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Bodycheck by Steve Owad

Publisher: Rendezvous Press ISBN 1 894917 22 7

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Minor league ice hockey player Behn McAvoy was minding his own business fishing for rainbow trout when he was attacked by a stranger with a gun.  Aging, but still with great reflexes, Behn rushed the man as the gun went off and tipped him over the bridge into a cold, fast-running stream.

After initial scepticism, the police accept the story, but can't figure out why an aluminum siding salesman from Boston would want to kill Behn, unless it has to do with something he did in his  heavy drinking days when he was the enfant terrible of the Boston Bruins.  Waking up married, broke and drunk one day led to Behn's new life in Renfrew, Alberta.  The drinking is long behind him, but sometimes you can't get away from your past, no matter how far away you move.

When the dead man turns out to have a rap sheet a mile long, the mystery deepens.  It doesn't make Behn feel much better to know he killed a criminal, but at least he survived the attempt and life can get back to normal.--that is, until someone shoots at Behn's jeep. 

Now he's mad--and scared.  The police aren't making a lot of headway, so Behn strikes up a sort of partnership with a dead teammate's sister, who wants to find out what really drove her brother to suicide--if it was suicide.  She's found a huge diamond ring in his possessions, and she knows there's probably a criminal link somewhere, if only because her late brother was a big-time gambling loser.

The plot gets a lot more complicated when another teammate, who's as thick as two short planks and about the most inept plotter you'll ever meet, tries to set Behn up on drug charges to get him off the team.

The denouement in the frozen Alberta woods will have your eyes moving over the pages faster than a Rocket Richard slapshot.

This is a rouser of a first--or any--novel.  You don't need to be an ice hockey fan to follow the story, but if you are, it adds an extra dimension of appreciation.

 

In Too Deep by Tina Wainscott

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Group  ISBN: 0312933711

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Winslow Talbot can cover the scars on her face that remain from a terrible car accident that took the life of her father but the internal scars come to the surface when she hears about a young Cuban girl who is badly disfigured in a hit-and-run boating accident.  Winslow decides to help the girl but she finds that her investigation leads to her step sister’s fiancé, Jayce.  She has had an uneasy feeling about Jayce since she first met him; her suspicions become real as she finds out that Jayce is not the person he claims to be.  As Winslow gets closer to the truth about Jayce and the boating accident; she winds up in a world of trouble but also meets the love of her life.  Alex Diaz, a Miami newspaperman learns that his first impression of Winslow is wrong and that she is much more than just a spoiled, rich, high society woman.  Alex decides to help Winslow with the investigation and he also introduces her to his culture, his family and ultimately opens his heart to her.  Winslow is in a race against time; she has to prove Jayce’s guilt before bad things happen to the people she loves.

In Too Deep is an entertaining romantic thriller set in South Florida.  The bad guys are really bad and you will find yourself rooting for their demise.  It is a bit hard to believe that Grant, who is a wealthy businessman with political aspirations, could be so easily duped by Jayce but that is just a minor distraction.  Winslow is an interesting character who has a perfect face, due to a number of surgical procedures; but it becomes a mask she uses to hide not only the her emotional scars but a strong will.  I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy a good romantic thriller.

 

 

Xeno Solution by Nelson Erlick

Publisher: Forge Books ISBN: 076534971X

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

This novel is set in the not too distant future where medical science is now common practice; there are special clinics where pig livers can be transplanted into human beings.  There are pig laboratories where the animals are subjected to gene altering and then cloned, virtually wiping out any chance of porcine diseases being transferred to humans.  When Dr. Scott Merritt is auditing the database which contains information on every transplant ever performed, learns that the information has been manipulated and there is now a pig virus that could become an epidemic.  The people who are aware of the manipulation are disappearing.  He goes under cover to learn who is responsible and stop them. 

Erlick pulls you in and guides you through complicated medical procedures.  The plot is so well constructed that you sail through it believing every word.  This is a cliff hanger that will make your toes curl. 

 

 

Melancholy Baby by Robert B. Parker

Publisher: Berkley ISBN: 0425204219

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

This 4th outing from Parker featuring Boston PI Sunny Randall is a fascinating and highly entertaining read that ends much too soon.  Sunny, a thirty something PI has her own problems; her ex-husband, who she still deeply loves, has just remarried, and Sunny decides it's time to see a shrink to better understand why she can't commit, leading her to some interesting discoveries about her past.

Meanwhile, she is contacted by Sarah Markham, a young woman who believes that the parents who raised her are not the ones who gave birth to her, and so wants Sunny to track down her biological parents.  But all too soon this seemingly harmless case takes a nasty turn when a couple of major players involved are murdered and Sarah and Sunny themselves are violently threatened.  So in-between her shrink appointments and leading the solitary single life, Sunny must face this danger to find the truth, about herself, and about Sarah.

Parker does a pretty fair job in this latest.  And while perhaps his dissection of Sunny's psyche is a bit simplistic, it will still probably ring a chord with a decent amount of readers who will see a glimpse of something familiar.  Sunny easily engages throughout this lightly suspenseful read, and is one detective we wouldn't mind revisiting.       

 

Hula Done it? by Maddy Hunter

Publisher:  Pocket Books ISBN:  13: 9780743482929

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A keeper!  A tongue-in-cheek tale of high-seas high adventure as Emily Andrew shepherds her charges on an excitement filled cruise. Any mystery fan who enjoys a mystery mixed with humor will be bound to love this one.

Emily is a travel escort for a group of Iowans who are out to see the world, among them Emily's rich grandmother.  The group becomes involved in a treasure hunt that culminates in finding a buried treasure and murder in Hawaii. To add to Emily's problems, she must choose between two men who fancy her, one a travel escort like herself and the other a Swiss policeman. Both romances are long distance and she feels her biological clock ticking.

You won't want to miss the wild helicopter ride or the storm at sea or the costume party. Talented author Maddy Hunter mixes laughter and mayhem in a rollicking good read for any reader.  A wild cast of characters who will have you in stitches as you try to keep up with who is where and with whom.

Highly recommended.  A good time will be had by all who read this fun story. You will love the characters as old friends by the last page and will be looking for other books by Maddy Hunter.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

Death Row Defender by Ray Dix

Publishers:  Hard Shell Word Factory, 2005 ISBN:  0759942609

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

Ray Dix is the new voice in contemporary legal thriller writing. Take it from me, DEATH ROW DEFENDER, this lawyer- author’s debut work is one hellova read- and a must read for students of law.

Not since Anatomy of a Murder, have I read such strong a courtroom drama that explores the nuances of a capital murder case. The concept “proof beyond reasonable doubt” is something that each law student studies in his criminal law class. What is the ambit of the word “proof”- and what constitutes “reasonable doubt” is something that depends on the facts of each case- and more often than not, a good lawyer may have the power to swing the ‘discretion’ in one way or the other. It is here I found DEATH ROW DEFENDER a good, oops, no… no.. a grand read. As a lawyer myself, the novel highlights the importance and relevance of this concept in criminal trials. 

Jon Clayton is a man whom you would love to hate. A vicious and ruthless criminal, he has a track record of spending more time behind bars than out of it. And now he stands accused of the rape-murder of one Donella Nash. The media and the people strongly believes in the guilt of the accused and wants him dead. And so does the State Governor- he is facing reelection and what better way to assure himself of a win than by making an example out of Clayton, the best way to show his stand on “war against crime”. And so Clayton is all set to face the electric chair. But Clayton stays strong on his plea of not guilty and as a last refuge seeks the help of Attorney Woody Thomas. Retired and taking an easy life, Woody Thomas has a hard time convincing himself to take the case of Clayton and even a harder time in believing in his innocence. But a deep investigation and deft questioning of witnesses in the courtroom soon has Thomas convinced that there is more than what meets the eye and that Clayton might truly be innocent. And when Woody gets some threats on his life if he proceeds with the case- the lawyer is cent percent sure that his client is innocent and that the true guilty are somewhere out there.

What follows is tense and exciting courtroom action culminating in an exciting courtroom showdown which is truly, truly exciting.



 

Bahamarama by Bob Morris

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312997477

Bahamarama by Bob Morris: Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Zack Chasteen, ex pro football player and ex charter boat captain is released from prison after almost two years of incarceration.  All he can think about is getting to the Bahamas and Barbara.  He only makes it as far as the prison parking lot before the shit hits the fan.  Everyone in the parking lot is intent on kidnapping Zack, but he manages to escape.  He makes it to his home, but once again runs into the bad guys.  He  kills one of them and escape again.  Finally, he gets to the Bahamas and discovers that Barbara has been kidnapped.  With the help of Boggy (a long time friend, Nixon ( a young boy who claims to be a guide), and Lynfield Pederson (local police inspector) he sets out to find Barbara.

Morris has created an intriguing, multi-faceted plot that carries the reader through all the twists and turns very effectively.  All the main characters are one-of-a-kind with talents that are absolutely necessary to the resolution.  This is an excellent novel that keeps the reader entertained and wide eyed to the very end.

 

Dark Truth by Mariah Stewart

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345476697

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

The third in Stewart's latest serial set features Nina Madden, an editor whose father died in prison years before and who has now just learned of her stepmother's death, a death which will lead her face to face with the many unanswered questions of her past.  Her father, convicted of the rape and murder of four young women nearly two decades ago, proclaimed his innocence right up until the very end, never having seen his precious daughter once since his fateful arrest.  But Nina, who has always been convinced of his guilt, must now question her swiftness to convict her always-distant father when evidence comes out implicating someone other than her father in the brutal slayings, evidence discovered in a letter written by her father during his incarceration, only just discovered with her stepmother's death.

So she goes back to Stone River, Maryland, the small college town where the murders occurred, to further investigate.  And when another young woman is murdered with the same MO, she and the detective in charge begin to suspect that the wrong man may have paid for those crimes of the past, and that the killer is still out there planning on his next victim and the horrible ways he'll bring about her death.

When an author puts out so many books a year, you can expect a decline in quality, so the mediocrity of this latest should come as no surprise.  While there is a modicum of suspense and a plot worthy of much more than it is given, there are still too many holes to make it all complete, mainly Nina's quickness in believing in her father's guilt, and the investigation, then and now, also seeming a bit patchy at best.  But still, considering how many outings Stewart has provided this year alone, this is not all bad.  Light romance and a decent plot should satisfy readers with some spare time on their hands.    

 

Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn

Publisher: Scribner ISBN: 0743279824

Sam Fahey, a man with a past, a past that included drug running and surfing, now makes his way as a worm farmer near the border of Mexico.  With his past nothing but a stream of mistakes, and his future looking pretty much the same, he lives his life caught between his nights of bad dreams and his need for drug and alcohol.  But one day a spark of hope enters his life in the form of a battered young woman, Magdelena, who has her own troubles.  Working for a lawyer in Mexico, her life has been filled with trying to bring reform to the working class and to clean up the toxic waste that has become a regular fixture in and about Tijuana.  But somebody wants to see her dead, and with one failed attempt, is still hot on her trail.  And so as she slowly recovers at Fahey's home, the two begin a complicated friendship, one that will lead Fahey's life back into danger and just possibly redemption. 

This book is filled with such doom and tragedy, that it's sometimes difficult to read.  But the truths written here are made so much more perceptible by their stripped bare ugliness.  The Mexico portrayed, and the greed that has destroyed many a life, is not softened in any way, and the intensity of it is disquieting.  But there is also hope and a certain kind of redemption in the last few pages that make it worth the trip.  Definitely full of suspense and power, this is a meaningful read that will hopefully stir some souls as it did mine.  An important book, it comes highly recommended.           

 

Whiteout by Ken Follett

Publisher: Signet ISBN: 0451215710

Whiteout by Ken Follett: Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

I own 23 Ken Follett novels, and also a rare short story of his titled “A Kingsbridge Romance.”

So by now you must have guessed- I am a Ken Follett fan and each book by this author is devoured by me as soon as they reach the book stores. So for the past 2-3 months, ever since Mr. Follett announced in his website regarding the publication of a new novel, I was on the lookout for Whiteout. And my verdict- it’s not fabulous, its not fantastic- but Whiteout is just simply fantabulous.

After exploring the spy thriller (Eye of the Needle, Triple), romantic spy thriller (Hornet Flight), historical thriller (Pillars of the Earth) romantic historical thriller (A Place Called Freedom), children’s mystery (The Power twins and the Worm Puzzle), Capers (The Modigliani Scandal), Science Fiction (The Third Twin)  I was thinking, what next for Ken Follett? Would it be a legal thriller, would it be a medical thriller, a horror one…….. And finally the wait is over. Ken Follett breaks the Michael Crichton- Robin Cook hegemony and delivers a chilling medico- sci-fi thriller that’s well spine chilling.

The plot-line is vaguely reminiscent of Michael Crichton’s bestseller Prey, but is more fast paced and suspense endowed. The style and theme rhythm is sort of what we felt in The Third Twin. I sure, would like to go more into the plotline. But anything more, and I think I will become a spoilsport. Let me say one thing- The Key to Rebecca and The Man From St. Petersburg were comparable with The Eye of the Needle; The Hornet Flight with The Night Over Water and A Place Called Freedom with The Pillars of the Earth. This is one book no one is going to compare with the author’s any previous works, guaranteed. I enjoyed the work very much. Take it from me- Whiteout is sure gonna be a bestseller.

 

Solomon vs. Lord by Paul Levine

Publishers: Bantam Books 2005  ISBN:  0440242738

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Remember the tales of King Solomon the Just, the one renowned for his unique sense and perception of Justice, the great king, - you know, the one in Solomon’s Code of Laws. Well, this book is NOT about that Solomon. And our Solomon is the wackiest opposite of King Solomon the Just.

Paul Levine, internationally acclaimed lawyer- author is renowned for his Jake Lassiter series of legal thrillers including Night Vision and Slashback. However, his most acclaimed work is 9 Scorpions (not featuring Lassiter), about the trials and tribulations of a stripper- turned attorney. I have enjoyed Levine a lot, and had made it a point to read and sometimes re-read his books.

And so when I got my copy of Solomon vs. Lord, I was expecting something regular Levinish. But Solomon vs. Lord gave me a shock, albeit a real exciting shock. It is not everyday you get to read a funny legal thriller, a legal thriller that’s wackishly funny and at the same time being an engrossingly brilliant courtroom drama. The novel has two protagonists- the wacky, maverick attorney Steve Solomon, who has his own code of laws- the main one being “I will never break the la, breach legal ethics, or risk jail time…unless it’s for someone I love.” And Victoria Lord is the opposite of Solomon- she believes in the majesty of law and the spirit of justice. But when they are pitted together in a gory murder case- sparks are bound to glow… both in and outside the courtroom, And what follows is wacky, and at the same time, tense courtroom action at its best culminating in an exciting, and by exciting I mean E-X-C-I-T-I-N-G finish.

A grand read, and a real worthy buy, Solomon vs. Lord is highly, highly recommended.

 

The Surrogate Thief by Archer Mayor

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446616605

The Surrogate Thief by Archer Mayor: Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Archer Mayor is back and so is Joe Gunther.

After the stupendous success of The Sniper’s Wife and The Gatekeeper, Joe Gunther returns in impeccable form in The Surrogate Thief.

This time around an old case, and by old, I mean a three decade old case comes to haunt Joe Gunther. The death of Klaus Oberfeldt, rather the murder of Klaus Oberfeldt, a local storehouse owner, thirty years back had created a big ripple in Vermont town. Gunther who was supposed to bring the culprits to book however had more pressing engagements, most particularly his wife’s struggle with cancer- to which she finally succumbed to. The case had gone cold and the Oberfeldt case became a faint memory.

Now a new set of circumstances- what the ‘circumstances’ are is dear reader, for you to find out- forces Gunther to reopen the case. Who was the murderer, is he still alive and what was the true reason for the murder. The murderer had never committed a murder again (supposedly), but would a reinvestigation result in new deaths? Its upto Gunther to investigate- preventing more deaths, and more importantly to keep himself alive. What follows is traditional Mayor action ending in a spectacular finish.

Enjoyed the book, and most definitely the best Gunther work I have read.

Recommended. Greatly recommended.

 

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

Publisher: Back Bay Books ISBN: 0316010707

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In this utterly enthralling, gratifying, and luminous novel, the reader is treated to the tragic, bittersweet, and sometimes comic lives of a group of characters that simply come alive under Atkinson's skillful and creative hand. 

Case one involves the Land sisters, Amelia, Sylvia, Julia, and little Olivia.  Young Olivia went missing 30 years ago, and is thought to be dead.  Her remaining sisters decide to hire PI Jackson Brodie to at last look into her disappearance. 

Case two involves Michelle Fletcher, a young woman who found her way out of an early marriage and life with baby in the most gruesome way possible, and now her sister, 25 years later, has hired Jackson to find the child that was left behind.

Case three involves a gentle man named Theo whose daughter was killed years ago while working in his office in a brutal hail of gunfire.  Theo hires Jackson to find the man responsible.

And so Jackson takes on all these cases, and as a result all these lives will soon collide in ways never thought possible, to be changed forever in the most remarkable of ways.

Through vivid and brilliant prose, the reader is taken on an emotional journey full of wit, tears, tragedy, and beauty.  Suspenseful, extraordinary, and altogether brilliant, don't miss this dynamic and unique ride that reminds one of what it is to be human and fallible, and gloriously alive-with all the bitter and blissful truths that might entail.  A sometimes gentle, but more often a slap on the head,  reminder that the past belongs right where you left it ...