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A Prayer for the Damned by Peter Tremayne

Publisher:  St. Martins Minotaur  ISBN:  978-0-312-34833-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Hey, mystery fans!  This one's a keeper!  A story you will want to read more than once just to enjoy the flavor and realistic setting talented author Peter Tremayne uses in writing his great stories.

For history buffs, this is an especially good read. Step back in time to the days when the Christian church was in its infancy and a struggle for influence was building between the foreign church in Rome and the local churches.  It was this struggle that led to the death of a very unpleasant church representative the day before the wedding day Fildelma and Eadulf. 

All the kings, including the High King himself, have gathered in Cashel to attend this wedding, only to be thrown into confusion when one of the kings is accused of the murder of the church representative. 

Several people have turned up with equally important motives to kill or wish this man dead, and it becomes Fidelma and Eadulf's job to sort out the truths from the lies and secrets to find the killer. 

I'm pleased to highly recommend this book by Mr. Tremayne as one you won't be able to put down and will want to follow it with his other tales.  Lots of action, lots of mystery and intrigue.  Guaranteed to be an adventure into the past you will long remember.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

New-Slain Knight by Deborah Grabien

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312374003

Reviewed by Harvey Lau and Geraldine Young, New Mystery Reader

An historian's feel for setting, a musician's love of song, and the writer's fluid prose and imagination combine to make this spell-binding storytelling. A story of love, betrayal and death, and a ballad titled "New-Slain Knight" haunts the pages of this book set in the Duchy of Cornwall in south England. 

A British musician Ringan is entrusted with the care of his niece, Rebecca, for two weeks while her parents are away. Ringan's girlfriend Penny suggests they all drive down to Cornwall for a holiday, and Ringan arranges for them to stay with an old friend and fellow musician, Gowan Camborne.

What began as a holiday by the sea turns into a ghost haunted event for all three, as Penny senses something odd at the first sight of Gowan and his ancestral house. Sensitive to events that have happened in the past and to Gowan's ancestors in Cornwall, Penny sees the death of an unknown man killed by his sweetheart many years in the past. Rebecca, a young teenages, is also affected and becomes haunted by a young woman, perhaps the same young woman seen in Peggy's "dream."

Penny and Ringan and Gown try to find the origin and the history of these haunting spirits in order to free themselves from their powerful and dangerous influences. Sleep walking, near drownings, and journeys up and down the Cornish coast eventually lead them to the tragic story of a sister and brother, and a desolate lover.

The hauntings seem to be brought on by a combination of Gowan's ancestral home, the words and music of the ballad, "New-Slain Knight," and Penny herself, whose presence seems to be a catalyst for these spirits to inhabit her mind and the mind of young Rebecca in these particular settings.

The plot has enough twists and turns and sudden strange events to keep you turning the pages. The Cornish idioms and manner of speech make the setting realistic and immediate.

I highly recommend the book, even to those who might be squeamish about the ghostly or supernatural. These are not "ghastly" spirits, but haunted and haunting.

 

 

Salamander Cotton by Richard Kunzmann

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martinís Minotaur  ISBN:  978-0-312-36034-4

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Called to the suburban home of Bernard Klamm, an elderly and wealthy businessman, Johannesburg detective Jacob Tshabalala  is shocked not only by the gruesome murder scene, but by Klammís collection of photographs depicting adolescent girls.  Naked, the young girls display similar bruises and cuts.  Was the murdered man a pedophile, or are the photo albums a clue in his murder?

Questioning Klammís estranged wife, Henrietta Campbell, who never agreed to a divorce despite a decades-long separation, provides no answers for Jacob.  However, she does insist that her husbandís killing may be connected to their farm on the Northern Cape.  There, thirty-nine years earlier, their teenaged daughter Claudette disappeared and was presumed murdered.  Her black lover, and Klammís former foreman, was convicted of the crime, despite scant evidence and the lack of a body.

Harry Mason, Jacobís former partner who left the police after the death of his wife, is persuaded to leave his failing business and troubled relationship with his daughter to look into the cold case of Claudette Klamm.  In the bleak landscape of the Klamm farm, Mason encounters a cast of troubled characters, rampant crime, and a community convinced that Claudetteís spirit compels their young girls to self-mutilate.

Author Richard Kunzmann, a South African resident, evokes a stark, unforgiving Africa, dominated by apartheid, AIDS, and asbestos.  Dark and compelling, his multilayered story expertly travels from 1965 to 2004 and back again, showing how greed and prejudice destroys lives across generations.  Kunzmann surprisingly ekes out a quietly optimistic ending to his unsettling tale.

 

 

Down Into Darkness by David Lawrence

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN-10: 0312347421

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When first one body and then another is found in a string of killings connected only by the words left  marked on the victim's body, London detective Stella Mooney and her team have no doubt they have serial killer on their hands. But with the victims having no connection to each other, and even the manner of death differing, finding the killer won't be easy.  And so as they search the summertime streets of London looking for their culprit, he'll be busy putting the final touches on his vengeful plan of redemption.     

In this bold new outing, Lawrence once again provides the reader with a stimulating read filled with compelling characters.  And while I was a bit disappointed that he seemed to shy away from his previously intense focus on the angst-ridden Mooney, her own drama being enough to carry his first few tales beyond the ordinary, he still puts forth a gripping story.  So, even though this latest is more along the lines of a fine-tuned police procedural than an in depth character study as seen before, rest assured that the plot itself does manage to offer up some provocative questions that will leave you considering the motivations behind those that make the decisions that impact our lives.          

 

 

 

A Christmas Beginning by Anne Perry

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN 978 0 345 48582 3

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Nobody beats Anne Perry for conveying the flavour and texture of Victorian England.   She can make your skin crawl with the condescending speech of the upper classes to the lower, and make you feel on a personal level the smouldering resentment 'ordinary folk' must have felt for most of their lives for the way they were treated.

This slender book views a shocking crime through the eyes of police Superintendent Runcorn, and follows his attempt to find the murderer despite the inept handling of the case by the Chief Constable, a handsome but inexperienced man who seems more concerned in protecting the sensibilities of the gentry than finding who killed Olivia Costain, flighty sister of the local vicar.

The murder happens very soon after Runcorn's arrival in Wales for a solitary Christmas vacation.  He has just learned that John Barclay and his widowed sister Melisande, whom he first met in a previous book in the William Monk series, are also in this remote village, when he finds the body of Olivia in the cemetery.   Runcorn is given the brush-off by both the Chief Constable and John Barclay, but later, when it become apparent that no progress is being made in solving the crime, he is grudgingly allowed to 'assist'.

It was obvious from the start that the girl was killed by someone she knew, didn't fear, and who hated her: the full-frontal stabbing in the abdomen, the lack of defensive wounds, the violence of the knife thrust, these all indicate to Runcorn that this was a personal killing, not the work of the proverbial madman or escaped lunatic that the village would like to believe in.

Working more or less with both hands tied, Runcorn nevertheless manages to narrow the field of suspects to a handful and then, finally, one.  Faced with unavoidable truth, the Chief Constable proves himself to be a better man than we first thought, and the murderer is brought to justice.  (However, John Barclay remains a supercilious, unregenerate swine.)

While he has been investigating the killing, Runcorn has on several occasions met Melisande.   She goes out of her way to cross his path, and is in fact instrumental in his obtaining some of the clues that direct his attention towards the murderer.   She is supposed to be marrying the Chief Constable, and Runcorn tries to be happy for her, but every time he sees her is painful for him.  On the last page, there is a surprise turn in his silent devotion which goes along way towards healing the hurts of this perplexing case.