May 2008 Paperbacks


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Angel in the Full Moon by Don Easton

Publisher:  The Dundurn Group ISBN:  978-1-55002-813-3

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A story of a young Vietnamese girl named Hang falling into abuse and torture when she is brought in illegally and sold to a man whose fantasies have lead him to want a victim to torture. 

What started out with great promises of a happy future and good life quickly turned into one of betrayal and worse.  Hang is chained and locked in a secret room of her owners home to await whatever comes next. And she lives with the horrible knowledge that she has arranged for her younger sister to follow in her footsteps.

Two RCMP members Corporal Jack Taggart and Constable Laura Second are drawn into the investigation of the system that brought Hang to her torturer. They started out thinking illegal drugs were being brought in and found the illegal importation involved human beings instead. 

A grim tale from beginning to end, talented author Don Easton’s writing makes us think and hope one day this sort of thing will be a thing of the past. The horrible realism and cruelty portrayed could have come from a police case in real life.

Recommended as a story for any reader of the dark type of suspense found here, a tale that will give me sleepless nights when I think of girls treated like Hang.

I can’t say ‘enjoy’ but it is a tale the reader will long remember.




No Such Thing As A Free Lunch by Shelly Fredman

Publisher: Aquinas and Krone Publishing ISBN 978 0 9800448 1 2

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

My favourite amateur sleuth named for a cocktail is back.  Brandy Alexander is still suffering under the burden of having to present News Lite on her local cable TV station when she’d rather be earning a Pulitzer some place, and this time her life is made more difficult by the imminent arrival of her parents as house guests.

Brandy’s mother never tires of reminding her that they sold the family home to her at a knock-down price—and this entitles them to free room and board in perpetuity, apparently.  Their visit is to celebrate Brandy’s brother Paul’s adult Bar Mitzvah (no, don’t ask, just read the book).  Before her parents arrive, Brandy borrows and crashes Paul’s car when the brakes fail.  For fail, read, “brakes sabotaged and it’s a miracle Brandy wasn’t killed.”  The obvious question is did the saboteur think Brandy would be driving, or Paul?  Who hates either of them that much?

Not long after that adventure, Brandy is kidnapped, chloroformed and stuffed into the trunk of a car before being unceremoniously dumped in a gutter.  All she hears before being chloroformed a second time is, “You’ve got the wrong girl”.  Now there’s a serious moral problem to face: can Brandy forget what’s happened and leave some other unfortunate female to be kidnapped, or should she make finding the right girl her mission of the moment?  And will anyone believe her besides her friend Janine?

All the usual cast are back again: Brandy’s gay guy-pal Johnny , crabby Mrs Gentile next door, Uncle Frank and Carla and Brandy’s other best friend Franny, who is having hormonal storms due to pregnancy.  There’s also the ex-boyfriend and major stud-muffin Bobby diCarlo, who since the deportation of his crazy wife is the single dad of an appealing two-year old moppet, and the dangerous but madly attractive Nick Santiago. 

A good light-hearted read for a dull afternoon.  It’s not “A Brief History of Time”, but so what?  (Most of the people who own ABHT haven’t actually read past Chapter One.)




Tug of War by Barbara Cleverly

Publisher: Delta  ISBN: 978-0385341837

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Scotland Yard inspector Joe Sandilands thinks that he is finally getting to take that well-earned vacation he has been hoping for when he’s given a highly unusual assignment.  A soldier, who was a prisoner of war, is returned from Germany to France however he has no memory and appears to be suffering from severe shell shock, which is causing his amnesia. A number of families around Reims have claimed the soldier as theirs and Sandilands has been charged with the responsibility to investigate their claims or their motives to lie.  It is also unclear that the mystery soldier is French; there are indications that he could be English.  Sandilands has an unexpected partner for this case; Joe has been asked by his sister to return a 14-year old young lady named Dorcas to her family in the south of France.  Dorcas proves to be quite a valuable assistant as Sandilands goes about visiting the mysterious soldier and the families that have claimed him as a relation.  As the investigation unfolds things become quite complicated in that all of the families seem to have some truth to their claims but in some cases it is Dorcas’ subtle insights that really make the difference.  Sandilands meets a notable match in the strong-willed Aline Houdart whose claim that the mystery man is her missing husband tie back to a horrible crime that occurred many years ago.  Sandilands and his sense of honor and justice are put to the test as he attempts to determine the soldier’s true identity while learning the truth may be better left unearthed.

Barbara Cleverly does a masterful job of immersing the reader into the environment of the war-torn vineyards in the south of France in the aftermath of WWI.  Sandilands faces another complicated case that takes a number or unanticipated twists and turns throughout the book.  Dorcas is a precocious 14-year old whom Sandilands travels with during this installment.  As the plot evolves Dorcas transforms into an equal partner in the whodunit and she displays an uncanny ability to unearth clues to assist Sandilands in solving the case.  Fans of historical mysteries such as those written by Jacqueline Winspear will find the Sandilands series highly enjoyable and will want to add these books to their “must-read” list.



Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi

Publisher:  Picador  ISBN:  0312427840

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

The gangster ridden underground of Russia makes a great setting for criminal Alexei Volkovoy.  It is where he belongs, where he conducts his shady and sometimes fatal business, a place where thieves and murderers have their own code of honor and woe to those who break it.

Talented author Brent Ghelfi opens the door to this bleak place in his book, Volk's Game, and invites us to follow Alexei Volkovoy, known as Volk to his associates, on a dark journey into a world of which we know little.

The ties that bind Volk to his superiors are tenuous and he knows loyalty only exists temporarily at best, that they will betray him quickly as necessary.  Life is cheap in this world and Volk uses others as he is used to survive.

A smell of corruption hangs over Volk's world in this well-told tale that will hold your interest to the last page. Crooked politicians and military officers compete and cooperate while trying to grab the lion's share of any prize for themselves.  

I'm pleased to recommend this book to any fan of mystery fiction who might enjoy a tale with depth and characters who are not quite what they seem, who will surprise you at times.  Realistically drawn by an author who knows the whys of human behavior, you will find yourself sympathizing with them as well as shuddering at some of the things they do.

Enjoy.  I sure did.



Pointe and Shoot by Natalie M Roberts

Publisher: Berkley Crime ISBN 978 0 425 22128 0

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you have been following the adventures of dancing school proprietor and teacher Jenny Partridge up to this point, you are aware that somebody in a silver Hummer has been stalking her for months now.

The tension is screwed to screaming point in this third book in the series: the stalker keeps turning up when Jenny least expects it and is threatening her bigtime.  First it’s a gorillagram with a bad poem; then the guy in the gorilla suit is left dead in Jenny’s Dad’s truck; then there’s a drive-by shooting at Jenny’s apartment.

All this bad stuff is happening just the week before the big dance contest that Jenny hopes is going to snare her a $2500 prize, which she needs to stock her planned dance supply shop.  To top it off, her right-hand man Sal breaks his leg and can’t choreograph the big production number for the contest.  How fortunate for Jenny that her old friend Trevor shows up and volunteers to step in and help.  Even more fortunate is the fact that Jenny’s rich policeman boyfriend Tate carries her off to his plush apartment where she can be safe, at least temporarily.

A small fly in the ointment appears next morning, holding a knife on Jenny. It’s Tate’s half-sister, a girl with a chip on her shoulder the size of Rhode Island. Malece dislikes Jenny at first sight and the feeling is going to be mutual until Jenny learns that Malece is an accomplished seamstress.   This could be the answer to Jenny’s desperate need for a costumier for her dance troop, and for Malece’s need to get gainful employment.  They make grudging common cause and the plans move forward towards the day of the contest.

Nothing in Jenny’s life ever goes in a straight line for long, and when the star of the major set piece for the contest goes missing, Jenny fears the person who has been stalking her has decided to strike at her through an innocent girl. 

There’s a great final scene in a swamp, and if you want to know how we got from a dance recital to a swamp, buy the book.  An amusing and fast-moving read.



In a Dark Season by Vicki Lane

Publisher:  Dell   ISBN: 978-0440243601

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Elizabeth Goodweather always felt a chill when she looks at Gudger’s Stand and the naked baby dolls hanging off a clothesline on the back porch. But this day in December is different because added to the grisly sight of a decaying dwelling and the macabre dolls is the sight of a woman climbing on to the railing around the porch to leap to her death.  Elizabeth reacts immediately and gets medical help on the scene in time to save the woman whom she recognizes as Nola Barrett, owner of Gudger’s Stand, and newfound friend.  Having spent some time with Nola in the last couple months, discussing the novel she is writing capturing much of the local history, Elizabeth cannot imagine what would have caused such a vital and energetic elderly woman to want to leap to her death.  Nola’s niece arrives and immediately places Nola in an assisted living facility where it seems that the fall is causing her mental faculties to deteriorate rapidly.  The niece is more focused on putting Nola’s house up for sale and ensuring that Nola’s rights to Gudger’s Stand are free and clear so that she can get that sold to any of the developers that want the land and plan to tear down the historic building.  Each time Elizabeth visits Nola in the nursing home she grows increasingly concerned that something is not right because she believes that Nola is trying to communicate with her but she seems to be babbling in rhyme.   Close on the heels of Nola’s attempted suicide, her pastor kills himself leaving a letter alluding to a long ago sin.  All of these events are tied to the death of Randall Revis, previous owner of Gudger’s Stand, a violent gang rape of an innocent young woman, and the bones of a man found in the silo on the grounds.  As Elizabeth attempts to tie together these seemingly unrelated events she quickly finds out that there is a killer on the loose who will do anything to stop her from solving the mystery.

Vicki Lane has crafted a very elaborate whodunit that ties together crimes committed in the 1800’s with murderous events in the present.  Elizabeth is the glue between the past and present piecing together the clues from the past while determining their relevance to current activities.  Lane also infuses the rich history and culture of the area with her use of the idiosyncrasies of the mountain dialect and the detail in her descriptions of the settings.   Goodweather is a classical amateur sleuth but what is really different and refreshing about this book is the numerous subplots and the weaving of them between the past and the present. IN A DARK SEASON is an outstanding whodunit that will keep the reader guessing until the very end.



Murder Can Crash Your Party by Selma Eichler

Publisher: Obsidian/Penguin  ISBN 978 0 451 22384 5

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you’ve had enough of trim, taut and toned young heroines, you might like Desiree Shapiro.  Desiree never met an eclair she didn’t like, and her bad cholesterol numbers are probably in double digits.  This is book 15 in the series.

Desiree is a slightly successful private investigator who picks up enough work to get by, but hasn’t ever had a really big case—that is, not until author Belle Simone offers her almost $25,000 if Dez will read her new novel andsolve the puzzle of the murderer’s identity with the aid of only three clues.  Belle’s usual genre is romance novels, and she explains that Dez’s experience as a PI will be very helpful.

Dez takes on the job, reasonably certain she will be able to earn the money, but it’s not as easy as she thinks.  With the help of a few friends she sorts out the first clue, but then she comes down with a monster case of food poisoning.  While recovering, and much weakened by a diet of thin soup, Dez gets the second clue.   By now she knows that the alleged fictional work is in fact based on a real crime, a crime that means a great deal to Belle Simone. 

Juggling the reading of Belle’s book, the solving of her clues, and the ordinary work of her PI practice is keeping Dez pretty busy, but there’s the added complication of her boyfriend and his hateful child.  Nick is divorced, and his son Derek blames Dez for that even though she had nothing to do with the breakup.  Derek has done many nasty things to drive a wedge between his father and Desiree, and she’s had about enough of it.  Should she just give Nick the heave-ho?  It’s clear Derek will never see her as anything but the enemy.

Belle’s puzzle and Dez’s personal problems are both wound up in an unexpected fashion in the last few pages of the book.    Readers may detect a slight echo of the first Agatha Christie novel here.



Soul by Tobsha Learner

Publisher: Forge Books  ISBN  978 7653 2010 0

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Think of novels that have been more than just entertainment: 1984, War and Peace, The Fountainhead, the Grapes of Wrath, and what they had in common.  All of them posed questions, stirred controversy, and left readers feeling unsettled about something that they may never have given any thought to before the writer presented the idea.

Soul is that sort of book.  On the face of it, it’s a complex story of two women in two different centuries, both victims of their own sensuality, and the men they chose as partners.  Then Learner throws in something extra for the reader to chew on: do we have free well or are we driven by our DNA to act in certain ways?  Is there a gene that allows some people to kill without compunction and without remorse?  If you discovered that there was such a gene, what would be the ethical thing to do about it?

Julia is a scientist who discovers in a dramatic fashion that some people can kill and feel no emotional upheaval about it.  She is descended from Lavinia Huntington, who apparently had this facility 120 years before Julia’s day.  Is it coincidence, or is it genetics?  Julia gets a chance to find out when the government hires her to undertake a project to identify a possible mutant gene.  Ostensibly the idea is to use the knowledge to recruit soldiers who won’t later suffer post-traumatic stress from having had to kill other people.  But behind that there may be a darker motivation, something which Julia’s husband Klaus senses even if he can’t quite articulate it.  Against his advice, she accepts the commission and this starts a chain of events that leads to bitter regret later.

The story switches between the mid-nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, but it’s fairly easy to keep track of which ‘when’ you are in.  The plot twists are another matter, and you’ll need to keep a close eye on what’s happening and how that affects the two protagonists.

There are a number of fairly graphic sex scenes and some rather nasty secondary characters, as well as the unsettling questions mentioned above.  This is an involving read which would best be saved for when you are feeling mentally alert.



Obsession by Karen Robards

Publisher:  Signet  ISBN:  0451222733

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Katherine Lawrence wakes up in a hospital bed with a sense that something has gone “very wrong” she remembers that her best friend was killed when two masked gunmen broke into her home.  They are not your run-of-the-mill gunmen; they are looking for something in particular but she has no idea what it is or where it is.  The item the gunmen are looking for is linked to Katherine’s boyfriend/boss, Ed Barnes, who is head of the CIA.  The thing that bothers her the most is that when she looks in a mirror she does not recognize herself.  She knows that she sustained some damage to her face during the break-in but the slimmer body, manicured nails and blond hair mystify her.  To make matters worse, she senses that she knows her doctor, Dan Howard better than she should.  Additionally, instead of looking forward to the protection of Ed’s “people” Katherine intuitively feels the need to flee before they arrive.  She relies on Dr. Dan Howard to aid her in her getaway which is when the real trouble starts.  Before she knows it she is on the run and she really does not know who to trust including the handsome guy who aids her in her escape from the hospital.  Katherine must regain her memory to survive.

Obsession is Karen Robards’ 23rd novel and another fast-paced, romantic thriller.  Robards masterfully weaves a spy thrilling cat-and-mouse-game with a heady romance laced with a touch of amnesia.  From the first page this novel rapidly picks up speed and will take the reader on a “ride” with more twists and turns than an extreme rollercoaster.  Obsession is a book that you will not want to put down until the end.



Perfect Poison by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Publisher: Berkeley Crime  ISBN 978 0 425 221127 3

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This fifth story about botanist Margaret Lee, known as Peggy to everyone, is another good mix of plant lore and plots.   Peggy has landed a contract position as a forensic botanist with the Medical Examiner’s office.  Harold, the senior ME of Charlotte North Carolina, is an abrasive and overbearing man who runs his office with ruthless disregard of anyone’s feelings, including those of Mai Sato, his assistant, who was once on Peggy’s short-list for potential daughters-in-law.

That’s just a bit of background information: the main story lies in the finding of two dead people, one in her own pool and one at a dam where he was supposedly undertaking underwater work.   The bodies were found miles apart, but both had the same sort of microscopic water plants, so both must have drowned in the same body of water and then been moved post mortem.    Suspicion focuses on Peggy’s friend Ruth, who is accused of stalking the man.  Ruth claims that was all over years ago.  Peggy faces a difficult juggling act:  she must do the forensic work she’s being retained to do, and at the same time, try and find evidence to clear Ruth.

All the while that’s going on, Peggy’s shop, “The Potting Shed” is laboring under difficulties.  First, there’s a big new garden shop opening up nearby which threatens to take a lot of her customers away; then there’s a disastrous accident which makes the Potting Shed’s future look dim indeed.

Add to all this Peggy’s ludicrous and feeble attempts to hide from her grown son the fact that her boyfriend Steve sleeps over some nights and you have a convoluted and intriguing tale that should keep your bedside light burning well after your normal bedtime.



Secret Asset by Stella Rimington

Publisher:  Vintage   ISBN:  1400079829

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Readers

Liz Carlyle, a MI5 intelligence officer, is approached by one of her contacts “code name Marzipan” who informs her that there are odd meetings being held at the Islamic bookstore where he works.  Based on the information provided by her contact Liz believes that the bookstore is hosting a terrorist cell and she reports that information to her leadership.  A surveillance team is assigned but it does not include Liz because her boss has another assignment for her.  Director of Counterterrorism Charles Wetherby, has reason to believe that a terrorist has infiltrated British Intelligence and he tasks Liz with the job to unearth the “mole” before further damage is done to MI5.  Liz has got to figure out which of her colleagues is the “mole” before something bad happens and MI5 has to face monumental embarrassment.

Who better to write a spy thriller than a professional spy?  Stella Rimington picks up from where she left off with Liz Carlyle in her debut novel At Risk to continue the series.  Rimington clearly draws upon her vast experience as the first woman director of MI5 to craft a credible plotline about a “mole” infiltrating an intelligence organization.  She portrays the world of “cloak and dagger” as it really is; agents who are frequently haunted by their cases, success often resulting from dumb luck despite the best efforts of an incredibly talented team, and an enemy who is relentless.  The plotline is fast-paced twisting between thwarting a potential terrorist strike and uncovering an IRA “mole” within British Intelligence.  Secret Asset is a very believable espionage thriller written by a master spy.



The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN-0743491580

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

Jeffery Deaver is good at this. He's been at it awhile, he knows the deal. The Lincoln Rhyme-Amelia Sachs series, notably begun with The Bone Collector, has made a place for itself amongst the most popular in the genre. His Location Scout Mysteries, written as William Jefferies, were excellent, if under-read, potboiler-quickies that would've been a great film vehicle for Sam Elliot, but we digress.

A few years ago, Deaver spun off a character from the Rhyme-Sachs series, docs expert Parker Kincaid, into an amazingly good book, The Devil's Teardrop.  Many waited for Kincaid to return after the critical and commercial success of that book, but it never happened.

Now, Deaver has repeated this trick, to similar effect on all levels. The Sleeping Doll, which takes Kathryn Dance, first introduced in The Cold Moon, and drops her square into the center of the storm, which in this case is the manhunt for one Daniel Pell, cult-leader/serial killer.

According to recent press, Deaver intends to alternate books between Rhyme-Sachs and Dance, and that's great news, because in Kathryn Dance, Deaver has created a fascinating character of many levels. As an expert in interrogation and body language, she brings her advanced perception to all aspects of her life--mother, daughter, friend, musicologist,--as well as to her current job as Investigator for the California Bureau of Investigation.

It is here where she first interviews Pell, serving "life without" for a gruesome family slaughter ,who is now a suspect in a long-unsolved murder. And it is here where, in a fascinating bit of cat-and-mouse dialogue, Deaver constructs the basic theme for the book, as well as setting up the action/catalyst for the plot. It seems that Deaver wants to talk about the ripples of violence, how a single act of a monster can create radiating circles of effect through generations of family.

In doing so, Deaver springs Pell from jail, just as Dance figures out exactly what the criminal is up to, and we are off on a patented Deaver thrill-ride. The author wastes no time in setting up a solid supporting cast for Dance, notably fellow-agent Michael O'Neill, to bounce her theories off of, and an entertaining nuclear family to show us her maternal side.

Deaver skillfully weaves in cult-members from Pell's previous commune, as Dance persuades them to come help her know her prey. Encamped in a resort hotel, the three women peel away years of guilt and hostility as they attempt to enlighten Dance as to what motivates their former Svengali. The way Deaver mixes these two vital threads of his story is great to read.

The Sleeping Doll is loaded with the twists and turns you expect from Deaver, he does not disappoint on that score. The only criticism might be the "heavy middle", which, after the lean and action-packed beginning, could really only suffer by comparison if any attempt were made to create any subtext to the goings-on, is easily forgiven.

Especially when the back-third of the book takes off like it does. As the hunt for Pell increases, Deaver creates many page-turning potential threats for Dance, her witnesses, her team, and even her family, and it's fun to watch as Deaver ties all the threads together.

The Sleeping Doll won't change your life, but it will fill that life with hours of exciting reading. And that's something that Jeffery Deaver is really good at.




The Bourne Betrayal by Eric van Lustbader

Publisher: Vision  ISBN 0446618802

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

When a writer takes over a character from the original writer, the trick is to subordinate enough of his own creativity to the original writer’s style to be convincing, without ending up with a one-dimensional pastiche. There have been some brilliant collaborations; one of the best examples being Jill Paton Walsh’s continuations of the Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane novels of Dorothy L Sayers.

The Bourne Betrayal is another in Eric van Lustbader’s continuation of the Jason Bourne saga, which began in the 1980s with Ludlum’s original trilogy.  The original books featured half a dozen major cities, twists and turns and triple crosses, and some really nasty bad guys.

The Bourne Betrayal carries on in the same manner, but updates the villainy to reflect current headlines. Instead of master criminals of the ilk of Carlos the Jackal, the new book has the obligatory mad jihadists whose aim is to destroy Western Civilisation As We Know It. 

The story is as complex as anything Ludlum could have dreamed up.  There’s missing fissionable material, double and triple agents, exotic locations, beautiful women, good guys who may be bad and bad guys who have an unexpected streak of good that may not be good after all—don’t try to read this after a couple of glasses of wine; you will get totally confused.  Also don’t read this if you are a bit squeamish; there are some scenes which if shown on the evening news would be preceded by “We warn viewers that some people may find the following footage distressing.”

The underlying thread of the story is a simple one: what will a man do to save a friend, even in the face of total evil, great danger, and apparently insurmountable barriers?  How van Lustbader handles this should keep you entertained for a good four hours, which makes this book ideal for a coast-to-coast plane journey. 




Silence by Thomas Perry

Publisher: Harvest  ISBN-10: 0156033305

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Six years ago successful restaurateur Wendy Harper saw something she shouldn't have and after being almost killed as a result, she turned to PI Jack Till to help her ''disappear,'' knowing her only chance at survival meant she had to leave her entire life behind.  But now the person behind the threat will do anything to bring her out of hiding to make sure the job is done once and for all, keeping his secret forever hidden.  The plan is simple: plant some evidence incriminating her best friend in her alleged death, hire a couple of whacked out assassins, and then when she comes back to prove she's alive, kill her.

At first glance, and maybe even the second, it seems like Thomas has planned out a pretty good story, and in many ways he has.  He does imbibe his new tale with all the ingredients that make for a thrilling cat and mouse chase - with his psychotic husband and wife assassin team being especially unique- and his tips for ''disappearing'' perhaps coming in handy for more than one reader.  So while, yes, all this provides plenty of thrills, complete immersion in the tale just might not happen for some readers.  It's difficult at times to empathize with Harper, a woman who all too easily discards her lives and the people in them, with her justifications just a little too logical and unemotional to be completely convincing, sometimes painting her as heartless as those who stalk her.  But, that being said, in the end, it's the whacked out husband and wife assassin team who steal the show and manage to make this one wild ride that's easily worth the price of admission.    



Hide by Lisa Gardner

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 0553588087

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When the bodies of six young children are discovered hidden in an underground room of a long defunct mental hospital, Boston detective D.D. Warren is reminded of a crime scene that left the city in horror years ago.  Calling on her old lover Bobby Dodge, who is now a state investigator, she knows he too will see the similarities of that long ago crime scene.  But there are differences too, and the winding trail of clues will not only lead the pair to a young woman long on the run from a terrifying stalker, but to other deadly secrets from the past as well, secrets that someone is willing kill for to keep hidden forever. 

Fans of Lisa Gardner's previous outings of fine-tuned suspense may find this latest to be somewhat formulaic and not quite the quality of what has come before from this talented author.  With some of the characters coming off as slightly flat and unremarkable, and an ending that's less than convincing, there might be some disappointment felt once the last page is turned.  But, that being said, a mediocre Gardner outing is still better than many of the alternatives, and while not her best, it still provides enough entertainment to make it worthwhile.               



The River Runs Orange by R J Harlick

Publisher: Napoleon /Rendezvous Crime  ISBN  978 894917 62 6

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is the third in the Meg Harris series.  Meg’s a flame-haired woman of a certain age whose partner is the chief of the local Algonquin sub-clan, The Fishhook People, in rural West Quebec.  As you’d imagine, their romance hasn’t had a smooth path, particularly not when Eric’s daughter turns up on the scene and is clearly disapproving of her father’s liaison with Meg, who represents everything the girl hates about Canadian life.

In an attempt to foster family togetherness, Eric and Meg go on a canoeing trip with Teht’aa and her loutish boyfriend Larry.  This ends badly when Meg stumbles across human bones that turn out to be ancient.  Anthropologists all over Canada want in on this find, because it pushes back the boundary of Canadian settlement by another thousand years.  And, to add to the complications, the bones don’t appear to be typical of Native Americans.  That doesn’t matter to the Indian activists in town: they want the bones buried properly, and no scientific mucking about will be tolerated.  Some of the local people fall ill, which is attributed to unquiet spirits who have been offended by Meg’s find.  Teht’aa  blames everything on Meg, who patience is about to run out.

Things turn nasty when one of the anthropologists is found murdered.   Was he done in by an academic rival, or one of the native North Americans who regards his work as sacrilege?  Or by somebody else entirely?  

In an attempt to put things right, Meg gets into more trouble, including being stranded in a major forest fire.  She’s trapped with the unfriendly Teht’aa on a small patch of unburned land with a lot of frightened animals, including a black bear.  As a bonding exercise with a potential step-daughter, this is pretty low on Meg’s wish list.

This is another good read from the Rendezvous collection.  You’ll find out a lot about the sub-currents in modern Canadian society which run through the French/English and Indigenous/Anglo divides, as well as get a glimpse of what the US looks at from the other side of the border.  Highly recommended.



The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

Publisher: Bantam ISBN-10: 0553589113

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Timothy Carrier, a mason like his father, prefers to live his life as simply as possible; one or two beers after work at his best friend's tavern after a hard day's work is all he seems to need.  But his life will never be the same when one day while sitting at his favorite bar stool he's handed an envelope full of money and a picture of a woman by a complete stranger, the stranger's last words leaving no doubt in his mind that he wants the woman dead and thinks Tim is the man he's hired to do the deed.  And when next the assassin himself sits next to Tim, thinking Tim is the buyer of the hired hit, Tim attempts to stop it all by handing over the cash and professing to have changed his mind.  The end?  Oh no, not by a long shot, because Tim is not only one of the good guys, he's also a smart guy who knows he has to find the woman before the bad guys figure out their mistake. 

In this brilliant tale of "what if," Koontz once again transcends your everyday thriller, supplying the reader with a story that is simply astonishing, overwhelmingly mesmerizing, and surprisingly stirring.  Much like his last winner, Mr. Husband, Koontz again provides poignant insights into the everyday guy who really is far from everyday when push comes to shove.  And by slowly revealing not only what makes this character tick, but the others as well, he makes this adventurous ride not only wildly exciting but also intelligently perceptive as to what can lie beneath the surface of even the seemingly most ordinary of souls.  Koontz, as when he started, continues to thrill and amaze, only now he's doing it even better than ever.