Click on links for buying info with Amazon

Out of the Blue by Tom Inabnet

Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (May 17, 2004) ISBN: 0595311849

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

Never ever judge a book by its cover- and I mean never, ever.

When the copy of Out of the Blue reached me, I though what I had in hand was romance thriller. The cover reminded me a lot of the cover jackets we see of TV Movie cassettes- I guess you would know what I have in mind- if you actually see the cover.

But Out of the Blue gave me superb reading pleasure. It is a sci-fi thriller of the first order and is of the same stuff that makes the novels of Isaac Asimov and Michael Crichton. Professor Dalton Parker has just completed his dream project and has developed the Infinity Device- the world’s first matter transmission machine. What, you ask, is the Matter Transmission Machine? That , my friend is for you to find out- simply read the book- but without being a spoilsport I can tell you one thing- this machine (I believe by some other name) was often seen in the Star Trek movies.  The machine is the next step in intergalactic travel but a horrible accident in the lab, just days before the commission of the machine, puts years of research into waste. Is someone after the technology, and will the Infinity Device prove a bane or boon for mankind. What follows is action and sci- fi at its best culminating in an exciting finish. The book jacket informs us that there is more to come in the Infinity Device series and I eagerly look forward to reading the same.

A highly enjoyable thriller. Out of the Blue is heavily recommended.

 

Fast One by Paul Cain

Publisher: Blackmask.com ISBN: 159654015X

Reviewed by Paul Kane, New Mystery Reader

When Raymond Chandler describes Fast One, a 1933 novel by Paul Cain, as “some kind of high point in the ultra hard-boiled manner”, it’s a cinch that the book is worth more than a second look.  Well, let me give you the works: this Chandler guy, he’s on the square – and only a sap would disbelieve him.  Fast One is a swell steer; it is a dandy of a gangster story.

The plot is chaotic and complex, impossible to summarize and seemingly ad-hoc in nature, but packed full of action and incident.  Gerry Kells, gunman and gambler, wants a simple life; but in Los Angeles in the early 1930s, it isn’t that simple.  L.A. is an open city and Jack Rose, a mobster from back East, wants Kells to work for him.  Kells refuses, but still he finds himself caught in the crossfire.  To survive, Kells must play off Rose against his rivals, biding his time until he can blow town on the Chief (which should be, but isn’t, a midnight train).  And Kells has another complication in his life.  He has fallen for Granquist, a dame with “interesting curves”.  The girl is a lush, but Kells is smitten.  Maybe it’s the way her eyelids flutter when she sleeps.  (The character of Granquist, incidentally, was based on the Hollywood actress Gertrude Michael, who was Cain’s lover at the time.  She is known to have been an alcoholic.)

Raymond Chandler (same guy) once famously wrote that, whenever he was unsure how to carry a story forward, he had a guy come into the room with a gun.  Fast One is written like this, although Cain is able to come up with his own variant on Chandler’s device.  Kells is knocked unconscious an inordinate number of times (“Then everything got dark…” begins one such passage), and of course when he awakes the light hurts his eyes, even when keeps them closed.

It would be overstating the case to say that Fast One is a great novel, as say Hammett’s The Glass Key is undoubtedly great; but it is a classic of the hard-boiled style, whether you think of this as the transposition of Hemingway and Jack London’s manner to an urban American context, or as simply the house style of Captain Joseph T. Shaw’s Black Mask magazine.

I enjoyed this novel very much.  One of its pleasures for me, as you may already have gathered, lay in its language, in the diction and idiom of 1930s America.  Another lay in its sympathetic treatment of an African-American boxer, Gilroy (this at a time when Hollywood would often feature comic Negroes in the movies).  There may have been sound reasons for this.  Fast One was based on a number of tales originally published in Black Mask magazine, which had many African-Americans among its readership. 

Chiefly, though, I loved Cain’s novel because it is the best movie that Laurence Tierney never made.  Fast One is kind of like Red Harvest meets A Farewell to Arms, if that makes any kind of sense; a gangster story crossed with a doomed romance.  And its killer ending will break your heart.

 

Fallen by Kathleen George

Publisher: Dell ISBN: 0440236649 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Dr. Daniel Ross takes a bullet to the heart in the dark parking lot outside his office building.  Detective Richard Christie turns up no suspects  and starts combing through the doctor's past life and turns up what he believes to be a 30 year old murder.

Elizabeth Ross is grief stricken and dazed.  Both of her children are away at college so she has no one to talk to and share her grief with.  Frank Razzi moves into the house net door to her and begins to being her back to a somewhat normal state of mind -- until she finds out who he really is -- and what he knows about Daniel's death.

This plot will boggle the reader's mind.  Ms. George is a master at crafting characters with strong personalities which are altered by past events.  No reader can walk away from this novel without becoming a Kathleen George fan.

 

Kiss Her Goodbye by Wendy Corsi Staub

Publisher: Pinnacle Books ISBN: 0786016418 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla 

Matt and Kathleen Carmody have moved to Albany, her home town, but into an upscale suburb where their three children can attend the best schools and make friends.  Teenagers start disappearing and Kathleen becomes over protective of her teenage daughter Gen.  When Gen's best friend is murdered and Gen herself is wounded and hospitalized, Kathleen realizes that it is all tied to her own past, a choice she made many years ago, and a secret she has kept for years.  Now she must do everything in her power to protect her daughter, because she just may be next on the madman’s list.

Kiss Her Goodbye is hard to read, because one cannot avoid getting caught up in the heart rending plot involving children in jeopardy.  But Staub does an excellent job of chronicling the growing fear in both the adult mind and the teenage mind, and the age gap consequences that result from these fears.  Any parent who has experienced the traumatic loss of a child may want to think twice before reading this book, but for those who enjoy gripping suspense, this one comes with it in spades, along with plenty of suspects that will keep the reader guessing all they until the end.

 

The Last King by Nichelle D. Tramble

Publisher: One World/Strivers Row ISBN: 0375758828

Reviewed by Donna Padilla 

Maceo Redfield's aunt calls and asks him to return to Oakland after a two year absence.  Basketball pro Cotton Knox, drug dealer "Holly" Ford , and Maceo were all fatherless boys who were taken under the wing of Daddy Al, who happens to be Maceo's grandfather.  A call girl has been murdered and the police are looking for Holly who has gone underground.  Maceo returns to find out if Holly killed her, but believes he is being framed and needs to find out who did the killing. 

This is a hard book to get into because it seems to begin in the middle of a saga and the first few chapters have to be scrutinized to develop a background.  But once into the plot, the reader realizes that it is all about the dark side of life, with the only bright side being Maceo's loyalty to his boyhood friend, but in these gritty streets, that can count for a lot.

 

The Jupiter Myth by Lindsey Davis

Publisher: Mysterious Press  ISBN: 0446692972

 Reviewed by Karen Treanor

Was it too much to ask that, after solving the murders in the bathhouse and spin-doctoring several sticky situations, Marcus Didius Falco might have a real vacation?  If you've read any of the previous books about Emperor Vespasian's least disciplined but most effective Informer, you can already guess the answer. 

Staying on in Britain so that his wife can visit her aunt, Falco is drawn into another case by Flavius Hilarus, the procurator of finance for this outpost of empire.  Verovolcus, the corpse, appears to have been a victim of street crime, but Falco knows there's more to it.  The new victim was heavily involved in the 'Bodies in the Bathhouse' case: there has to be a connection.  The man once described as "The Travis McGee of first century Rome" gives up his hope of a peaceful vacation and bends his particular talents to the solution of this new mystery. 

Falco hopes to solve the crime discreetly, so as not to cause unrest or scandal among the local populace, many of whom are equivocal about the Roman occupation.  King Togidubnus is supposed to be an ally of Rome, but he may have his own agenda in this matter; after all, the dead man was his liaison officer.  The king gives the impression of a rural boob when it suits him, but he has a certain rat cunning Falco knows better than to overlook.   

It doesn't take long for Falco to discover there's a connection between the late unlamented Verovolcus and organised crime, Londinium's new growth industry.  Finding the murderer may also result in unwanted publicity about this blot on the province's virtue, which might not go down well back in Rome.  Complicating his life even further is the disappearance of Falco's friend and ally, Petronius; and the presence in the Falco household of his wife's newest find, a street urchin with a propensity for property destruction.  Add to this the reappearance of an old girlfriend, and the disappearance of Falco's sister Maia, possibly kidnapped by the local Godfather, and you have as tangled a plot as any real-life story from Roman history. 

Lindsey Davis has a deft touch with this series, and has been doing it long enough to be able to drop in real facts about first century Rome and its empire without appearing to lecture the reader.  Almost as a by the way it is conveyed to the reader that dying at age 35 or 40 was considered normal; that the spiritual home of the female gladiators was Halicarnassus. 

A rousing good read; highly recommended.

                                                                                     

A Grave Denied by Dana Stabenow 

Publisher: St. Martin's Press  ISBN: 0312985649

The 13th in the series, this latest Kate Shugak novel is by far the best yet.  It’s springtime in Alaska, and when a glacier’s melt reveals the body of the small-town handyman, Len Dreyer, Kate is called in by trooper Jim Chopin to help investigate his murder.  With very little to go on, and not a suspect in sight, the two must search through the lives of those they know and trust to find the culprit.  After Kate’s cabin is burned down, leaving her and Johnny homeless, the stakes rise even higher.  And while Kate has slowly learned to cope with the death of her old lover, she is still learning how to raise his teenage son, Johnny, who has some issues of his own.  So while Kate and Jim battle a growing attraction, and Johnny faces adolescence, a murderer is still out there and will keep on killing unless the two can find him first. 

More than just a mystery, this is a story about community, about a place so unique many of us can only imagine.  Like stepping through a time machine into the old Wild West, this venture into one of the final frontiers is smart and sensitive, while being rich with detail and ambiance.  Rife with characters one might actually enjoy a beer with; they populate this special place with a sincerity and grace.  Then of course there’s the mystery itself, a big-city nightmare for the unsuspecting, bringing suspense and darkness to this tale of light, ultimately achieving the perfect balance. This is an immensely enjoyable book with all the ingredients needed for an ideal read and comes highly recommended.            

 

Blitz by Ken Bruen

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312327269

There’s a psychopath on the loose in London, and he’s killing cops.  The men and women on the case, however, have a bit of psychopath in themselves as well.  Elizabeth Falls is flirting with alcoholism, Brant is flirting with bribery and rage, and Porter, the only sane one, restricts his flirting to men.  Together these cops will come together, fall on their asses, solve a crime, and commit some while they’re at it.

If you prefer your mysteries to follow the standard formula, you won’t enjoy this one.  But if you want a wicked and edgy thriller, you couldn’t ask for better.  Bruen’s novel approach to mayhem and murder is unique and compelling, making for a fast read that’ll leave you rocking and reeling.  The good guys are often bad, and the bad guys are even worse, making it all the more convincing for its honest portrayal of people who make their living in the underworld of evil. One of my favorite new authors, this latest comes highly recommended.

 

Play Dead by Anne Frasier

 Publisher: Onyx Books ISBN: 0451411374

Someone is stalking the streets of Savannah, taking their victims and leaving them in a state of paralysis that mimics death.  Detective Elise Sandberg and her new partner, David Gould, are on the case, a case that will take them down a trail involving spells and voodoo and force them both to confront their tragic pasts.  David, once with the FBI, is still reeling from a very personal case that left him childless and with an ex-wife accused of murder.  Elise’s past involves a childhood spent studying the spells and roots steeped in the South’s history, a past she will have to face if she’s ever to successfully track this very twisted killer.

Frasier makes the most of the beautiful city of Savannah in her latest thriller, incorporating the shadowy underworld of voodoo and superstition that still remains vital in some parts of the community.  Her characters also shine, both compassionate and fragile, she maximizes the impact of their painful histories, bringing about a very realistic depiction of people caught between the past and the present.  A highly charged suspense novel, this latest will easily satisfy.

 

 

Sacrifice by Clyde Phillips

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0061032123

San Francisco detective Jane Candiotti is back, pairing with her husband Kenny, also a detective, on a case involving the death of the beloved Phil Iverson, a man whose contributions to charity were well known.  When next the horrific multiple deaths of homeless men herald the arrival of a serial killer, it doesn’t take long for Jane to suspect they’re somehow all connected.  Battling time, the system, and sometimes each other, Jane and Kenny must track the killer before more innocent people die.    

As usual Phillip’s writing is solid and suspenseful.  A robust police thriller, this latest will surely be another success involving the dynamic team of Jane and Kenny.  Additionally, their personal struggle to not allow work to interfere with their relationship adds a nice contrast to this by-the-book procedural mystery, evening out the story’s more hard-edged corners.  And so while it may not be the most illustrious novel of the year, it will certainly entertain and challenge most mystery buffs.