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Free by Paul Vincent

Publisher: Upfront Publishing ISBN: 1844262553

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

Free, the new novel from Paul Vincent, himself- little known outside United Kingdom- is one good read.

The blurb caught my attention at the outset itself- ďDear Sal, I will send just eight letters to you. By the eighth letter, you will either love me or I will have killed you.Ē With a catchy phrase like that, I was immediately hooked and began reading Free- and in a jiffy (under less than three hours) I finished reading it.

Its obvious that the author has been influenced by psychological suspense masters like James Patterson  et al- but what makes the work striking is the uniqueness in approach- that makes Free a compelling read. ĎYou never know whatís gonna happen nextí- seems to be the central theme of the work. The story, about a man who fears that he is being stalked by his wifeís former husband- is usual psychological suspense fare- but the approach is one unusual- itís unique.

Reminded me a lot about the early Ira Levin works- an author I adore- especially A Kiss Before Dying and The Stepford Wives. Loved the work- thoroughly enjoyed the plot pacing and novel approach. Recommended for one great evening read.


BLOOD JUNCTION by Caroline Carver

(Mysterious Press/Warner Books) 

Forget the Australia of cuddly koalas and black-tie affairs at the Opera House: this is the Australia of the Outback, as red and raw as a sunburn.  Caroline Carver's long apprenticeship in writing has flowered with a stunner.

Journalist India Kane finds herself stranded in Cooinda, out in Three Corners country, and almost immediately becomes the target of a lynch mob whose members make the KKK look like a quilting bee.

Known by the locals as BJ, Blood Junction, Cooinda is not your typical friendly Australian country town.  The only nice people here are the outcasts like the girl Polly and Mikey the Knife.  BJ has a dark and bloody past which Indi could never have imagined is linked to her own secret history.

 The civilised veneer of Melbourne and London is rapidly and forcibly peeled away from this tough heroine, whose attempt to find her roots becomes not only complicated but also dangerous, both to herself and her friends.

 Charged with the killing of Tiger Dunn, the only person who befriended her when she arrived at Cooinda, Indi is then accused of murdering her best friend Lauren.  Bailed out by a unknown man, Indi is required to remain in Cooinda until her trial.  Just staying alive until then seems a long shot: Indi is kidnapped and beaten severely by the rednecks, but escapes to the bush and against all odds survives.  A major player in her survival is Bertie Mullett, an old aboriginal man who is the only survivor of the massacre that gave Blood Junction its nickname.

Suddenly, charges against Indi are dropped and she can't get out of Cooinda fast enough.  Unfortunately, the next victim of outback justice is Jeremy Whitelaw, the detective who believed in her innocence.  Can Indi turn her back on him?

Well, yes, given that she's on the track of a fantastic story centred on a cosmetics factory.  Who in his right mind would set up such a business 1500 miles from Sydney?  What's the real purpose of the factory?  Some of the locals earn a few bucks testing cosmetics, but what's the company paying people $1000 for, surely not just testing lipstick. 

How Indi threads the maze of misinformation to her real identity, finds out the reason for the existence of the cosmetic factory, and breaks a genocide story with international repercussions will turn you into a speed reader.  This is a compelling and convincing story that deals with some touchy issues, including race relations, social engineering and the importance of knowing who you are.  If you're only planning to buy one book this month, make this the one.

--Karen Treanor 

The Sniper's Wife by Archer Mayor

Publishers: Time Warner 2002 ISBN: 0892967676

If there is one word to describe this book, the word would be- SUPERB. Apart from Michael Connelly's bestsellers few police/detective mysteries have impressed me.  I most often skipped the modern LAPD/NYPD etc. type thrillers and regaled in the golden oldies- the Chandler- Hammett noir mysteries.  However, Archer Mayor's The Sniper's Wife is one that has reaffirmed my faith in detective fiction, and the book protagonist Detective Willy Kunkle is one that will remain in our minds for a long time.

The problem begins with a phone call. A New York policeman informs Kunkle that his ex-wife has been found dead and would like Kunkle to help them identify her. Kunkle goes to New York. The NYPD has dismissed the death as accidental, but Willy's personal investigations into the matter soon convince him that the death is anything but an accident. He soon find out that his ex-wife was involved with many nefarious activities, and it was no wonder that someone had done her away. What follows is Kunkle's investigation into the death; an investigation style that mildly put is
fatally dangerous and most unusual, ending in a great and exciting finish.

This is the first Mayor work I am reading. Though not a sequel, there are numerous references to past events, and other characters, most particularly Kunkle's boss Joe Gunther, who might have been a part of other Mayor works. The author has an engaging style that keeps the reader in tenterhooks. The plot as such, might be one that is often seen in any other hardboiled mystery, but Mayor infuses a highly charged style of narration, which makes the work unique and unlike any other.  One thing's sure; I am off to the library to catch up on with the past Mayor works.
                                                                        ---Narayan Radhakrishnan


Nine by Jan Burke

When members of the FBI's most wanted list begin to show up in the form of brutally murdered corpses, L.A. Detective Alex Brandon must use all his cunning and skill to find the savvy and unmerciful villains responsible.  The corpses bear a striking resemblance to the corpse left several years previously by young Kit Logan, that of his step-father who just happened to be a serial killer and child abuser of the worst degree.  Is Kit involved, or is he next on the list?    

Burke's latest is a fun and utterly thrilling read.  Built around a plot that's full of fire and steam is a team of wonderfully drawn characters, ones that will surely evoke devotion from even the most cynical reader.  Racing from scene to scene and character to character, the heart races with anticipation to discover the next perfectly rendered and sure to be exhilarating event in this non-stop adventure of the highest order.  We hope to see these characters again, and sincerely hope Burke is up for an encore.


Someone To Watch Over Me by Judith McNaught

Publisher: Pocket Books ISBN: 0671525832

Leigh Kendall, a successful Broadway actress, seems to have it all, a booming career, a wonderful marriage, and plenty of money.  But it all comes crashing down when she wakes up in the hospital, the victim of a car crash, and the main suspect in her husbandís sudden disappearance.  Frightened and worried, she begins her own search, but the more she uncovers the more she realizes she never really knew her husband at all.  And all too soon it becomes clear that she herself is the target of someone bent on ending her perfect life.      

This one has it all; a substantial mystery, a very romantic love story (or two), knights in shining armor, and women strong enough to not always need them.  Itís a wonderful blend, at times touching, at times suspenseful, and always just plain entertaining.  Itís about second chances, letting go enough to truly love, and finally learning how to trust again.  And though itís unabashedly sentimental, it works for a weekend of guilty pleasures at just enjoying something because itís enjoyable.  Nothing deep, no astounding insights, but all the more fun because of it.  Itís like extra rich chocolate, not exactly healthy, but boy does it feel good going down.  Enjoy this one, delight in its simplicity, forget about everything else for a bit, and just have fun.


A Fine Dark Line  by Joe R. Lansdale

Publisher: Mysterious Press ISBN: 0446691674

Joe R. Lansdaleís A Fine Dark Line is a fine and dark mystery. This is the first Lansdale work I am reading, and am sure is certainly not the last.

            A Fine Dark Line is a murder mystery, suspense thriller, a coming- of age- story and a powerful portrayal of life in America in the late Fifties.

            13-year-old Stanley Mitchell Jr. has just moved to Dewmont with his family. It is the summer of 1958 and the naÔve 13 year old never imagined what a summer he would have. He stumbles upon a bunch of old love letters that leads him to a long-ago house fire and the tragic death of two young women, Margaret Wood, a daughter of a prostitute and Jewel Stilwind a woman belonging to an aristocrat Dewmont family. Together with his sister Callie and projectionist called Buster Lighthorse Smith, Stanley investigates into the murder, opening some closed chapters and revealing some shocking truths that were better left unopened and unrevealed.  What follows is the young boyís investigation that takes him onto an interesting journey- where for the first time he understands about love and sex, lust and greed and ultimately a journey that transforms a naÔve boy to a young man. .

            The theme and plot of A Fine Dark Line is not something unique but it is the way the author tells it that makes A Fine Dark Line an outstanding read.  The book reminded me a lot of Harper Leeís To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee had through the eyes of a young girl explored the irrationality and hypocrisy of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. Likewise a similar style is adopted by the author in narrating this tale.

            All in all this Lansdale book is an interesting read, a disturbingly enjoyable read.

                                                                ---Narayan Radhakrishnan

OUT OF THE DARK by Sharon Sala

Publisher: Mira Books  ISBN: 1551667401

     While still a child, Jade Cochrane is whisked away in the middle of the night by her mother who joins a hippie commune.  When her mother dies, Jade's life becomes a nightmare of abuse anf suffering.  She is nearly killed by an "uncle" she has been sold to for the night by the cult leader.  Once again she is whisked away in the middle of the night by Raphael, a young boy who is also an orphan in the cult.  Together, they grow up in the streets.
     Jade, now an artist, sells a portrait of her mother to a woman who gives it to Sam Cochrane, Jade's father.  Sam immediately hires an investigator to find the artist.
     Ex-cop Luke Kelly tracks her down and returns her to her father.  Slowly, bits of Jade's childhood memories start to return, and gradually she begins to feel comfortable with Sam and Luke.  But the publicity that her return after being missing for 20 years has created, results in putting her life in jeopardy.  An unknown killer is on the loose. but Luke is hot on his trail.
     Sam and Luke are gentle with Jade, but also tough when the need arises.  The plot is well thought out and flows smoothly.  But., any reader who has trouble dealing with child abuse and the resulting fears, nightmares and withdrawal from life should think twice before reading this book.

                                                                  Reviewed by Donna Padilla