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The Strangler by William Landay

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 0440237378

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

William Landay’s The Strangler is an exceptional interweaving of fact, fiction, and hypothesis. The story of the brothers Daley is a fascinating and entertaining tale whether you know anything about Boston history or not.

The Daley brothers are an odd lot. Joe followed in his father’s footsteps and became a cop, though he lacks some of his Da’s moral compass, his career and marriage slowly circling the drain. Michael works for the Commonwealth Attorney’s Eminent Domain Division, evicting families and small businesses to make way for Boston’s renaissance. Ricky is a thief, very good at what he does.

The Daleys ply their trades during late 1963 and 1964. Kennedy has been assassinated, and the strangler is running rampant. Irish mobs and local bookmakers are being consolidated by the Italians. The city has grown tired of losing population and status and is going to rebuild using whatever means are necessary.

Each of the above historical movements touches the Daleys in some way. The title’s strangler is used mainly to put the ball in motion, then set aside. Joe may have been the first cop to contact him. Michael finds himself on the unlikely task force investigating him. Ricky uses his unique talents to take some matters into his own well-manicured hands. The book’s almost finished when you realize the Strangler hasn’t mattered much for quite a while.

The characters are all well-drawn and multi-dimensional. The females are worthy of Mystic River. Daley Senior’s partner, Brendan, has moved into his friend’s bed and may know more about Joe Senior’s death than anyone suspects. Who will turn out to be good or bad can only be guessed, as every character is too deftly shaded to be predictable. Things eventually shake out into that too rare combination found in only the best mysteries: an end that is both surprising and inevitable.

The dialog is written with a keen ear. Accents are hinted at closely enough to keep the reader in New England, spellings altered and vernacular used only to keep you locked in, never so much it becomes distracting. (He does forget to use “wicked,” which is a wicked shame. No one’s perfect.)

The Strangler is more than expected, no matter what you expect. Landay’s skill at involving his fictional brothers in events you know they had nothing to do with eventually takes a back seat to your wonder over how it’s all going to come out. The Departed brought Boston’s seamy corruptions into public view all over the country. The Strangler is perfectly timed, and spot on. Don’t miss it.

 

 

Hooked Up by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Publisher:  Midnight Ink  ISBN:  978-0-7387-1110-2

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Ex-police detective Glad Wycznewski returns to his RV to find a strange man and a large black cat in his bed.  He tells his wife Ruby they have to leave.  It seems Ruby and her mother picked the man up because he told them a sad story about being tired and broke.  They also took in his cat, Malibu. 

While Glad is declaring that he wants the man out of his bed, the man makes a hurried departure as the traffic jam they are sitting in starts to move.  Just after the RV is parked at the race track, a man turns up dead on the track and Ruby identifies him as the stranger who slept in their bed.  There’s a difference though.  While he looks exactly like their stranger who had been beaten up, this dead man hasn’t a mark on him.  How could that be?

Ruby insists of trying to identify the dead man and pulls Glad into a deepening mystery that could cost them their lives.  How does it all tie to the hotel and casino near the track? 

Talented authors Joyce and Jim Lavene have crafted a fun read with racing as a setting. You’ll enjoy the experience of living in an RV and following the racing crowd that moves from track to track behind the drivers and their cars.  Recommended as a tale to please any racing fan or mystery buff who enjoys a variety of characters and settings. 

Enjoy.  I did.

 

 

A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander

Publisher:  Harper  ISBN:  0061174211

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

The legacy of the French monarchy is consuming Victorian London’s social season.  Charles Berry, who claims to the descendant of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, has become the darling of society ladies who dream of marrying their daughters to royalty, although his behavior—boorish and boozy—certainly won’t win any hearts.  The thefts of Dauphin mementos seem an inconsequential distraction, until one of the owners, David Francis, is murdered.

Lady Emily Ashton, reluctantly back in society after mourning her husband’s death, feels responsible for Francis’s death because she urged him to report the theft of his pink diamond.  And to add her dismay, the thief seems to be stalking her, although his interest is primarily romantic.

Before long, Charles Berry isn’t the only one to set the tongues of society matrons wagging—Emily’s love life becomes the source of great gossip and disapproval, as false rumors about her and a very eligible bachelor circulate.  Colin Hargreaves, Emily’s real suitor, is not amused by Emily’s disregard for her reputation and personal safety, and neither is Emily’s mother, though Emily’s reputation is of greatest concern to her.  She is eager to see her daughter make another profitable marriage.

Lady Emily Ashton, independently wealthy, intelligent, and non-conformist, joins the growing number of heroines of historical fiction who dedicate their lives to flaunting convention.  As delightful and humorous as Emily is and as riveting as the story is, I couldn’t silence the historian in my head who kept saying, “this is so unrealistic.”  But then most readers wouldn’t enjoy reading about a woman living in a tenement, dealing with disease, poverty and a new pregnancy every fourteen months.  For those readers untroubled by voices in their heads, A Poisoned Season is an amusing, diverting story and one of the best books of the year so far.

 

 

 

Without Warning by Eugenia Lovett West

Publisher: Thomas Dunn Books ISBN:  978-0-312-37113-5

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Hey, mystery/suspense fans!  A good read titled Without Warning by talented author Eugenia Lovett West awaits you in the bookstore.  From the start, you’ll be immersed in Emma Streat’s world and follow her willingly from one part of the world to the other as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her husband’s death.  Was it a hit and run or a deliberate act?

Lewis Streat was a CEO of a company the developed weapons and suddenly returned home unusually worried about security.  He wouldn’t tell Emma what was going on for her own safety. Did he really mean she could be in danger if he told her what he was worried about? 

After a period of mourning, Emma pulls herself together and begins to ask questions.  The need for answers takes her to London where another murder takes place. Here an attempt is made on her own life or is it more than one? 

Who could think her a threat when she says her husband kept her in the dark?  Will she ever know what happened? Or will she be kept from knowing.  Why is she watched by the FBI at home? 

These are a few of the questions you’ll want answered as you read. This is a well told tale with lots of mystery as the complicated, yet seeming simple plot unwinds.  This is one book you will be glad you read and you’ll be looking for other tales by this imaginative author. 

Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

Getting Old Is To Die For by Rita Larkin

Publisher: Dell ISBN-10: 0440243874

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Seventy-five year old private investigator Gladdy Gold is a Big Apple girl who now lives in Ft. Lauderdale.  And lately, not only does Gladdy have no idea where her boyfriend Jack is, but her sister Evvie is distraught over a lost love. So when they wrap up the case they are working on they decide to head north to visit their children and grandchildren for a bit of relaxing.  But what they don’t know is that they’re not alone on their trip, as surprisingly their just happens to be a couple of fellow detectives on their trail.  And when Gladdy arrives in New York and learns that the missing Jack is there working on a cold case, one which just happens to be the murder of Gladdy’s dead husband, of course, mayhem ensues.

When you need a break from action packed thrillers, pick this book up.  It is filled with a cast of characters that will have you laughing out loud.  Larkin demonstrates that growing old does not mean you stop getting involved with life, having adventures and falling in love. A fun read all around, this one easily entertains.

 

 

Memories Are Murder by Lou Allin

Publisher: Rendezvous Crime  ISBN 978 1 894917 33 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Here’s another neat little book from Rendezvous Crime, who produce entertaining, reasonably-priced, well-edited short crime novels that fit in a handbag and can be read in an evening.  Some larger publishing houses could do worse than take note.

The story opens with Belle Palmer having a bad staff day.  Belle runs a real estate business in northern Ontario, and she’s panicked when her right-hand-woman Miriam tells her she has to leave work and tend to her ailing ex-husband Jack.  But not to worry, Miriam has lined up a temp, YoYo Hourtevenko.

Any crime heroine worth her salt would know that with a name like YoYo, this person is not going to be the answer to a boss’s prayer.  However, Belle hasn’t got time to do an in-depth job interview; she has to rush off and show a house to a visiting scientist who’s phoned up desperate for a rental property near the lake.

Imagine Belle’s amazement when the stranger turns out to be Gary Myers, her high school beau, the one who broke her heart by disappearing off the face of the earth 20 years ago.  Gary apologises for his past behaviour and Belle discovers that the love of her life has his own love: Malcolm Malloy, alias “Mutt”.  All becomes clear.  Just as Belle and Gary are re-establishing their former relationship on a new footing, he dies in what is reported as an accident. Apparently he had too much cheap whisky when he was out in his boat and fell overboard.

When Gary’s partner Mutt turns up, he suspects the accident was a set-up.  For one thing, Gary only drank Glenlivet, not the bargain booze found in his boat.  Mutt is also sure that Gary was investigating something, something secret that might have caused someone to arrange the boating accident.  Mutt and Belle start poking around and asking questions, and it looks like they’re on the right track when somebody drugs Belle’s coffee and she nearly dies as a result. 

That is only one of the alarming things that happen to Belle on her way to discovering who killed Gary—possibly the most alarming is the crash course in backwoods midwifery. 

This is the fifth in the Belle Palmer series; and it looks likely there will be more to come.

 

 

Maiden Rock by Mary Logue

Publisher:  Bleak House Books ISBN:  978-1-932557-59-6

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Did you have a favorite outdoors hangout when you were in high school, a place where you could sit and talk of engage in necking or do dope?  If so, you’ll instantly identify with the characters who hang out at Maiden Rock.

It was here Krista thought she could fly after taking meth and met with her death.  This tragedy had a terrifying effect on the lives of all who knew her, some who would never recover.

Deputy Claire Watkins is frantic when her daughter Meg doesn’t come home from a party.  She begins a search for Meg and finds Krista.  Then the search for the why of a girl’s death begins in earnest. 

Talented author Mary Logue brings her characters to life as the story unfolds and they let us experience their fears and sorrows.  All levels of guilt are shared in this story for so many things they did or didn’t do, or said or didn’t say.  There is something so familiar about the settings, you’ll swear the author visited your home town to find and use them in this story. 

I’m pleased to highly recommend this book as one you won’t soon forget and will have you looking for others by this imaginative author.  This isn’t a story you’ll want to miss.  Enjoy.  I sure did.

 

 

Cover-Up by Michele Martinez

Publisher: Harper  ISBN-10: 0060899018

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When the body of Suzanne Shepard, a television reporter who specialized in scandals of most sordid breed, is found brutally murdered in New York's Central Park, federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas and her FBI love Dan O'Reilly are hot on the case.  But with so many suspects who would do anything to prevent their secrets from being revealed, including some of New York's most rich, famous, and powerful elite, solving this case isn't going to be easy.  And when Melanie begins receiving threatening emails from an unknown stalker who knows far too much about the case and seems to be watching Melanie's every move, the case goes from complicated to deadly as she becomes a killer's next target. 

The third in the series featuring Melanie Vargas might just be the best yet, with Vargas showing a growing propensity towards maturity and sensibility that was not always evident in previous outings.  Readers are now treated to a female protagonist that is worth emulating, her adeptness at juggling a career, family, and love as a strong Hispanic single mother strengthened by her growing wisdom.  Additionally, Martinez throws in a suspenseful and twisting plot that keeps the tension high, so that when all is combined the result is a smooth and effortless balance between the investigative and personal, and a well-rounded read that fans will enjoy.

 

 

The Night Lawyer by Michelle Spring

Publisher: Ballantine Books ISBN: 0345437489

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

It wasn't too long ago that Ellie Porter's life was a complete mess, being dumped by her lover having thrown her into a total mental meltdown.  Now, with her new job in London as a night lawyer for a newspaper, and her ever-increasing skill level in karate, life slowly seems to be getting better.  But when she begins to notice that someone is stalking her, her new found confidence slowly begins to slip away, bringing back an unnamed fear that seems to have shadowed her life since her father's death over 20 years ago.  Meanwhile, the man who is stalking her, his agenda known only to him, may not be the complete stranger she thinks, but instead someone who is all too familiar.

Spring's latest novel of betrayal, secrets, and redemption deftly combines menacing suspense with remarkable characterizations, with the final result being an intelligent tale that effortlessly engrosses.  And while her method of delivery does take some getting used to, the present tense being a bit distracting and unsettling at first, it feels less awkward as the story progresses.  All in all, a well written tale that some readers, thinking they've figured out all before the final unveiling, will still find enough twists and turns that will shock and surprise. 

 

 

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black

Publisher:  Picador  ISBN: 0312426321

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Dublin pathologist Quirke is surprised to see his brother-by-adoption/brother-in-law Malachy Griffin sitting at his desk one night.  Malachy is a doctor, too, but an obstetrician whose business rarely takes him to the morgue.  Quirke initially dismisses Malachy’s odd behavior as an alcoholic hallucination (Quirke passes out on a slab soon after seeing his brother).  But later, he realizes that Malachy altered the file of Christine Falls, a young woman who used to be employed in his house and died in childbirth.

Suspecting the worst about his brother, but determined to find the truth, Quirke tries to find out what really happened to Christine and her baby.  When Dolly Moran, the woman who was caring for Christine when she died, is murdered, Quirke begins to suspect someone has more to hide than an illicit affair with a servant.  Quirke enlists the help of his adoptive father, Judge Garret Griffin (who always preferred Quirke to his biological son) and sister-in-law Sarah (who Quirke preferred over his own deceased wife, Delia).

Sound like a soap opera?  Well, it’s not, although it does have more than its share of melodrama.  Brooding, moody, and slightly alcoholic, Quirke, Christine Falls, and the 1950s Dublin they inhabit are all three.  Quirke is not only a deeply flawed but an untrustworthy protagonist.  It’s hard to believe that the same island that brought us chick lit also produces these endlessly dyspeptic mystery and suspense novels that are absorbing on such a different level.

 

 

Cat Pay the Devil by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Publisher: Avon  ISBN:  0060578130

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A keeper!  For fans of cat mysteries, this tale is one you will enjoy and keep to enjoy again and again.  The adventures of Joel Grey, Dulcie, and Kit in the world of human crime are as unique as the cats themselves.

Talented author Shirley Rousseau Murphy opens a new door to the cat mystery that you will willingly step through to follow adventuresome cats and great human characters through the maze of crime solving with its attendant motives and emotions. 

An escaped criminal has returned to his home town of Molena Point, shooting one person and kidnapping Wilma Getz who happens to be Dulcie's human companion.  His crime spree continues while another man returns to town for a purpose of his own.  The kidnapper has something he wants but has nothing to do with Wilma. 

Will their paths cross?  What does the kidnapper want from Wilma? 

This tale is a series of rapidly moving events, one setting off the next. While wanting to know what happens on each page, you won't want the story to end.  This is a fun visit with some very special cats and their humans. 

I'm pleased to recommend this book by talented author Shirley Rousseau Murphy to any cat lover, mystery fan, or anyone looking for reading enjoyment.  You will be looking for the other books by this talented author.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.

 

 

The Hooded Hawke by Karen Harper

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN:  0312947712

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Queen Elizabeth I’s much-anticipated late summer progress through England becomes deadly soon after it starts when her falconer is killed by an unknown archer.  More disturbingly, the queen was at his side when he was killed.  Was she the true target?  Or was it her new friend, and subject of her admiration, Francis Drake?

As the queen and her entourage continue on their seemingly cursed trip, more attempts are made on the queen’s—or is it Drake’s?—life.   Elizabeth fears a conspiracy between her cousin, the Duke of Norfolk, and Mary, Queen of Scots, while Drake also has a treacherous cousin who may wish him dead.  Elizabeth even begins to distrust her beloved Robert Dudley.

Enlisting the help of her Privy Plot Council, enlarged by the addition of Drake and Justin Keenan, Elizabeth will go to any lengths, regardless of the danger to herself, to reveal the plotters.  The mystery temporarily enlivens Meg Milligrew, who is mourning her infant son.

History lovers, particularly aficionados of Elizabethan England, will adore this book, but others may find it a bit dull.  A few jarringly un-sixteenth century expressions slip in among all the “’s bloods” and “’s truths” and author Karen Harper fails to breathe much life into real historical figures, although her fictional characters are vibrant.  For readers who can get past the absurd premise that Queen Elizabeth might have been an amateur sleuth in her spare time, The Hooded Hawke is an enjoyable and mildly educational diversion.

 

 

Too Hot to Handle by Mary Jane Maffini

Publisher: Rendezvous Crime  ISBN 978 1 894917 57 5

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Fiona Silk’s life could hardly be more complicated and depressing: her beloved Marc-Andre has lost his memory after a murderous attack; her rat of an ex-husband is dragging out the divorce proceedings in hopes of bankrupting her; her career as a romance writer is going nowhere, and her agent has come up with a plan so weird it might just work: that’s if Fiona lives long enough to complete it.  Then someone sets her house afire……….

Nothing is going well for Fiona, but she has a couple of aces up her sleeve.  One is that against the odds Sergeant Sarrazin, the local police detective, believes she isn’t an arsonist after all, and 16 year old street kid Josey Thring is on her side and always springing to her defence.

Josey, in many ways older and wiser than Fiona, looks out for her friend’s interests.  It’s Josey who finds out that the unfriendly medical aide who tries to keep Fiona away from Marc, and who sets her up to be suspected of fraud, is in fact a cousin of the pushy developer who wants to buy Fiona’s home.  Jean-Claude, the developer, is a far more likely arsonist than Fiona, but can it be proved?  He’s not the only likely candidate--Fiona also suspects her almost-ex-husband, who also stands to gain by the burning of her house. 

Then there’s the mystery of the black Cadillac: who is the dead man and where’s the blond who was with him before it crashed and burned?  This question is more important that it initially seems.

Like many an amateur sleuth before her, Fiona ends up in the penultimate chapter in danger of a nasty death, and it’s up to her to save herself.  This she does quite cleverly, proving herself to be a slippery character in more ways than one.  Maybe there’s something to her agent’s idea of writing an erotic cookbook after all?

This is a quick, light read with great plot twists, entertaining characters, and some fabulous recipes that you will want to try out as soon as your dietician’s back is turned.

 

 

Be Mine by Laura Kasischke

Publisher: Harvest Books  ISBN-10: 0156033831

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Sherrie Seymour's son leaves for college, Sherrie can't help but feel the pangs of middle-age that seems to accompany the 'empty nest' feeling, but she still finds contentment in her career as a teacher at the Community college teacher and a strong marriage to the man she has loved for decades.  Her contentment, however, is about to change into something much more exciting when she begins receiving anonymous love notes from a secret admirer. 

Thinking she has discovered the identity of her admirer, Sherry starts a wild passionate affair with the younger man, an affair that makes her feel vitally alive and seems to be adding a spark to her marriage.  But all too soon she will discover that nothing is what it seems, including her belief in what she thought was the perfect life before recent events began to spiral out of control, and now everything is at risk, including her beloved family.

Kasinschke proves that a good tale of suspense does not need big guns, bombs, drug lords, and all the other over the top plot devices that so many titles are rife with these days.  Her disconcerting reminder that a much more precarious terror can be set into motion with the simplest of decisions impulsively made, the consequences capable of revealing the ugly truths that have long been lurking behind masks of self denial.  This is a chilling and discomfiting novel that will make readers squirm, but one that is almost impossible to put down, it's shocking trail of secrets never leading to where you might expect.   Highly recommended, this read is time well spent.      

 

 

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Publisher:  Mira  ISBN:  0-7783-25245

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Sir Edward and Julia Grey are hosting a musical evening when Sir Edward collapses and begins convulsing on the floor of the music room.  His death a few hours later is not a shock; he had a bad heart and had been frail for years.  What is shocking is the claim of Nicholas Brisbane that Edward was murdered.

Julia learns that her husband engaged Brisbane as a private investigator shortly before his death, when he received threatening letters.  She dismisses Brisbane’s claims as nonsense until nearly a year after her husband’s death when she discovers one of the threatening letters.  Then she begs Brisbane to resume his investigation, determined to help him herself.

Julia does learn the identity of her husband’s killer, but along the way, she also uncovers shocking truths about her husband’s secret life, and she makes a few discoveries about herself as well.  Her growing attraction to the mysterious Nicholas Brisbane confuses matters still more.

A very engaging heroine, Julia is surrounded by equally likeable (or satisfyingly dislikeable) relatives, friends, and servants.  Her family, the Marches, are delightfully eccentric and the humor with which Julia conveys her story (in the first person) make it an amusing read.  This is a new series not to be missed.