur Murders by J. M. C. Blair

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425222535

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

You don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy this first book in a new series.  It’s got a different take on the Arthurian legend than other books of its type. 

In Blair’s Camelot, Arthur is a care-worn hard-drinking man who is desperately trying to hold onto the kingdom he has built with his own blood and determination.  Approaching middle age, beginning to feel the burden of mortality, Arthur needs a gimmick, something big, to bind together the various powerful men in his kingdom, many of them with cause to hate him.

There’s the mad King Pellenore, whose castle Camelot once was, and who now haunts its halls and secret passages in a very disconcerting way.  There’s king Mark of Cornwall, a vassal king, but owner of huge tin mines wherein much of the kingdom’s wealth lies.  There’s Guenevere, Arthur’s barren queen, who broods and sulks in Corfe castle with her lover, the fairly dim-witted Lancelot.   The most dangerous of all is Arthur’s half-sister Morgan, a priestess and sorceress, and her pallid, treacherous son Mordred, who may or may not be her son by Arthur.

Arthur’s gimmick is the mysterious Stone of Bran, a black crystal skull that he hopes will become a symbol of nationhood, a rallying point for his people.  He plans to unveil this marvel at the Midwinter celebrations, to which he has invited everyone of note in the kingdom.

Before this can happen, the magical stone and Arthur’s great sword Excalibur are stolen.   Arthur’s squire Borolet is killed in the robbery, and later his twin, Ganelin, is also murdered.  This is a great tragedy, for the boys were Arthur’s sons, and his hope for the future.  He was about to proclaim them to the nation, but now they lie dead in the castle cellars.

Arthur’s main ally is Merlin, a man whom many fear, thinking him to be a magician.  Merlin scoffs at this, claiming to be just an educated man who has watched and learned as he traveled in faraway places.    He is devoted to the practice of reason, in a time when superstition is the common’s man’s response to what he doesn’t understand.  With his assistant Colin (who is not what he seems) and the fierce woman warrior Britomart, Merlin sets out to solve the murders and find a way to help Arthur save his throne.

There are some grating anachronisms in this book, and some people will find the Blair version of familiar characters difficult to accept.  It doesn’t have the mystic beauty and tragedy of Mary Stewart’s “The Crystal Cave”, nor does it entrance as T H White’s “The Sword in the Stone”, but it is a good attempt to construct a new Arthurian reality, and should attract a good following if future books can expand and explore this new world.

 

 

The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz

Publisher: Penguin  ISBN-0143113445

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Drew Danner, a moderately successful Los Angeles writer of crime novels, has lived a mostly contented life, if anything, a life defined by mediocrity and stability.  But when he's accused of brutally killing his ex-girlfriend during a seizure caused by a brain tumor, his life takes a sudden and drastic turn for the worse.  And while his defense attorney is able to effectively plea the case and get him released based on mental defect, he's still guilty in the eyes of the law and just about everyone else.  Having no memory of the night, however, leaves him with doubts of his culpability.  And when another woman is killed in the same manner, all clues leading back to him, he knows for sure that this time he's been set-up, or has he?

Hurwitz, an author with an already decent track record for putting out good novels, eschews the safe and familiar, and writes a story that is so invigorating, suspenseful, insightful, and unique that readers will find themselves suddenly remembering why they spend their money on books instead of DVDs.   Drew, and the reader, are led on a journey of such discovery and reflection that finding the truth, ambiguous to the end, becomes almost secondary.  Intimately told, at times brazen and fitful, at others reflectively melancholic, this is what it once was all about, and refreshingly is again.

 

 

 

A Vintage Murder by Michele Scott

Publisher: Berkeley Crime  ISBN  978 0 425 22254 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Nikki Sands, one-time star of a fairly forgettable TV show, is now working as the manager for the Malveaux Estates in California’s Napa Valley.   It isn’t always possible to keep a professional distance from her boss, because she’s rather smitten with Derek Malveaux.  He’s handsome, rich, and smolderingly sexy—who wouldn’t fall for him?

Nikki and Derek have come to the Barossa Valley in Australia to discuss business with Liam Hahndorf, owner of one of the Valley’s oldest and best wineries.   Coincidentally, a film is being made nearby, and all sorts of high-powered Hollywood folk are working on it.  Liam’s wife Grace is strangely reticent about the film, given that her husband wrote the screenplay.

Before you can say “throw a shrimp on the Barbie,” the leading lady of the film is dead and Nikki’s been tapped to step in to the role.  Nikki agrees to do the job because she thinks it’s her best chance to find out what really happened to Lucy: everyone else thinks it’s a tragic accident, but Nikki thinks it was murder.

With the help of Derek’s outrageously camp brother Simon, who’s hiding out in Australia after breaking up with his steady, Nikki starts digging into Lucy’s background, trying to find out who hated her enough to put a poisonous snake in her bed.  Several candidates come to mind, but in true heroine style, Nikki only identifies the correct person by getting herself into a near-fatal confrontation.

The story moves along at a good clip, there’s romance, suspense, and a pretty good plot.  There is also some stilted dialogue and some unfortunately stereotyped Australian English that is way over the top.   Scott should know that most Australians do not use the greeting ‘g’day mate’ to people they’ve just met, and they don’t repeat the word with every other breath, anymore than Irish people say “Begorrah” all the time.

 

 

 

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

Publisher: Holt Paperbacks  ISBN-10: 0805088334

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

This stunningly stirring novel starts out telling the story of Kate Meaney, a young girl of ten who wants nothing more than to be a detective, but who mysteriously vanishes one day from a local mall in the 1980s.  And as we first get to know this vibrant and precocious girl as she was before her unexplained disappearance, with her tendency to hop busses with her stuffed monkey to the local new mall in search of criminals, it becomes achingly clear that it’s this young girl’s loneliness and deeply felt inquisitiveness that holds the key to her mysterious disappearance.  And as the story continues into the present, we go down the trails carved by those impacted by this unanswered crime; those suspected, and those left to find the answers that might never be known.                                            

Half way through the book, we begin reading the story 20 years later where Lisa, the sister of the man suspected of being behind the abduction, is working at the same mall of Kate’s disappearance, her life progressing on auto-pilot and moving apathetically forward.  Working at the same mall is security guard Kurt, who too seems to have found himself stuck in retail hell for more years than anticipated.  But these two lives are about to collide when Kurt glimpses the lost girl on a security camera and Lisa finds the monkey while lost herself in the endless empty corridors one night after work.    

A book that’s difficult to adequately describe, being how its force comes from its solid characterizations and themes of lost souls, both literal and metaphorical, making it much more than a simple mystery.  Readers will first find themselves finding it all too easy to remember childhood moments such as Kate’s; the irresistible curiosity that draws one to fantasize what’s behind a stranger’s actions – that pull that draws one into the unknown where almost everything is a mystery of one sort or another.  And it’s in these moments that this amazingly poignant portrait of a young girl, so beautifully written, manages to grasp the innocent and fleeting moments of childhood with both the seriousness and delight felt at the time.

But O’Flynn doesn’t stop there; she then manages to create a couple more heartrending characters whose empty lives are only further emphasized by the soulless world they inhabit 8 hours a day working in the hell we know as the mall.  A world most of us know, but when graced with O’Flynns’s sardonic humor, one that seems both ludicrous and unavoidable at the same time.

I thoroughly loved this book; its graceful and illuminating look into lives lost and lives found simply soars with sincerity and compassion.  A must read, this is one of the best books to be found so far this year.

 

 

Poisoned by Gilt by Leslie Caine

Publisher: Dell Books ISBN 978 0 440 33600 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Interior decorators and designers Sullivan and Gilbert have worked their way towards romance one agonizing step at a time and just when it looks as if it might be nookie time, Steve Sullivan’s old professor Richard Thayers rings him with an urgent request.  Erin Gilbert grits her teeth, pastes on a smile, and goes with Steve to see Thayers’ lecture on eco-friendly materials.  The highlight of the evening is when Thayers drinks a beaker of his special formula safety paint, something he has done many times before.

You can see it coming, can’t you? Somebody has spiked the paint and Thayers is found dead by the roadside early next morning.  The question is, was this an accident, or suicide, or murder?  There are plenty of people with reason to dislike Thayers, but is a disagreement about where you get your timber worth killing over?

This isn’t the last murder, and it becomes clear to Erin that if she ever wants to regain Steve’s undivided attention, she needs to get to the bottom of the killings.  As is ustomary with amateur sleuths, this turns out to be very, very dangerous.

This is a quick read with many useful interior decorating tips interspersed with the murder and mayhem.  Author Caine is herself a qualified decorator, and makes the most of her know-how. A nice change from amateur sleuth-interspersed-with-recipes books.