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A Ghost In The Machine by  Caroline Graham

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 03122995156

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A blend of many genres, this engrossing story of how people can become embroiled in each other's lives through a mix of friendship, greed and deceit.  A book guaranteed to hold your attention.

Mallory Lawson's old aunt has passed on and left him and his family able to pursue their individual dreams.  He and his wife move into the aunt's home and inherit her companion, Benny Frayle, as part of the deal. 

Through Benny, they become entangled in the death of her friend, Dennis Brinkley, whose passing has Benny convinced he was murdered.  Benny spends all of her time trying to convince the police and others of this, but it takes another death to make them investigate.

A Ghost in the Machine is a skillfully woven tale of cross purposes and machinations of the characters who are very real, each having a private agenda for what they do. A visit to the English countryside and a small village are extra treats for the reader.  Author Caroline Graham uses her considerable talent to give us a blend of mystery, the supernatural, and tragedy in a book that will keep you reading.  Enjoy. 

 

Identity Crisis by Debbi Mack

Publisher:  Quiet Storm Publishing ISBN:  0977007022

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader  

Samantha McRae is a young public defender whose normal cases are DUIs, petty theft or internal family discord.  However, one such client takes her on a car chase, a run-in with the mob, and encounters with several branches of federal law enforcement as well as the local police.

An ordinary seeming girl who works in a bank disappears when her ex-boyfriend is found dead. The police and feds are looking for her and after a thorough questioning by them, Sam is also on the hunt for her client.

Sam checks all the places the girl is likely to be and doesn't find her so after a call that alerts her the girl is heading west, she sets off to follow the bus she's on.  Unfortunately, the mob and a private detective are following Sam.

This is a story with plenty of action, a well-drawn plot and a set of interesting characters. Talented Debbi Mack lets the reader step into the shoes of an ordinary public defender and experience the excitement and danger of a case that is far from ordinary.  Recommended as a fun read.

Enjoy.

 

The Devil’s Halo by Chris Fox

Publishers: Random House, 2005 ISBN: 0091794994

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

An astounding work, a thriller of the first order, and one that’s not to be read but to be savored.

Having said this much, I wonder whether any further explanation is needed to convey my appreciation of this new novel from Chris Fox, author of LUCI in the Sky. The traditional spy novel it seems has breathed its last- its exponents John Le’ Carre and Frederick Forsyth seems to have abandoned the genre; and authors like Tom Clancy have given a new twist to this genre, in what is now known as techno-terror thrillers. And for a long, long time I yearned to read a traditional spy thriller, with all its charm, glory and suspense. And it was with great pleasure I started reading THE DEVIL’S HALO, a spy novel of the traditional flavor, albeit in modern settings.

Chris Fox, presents his novel, The Devil’s Halo in a fictitious political background where Europe led by France and Russia have gained hegemony over the United States as a superpower; a what if scenario, sort of what Robert Harris did with Fatherland (what would have been the world political history had Hitler won the 2nd World War). Europe is fed up being No. 2 to the Americans and they are growing restless. Former friends, it seems are turning foes and the result might be world disaster.

And caught in this midst are CIA agents Terry Weston, his wife Maria and their young daughter Ariana. The world they knew of old, it seems is slowly changing and with change comes greater risks, greater danger for the Weston family. A master in the clandestine game of espionage, Terry soon realizes that the existence of his family itself will be in question if Europe gains supremacy over America as a superpower. And when Europe plans an action that will restart the space war, Terry must act, for his inaction would throw the political world into international chaos. What follows is breathtaking and chilling suspense action culminating in a finish that just best can be described as simply out of this world (pun absolutely intentional).

Highly, highly enjoyable and very much recommended.

 

A Moment On The Edge by Elizabeth George

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks ISBN: 0060588225

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader
 

For the mystery reader, a collection of great short stories by women of mystery guaranteed to provide you with the satisfaction of time well spent. A Moment on The Edge is also a salute to women writers who showed the world that women could also thrill the reader.
 
No two stories alike, each presents the world from a fresh perspective. A grouping of the best lady authors known gives pleasure to any mystery lover in short stories written over the last hundred or so years. You'll find many old friends here to visit with again and again. 
 
Ranging from tales of ordinary characters caught in extra-ordinary situations that may cause them to commit the most heinous of crimes--murder--to tales of the most horrid human monster ever known--Jack the Ripper--provide looks into the darkest part of the soul. Some will give you goosebumps, others will make you wish they were longer, but all will provide the enjoyment any mystery reader expects of a good book.
 
Highly recommended. You'll find many tales that will become your personal favorites as I did. 
Talented author Elizabeth George has brought together ladies who represent the best in the mystery genre, a book you'll want to keep to read again and again.  Enjoy.

 

Trace by Patricia Cornwell

 Publisher: Berkley ISBN: 0425204200

Trace by Patricia Cornwell: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Having missed the last couple of Kay Scarpetta novels because they seemed to be slipping in quality, I picked up this latest with some guardedness, but was pleasantly surprised.  It appears that Cornwell has gotten a second wind, and is back to her highly creative original form.  This time out Medical Examiner Scarpetta is called in to her old stomping grounds in Richmond, VA., to examine the suspicious death of a 14 year old girl whose death was originally assumed to be caused by a nasty flu.  But after further examination, it becomes apparent that it was murder.

Meanwhile, Lucy, Kay's niece, who has opened shop in Florida, is busy with her own case.  Someone has attacked her recent partner in love and in business, and continues to stalk and threaten Lucy's life.  Benton, Scarpetta's boyfriend, is busy in Aspen counseling the victim, and discovering that she is not all she appears to be.  And as these separate cases take on an ever-increasing menacing tone, it becomes clear that they just might be connected, and someone's murderous vendetta against Kay and her niece is growing ever closer and is about to explode.

In this greatly satisfying and suspenseful read from Cornwell, readers are treated once again to her deliciously thrilling prose of days gone by.  The suspense does not flag for even a moment, and at 436 pages, this is quite a feat. Realistically drawn characters round out this finely tuned novel of chills and thrills, making the read electrifying from beginning to end. Highly recommended, we welcome Cornwell back with enthusiasm.            

 

Hunting Fear by Kay Hooper

Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0553585983

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Kay Hooper, writer of several trilogies featuring characters that possess psychic abilities, returns with the beginnings of what looks to be a very promising and exciting new set.  Featuring some recurring characters, and some new ones, the reader is treated to a gripping adventure when the psychic unit of the FBI becomes aware that a serial killer is on the loose; one who kidnaps his victims, and then kills them after the ransom is delivered. 

Samantha, a carnival psychic, has become involved when he targets the small city where the carnival has recently set up shop in.  Called into the scene to assist is Luke, a man who is able to track victims by sensing their fear.  These two have a history that goes way back; once lovers whose affair ended in an unhappy way, they now must work together, because this time it's personal, and it's their very own lives that may be in danger as he comes ever closer to fulfilling his plan of vengeance.

Hooper manages to inject the idea of the supernatural with credence and sincerity without ever going over the top.  Even readers who may find the idea to be farfetched will be unable to read this without walking away completely unconvinced.  Suspenseful, and with just the right amount of romance, this enthralling read easily entices the reader, leaving them eager for the next promised addition to the trilogy.  Definitely recommended, this winning tale of the supernatural easily satisfies.     

 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader   

Lily Munroe is determined to win the Alaskan Iditarod dog sled race and must keep her wits about her to survive the elements and stay on the course for ten days.  But Derek Wright, last year's winner and her sexy, charming ranch partner is also entered in the race.  Lily believes him to be an international playboy and cannot afford the distraction his presence will create. 

A series of deadly accidents befall Lily.  When Derek becomes her protector she learns that he is a member of an elite anti terrorist team and that she is the target of a contracted killer.  Lily and Derek band together to survive both the Alaskan weather conditions and the killer.

This is an absolutely thrilling novel!.  It is filled with romance, action and circumstances that the average citizen couldn't survive.  The plot is well constructed, and the main characters (almost superheroes) are ordinary people with exceptional skills.  This book should be on everyone's MUST READ list.

 

 

Murder is my Racquet by Otto Penzler

Mysterious Press, June 2005 ISBN: 0446695882

Reviewed by By Paul Kane, New Mystery Reader

There are certain constants in life.  As I write, Wimbledon's annual tennis tournament is about to enter its second week and, as before, it is certain that no Briton will win the title - Tim Henman and Andy Murray have both already been defeated.  Now we have just a short wait before the onset of rain, but thankfully relief is at hand.  For Otto Penzler has just brought out his latest anthology, Murder is my Racquet, containing 14 tennis-themed mystery stories.  Are the stories uniformly excellent?  Can we expect rain delays during Wimbledon's second week?  As I said, there are in life certain constants. 

The first story I turned to was "Tennis, Anyone?" by Kinky Friedman, in the expectation that I would be entertained by a stream of outrageous one-liners and punch lines.  Friedman was true to form and didn't disappoint.  The best punch line occurs when his protagonist, a doctor, describes some of the problems he encounters when working in the ER:

People with limbs missing.  People with gunshot wounds.  People stuck together f&%*ing.

When younger, this doctor had been a promising tennis player and had used deception and disguise to achieve his victories.  These are strategies that he uses in daily life; and they are also used by the author to play with the reader.  Friedman uses the ploy of the unreliable narrator, as introduced to crime fiction by Agatha Christie with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  This is a story that you will need to read twice, accepting Kinky's kind invitation ("Tennis, Anyone?"), before deciding how or whether a crime has been committed. 

John Harvey's "Promise" is a superbly paced story that features Kiley, once a soccer player and now a PI who specializes in sports-related cases.  His client here is a female tennis star who is being blackmailed over a child she'd given away for adoption.  Harvey is a writer who can sketch a character in a telling phrase or sentence: "[His] voice was two-thirds marketing, one-third market stall."  There are insights about family and the price of sporting success, but it's all handled with great finesse and deft wit; think of McEnroe at the net in his prime.  Best simile: "kissing him, she said, was like being force-fed marinated eel."

The eponymous hero of "Terrible Tommy Terhune" by Lawrence Block seems to have much in common with the afore-mentioned Irish-American.  He is a tennis champion who is prone to tantrums and rages when line calls and umpire's decisions go against him.  In trying to control his anger, he has recourse to increasingly outlandish cures.  Finally, one works; but the displacement of competitive rage from tennis to everyday life will have terrible consequences.  This story is typical Block: well-drawn characters, subtle understated humour and sweet, sweet storytelling.

Daniel Stashower is a writer who was new to me, although apparently he has already written, amongst other books, a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  His story, "A Peach of a Shot", gives us a convincing portrait of a difficult marriage and culminates with a crime of passion on the tennis court.  What is most impressive here is how Stashower is able to depict someone's state of mind at a moment of great peril: at the experience of a stroke, say, or the onset of death.  The last three pages of this story feature the most remarkable prose in the whole book.

"Stephen Longacre's Greatest Match" is Stephen Hunter's contribution, and is a story about racism in Arkansas in 1948.  A young man makes a stand against bigotry by choosing an African-American as a doubles partner in the local tennis club tournament.  There is no crime as such in this story, just the breaking of a powerful social taboo.  This is nonetheless a remarkable effort, despite sometimes reading like a fragment of a larger work.  There are intimations of Stephen Longacre's later life - some kind of mysterious tragedy - but this is not fully set out in the story here.

Finally, a couple of more conventional mysteries.  In Peter Lovesey's "Needle Match", a man looks back to summer of 1981, when he was a ball boy at Wimbledon.  A Polish player had died during that particular tournament, but the man learns that he was the intended victim.  Lovesey's acerbic barbs against the English class system are a delight. 

David Morrell's "Continental Grip" concerns the death of a tennis pro at a sports club, with the key clue being that he was struck by someone who was holding the racquet in a continental grip.  We aren't shown the best of Morrell's qualities here (his flair is for psychological suspense), but it's an efficient little mystery nonetheless.  This story also illustrates a variation on an old maxim: those who live by the racquet, die by the racquet.

Murder is my Racquet is a scintillating set of ace stories that will serve you well over the summer months, come rain delays, heat waves or even sunshine in moderation.  How the deuce can you not love these stories?

 

 

Strange But True by John Searles

Publisher: Perennial ISBN: 0060721790

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Five years ago four beautiful teenagers, with nothing but hope for the future,  were in a horrific car accident on the night of their senior prom.  An accident which left Ronnie Chase dead, his girlfriend Melissa disfigured, and the remaining passengers relatively unscathed.  Now it's five years later and Melissa is pregnant.  Contacting Ronnie's family, she insists that the baby she is about to give birth to is his…And so begins this intricate tale of mystery that follows a trail leading to some shockingly surprising places-places totally unexpected, but places that will both astonish and mesmerize.  It will reveal crimes of the past, and lead to new ones, and in-between flashbacks of how it all started, and where it stands now, you'll discover the truth behind this seemingly inexplicable event, an event which is not so inexplicable after all…  

This beautifully written character-driven story not only excels in it's immaculate portrayals of the many guises of grief, but also in it brilliant plotting.  Taking a single moment in time that led to tragedy, it then shadows the long lasting repercussions with such truth and elegance, that readers will be stunned at both the simplicity and complexity that drives each of these characters.  It's funny, it's sad, and it's brilliant, and you'll find yourself shocked by the astounding twist that brings it all together and rips it all apart.   One of the finest books so far this year, filled with intense emotion, and ultimately hope and redemption, this one is a winner.

 

 

MANSIONS OF THE DEAD By Sarah Stewart Taylor

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312985959

Reviewed By C.J. Curry, New Mystery Reader

This story opens with a scene in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston in 1863.  A widow , Belinda , was visiting her husbands grave and reflecting on their life together. 

Jumping to today, the story begins with the murder of a college student from a very prominent family, when his body is discovered by his two best friends , Becca and Jaybee.  Brad Putnam along with Becca and Jaybee had been students of Sweeney St. George, an art history professor who specialized in graveyard art and mourning jewelry.  As Brad’s body had been adorned with several pieces  of mourning jewelry the police were suspecting a ritual murderer.  But Sweeney isn’t so sure and begins to ask questions.  Had Brad taken Sweeney’s class too seriously?  Had he in fact had help in committing suicide?  Or had someone killed him to keep him from revealing a five year old secret connected with the death of his younger brother, Petey?  As Sweeney investigates the mourning jewelry she stumbles upon a decades old secret as well. 

Brad and the other students in her class had all become very close and were behaving strangely.   What on earth was going on?  What were these kids up to.  Brad had gotten uncharacteristically drunk on the night he died.  Why?  As more deaths follow nothing seems to make sense to the police or to Sweeney. 

Working with Detective Tim Quinn of the Metro Police, Sweeney is instrumental in determining that in fact Brad had been visited by several members of his family on the night he died.  As she became acquainted with different members of the Putman family certain things came to light.

Trying to solve a mystery and dealing with her own family problems and confused emotions was quite enough but then she becomes involved with Detective Quinn’s problems as well.

Ms. Taylor has woven a good tale here never allowing it to become one dimensional .   She has enough peripheral action and drama going on throughout the story to keep one’s interest.  She certainly held mine.  I started out thinking that I wouldn’t like the book because of the macabre subject of graveyard art and mourning jewelry but I was wrong.  It was a thoroughly good read.  I would highly recommend it! 

 

DARK ANGEL by Karen Harper

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778321797

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Dr. Mark Morelli has settled in Amish country to study the genetic diseases that crop up in very closely knit communities.  He hires former teacher Leah Kurtz to develop pedigree charts for families that currently suffer some of the diseases.  But, someone is trying to discourage them with warning signs left on the Doctor's door, and strange occurrences around Leah's house. When Dr. Morelli decides to hire a young Amish boy to help him, he disappears.  Leah's adopted daughter also disappears.  Mark and Leah begin to discover a conspiracy in the works and have to fully uncover it. 

Harper has evidently done considerable research about the Amish, and it is a delight for the reader to learn about the culture.  She very tenderly develops a love story between Leah, an Amish woman, and Morelli which is brilliantly woven into a mystery.  Lovers of romance and suspense will love this latest from Harper. 

 

Maximum Security by Rose Connors

Publisher: Pocket ISBN: 0743492692

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The latest legal thriller featuring Cape Cod’s legal defense team of Harry, Marty, and their assistant Kydd, is probably Connors’s best.  This time out one of Harry’s old lovers, the beautiful and enticing Louisa, has been accused of killing her wealthy and older husband.  Harry isn’t comfortable taking the case so hands it over to Marty, who as Harry’s lover, can’t help but feel a bit of jealousy when it comes to the glorious Louisa.  But she forges ahead despite her growing suspicions to give the best defense possible, and what she uncovers will not only set the social scene of Chatham on its edge, but will also put her very own life in jeopardy. 

This charming and humorous read goes by all too quickly, and one can’t help but wish it were quite a bit longer.  These are characters who delight and entertain easily, and with a sharp-edged mystery at its core, this read offers plenty of subtle curves to keep the reader guessing.  And along with its intelligent and well thought out resolution that ties everything up in a neat and wonderful package, this comes highly recommended.   

 

 

Murder Suicide by Keith Ablow

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312994893

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

If you could erase the past, and all its messy emotional entanglements, would you?  What about the people you would leave behind, having no memory of shared lives, what is your responsibility to them?  Could such a betrayal and abandonment lead to murder?  These are the kind of questions forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger attempts to answer in this latest of Ablow's wonderfully successful series. 

Clevenger is asked to consult on the case of inventor John Snow, a man who has been murdered just before he was about to undergo surgery that would free him of his seizures, but at the same time erase his memory, in effect leaving behind his wife, two children, and his mistress.  Could have one of them done the dastardly dead?  Or was it his business partner who stood to lose a great deal of money by Snow's refusal to cooperate in some big money making deals?  With plenty of suspects and no end to motives, Clevenger attempts to uncover the truth, and when another person dies who is close to the case, things only become more confusing, and dangerous, for Clevenger. 

Frank Clevenger, one of the most interesting heroes in the genre today, once again engages and entertains.  The suspenseful plot with its thought provoking questions is also highly compelling, and readers will be delighted to not only find themselves racing through the pages, but thinking of it afterwards.  Another spectacular outing from Ablow, this is a summer must-read.