November New Mystery Book Reviews
 

 

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Cross Country by James Patterson

Publishers: Little, Brown  ISBN ISBN-10: 0316018724

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

James Patterson’s Alex Cross thriller for 2008 features the 15th outing of detective Alex Cross of LAPD. This also is Mr. Patterson’s 54th book, and his 52nd bestseller (the two exceptions being two non-fiction works).

The scenario for this work shifts from Los Angels to Africa- in particular Nigeria, Sudan and Sierra Leone. The political instability and poverty of Africa is portrayed without mincing words by the author. And from this turmoil a new killer has arisen- known as Tiger - who has no particular reason to commit murder. Murder is in his blood, and he might just be the true emperor of all hired assassins. He also has a team with him, a dedicated team of murderers - boys aged between 10 and 13.

Cross is called into action when his college sweetheart, Ellie Cox, and her family are murdered. More group (family) killings follow and Cross and his deputy Samson trace the action to Africa. And, sure, the CIA is also aware of the killings, and a CIA officer Flaherty is there in Africa to help Cross. But soon after arrival, Cross falls into bad company and he is brutally tortured- not once, but twice. At the same time the killings continue. Even Cross’s family is kidnapped and tortured too…. (I will not spoil the surprise- you have to read the book to find out what happened to Nana and Cross’s kids). Let me just say that this is the most violent of all Cross novels I have ever read. Almost all characters in this novel are eventually killed, decapitated or tortured in some manner or other.

If you are a connoisseur of the Hannibal Lecter series of thrillers and the psychological thrillers of William Deverell - and of course Patterson himself - you must buy and read the book. All the masalas in the right portion has been included in the novel. As a quick read, it is superb, although it might just give you more than one sleepless night.

 

 

Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews

Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books ISBN:  978-0-312-53610-7

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Meg Langslow has been lured into taking charge of Caerphilly’s Christmas parade and finds herself in charge of collective chaos.  The man selected by the town council to act as Santa Clause is the last man she or anyone else with sense would have chosen for the job.  To add to the problems he creates, he is found murdered as he dressed for the parade.

Digging into the murder is a creepy little journalist who spends time cursing his cell phone, asking questions, and hunting his lost camera that he is most unhappy to have lost. His attitude toward the parade has Meg biting her tongue to hold back remarks about his manners.

The parade goes on as does the murder investigation and a blizzard that puts out the electric power wreaks havoc on the roads and Meg and her husband are stuck with unexpected guests and animals. She is aware that one of them could be a killer, but which one.  There seems to be no way to tell.

As the murdered man’s late doings are uncovered, motives for murder come to light with several suspects.  There is enough action and suspense contained in this book to make any mystery fan happy. I’m pleased to recommend Six Geese A-Slaying by talented author Donna Andrews as a pleasant read with lots of fun.  Follow the clues closely to see if you can guess the killer.  Enjoy.  I did.

 

 

 

Chasing Smoke by Bill Cameron

Publisher: Bleak House Books  ISBN-10: 1606480189

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Portland homicide detective “Skin” Kadash is on an extended leave dealing with his cancer when his partner draws him back into the fray with a case of 4 dead men who also had cancer and who are now dead, apparently by suicide.  And considering that they all had the same doctor in common with Skin, he can’t help but get involved.  But finding out why these men died and who might be next, not to mention if even his own doctor is involved, might just kill him before the cancer does.

Admittedly, while Skin’s personal story of cancer that played out in the background was a bit depressing and at times difficult to get through, Cameron’s treatment of the mystery and the characters more than made up for it.  Skin, himself, was so perfectly portrayed as the old-fashioned detective with enough attitude and hidden heart, that one couldn’t help but get to liking him and empathizing with his pains beyond the obvious.  This is one sorry sack that is easy to root for, and one that readers will want to see again, if only to find out if he made it through.  All in all, this was both a sorrowful and engaging read that was well worth the cover price.

 

 

 

 

One of the Wicked by Harry Shannon

Publisher: Five Star (ME)  ISBN-10: 1594147035

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Mick Callahan, recovering alcoholic, psychologist, and talk-show host has been trying his damndest to stay out of trouble.  But when an old friend from his brief days in the SEALS calls asking him for a little favor - to watch over his ex-mistress as he settles the score with some bad guys who are looking for him and a prized possession they think he has - Mick, of course, jumps right back into the abyss that’s, as usual, filled with degenerates of every ilk.  In the mix are some mobsters, terrorists, greedy low-lifes, and just all-around bad guys who would rather slit your throat than discuss things in a civil manner.  And so when the bad guys start threatening Mick’s little band of friends and helpers of the first degree, they’ll soon discover that making Mick mad is not the best way to get what they want.

While normally this type of full-out macho plot wouldn’t be my type of thing, Shannon, as usual, makes it far above the norm by building up a solid cast of characters that easily draw even the most wary reader into this violent and very manly world.  

Callahan, especially, is such a self-aware individual, who while recognizing his faults even as he ignores that knowledge, is so fully realized one can’t help but understand why he does what he does.  And while at times Callahan can also get a little too self-realized, the double-thinking he does in just about every step he takes now and again coming off as a little preachy and slightly over-analyzing, it’s still refreshing to read a character who admits his faults and, even more, admits his lack of courage in not properly facing them.  But all that aside, this is a past-faced and exhilarating read that with more than one surprise thrown in, easily sustains its delicious tension from beginning to end.    

 

 

 

 

 

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Publisher: Little, Brown & Co  ISBN 978 0 316 05986 2

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Nobody can beat Anita Shreve in looking at an incident from a multitude of perspectives.  Her mind’s eye must look like that of a honeybee, with dozens of facets that each catch the light in a slightly different way.  “Testimony” is made up of many short-sharp chapters, told from the viewpoint of the dozen or so people whom the central event most affects.

The book is based on a common-enough occurrence these days.  The headmaster of Avery Academy receives a microcassette from a camera, and when he plays it he sees four of his students involved in what would once have been called an orgy.  There’s very likely a fifth student involved, since somebody is obviously operating the camera. 

Mike Bordwin could have destroyed the video tape and hoped for the best; he could have quietly asked the students to leave the school and hoped for the best; he could have called the police and taken the worst up front—but all these possible decisions are taken away from him when he learns that the video is making the rounds of cyberspace.  The story is picked up by the media and then the matter can no longer be contained, or its damage limited. 

Everything and everyone involved in the incident—the boys, the girl, their parents, the school’s reputation, Mike himself—are changed forever, most of them for the worse.  Promising careers are blighted, already shaky relationships are destroyed, and one life comes to an abrupt end.

This is a sad story with few uplifting moments.  Only one character seems to escape unscathed, and that’s the one whom you might think most deserves to pay a price for the destruction that comes from the initial event.  As always, Shreve writes very well, assuming the different personae with apparent ease.  The reader is drawn along as the story gains momentum, knowing that something awful will come of this but unable to look away.

 

 

 

Our Lady of Pain by Elena Forbes

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage  ISBN-10: 1596923164

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In her follow-up to last year’s Die With Me, Forbes brings back her engaging duo of London detectives, Sam Donovan and Mark Tartaglia.  This time out they’re summoned to the scene where a woman’s naked body has been found posed in the snow in a deserted park.  And while at first it appears that the young and beautiful art dealer Rachel Tenison was an unlikely victim of homicide, investigators soon discover that beneath her cool and lovely façade was a cold and ruthless soul; her tendency to play with other’s emotions breaking more than one heart.  But soon the investigation will take yet another turn when they discover that a couple of years before, another woman had been found posed in much the same way.  And so as they try to make a connection between the two murders, the detectives will follow a trail that will lead them straight back to their own door.

In this taut and well-written police procedural, Forbes offers up a fairly detailed look into the ins and outs of a police investigation.  And while on that end she rarely misses a beat, providing a gritty and vivid realism, some might find the characterizations of her main cast paling in comparison.  With the minimal amount of attention given to the personal sides of her regulars, at times the read can become a bit dry and overly matter-of fact, an element that while not making this a bad read, one that if addressed would make this a great read.  All in all, however, there’s some unforeseen twists and shocking surprises that  when combined with the positive aspects of this read make it one worth checking out.            

 

 

 

Conspiracy of Silence by Martha Powers

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing, ISBN 978 1 933515 18 2

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

When your engagement falls apart, it’s fairly normal to want to leave town and have a complete break from your former life.  If you can combine this with a paying job, so much the better. 

Clare Prentice jumps at the chance to interview reclusive author Nate Hanssen, because it gives her a good excuse to go to Grand Rapids to find out why the woman she always thought was her mother left town, and who her real mother might be.  Grand Rapids Minnesota is a very different place from Chicago where Clare has spent most of her life. It’s small, cosy, initially friendly—but ultimately very dangerous to an outsider poking about in its history.

Aided by her best friend’s Aunt Ruth, Clare quickly finds that her real mother was Lily Newton, her adoptive mother Rose’s little sister.  Then shock follows shock as she learns that Lily was murdered by her husband Jimmy; that Rose never legally adopted her; that Jimmy ran from Grand Rapids and later died horribly—how many other shocks are in store?

Luckily there’s a sunny side to Clare’s visit to Grand Rapids, which is her rapidly developing relationship with Nate Hanssen.   If it weren’t for Nate’s jealous daughter, a real romance might blossom between the interviewer and interviewee.  

And there’s Waldo, a lop-eared mutt who has taken a shine to Clare.  Through him she meets his owner, another reclusive man, who has an astonishing gift for painting scenes that cause Clare to have flashbacks to a disturbing incident in her early life.  If only she could get to the bottom of the tantalizing but frightening memory, she might at last know what happened on the night her mother died.   But is there somebody who prefers her not to be able to remember?  After the tire slashing, anonymous note, and near-fatal road accident, Clare has to wonder if she might be better off not knowing the truth about that rainy night 25 years ago. 

This is a nice mix of cosy and scary characters and events and well worth an evening’s reading.