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 Reviewed by  Karen Treanor

The latest in J D Robb's future crime series about  Lt Eve Dallas is another exciting adventure in the dark world of a mentally disturbed serial killer.

With her faithful sidekick  Peabody, Eve is once again catapulted into a series of horrific crimes, each characterised by the removal of the victims' eyes.  This time she has the added assistance of a high society psychic, who is drawn against her will into the mind of the killer.

Initially sceptical, Eve begins to see how useful Celina could be when the woman gives an almost cut-by-cut description of the latest crime as it is happening.

Arriving on the crime scene to find the still warm victim, Eve realises she must find the killer fast, because the demons that drive him are escalating events and bringing New York to the edge of panic.

This case is harder for Eve than past ones, because her frozen interior has been thawed by the devotion of her husband Roarke.  Having opened up to him has made her more vulnerable to other outside influences.  The past, which she kept walled off for so long, now seeps into the present and often causes emotional turmoil which interferes with her professional role.

As we have come to expect from Eve Dallas, personal danger doesn't put her off the trail of the killer, but when Peabody comes close to disaster, Eve has to face some facts that never bothered her in previous cases. She's changed from being a person who merely had interactions into a person with friends, and that makes a difference. 

How the killer is finally trapped, and the reason behind the gruesome crimes becomes clear in the final chapter, which has a twist so shocking it will catch even the cleverest second-guessers on the hop.

Thoroughly recommended.

 

Weeds in the Garden by Brandy Carter

Publisher:  AuthorHouse ISBN:  1418447497-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Break out your magnifying glass and deetstalker and join Emily Ryan as she takes up the life of an investigator, working for her cousin Anne Hunter, a licensed private investigator currently stuck in a wheel chair and in need of legs.  Emily's first case sounds simple enough, find a missing person.

Every step Emily takes, every question she asks, leads her deeper into danger and brings back into her life, an old nemesis named Matt. His mysterious appearances and disappearances in the case add spice to her life and to the story, keeping the reader focused on what might happen next.

The missing person case turns into one of arson and murder as Emily learns it is not the simple case it appeared.  What does Matt have to do with it?  Should she ask for help from her old friends who shared a childhood interest in playing detective?

A multiple murder case, money, madness and a storm make a simple case into a complicated mess for Emily as she goes to the aid of people she fears may be the killer's next victims. She can't let a little thing like a hurricane stop her, can she?

A fun read that will hold your attention, a complex tale that proves the adage, nothing is what it seems, a set of complications that will keep  you reading to the last page. A well told tale of romance and murder to please any romantic or mystery buff.  Enjoy. Recommended to please.

 

Patterns in Silicon by Maureen Robb

Publisher:  Drake Valley Press ISBN:  0972818642

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A choking episode in Lea Sherwood's restaurant ends with a declaration the victim was murdered and Lea suddenly finds herself suspected of murder.  The problem is, she dated the dead man for a while and he didn't take losing her lightly.

New restaurants have a short life generally, and the resultant negative publicity implying the victim died because of food poisoning threatens Lea's once thriving business with closing.  To save it and herself, she begins to question the victim's associates and friends, hoping to uncover the real killer before she loses everything.

Hints of embezzlement, exaggeration of projected earnings and other lies surface as she digs into the unsavory business practices of the dead man. His thriving computer business may not long survive him if the man Lea loves can't resolve all the problems left behind. The problem is, this man, Paul, is also a suspect in the murder.

A complex weave of subplots and motives by conniving characters will keep you reading as the mystery unwinds. Lea will investigate in spite of efforts of enemies to close her business and destroy Paul. What else does she have to lose? 

Recommended as a fun read that will keep those pages turning.  You food buffs will especially like this tale by talented author Maureen Robb with its description of delicious sounding dishes. You'll be wanting to visit San Francisco to dine in Lea's restaurant.

 

Innocence by Karen Novak

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA  ISBN: 158234353

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Leslie Stone, a private investigator who specializes in missing children, has now somewhat recovered from the tragic events found in Five Mile House, and is now hired by her own daughter to find a friend whose been missing.  Five boys stand accused of molesting her after a night of teenage drunken revelry, and might just have something to do with her disappearance.  The deeper Leslie digs, the more she is reminded of the string of young girls who were also molested when she was young, a case in which her own father was in charge of and failed to solve.   

This intelligent thriller rises above the usual with its emotionally flawed characters and assortment of secrets that drive them to act in ways not always understood.  Leslie herself, who actually sees the ghosts of the girls in her past, is wonderfully drawn and we’re never sure what’s really behind these apparitions.  We only know that they have to do with her own terrible secret that she’s been hiding for several years.  This multi-layered story will take you in many directions and through many emotions, and its tragic beauty may have you seeing ghosts yourself by the time you’re done.  This extraordinary and wonderful novel comes highly recommended to those who seek substance with their mystery.  (For the interview with Karen Novak)     

 

Lost by Joy Fielding

Publisher: Pocket Books  ISBN: 0743448650

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Joy Fielding, one of the most adept writers of family drama and psychological suspense returns with another stunning achievement.  Cindy Carver’s beautiful 21-year-old daughter has disappeared, and Cindy is out of her mind with worry.  Suspecting everyone from her strange neighbors, to her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, she relentlessly searches for the truth in a world that no longer makes sense. And as Cindy searches, she finds much more than she ever bargained for when at last the brutal truth is revealed.          

Why is it that so many of us obsess on those in our lives who bring us the most pain, hoping to change them, making them more like the others in our life who are steady and kind, and then end up virtually ignoring those we want them to become?  Fielding’s novel faces this heart-breaking question with honesty and authority.  Her unflinching look at this type of family dynamic, and the pain it can cause, and the ripple effect it will leave, serves as a powerful reminder to those of us who still find ourselves all too often in this precarious position.  This is a stirring and emotional book that offers plenty of hope and redemption for those who might recognize themselves in these believable characters.   There’s no blood and guts here, and the suspense is also somewhat subdued, but still, this comes highly recommended for its keen insight into the human heart.          

 

Killer Body by Bonnie Hearn Hill

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778321274

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

How far would you go for a killer body?  That’s the question Hearn Hill answers in her latest novel featuring four women, three of whom are vying for the position of the “Killer Body” spokesperson, and one who is investigating her cousin’s untimely death, along with the sudden disappearance of  spokesperson Julie Larimore, whose vanishing has left the position up for grabs.  But has Julie met foul play, or simply tired of the game?  Questions such as these, will lead these women down a treacherous and dangerous path, where beauty can be deadly.     

These four women come together in a highly suspenseful and timely story of perfection, danger, and the search for oneself in a world where the outside ranks higher than the inside.  Tightly plotted with characters that are genuinely real and appealing, Hearn Hill scores again in a story that you won’t want to miss.   

 

The 37th Hour by Jodi Compton

Publisher: Dell ISBN: 0440241367

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Minnesota Detective Sarah Pribek has worked a lot of missing persons cases, but is still unprepared when the unthinkable happens.  Her own husband of only two months, Mike who is also a cop, has gone missing.  He was to start training for the FBI and never showed up, leaving those he left behind bewildered and frightened.  Not knowing if his disappearance is intentional, or if something horrible happened, Sarah must now research the man she thought she knew, all the way to his beginnings, is she is to ever know the truth. 

In this remarkable and assured debut, Jodi Compton easily hits all the right notes, and the final result is everything one would want in a suspense novel, and more.  The suspense steadily grows page by page, and these three-dimensional characters supply depth and appeal to a plot that explores such themes as love, loyalty, friendship, and trust.  Needless to say, this author is assured success, and we eagerly look forward to the next outing featuring the genuine and indomitable heroine, Sarah Pribek.  

 

3rd Degree by James Patterson/Andrew Gross

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446614831

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

James Patterson is one of my favorite authors. I have read and reread most of his books. Be it psychological suspense (Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls and the latest The Big Bad Wolf), science fiction (The Lake House, When the Wind Blows) legal thriller (The Beach House), or historical fiction (The Jester), Patterson has proved that he is at home whatever be the genre.
So it was with great excitement that I began to read THE 3RD DEGREE, and it was just fantastic.

Following the successful investigations in 1st to Die and 2nd Chance, the Women's Murder Club is back in regal style in The 3rd Degree. Detective Lindsay Baker and Assistant District Attorney Jill Bernhardt are enjoying a lazy April afternoon, when suddenly a building right across the road explodes into flames. A terrorist group claims responsibility, and the nation is warned about more terrorist strikes.


However, a series of brutal murders follow and slowly Baker, Bernhardt and journalist Cindy Thomas realize that there is more than what meets the eye.  They decide to plunge into the investigation and what follows is stylish and vintage Patterson action that is bound to keep happy and satisfied the ardent James Patterson fans the world over.
Loved it, absolutely loved the work.

 

The Canterbury Papers by Judith Healey

Publisher: Perennial ISBN: 0060773324

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This book, like many of the best adventures, began with the writer asking “What if...?”

What if the  little known historical figure of Princesse Alais, sister
to the King of France, had been sent on a sensitive secret mission by the renowned Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine?  What if the very future of the throne of England hung in the balance?  What if the mysteriously powerful Prior William  is more than a simple priest; what if he knew Alais in a former life?  What if he knows her secret and wants it to stay secret for his own Machiavellian reasons?  What if there is a magnetic attraction between Alais and William?

The foregoing would be enough on its own to weave an riveting tale; but Healey has found other threads to embellish her tapestry of intrigue.  There’s the infamous King John, a villain, but one whose motivations the author makes understandable; his lovely wife, who is no-one’s fool; Alais’s aunt Charlotte, the most worldly of abbesses; and a host of minor characters.  Behind it all hovers the dark figure of the Old Queen, formerly a power in the land, and still one who can arrange dire retribution for those who let her down.

Alais knows she’s being manipulated, but it takes some time before she discovers by how many different people for how many different reasons.  It will all be worth it if her quest succeeds, but only Eleanor can tell her what she desperately needs to know about the fate of a child Alais thought dead.   Unfortunately, the secret is not Eleanor’s alone, and Alais is caught between powerful opposing camps, both of which
would kill her if it served their purpose.

Judith Healey’s fascination with Twelfth Century England and France, and “the magnificent soap opera of the Plantagenet family and its ongoing dance with the royal house of France” provides a rich, deep background for the stage dressing of this mystery/romance.  She provides plenty of colour without becoming bogged in excessive detail,  always keeping the main story visible.

This could make an excellent film with broad appeal; one hopes a producer will come across the book and see the possibilities.   Lauren Bacall’s a natural for the Old Queen.

Highly recommended.

 

Death of a Poison Pen by M.C. Beaton

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446614890

Reviewed by Karen Treanor

The prolific M C Beaton has written her 20th Hamish McBeth mystery.   That's a fair accomplishment by itself, but to have the 20th book be as engaging as the first, well, that's amazing.

Our red-haired highland hero once again shambles his way through a double murder and reaches the solution while the senior policemen who make his life a misery are still stumbling around on the scent of red herrings.

Along the way his purpose is deflected and complicated by not one but three beddable females; yet he emerges almost unscathed, and still single.  Not present, but hovering in the wings, is the luscious Priscilla; close by with lust in her heart is the visiting Londoner Jenny; and  far too close for comfort is Elspeth the journalist, still hoping for the big scoop, but also not averse to a bit of romance while she's waiting.

All the stock characters that make the town of Lockdubh so lifelike are there: the old dog Lugs;  Angus the seer (who must be primed with a bottle of whisky); Dr. Brodie; and the Currie sisters, those keepers of the public morals; and many more old familiar faces.

If you're tired of grim crime noir accounts of dark deeds and darker motives, take a holiday to Scotland and follow Hamish's easy-going investigation.    It's not that Beaton doesn't take crime seriously; she does; but she doesn’t wallow in the details of the deaths, concentrating instead on the locale and the characters around the event.  A good read.

 

Aphrodite by Russell Andrews

Publisher: Warner Vision ISBN: 0446614963

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

What's so important about a few factual errors in an obituary that someone would kill because of them?

Starting with this modest question, Russell Andrews builds a science thriller that will have readers gnawing their knuckles by the time the story is resolved. 

Reluctant investigator Justin Westwood has been measuring out his life in shot glasses since the murder of his daughter and the suicide of his wife.   He has managed to reach a level of neutral buoyancy where he rarely feels anything, and goes through the motions of his job as a small town policeman just  well enough to remain employed. 

It’s only when he makes the connections among several murders and begins to sense the monstrous evil behind them that his dormant intelligence awakens and he wants to know the reasons for the deaths.  Meeting Deena, and her daughter Kendall, who remind him of his lost family, speeds up the wakening process, and brings the promise of a possible new life. 

However, there won't be an easy transition for Justin: like a hero in an old epic, before he can claim his prize, he must survive a series of trials, each more dangerous and difficult than the last.  And like the heroes of old, Justin turns out not to be what he seems.  He throws off his drink-sodden habits like the disguised prince throwing aside his rags, and shows he is not without resources.  He has powerful and rich  relatives and friends from his former life, who, when asked, come to his aid rather like the deus ex machina.   Without this useful network he'd have been road kill long before the end of the book: there's a limit to what a lone hero can do.

There are plenty of enemies arrayed against Justin, starting with his own police colleagues, and including the FBI and an unusually scary pair of professional killers in the pay of--but that would give the story away.   Let's just say that there is a compelling reason why some people don't want the true details about an ancient B-grade actor's life and death to be known, and they have no qualms about how many people have to die to preserve the secret.

This is a fast-moving book based on a premise from the fringes of science, which Andrews makes us believe is not all that far-fetched.    Definitely one to put on your winter reading list.

 

To the Bone By Neil McMahon

 Publisher: HarperTorch  ISBN: 0060529172

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When an otherwise young and healthy woman dies in the San Francisco ER under Dr. Carroll Monk’s care when she’s brought in for some unknown infection, questions get asked that no one seems able to answer.  She had just had breast implants the same day, but the infection seems unrelated.  However, Monks begins to investigate and soon finds that other young women with ties to the famous surgeon have also either disappeared or have been harmed in some way.  And the further Monk digs, the deeper he seems to fall, into a hole of darkness where he may not only lose his lover and his career, but his life.     

Dr. Carroll Monks is a magnificent creation.  With just the right mix of tortured soul and daring heroics, he compels the reader towards compassion and empathy.   In this highly suspenseful tale, the reader is also led down a trail of engaging thrills and nonstop action, with every corner turned bringing even more revelations about the man himself.  Highly recommended, this is one mystery that shouldn’t be missed by true fans of the genre.  

 

The Kills by Linda Fairstein

Publisher: Pocket Star ISBN: 0743436687

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

They ought to sell Linda Fairstein's books with a bottle of sports drink attached, because the pace starts fast and just keeps building, to the point that the reader feels she's had a full workout at the gym by the end of the book.

"The Kills" starts off on the eve of a rape trial, with Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper finding frustration at every turn.  Not only does she have the odious Judge Moffett to face--the man who thinks a rape trial is a matter of "he said/she said"--but the case is infested with lawyers in the pay of several other interested parties.  Cooper can't get her hands on the one witness who might help her case, and her own defendant turns out not to have told all the truth.  That fact hardly seems to matter when the defendant turns up dead and the witness goes missing.

Running parallel to the trial story is the case of the mysterious death of an aged music hall star, which Cooper's long-time colleague Mercer is trying to solve.  It looks like a common break and enter gone wrong, with an opportunistic rape thrown in: but there's no forensic evidence to support the initial assumption.  Who could have hated an 82-year-old woman this much?  Or is the murder about something else entirely?

Eventually, the two cases converge in a spider's web of complicated sub-plots and conspiracies.  Everybody from the CIA to Josephine Baker to King Farouk gets at least a walk-on part , until the denouement in a small boat where Alex has to fight not only for her life, but for the final piece of the puzzle that completes the picture.

Fairstein has constructed a gripping work of fiction atop one tiny real fact in a New York Times story that caught her eye and her imagination.  Like all the best writers, not to mention District Attorneys, which she once was, she's a master at turning a "what if?" and into a convincing yarn.  Definitely one to consider spending your Borders gift certificate on.

 

Midnight Harvest by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Publisher: Aspect  ISBN 044661341X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

One need not have read the previous 15 books in the Ferenc Ragoczy (Count Saint-Germain)series to enjoy the latest adventure of one of literature's best-chronicled vampires.  Like all the foregoing books, this one is stuffed full of fascinating detail about the era wherein the action is set. 

"Midnight Harvest" covers the middle years of the nineteen-thirties.  Starting in Civil War Spain, it moves to England and then the New World where it follows the Count's adventures in sunny California.  Coming back into the Count's life is Rowena Saxon, now middle-aged, but no less devoted to the mysterious Carpathian than she was 25 years before when they last met.  Against the backdrop of San Francisco's brand new Golden Gate Bridge, the lovers meet again and find their passion unabated. 

Now a successful painter, Rowena faces at last the decision that all lovers of vampires must eventually come to terms with: will she embrace the life of the undead, or will she continue to be human and suffer the ultimate dissolution of all such creatures at death?  While Rowena is chewing over the pros and cons of what to do, the Count and his faithful resident ghoul, Rogerio, are under threat from Cenere, a hired killer in the pay of the Spanish fascists.  When the killer attacks Rowena, the Count realizes there will be no respite until the man is dead. 

Cenere tries and misses killing the Count on three separate occasions, each failure driving him to greater effort.  His professional reputation is on the line, not to mention his own life should he fail.  His employer is not one to forgive and forget: Cenere has to succeed as much for his own continued health as for the job satisfaction. 

Complicating matters is the shadow-dwelling White Legion, which is determined to drive all foreigners from California.  The vineyard that the count part-owns with an Italian immigrant comes under attack, and the corrupt county lawmen seem disinclined to intervene.  Having to be on guard all the time from one threat or another leaves the Count little time for relaxation; yet he and Rowena manage a couple of erotic trysts which temporarily ease the tension. 

Along the way to the solution of his current problems, the Count finds time to invest in a run-down resort at Lake Tahoe, which in due course promises to restore the fortune he has lost in war-torn Spain.  Besides the three main characters, Yarbro has populated her book with a double handful of believable and (mostly) likeable supporting players. 

This is a book you shouldn't pick up until you have a full afternoon free to devour it in one sitting.  Having to leave it to attend to mundane things like work and sleep will just make you frustrated.  Full marks to the indefatigable Yarbro for another great adventure.