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Dying for Deception by Gerard F. Bianco

Publishers: iUniverse 2004 ISBN: 059530995X

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Before I enter into a full-fledge review of this work three warnings:

(1)  Never let your grandma read this work

(2)  Never start reading this book late in the night- you will lose a good night’s sleep

(3)  If you don’t heed warning No. (2), leave the lights on when you go to sleep.

So without any further introduction, you might have now got a pretty good idea of what Dying for Deception is all about. It is a horror thriller, a psychological thriller, a whodunit and a wonderful mystical thriller all rolled into one, providing a wonderful, wonderful read.

The novel starts with a gruesome murder- the killer is a homicidal maniac- reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter et al. However, this one really takes the cake-I have never ever read a thriller in which a psycho- killer kills the victim in such gruesome manner. Two things are revealed- the killer has something for red hair and a crazy mother fixation syndrome. And once he has killed and raped his victim- he calls 911….

And into this mayhem is called Detective William Gillette to investigate the murders. And when Victim No. 2 and Victim No. 3 follows- Gillette slowly realize that there is a serial killer on the loose. What follows is taut and intelligent investigation culminating in an exciting and an unexpected twist in the tail finish.

The novel is unlike any other whodunit I have ever read- well,….that’s not entirely true- an old Agatha Christie novel had an ending/plot-line like this- but if I reveal the name of that book-sometimes you might be able to guess who the killer here is.

All-in-all a grand read- worthy of the money spent.

 

Waldo Chicken Wakes the Dead by Alan Goldsmith drawings by David King

Publisher: Windriver Pub. ISBN: 1886249148

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

"Sniff, sniff"

Do I smell the arrival of a new sub- genre in the Mystery genre- already saturated with sci- fiction, legal thrillers, horror fiction, political thrillers and other sub- genres?

I ask this because, in the last couple of months I read two books that were totally unique to the mystery genre and proved wonderful, wonderful reading. The first one that I read a couple of months back was Mark Haddon’s THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME and the other book is the one under review- WALDO CHICKEN WAKES UP THE DEAD. Subtle humor, sublime hardcore (literary) thoughts and murder whodunits are finely and tastefully blended to give pristine reading pleasure in these two books.

A synopsis of the plot of Waldo Chicken….will not reveal anything unique- but the total reading of the book will delight and enthrall the lover of good fiction. The narration, intermingled with comic column strips proves interesting reading. Connie O” Toole, a cartoonist by vocation is an amateur sleuth by passion. His sidekicks, who help Connie to solve mysteries, help in sleuthing etc. - are Waldo- a walrus and Chicken, a hen who has made the head of Waldo his permanent resting place. Why a walrus and a chicken for sidekicks, you might wonder? - The reason is fairly simple; Waldo and Chicken are a comic strip creation of Connie. Waldo is pompous, fat and has all attributes of a comic walrus. The Chicken is a squeak- nervous, complaining, all-in-all a nerd. And Connie enjoys a good rapport with the duo- and has hour long conversations with them- And yes Connie is normal. And he has a wonderful wife Evelyn.

But when Sammy Higgenbothum, the 9 year old neighbor request Connie to find out his missing cat, Mister Woo, Evelyn, Waldo, Chicken and Connie join hands and embark upon an investigation. They find Mister Woo, but also come across a skull, a ruby earring and a statue of Waldo!!!!! What follows is an exciting surrealistic mystery culminating in a well….never imagined finish.

Enjoyed the work very much. Radical, really, really radical.

 

 

Hunting in Harlem Mat Johnson

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA ISBN: 1582344086

Reviewed by Laura Helfrich

Three ex-cons are invited to join Horizon Realty's Second Chance
Program by becoming interns at the real estate office: Cedric Snowden,
who has served time for manslaughter; arsonist Bobby Finley; and all-
around thug Horus Manley. They report directly to Lester Baines, the
right-hand man of Congressman Cyrus Marks, whose dream it is to
revitalize Harlem. Cedric, Bobby, and Horus will learn the real estate
business from the ground up, helping to move residents in to the
renovated spaces in Harlem while attending classes with Lester. At the
end of a year, one will be chosen to head up Horizon Realty.

When Lester offers Snowden the opportunity to earn extra money by
cleaning apartments of residents who have died, Snowden gets closer to
the inner circle. He discovers that a number of residents have met with
accidents. When he mentions this to his sometime girlfriend, Piper
Goines, an ambitious investigative reporter with a third-rate
newspaper, she begins to connect the dots. Something is rotten in the
neighborhood of Harlem. When Snowden literally stumbles in to a plot to
rid Harlem of the "undesirable" element, he puts his life and the lives
of everyone around him at risk. His physical survival is in question,
his moral survival even more so.

This is not your typical thriller. Johnson provides an analysis of race
and social issues along with a fast-paced plot, well-drawn characters,
and a razor-sharp wit. Parts of the book are laugh-out-loud funny,
while others leave you holding your breath and swiftly turning pages.
The characters, while fundamentally flawed, are intriguing and
compelling. The mystery isn't so much about what is going on; that is
stated early in the book. It is more about what motivates these
characters, how far they will go to achieve their own ends, and what
(if any) moral imperative they believe in.

The book is slow going in some spots, and the ending may be
unsatisfyingly ambiguous to some, but this is definitely worth a look.

 

Bleachers by John Grisham

Publisher: Dell Publishing Company ISBN: 0440242002

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

Grisham’s latest non- legal thriller, Bleachers is a grand, grand read.  Following the success of the A Painted House and Skipping Christmas, Grisham’s presents another superb novel in Bleachers.  I am an ardent fan of Grisham works and have made it a point to religiously buy and read each and every one of the Master’s works, including the latest The Last Juror. I have also read the author’s one and only short story “The Birthday” as well as the screenplay of the movie Mickey, which Grisham wrote, but has not yet been commercially published.

So it was with great expectations that I began reading Bleachers, and I was not disappointed. Grisham’s passion for the game, the fervor, the excitement, all are factually portrayed in the novel.

Neely Crenshaw is back in his hometown, Messina after nearly 15 years. A lot has changed, and a lot remains the same. Crenshaw was the hero of the town, and had just made it big in the national level, when a bad knee injury cut a what would have been a stupendous football career to halt. Crenshaw has come back to see Eddie Rake- his old coach and the role model of many Messinian boys. Rake is suffering from cancer, and it’s just a matter of time before…. Crenshaw, his old pals, seniors all are there at Messina waiting for the inevitable. During that couple of days the old boys share their thoughts on the game, their wins, the losses and most of all about the man they loved and hated, revered and feared the most- the one and only Eddie Rake.

Bleachers is a poignant read- but at no point of time does it become melodramatic or over- sentimental. The true passion of the game and the players is truthfully portrayed by the author. I liked the book very much- and am sure of one thing- there sure’s gonna be a movie of the book.

Recommended. Highly recommended.

 

Derailed  by James Siegel

Publisher: Warner Books; ;  ISBN: 044661372X

Charles Schine is a good guy, an average man with an okay marriage, a good job, and a daughter, who although sick, brings joy to his life. But one day it all changes with a momentary glance in the wrong direction.  He meets a woman named Lucinda on the commuter train, and his well ordered, if slightly unsatisfying, life begins its total decline into treachery, blackmail, and violence. 

Siegel has written a highly charged, electrifying, and emotionally stirring thriller of the highest order.  All the right elements are here and in great abundance; non-stop suspense, engaging characters, and a plot full of twists and turns that shock and astonish.  And that this is a story that could happen to any man, makes it all that more frightening.  But also found here is hope and possible redemption, of realizing what’s truly good and right, all of which add great emotional context to this heart-wrenching thriller.  Start this one when you have time to read the whole thing because putting it down is an impossibility.

 

Quantico Rules by Gene Riehl

 Publisher: St. Martin's ISBN: 0312987722

Puller Monk works for the FBI as a SPIN agent who’s in charge of background investigations for presidential nominees.  In this first novel his assignment is judge Brenda Thompson, the first African American woman to be nominated for the Supreme Court.  What first appears to be an easy clearance soon turns into far more, with a conspiracy that reaches to the highest echelons of the agency. And as Monk and his protégée, Lisa Sands, dig deep to find answers, they soon find themselves in mortal danger from a plot that endangers far more than just their own lives.      

In his debut novel of the FBI, Riehl has created an unflinching and believable look inside the walls of this esteemed Bureau.  Intelligent and provoking, he manages to easily pull off both a suspenseful tale, and a convincing one.  The characters he has created are human, and their foibles genuine.  This one will leave you thinking deep into the night, about not only the price of freedom, but also the duplicity embedded in the cost. This is a wonderful debut for Riehl, and we hope to see further tales involving these rich and clever characters.   

 

 

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

 Publisher: Back Bay Books ISBN: 0316778508

When linguist professor Paul Iverson’s wife is found dead from a fall from a tree, he is unable to accept that it was an accident.  Grief stricken and searching for answers, he begins to notice odd clues left behind by his wife, confusing him even more.  Desperate to find the truth, he undertakes the impossible project of teaching his dog, the only witness to what really happened that day, to communicate.  During this strange odyssey through grief, Paul must face some tragic truths if he is to ever face what really happened.   

This beautiful and poignant novel is a stunning success for Parkhurst.  And though not really a mystery in the literal sense, it comes highly recommended to those who love the genre, not for its magnitude of suspense but for its passionate portrayal of grief and its attempt to answer that most mysterious question of all, how does one carry on when someone they love dies unexpectedly and without explanation. Parkhurst tenderly traces grief through its many paths as she gently explores love and loss and the havoc they can wreak.  This is a book that should be read and that will leave the reader breathless, not with fear this time, but with hope.

 

Bubbles Ablaze  by Sarah Strohmeyer

Publisher: Signet ISBN: 0451212177

Reviewed by   -Chris Kaiser

Those readers "of a certain age" will recall with fond memory the film Shampoo staring the young and hip Warren Beatty. As you read the escapades of  Bubbles Yablonsky and her Mad Hatter associates you will have flashbacksto that film and the high campy art of the 60's.

This story will forever change the way  you will view traveling the long lonely stretches on the interstate  through northeastern coal-bearing Pennsylvania. What was once an area to get through before dusk and the suicidal white-tailed deer hurled themselves in front of  speeding vehicles will blossom with the potential for running into a few of the zany characters so cleverly crafted by Ms. Strohmeyer. Who knows if that hunk at the filling station glancing your way might  be none other then the model for Steve Stiletto, Bubble's frustrated boyfriend? The old women arguing at
the deli counter at the A&P may be the real world versions of 'the Sirens of Slagville', with delicious names like Vilnia, the professional gossip  who casts  spells  using apple crisp and ice cream (and reads the future in left over coffee cake crumbs). Next to her may be Lulu and Genevieve,  Bubble's
aging mother and butch sidekick.

As regional mysteries go this one has all the elements in place with just enough wacky ethnicticity to keep you turning the pages in disbelief...they can't possibly have names and habits like this...can they? Yes they can and do. Before you are aware, the passage of time  ceases to matter and you are caught up in the raucous romp across smoldering wastelands where underground fires have laid waste to thousands of acres called Limbo. Dealing with characters drawn as absurdly as any Al Capp delivered in the land of the Yokums, the most serious reader is powerless to resist the  self-mocking humor of this regional wit. The end is NOT what you think it will or should be, and the satisfaction of being led on this detour through  unknown territory will have you  looking at the road signs for the next exit to Slaggville. Perhaps the Casino has been built!
                                                                         

 

 

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345463927 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla

Someone is methodically raping and killing women listed in the phone book as M. Douglas.  When FBI profiler Dr. Anne Marie McCall realizes that her sister Mara Douglas is the next on the list, she persuades Aidan Shields to move in with her sister until the killer is caught.

FBI special agent Aidan Shields has not worked in over a year.  In an undercover operation that went bed, Aidan was severely wounded and his brother Dylan was killed.  After extensive physical and mental therapy, Aidan is still not ready to go back to work, but agrees to baby-sit Mara.  Because of events in both their pasts, both seek personal isolation, but slowly begin to trust and rely on each other.

A spine chilling multi-faceted plot is carefully woven by Mariah Stewart.  Her knowledge of human nature brings the characters to life in a realistic way, whether they are the good guys or the bad guys.  This is the first in a trilogy and and this reader waits with bated breath for the next book to hit the stands. 

 

Dark Harvest by Karen Harper

Publisher: Mira Books ISBN: 0778320502

Reviewed by Donna Padilla

Kat Lindley is an ex-cop from Columbus, Ohio.  After being severely wounded and subjected to a long bout of physical therapy, she moves to the small town of Maplecreek and gets the job of dispatcher in the local sheriff’s office.

Luke Brand is a leader in the Amish community at Maplecreek.  Mischievous hate crimes are being committed against the Amish.  When these crimes escalate into more dangerous ones, and seem to target the children, Luke decides to go to the sheriff for help.  Sheriff Ray Martin assigns Kat to the case, and so she goes in undercover as Luke’s fiancé.  When the bishops begin to die, she suspects murder and that Luke may be next.  She must get to the bottom of things quickly and expose the killers, but feels she can trust no one (not even her boss) but Luke.

Fast paced and exciting this book keeps the reader glued to the pages.  Kat very quickly falls into her role and learns to love and respect her host’s quiet way of life and religious devotion.  It takes the community leaders a while to accept Kat, as they believe justice and revenge belong to the Lord rather than the law.  This is an excellently written mystery with a solid plot.  It is a must read for anyone who as ever been curious about the Amish.

 

                                                                     

Psychopath by Keith Ablow

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperback  ISBN: 0312996055

Forensic psychiatrist Frank Clevenger returns in a chilling new novel that examines the soul a serial killer.  Clevenger is called in to consult on the case of the “Highway Killer”, a killer who seems to strike at random on deserted stretches of highway.  We’re treated to both points of view in this story, both Clevenger’s, and the killer’s, who is also a psychiatrist, and who knows all to well how to avoid suspicion. When the killer engages Clevenger to heal him through letters published in the newspaper, the game is on.  Meanwhile, Clevenger must also deal with his newly adopted teen-age son’s growing set of troubles, and the possibility of a new romance.  Facing his own past that seems to reflect that of the killer’s, he must put aside his own feelings if he’s to save the next victim.    

Ablow uses his inside knowledge of psychology to create a compelling and heart-breaking portrait of a killer.  It’s hard to remain unsympathetic to the brilliantly defective villain in this story.  And as always, Clevenger is also engaging, even more so now that he seems to be growing up a bit.  His personal story is dealt with honestly and gives the reader an even greater impetus to root for him.  This intimate look at those who kill, and those who make a living out of trying to heal others, is both suspenseful and affecting.  Ablow only gets better with each outing, and we look forward to the next in this wonderful series.