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Darkness Falls by Kyle Mills

Publisher: Vanguard Press  ISBN-10: 1593154593

Reviewed by Harvey Lau and Geraldine Young, New Mystery Reader

Jenna Kahlin makes the mistake of her life when she helps a rogue environmentalist carry out his extreme solution to global warming, global pollution, and the slow destruction of the environment.

She helps him by taking the bluprint of another biologist, Erin Neal, and using that research to create a voracious oil-eating bacteria that would spread unchecked through oilpipes and underground oilfields, literally destroying them and drying up major oil reserves. The bacteria, however, would be contained, as it would be harmful only to oil and would die quickly on contact with oxygen and the air. She does this only to preserve the Alaskan environment and to stop oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Little does she realize that her partner in that successful venture, Michael Teague, had plans for “preserving”  not just Alaska, but the environment of the entire world. When the same bacteria shows up thousands of miles away in Saudi Arabia, destroying major oilfields and oil reservoirs there and threatening major supplies to the United States, Erin Neal is forced out of his self-imposed exile and hermit’s existence to find a way to stop the advance of the bacteria.

He sets out to find Jenna, the only one who had access to his research and thus the only one capable of developing this particular bacteria. Jenna is as horrified as he is to see what uses the bacteria is being made of. The two biologists are even more distraught to find that an even more destructive strain, one that is windborne, has been developed by Teague and is on its way to be delivered to an oilfield in North America. 

The author paints a convincing picture of doom if major oil sources were to suddenly dry up. Our dependence on oil for housing, food, and our basic daily needs is brought home in the course of the book. How Jenna and Erin, together with Homeland Security manager, Mark Beamon, race against time and pit their wits against mastermind Teague, is the basis of this thought-provoking thriller. Well written and full of suspense, it was an enjoyable and informative read.



The Best American Short Stories (2007) Carl Hiaasen (ed.)

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin  ISBN-10: 0618713476

Reviewed by Kathryn Lawson, New Mystery Reader

The Best American Mystery Stories (2007) is packed with twenty compelling selections by authors including Lawrence Block, Louise Erdrich, Laura Lippman, Joyce Carol Oates, Ridley Pearson, and John Sandford.  Despite the brevity of the stories, they are marked by characters who come fully to life in their juxtaposition with each other (an ambitious adolescent golfer and her mother’s lovers in “Lucy Had a List,” an overconfident therapist and a remorseless mass murderer in “The Timing of Unfelt Smiles,” a young boy who hasn’t spoken since his twin brother died and an equally young neighbor with a knife in “Stab”).  Sometimes, chance encounters set unpredictable events in motion, as when a handcuffed man leaving the woods encounters a man washing blood from his shoes (“Jacob Loomis”) or when an upscale prostitute and a shameless client are pushed into social interaction at a suburban soccer game (“One True Love”).  There’s plenty of cheating (a bowlegged waiter and his outspoken wife in “Chellini’s Solution,” an ambivalent bank president and two women who don’t want him in “Gleason”) and double-crossing (hapless thugs whose plans conflict with those of a likeable and lucky hired killer in “Keller’s Double Dribble,” a beautiful poker player who ups the ante with her maybe-rapist in “T-Bird”).  The stories range from Sam Houston’s Army near the Texas-Mexico border to New York City in the years after World War II to Washington, D.C. in modern times.  Each story is satisfying on its own; the collection as a whole is gripping in its variety of tones, settings, and motivations.  This is a must-read book.     



The Swamps of Bayou Teche by Kent Conwell

Publisher:  Avalon Books   ISBN 978-0803498587

Reviewed by Victoria Kennedy, New Mystery Reader

An elderly woman hires private investigator Tony Boudreaux to find her son, banker John Hardy.   Tony’s reluctant to take the gig, but his boss Marty insists for it’s in Tony’s home state of Louisiana.  Tony’s friend Jack offers to drive him down in his Cadillac and away they go.  Upon arrival Tony visits the bank where John Hardy’s secretary tells him that she believes her boss is all right.  She gives the PI a number for a resort in the Bahamas.  Tony calls, but the missing man’s not there. 

Tony decides to drive over to the last place Hardy visited before he vanished.   Arriving at the hunting lodge he questions the owners and finds that John Hardy received a couple of death threats during his stay there.  On the way back from the lodge a cypress tree falls across the road and it soon becomes obvious that people are trying to scare Tony off.  One incident becomes two and the danger level is increasing.  Someone wants Tony off the case, but who and why?  He soon finds that the old saying “C’est mon cauchemar!  This is my nightmare,” is starting to have more relevance as the search grows complicated. 

It starts to look bad when the cops pull Hardy’s car from a river.  They ask Tony to keep them apprised of anything he finds out.   Next Mr. Hardy’s body makes a gruesome appearance inside a dead alligator.  It’s obvious the PI is dealing with a homicide.  He has a few suspects, but he must find out who is telling the truth and who’s not.  His attraction to one of the suspects could get him in trouble if he’s not careful.

I loved the Cajun and Creole flavor of the story and it’s many twists and turns kept me turning the pages.  The action’s fast paced and Tony Boudreaux a likable character.  It’s a fun read that I highly recommend.  The Swamps of Bayou Teche is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.



Try Dying by James Scott Bell

Publishers: Center Street  ISBN:  15999568445

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

For quite awhile I have been itching to get my hands on a legal thriller; something reminiscent of the style of PRESUMED INNOCENT (Scott Turow) or THE FIRM (John Grisham).  And so when the copy of TRY DYING, the latest from trial attorney turned author James Scott Bell, fell into my hands- I was more than ready.  Having read Bell's previously outstanding mysteries, including CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE and FINAL WITNESS, as well as the collaboration novel, CITY OF ANGELS, (wherein Bell joined hands with Tracie Patterson and introduced a new heroine, lawyer Kathleen Shannon), I knew that I could expect another explosive legal thriller from Bell.

Ty Buchanan is living life on the fast lane. With a great law practice and a looming partnership on the near horizon, life couldn’t be better. And, of course, he has the perfect girlfriend; his decision to marry her hardly requiring a thought at all.  But all is lost when she's killed in a freak accident. At the same time Buchanan is in the midst of a high profile case and neck deep in litigation details.

The cops have brushed the murder off as a regular accident, but when a stranger convinces Buchanan that there is more to the death than what meets the eye, Buchanan has to investigate. But his investigation will soon lead him to mortal peril; with his cases, his practice, and his very life hanging in the balance.

What follows is one man’s relentless persistence to find out the truth in what proves to be a thrilling, action-packed adventure with a spark of the divine that was every bit suspenseful as I'd hoped.  Highly recommended, this is a legal thriller that fans of the genre won't want to miss.




Fresh Kills by Reggie Nadelson

Publisher: Walker & Company  ISBN-10: 0802715990

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It was two years ago that NYPD investigator Artie Cohen's nephew Billy was sent to a Florida facility for boys after it was proven that he viciously murdered a man.  Now, 14, Billy has been granted a two week furlough and has returned to NY in order to spend some time with his family.  But with his parents away on a trip to London, it's Artie who ends up with the responsibility of caring for the teen, a responsibility he doesn't mind as the two have always shared a special bond. 

Artie, believing that Billy has been "cured" of whatever drove him to that moment of violence, has high hopes for some quiet time with his beloved nephew.  But the visit isn't as peaceful as Artie had hoped when he's drawn into a case of a missing husband; a case that is soon followed by other seemingly random events of violence that might or might not be connected.  And as Artie begins to put the pieces of this frightening puzzle together, he will find himself increasingly assailed by doubts of just how well he knows his nephew; a outwardly perfect young man whose façade of innocence may be hiding an evil darker than any he's ever known before.

Written up as the last in the 911 "archipelago trilogy," this one had me wary as I had not read the first two; a fear that was quickly forgotten after the first chapter.  Admittedly, there's a good chance that having read the first, which told the beginning of this story, this last might have been even more compelling; however, in the end, that became more and more irrelevant the further I read. 

Nadelson's sense of place and time, her crisp dialogue, her pacing and voice, all combine to create a sense of immediacy and reality that flows so seamlessly it's easy to feel as if it's all real.  Oh, and let's not forget her ability to create a subtly increasing sense of menace and a discomforting growing doubt of what's true and what's not in such effortless tandem that it's only when finally putting the book down do you realize you haven't taken a breath in two hours.  If, like me, you've never read this talented author of this breathtaking and gripping series featuring Artie Cohen, don't let that stop you; otherwise, you'll miss one of the most exciting and absorbing forays into New York that has come along in quite awhile.         




Last Known Victim by Erica Spindler

Publisher: Mira  ISBN-10: 0778324613

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When the body of Patty O'Shay's husband was found amongst the rubble left behind in Katrina's wake, she vowed she would someday find the answers behind his questionable death.  And so when his badge is discovered years later buried beneath the body of what appears to be the victim of city's latest serial killer, a body that's also most likely connected to the finding of several skeletal hands discovered in a discarded freezer, her resolve is only made stronger to find the killer dubbed "The Handyman."   

But things become only more complicated when a local stripper claims to be the target of an anonymous stalker, a stalker whose vows of devotion seem to always be followed by the discovery of a new victim bearing the unique marks of the serial killer.  And so if Patti wants any hope of discovering how these cases are all related, and if this new target is really a victim or something much more deadly, she'll have to be willing to break all the rules she once held as sacred.

Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, fans of Spindler will recognize and welcome the many characters she brings back from her previous tales set in the hard-hit city.  Combining a thrilling who-done-it with the poignant depiction of a damaged city trying to regain its identity, Spindler does an excellent job of drawing the reader into both an invigorating mystery and the hopeful and courageous battle behind the ongoing revival.  And even though some readers may think they've guessed who done it before all is revealed, there's enough red herrings to keep the doubt deliciously alive.  Another great outing from Spindler, this is one fans won't want to miss.




No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 055380555X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Milford, Connecticut high school teacher Terry Archer has always known about his wife's mysterious past involving the sudden disappearance of her parents and teenaged brother when she was only 14 in a case that was never solved.  But now, 25 years later, troubling events related to the unanswered questions begin to occur with increased frequency.   And while the cryptic emails, his wife's suspicion that she and their daughter are being followed and watched, and familiar objects from his wife's past appearing out of nowhere all seem to point to the return of one intent on finishing the job, Terry can't help but begin to question just how deeply his wife is and was involved.  So with a danger that seems to be coming only closer with each day, Terry will be forced to face the possibility that he might not know those closest to him as he once thought.

Almost unbearably suspenseful, the biggest challenge in reading this latest from Barclay lies in stopping yourself from rushing to the last chapter to see how it all turns out.  A word of advice - don't, you'll miss one hell of a ride if you do.  Not only does Barclay infuse the read with engagingly realistic characters and a guessing game of the highest magnitude, but also with a sly sense of humor that ultimately balances perfectly with the ever growing sense of alarm.  And just in case you think you have it all figured out about halfway through, you might want to think again, there's plenty more bombshells waiting at the end of the line.   An almost flawless read, this one shouldn't be missed.