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Obit by Anne Emery  

Publisher:  ECW Press  ISBN:  978-1-55022-754-3

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

It’s March 1991, and Halifax attorney Montague Collins is accompanying his friend, Father Brennan Burke, to New York City, where Brennan is going to officiate at the wedding of his niece.  Accompanying the two friends for their month-long stay are Monty’s estranged wife, Maura, and their two children.

Brennan Burke is the rare (one would hope) boozing and carousing priest with a very checkered past.  However, his indiscretions pale in comparison with those of his father, the irrepressible Declan Burke.  The wedding they’ve all traveled to attend is marred by the shooting of the bride’s grandfather, Declan.  The old man survives, however, and Brennan and Monty are determined to find the shooter before he makes a second, successful attempt on Declan’s life.

Everyone assumes that Declan’s past association with the IRA is the motive for the shooting; however, the old man stonewalls their attempts to uncover his past.  As Brennan and Monty delve into Declan’s early life in New York, Monty’s hopes for a reconciliation with his wife fade (as do Brennan’s hopes for a reconciliation with his ex-girlfriend, Sandra).  And Monty is troubled by his discovery of evidence that suggests the shooter is someone very close to Declan.

After a certain point, one has to wonder why Brennan and Monty don’t just give up and let the stubborn old bastard get himself murdered.  As weary as the reader might get with Declan’s unhelpfulness, Maura’s acerbic wit and the Burke family’s constant dramas are equally tiresome.  However, Obit is an unusual, intelligent mystery with a great setting in the Queens and Brooklyn.  Emery’s evocative portrayal of New York in the 1950s makes this a worthwhile, if sometimes slow, read.

 

 

White Corridor by Christopher Fowler

Publisher:  Bantam, ISBN:  978-0-553-80450--8

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Do you like snow?  Or blizzards?  Or do you prefer to be cozy by a fire with a good book?  Whether you like the snow and cold or cozy reading, you will really enjoy White Corridor by talented author Christopher Fowler. Get your warm weather gear and get ready for adventure in the snow like you haven't had before.

Two aging detectives of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, Bryant and May, decide to use the time the unit is closed for repairs to do a bit of traveling.  Borrowing an aged van that has seen better days, they hit the road and run into a snow storm that leaves them and several other travelers stranded.

Among those stranded are a frightened woman and her son, fleeing a man she considers dangerous.  They race from car to car seeking safety. 

To add to the problems, a body is discovered in one of the cars and the office keeps calling May and Bryant for help at the office that didn't close after all. There has been a murder there too.  If ever the two detectives regretting leaving home, this is the time.

A well told tale worth the time. Enjoyment and fun on each page. You'll feel the cold and sympathize with the stranded as the description puts you on the scene.  Realistic characters will pull you by the hand from one page to the next.  I'm pleased to recommend this tale to any mystery fan who enjoys something different.

 

 

 

Vineyard Stalker by Philip R. Craig

Publisher: Scribner  ISBN-10: 0743270452

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

With his family away on the mainland visiting relatives, former ex-cop J. W. Jackson is more than a little bored on the small idyllic island of Martha's Vineyard.  So when he's hired to by a woman to find out who has been harassing her brother, a Vietnam hero who later deserted his post, this part-time investigator quickly agrees.  Though not a licensed PI, it doesn't take long for J. W. to discover that it's most likely greed that is the motive behind the stalking. 

The victim, a monk-like gentleman who has lived the last few decades on a prime piece of real-estate afforded to him by a family trust, is all that stands in front of someone making a killing on the sale of land, and it's his own cousin who seems like the most probable suspect.  But things get a lot more dangerous than a case of stalking when the victim's lover is found murdered, and the deeper J. W. looks for the answers, the closer he comes to being the next victim.

Being mostly unfamiliar with this author I wasn't sure what to expect in this latest addition to his long running series, and so it was with a bit of surprise that I found myself more than delighted with this new reading experience.  The character of J. W., even more so than the colorful setting, is what really sets this series apart.  J. W., an engaging blend of courtly old-world charm and your average every man's man, adds a great amount of appeal to this tale of greed, love, and regret, making it easy for the reader to root for the good guys.  With a little bit of everything, this is one read that captures it all with finesse, and one that will leave readers eagerly looking forward for to the next.

 

 

Slipknot by Linda Greenlaw

Publisher: Hyperion Press  ISBN 0 7868 6678 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you ever wondered what lobster boat captains do in the off season, here’s the answer: some of them write jolly good murder mysteries.

Linda Greenlaw has captured the iodine tang of the Maine coast in this story of murder, alienation and gurry.  What’s gurry?  You don’t want to know—but you’ll find out, right along with Jane Bunker.

Jane’s  burnt out after 20-odd years being a top cop in Florida, so she’s taken a low-level job for an insurance company and moved back to the same part of Maine that her mother fled from nearly 40 years ago.  Jane is planning how she can re-establish contact with relatives on an offshore island, but gets caught up in a murder before she gets very far.

She makes a couple of friends quickly, despite “the gene responsible for the gift of gab having skipped a generation in my case” Audrey, the coffee shop waitress, has a wealth of knowledge—and supposition—about nearly everyone in town.  Jane’s landlords, an elderly couple, move into her life uninvited, feeding her and mothering her in a way her own mother never did.  And Cal, the archetypical old Yankee, seems to have taken a liking to her, in a reserved Down Maine sort of way.

Brushed off by the local police when she tries to help out with what she’s sure is murder, Jane continues to investigate the death of Nick Dow, the town drunk, who turns out to have been quite not quite what he seemed..  The investigation keeps leading her back to the fish processing plant near where the body was found.  The plant’s owner, the humongous Ginny, doesn’t much like Jane—but would she try to have her murdered?

There’s an interesting secondary plot about the proposed wind farm, which has stirred up strong feelings amongst the townsfolk.  Anyone who’s ever lived in a small New England town where something new was proposed will find herself wearing a grim smile when she reaches that part of the story.

This is a very readable book which should appeal both to the general reader and to displaced Yankees, wherever they may be. 

 

 

 

Dark House by Alex Barclay

Publisher: Delacorte Press  ISBN-10: 0385338791

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It was a year ago in NYC when Joe Lucchesi's life as a detective went sour in a kidnapping case gone bad - with the victim ending up dead and Joe forced to kill a man.  But now, after spending a year in Ireland with his wife Annie who was hired to renovate a lighthouse, and his teenaged son Shaun, things seem to be better than ever.  That is until Shaun's young girlfriend is found dead, her murder a shocking crime for the small village unaccustomed to violence.  With very few suspects, it doesn't take long for suspicion to fall on Shaun, a situation that leads Joe to begin his own investigation, one that all too soon takes him back to that fateful day in NY as he begins to realize that his past has come back to haunt him with a vengeful fury. 

Just out in the US, this title has already left its mark overseas, and a rather large one at that.  But if you're thinking you might soak up some Irish ambiance during the read, you might be disappointed at how little there actually is besides the setting - with the dialogue, many characters, and writing itself seeming more American than not.  Nonetheless, this is a decent debut; the mystery is compelling, the characters humanely portrayed, and the writing alluringly taut.  Best of all, however, is the shocking finale, where readers will discover that all they might have construed was not even close to the truth.  So don't get too comfortable reading this, Barclay has many surprises in store for the unsuspecting, and no matter how close you think you've come to figuring it all out, you'll still be surprised at what is finally revealed.