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Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

TWISTED is a collection of short stories so full of suspense they keep the reader totally enthralled.  Every story has a well crafted plot with a psychological twist.  Once you finish a story you rush into the next one to discover what the twist is going to be.  Deaver is a master at creating dialogue filled with manipulation, connivance and every underhanded trick there is.  Revenge is a strong motive in many of the stories, but in others he very deftly leads you into believing that the main character is off the track because of genuine deep emotional ideals. 

At the end of each story one must stop and remember what justice is really about.

 

GUNSHY by Louise Titchener

Hard Shell Word Factory (Trade paperback and E-book format) ISBN  0759941572

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader                                             

Inheriting both a daughter and a  house in Baltimore presents Oliver Redcastle with a chance for a new life.  He throws in his job as a top Pinkerton detective and starts to investigate possible futures. 

It's not easy breaking with your past, Oliver finds out, especially when John D Rockefeller wants to use your expertise to fix up a little problem of his own.   Murder has been done on the railway and worse may follow.  If Oliver doesn't get to the bottom of it, Rockefeller promises to make any future life of his not worth living.  Talk about offers you can't refuse!

Oliver reluctantly sets about discovering why three men in a private rail carriage were killed.  It appears that there's probably a tie-in with the Civil War, and with a reunion of veterans about to take place in Baltimore in 1882, there will be no shortage of suspects.  A planned visit to the reunion by President Chester Alan Arthur sets up a potentially disastrous situation, and Oliver's old partner Harry enlists his aid to neutralize this as much as possible.

Fortuitously presented with a female agent, Oliver sets her to the job of obtaining information about the private lives of the men who died in the railcar disaster.  Hannah Kinchman is an accomplished actress as well as a trained inquiry agent, but she has another agenda as well, of which Oliver knows nothing.  Hannah's findings dovetail with a part of Oliver's own past that he's still coming to grips with, and further complicate both his investigation and his own private life.

The penultimate scene on a rooftop should satisfy those who like a dramatic finish, and the final scene ties up the loose ends, including what the society doctor was doing when he wasn't treating ladies for 'the vapours'.

It's always a problem in historical and regional novels: how much detail and local colour to use.  When a novel is both regional and historical, the problem is compounded.  The writer wants to give the reader easy entry into the time and place of the story, but not slow the plot and impede the characters with excessive and unnecessary detail.  With a few exceptions (we didn't need to know the brand of matches Oliver uses, but it would have been helpful to know what sort of carriage a jagger was) Louise Titchener has managed the challenge well.  

Readers will look forward to future books about Oliver Redcastle, Baltimore's first P I, and his developing relationships with his daughter,  his staff, and  his new career.

 

Publisher: HQN Books  ISBN: 037377012X    

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Leslie Ann Westbrook opens an envelope addressed to her and finds evidence that when her mother Tessa was a teenager she was brutally raped and tortured.  This means that Leslie is a rapist's daughter.  Confused, frustrated, and angry because of her mother's lies, Leslie Ann runs away from home.

Security agent Dante Moran is hired by Leslie's grandfather to find her and bring her home.  When he sees the picture he is to use to identify her, he is stunned by the fact that she is the spitting image of Amy Smith, his fiancée who disappeared seventeen years ago, believed to be the victim of a serial rapist/killer.  He quickly finds Leslie and brings her home.  He now has to find out who threatened her. 

This is a gripping novel with a full range of emotions.  The plot is centered on the Westbrook family and has every kind of character imaginable -- a dominating grandfather, loving daughter and granddaughter, free thinking aunt, flighty gossipy aunt, and bitchy cousins.  Lies stacked on top of lies leads the reader through many twists and turns.

 

Deadline by Metsy Hingle

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778320960

 Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Investigative TV reporter Tess Abbott receives an anonymous call that completely turns her life upside down.  The caller claims that her father, who committed suicide in prison was actually murdered and that he was innocent of the murder for which he was convicted.  Tess has to find the truth and takes off for Mississippi to start digging up facts.  She keeps getting stonewalled everytime she asks a question. 

Then she meets political syndicated columnist Spencer Reed who has a knack for getting answers.  When Tess is run off a bridge and nearly killed, she teams up with Spencer and Sheriff Trudeaux to investigate and find the truth.

Hingle has given us a novel with political corruption that is absolutely shocking, action that is chilling, and romance that is sizzling.

 

Colder Than Ice by Maggie Shayne

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778320944

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It all started years ago when the ATF raided the Young Believer's compound and agent Joshua Kendall shot and killed a young girl.  Mordecai Young, the cult leader, escaped and Josh was fired.  It is now seventeen years later and Josh owns a security company.  His ex-wife is dead and his teenaged son Bryon lives with him.  His ex-boss hires him to act as body guard to a woman in the witness protection program whose cover might be in jeopardy. 

When Josh and Bryon arrive in Vermont and meet Beth Slocum, the woman he has been hired to protect, he discovers that she is the girl he supposedly killed in the cult compound, and so he vows to protect her this time with his very life.

Every fan of romantic suspense will want this book on their shelves.  The tension between Josh and Beth is very intense.  Each has built a wall to hide his/her fear, pain, guilt and secrets.  There is a great deal of cliffhanging anxiety trying to figure out what the next catastrophe will be, yet the warm uncompromising love each of them has for their own child adds a mellowness to the plot which brings it all together as highly compelling read.

 

Full Pursuit by Jasmine Cresswell

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778320669

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Melody Beecham and Nikolai Anwar are undercover operatives for Unit One. a clandestine agency of the U. S. Government.  Fearing that the affair going on between the two operatives may eventually jeopardize their effectiveness, they are split up.  Melody is to get close to the leader of the Soldiers of Jordan and infiltrate the group, and as two FBI agents have already failed and a journalist has disappeared, this promises to be a very dangerous assignment.

Meanwhile, NIkolai is to cozy up to a senator's wife and ferret out what she knows about his shady (possibly illegal) deals.  What no one realizes is that the two assignments will eventually mesh and Melody and Nikolai will once again be working as a team.

This book has enough action to keep every reader biting his nails. It is filled with political corruption, sexual infidelity, agency turf wars, racism and terrorism.  It has a cleverly crafted plot with lots of twists and turns, and is easily recommended for its many breathtaking thrills. 

 

Deadly Behavior by Dee Sullivan

Publisher: Turnkey Press ISBN: 0975480324

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Deadly Behavior is one of those tales that crosses genre lines from mystery/thriller to horror, especially if one identifies with sixteen-year-old Lisa Harrison whose father intends to rape her.

Since he is the mayor of the town and has friends in all the right places, he manages to trace her when she runs away and has her returned home. You'll be wondering why she can't turn to her mother for help, but as you read, you will become all too aware of the situation of a wife of a domineering man who has become too frightened to argue.

You'll keep turning the pages because you have to know what happens and how the story comes out.  Talented Dee Sullivan has created a lifelike cast of characters you will enjoy meeting. You'll love to hate the villains.  This is a tale that could have come from your local newspaper.

Recommended for anyone who likes a little horror added to the flavor of suspense, a tale that will keep you in suspense.  Enjoy.

 

Shadows at Garner Lake by Hank Kellner

Publisher: iUniverse ISBN: 0595336760

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

What happens when Freddie (of Nightmare at Elm Street fame) meets Hannibal- you get Luke Downing, the antihero protagonist of Shadows at Garner Lake, a first novel by a retired educator.  And on the other side, i.e., is Sheriff Jeff Parker, who plans to thwart the fiend’s actions. Parker reminded me a lot of Detective Alex Cross (of James Patterson novels).

Luke Downing was a psychologically disturbed child- exhibiting violent streaks even early in childhood. His best friend is Joey- a buddy right from childhood. But there is a problem- Joey doesn’t exist- except in Downing’s mind- you know, “the voice told me”- character. Now in his mid Twenties, Downing looks and acts normal- sometimes. Downing meets a runaway girl and befriends her. He has a cunning plan to blackmail two fishermen who come to Garner Lake each year. Initially she agrees to help him, but when the girl double-crosses him- Downing’s rage knows no bounds. Enraged he kidnaps and keeps imprisoned the fishermen- Hal and Pete and their wives Barbara and Martha. Downing pans to kill them, but only after torturing them to the maximum. His devious schemes, sometimes bordering on cannibalism are detailed in gore in the work.

But what Downing did not count on is Sheriff Jeff Parker and his spunky girlfriend Molly Hutchison. How the duo thwart and foil the deadly plans of Luke Downing forms the theme of the work.

A nice thriller and an entertaining read- I find fault with the thriller only in one respect. The cover illustration leaves a lot to be desire- not exactly one I would recommend for psychological thriller. It’s not exactly catchy- and it would be a real pity if many readers opt out from reading the book- judging by the cover image.

 

 

The Conspiracy Club by Jonathan Kellerman 

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345452585

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In a departure from his Alex Delaware series, Kellerman’s latest instead features psychologist Jeremy Carrier.  Jeremy is slowly getting over the brutal murder of his girlfriend, a murder in which he himself was considered a suspect, when he begins to receive strange medical articles and news clippings in his office mail box.  Unable to make any sense of them, he initially believes they are simply the result of misdirected mail.  Meanwhile, Dr. Arthur Chess has befriended Jeremy, and invited him to an odd dinner with five other guests.  Guests that all have something in common, something that eludes Jeremy, but something that also hints at an ulterior motive.  As things surrounding Jeremy get stranger and stranger, prostitutes around the city begin to die, somebody with surgical precision is brutally murdering them one by one.  And as Jeremy begins to slowly see a connection between the murders and the other odd events, he realizes that the woman he is slowly beginning to care about may be next on the killer’s list.

Those who love Kellerman and his Delaware series will not be disappointed with this latest thriller.  Top-notch in every way, and in many ways even better than the Delaware series, this read has much going for it.  Deeper characterization, a less brisk and more sensitive and rhythmic style, and a greater sense of poignancy are the primary differences that make this a well received tale.  Its themes of loss and grief and learning to let go in order to begin again are beautifully rendered, as is the theme of owning up to one’s past.  Dr. Jeremy Carrier is a compassionate and inspiring character, and we wouldn’t be at all disappointed to see him again.   

And for some great information on Jonathan Kellerman, please visit his link at bookreporter.com.  Jonathan Kellerman

  

Retribution by Jilliane Hoffman

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group ISBN: 0425200612

 Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Twelve years ago Chloe Larson’s life was hectic but satisfying.  Cramming for the state bar and spending time with her friends and her lover, she is totally unprepared when it comes all crashing down in one night of unimaginable horror.  Raped, tortured, and left for dead, her life is forever changed, her career, her lover, her friends, and her family are all part of the fall-out from this horrendous crime.     

Twelve years later, meet C.J. Townsend, state prosecutor for the state of Florida.  Living a solitary life filled with hard work and determination, she has little time for love, friends, or family.  For the past year she’s been working with the police in Miami on a serial murder case in which several female victims have been found brutally murdered.  And when a man is stopped with a body in his trunk matching the m.o. of the killer, her real work begins.   

Simply put, this novel is brilliant.  Themes such as justice, revenge, and redemption are perfectly balanced in a symphony of words that are frighteningly honest and brutally real.  When exactly does the end justify the means, and how far would you go to find your own justice?  It’s questions such as these that bring it home to the reader, where nothing is clear-cut, and there are no easy answers.  And with characters that shine, and non-stop suspense that hurtles towards its shocking end, this is one book that is impossible to put down, this is one read that you won’t to miss.     

 

The Bright Silver Star by David Handler   

 Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312985789

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Dorset, Connecticut, a place of beauty where wealth and privilege can hide a multitude of sins.  Young, beautiful, and famous, the acting duo of Tito and Esme Molina fit right in, but when Tito’s broken and battered body is found at the bottom of a cliff, it’s obvious to Deputy Des that the town’s secrets go deeper than whose wife is playing with whose husband.  And when Mitch, her movie critic boyfriend, and the last to see Tito alive, becomes a suspect, the two must work together to uncover somebody’s murderous secret before death strikes again. 

Thinking this was going to be a “cozy” because of the innocuous book cover, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and grit found inside instead.  Secrets, shocks, and surprises are the main components in this suspenseful read featuring the vibrant duo of Mitch and Des, a down to earth couple living in a place where pretense is reality and lies are truths.  This highly entertaining mystery has something for everyone, and is a great read for a cloudy afternoon.       

 

 

The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard

 Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 044661274X

The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It’s early spring and tornado season in the Midwest, a time of beauty and harrowing danger.  When a tornado touches down in Promise, Oklahoma, the damage is severe.  A family of three is found dead, but it doesn’t take too long for Police Chief Charlie Grover to realize that their deaths were not caused by flying debris as it first appears.  Rather their deaths were intentional, caused by a madman who chases these deadly storms, following their paths of destruction with his own.   The world of storm chases is a tight one, the list of suspects plentiful, including Charlie’s own father, a man whose abuse and anger nearly destroyed Charlie’s childhood.  Now it’s up to Charlie to sort through the confusion, including his growing feelings for Willa, a beautiful storm chaser herself, because Charlie and his loved ones might just be next on the list.     

The suspense begins with a bang on the first page and doesn’t let up until the last in this latest adventure from Blanchard.  The reader is taken on a roller-coaster ride through tornado alley, with the world of tornados and its clan of chasers painted with frightening detail.  Charlie, a single father of a teenage girl, elicits empathy easily, and although there are a few incongruous sentences here and there, fortunately, the distraction is minimal.  All told, this thriller is gripping with the kind of non-stop action that will leave your heart pumping.