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Dead On by Ann Kelly

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. ISBN: 0595326641 

Pennsylvania Medical Examiner Ann Yang lives a rather solitary and drab existence, that is, until a serial killer strikes, and suddenly she's thrown into a world of danger and chaos.  Meanwhile, she's also been getting some strange feelings and thoughts, thoughts of events long ago, odd memories of being murdered over and over again.  And when the killer starts communicating with Ann, she suddenly recognizes him as the one, the one who has been chasing her through time, just as he has recognized her.  And as their past lives turn into the present, Ann must figure out which man that has entered her life is the one who comes from the past to kill her yet again.

This tale of supernatural intrigue has suspense in spades, as well as some fluid and graceful writing, especially found in the journal that Ann discovers in her home that she's been renovating.  There are plenty of surprises here as well, enough to stir the blood and make the reader's pulse race in anticipation of the next.  Definitely recommended, and with a shock of an ending that does the tale justice, readers will enjoy this one.  

 

Immaculate Midnight by Ellen Hart

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN: 0312313659 

Jane Lawless, a restaurant owner in Minneapolis is drawn into yet more intrigue when her father, defense attorney Ray Lawless, is accused of mishandling the case of convicted serial killer Bobby Alto. When Bobby’s last appeal fails, and he is murdered in his jail cell, his dysfunctional family faults Ray, and soon the entire Lawless family is targeted.  Was Bobby truly the serial killer known as the Midnight Man, or is he still out there, and now targeting Jane’s family?  As dangerous events escalate, including a brutal attack on Jane’s sister-in-law, Jane and her father must find the truth before the next tragedy.  

This was my first Jane Lawless mystery, and I couldn’t be more delighted.  Filled with characters that amuse, a plot that engrosses, and a narrative that soars, this is truly an entertaining and suspenseful read.  Jane especially is well written, a full-blown character that is realistic and can easily draw empathy from the reader.  This is definitely a series that I will want to re-visit, including her previous outings.  If you too haven’t yet discovered this great amateur sleuth series, this is a great place to start.

 

 

Unfit to Practice by Perri O’Shaughnessy

 Publisher: Delacorte Press; ISBN: 0385334842 July

A seemingly small mistake leads to high-stake tragedy when one stormy night South Lake Tahoe lawyer Nina Reilly leaves some case files locked in her car.  Waking up the following morning, she finds both her car and her case files gone.  When the sensitive and confidential information in the files starts becoming public knowledge, Nina must not only fight to save her reputation, but the lives of those being threatened as well.  With her ex-husband Jack defending her in the State Bar accusations, and her current boyfriend Paul, searching for evidence to save her, she must also contend with a perilous love life.   

This outing is by far the best in the series featuring Nina Reilly.  The suspense doesn’t flag for even a moment, and the reader will be hard-pressed to put this one down before the final page is turned.  With her most personal case to date, Nina must not only fight to save her reputation, but her life as well, as there is someone out to get her, someone who will not stop until Nina is either ruined or dead.  Nina has made plenty of enemies along the way, and it’s a thrill a minute for the reader to try and determine which one has finally broken.  Revealing anymore might just ruin the wonderful surprises that lie in the store for the reader, but suffice it to say; any fan of mystery should definitely read this book. 

5 bolts 

 

Partner In Crime by J.A. Jance

Publisher: William Morrow & Co; ISBN: 0380977303 

Jance brings together the main characters of her J.P. Beaumont and Sheriff Joanna Brady novels to solve an intriguing case of murder.  When an artist is found dead, it is soon discovered that she was in the witness protection program.  Beaumont is sent to Bisbee to help Brady figure out where the leak originated from, and to whom it was sent.  When other deaths occur, the two must set aside their initial differences and work together to untangle this nasty web.  And as their mutual respect grows, so does their attraction to each other.  Meanwhile Joanna must still deal with problems on the home front, as J.P. himself deals with new discoveries concerning his now dead wife, serial killer Anne Corley, who grew up in Bisbee, the place where her killer instincts began.          

Jance has done a more than capable job of bringing her two very separate and distinct characters together in one book.  She blends the two flawlessly, while keeping the suspense and thrills going at a relentless pace.  Those that have read one, but not the other, in her series of novels will be sorely tempted to begin reading all they can of the unread series.  Both characters have stayed true to form, and her switching from third person narrative to first person is perfectly executed.  This is a must read for fans of either series, and sure to make new fans of both.

 

 

The Soul Catcher by Alex Kava 

Publisher: Mira Books; ISBN: 1551669285 August

Kava brings F.B.I. Profiler, Maggie O’Dell, back in the third installment of this exciting series.  Young women are dying, and their deaths appear to be tied to an enigmatic cult leader who holds a powerful control over his young flock.  When a shoot-out at a remote cabin location ends in mass suicide, Alex must discover how the two cases are connected.  And when she discovers that her own mother has joined the church, Alex concerns grow steadily as she races to uncover the secrets behind this deadly cult.

 Kava just keeps getting better with each book in the series.  High suspense, wonderful plotting, and superb character development keep the reader enthralled for the entire ride.  It was especially interesting to learn more of Maggie’s dysfunctional background and the resulting poor relationship with her mother.  And even her secondary characters will score high marks with the reader, as their characters also become more fully developed.  This action-packed thriller will keep readers at the edge of their seats, and possibly reading far into the night to finish this remarkable outing.  And hints at yet another book will leave you looking forward to the next with breathless anticipation.  What more could a reader ask for?

4 1/2 bolts

 

Whispers and Lies by Joy Fielding

 Publisher: Pocket Books; ISBN: 0743446259

Never married, 40 year old Terry Painter is living a quiet and uneventful life in Florida working as a nurse.  When she decides to rent out the cottage on her property again after a previously unsuccessful attempt at handling tenants, the young woman who moves in after a brief but highly enjoyable first meeting pleasantly surprises her.  As their friendship blossoms, however, soon the young woman’s friends begin to cause Terry doubt, and eventually she moves from doubt to fear as she realizes the young woman is not quite whom she said she was.  Seemingly innocent events take on a malicious tone as Terry becomes more and more concerned with her safety, knowing not even the man she is falling in love with can save her. 

Joy Fielding has always put out wonderful novels, and her latest does not disappoint.  Gripping suspense that slowly creeps in infuses the reader with a sense of dread that only grows with each page. This is a dark and chilling read, and its understated indications of an ever-increasing and insidious evil will leave the reader looking over their shoulder time and time again. To say more might ruin the shocking climax, but suffice to say, this is a must read for any serious fan of suspense. 

 

 

Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs

Publisher: Scribner; ISBN: 0684859734

Reality bleeds into fiction, or perhaps it is the other way around in the latest offering from the skilful pen of Kathy Reichs. 

More so than in any of her previous Temperance Brennan books, "Grave Secrets" gives the reader insights into the real and often dreadful world of Kathy Reichs the forensic anthropologist who is also the best selling author.

 "Grave Secrets" takes Tempe from her usual Quebec and North Carolina axis to Guatemala, on loan to the Forensic Anthropology Foundation, where her job is to identify the remains of some of the victims of the long-running civil war.  The task is made much more difficult and personal by Tempe's meeting some of the survivors, in particular the aged mother and grandmother of several of the dead. 

The exhumation has barely begun when two members of Temperance Brennan's team are attacked and shot.  The policy claim it's a robbery gone wrong, but why were the pair being followed by a sinister black car?  If it was robbery, why weren't the victim's watches and jewellery taken?  The dead Carlos and the comatose Molly cannot help explain what happened to them: it will be up to Temperance to find out.   

To further complicate Tempe's busy schedule, the local police demand she help with the investigation into a serial killer, one of whose victims is the Canadian Ambassador's daughter.  Or is she?  There are more mysteries here for Tempe than just the old bones of past tragedy. 

As we've come to expect from a Temperance Brennan adventure, the story is peopled with a varied cast of good guys, bad guys and pitiful human flotsam.  The bad guys run the gamut from mad scientist to crooked politician, with a few stops in between.  What looked like a straightforward if grisly job becomes much more than that, with every twist of the plot bringing in some unexpected new thread.  By the end, the threads are neatly woven into a satisfying tapestry, leaving us with only one question. 

As always, Reichs gives the reader a sense of place with her description of Guatemala City and the highlands beyond, sprinkling just enough Spanish to flavor the mix without irritating the reader and interrupting the narrative flow.  Reichs doesn't neglect romance, either: amid the horror of decomposition sprouts a small flower of mutual attraction which may lead somewhere.  Or will it?   

Along the way in this compelling story Reichs provides some chilling statistics that come closer to home than Guatemala: thirty thousand Americans--seventy percent of all homicides--are killed each year by gunshot.  She also provides an intelligible explanation of how DNA analysis is used to identify bodies without beating the reader over the head with her own vast knowledge of the subject. 

When you buy "Grave Secrets", do it on a Friday evening so the day job won't interrupt your reading pleasure.

 --Karen Treanor

 

Dead Midnight by Marcia Muller

Publisher: Mysterious Press; ISBN: 089296765X July

It’s hard to count how many Sharon McCone mysteries Muller has penned, but somehow she still retains a tight and sturdy hold on this very appealing character.  McCone is still agonizing over her estranged brother’s suicide when she is called into a case surrounding another suicide, this one of a young writer for a hip online magazine.  The family believes that he was led to commit this act because of the intense pressure and horrible working conditions surrounding his employment.  The deeper McCone digs, the more disturbing facts she discovers entangled in this dubious and financially failing ezine.   

This is definitely a book of the new century with its focus on failing dot coms, and the new generation of ethics and morality surrounding them.  Also exploring the intense subject of suicide, Muller’s McCone must also face her own failings in her family relations.  Muller treats these subjects realistically, writing them with compassion and intelligence.  Both the pressures to succeed, and the aftermath of failure, are explored without blinking in a setting that is all too real in today’s world.  This is a timely written novel that will please Muller’s many fans.    

4 bolts

 

 

The House on Sprucewood Lane by Caroline Slate

Publisher: Pocket Books; ISBN: 0743418883  JULY

When documentary film maker Lex Cavanaugh receives an email from her nephew notifying her of her niece's death and pleading for her help, Lex leaves her London home to return to the States.  After a disastrous affair with her sister's husband years before, there is tension all around as Lex tries to atone for her past mistakes while trying to prove that her family members are innocent of this gruesome murder of her precocious ten year old gymnast niece.  This is definitely an interesting read, but the reader should be forewarned that this very well might be the most dysfunctional family you may ever encounter, sometimes to the point of disbelief.  Not necessarily because of the family's dysfunction, but because of the ease in which Lex is able to presume her role of loving Aunt after such a long estrangement.   There are definite undertones of the recent Ramsey case in Colorado, however, that add to this mystery, and the reader will most likely be shocked with the thrilling ending.       

4 bolts