March Mystery, 2007
 

 

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Vegas Nerve by Susan Rogers Cooper

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books  ISBN:  13:  9780312356033

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A trip to Las Vegas for Sheriff Milt Kovac and his wife turns into a family affair when the husband of Milt's cousin Maida, Burl Upshank, is arrested.  Milt is prevailed upon, albeit reluctantly on his part, to get Burl released. 

The problem follows that Burl disappears and a man is murdered.  The man is his son-in-law.  Milt takes heat from the Las Vegas police for letting Burl get away from him and decides to try finding him.  Maida adds to the problems Milt encounters in a town where he has no legal authority by calling in her five sons to "help" him. 

Putting the best face he can on the situation, Milt charges each son with a specific job and only hopes they'll learn something.  Milt acts as liaison with the police and tries to figure out what happened.  Where did Burl disappear to? Why did he vanish? Did he commit a murder?

Lots of smaller mysteries about the motives of the several sons' actions, the reader must stay focused to keep track of all that is happening in this tale. Talented author Susan Rogers Cooper gives the reader a vivid sense of Las Vegas by day as opposed to the lighted glamour of the nights. 

For any mystery fan who enjoys a multiplicity of characters and discovering the identity of an unexpected villain.  Enjoy.

 

 

 

Dragonwell Dead by Laura Childs

Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime  ISBN:  978-0-425-21386-5

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Just after winning a hotly contested auction for a rare orchid, Charleston broker Mark Congdon keels over, dead from an apparent heart attack.  A few days later, his wife Angie learns the surprising results of his autopsy:  poisoned by an unknown toxin.

She asks fellow Charlestonian Theodosia Browning, proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop and amateur sleuth, to look into her husband’s death.  Angie soon regrets inviting Theodosia’s involvement; after Angie’s bed and breakfast inn becomes the victim of an arsonist, Theodosia’s honest answers to the investigator’s questions make Angie a suspect. 

Meanwhile, Theodosia, assisted by tea expert Drayton, identifies several real suspects:  Fayne Hamilton, Mark’s administrative assistant, who was obviously besotted with him; Leah Shalimar, the ambitious broker who competed with him for a promotion; the owlish rare books dealer who bid against him in the auction; and even the manager of the bed and breakfast, whose offer at Mark’s funeral to purchase the damaged B & B seems, at best, insensitive.

This is a new series for me, and I have to confess that I cringed when I read the book jacket.  It seems that writers will go to great lengths to create a niche mystery.  However, Laura Childs completely won me over with her exacting portrayal of Charleston (and southern) society with characters with such names as Delaine Dish, Bobby Wayne, and the aforementioned Leah Shalimar.  Not only do I wish I could visit the Indigo Tea Shop, but by page fifty, I was wondering if I could open my own replica in my home city.  Dragonwell Dead is cozy without being cloying.

 

 

Evil Is Done by Natasha Cooper

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312362129

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It's been years since London lawyer Trish McGuire has dealt with a child abuse case, her area of law having long since changed to the more dreary corporate type.  But when she is contacted by famed sculptor Sam Foundling, a client she once advocated for when he was a child, to help him investigate the veracity of an imprisoned woman's claim that she is his mother, her guilt at so irrevocably putting that past behind her leads her to quickly become involved in the young man's life once again. 

And when he is next charged with the brutal murder of his pregnant wife her involvement only deepens, especially when the case of murder begins to share one too many coincidences with her current corporate insurance case.   Pitted against her best friend, now a high ranking officer who believes that Sam is guilty, she will risk her career and her very future trying to prove the young man's innocence, an innocence she herself begins to doubt. 

This latest addition to the series is easily one of the best yet, with Cooper doing an amazing job of interweaving the many outwardly disparate aspects of the book into a challenging and, ultimately, cohesive and rewarding whole.  An intricate and intelligent puzzle with just the right amount of emotional pull, Cooper proves that with a little bit of effort, the eighth in a series can be just as invigorating and fresh as the first.