June new mystery book reviews. Click on links for buying info.
Nowhere Land by A. W. Hill
Publisher: Counterpoint ISBN: 978-1-58243-498-8
Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader
Stephan Raszer is a tracker of the lost and in this tale he tracks a girl who has been abducted. Her abductors killed 3 boys who were attempting to rape her. The events disrupt the lives of the church members of a branch of the Jehovah’s Witness church and send her grandfather to Stephan for help. Almost too late.
The search for the girl brings Stephan back to the last case he’d had when he’d lost a young man named Scotty who’d gone on a mission while playing a computer game called The Gauntlet.
Stephan comes to feel the game and several other missing young people who played it are pawns for some sinister group and they have taken the girl he seeks.
In a tightly woven story about the control that can be asserted over susceptible people who seek an identity in the game and in reality lose their identity, talented author A. W. Hill has crafted a story with a certain amount of realism that can scare the reader into an awareness of the cyber world and it’s influence when it meets up with the young raised in the rigid world of extreme religions that seek mind control as well as emotional control, making them vulnerable to the game’s influence.
This is a tale to make you think about the world of computers influence on the young who have trouble finding a self identity. A learning experience as well as entertainment on the dark side.
I’m pleased to recommend this tale as well worth the time. You’ll remember you adventure with Stephan Raszer into the complicated world of hidden meanings and peeling away the layers of secretive influence. Enjoy. I sure did.
The Alpine Uproar by Mary Daheim
Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN-10: 0345502558
Reviewer: Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader
This old-fashioned mystery in the Emma Lord series (also known as the Alpine Alphabet mysteries) is set in the small town of Alpine in the Pacific Northwest. Recalling the amiable setting of Cecily in the TV series Northern Exposure, Alpine’s residents know each other well, quirks and secrets. Emma Lord, owner of the local weekly newspaper, makes it her business to know what’s going on, and her casual relationship with the sheriff gives her extra inside information.
In the 21st book in the series, Alpine’s most honest mechanic is killed in a drunken barfight and the accidental killer, remorsefully confused Clive Berentson, is quickly locked up. In spite of the witnesses and local opinion, Emma is sure that there is more going on and continues to keep her ears open to the changing accounts from that night in spite of numerous personal mishaps and personnel disasters. Since the murder weapon is a pool cue stick used by the bar’s many patrons, there are plenty of possible suspects trying desperately to maintain their own lies while the police finish their investigation of the open-and-shut case.
Emma’s not a typical hard-charging reporter and primarily discovers information through her extensive network of friends, especially since so many in the small town are related, making for an endless supply of inside information to help her connect the dots. Daheim is careful to tie up all the loose ends by the conclusion and pays special attention to the characters of Emma, Sheriff Milo Dodge and Emma’s star attraction, Vida Runkel. One of the most intriguing characters is Fred Engelman, a former drunk who takes care to lock himself in jail every weekend to maintain his sobriety.
The newsroom banter works for a small town paper, although Emma and her well-established colleague Vida remain curiously old-fashioned in their disgust with the “rough” tavern, which most journalists would check out periodically in their profession for other stories or simple networking. The paper also just went online at this late date and without the express permission of the owner, neither of which seem plausible. Several other examples occur, leading to the suggestion that the Emma Lord series appeals most to those happily technologically oblivious who enjoy slow-paced, old-fashioned mysteries populated by pleasant people and noticeable suspects.
Blind Sight by Terri Persons
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN-10: 0385526539
Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader
FBI agent Bernadette Saint Claire is finally getting used to her assignment in St. Paul and all that comes with it: her dusty basement office, very cold winters, and a supervisor that is a bit more attractive than she’s comfortable with. While it’s true that she’s got a string of renegade moves behind her, it’s mostly her second sight that has landed her in no-man’s land; her ability to “see” through the killer’s eyes a big plus in solving crimes, the explanation for her success, not so much a factor on her credibility scale. Her latest case, however, might just prove the one to end her career once and for all.
Called out to the scene of a young, pregnant female found dead in the cold and snowy woods, her unborn child removed from her body and now missing, might seem bad enough. But for Cat and her supervisor, Tony, combining not only the discovery that the girl was the daughter of a state senator with too many secrets, living in a town filled with a coven of witches, but also that Cat’s second sight is changing in very odd ways, they’ll soon find this new case going in entirely unexpected and potentially disastrous directions. And so as they fight treacherous blizzards, their mutual attraction, high-powered politicians, and witches with a questionable agenda, they’ll find the answers difficult, if not deadly to track.
As a reviewer, it’s always a difficult choice whether to compare an author’s new work to previous outings in the same series or to treat the new outing as a singular work to be compared only with the genre in which it was written. An inside comparison might not only be confusing to those readers who haven’t read the series, but a negative comparison might stop them from reading any in the series at all. Should an author who writes a great first book, one that rises above the rest in the genre as a whole, be forced to uphold those standards she herself set? And, if not, should she be “dinged” when her new title, that while not meeting her own previous standards, still outshines most others?
That’s the question this latest book from Persons made me ask. Her first two, especially her first, in the series were extraordinary. And perhaps it’s only in comparison that this third seems like a paint-by-number - one that while interesting, fails to meet the bar she herself set. Yes, as a murder mystery this does the trick, and it does it well, but when considering what Persons has done before, it doesn’t come close. So while newcomers will appreciate this latest, fans of old might wonder what went wrong.
Lonesome Point by Ian Vasquez
Publisher: Minotaur Books ISBN: 978-0-312-37810-3
Reviewed by Jim Sells, New Mystery Reader
Leo Varela is an unlikely sleuth. He has a menial job at a mental health hospital to support his other interests – writing poetry and smoking pot. For Leo, this is a vast improvement from his youth. He has moved from failed drug deals to his love, Tessa. Add to that they are expecting a baby, and then Leo has moved toward a stable and responsible life.
However, when Freddy – a shady character from his troubled past – wants a patient in isolation to have visitors, Leo gets curious. Freddy implies that he will jeopardize Leo’s current attempt at a respectable lifestyle.
Also there is Patrick, Leo’s brother. Patrick is a Miami / Dade County Commissioner and a potential mayor of Miami. When Leo tells him of Freddy’s visit, Patrick finds out the events relate to his political career and possible disaster.
Finally, there is Lonesome Point, the site of the beginning. What looked like an end to secrets of political corruption and secret liaisons by the men’s father has spilled over into their adult lives. Will Patrick’s political trickery and Leo’s street smarts be enough to save them? Herein lies the intrigue.
Ian Vasquez has shown considerable skill at capturing the nuisances of politics while showcasing the vibrant beat of society’s survivors. The reader should be forewarned that the subject matter is mature and the language rough.
Fugitive by Phillip Margolin
Publisher: Harper ISBN: 9780061236235
Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader
Margolin, a victorious attorney, has also seen great success with his novels WILD JUSTICE, THE ASSOCIATE and, more recently, with EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE.
But it seems that one of Margolin’s creations is slowly getting more famous than the author himself, much like what happened to Sherlock Holmes and his creator Arthur Conan Doyle. Smart, spunky, and young trial lawyer Amanda Jaffe is now becoming synonymous with smart and young lady lawyers- in and outside of fiction.
After a brief hiatus, Jaffe, the heroine of WILD JUSTICE, TIES THAT BIND and PROOF POSITIVE is back in fine form in FUGITIVE. It all starts when petty crook and con man, Charlie Marsh, rescues a prison warden from the clutches of a murderous and insane prisoner during a prison riot, turning him into an instant national hero and later into a new age spiritual Guru (Guru Gabriel Sun) and bestselling author. However, Marsh is later accused of killing a US congressman, and he soon disappears from America.
Now 12 years later, we find Charlie in an African country, Batanga, ruled by the despotic and cruel President Jean Claude Baptiste. Unknown to the tyrant, Charlie also has had a brief affair with the President’s favorite wife. Charlie knows what happens to people who incur the President’s wrath and so when the President finds out the truth about Charlie, Charlie has no option but to flee home, finding himself back in Oregon and once again facing his murder charge of the congressman.
And so now Amanda Jaffe has a huge problem in her hands. She has to protect Charlie from not only death row and from Baptiste’s secret police, but she also must find out what really happened in that prison riot. What follows is Margolin action at its ultimate best that culminates in a finish that only he could have thought of. A highly suspenseful and quick-paced read, this latest comes highly recommended.
Little Lamb Lost by Margaret Fenton
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing ISBN 978 1 933515 51 9
Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader
People who spend their working lives in the service of orphans or the homeless or the chronically ill are special people with more than the usual allocation of patience and compassion. Most of us admire them but freely admit we’d never be able to do it.
In her first published novel, Margaret Fenton has chosen as her protagonist Claire Conover, a social worker. Claire works hard and is quite successful at her chosen vocation. It’s not an easy job, but it has its rewarding moments. For instance, Claire feels justifiably proud of her client, ex-druggie Ashley Hennessy, who has cleaned herself up, gotten her life on a straight track, and regained custody of her beautiful little boy Michael.
It all falls apart when the police contact Claire and tell her that Michael is dead and Ashley is being charged. The autopsy shows Michael died of illegal drugs, but Ashley’s routine tests have been clean: how did the child get the drugs, and where?
Before Claire can find out the truth, she becomes the target of a blame campaign by the local newspaper. Now it’s not just a matter of learning the truth about Michael and Ashley, but clearing her own name and reputation. Ashley won’t help, and seems determined to take punishment that Claire doesn’t believe is due her. Claire starts digging, but the deeper she goes, the more danger she’s in. When she turns up a connection to some rich and powerful local people, she knows she’s found a compelling motive—now she just has to live long enough to report the evidence to the right authorities.
This is a nail-biting book; not so much for the danger, as for the frustration you can feel mounting inside you as one injustice after another piles up around Claire. Why should this good woman, who does a job few others would do, be made a scapegoat? What’s wrong with Ashley, that she won’t tell Claire what she saw? And after another death, can Claire deal with the knowledge that there are some lost souls you just can’t save?
This isn’t a soothing or cosy read, but it’s well written and it’s certainly topical. Highly recommended.