July Paperbacks 2010
 

 

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Torn Apart by Peter Corris

Publisher: Allen & Unwin  ISBN 978 1074237 139 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

“I’m a free-born man of the travellin’ people…” goes the old Irish song, which you’d think is about the Roma people in Ireland.   In fact the song is neither old nor Irish, and the people of the song aren’t gypsies but a small sub-set of Irishmen and women who prefer moving to settling.   Things are often not what you assume, as Cliff Hardy finds out yet again in this latest volume of Peter Corris’s series.

Readers familiar with Cliff will know he’s a loner with few ties.  Particularly now that he’s unlicensed and can’t work as a private detective he’s at loose ends, and when a previously unknown cousin turns up, he’s ripe for an adventure—any adventure.  Having inherited money, Cliff isn’t forced to scratch around Sydney for work, but he misses having something to do.  When Patrick Malloy suggests they go to Ireland to investigate their common roots in the Travelling People, Cliff packs a bag and hops a plane.

The trip around Ireland is enjoyable, and Cliff is as close to relaxed as we’ve ever seen him.  He and Patrick not only look enough alike to be brothers, they have common interests.  After a while Cliff becomes bored with all the horse trading talk and the family history, but there are enough other sights to see and people to watch that he doesn’t regret the trip. 

Back in Australia, Patrick moves in with Cliff temporarily.  Very temporarily: one day Cliff comes back to his apartment to find Patrick splattered all over it, victim of shotgun blasts at close range.

Anyone who knows Cliff Hardy will know that he can’t let this heinous crime lie in the hands of the official investigators.  Having prudently withheld a few bits of information from the police, Cliff sets out to discover who killed his cousin and friend, and whether Patrick was the target or if it might have been Cliff the shooter was after.  

As any fan of detective fiction would expect, all sorts of things start crawling into the light as Cliff turns over the rocks of Patrick’s past.  When a parcel Patrick posted from the UK arrives at his apartment, Cliff opens it.  Trouble flies out as surely as if he’d received Pandora’s Box.   Now finding Patrick’s murderer is not just an intellectual exercise: it’s bound up with his own survival.

For those of you still mourning the passing of Robert Parker, may I suggest a dose of Peter Corris?  At first it may seem like changing your brand of whisky, but sip it and see.

 

 

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

Publisher: Harper ISBN-10: 0061558249

Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader

Having already become one of the top director’s in the world with his dark visionary masterpieces such as: “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Orphanage” and “Hellboy”, auteur Director Guillermo del Toro boldly enters the world of horror/thriller fiction.  To make matters even more difficult, he has chosen to enter the currently overexposed genre of vampire fiction.  With assistance from crime/thriller writer, Chuck Hogan, the new vampire trilogy they are penning begins with the release of the first book in the series – THE STRAIN.

With comparisons to everything from Stephen King’s, SALEM’S LOT and Richard Preston’s, THE HOT ZONE, del Toro and Hogan are entering territory where creating a unique and original vision is no simple task.  By the end of this fantastic novel, these two authors have proven that they are not only up to the challenge but have succeeded in creating a new hybrid genre (vampire/biohazard?) all their own.

I have never been a huge Chuck Hogan fan and found his Boston-area crime thrillers to be to colloquial in style and not very accessible to those living outside that territory. Thankfully, Hogan seems to be the guiding hand in tying the plot elements together as the dark visions that jump off the pages of THE STRAIN are clearly from the morbid imagination of the brilliant, Guillermo del Toro.

The novel opens up with a plane landing in NYC --- not an unusual event.  However, this plane does not contain a single person --- all passengers and flight crew appear to have disappeared.  This puzzle is just the first in a series of cataclysmic events that proclaim a pending epidemic of the vampirism strain that threatens to wipe out humanity in a matter of weeks!  The team of protagonists are well-written and fun to root for:  CDC Dr. Eph Goodweather; his partner/lover, Nora; his son, Zack; and the key to the entire vampire strain mythology --- former Holocaust survivor, Professor Abraham Setrakian.

Forget about everything else you have read or seen in this genre and get ready for a wild ride that will have you chomping at the bit to get your hands on the second book in this proposed trilogy.  Well done!

 

 

 

 

206 Bones by Kathy Reichs

Publisher: Pocket Star ISBN-141652567X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Could Temperance Brennan be losing her edge?  Clearly there’s something wrong when the new girl at the forensic lab in Quebec keeps finding errors that Temperance has made, or important facts that she’s overlooked.  The acting head of the LSJML, the oleaginous coroner Hubert, has had Tempe on the carpet almost every day since Dr Briel has begun poking her nose into Tempe’s cases.  Hubert has been running things since Tempe’s old mentor, LaManche, has been on sick leave, and he is all too willing to accept Dr Briel’s evidence of Tempe’s incompetence.  How could she leave finger bones at an excavation, or miss tell-tale medical staining on a dead child’s teeth?

On top of her other problems, Tempe also has a new lab assistant who takes offense at the smallest things and has to be coddled in order to get any work out of him.  Her off-again-on-again relationship with Detective Andrew Ryan is making her emotions somewhat less than stable.  There’s been a death in her former husband’s family and they are counting on her to answer their questions, despite the killing having happened outside her jurisdiction.  And Tempe’s nasty neighbour Sparky Monteil is again making threats against her cat, Birdy.

Tired, overworked, jet-lagged and cold, Tempe then comes down with an Olympic-class dose of food poisoning.  Could anything else go wrong, Tempe wonders.  Yes, of course it could: she could wake up in a cold, dark underground vault with a thumping headache, surrounded by dead people, trussed up like a slaughter lamb.  That could spoil anyone’s day.

Somehow Kathy Reichs manages to find new themes for each of her Temperance Brennan novels which keeps the series from falling into a rut.  This tale of professional jealousy and murder for gain is as involving and intricate as any of the previous Brennan/Ryan adventures.

 

 

 

The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge by Patricia Duncker

Publisher: Bloomsbury, USA  ISBN-10: 1608192032

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Quietly European in subtle subtext and knowing glances, The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge will perplex some readers who may be more comfortable with overt thrillers in which everything is spelled out with a crash or a gunshot.  Still, Duncker provides more than one shock, plenty of outbursts which provocatively inspire endearment, and a love triangle in the midst of an investigation into a religious sect’s recent mass suicides.

Judge Dominque Carpentier keeps her own counsel, allowing her silence to encourage her subjects to speak and unintentionally reveal secrets and motivations.  The Judge does not preside over a court, but instead studies case files and conducts interviews especially in the matter of religious sects, or sometimes cults, which do not follow tax laws or other national requirements, giving her the moniker, “The Sect Hunter.”

Her aide, Gaelle, is her Gothic opposite: full of visible emotion and death head accessories even while proving her competence to her amused employer.  Unfortunately for Gaelle, she loathes the married Commissaire Andre Schweigen, who occasionally sleeps with the Judge, allowing him to stoke the fires of his insatiable infatuation when he returns to his home hundreds of miles away.

With Gaelle and Andre’s help, the Judge has embarked in investigating the group known as the “Faith” and whose stronghold seems to lie in her own childhood region, making this a strangely personal case for someone who avoids music because it causes an emotional response.

Now that two Faith-based mass suicides have occurred five years apart, the Judge fears much wider consequences, especially since one involved the murder of children who were gently laid curled up at the feet of their parents. 

At the heart of the matter is the titular Composer, a handsome well-traveled man who fathered a child with another man’s wife, leading to another rather interesting development.  In spite of the Judge’s professional mission, the Composer, himself a study in stillness, makes this the most important case of the Judge’s storied career.

The Judge’s case takes her to England, Switzerland, and Germany in addition to various areas of France, allowing Duncker to establish the change of scenery not only through subtle scenic details but most notably through the occasional phrases of French or German interspersed throughout.  The Judge’s difficulty with English and comfort with central European dialects fits in with the reality of multi-lingual Europeans (although many Central Europeans speak excellent English as well) and remind the reader that the setting is definitely anything but America.  For comparison of two well-written, readers may find it interesting to read Tess Gerritsen’s latest Rizzoli & Isles case, Ice Cold, on a similar subject but in a very familiar, heart-pounding American way.

Duncker’s novel is well worth reading and its layers of intellect and surprising passion will entertain the reader while slowly revealing more about the mysteriously charismatic Judge.  While the investigation remains important, The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge is really a very satisfying story about the characters.

 

 

 

Hardball by Sara Paretsky

Publisher:  Signet Select  ISBN: 0451412931

Reviewed by R.J. Brown (Memories and Mysteries),  New Mystery Reader  

Two elderly sisters in a terminal care home on Chicago’s South Side hire V. I. Warshawski to find their son & nephew, missing for forty years after a murder at a Civil Rights event in Marquette Park to which Martin Luther King had come. Eventually the police bagged their man: he confessed & was convicted. Case closed. Then came the Blizzard of ‘67.

Fast-forward to the present: Warshawski returns from a frustrating visit with an old fearsome client in Stateville penitentiary to find her office trashed & on her security tape three strangers, with carefully hidden faces, at her front door. When she shows the stills to family members, she’s shocked when they tell her the one punching in her keypad code is her newly-met cousin fresh in from Kansas City, Petra, who should have been at the election HQ for a local candidate with whom her wealthy father & Warshawski’s uncle Peter grew up. Instead, Petra is missing.

As VI hunts down clues, treading into neighborhoods she probably shouldn’t have, speaking with people who were there, unearthing newspaper reports of that long ago murder & its court transcripts, skeletons from Chicago’s past & its modern day politics as well as her own family history, come throwing fire bombs, killing anew & scratching at the same racial wounds.

Paretsky’s style is as scattered as buckshot. Sometimes I had to reread a passage cuz she’d wrapped the present around the past too quickly; sometimes her heroine thought & did things she couldn’t have known or was too injured to have done, & sometimes the recapitulations were too many, however, as I got used to the lope of this author’s language I was fascinated by the frenetic ride through a community’s history & attitudes & how little they seemed to have changed, under that PC veneer.

I landed in the Windy City as a raw immigrant in the middle of that decade & put my secretarial skills to work for a mover & shaker in those tumultuous Civil Rights years. I remember walking arm-in-arm on a couple of those scary marches & learning about the social tides of neighborhoods. I also remember that almighty snowstorm & how it brought everything to a standstill.

HARBALL is a rousing, memorable urban adventure filled with old & new deadly deeds & shameful behavior relieved by the occasional redeeming gesture.

 

 

Die For You by Lisa Unger
 

Publisher: Vintage  ISBN-10: 0307476340

 

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

 

Manhattanites Isabel Raine, a successful author, and her husband Marcus, a software designer, seem to have the perfect life.  That is until one day Marcus leaves for work with a kiss and a smile only to then seemingly fall off the face of the earth.  And as Isabel attempts to find out where her husband is, she’ll discover that not only might he be gone for good, but also that he is far from the man she trusted and believed in.  Slowly but surely she’ll uncover his true past, one filled with dark and deadly secrets that with each revelation brings her closer to the dangerous truth   But he’s not the only who has hidden himself behind a façade of perfection, so too have others that Isabel is close to, leading her down a path of discovery of what really lies behind the innocent exteriors of those she only thought she knew, perhaps including even herself.

 

Unger always does a bang-up job of revealing the tempestuous realities that seem to lie beneath the surface of even the most seemingly normal of lives, and here again she doesn’t miss a beat.  Her intense look into the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we tell others, and the lies we’re told that we so blissfully and willfully ignore are revealed in a disturbing unraveling of just how much damage such blindness can impart when the truth is revealed.  With layer upon layer of excitement with each secret revealed, Unger puts forth a read that just might be one of her best.

 

 

 

Blindman’s Bluff by Faye Kellerman 

Publisher: Publisher: Harper ISBN-10: 0061702412

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Who is the smart-dressing young man with the sunglasses, and who is he staring at so intently from behind those dark lenses?  Lt Pete Decker’s wife Rina is on jury duty this week, and she can’t help but be intrigued by the good-looking young man.

As usual with a Faye Kellerman novel, nothing is what it seems on the surface. The young man is a court interpreter, and he’s blind.  He becomes an unwitting ear-witness to a criminal conversation and doesn’t know what to do next—so of course he turns up on Rina’s front porch, as many a lame duck has done before him.  This time the lame duck is more of a vulture, bringing a lot of really bad men in his wake, bad men who are tied in with a family mass-murder that Pete Decker and his crew are investigating.  The trouble is that one by one the murder suspects are turning up dead or missing, which makes solving the crime a lot harder than usual.  Moreover, the apparent reason for the killings just doesn’t sit right with Decker; he doesn’t buy in to the ‘robbery gone wrong’ scenario.  When he finds out that the only reason the sole survivor isn’t dead is because one of the shooters ran out of bullets, his antennae start twitching seriously.   This massacre is a puzzling combination of meticulous planning and clumsy execution (forgive the pun).

Complicating Decker’s attempts to keep his wife safe is their teenage daughter Hannah, who doesn’t take well to being made to stay at Grandma’s house while Pete sorts out the murderers from the merely dumb and dangerous gangbangers of the Bodega XII Boys.  Any reader who’s ever tried to get a teenage daughter to do anything anytime will sympathize.  Even when Decker sorts out the players, it’s obvious that the brain behind the gun is still on the loose and still a threat to the survivor of the massacre, as well as to Rina and the interpreter.

All the usual gang is here in this latest outing of California’s  West Valley police division: reliable Marge Dunn, snappy dresser and ladies’ man Oliver, Willy Brubeck , Wanda and the rest.    Kellerman does her usual excellent job of dangling the obvious suspects under our noses, then whisking them away in a misleading dust-storm of alibis and cross purposes.  

 

 

 

The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Publisher: Minotaur Books  ISBN-10: 0312533454

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When bride-to-be Meg Wynne Thompson goes missing the day of her wedding in the idyllic North Wales village of Llanelen, nail salon owner Penny Brannigan is shocked to discover that she’s the last one to have seen the bride alive. The killer, of course, being the last face this unpopular, materialistic bride had the unfortunate fate of seeing.  And Penny, being a sprightly and insightful woman in her 50s, can’t help but get caught up in the investigation, her ability to note the smallest details being extremely helpful to the lead investigator on the case, a man whose attractiveness is also noted by Penny.  But the deeper the investigation goes into this young victim’s life, the more suspects there are to consider, with each secret uncovered bringing danger only that much closer to all involved.

Duncan’s debut novel is, simply put, a winner.  With plenty of amateur sleuths out there already, she manages to distinguish her new addition to the crowd with a wonderfully drawn character who provides not only self-deprecating humor at being an “amateur sleuth,” but also finely tuned insights into the life of a woman with both feet planted squarely in middle age; both aspects artfully and unapologetically presented in a delightfully upbeat and unselfconscious manner.  Also of note is Duncan’s colorful portrayal of small-town life in the beautiful and serene setting of the countryside of North Wales.  This is hopefully just the first in a series that has the potential to really make a unique and refreshing mark in a genre that has gotten slightly stale, and so we eagerly anticipate what might come next from this very talented author.

 

 

 

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

Publisher: Penguin Press  ISBN-0143117564

Reviewed by Joseph Obermaier, New Mystery Reader

I was born too late to really remember the 1960s.  My impression of the period comes more from popular culture and rose-colored reminiscences of family and friends.  I was afraid, then, that much of the nostalgic appeal of Thomas Pynchon’s mystery set in that era, Inherent Vice, would be lost on me.  I didn’t need to worry.  Pynchon revels in the fashionable sense of the fading spirit of the 1960s that we’re all familiar with.  Rather than an accurate portrayal, it’s a fun, hazy love letter to a particular place and time. 

As the story starts, the sixties have just come to an end.  Larry “Doc” Sportello, is the owner and sole employee of LSD Investigations (LSD is short for “Location, Surveillance, Detection”) “circa” 1970.  A former skip-tracer, Doc is nearly thirty and living happily and mostly stoned in a dingy home among the surfers in the fictional city of Gordita Beach, California.  This afro-wearing “gumsandal” suffers from a failing memory and involuntary erections.   He is naive, horribly disorganized and an unrepentant pothead. 

The story begins with a visit from Shasta Fay Hepworth, a bit actress and Doc’s ex-girlfriend.   Shasta is the mistress of a real estate mogul named Mickey Wolfmann.  She suspects Mickey’s wife plans to lock him up in an insane asylum so she can take control of his fortune.  Almost as soon as Doc takes the case, Mickey has been kidnapped and one of his bodyguards killed.  Doc is warned off the case by the police.  Soon Shasta is missing as well, and Doc, without a client or money, has his mystery to solve. 

Inherent Vice is a psychedelic twist on the classic Los Angeles hard-boiled, mean streets mystery; an odd kind of hippie-noir.  All the traditional elements are there.  Doc’s got a frenemy on the force, an LAPD detective named Bigfoot Bjornsen.  He has a sometime girlfriend who happens to be an assistant district attorney.  There is a convoluted plot with a vanishing client.   There are accusations, disguises, corruption, old scores to settle and gunplay. 

But this is truly a different time and place.  Doc quotes Scooby Doo and keeps his gun in an ankle holster hidden by his bell-bottom pants.  The characters smoke pot and watch bad television instead of sitting around a bar sipping scotch.  The ‘mickey’ slipped into the whisky glass has been replaced by a joint spiked with PCP.  Clues are discovered on an acid trip.

Every character is more bizarre than the next.  From an attorney obsessed with the finer points of “Gilligan’s Island” to an ever-present saxophone player who has faked his own death.  And the outrageous names!  Ensenada Slim, Buddy Tubeside, and Jason Velveeta, just to name a few.

It’s this aspect that really makes Inherent Vice an enjoyable read.  Yes, it is lousy with subplots, outrageously over the top and occasionally rambling.  But it is also remarkably inventive, involuntarily engrossing and quite unlike any mystery I’ve ever read.  If you throw yourself into the mood and spirit of the book, you’re in for a remarkable ride.

 

 

The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch

Publisher:  Minotaur Books  ISBN:  0312650272

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

For any mystery fan, The Fleet Street Murders by talented author Charles Finch will be a satisfying read, whether your preference runs to historical mysteries or those of a more modern type.  The characters are realistic and the plotting is smoothly done, easing the reader back in time to live another life.

The why of the murders of two journalists on the same night just minutes apart is a puzzle that requires an investigator with a keen mind that can look beyond the surface of the case for clues.  Such a mind is possessed by private detective Charles Lenox and he would love to solve the case; however, Lenox has decided to run for Parliament and expects to be out of town.  So no matter the desperate pleas of others, Lenox heads north to stand for a recently vacated seat against a formidable local brewer vying for the same seat. 

The balance blending of two plots in this tale will keep the reader wanting to know what happens next.  You will also want to read other books by this very imaginative author.

I’m pleased to highly recommend The Fleet Street Murders as an engrossing tale of local politics and a hunt for the motive of the death of two journalists and others.  There are red herrings and false trails to follow with surprises blended into the tale.  A fun read all the way. 

 

 

 

Civil Twilight by Susan Dunlap

Publisher: Counterpoint  ISBN978 1 58243 452 0

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Darcy Lott is one of the more interesting of the new generation of lead characters in mystery fiction.  She makes her living diving out of windows, crashing cars and letting people set her on fire.  No, she’s not a masochist, she’s a stuntwoman.  When she’s not doing dangerous physical things, she’s a Zen student.

Darcy is the odd person out in her family: one of her brothers is a lawyer and the other is a lawman.  She has only recently reconnected with her family after some years of estrangement, so it’s a bit of a surprise when Gary, the lawyer, calls her and asks an urgent favor.  He wants her to keep one of his new clients company for a little while.  Darcy is about to do a big stunt for a film, but she agrees to meet Karen Johnson.

Despite her initial reservations, Darcy finds Karen likeable and invites her to come along to watch the stunt shoot and out to supper afterwards.  They’re getting along like the proverbial house afire when Darcy’s other brother turns up unexpectedly.  Even more unexpectedly, Karen steals his unmarked police car and takes off like a rabid bat after Buffy.

Karen crashes the car outside a house where a senior police officer keeps his mistress—surely this can’t be a coincidence?  Nobody gets a chance to ask Karen why, because she disappears, and then ends up mashed on the freeway, having apparently jumped to her death from an unfinished building nearby.  It doesn’t take a professional jumper like Darcy long to figure out that Karen had to have been thrown off the building: jumping wouldn’t have landed her on the freeway.

A bad situation turns worse when both Darcy’s brothers drop out of sight, leaving her with the unsavoury task of identifying what’s left of Karen, and trying to explain to Detective Korematsu what’s going on.  That would be a lot easier if she actually did know.  Retreating to her small room at the zendo, and talking with the Zen master, Darcy gets a couple of ideas.  It seems the only way to clear her brothers of suspicion would be to do the job the police should be doing: finding out who and what Karen Johnson really was.  The pursuit of Karen’s real identity takes Darcy to some odd places and ends up being potentially more dangerous than even a stuntwoman can handle. 

Whatever you do, don’t start reading this after supper, not unless you’ve no need to be up early the next day.

 

 

 

New Tricks by David Rosenfelt

Publisher: Grand Central  ISBN 978 0 446 50587 1

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader  

Attorney Andy Carpenter has just picked up his new client, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Waggy, when he notices the dog’s ears pricking up.  Seconds later, boom! Waggy’s former home and his former stepmother have gone up like Krakatoa. 

Waggy has been the focus of a custody battle between the widow and son of a very rich man, Walter Timmerman.  The well-named Judge Hatchet has tapped Andy as a suitable legal representative for the dog, and ordered him to determine which of the contenders would be the best new owner.

After the widow goes up in smoke, the police naturally suspect the son, Steven, and he’s in custody so fast that he barely has time to hire Andy’s firm to represent him.  Walter’s old business partner steps up to volunteer as Waggy’s new caretaker, but there’s something about him that makes Andy determined to hang on to the dog.  Andy takes Waggy home to stay with his own dog, and starts trying to figure out just what’s going on.  Then Andy’s girlfriend Laurie is shot and all his attention is on her survival.  It takes a while before he figures out that Laurie got shot by accident: Waggy was the real target.  What is it about this big friendly dog that’s making him the focus of so much attention?

The solution to the mystery involves both very modern science and very old motivations, and puts Waggy and everyone close to him in serious danger. 

This is a fast-moving and entertaining story with some nice bits of humor to balance the danger and suspense, and even if you aren’t a dog-lover you can’t help but take to Waggy and Tara.

 

 

 

One of Those Malibu Nights by Elizabeth Adler

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press  ISBN-10: 0312364490

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

This meets the very definition of a beach-read—light-weight and set in Malibu, with danger, romance and the requisite happy ending (never in doubt) accentuated by beautiful people and well-defined canine characters.

Handsome private investigator Mac Riley has his own TV show and runs a PI business for the fabulously famous in his off-hours.  One night a woman’s scream compels him to check out his neighbor’s house and he’s almost shot for his efforts.  Soon Mac’s services are requested by his billionaire neighbor, Ron Perrin; his estranged wife, the famous actress Allie Ray; and Perrin’s mistress Marisa Mayne.  Mac really has his hands full when both Perrin and Allie Ray disappear in completely separate incidents.  Armed with an infinitely capable staff and a worldly, good-humored girlfriend, Mac searches Mexico, Italy and the US to find his charges and ease his mind.

Allie’s disappearance proves to be the most interesting part and her character’s personal growth is in juxtaposition with Mac’s primarily sophisticated girlfriend who reverts to childlike behavior regarding potential marriage and a lack of attention.  Still, the international travel adds a lovely layer to the shallow world that Mac normally inhabits.

Although Adler sometimes throws in a little too much information in parts so it reads more like a lecture than adding atmosphere, One of Those Malibu Nights is a fast read perfect for a last minute summer vacation.

 

 

 

Storm Cycle by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press  ISBN:  978-0-312-36803-6

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

An attempt on the life of Elizabeth Kirby on a college campus is only part of a puzzle that comes to light when she and her team are confronted by missing computer power. “It’s like our system has suddenly sprung a leak,” she admits. 

Another piece in the puzzle is a mysterious message from half a world away that comes through the powerful computer she calls Jonesy.  The message originates in a tomb from a person unknown to her but who confesses to having stolen the computer power. 

The thief tempts her with ancient medical knowledge that could save Elizabeth’s younger sister who is the focus of all of her research. And so then things go from confusing to vastly complicated as the plot thickens and Elizabeth meets the man in the tomb.

A tale with lots of action, intriguing characters, suspense, mystery, and the lure of lost medical knowledge that will provide any reader with a very satisfactory read as the parts of the puzzle come together. 

Talented authors Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen will keep you turning pages to find out what happens next.  I’m pleased to recommend this tale to any reader looking for adventure and excitement, particularly those who enjoy tales laced with ancient history. 

 

 

 

Second Sight by George D. Shuman

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN-10: 1416599800

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

For years, Sherry Moore, a blind psychic who is able to touch dead people and envision the last 18 seconds of their lives, has been helping solve cases nationwide, her abilities often leading law enforcement straight to those who committed the crime.  And when her latest case takes her to New Mexico to solve a series of deaths involving an unknown entity, she’s terrified to not only be able to trace the source to a stolen tube of high tech radiation, but to discover that she too has been affected by the substance whose long term effects are unknown. 

And when shortly after returning home she regains her sight after touching the corpse of a man who spent decades in a coma in a mysterious mental institution, she’s not sure whether to be terrified or grateful, not knowing if it had anything to do with the radiation she was exposed to, and what it might mean in the long run. 

With her regained vision comes a loss of her abilities, and not just her “special” abilities, but also those that have kept her sane and safe throughout the years: her instinct for danger being one, and her innate sense of who to trust being the other. 

Unable to accept her refound vision as permanent leads Sherry to question how it came about in the first place, a quest that leads her straight to the last body she touched and, even further back, to New Mexico and the glowing tube of radioactive substances.  And when she discovers that secretive departments of the government seem to have a hand in both cases, she’ll also discover that the cure just might be worse than the disease.

Having enjoyed the previous outings in the series featuring Sherry Moore, and having blithely swallowed the reasoning explaining Sherry’s abilities, I was more than happy to follow Shuman again on what I thought would be a familiar road.  But it didn’t take long to realize that Shuman had no intention of traveling within the lines of that road that he had worked so hard to construct.

This time, driving the plot and characters off track, Shuman enters new territory by adding another dimension to an already 3-d story.  Sure, there’s a lot to swallow; but honestly, both those who believe in secret government conspiracies involving clandestine experiments and those who don’t can appreciate this thrilling ride into bigger than life “what ifs.”  And for fans returning who always wondered what Sherry with sight might be like, they too might find some shocking surprises in this exciting and exhilarating read that is well worth the time.

 

 

Murder On A Midsummer Night by Kerry Greenwood

Publisher: Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press ISBN-10: 1590587413

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Kerry Greenwood is a prolific author, probably best known for the Hon. Phryne Fisher mystery series.  Set in the late 1920’s in Melbourne, Australia, the series follows the aristocratic heroine through a variety of amazing adventures arising out of her career as a private inquiry agent.

Phryne is small, slender, tough as old boots, inventive, highly-sexed and a friend to a wide variety of people in all levels of society.  In previous adventures she’s flown planes, worked in a circus, broken up a drug ring, and rescued her lover Lin Chung from pirates in the South China Sea.

Greenwood sets the scene very well: you don’t need to know much Australian history to feel at home in her Melbourne.  She gets the flavour of the place and time without overwhelming you with ‘fair dinkums’ or ’23-skidoos’.   

The new book starts with a heat wave in January, and the arrival of Phryne’s social worker sister Eliza, with a sad story.  Augustine Manifold has been found dead on a beach and his distraught mother doubts the coroner’s verdict of suicide.  Her son had a big deal in the works that was going to make them rich—why would he kill himself?  Phryne agrees to look into the case, and finds enough clues in his second-hand goods shop to suggest that Augustine was in fact involved with something big, involving a potential fortune.  People have been killed for less, but which of Augustine’s acquaintances are responsible?  It takes a fake séance with some rather nasty people to find the answer. 

Before Phryne gets to the bottom of this case, the Archbishop of Melbourne requests her to look into the matter of what may be a missing heir.  Many of the surviving family members are angry at what they see as snooping, but the family lawyer is adamant that they must be sure that there is no living half-sibling who should be included in the estate settlement.   The surviving children understandably don’t like the idea that their mother may have had a child out of wedlock before marrying their father, and Phryne has to dig deep and hard to find answers.

Where there’s money involved, there’s always danger, and Phryne has a couple of close escapes, as is usual with her cases.  Probably the biggest danger is her own driving; one is amazed she hasn’t had a fatal pile-up given the way she drives the big Hispano-Suiza.

If you haven’t read any of Kerry Greenwood’s books, exert yourself to get some; you will find them literate, different, and entertaining.

 

 

 

Last Known Address by Theresa Schwegel

Publisher: Minotaur Books  ISBN-10: 031235734X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Chicago detective Sloane Pearson  has been living life in limbo.  Despondency over her going-nowhere live-in situation with a fellow officer, a career that seems stuck on zero, and her father’s questionable health have left her restless and disjointed.  And so when a series of rapes falls under her jurisdiction, she jumps head first into the investigation, not only to quickly discover that  she is the only one concerned with the fact that a serial rapist is striking the city, but that the suspect might be someone close to the investigation.  And so against all odds, and determined to so find the culprit, she begins to rattle some cages and ask some questions that might not just end her career, but her life.   

Reading this latest from Schwegel is almost as good as being there in person, with her edgy characters, gritty atmosphere, and unforgiving interplay between them all making for a richly multi-layered read. 

It’s always refreshing to come upon a female character whose mind and soul is filled with the inevitable darkness that comes along with the job of detective, an attribute that is all too often reserved solely for the manly males, with the “gentler” sex  all too often  worrying more about a broken nail and their latest romance.  And so it is here where Schwegel not only breaks the mold, but does it with an almost heart-breaking realism that shows no mercy for either the character or the reader. 

Detective Sloan Pearson is neither hero nor savior, she’s simply one of many doing a job that is mostly an endless and thankless cycle of all that’s ugly.  So if what you’re looking for is light and breezy, you might want to pass; this is a book that dares to reflect on the down and dirty faced by those who live it and dares to expose the damage that results more often than not.  Highly recommended, this literate and edgy  read puts an all too human face on everyday tragedy and brings it home in a realistic way that will linger long after that final page.      

 

 

Knock Out by Catherine Coulter

Publisher: Jove  ISBN-10: 0515148121

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

Exploding from the start with an intense vendetta-starting bank robbery in Washington, DC, Knock Out provides plenty of action and an astonishing paranormal connection.  FBI agents Dillon Savich and his wife Sherlock help take down the deadly Gang of Four but now need to capture the maniacal survivors who will stop at nothing for revenge.  The only thing that breaks Savich’s focus is a call in the middle of the night from a little girl in a lot of trouble—who reaches him telepathically.

Meanwhile, Autumn Backman may be only seven but she’s developed a good idea on whom to trust, which proves especially important since her dad’s weird family will do anything to kidnap her and kill her mother.  Her father’s family, who possess their own unusual gifts, believes that Autumn belongs with the oddly secretive Backman clan tucked away in rural Georgia.  Autumn’s mother Joanna, unaware of the family bonds until her husband’s death only a short time before, has used all her maternal instincts to protect her child by entrusting their safety to Sheriff Ethan Merriweather in Titusville, Virginia. While Autumn builds her ties to Savich using her special paranormal powers, the FBI agents and the resourceful Sheriff practice extraordinary partnership to help save Autumn from afar while capturing the delusional bank robbers.

You won’t believe how these two cases finally intersect or how Knock Out ends in the latest of Catherine Coulter’s series.  This is a fast-paced, traditional FBI tale spliced with paranormal powers and the stereotypical dangers of the isolated, rural South.  This is definitely a story of good versus evil with the surprises relating primarily to the characters’ development throughout the book rather than saving them for the end.  If you like your mysteries in black and white, with attractive, sensitive heroes and undeniably dangerous villains who need to be eradicated, this is the book for you.