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The Serpent’s Daughter by Suzanne Arruda

Publisher:  Penguin Books  ISBN:  978-0-451-22465-1

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Jade del Cameron has agreed to spend some time in Morocco with her mother who definitely does not like her daughter’s way of life. Jade doesn’t like the people her mother has taken up with on the cruise. She has trouble controlling an impulse to show them up for the fools they are.

Mrs. del Cameron vanishes before they are to meet again and Jade is left with the task of rescuing her.  She doesn’t speak the local language and must hire a guide to help her and she doesn’t know who she can trust.

Her mother is accused of smuggling on top of the problems she already faces so Jade must also work to clear her name as well. Daring against the odds, Jade sets off to find her mother and learn the truth of the smuggling charge against her.

Talented author Suzanne Arruda opens the door to a time and place we know little and gives the reader a very realistic look at life in the north African desert and its people who are of various tribal and religious backgrounds.  We also get a look at the strong prejudices the outsiders held  in the time. 

I’m pleased to recommend this well told tale to any reader. It will leave you with sand in your shoes and dust in your throat as you follow Jade on her trek across the desert to find and free her mother.  You will enjoy meeting living, breathing people who guide you through the deepening plot and its mysterious passageways.

 

 

 

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Publisher: Bantam ISBN-10: 05535891211

Reviewed by Glen Clooney, New Mystery Reader

Amy Redwing has a past.  A woman who loves dogs, especially Golden Retrievers, she rescues them from abusive homes, often at considerable personal expense.  Founder of Golden Heart, a rescue organization for these wonderful dogs, she encounters a very special Golden named Nickie.  Amy not only risks her own life to rescue Nickie from a violent man, she also rescues the man’s wife and children, spiriting them all away to a safe haven.  Amy keeps Nickie, adding the beautiful dog to her own pack.  There’s something very different about Nickie, as evinced by the odd behavior of the other Goldens she encounters throughout the story.

Amy’s past is about to rear its ugly head, as is that of her lover, Brian McCarthy.  Strange, supernatural things begin happening in the foreground, while behind the scenes people are being murdered on a trail leading straight to Amy’s door.  Vanessa and Harrow, two soulless psychopaths, have a secret in their basement; a secret that will ultimately pull Amy and Brian into their world of fire and mayhem.

Mr. Koontz has provided an eloquent, masterfully written suspense novel.  As a dog lover and staunch supporter of the fight against puppy mills, I found this novel a treasure in its attempt to spread awareness of this horror.  Written with sensitivity, the story does not include any actual puppy mills, so other dog lovers need not fear nightmares from reading this book.  It does show “ghost dogs”, which are those which have been rescued but are so terrified of human contact, even the most loving kindness, that they avoid even the people who would give them the healing touch they so desperately need.  Combining his love for dogs with his skill in suspense thrillers, Mr. Koontz has written a most worthy tale, though his regular fans may be disappointed with the softer aspects of this novel.  Kudos to Koontz!

 

 

The Scarlet Spy by Andrea Pickens

Publisher: Forever/Hatchette  ISBN 978 0 446 61801 4

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you’re facing a long boring bus, train or plane trip over the holiday period, try and pick up a copy of this book.  The trip will flash past and you won’t mind the bum-numbing hours on uncomfortable seats at all.

It’s a bodice-ripping, chick-lit-thriller of a historical novel, but you won’t need to have any particular knowledge of Regency England to enjoy the story.  Pickens puts in enough background to let you know where and when the story takes place without overwhelming the reader with more information than you want to know about the Prince Regent’s kidney stones, or how the Brighton Pavilion was constructed.

Sofia was a street urchin who was picked up in the slums by the mysterious Lord Lynsley, a man who does secretive government work that is never fully explained.  Lynsley is a sort of 19th Century ‘M’ who rescues young women from poverty to be intensely schooled at Mrs Merlin’s Academy for young ladies and turned into secret agents of exceptional skill and beauty—the Merlins.

Sofia has seen her schoolmates Shannon and Siena go out into the world to do Lynsley’s work, and has been anxious to have an assignment of her own.  Lord Lynsley settles Sofia in London with a trunk full of silks and a bucket of jewels, and instructions to make herself accepted by high society, the ‘ton’ as it is known, and then to track down a nest of traitors and murderers.  He provides her with a guide to help her get established, the handsome Deverill Osborne, a man who was never known to let his heart get involved with his romances.

All Sofia has to start her investigation is a gold key with a poppy on it, a key which unlocks something of great value to the villains—but what?  The only way she can find out is to get deeply involved with the main suspect, but this proves difficult when Dev Osborne won’t take the hint that his escort services are no longer needed.  The carefree Osborne has fallen hard, and whilst she feels a corresponding heat for him, Sofia is first and foremost dedicated to her job.

During a particularly dangerous confrontation in a dark alley, Sofia has to reveal her ninja skills to save Osborne and herself from injury or death.  This makes her complicated job doubly so, for now Osborne knows she isn’t just a pretty face.  His determination to keep her safe plus his incomplete knowledge of what’s behind Sofia’s flirtation with Lord de Winton endangers Sofia’s plans and eventually Dev’s own life.

This story has a bit of everything: some real history, a lot of gorgeous gowns and jewels, a murder or three, a missing heir, noble people and ignoble ones as well, codes and ciphers, a dollop of steamy sex, and an incredible heroine that you really want to believe could have been real, even though you know it’s pretty implausible.

 

 

 

Casket Case by Fran Rizer

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425224287

Reviewed by Tracey Jipson, New Mystery Reader

The job of mortuary cosmetician is not for everyone, but it’s the perfect job for Callie Parish, who believes that she can give family members some measure of peace with her careful preparation of their loved ones for burial.  Of course, it also means that Callie is often one of the first to find dead bodies, especially ones who are suspiciously dead bodies.  And so it is in Casket Case, the third Callie Parrish mystery, that Callie is one of the first to see Dr. Melvin, her small town’s longtime pharmacist, floating facedown in his hot tub.  Dr. Melvin’s distraught new and much younger wife, whom he met on the internet, has skipped calling the authorities and instead called the mortuary, insisting that his body be taken away immediately.  Callie wonders if Dr. Melvin’s widow is truly as upset over his death as she seems, but has no real reason to suspect wrongdoing.  Until, that is, another May/December romance surfaces in town, this one between elderly Pearl White and her much younger man “Georgie”.  When Pearl decides to sell all her property and move to Florida with George, her unpleasant realtor begins to aggressively harass Callie’s best friend Jane and insist that Jane move immediately out of her apartment.  When the realtor ends up dead and Jane becomes a suspect, Callie begins to do some investigating to prove that her friend was not involved in the murder.  When Callie herself becomes a victim of violence, she begins to wonder if she will end up in the mortuary as a dead body, rather than an employee.

The first half of this book is all Callie and little mystery, and you may find yourself wondering when something is going to actually happen.  My advice is to hang on and stick with the book through the sometimes silly goings-on of Callie’s life, because the end is truly all action.  And luckily, Callie leads an interesting life, as she copes with not only her own problems but those of her large family, her job at the mortuary and the mortuary’s owners, and her blind best friend Jane.  The strange pacing and zany characters (among them Callie herself, who only uses what she calls kindergarten cuss words and is named after the only pink thing her father could think of, calamine lotion, and is pursued by a bearded man who wants to freeze dry and embalm dogs and cats) could turn off many readers.  But this book has a solid plot and a rather unique setting that adds rather than detracts from the story (how many books can you think of that are set in a mortuary in Gullah country?)  I found the book’s colorful characters made Casket Case to be an entertaining read that I could not put down, and I look forward to the next Callie Parrish mystery.

 

 

 

 

The Clockwork Teddy by John J. Lamb

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425224295

Reviewed by Tracey Jipson, New Mystery Reader

Brad and Ashleigh Lyon return to San Francisco and end up mixing business and pleasure in this fourth book in the Bear Collector’s Mystery series.  Years ago Brad’s career as a homicide inspector on the San Francisco police force ended abruptly when he was injured while on duty.  The couple moved to the East Coast and together became collectors and makers of teddy bears, but now must make a return trip to the Golden State.  Brad needs to testify in a court case left over from his days on the force and the bear artists plan to exhibit at a bear show, as well.

The first hint that this vacation will not be a relaxing one comes on the first morning of the bear show when Brad witnesses a robbery, as another bear maker is attacked by someone dressed in a bear suit.  Then Brad accompanies his friend and former partner on the police force to a murder investigation and they find both a dead body in motel room and a robotic bear in an alley nearby.   This robotic bear, designed by a local software firm, is worth a lot of money to someone, and it quickly becomes the center of controversy and the key to finding the murderer. Luckily Brad, Ashleigh and their police detective daughter Heather, have enough knowledge about both bears and police procedures to help San Francisco’s finest solve the case.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this book is cuddly as the teddy bears it features.  The focus on police procedure is meticulous to the smallest detail, and there is plenty of blood and action as well.  The author sprinkles clues and red herrings throughout, making the mystery potentially but not easily solvable by the reader.   The twists and turns in this well done mystery will keep readers “bear”ly hanging on.

 

 

The Lover’s Knot by Clare O’Donohue

Publisher: Plume  ISBN-10: 0452289793

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

After her fiancé calls off their wedding engagement, Nell Fitzgerald flees NYC and heads for the hills of Archer’s Rest in what’s supposed to just be a long weekend of rest and comfort with her grandmother.  But it doesn’t take long for her to get caught up in the small-town drama that the women who gather in her grandmother’s quilting shop love to gossip about, especially that involving the studly young man who is doing some renovations in her grandmother’s home. 

And when a small flare of attraction sparks between Nell and the attractive carpenter, Nell is more than tempted to take it a step further, a choice that once made will fan the flames of gossip even more so, especially when the young man is found murdered shortly after their one and only rendezvous.  And with his death coincidently coinciding with her fiancé’s arrival, Nell, though having her own doubts of her once beloved’s innocence, has no choice but to try and solve the mystery behind the murder.  A task not only made more difficult by the fact that there is more than one suspect to be had in this small town filled with secrets, but also by the good-looking sheriff who would rather she’d keep her distance.

Even if you’re not a big fan of quilting, this mystery still has plenty of charm to offer.  By providing a decently challenging who-done-it sprinkled with some sweet metaphors on life from a quilting perspective, this manages to be a rather engaging read.  And while, yes, these women take gossip to an almost unprecedented level, and yes, Nell can be a bit flighty and indiscriminate at times, the final result is still one of cozy appeal.  A good outing that shows much promise for future reads.  

 

 

The Tenth Case by Joseph Teller

Publisher: MIRA Books   ISBN: 0-7783-2605-5

Reviewed by Jim Sells, New Mystery Reader

Harrison J. Walker – “Jaywalker” to those who know him – is not the model of the ethical attorney. This leads to a hearing before the disciplinary review board that in turn results in a three-year suspension for actions ranging from stealing evidence to impersonating a detective to receiving an unusual display of gratitude from a client. Jaywalker appeals to the board’s concern for the welfare of his clients. The judges allow Jaywalker to follow ten of his current cases to their conclusions.

One-by-one, the cases come to a close until only a single client remains. Jaywalker has defended Samara Moss in the past when she drove and wrecked one of her billionaire husband’s valuable sports cars – with no driver’s license and a questionable blood-alcohol level. For his efforts, Jaywalker was paid far more than the case was worth. Now Samara is being tried for killing that husband with a carving knife. The prosecutor quickly moves to freeze her financial assets. A judge decides that it would look bad for the state to pay for Samara’s defense, so he allows Jaywalker to be paid by the estate, but only at the standard $75 per hour that would be paid by the state. So this time, Jaywalker is going to be paid much less what a murder case is worth.

To make matters worse, the prosecutor has a mountain of evidence – all pointing to Samara as the killer. Even with his extensive skills as a lawyer and compulsion to win, it appears that Jaywalker will lose his tenth case. The best defense he can mount is the possibility of Samara being framed by parties unknown. Then new information gives Jaywalker an idea. The question is whether it will be enough evidence, soon enough.

Teller crafts a top-notch mystery. There are twists and turns enough to satisfy most readers of the genre. In addition, the book provides a humorous look at the legal profession and the court system from the perspective an unconventional attorney.

 

 

 

A Killer Workout by Kathryn Lilley

Publisher: Signet  ISBN-10: 045122535X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When North Carolina news reporter Kate Gallagher’s ratings start to drop in proportion to the increase in her dress-size, she decides to head for her high school buddy’s “fat farm” for a long weekend of killing off some pounds.  But when her roommate at the farm is found dead shortly after arrival, Kate’s attention turns to solving crime.  And when she discovers that not too long ago another woman had mysteriously died at the farm, she becomes convinced that the same killer is responsible for both deaths.  But with plenty of suspects on the staff, including a molester and a gambler, as well as suspects from a nearby drug farm, getting to the bottom of things won’t be easy.

Whether you’re one who struggles endlessly with those few extra pounds or not, there’s a lot of fun to be found in this amusing and breezy read. Along with a well-written mystery, Lilley offers up some great tips on keeping fit that any reader can appreciate, as well as an easy and compassionate touch with the always cantankerous issue of weight and the burden surrounding it.  An entertaining outing in a series that’s sure to become a favorite for those of us who aren’t quite perfect, this one will leave you eagerly awaiting the next.

 

 

 

Whitewash by Alex Kava

Publisher:  Mira  ISBN: 0778327035

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

EchoEnergy is about to end the United States’ dependence on foreign fossil fuel with its alternative fuel made from chicken guts.  However, one of their top scientists, Sabrina Galloway, notices a few things are amiss:  her boss has disappeared, and the plant is dumping toxic waste into Florida’s waterways.  After she witnesses the murder of one of her co-workers and realizes she was the true target, Sabrina flees with her elderly neighbor as an unlikely chauffeur.

At the same time, ambitious Washingtonian Jason Brill is busy planning an energy conference for his senator boss.  After a one-night stand with a colleague, he fears his job might be in danger, but has little inkling that far greater issues are at stake.

And Leon, the hit-man with a heart (and heartburn) can’t seem to catch a break.  When he meets his match in Sabrina’s neighbor, Leon switches clients and makes a real difference in the novel’s outcome.  Of course, as with so many thrillers written post-9/11, there’s a terrorism component, with a major event planned for the energy summit

Constantly changing points of view and short chapters hold the reader’s interest and keep the pages turning.  It’s too easy to read just one more chapter…  Two days after reading this eco-thriller, major plot points may have escaped your memory, but that doesn’t detract from the entertainment quality of Whitewash, and isn’t that what escapist reading is really all about?

 

 

No Escape by Shannon K Butcher

Publisher: Forever/Hatchette Books, ISBN  978 0 446 51028 8

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Picture this: you and your partner are stuck in a seaside resort on a cold rainy day and all there is to do is indulge in a little romance or read the one book that’s on the shelf.  “No Escape” is definitely the one book you’d want to have for this occasion.  If reading it doesn’t put you in the mood for romance, you need to see your endocrinologist.

Isabelle Carson’s former foster brothers and sisters are dying at an alarming rate, and she suspects they’re being murdered.  In a moment of weakness she contacts Grant Kent, professional tough guy, who also lived in the horrible foster home, and in fact was responsible for killing the abusive foster father 16years ago.  Grant saved her once, maybe he can again.

Once Grant turns up, disturbed by Isabelle’s mysterious phone message, she regrets having tried to drag him into the mystery, because she is afraid he will be killed in the same way as her other friends. That would be hard to bear, since she has loved him secretly for years. 

Grant’s no wimp, he’s been a Special Forces soldier and after some initial disbelief he realises that Isabelle herself is probably in danger.  The question is where the danger comes from: is it Isabelle’s foster son’s disgusting father, or is it someone from Grant and Isabelle’s early lives?  Or could the police be right, are the deaths just a massive coincidence?

Grant manages to convince Isabelle that she’ll be safer if he hangs around for a while and one thing leads to another and so to bed.  One would like to know what sort of sports drink Grant’s on…….but I digress.

After a few more deaths the police realise that Isabelle isn’t a nutter after all, but by this time both Isabelle’s foster son and her friend’s child have been kidnapped and it’s up to Grant to sort things out.  After a lifetime as a loner he finds himself being drawn into a family, and he’s starting to like it—but now it’s under threat from a totally unexpected source.

“No Escape” isn’t going to be shortlisted for the Mann Booker Prize, but it’s a perfectly good read for that rainy afternoon. 

 

 

Sweetheart Deal by Claire Matturro

Publisher:  Avon  ISBN:  0060773677

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Sarasota attorney Lilly Belle Rose Cleary is deep in negotiations with an Idiot Client when she receives a call from her normally unflappable brother, Dan, informing her that their agoraphobic mother has killed a man.  Willette Cleary is in a coma, in police custody at Bugfest, Georgia’s only hospital.  Lilly hightails it to Bugfest, nearly killing a peacock on her way into town, to deal with her mother’s dilemma, as well as the demons of her childhood and adolescence in Willette’s care in the aptly-named Bugfest.

Before long, she’s dealing with teenage heartthrob turned country singer turned Commissioner Lonnie Ledbetter, who is too closely entangled with Willette’s recent history (and Lilly’s best friend Shalonda) for anyone’s comfort.  Add to the confusing mix the very, very fashion and vocabulary challenged hospital administrator, a retired logger who is inexplicably sweet on Willette and determined to fix Lilly up with his own son, a resentful sister-in-law, the annual Bugfest Mule Day, and the promise of new resort development in Bugfest.

Sound confusing?   Well, it won’t be, especially with Claire Matturro’s E!-reminiscent constant recaps (the novel’s only real flaw).  Matturro not only captures Lilly’s endearing phobias but she perfectly evokes small-town Georgia without ever using the “Y” word.  An entertaining mix of chick lit, amateur sleuth, and Southern literature (I have a theory that all mothers in Southern literature are mentally ill, AWOL, alcoholic or a combination of all three), Sweetheart Deal is a delightful diversion.

 

 

 

The Reincarnationist by  M J Rose

Publisher: MIRA    ISBN:  0778325768

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A keeper!! If you enjoy trips into the paranormal or the possibilities of reincarnation, you'll really like this fascinating tale of Josh Ryder, a photographer, who finds himself caught between the past and the present in more than one life. 

I found it hard to put the book down once I started to read.  Talented author M J Rose has a style that lets the story flow like a swift stream, bearing you from one lifetime to another as Josh and others seek to understand what is happening. 

Josh finds that he once lived in ancient Rome as a priest who loved a priestess forbidden to all men.  During this time Rome was in turmoil as soldiers were used to destroy the old religions and their beliefs forbidden.  Temples were destroyed and sacred artifacts lost or secreted until such time as the old religions could reestablish themselves.  One such artifact was the memory stones that became the stuff legends were built on. The stones gave people the power to see their past lives.

As the plot of The Reincarnationist develops, Josh learns the stones are sought by different individuals, both in the past and the present.  The question of whether they are real or only a myth must be answered first and Josh learns the truth as he revisits Rome.

There are many subplots and enough mystery and suspense to satisfy any reader who enjoys a well told tale as lived by characters who are both interesting and realistic as you step into their world.  More than one surprise awaits the reader.

I'm pleased to highly recommend this book as well worth the time. You'll want to read other books by this very imaginative author.  I know I will.

 

 

 

Cat Deck The Halls by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Publisher:  Avon  ISBN:  006112396X

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Are you a cat fancier?  Do you like the idea of talking cats?  Several people in the coastal town of Molena Point, California, are acquainted with or live with cats who talk, cats like Joel Grey, Dulcie and Kit.

These extraordinary cats take a deep interest in human doings and have a deep respect for the law.  So when Kit discovers a body with a little girl clinging to it, she puts in a call to the police chief.  You could imagine his consternation if he were to discover who his snitch is.

The residents of Molena Point will be old friends if you've read any other Joel Grey stories by talented author Shirley Rousseau Murphy, or you'll have the pleasure of making their acquaintance if this is the first of these delightful tales you've read.

A wonderfully balanced tale between the cats and humans as they interact with each other.  You'll be one of those who has the secret knowledge that some of the town cats can talk while long time residents of the town don't know and may never.  It's a secret to hug to yourself as you join Joel Grey, his friends--both cat and human, in another mystery of a disappearing body, a child who can't speak, newcomers to the town and how close others come to the secret of the cats. 

I'm pleased to highly recommend this engrossing tale to any and all.  Whether you are a cat fancier or not, this well told tale and its great cast of character gives enjoyment you will long remember. It is something different in the mystery genre that may have you talking to cats--just in case...

Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

 

Murder on K Street by Margaret Truman

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN-10: 0345498879

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Illinois Senator Lyle Simmons and retired DA Philip Rotondi have a friendship that goes back decades, a friendship that has survived through the years despite the differences in the two men's backgrounds and the separate paths their lives have followed.  And so when Simmons comes home one evening to find his wife brutally murdered, one of the first phone calls he makes is to his friend Phil who, as always, rushes to stand by his friend in time of need. 

But as the investigation begins to reveal some closely held dirty secrets, secrets that could destroy the senator's ambitions for the White House, Phil will find himself questioning just how well he really knows his long time friend.  And when an innocent man is blamed for the murder and another woman is found dead, both victims with ties to one of D.C.'s most powerful lobbying firms that the senator himself is closely associated with, the alarm bells really start ringing, and Phil will be forced to face some ugly truths he has long denied.

Truman, a true DC insider, shows once again that she truly grasps how this boiling cauldron of a city filled with unrestrained political ambition really works.  And while for the most part her characters come off as unsympathetic, and the dialogue between them flat and slightly strained, her compelling and provocative insights into the impact of lobbying on our political system more than makes up for it.   This is one timely issue that only seems to become more relevant with each big election, with campaign budgets growing exponentially and politicians seemingly being bought and paid for by special interests that are looking for a hefty return on their investment.  So if you want a crash course in lobbying 101, forget the textbook, this insider's look is more realistic and much more damning, and therefore, all the more frightening than any gory mystery out there.

 

 

 

Three Sisters by James D. Doss

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312945299

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

With spring right around the corner, things are relatively quiet for once for Colorado rancher Ute Indian Charlie Moon- part time tribal investigator, his feisty Aunt Daisy - shaman and full time curmudgeon, and 15 year old Sarah - the new addition to the family who just happens to be wildly mad for the good looking rancher.  That is until the heiress and daughter of a wealthy rancher is found curiously mangled and dead in her own home near the Moon's  Granite Creek Ranch.  And with the dead woman having a celebrity psychic for a sister, another sister filled with cunning grace and beauty, a charming but smarmy new husband, and plenty of cash worth killing for, this is not going to be the slam-dunk "mauled by a bear" case as first appearances might suggest.   

As always, when picking up a new adventure featuring the luminous and humorous characters from Doss, settle yourself in and prepare to be told a story recited in the way of storyteller's gone past.  Reminiscent of donning an old familiar quilt, sitting before the campfire, and listening to a tale of mystery, Doss once again weaves a story that wraps around the reader with warmth and color and the anticipation of deliciously thrilling things that go bump in the night.  This latest mystery from Doss, like the others that came before, is clever and ingenious, filled with highly engaging characters, and one that will leave you with the glow of satisfaction from having done something good for yourself.       

 

 

 

Double Cross by James Patterson

Publishers: Vision   ISBN: 0446198986

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

DOUBLE CROSS marks the 14th outing of Detective Alex Cross, the series hero of James Patterson’s novels. And with the 46 other novels in print, James Patterson is an author who needs no introduction. However, Patterson, for the connoisseur of psychological mysteries, will always be associated with the Alex Cross series.

For the die-hard fan of the series, let me assure you- this is not a direct sequel to the 2006 work CROSS. It is just another installment in the series, but, which of course, takes the series to another lever. Alex Cross has called it quits from law enforcement and is now working as a regular shrink, and though he misses the action, he also relishes the regular working hours and peacefulness of the new job. And this time round Cross has a new girlfriend Detective Brianna Stone of the FBI. And not since the death of his wife has Cross felt so strongly about a woman in his life. But when a series of killings, starting with the murder of a famous woman crime writer in public view and then of that of a Hollywood superstar in front of a live audience, rocks the City, Cross is called back into action. And there is one more thing that has made Cross an integral part of the job at hand- the murderer has personally requested Detective Cross’s attention to the murders, and has challenged Cross to capture him.

What follows is the investigation, with the killer who is now dubbed as the “Audience Killer” always one step ahead. Detective Cross suspects a terrorist might be responsible for the attacks, but is baffled why he kills one at a time. From there we're treated to the usual action fare that we are so accustomed to in James Patterson works;  the suspense, chills and thrills are there, and an ending which I never saw coming. All in all, another great outing from Patterson, and one that I simply loved.  Highly recommended.

 

 

The Ever-Running Man by Marcia Muller

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing  ISBN  0446401161

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Unlike my other favourite tough girl, Kinsey Millhone, who lives forever in mid-80’s Santa Theresa, Sharon McCone moves through time and space and is a different person now to what she was in earlier books.

Happily married and settled—sort of—with Hy Ripinski, Sharon takes on a new job with the security firm Hy works for.  This turns out to be a less than brilliant idea.  The running man of the title is an elusive bomber, and only a few days into the job, Sharon narrowly avoids being blown up herself.  This make the job personal: nothing would shake Sharon off the running man’s trail now.

When somebody’s bombing your offices, it’s likely that somebody has a grudge against your company.  Sharon begins to investigate the partners in Renshaw and Kessell International and turns up some dark deeds in their collective pasts.  Worse, her husband seems to have been involved.   The Hy Ripinski Sharon finds in Renshaw and Kessell’s previous shady dealings is hard to reconcile with the man she married. 

Sharon soon realises that this is one case she must get to the bottom of; otherwise her marriage might be the next victim of the even-running man.  There’s already been one romantic bust-up due to this investigation; Sharon doesn’t want to get involved in another.

There’s plenty of tension in this story as well as some interesting revelations about Hy which go towards explaining how he became the man he now is.  A keeper for McCone fans.

 

 

 

Extracurricular Activities by Maggie Barbieri

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN-10: 0312945302

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

After her most recent bout with crime in which she was faced with helping to prove her ex-husband innocent of his young lover's murder, English Professor Allison Bergeron is more than happy to leave the crime-solving to the hunky but married NYPD detective Bobby Crawford.  But when the very same ex husband she saved from a lifetime of jail is found murdered, she once again finds herself entangled up in a mystery that will prove to be just as dangerous as the first. 

Is there a connection between that mystery and this?  Could it be that the father of the first victim, a mob boss who shows her a bit too much attention, has finally wreaked his revenge?  Or could it be the fallout of an entirely different lover's tryst?  With no shortage of suspects, it's going to be a battle to reveal just which one was angry enough to kill, and one who no doubt is willing to do it again to keep it all quiet.

This latest, while still charming and humorous, never did quite manage to live up to that promise put forth in the first.  Maybe it was the sense that Allison took so many emotionally conflicting and distressing events much too lightly, her tendency to deflect sorrow, confusion, or pain with humor a bit over the top at times.  That being said, of course, is what paradoxically makes this the perfect read when all you're really looking for is a light and cozy story that will entertain you with little effort or emotional investment.  So, when those times hit, give this one a read, it hits the spot easily.

 

 

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425224260

Reviewed by Tracey Jipson, New Mystery Reader

Krista Davis cooks up a fun mystery in this first book of her new “Domestic Diva” series.  Fabulous cook Sophie welcomes her family to her lovely home in Old Town Alexandria for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then finds herself with more than just visitors on her hands, she has blood on her hands too.  Or more specifically, her clothes, as she finds a body in the grocery store’s dumpster.  The police don’t believe Sophie’s story when she tells them that she was just trying to rescue a kitten, especially when they find her name, number, and even her photograph in the possession of the dead man.  When Sophie finds another corpse, this one as a competitor in The Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown, she truly becomes a murder suspect. Sophie decides to clear her name before she is forced to become a prison chef, and she has willing detective helpers in her neighbors, friends, and family.  Even her ex-husband Mars, now married to Sophie’s domestic diva rival Natasha, and his family become involved as the mystery expands to include stolen stuffing ingredients, an unfortunate television show, a stalker, a neighborhood peeping tom, and more.

This book is well written, and will make you hungry if nothing else, as Sophie stirs up delectable cuisine in her warm and homey kitchen.  A few recipes are included in the back of the book for the cooking enthusiast, and careful readers will glean how to make many other dishes from just perusing the story.  There are a plethora of characters of which to keep track, and some of their stories don’t seem to mesh smoothly with the main mystery.  However, the characters are enjoyable for the most part, the storyline of Sophie’s new love interest plays out subtly but sweetly, and the rivalry between Sophie and Natasha stirs up continued interest.  The mystery’s solution seems just a tad implausible, but that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of this book, and I certainly look forward to reading the next one in Krista Davis’s Domestic Diva series.

 

 

Now & Then by Robert B. Parker

Publisher: Berkley  0425224147

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

Grandmaster Parker is in an obviously reflective mode these days. As discussed previously, Spare Change was heavily steeped in the past, revolving around a long-dormant case.

And the newest Spenser escapade, Now & Then takes a relatively straightforward divorce/surveillance case and turns it into a reflection on the life of a long-term relationship, specifically Spenser and Susan Silverman.

Things begin as they so often do, with a client walking into Spenser's office, being put off by Spenserian banter, and hiring him anyway. You've read it many times, but Parker is so good, it feels fresh.

Dennis Doherty is concerned about his wife's behavior. He doesn't think she's cheating, of course. He's just concerned. Long-time readers will realize right away that we are going into A Catskill Eagle territory. That book, of course, was a sea-change event in both the characters' history and Parker's commercial viability (never mind the fact that it's a tremendous adventure novel, and should be read by everyone, 'nuff said).

Spenser takes the case, and before long he, Hawk and, eventually, Vinnie Morris and Chollo, are hip-deep in a near-cult group of radical thugs with murky links to terrorism. Its members swirl around one Perry Alderson, a smooth-talking fire-breather with many women in his thrall, including Jordan Richmond, wife of one Dennis Doherty. And, in short-order, she turns up dead.

As you can see, Parker has all the balls in the air now--of course, the joy is in the juggling. Spenser/Susan using the case to put away some archived baggage, Spenser/Hawk bantering, Spenser/Fellas kicking some tail, all guided by the healthy Spade/Marlowe rhythm of following the case out of respect for its' victims. Did we mention that Spenser's machinations put Susan in serious jeopardy? So there's that, too.

Parker manages everything at perfect pace, and when things wind to their explosive finale, you realize you've been both entertained and moved. He mixes the past tribulations in with the current trials to produce an exemplary episode in the series, full of heart, wit and action.  A strong top-third addition to the series.

 

 

Die With Me by Elena Forbes

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing  ISBN-10: 1596923083

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When a young teen-aged girl is found dead on the floor of a church it's initially believed that she jumped to her own death.  But when further investigation reveals some troubling evidence that she was not alone, and in fact, was not the first young teen to die in such a manner, homicide investigator Mark Tartaglia and his team are determined to solve the mystery behind the disturbing deaths.  And when even more deaths follow, it becomes all too clear that there is a killer stalking the young and innocent in a deadly game. 

With a likable cast of investigators, a disturbing and crafty villain, and a fast-paced plot that moves ever-forward without faltering, Forbes adroitly lays the groundwork for what we hope is only her first.  Most noteworthy here is her attention to characterization - not only towards her main characters, but also her victims- a talent that easily elicits the empathy needed to engage the reader throughout.  A very promising beginning, this is one that shouldn't be missed.