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The Accusers by Lindsey Davis

Mysterious Press   ISBN 0446693294

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Marcus Didius Falco is back from his protracted British trip and faced with having to earn a living in the capital of the Empire, Rome.   Now that he's supporting not only a wife, two daughters, a nanny, and a dog, but also two brothers-in-law, he needs to get his business back on track and find a few customers for his rather specialised services.

Falco is an informer, a profession regarded by nice people as necessary but distasteful.  He's been described as "Sam Spade in a toga": however, he has a small vein of trusting naivety that gets him into troubles that Sam would have sidestepped.   Hired by Senator Silius Italicus to investigate a suicide that cause him, Italicus, to lose a substantial amount of money, Falco doesn't initially see anything odd.

Of course, no case M. Didius Falco gets involved with could be straightforward, and this 15th  adventure is no different.  The suicide segues into murder, and Falco soon gets an uneasy feeling of being manipulated for nefarious purposes--hardly a new idea in first century Rome.  It's just his bad luck to find himself in the middle of a legal swamp peopled by some very experienced old crocodiles.

Assisted towards the solution by his clever and highborn wife, Helena Justina, Falco sifts through several layers of plots and deaths.  Information about old scandals that many would prefer to stay forgotten is provided by his father-in-law, but this just makes things appear more complicated for a while.

Along the way, Falco runs into his own legal problems: he's been neglecting his job as Procurator of Juno's Geese.  The charge is technically true, but he can't refute it without explaining why he spent six months in Britain on the Emperor's secret business--and if he makes that public, he might as well open a vein in his bath and be done with it. 

Somewhere in this morass, Falco stumbles across a few honest men, which is good for moral support, but not as useful as discovering the truth about a changeling heir.  Armed with that knowledge, he begins to see a bit of light at the end of the cloaca.

Lindsey Davis's new Falco story is every bit as entertaining as her previous books; if you need a holiday from the horrors of modern crime, take a trip back to Imperial Rome and enjoy Falco's latest outing.

 

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Demon House by Max Allan Collins, Gabriel Rodriguez and Ashley Wood

Publisher: IDW Publishing ISBN: 1932382348

Reviewed by by Paul Kane, New Mystery Reader

Perhaps the best way of describing CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Demon House is to say that it is the latest in a series of graphic novels that attempt to recreate and depict the eponymous CBS show, one of the USA’s top TV dramas.  While the characters are taken from the TV show, all of the stories in this series are original.

In Demon House, an original story written by Max Allan Collins, the CSI team is called out to investigate a robbery at Demon House, an entertainment park with a "haunted house" theme.  Once there, some of the team are witness to a murder.  The two crimes turn out to be interlinked, and eventually all the bad guys are caught.  Morals are drawn and everything's once more right with the world.

It’s a pretty good story and, as with the TV show, it is the realistic and telling forensic detail that leads to the apprehension of the criminals.

The characters are well drawn and are pretty much the same: Gil Grissom (played by William Petersen in the TV show) is a priggish sourpuss, so cold (or is that "anal") he’s cool.  Sara Sidle is a beautiful Ice Maiden with smoldering, ice-can-burn looks; here, Ashley Wood’s painted artwork isn't quite able to capture Jorja Fox’s serene beauty.  Clearly, an impossible task!  

Wood’s artwork is excellent, and is ably used to tell the story, the panels zooming in to highlight forensic detail (e.g., fingerprints) when necessary.  The artwork has an objective, metallic feel, which seems appropriate somehow. 

Gabriel Rodriguez’s pencil and ink drawings introduce each chapter, are very expressionistic in style (rather like George Grosz, to my eyes), and impressively complement Wood's work. 

This particular volume is accompanied by two interviews.  With Eric Szmanda, the actor who plays Greg Sanders, the interviewer acts as an unwitting straight man.  Szmanda is able to get in some droll and not entirely serious responses.  Meanwhile Rich Catalani, technical advisor to the TV show, provides a good insight into the work and role of the forensic scientist.

If you like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the TV show, I would recommend checking out at least one of the graphic novels in this series.

 

 Publisher: Perennial Dark Alley ISBN: 0060516240

Kinki Lullaby by Isaac Adamson: Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

New York journalist Billy Chaka is in Japan to receive an award for a magazine article he wrote eight years ago about Tetsuo, a young Bunraku puppeteer. But Tetsuo has been expelled from Banraku and Billy has been asked to find out why. Another American man has been murdered in the hotel room next door and Billy is curious about who he was and how he was murdered.  Strangely enough, Billy finds links between the Tetsuo ordeal and the murdered man, and he winds up being hassled by the Japanese mafia.

This is an action packed novel that takes the reader to every corner of the city of Osaka. Many of the characters live in their own bizarre little worlds far from reality and Billy has to sort it all out.  What Adamson has given the reader is a weird plot that keeps him scratching his head and rooting for Billy to get it all straightened out.  This is an unusual but enjoyable read.  Wisecracking Billy Chaka is an absolute delight. .   

 

Offer of Proof by Robert Heilbrun

Publisher: HarperTorch  ISBN: 0060538139 

Offer of Proof by Robert Heilbrun: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Arch Gold has been a Public Defender in Manhattan for ten years.  He likes his job, having eschewed the high-paying corporate world for a bit of freedom and the occasional challenge.  He knows most of his clients are guilty, and that doesn’t really bother him-he does his job the best he can either way.  But when his new client, Damon Tucker, is accused of murdering a young, white, female executive, and the state decides to go for the death penalty, Arch is suddenly faced with the trial of a lifetime.  Because this is one of those rare cases that doesn’t come along very often, a case where his client may actually be innocent.  Especially since the victim had secrets, secrets that may have died with her therapist who coincidently was also murdered, leaving just one too many coincidences for Arch.  And so Arch must go up against a system he’s always believed in, and break the rules he’s always upheld, because it may be the only way for justice to see the light of day.    

With his blow-by-blow insider’s look at a death penalty case, Heilbrun delivers the goods, and then some.  Although highly detailed, his account is never boring or lecturing, instead it’s a gripping and intelligent lesson into the inner-workings of the law as it applies to the death penalty.  If you are a proponent, you may have difficulties with some of the opinions expressed here, but as most of it is based on points of law, and other factual details, it will be hard to remain in total agreement of such an unfathomable method of punishment once you’ve turned the final page.  Heilbrun doesn’t just make his argument via facts and figures, but through the use of compassion and humanity as well.  This is a wonderful first novel; it’s as stimulating and challenging, as it is riveting and heartfelt.  We sincerely hope to see more from this lawyer with a conscience, and with any luck soon.  

 

Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446610224

Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson: Reviewed by  Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Alex Cross returns in fine form, and by fine I mean fine, superb, regal style.

Following the success of Kiss the Girls, Along Came A Spider and Four Blind Mice, James Patterson in his latest Alex Cross bestseller The Big Bad Wolf.

Cross has now left the Homicide division and is now into a new career with the FBI. There is a gang of kidnappers on the block, who specialize in kidnapping their victims in front of their families. They leave no clues, and all abductions are carried out in scientific and systematic manner, with precision. The only clue the FBI has is the name of the kingpin- Pasha Sorokin, the Wolf of the Red Mafiya or the Big Bad Wolf. Cross is called into investigation, but face heavy opposition from his colleagues, who dismiss him as an ‘upstart’. But when a famed reporter and a famous fashion designer are kidnapped, grudgingly the FBI has to start appreciating the genius of Cross, brush aside differences and launch into a full-scale investigation to bring to book the nefarious kidnappers.

What follows is heavy and stunning action that will keep the reader immersed, immersed deep into the pages.

A stunning, stunning read, and a page-turner in the truest spirit of the term.

                                       

Gatekeeper by Archer Mayor

Publisher: Warner Books  ISBN: 044640019X

Gatekeeper by Archer Mayor: Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Last year while reviewing The Sniper’s Wife for this site, I had remarked that I would be off to the library to catch up on some early Archer Mayor works. I was not disappointed and Open Season and The Dark Root provided exciting reading.

This time around Mayor focuses his attention on the growing drug menace in Vermont. Series protagonist, maverick and unassuming Vermont detective Joe Gunther attempts a Herculean task to bring the drug lords to book.

However, standing in Gunther’s way is Jim Reynolds, Governor, who is up for re-election and whose one and only agenda is to be on the small screen- ALWAYS. Reynolds’s lofty ideas and hard to put in practice commands puts a strain on Gunther’s team and even the whole Force.

But, Gunther brushing aside the underground politics, the skeptics, the cynics and the detractors launches into a full-scale investigation risking both his life and career. What follows is mystery and suspense at its finest, a thrilling read that is bound to keep the Mayor fans real happy.

For the ardent Mayor reader- its vintage Archer Mayor. For the uninitiated reader- it is a good time to start now.

 

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN: 0312994834

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Twenty-five years ago, four friends, after a night on the town, found a young woman who had been brutally raped dying in the snow.  Summoning the police, they were surprised to find themselves not witnesses, but suspects.  But with no concrete proof tying them to the crime, they were never arrested.  Now twenty-five years later, the case is re-opened and the four friends suddenly find themselves stalked by a killer bent on revenge.  Alex Gilbey, one of the four, finally understands that it’s up to him to find answers before he becomes the next victim.    

This latest stand-alone thriller from McDermid is fresh, original, and more than suspenseful.  Her theme of how the past so sharply defines our present and future is intelligent and perceptive, with a resounding force that adds to the depth of this gripping read.  Her characters are realistically drawn, and the reader can’t help but be drawn into their uncertain destiny.  This remarkable novel has it all: suspense, tragedy, complexity, and a deep genuineness about the bonds of friendship.  One of the best reads of the year, it’s more than worth its cover price. 

 

 

Death On Delivery by Anne K. Edwards

Publisher: Twilight Times Books ISBN: 1931201609

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

1.      Never ever judge a book by its cover.

2.      Sleuths who over thirty, are never dashing and action personified. 

Death on Delivery proves both these conventions ABSOLUTELY WRONG.  I was immediately attracted by the cover, a postman, rather a skeleton in a postman uniform- (brush strokes reminding one of Vincent Vangogh) caught my attention at the outset, and I began reading the book immediately.

If you thought that Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was unconventional- Hannah Clare is well, most unconventional. Fat, slow and a cutie grandma, Hannah Clare is now living with her daughter, and her family. She had run an investigation agency with her husband, but following his death- she had called it quits and is now leading a quite retired life. However reports of a series of deaths in the local newspaper, seemingly unconnected, but of unknown causes pricks Clare’s attention and she contacts Brome Cole, a Private Investigator who now runs the erstwhile Firm of Hannah. Cole informs her that he is investigating one such murder- of one Jania Yewbanks, and they believe that the husband is the culprit. Hannah joins the bandwagon and she joins the Yewbank household as a housekeeper and stealthily and silently she investigates opening a whole new can of worms.

What follows is soft and subtle suspense with a couple of more deaths, and a superb investigation culminating in an exciting finish. More a whydunit than a whodunit- Death on Delivery provides an absolute fun read. Looking forward to more of Hannah Clare mysteries.

Highly recommended. 

 

Black Sheep by R. J. Kaiser

Publisher: Mira Books  ISBN: 0778320677

Black Sheep by R. J. Kaiser: Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Jonas Lamb, married many times, annulled, divorced and widowed, has never had a close relationship with his only child, Patrick. Patrick, a scientist, approaches Jonas with a project he has been working on and named Black Sheep, in honor of his father.  It is the development of genetically altered organisms that will drastically reduce the need for fossil fuels. 

Jonas, pleased with the opportunity to develop a closer relationship, goes into business with his son, and takes off to Hong Kong to to see his longtime friend Jimmy Yee to get financing for the Black Sheep project. But, there is a leak of information and everyone involved with the project is now of paramount importance to agents from every oil producing country in the world, including the United States.  No one wants them to succeed.

Black Sheep is a delightful book to read.  The characters have very human strengths and weaknesses which sets up scenes that are sometimes humorous and sometimes deadly.  There are many twists and turns, so the reader must stay on his toes, making this an exciting and recommended read.

 

Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman

Publisher: Avon Books ISBN: 0060506687

Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman: Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Seven years earlier, two eleven-year-old girls had been tried and convicted of kidnapping and killing a young infant.  Released on their 18th birthday, the two separately attempt to carry on with their lives, but when another disappearance occurs, they’re looked at again with suspicion, and all their secrets come back to haunt them.  As the story races from the detectives, to the suspects, and to the victims, we get an inside look at one of the biggest tragedies that can happen anywhere and anytime.      

Lippman’s first stand-alone novel is a dark and richly textured read. And while many of the characters in this latest are unsympathetic, even unlikable, this is not at all due to poor writing.  Just the opposite in fact, as it’s Lippman’s powerful control over these characters that distinguish this novel, and add to its strong sense of reality. This powerful account of children who have killed, and the aftermath of such a tragedy, is disturbing and unsettling, but somehow courageous as well.  Lippman doesn’t attempt to give easy answers or pat justifications; she merely dares to tell a tale that is all too horribly human, and in doing so leaves the reader with much to ponder.  Recommended for those who can handle a strong dose of reality with their fiction.