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Shaking Hands With Leftowitz by Melvin Foster

Publisher: Zumaya Publications ISBN: 1894942620

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

Imagine, if you will, a dead body. A murder scene, not unlike many other murder scenes found in the mean streets of any American City. Police are there, emergency personnel have arrived to do their jobs. They turn the body over, and you see, in fully deceased lack of glory, yourself.

So begins Shaking Hands With Lefkowitz, a fairly interesting debut novel from Melvin Foster. With nods to everyone from Rod Serling to Neil Gaiman to Joss Whedon, Foster has crafted an intriguing novel, if not necessarily a great mystery.

Alan Borman, the recently deceased lawyer, has been assigned to solve his own murder, with the help of the titular Detective Lefkowitz. The road to knowledge is paved with some fairly stunning consequences of actions once thought inconsequential, and that's where Foster gets our mind working to greatest effect.

Frankly, this book is more of a metaphysical exercise than a mystery novel, but it's a valiant effort to blend a couple of fictional types into one. The end will not please most mystery readers, so if you go into it prepared to scratch your head, you'll have a good time. Regardless, it will most certainly force you to take a look at your life. And that's probably a more valuable result anyway, don't you think?

 

The Interpol Imbroglio by Mary Jo Grotenrath

Publisher: Authorhouse ISBN: 1418429570

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

I read Interpol Imbroglio and I was left in an imbroglio. It was a thriller all right…. but was it a spy thriller, a techno thriller, a whodunit…..I find it difficult to answer.

The author has crammed into the work a huge plot, two- three subplots and whole myriad of sub- sub plots. The main plotline is sure intriguing and worth of credit- and by standards of bestselling authors- a dashing and a novel worthy plot- but the different and plenty sub plots take away the sheen of the main plot.

The novel starts as a Hollywood action flick. At the General Assembly of the Interpol, many delegates begin to fall dead sending alarm signals all across the world. A primary investigation reveals that the deaths were caused due to an anthrax related bio- chemical cocktail- and the intended victim was the newly selected Secretary General, rather the designated Secretary General, Michael Merriman. Who caused this mayhem, and why was the same caused? - Initially there are no answers. The police take charge of the investigation and an international task force is formed. Their probe leads them to believe that the anthrax concoction was sold through the internet- and all evidence leads to a Canadian student in Atlanta. But when the investigation progress further- the ‘good guys’ find that there is more than what meets the eye and suspicion falls on Harvey Kincaid- the outgoing Secretary General- who is already suffering from a serious drinking problem. What follows is tidy action culminating in a suspense laced finish.

At 564 pages, the novel looks like any other thriller hardbound. But the author has an affinity towards description, rather than narration- such that there are long, and I mean loooooong paragraphs (see pages 8 to 23 for e.g.) where there is only description, with only the briefest interlude of narration. This really took away the tautness of the suspense of the work. It more felt like reading a ‘drama in real life’ column in Reader’s Digest than reading a novel. A pity, because the author has a real nice storyline in hand.

As a first venture, the author, a lawyer, sure has proved that she has the ability to think up plausible suspense thrillers; but regarding the ability to and put on paper the same thoughts without losing the suspense, rather the tautness of the suspense…..I wait for the next novel to give my verdict.

 

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 006059327X 

Homicide detective Tom McMichael has a long history with the Braga family.  Pete, the rich influential patriarch of the family killed Tom's grandfather over a money dispute.  And it was supposedly Tom's Dad who beat Pete's son to the point of imbecility.  Pete Braga has been bludgeoned to death and Tom is the lead detective on the case.  The prime suspect is Pete's beautiful nurse.  But Tom, trying to perform his duties to the best of his ability, follows every lead.  He discovers police corruption. smuggling, murder and shady business deals -- all connected to Braga.  The list of suspects is long.

This is a novel with a great plot which contains many twists and turns, and contains every conceivable emotional problem -- love, hate, fear and vengeance.  In spite of the complicated plot, the book is easily read and stays with the reader long after it is finished.

 

The Kill Clause by Gregg Hurwitz

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060530391

U. S. Deputy Marshall Tom Rackly feels he has lost everything  His young daughter has been brutally raped and murdered, his wife wants to grieve on her own, a "good shoot" is being questioned and he has been asked to sit a desk and get counseling until it is cleared up.  He can't take any more.  He turns in his badge and walks out.  Then, the man who murdered his daughter is released on a technicality. 

Rackly is approached by a member of "the commission".  Every member has lost a loved one and the judicial system has let the perpetrators walk.  They want an executioner, and they want it to be Rackly.  He learns that the other members of the commission have ulterior motives, and begins to realize he is going to lose his marriage-- if not his life.  He has to get out.  

What an engrossing novel!!  The reader is allowed to follow the main character's emotional turmoil through the decision making process.  What is justice and how is it best served?  Are the courts really about justice?  Are vigilantes about justice?  Can justice really be served by going outside the law? 

The plot is spine tingling and filled with cliff hanging action that keeps the reader totally enthralled until the last page.

 

In Death's Shadow by Marcia Talley: Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Hannah Ives has survived cancer, the resulting depression, and is now living a somewhat normal life.  She runs into Valerie Stone, who her old hospital roommate who has also survived, and they make a date to celebrate by running a 5K cancer fundraiser.  Valerie is in much better physical shape and volunteers to help Hannah get into shape.  But then Valerie dies and this doesn't make sense to Hannah.  She starts asking questions and gets pulled into what appears to be life insurance fraud.  Hannah keeps digging and soon becomes a target.

Talley either has an outstanding imagination or has done a tremendous amount of research to create this plot.  The things that can be done to collect on life insurance policies and become enormously wealthy are mind boggling.  One thing readers will learn from this gook is -- don't let anyone talk you into selling your life insurance policy-- or you may wind up dead.

Outstanding!!!!!

Master of the Game by William Tepper

Publisher: Synergy Books ISBN: 097476440X

Master of the Game by William Tepper: Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Remember the Kurt Russell thriller movie The Mean Season. Well, Master of the Game follows a close path, and without mincing words let me say it- the book is stunning- really, really S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G.

I have been a fan of psychological thrillers for long- and have devoured the Alex Cross novels of James Patterson and Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.

But I generally view new authors with caution and am highly reluctant to read books by novices in this field. But Master of the Game has proved me wrong- and it is a wonderful, wonderful psychological thriller.

Through ‘Simon’- a serial killer, more genius and ingenious than Hannibal Lecter, William Tepper presents a novel that is a page-turner, rather a page-burner, in the truest sense of the term in Master of the Game.

FBI Agent John Hightower is towering high (Pardon the cliché, but I couldn’t resist it), he has successfully tracked down a serial killer, a person who had created a mass hysteria not only among the town residents but also in the media. Frank Wycheck who was covering the case for the media also is relaxed following the arrest of ‘Jaws’. But all this changes when ‘Simon’ enters the fray. Not only does he informs the FBI before each murder, not only does he gives clues, but most frustratingly he is always one step ahead. And the killings are done with precision, and the killer is ruthless, intelligent and above all remorseless. Wychek and Hightower join hands, but each has a separate goal in mind, and what follows is psychological suspense at its finest, culminating in a finish that’s literally spine chilling.

Move over, James Patterson and Thomas Harris…. Psychological suspense has a new superstar- William Tepper- the real Master of the Game.

 

 

Dead Guilty by Beverly Connor

Publisher: Onyx Books ISBN: 0451411501

Dead Guilty by Beverly Connor: Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

It would appear from the inside cover that this is Beverly Connor's seventh book.  After reading this one, I will certainly be hunting out the previous six.

Connor presents an appealing heroine, anthropologist-cum-forensic examiner Diane Fallon.  Working in a small town in Georgia that can't afford and doesn't require a full-time crime lab, Diane divides her time between the museum with its ancient bones of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, and the lab just down the hall, where newer bones and more recent tragedies are brought.  This isn't a case of 'a new Kay Scarpetta': Diane Fallon is her own woman with her own personality, and reads as if she'd be a helluva lot more fun at a party.

In 'Dead Guilty', the story starts with three badly-decomposed bodies found hanging from a tree, minus their fingertips.  Theories abound: it's a Klan killing, a suicide pact, a mob hit.  Diane must set aside speculation and focus on the facts, such as they are.

She's barely begun her investigation when one of the people who found the bodies is murdered, and then another person, one much closer to home.  Diane isn't paranoid, but her past experience has made her more sensitive than most people to the dark undercurrents of the human psyche, and she begins to suspect that the different forensic threads might be connected. 

Diane's difficult task isn't helped by the growing realisation that she's being stalked by someone.  The roses in her locked car  were just a mystery, but then the calls and emails start.  Is it the killer, and if so, why is he focussing on Diane: what does she mean to him? 

Interspersed with the modern investigation is another one.  The museum has acquired a mummy, its first, and Diane and her staff are intent on finding out as much as they can about how their new guest lived and died.  The task is interrupted frequently by the demands of the not only the more recent corpses, but also the sheriff, the chief of police and the coroner, not to mention the press.

The threads are slowly pulled together and twisted into a rope of evidence that nearly ends up around Diane's own neck.  The penultimate scene in a deep cave is a breath-taker that aficionados of the 'feisty heroine struggling to outwit the murderer' genre will give top marks to.  Highly recommended.

 

Wild Crimes Edited by Dana Stabenow

Publisher: Signet Book ISBN: 045121286X

Wild Crimes Edited by Dana Stabenow: Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The best thing about an anthology edited by Dana Stabenow is the chance that in the anthology will be a short story by Dana Stabenow.  That proves true here, and fans of the feisty Kate Shugak will be delighted to see her again in "Wreck Rights",  a story of greed, murder, and tinned peas.   The extremely dangerous driving conditions in the Alaskan winter form the backdrop of the plot.  Jim Chopin, State Trooper, is here, detecting like mad, but never far removed from his (so far) hopeless attraction to Kate.   Is she leading him on?  Will he give up and give in to the lesser charms of the curvy Candi?  The potential passion has to take a back seat to the work of solving the murder, which is done with the usual Shugak combination of brains and instinct.

Another sort of story is Loren Estleman's "The Bog".  This is a skin-crawler for sure.  After reading this, you'll learn how to make the United States Environmental Agency your accomplice in murder.  And discover that somebody else had already learned that lesson.

Laurie R King offers a tale of love, loss and revenge in the damp highlands of New Guinea; and Skye Moody has a story that will make you think twice before getting too close to a nanny goat again. 

If you aren't greedy, this anthology will provide you eleven nights of bedtime reading.  Betcha can't read just one!

 

 

The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner

Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub  ISBN: 0553802526 

The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Kimberley Quincy, the daughter of Pierce Quincy, the star of Gardner’s previous novel, takes center stage in this latest by Gardner.  Kimberley is slowly getting over the murder of her mother and sister, and is now in training to be an FBI agent herself, when she stumbles upon a body.  Soon it’s discovered that there might be another serial killer at work, one who targets college girls, two at a time, leaving one dead, with clues to the other’s location.  If found in time, the second victim will be found alive.  Quincy, and his partner, Rainie, are brought in as consultants, but soon a jurisdictional nightmare ensues, and all bets are off.  Rules are made to be broken for this family, and together, along with Mac, yet another renegade agent, they race against time to find the latest hopeful survivor, and the killer, who might just be closer than they think.          

This is one author who just seems to get better with every outing.  Incredible suspense, fully realized characters, and a dramatic sense of pace, make this book almost impossible to put down.  At times brutal and horrific, at others, tender and sentimental, Gardner knows just when and how to flush emotions out of her pages and into your psyche.  This is a stellar outing that takes grief and turns it into hope, and despair into faith.  Don’t miss this one, as it has it all, including just the right dollop of romance.  We look forward to the next adventure, and the continuation of the saga that is these wonderful characters’ lives.  

 

Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin ISBN: 0312335261

Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray: Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

This must be the year for really good descriptions of hangovers: this is the second one in as many months.  This book’s first chapter starts with one of the best, morbidly funny  hangover scenes you’ll ever read.

What that says about the author’s first-hand research one is not sure, but given that the liner notes say John Gray ‘lives in Vancouver with his personal demons’, readers may draw their own conclusions.

The book might have been written by Dickens, or perhaps Wilkie Collins.  The characters are all larger than life, without often falling over the line into stereotype.  Starting with Edmund Whitty, a mostly drunken newspaperman, and moving through a cast of prostitutes, pickpockets, society layabouts, rogues and vagabonds, the characterisations are sharply drawn.   The minor annoyance of the book’s being written in the present tense soon gives way to the mind’s eye and ear believing they are witness to a stage play, rather than a novel.  This is no doubt due to Gray’s other life as a playwright and performer.

Gray brings 1852 London to life with all its smells, miseries and
fascination.  The prologue gives a detailed account of a public
hanging, still a favored form of entertainment in mid-Victorian
England.  Gray’s description of the children attending the event could hardly be bettered: “Witihin the moving wall of woe, children disported in the first rays of the sun, like drab buttterflies, mistaking the aroma of gin for flowers.”

The book isn’t  all  gloom; in fact, much of it is marked by scenes of mordant  wit and humour.   Edmund Whitty’s hunt for the truth about Chokee Bill, the garotte murderer, leads him from one level to another of London society, and culminates in a melodramatic climax (plus several unexpected codas).

This is a complex and involving book, and should find wide appeal even among those whose taste doesn’t usually run to historical fiction.  Highly recommended.

 

Divided in Death by J.D. Robb

 Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group ISBN: 0425197956

Divided in Death by J.D. Robb: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The year is 2059, and Eve Dallas with the NYPSD is faced with one of her toughest cases yet.  A double murder involving an artist and his mistress has shocked everyone involved with its brutality.  The artist’s wife Reva, who is employed by Roarke, Eve’s husband, has been charged with the crimes, bringing Roarke in to assist in the case.  When it’s discovered that this was not a murder of passion, but one to set up Reva, and to stop her research on a computer worm that is affecting national security issues, Roarke’s  security company becomes even further involved.  A terrorist organization known as the Doomsday Group has devised a virus that can wipe out complete computer networks, putting the country at risk, and those involved will stop at nothing to put the project to work.     

This latest from Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb, is the first hardcover in this long-running series featuring Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke.  Although billed as a stand-alone, there are still many aspects that may confuse the reader based on previous books.  But with that said, this is still a satisfying read.  The relationship between Dallas and Roarke is tender, passionate, and realistically portrayed.  As for the plot itself, it’s both clever and suspenseful.  And although the story takes place in the future, this is not science fiction, but pure mystery, and lovers of the genre will find much to like.