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Cold Dark Matter by Alex Brett

Publisher:  The Dundurn Group ISBN:  10:1550024949

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

Do you like science? Would you enjoy a mystery with a background setting in astronomy?  If so, Cold Dark Matter is a must read for you.

Talented Alex Brett gives us a realistic look at the astronomy complex in Hawaii where astronomers dream of finding a new planet or star. But what is there in such a place that would make someone commit murder? Was Yves Grenier murdered or not?

That's what Morgan O'Brien is sent to find out ostensibly.  But she's also charged with recovering Grenier's personal journals.  The question is, for whom is she really working. The old friend, Duncan, who said she was going officially for his office, disappears as her investigation heats up.

A complex plot with twists and turns and lots of excitement that will keep you reading. You'll really like the characters, so well drawn are they, that some of them will seem like people you know.  You'll love the background setting at the giant space watching telescope complex, but be sure to wear your parka.  It really gets cold up there.

Enjoyable all the way through, this is a definite should read for mystery buffs.  Recommended as a thoroughly satisfying read.  Enjoy.

 

The Wrong Stuff by Sharon Fiffer 

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312989504

 Reviewed by  C.J.Curry, New Mystery Reader

Jane Wheel:  antiques picker, junker-in-general, part time  amateur detective.   Wow all of this on top of being a full time Wife and Mother.... No wonder Jane begins to feel that her life is totally out of control when her son misses out on a school field trip because she misplaced his permission slip beneath boxes and boxes of estate sale 'finds'.  Jane determines to gain control over the chaos in her life and the first step is to purchase a book entitled " OVERSTUFFED' by Belinda St. Germain.  Belinda is to become her guru.  Yeah right! 
 

Adding to this mix is the fact that her-best-friend-since-first-grade Tim Lowry wants Jane to become an associate in his thriving Antiques Dealership.  Also former Police Detective Bruce Oh is asking her to become a consultant in his newly opened private investigations firm.  While weighing  all the possibilities of which offer to accept Jane receives a telephone call from Bruce Oh- His wife Claire, an antiques dealer herself, has been arrested and charged with Murder!  And she is asking for Jane to come to her aid.!  Jane begins her enquiries at Campbell and LaSalle, the premier restorers/refinishers/rebuilders of antiques in the country, where she stumbles across a dead body. Accident? Murder? Jane, along with her friend Tim, is determined to find out.

 

Sharon Fiffer is an author after my own heart!  Bakelite goodies, silver candlesticks, well don't  all good junkers have  little things they  like to collect ?  Ms Fiffer has a great wit in her writting and her characters are the people we all have in our lives from her loving and understanding husband to her guilt-laying-on Mother.  We know these people.  We are comfortable with them.  I can't wait for the next " Stuff" book! 

 

Foul Matter by Martha Grimes

Publisher: New American Library ISBN: 0451212932

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Best selling author  Paul Giverney has decided to change his publisher.  For reasons known only to himself he has chosen the firm of Mackensie - Haack, which is not know for it's loyalty to authors.  Giverney will switch to them only under his conditions-- two of which are 1) they get rid of author Ned Islay, and 2) they give him Islay's editor. 

Bobby Mackensie and senior editor Clive Esterhaus know they can't just fire Islay because his editor will leave.  They decide to call Danny Zito, one of their authors who is in witness protection because his book was about the mob.  Zito claims to have several "hits" under his belt.

This is not a novel for serious detective fans, but a spoof on publishers.  The plot takes several turns and the characters are zany.  Any one who likes comic detective novels or movies will belly laugh all the way through this one.

 

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

At 810 pages, this is up there with "The Moonstone" for length, and is even more complex in plot.

Author MacDonald takes us back to the early 1960's in Canada, and manages to convey the flavour and ambience of the time so well that if you were there, you'll feel at home, and if you weren't, you'll find it a fascinating bit of time-travel.

It is in this perilous world of the cold war that Madeleine begins to grow up, and where a lot of experiences happen that will shape the woman she will become: a comic, a lesbian, and a seeker for truth.

The second half of the book takes place when Madeleine is 32, and just as the book is in two halves, the woman is also.  Part of Madeleine is the successful, popular, career woman--and part is trapped in the past where a blue dress, unpleasant after school activities, and a dead child have kept her from becoming whole.

MacDonald's pitiless prose does not make for comfortable reading:  " Children heal quickly, so that, like a tree growing up around an axe, the child grows up healthy until, with time, the embedded thing begins to rust and seep and the idea of extracting it is worse than the thought of dying from it slowly."

Madeleine turns to Nina, her therapist, for help, but it is a torturing experience.  It's as if she has an infected splinter in her soul: she knows it has to come out for the infection to clear, but the pain is severe, and the swollen tissue is hiding the point of the splinter.  At length, after the death of her father and the break-down of a long-term relationship, Madeleine knows she must find the truth behind that child's death all those years ago, however hurtful it proves.

Madeleine eventually reaches the end of the road to face a truth so horrifying that it might have been better to live with the splinter.  But at least she discovers where the real blame lies, and while she can't 'make things better', she does bring a certain relief to some of her fellow sufferers.  Along the way she reaches a level of understanding with her mother that is years overdue.

This book was inspired by a real-life murder case, in which there may have been a miscarriage of justice, something which we seem to be hearing about more and more as forensic science improves.  We may like to think that the police are different to the rest of us, who work in factories or shops or transport companies and must deliver quotas, but to quote a recent television police show: "This isn't about justice, it's about through-put of cases."  While that sort of thinking holds sway, authors won't have to worry about real-life cases drying up as a source of inspiration.                                                                             

 

Split Second by David Baldacci

Publisher: Warner Vision  ISBN: 0446614459

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Remember Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire. Well, the protagonist of Split Second, Sean King is a lot reminiscent of the Clint Eastwood character.

David Baldacci returns in fine form with his latest thriller Split Second, that combines in it the suspense of Absolute Power and the legal thriller elements of The Simple Truth. This time round Baldacci takes us to the lives of the Secret agents, the black cats assigned to protect Prime Ministers, Presidents, and people of that ilk.

Sean King is good at his job- his job is to take care of the security of Presidential Candidate Clyde Ritter, But on one such campaigning, distraction, a split second distraction proved fateful, and Ritter was assassinated. Thus a glowing career came to an end, - and King resumed his law practice in North Carolina. Eight years later, another Secret Service Agent Michelle Maxwell is caught in a similar predicament when the Presidential Candidate she was supposed to protect is kidnapped right under her nose. Together (King and Maxwell), the ex-service agents decide to investigate further into the matter and what follows is trademark Baldacci suspense and action that would keep the reader glued to the pages.

The suspense, as I said earlier is riveting. What the ‘split second distraction’ that caused the death and career of Ritter and King respectively, is not revealed until the end, that enhances the suspense in the work.

A good read and an excellent buy. Recommended, highly recommended.

 

Confessions of a Deathmaiden by Ruth Francisco

 Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446614394

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, , New Mystery Reader

Frances Oliver, a single woman living in L.A. has an interesting profession; she’s a deathmaiden.  Her job is to help those who are dying to pass through to the other side with as little conflict as possible.  And her latest case, that of a young boy, will take her down a slippery trail of deceit, conspiracy, and murder.  When he dies unexpectedly, Frances feels sure that it wasn’t his time, and so begins to investigate his all-too-sudden death.  Leading from L.A. to the remote villages of Mexico, Frances is soon on the trail of a corporation that harvests body parts for profit.  And so as Frances attempts to stay alive, fall in love, and reveal the truth, her beliefs will be turned upside down as she learns what ugliness greed can bring.           

This highly original debut novel from Francisco has much to offer the discriminating reader.  With its innovative look at spirituality, the health-care system, medicine for profit, and the grandeur of death, it provides both an uplifting message, and a cautionary tale.  In this wild ride through Los Angeles, the back villages of Mexico, and the mired hallways of corporate medicine, we are treated to stimulating suspense and provocative ideas that both stir and resound.   A great first read from Francisco, and we look forward to her next.   

 

Caroline Parker is an eight year old girl growing up in poverty in North Carolina.  Since her father's murder, she has taken good care of her younger sister Emma.  Her mother has now remarried and her stepfather has found a job in another town.  Not wanting to move, Carrie and Emma run away from home.  This leads to a train of tragic events that could destroy one or both of them.

This is a novel narrated by Caroline and is about sexual child abuse.  Flock has done an excellent job of seeing abuse from a child's perspective and the psychological ways she chooses to deal with it.  Most of the adult characters are compassionate, while most of the child characters are intolerant.  Caroline's mother, who is uneducated and unable to support a family constantly harps at her to get along with her stepfather.

This is a hard novel for parents to contend with and has to be put aside frequently.  But despite how emtionally difficult it is to read, it must be picked up again to find out how it all come to an end.

 

Dead Famous by Carol O’Connell

 Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group ISBN: 0425197972

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

NY detective Riker has been out of commission since an attack that almost left him dead six months previously and is now working at his brother’s place of business cleaning up crime scenes.  It’s there that he is drawn into another insidious plot, and meets a woman who steals his heart, Johanna Apollo.  And the enigmatic Mallory, needing to know more of Johanna, quickly leans that the woman is somehow tied to the death of an FBI agent, the systematic killing of members of a jury, and a shock-jock who is playing a deadly game with the entire city.      

It’s really Riker who steals the show in this latest from O’Connell.  While Mallory plays second fiddle, we are treated to this surly detective’s near ruin, and his slow climb back to the living.  An intelligent and suspenseful read that’s full of twists and turns and more head games than you can shake a stick at, and with hidden motives behind every action, it’ll keep you guessing until the bitter end.   Its beautifully drawn characters add even more depth to a story that has a strong and lasting emotional impact, and will leave you pondering its meaning long after it’s over.   Highly recommended.

 

Fortunes of the Dead by Lynn Hightower

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN: 0743463900

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

P.I. Lena Padget and her boyfriend of two years, homicide detective Joel Mendez, have finally bought a house together and are slowing working on moving their possessions in.  Meanwhile, Joel has been working on a case involving a missing ATF intern, Cheryl Dunkirk, when Cheryl’s family decides to hire Lena to aide in the investigation, putting the newly committed couple at increasing odds with each other.  And when ATF agent Wilson McCoy is brought in from California to investigate a case involving a serial killer who is targeting agents involved in the Waco incident, it becomes clear that these cases may just somehow be connected.     

This story told from several points of view is both fascinating and compelling.  In less competent hands, this inconsistent narrative may have been jarring and rough, but with Hightower’s accomplished touch is instead a smooth and flowing depiction of many lives in turmoil.  And with its fully formed characters and compassionate story line, this is a wonderful addition to Hightower’s work.  Highly recommended, this poignant tale of heroes and villains, where neither is really either, is a must read for fans of serious mystery fiction.   

 

Intent to Harm by Jonnie Jacobs

 Publisher: Pinnacle Books  ISBN: ISBN: 0786016183

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When San Francisco attorney Kali O’Brien is called to Tahoe to meet with a potential client whose mysterious demeanor obviously is hiding something, she is a bit more than intrigued.  And when the client is shot just as their meeting is getting started, and Kali herself is injured, it’s up to Kali to find out what was behind this dangerously puzzling meeting.  Suddenly she finds herself trapped in a web involving hit men, family secrets, and hidden identities.  With her life still in danger, this feisty and intelligent heroine will have to use all her skills and connections to stay alive.

This series from Jacobs deserves far more attention then it gets.  Consistently above average, Jacobs writing is both suspenseful and gripping.  Kali O’Brien is a wonderful character, and it’s a delight to watch her biological clock tick, along with her growing feelings for her boyfriend.  This particular outing from Jacobs is as good as her last, which is saying a heck of a lot, as her last was highly rated.  The twists and turns will keep you guessing, and more than likely reading late into the night. This is one series that just seems to keep getting better and better, and if you haven’t taken pleasure in it yet, now’s the time.

 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Zoey Jones is divorced by her husband AND fired from her job, she packs up her teenage daughter Claire and returns to her hometown, Blythevills, Missouri.  She gets a job in her uncle's bar, tries to keep a civil relationship with her rebellious daughter, tolerates her mother's invasion into her new home to paint and decorate, and gives as much attention as possible to her retired father who has a heart condition.

Then sexy detective Hank Westlake asks her for a date.  Zoey and Hank grew up together, attended school sogether, had off and on crushes on each other -- but never dated.

On their first date, which Claire has joined, Hank is paged.  He hustles them into his car and zips them off to a convenience store which has been robbed and the clerk killed.  There he arrests Zoey's father for murder.

AHEAD OF THE GAME is a fun book to read.  Each of the characters  has his or her own eccentricities , which surprisingly mesh together for a good plot.  There are twists and turns which eventually lead to the real culprit, in spite of the fact that the evidence against Zoey's father seems solid.  An excellent read for fans of light mysteries. 

 

Untamed by Merline Lovelace

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778320758

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Orphaned at an early age, Lady Barbara Chamberlain and her brother Harry have developed a checkered past.  In order to stay alive and lead a comfortable life, they have cleverly bilked the wealthy out of thousands of pounds.  Now an English court has put Harry in chains and shipped him off to Bermuda to perform hard labor.

Barbara manages to visit Harry in prison, and he sends her off to the states to con a rich half breed woman out of enough money to pay for his escape.  However, on her arrival she learns she must first get past the woman's son Zachariah Morgan, who happens to be a lawyer, an Army officer, and a friend of President Andrew Jackson.

Although UNTAMED has a plot full of intrigue, manipulation and murder, the primary plot is romance.  Barbara and Zachariah must learn to trust each other and work together to foil everyone who tries to break that trust.  Romance readers should enjoy this latest.

 

Pasta Imperfect by Maddy Hunter

Publisher: Pocket ISBN: 0743482913

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

If traveling is your 'thing', this is one mystery you won't want to miss.  It will make a terrific traveling companion, fun, light-hearted and well aware of all the troubles that can arise on a guided tour.

Emily Andrew is a tour guide from Iowa to whom things happen. Her luggage is missing, her hotel burns, her hair gets burned and people on the tour, including her ex-husband whose post-sex-change antics are cause for laughter, are scatty as any author can make them.  This is a tale that will tickle your funny bone page by page.

One of the unscheduled events on this tour is murder, but it doesn't faze Emily's undaunted Iowans, with whom she has traveled before. They vote to keep going instead of return home.

Highly recommended from page one to page 285. This book will make you go looking for the others in this series. Just pack your bag and join the tour. You'll love it!!  I did.