September 2008 Paperback Mysteries
 

 

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Still Waters by John Moss

Publisher:  Pantheon Press  ISBN:  978-1-55002-790-7

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

If you enjoy a good tale that offers more than just a mystery, this is a book you will enjoy. A chance to learn about a Japanese fist called koi, and to delve into the personal histories of the main characters to learn why they are as they are just as they do, will add to your reading enjoyment.

A rich man is found floating in his fish pond and they call it murder instead of accident or suicide.  The job of Miranda Quin and David Morgan of the Toronto Police must find proof and motive and identify the killer.  Just as their investigation gets under way, the dead man’s mistress turns up dead in his house and Miranda finds herself executrix of a part of his will and doesn’t know why. 

Over time she realizes she does have a connection to the dead man and is removed from this case.  She and Morgan delve into the past and learn the truth about him and his mistress and how Miranda is connected to him.  It is a shock for her to realize that she didn’t remember him when their connection was so traumatic.

A nosy neighbor, the mystery of the fish ponds, hidden rooms and tunnels in the old house and the mystery deepens.  The setting is well described and the characters bear watching as you read for there is more to this tale than you think.

Recommended as a read for any mystery buff who enjoys those added touches that will keep you reading.  Talented author John Moss has crafted a tale you will remember and have you looking for others of his work.  Enjoy. I did.

 

 

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay 

Publisher: Bantam  ISBN-10: 0553590421

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Milford, Connecticut high school teacher Terry Archer has always known about his wife's mysterious past involving the sudden disappearance of her parents and teenaged brother when she was only 14 in a case that was never solved.  But now, 25 years later, troubling events related to the unanswered questions begin to occur with increased frequency.   And while the cryptic emails, his wife's suspicion that she and their daughter are being followed and watched, and familiar objects from his wife's past appearing out of nowhere all seem to point to the return of one intent on finishing the job, Terry can't help but begin to question just how deeply his wife is and was involved.  So with a danger that seems to be coming only closer with each day, Terry will be forced to face the possibility that he might not know those closest to him as he once thought.

Almost unbearably suspenseful, the biggest challenge in reading this latest from Barclay lies in stopping yourself from rushing to the last chapter to see how it all turns out.  A word of advice - don't, you'll miss one hell of a ride if you do.  Not only does Barclay infuse the read with engagingly realistic characters and a guessing game of the highest magnitude, but also with a sly sense of humor that ultimately balances perfectly with the ever growing sense of alarm.  And just in case you think you have it all figured out about halfway through, you might want to think again, there's plenty more bombshells waiting at the end of the line.   An almost flawless read, this one shouldn't be missed.

 

 

 

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Published by Harper  ISBN-10: 0061147982

Reviewed by Glen Clooney, New Mystery Reader

Joe Hill is an excellent writer.  That's all there is to it.  In this collection of short stories he demonstrates clear skill with depth of character and a strong ability to completely draw the reader into each tale.  The title of the book comes from the second story.  These are not horror stories in the traditional sense -- they are well-told tales of oddball people in unusual situations.  My favorite was "Pop Art", which is perhaps the strangest tale of them all, though they are all thrilling, touching, vivid stories.  This anthology may not appeal to the die-hard gore/horror fans, but to anyone who simply enjoys a good read you can't go wrong with this book.  Joe Hill has established himself as an unique and greatly talented writer.

 

 

Midnight Rambler by James Swain

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN-10: 034547547X

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

After being accused of severely beating a suspected serial killer and "resigning" from the Boward County Police Department Florida, Jack Carpenter's life took a serious downfall.  Having lost his wife, home, and reputation, Jack now barely scrapes by, eking out a barely sustainable living by finding missing children.  But things are only going to get worse when the body of one of the now convicted serial killer's victims is discovered freshly buried in a backyard, a discovery that seems to prove the convicted killer might be innocent.  And when new victims are found murdered bearing the same M.O., making the release of the killer inevitable, Jack must face not only the community's doubts, but his own.

As the creator of the successful Tony Valentine series, many readers will no doubt recognize this author's name.  However, in this new novel, Swain eschews what's come before to take a new direction with his writing, creating an entirely different read full of new characters and an approach that is such a digression from his previous tales, that if not for his name on the book many fans might not recognize this as written by him at all. 

And so having gotten the background out of the way, let it be said that whatever GPS system Swain might now be using to point him in this new direction, it's functioning amazingly well.  Everything about this latest works: from the highly empathetic and self-deprecating main character, to the novel's deep understanding of victimization, to the evocative issues raised concerning justice and the infallibility of the system built to ensure it.  So while fans of Swain's previous novels might initially miss the familiar, it's no doubt they'll get over it pretty damned quickly.  Let's hope this is only the first stop in the new road Swain has chosen to travel, because if continued, it promises to be one hell of a trip from here on out.        

 

 

 

Last Call by JD Seamus

Publisher: Capital Press ISBN-10: 0980225604

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Every so often you pick up a book that seems so familiar that you think you’ve read it before.  Sometimes it’s because the book harks back to a classic writer of the past, in the case of “Last Call”, Damon Runyon, with a touch of Jerome K Jerome. 

Jimmie Collins came to New York from Ireland via illegal entry from Canada, worked on the wrong side of the law until he got a grubstake and then bought a bar.  He still does a little gentle thieving, but uses the proceeds for good causes: a children’s charity, and for the support of his disabled wife and daughter.  Life is hard but pretty good, and then Jimmie gets cancer.  With his usual pragmatic approach to a problem, Jimmie sets up a facility for the ongoing upkeep of his family after his imminent death.  Unfortunately the people who are to administer the fund are crooks.

The regulars at Jimmie’s bar are a bunch of social misfits. Nathan Melton , the venture capitalist;  the cops Stuart and Ken; Terri McCumber, a nice woman still hoping to find a nice man; Sal, Gail and Ray, and a lot of other people who don’t quite fit anywhere else have found a home at Jimmie’s.  When he dies and they find out his wife and daughter are being cheated out of the money Jimmie left for their care, the friends get together to put things right.  Jimmie’s been good to his patrons; now the least they can do is carry out his last wishes.  Nathan has his brother FedEx him a .22 revolver with a silencer, and the gang is off and running.

How a bunch of amateurs track down and kidnap the first of the crooks, what they do when he dies of natural (sort of) causes after a little mild torture, and what happens next forms the last part of this very entertaining story.    You will find Nathan and Terri and most of the other characters in this book very likeable, to the point that you can see yourself going along with their hare-brained scheme if given the chance.   

 

 

 

Down River by John Hart

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312945663

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Five years ago Adam Chase fled from his privileged upbringing in Rowan County, North Carolina to New York after being acquitted of the brutal murder of a young man, leaving behind his family, his dreams of taking over the family farm, and the one love of his life.  But after a disturbing and mysterious phone call from his troubled best friend asking him to come home, he hesitantly returns to the place he thought he'd never see again.  But home is not the place he knew before, the resentment of those who believed in his guilt, including his own father, still not forgotten.  And when after his return disturbing events begin to take place, he'll have to dig deep into the past to finally discover the ugly truths behind all that's happened that have drained him of faith and hope and that might now bring what's left crashing down for good.

In his new novel, John Hart confronts the shattering repercussions that can result from long held secrets, human frailty, pride, and the purposeful denial of damaging truths.  Like with his first, fans will again enjoy Hart's unflinching look at family dynamics and the roles they play in shaping events and personalities.  But, while this latest is beautifully written, occasionally the character's motivations and feelings do seem a bit strained, with their ability for forgiveness and forgetting changing direction a bit too frequently to be consistently convincing throughout.  However, all in all, this remains a poignant depiction of family and love, denial and truth, and the regrets and promise inherent in each.      

 

 

The Pure In Heart by Susan Hill

Publisher: Overlook Trade Paperback  ISBN-10: 1590200858

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In her follow up to The Various Haunts of Men, Hill continues her saga of tragedy, life, hope, love and loss of the residents of the England cathedral village of Lafferton.  This time out, DCI Simon Serrailler is summoned back home from a vacation with the news that his younger sister Martha, who has been severely disabled since birth, might be dying.  And while she does eventually recover, it doesn't take long for Simon to be thrust into another tragedy; that of a young boy's sudden disappearance from outside his home. 

With not even a single clue to follow in the boy's abduction, and still reeling from the previous year's tragedies, Simon, his team of investigators, and the whole community are thrust once again into the spotlight as they face yet another event that will shake the foundation of the entire village to its very core.

As with her first outing, Hill once again creates a story that is more about the personal dramas of the citizens of this special community than the solving of a particular mystery; one that details emotions and consequences, rather than procedures and facts.  And, as before, she continues to do it with great empathy, insight, and poignancy.  A story rife with sentiments that are both familiar and provocative, Hill once again encapsulates a place and time that could be anywhere and everywhere, and one filled with such promise that readers will eagerly anticipate another return.

 

 

 

Rebel Island by Rick Riordan

Publisher:  Bantam ISBN: 0553587845

Reviewed by Kathryn Lawson, New Mystery Reader

When a group of people with dangerous secrets and hidden motivations are trapped on Rebel Island by a hurricane, the margaritas flow freely at first.  But dark humor gives way to real concern when dead bodies start piling up faster than the booze bottles, in this rollicking novel that’s as driven by the characters as by the plot.  Semi-retired private investigator Tres Navarre and his pregnant bride Maia decide to spend their wedding night on Rebel Island at the behest of Garrett, Tres’s exasperating but loveable brother, who has his own reasons for wanting them there.  Throw in an elderly criminal defense attorney, the U.S. marshal whose murderous tendencies pushed Tres into early retirement, three drug-addled college students, and a mysterious explosives expert for a light-hearted and entertaining read.

Riordan is the winner of the Edgar, Anthony, and Shamus Awards, and this novel showcases his talent.  He moves fluidly between present-day action and Tres’s bittersweet memories of the island.  Dialogue is crisp, with each character having a unique voice.  Swift pacing and credible plot twists keep the story moving until its surprising conclusion.  All in all, an enjoyable book that will whet your appetite for the other Tres Navarre mysteries. 

 

 

 

Second Shot by Zoe Sharp

Publisher: St Martin's Minotaur    ISBN 0312358962

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The liner notes for this book say that Zoe Sharp spent most of her childhood aboard a catamaran on the northwest coast of England, opted out of mainstream education at age 12, and wrote her first novel at 15. After a start like that, of course the next step would be for Zoe to invent a series that makes readers into instant addicts of the adventures of Charlie Fox.

Charlie (Çharlotte in another life) was in the SAS, and has put the skills she learned there to good use as a bodyguard.  Her present job is guarding a new lottery millionaire and her daughter from what seems to be a threat from the ex-partner.  It isn't long before it become apparent to Charlie and her boss Sean that there are a lot more dangerous predators after Simone and little Ella than the rather ineffective Matt.  

There's a complex web of subplots in this story, involving a bunch of very dangerous people, all of whom have an interest in Simone and Ella.   Some who seem to be friends turn out not to be, and others who might be enemies are, for their own reasons, sometimes friendly.  Every second character has an ulterior motive, most of them based on greed of one sort or another, so when murder enters the scene nobody should be surprised.  Sharp skillfully twists all the various threads into a firm rope, one that looks suspiciously like a noose from some angles.

The action takes place in England and New England, and action there is in huge measure.  Charlie is shot twice in the early stages of the story and faces incredible danger hampered by an injured body that can't keep up with her tenacious determination.  Used to overcoming barriers by physical means, Charlie is forced back on her mental reserves to deal with the dangers that come at her like line drives from Fenway Park.  

Charlie Fox has all the attributes of a superheroine, with the added blessing of  a conscience, which makes her more than just a  two-dimensional bash-'em-up character.  If you want a challenging read, one that doesn't let up from page one to the end of the book, seek out this book.

 

 

 

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay

Publisher: Vintage  ISBN-10: 0307276732

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Lindsay brings back the dark and deadly Miami forensic technician and engaging serial killer, Dexter Morgan, in his third outing in the wildly successful series.  This time out, Dexter is confronted with not only a new case in which the victims are decapitated and burned, but he is also faced with his upcoming wedding and, worst of all, the possible disappearance of his "dark passenger," the voice in his head that has aided him throughout the years in seeking down the bad guys and killing them. 

And as Dexter struggles to uncover the latest killer to hit Miami, an investigation made a lot more difficult without the aide of his dark passenger, his fear of losing his abilities to track and to kill becomes only stronger as does the danger to his new family, and unless he's able to find the connection, if any, he might just lose it all.

Lindsay once again makes it oddly easy to empathize with this charming psychopathic serial killer; this time out raising the intensity up a notch through Dexter's self-doubts of what little might remain of himself should he be robbed of his dark passenger.  And the creepy crawly fear brought on by the "watcher" who is targeting Dexter and his burgeoning serial- killer soon-to-be stepchildren adds yet another enticing element.  Combine all this with the humorous moments of both preparing for a wedding and Dexter's awkwardness at actually feeling something, and you end up with an addition to the series that fans will definitely want to add to their shelves.    

 

 

 

Immortal Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

Publisher:  Dark Sky Publishing, Inc. ISBN:  13:  9780976924357

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Do you believe in vampires and other dark-side beings? Talented author Jim Michael Hansen will keep you reading as you join homicide detective Bryson Coventry in a case guaranteed to have you sleeping with a light on. Vampires seem to have invaded his world.

A young singer is told by a woman from Jamaica that she is descended from vampires and because of this, she is in danger from a group called the Slayers.  It calls for courage to stay and face the killers.  Will she be able to do it, or will she become a victim, or will she run?

Bryson Coventry must deal with a new type of killer when a victim is found with a stake through her heart.  Was she a vampire, or was her killer just adding his own twist to murder?

Coventry’s investigation brings him into contact with the Jamaican woman and he feels drawn to her. Can he separate his emotion from his hunt for the murderer as she plays more than one role in this well told tale? 

Talented author Jim Michael Hansen will have you wanting to tell people not do go down that dark street, to avoid going out at night. And you will willingly follow them into those dark streets just to see what happens. Just be careful and consider wearing a garlic necklace to keep vampires away. 

This is a tale that will have you rechecking your windows at night and looking over your shoulder for those mysterious fliers with fangs.  Guaranteed to keep you reading, this is one of the best thrillers I’ve read yet.  A different type of thriller - deftly laced with horror that will have you looking for Mr. Hansen’s other books.

Enjoy.  I certainly did.

 

 

Bloodshot by Stuart McBride

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN-10: 0312387952

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader                                                     

The men and women of the Grampian Police Force Headquarters in Aberdeen make up a repertory company that will remind you of many other police forces: the 87th Precinct, the L.A.P.D. of Del Shannon, and most of all, Peter Turnbull’s P Division, but the Aberdonians have personalities and peccadillos all their own.  From the huge and grumpy Inspector Insch to the chain-smoking, sarcastic DI Steel, from the pregnant medical examiner to the partial-amputee newsman, you’ll find this as mixed a cast of characters as any real life police community.

Standing out from the scrum is D S Logan McRae and his live-in girlfriend P C Jackie Watson.  McRae labours under the burden of a previous success which got him labelled “Hero Cop”, a source of resentment in some quarters.  It doesn’t take much for the label to turn into a weapon in the hands of the hostile media when a champion football player, Rob McIntyre, is charged with a series of vicious rapes. 

McIntyre is released without trial when his mother and girlfriend alibi him for every one of the rapes.  Later, his weaselly lawyer is attacked and nearly beaten to death, and later still Rob himself is found half-dead in an alley.  Suspicion falls on the police, who are known to bitterly resent McIntyre’s having gotten off being tried for the crimes.

This is only one of the cases that’s keeping the station stretched to the limits of its manpower and beyond.  Also on the docket is the case of a murderous eight-year-old; a bondage club death that looks at first like murder but then looks accidental but then looks like murder again; a particularly nasty porno ring; and one of the worst amateur productions of the Mikado you’ll ever hear about.  It may be hard to believe, but all of these tie up together by the end of the book, and McBride does it very neatly indeed.

McBride conveys the atmosphere of Aberdeen and its inhabitants but resists the urge to replicate the dialect except for a few flourishes here and there. Anyone who’s ever spent an evening drinking with an Aberdonian will know how wise a decision this was.

“Bloodshot” starts with a fairly gory few pages which might put off the faint-hearted, but persevere and you will find a story that’s a cut above most police procedurals; one that will keep you reading til well past your bedtime.

 

 

 

The Death List by Paul Johnston

Publisher: Mira  ISBN-10: 0778325628

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When crime writer Matt Wells begins receiving emails from an adoring fan during a dry spell in his career, it seems to be just what he needs to boost his sagging ego and so he's more than willing to begin a friendly correspondence with the fan.  It doesn't take long, however, for the emails to turn dark and ominous, and when bodies begin to turn up, their manner of death strikingly similar to the victims in Matt's books, Matt is shocked to find himself suddenly engaged in a deadly game with a madman.  And as the killer begins to strike closer and closer to home, Matt will find himself willing to do anything to protect his loved ones, even as he becomes the prime suspect in a string of death's that might just end with his own.

Even though we've all most likely have seen this storyline before, it remains a premise that still has some juice in it.  But while Johnston attacks it with gusto, the question of import is if there's enough originality in his version to carry this familiar plot to a successful completion.  Struggling writers, or anyone in the field of book publishing, will certainly get a kick out of his somewhat sardonic look at this dog-eat-dog world, and readers will no doubt enjoy the insights of what goes on behind the curtains, but still, is this enough? 

Maybe so, but it will take a bit of imagination for some readers to accept some of the scenes as realistic, and, unfortunately, more than a bit of patience to feel any kind of compassion for this self-pitying character who tends to wallow in his discontent.  But if you can get past that, there's a decent amount of thrills and chills here to make it worthwhile.

 

 

Asking For Murder by Roberta Isleib

Publisher: Berkley  ISBN-10: 0425223310

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

One would think that life as a psychologist and advice columnist in New Haven, CT would be a somewhat peaceful existence, but unfortunately for Dr. Rebecca Butterman, this rarely turns out to be the case.  Especially now, when a simple visit to her best friend, social worker Annabelle Hart, leads to the frightening discover of her dear friend barely hanging on to life after a brutal attack.  So now in charge of her friend’s confidential patient files, files that just might lead to a killer, she’s torn between solving the mystery herself, and breaking all the rules of confidentiality to share the files with the handsome cop she met on a previous case who still seems to make her flutter.  With plenty of suspects to consider, not to mention a killer who seems to be getting closer to Rebecca just as she comes closer to the truth, this might prove to be the dangerous case yet for this amateur sleuth.

Isleib continues her successful new series with another solid outing that proves to be just as suspenseful and entertaining as what has come before.  Engaging as ever is the well-drawn character of Rebecca herself: an intelligent, compassionate, and self-deprecating woman whose dedication to her profession and loved ones is refreshingly human, just as are her gently offered tidbits of well-intentioned and often wise advice to those in need.  Another great outing that should please old and new fans alike.

 

 

 

The Garden of Evil by David Hewson

Publisher: Macmillan ISBN-10: 0330435965   

Reviewed by R. Don Copeland, New Mystery Reader

Italian police detective Nick Costa is one hell of a detective, and in ‘the Garden of Evil’ author David Hewson has written what may well be his best of the six Nick Costa ‘Rome Series’ books. Costa and his expert team know how to work a homicide scene like nobody’s business- which is especially important when you find the hooded and armed gunman hasn’t quite left the crime-scene.  The gunman exchanges gunfire with the police and escapes.  But not before killing somebody near and dear to Nick Costa.

With the apparent homicide count already at three and Nick Costa now having a personal stake in finding the killer, Costa is officially taken off the case.  Nick’s boss has other ideas, however.  Nick is reassigned to protect art expert Sister Agata Graziano, who is authenticating a work of art that just might be an important Caravaggio.  Turns out that Costa’s boss has steered Costa right back in the thick of things, for the apparent Caravaggio holds important clues to the identity of the triple homicide killer.

The stakes ratchet up for Nick Costa when still yet more bodies appear beneath cobblestones. The action of ‘the Garden of Evil’ is so detailed and fast-paced, don’t be surprised as the pages of the book run vividly through your imagination as though cinema itself.  ‘The Garden of Evil’ is a top-notch Italian Police Procedural that will keep you on the edge of your chair, and David Hewson does his already strong body of work one better with this his latest book.  ‘The Garden of Evil’ is strongly recommended.

 

 

The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin

Publishers: Little, Brown & Co.  ISBN: 0316018864

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

There is a heavier dose of action, there is a heavier dose of suspense, and there is a heavier dose what Inspector Rebus does best in the latest Ian Rankin novel- THE NAMING OF THE DEAD.  Following a two year hiatus, possibility because of the intense investigative drive he had to undergo in the search of the ‘Witch’ in WITCH HUNT, Inspector Rebus is back- in fine, scintillating form with THE NAMING OF THE DEAD.

The blurb informs us that this is the 20th Inspector Rebus novel- for this many outings it's great to see that this veteran investigator has not lost his sheen.

This time round, Rebus had decided to take it easy. He decides to stick with the station itself- and not go into ‘active’ duty. England is holding host to an international political conference- and the big political shots, be it Pres. Bush from US and Putin from Russia- all are there in Edinburgh. And although Rebus would have liked an “its not my job” kind of day, certain events literally drags him away from the station to the conference, mainly when it's discovered a foreign dignitary has apparently committed suicide by jumping out of a window. While Rebus would very much like to close the case as a suicide, the veteran cop instinct rises to the forefront and he begins probing into the incident- the classic case of Rebus poking his nose into an area which he shouldn’t have.

And soon, Rebus is caught in an imbroglio, one from which he cannot easily cut loose from. What follows is traditional Rankin suspense – the one which we have come to associate with the previous 19 Rebus thrillers.

With loads of suspense, this Rebus outing is a better one among the various Rebus works I have read.  The wonderful mix of characters- real life ones with fictional ones, enhances the credibility of the suspense in the work. A good read with an exciting finish, this one is highly recommended.