Small Press Reviews
 

 

Home
Current Issue
Additional New Mysteries
Readers Recommend
Small Press
Featured Authors
Books In Audio
Hard Cover Archives
Submission Guidelines
Short Stories
Mystery links

click on links for buying info

Blood Red Square by Pat Mullan

Publishers: LBF Books, 2006  ISBN:   0977308251

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

“…. blurb informs us that Mullan is ready with another MacDara thriller Who Killed Hammarskjold? I have already booked my copy!! Recommended, highly recommended.”

This is how I ended my review of THE CIRCLE OF SODOM by Pat Mullan in 2003. And I was WRONG. The new MacDara thriller is out, but the title has been changed to BLOOD RED SQUARE.  And readers who expect the suspense, thrill and chill of THE CIRCLE OF SODOM are in store for a shock….for the suspense, thrill and chill are double in tone and content in BLOOD RED SQUARE- and its one hellovva read.

This time around former MASH Commanding Officer- turned- multimillionaire – turned Special envoy of the President of United States is called for duty .. international duty…. It all starts with the surfacing up of certain secret documents which shed light on the true story behind the death of Dag Hammarskjold. For those weak in history, here is the story- Dag Hammarskjold was the UN Secretary General during the late Fifties – y’know doing the same job our Kofi Annan does now. He died in mysterious circumstances, supposedly in an air crash in the Congo in 1961. though rumors were afloat that it was a murder, investigations drew a blank, and the death was considered as an accident. But now certain documents which throw light on the death of Dag Hammarskjold have reached the wrong hands, in particular one Misha Kedrow and a terrorist named Eduardo Kelly Herrara aka Conor Brady. If the documents, reaches the general public, and if a new twist is given to the same, it might simply mean a new world crisis, a new cold war…. A not so cold a war. Chaos is the verdict, and only one man can stop them, and that someone is our own Owen MacDara. How MacDara solves the problem, and how he prevents world chaos forms the theme of the work.

Pat Mullan is no one-book wonder. Each book is heavily researched and authenticated by factual reality and with some literary license, his books are not ‘fiction’ but ‘fact-ions’. The idea of taking a page from history, giving a fictional twist to it, has been used by many an author, in particular by Ken Follett (Eye of the Needle) and Jack Higgins (Eagle has Landed). These books were grand reads, and it was difficult to distinguish were reality ended and fiction started. Likewise herein, BLOOD RED SQUARE also provides a grand read, and as already said it’s a thrilling chilling read.

The blurb again informs us that the author is ready with another thriller TRIBUNAL: DUBLIN NOIR, and I for one have already booked my copy. With THE CIRCLE OF SODOM, Mullan had challenged Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton, and with BLOOD RED SQUARE he has challenged Ken Follett and Jack Higgins. One thing is for sure, Mullan is a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

Cracks in the Rainbow by Mark Bouton

Publishers: Five Star, 2005 ISBN:1594143498

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Following the 2003 thriller Max Conquers the Cosmos, FBI Agent turned author Mark Bouton returns in fine form with Cracks in the Rainbow- a topnotch thriller that’s truly fast action paced.

Policeman Rick Dower has the unenviable task of disclosing a bad news of a death, rather a murder, of a friend to his widow. Amidst the tears, Terri (the widow) informs Dower that her husband had been living in fear and that he believed that a group having “computer connections” was out to get him. Dower decides to investigate and his preliminary investigation reveals that the death was anything but accidental. He seeks the help of Don Harsha and finds evidence of the use of explosives in the ‘accident site.’ Dover’s investigation leads him to a computer programme- he knows that there is something important in- but he is at his wits end to break open the code and find out what it is. And the secret in it, might just be the difference between life and death. What follows is hif-fi action fare, that’s sure goanna please the lover of thriller- adventure works.

A grand read with a stunning finish, - And hey Hollywood!!!!- why don’t you make a movie out of this book!!!!!!!

Recommended, highly recommended.

 

The Lincoln Room by Valerie J Patterson

Publisher: BooksUnbound ISBN 978-1-59201-043-1

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Alex Jerdan is a genuine success story: at not-quite-31 she has survived a lonely childhood as an orphan, won a major beauty pageant, made a career in  New York in stockbroking, and finally returned to her hometown to settle down.

This isn't just any old hometown, however: Highland, Pennsylvania, has a nasty secret.  Its apparently idyllic lifestyle and prosperity has been purchased at a shocking price.   Just how high this price is Alex finds out as her research for a book she's writing takes deeper into the history of the town.   It's a dark and bloody history, and it's not really a surprise when Alex finds that many of its players remain as spirits near where so many of them died.  Almost every time she visits the library's Lincoln Room, Alex meets one or more of these spirits, who want her to read an old diary that has come down from the Kizer family, all of whose female members have died young..

During her research, Alex  finds out is that her mother isn't dead as she was always told, but in a facility for the mentally ill.  She visits when she can, but finds herself drawn more and more back to the Lincoln Room.   Highland's attractive sheriff, Seth Kizer, begs Alex to keep away  from the room, but she can't do it.   There's a sense of forces gathering around and focussing on Alex, but she can't understand why.  (The perceptive reader will begin to get an inkling, however.)

Things become clearer when Alex reaches the last chapter of the Kizer Women's diary.   Events then move rapidly to a climax, with the spirit world taking sides in a final battle.  On one side, the friendly spirits who see in Alex their last chance for release; on the other, the malign spirits who will do whatever is needed to bring about her death and absorption into the host of ghosts.  The one person Alex thought she could count on to help her seems at the last minute to be on the side of darkness.   The denouement is a little confusing and will repay careful reading; don't race through it .

This isn't a book to read on a dark day, especially not in a spooky old room in the library--save it for a sunny day by the pool when you have friends nearby.   Another rousing read from the Books Unbound stable.  Available in a variety of e-formats, details on www.booksunbound.com

 

Under A Cloud by Eliot Sefrin

Publisher: iUniverse Inc 978 0 595 372 0 / 595 37214 7

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

New York and violence: they go together as closely as peanut butter and jelly o  Homer and Marge.  Eliot Sefrin's first novel looks at the emotions and motivations behind the violence, and asks if there's any hope for real social progress in our crowded cities.

Police officers Matt Holland and his partner Rachel Cook are on an ordinary call out for a suspected burglary. It's a normal day for them, they do all the right things, go by the book--and suddenly their world falls in on them.  Matt shoots a suspect in a dark cellar, the suspect turns out to be a young--and innocent--black boy, and after that a tornado of trouble blows Matt into a nightmare.

The award-winning, much-decorated cop becomes an untouchable to some former friends, a butt of media malice, the lit match to a potential race riot, and an embarrassment to some of his colleagues, and an unwilling hero to others.  His family is horribly affected by the aftermath of the shooting; he has to send his daughters away, guards are stationed in his house, and the inexorable process of determining whether the shooting was culpable homicide or self defense seems to go on forever.

About the time Matt (and the reader) are wondering how much more he can take, there is a surprising twist to the story. 

Sefrin's background in journalism shows clearly throughout the book.  His attention to detail, his ability to take you into the hospital waiting room, the police interview room, and the dark streets of Brownsville is what makes the book a stand-out of its genre. 

 

Dancer in the Dark by Joseph Steven

Publisher: Airleaf Publishing ISBN 1 59453 954 5

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

It's understandable that the police don't immediately realize a serial sniper has started working again: there's a hiatus of 16 months between the 8th and subsequent killings.  The 9th and 10th  victims are both policemen, which raises the stakes considerably.  A high-profile mayoral candidate wastes no time making an election issue of the murders.  He get a lot of media attention because his wife was victim number 8.  

The Mayor of New York comes down like the proverbial ton of bricks on the police commissioner, who hands on the pressure to his officers, particular Lieutenant Moran and Sergeant Hernandez.  Painstaking clue by clue, they narrow the list of suspects from 8 million down to one, along the way getting briefly sidetracked into an investigation of organized crime activities.

There are some good characterizations in this story, some fiendish plot complications, and some memorable phrases. Hernandez spots a car full of FBI agents on stake-out and thinks "Subtle as bears".  The author based some of the story on a real-life case his policeman father was involved in, and the day-to-day police work is described in great detail that has the ring of truth.

The book is somewhat spoiled by want of more careful editing.  The dialogue is stilted in places, the author never uses one adjective where he can fit in three or four, and he name-drops shamelessly.  Characters wear 'double-breasted Versace suits', 'modest gray Donna Karans', Burberry shawls, drink Bombay gin and wear Colgate smiles--all on one page!  Like many others recently, this book confuses its and it's.  You have to wonder if MS Spellchecker has killed off all the real live proofreaders, or if people just don't care. 

Despite those failings, Dancer in the Dark  is a fast-moving, involving story that will keep you on your mental toes.

 

The Curse Of The Mandreill Dagger by Margaret Evans

Publisher: Moonlight MysteryPress  

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

If you are looking for something to take your mind off what the bill will be while waiting for a medical specialist, buy a copy of this novella and take it along for your next appointment.  Specialists are notoriously prone to running late, and this little book will while away the odd half hour very nicely.

It's set in 1899, and concerns a family curse, a murder, and various romances.  Young Katharine Bennett (no relation to Elizabeth and her sisters), longs to be the lucky one chosen by Adrian Wellingsley as his bride, but there are many more sophisticate and wealthy candidates.   Katharine and her brother attend Adrian's college graduation party, expecting nothing but dancing and dining, but instead Katharine is hit over the head and pushed into the bushes by an unknown person.

Not long after that, Sir Ralph Kittering is found stabbed, and it appears that Katharine may have had a very lucky escape indeed.  This casts a pall over the party, and after questioning by the sheriff, everyone is sent home.   The murder is just another link in a long chain of unfortunate events that some blame on the family curse , which has to do with a missing jeweled dagger.

Katharine thinks this is pretty silly: modern people don't believe in curses.  But there's no denying the Wellingsleys have had a bad run of luck in recent decades.  If the cause isn't magic of some sort, it must be discoverable by reasoning, and armed with Aristotelian logic, Katharine sets about getting to the bottom of the mystery.

As is often the cast with innocent, young, female detectives, Katharine's attempts come to a nasty conclusion, and she finds herself in a boarded up well with a dead man.  Kicking and screaming don't help: Katharine will just have to rely on someone's memories of times past to find her.  But will he remember in time?

 

The Hobo Chronicles by S. E. Schenkel

Publisher: WingsePress   ISBN 1 59099 599 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

What do you do when you're in a private eye's office and he has a heart attack?  Call an ambulance.  While you're wondering what to do next and a client walks in, if you're Acey Tapp, you pretend you belong there and take the case.

Acey is out of work, out of girlfriends, and coping badly with a mother slowly sliding into dementia.  What could be more natural than he decides to hire himself on to the one-man firm of Webster McMunn?  We all need a sea-change once in a while, and this looks like Acey's chance to turn his life in another direction.

It's not long before he discovers that McMunn is a monomaniac, who doesn't snoop around erring husbands or lurk behind counters to catch dishonest salesladies.  No, McMunn spends his life tracking missing persons and trying to reunite families.  Sometimes this results in happy endings, but mostly it just lets the families know where the bodies are buried.  (McMunn eventually tells Acey the horrific reason for his crusade.)

McMunn takes Acey on as his apprentice and things begin to move fast: Acey gets beaten up, McMunn gets beaten up, Acey is told that his landlord is selling the building--and this is all within a few days.  An existing case of McMunn's turns out to be tied up with the body in the dumpster that Acey watched the police recover in the first chapter, which looks pretty straightforward at first, but then gets more and more murky. 

McMunn fires Acey, and kindly, helpful sheriff Whitcomb offers Acey another job, but there's more to it than first appears.  About the time Acey realises he's  in a serious mess, a large gun is preventing his backtracking out of the quagmire.  Luckily an opportune tree enters the picture just at the right moment. 

This promises to be the first in a series, and I'm looking forward to the next one.  The author has invented a collection of interesting characters, particularly the individually dysfunctional but  somehow workable-as-a-group residents of the Sleep-Over Motel.   At $11.95 you won't buy many better bargains this year.

 

 

Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry Greenwood 

Publisher: Allen & Unwin   ISBN  1 74114 512 0

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

When an author forsakes a serial character and strikes out in a new direction, readers sometimes pick up the new book with misgivings.

Having become a diehard fan of Kerry Greenwood's flapper heroine Phyrne Fisher, I wasn't sure that I'd like  modern-day junoesque blonde baker Corinna Chapman.  It only took a few chapters before I was hooked on the new series, and eagerly awaiting Book 3 in the collection.

Corinna owns and operates the bakery  "Earthly Delights",  just down the street from the boutique chocolate shop "Heavenly Pleasures" in an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia.  When she's not busy turning out breads and muffins of all descriptions, Corinna is canoodling with her Israeli lover Daniel, or being inveigled into helping one of her many friends and neighbors with a problem or a mystery. Her best friend is a white witch, and most of her neighbors are equally eccentric, just in different ways.

Corinna's home is in an apartment house modeled after a Roman villa, albeit high-rise.  As the book opens, the neighborhood is wondering about the mystery man who has rented a vacant flat on the top floor.  Who is he, and why do sinister strangers have an interest in him? 

While Corinna and her friends try to get to the bottom of this mystery, Daniel is staking out the chocolate shop to discover who's tampering with the expensive goodies by filling them with chili, ketchup and worse.  Is the next step to be poison, or is this just a malicious practical joker at work?

Add to the mix a  lost kitten, a recovering heroin addict, an unlikely pair of lovers (she's a Turkish Muslim, he's Chinese), an embittered old man or two, and some incredibly tasty chocolate recipes and you have a delightful reason to spend an afternoon in your favorite reading spot.

 

THE BLACK LIZARD and BEAST IN THE SHADOWS By Edogawa Rampo (Translated by Ian Hughes)

Publishers: Kurodahan Press, 2006 ISBN: 4902075210

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan., New Mystery Reader

For me, this is the first of a kind- and for millions of others this would be an eye-opener.

Let me be frank, how many of us mystery lovers are acquainted with the literature of the Orient- and by literature I mean not the hardcore literature as such, but also the genre of pulp fiction. Not many I would guess. True, we have heard of the “ancient Chinese mystery”, the “tales of the Samurais”- but have not had the privilege to read novels as such.

It is here pulp fiction lovers would owe a debt of gratitude to Ian Hughes, who has translated Edogawa “Edgar Allan Poe of Japan” Rampo’s two short novels The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows – at the same time retaining the Japanese flavor in it.

Rampo’s protagonist here is the suave, intelligent and sophisticated Akechi Kogoro. In The Black Lizard, Kogoro is in hot pursuit of a master criminal, a femme fatale known by the name “The Black Lizard”. The relation between the Master detective and The Black Lizard- in a game of one-upmanship is the essence of this work, that it makes tight reading.

Beast in the Shadows, I believe is a work written before The Black Lizard. Again a grotesque tale of violence, terror and mystery. Told in the style of Dr. Watson writing about Sherlock Holmes, the novel follows the life in crime fighting of detective Oe Shundei and the perils he has to face.

Both books, might in plot seem to be archaic, but there importance lies not in the aspect of the plot as such, but there place as classics in modern mystery writing. This one sure is going to be the pride of my world pulp mystery collection.

 

Crazy Lady by James Hawkins

Publisher:  The Dundurn Group ISBN:  13: 9781550025811

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Talented author James Hawkins offers up some very strange characters and some very strange goings on in this multi-genre tale of mystery and romance. However, not all is as it seems.

An out-of-this-world woman named Janet is roaming around, trying to find her childhood home, a policeman dies in a fish tank and Trina Button, a sort-of nemesis to the local police finds Janet and takes her home, much to her family's dismay.

The woman's case involves a town run by a religious cult, travel between Canada and England as Trina brings in a retired agent in England named Daphne to find out who Janet is.

Lots of interesting things are happening on other levels at the same time. A Scotland Yard detective has taken time off to write a book and gone to France where he finds an old memory keeps him from accomplishing anything. Then the memory in the person of an old love turns up and things get interesting. They thought each other was dead.

Written to hold your interest, this multi-mystery will keep you reading.  Recommended as a well told tale you will enjoy.  I did.

 

SHOUT IN THE DARK by Christopher Wright

Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory ISBN 0 7599 3991 8

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This book has all the ingredients for a best-seller: a bitter young widower who finds refuge in the priesthood; a sultry beauty who's playing several games at once; a kindly but mysterious old priest, a bunch of thugs and neo-Nazis, a Christian relic, and the Pope himself.  It's unfortunate that it won't be a best seller because it's not being published by a mainstream publisher who can afford to spend thousands on hyping it in the mass media.

However, the discerning readers of this website may have their interest piqued and take the trouble to seek out the book itself. 

Marco Sartini lost his wife and unborn child in a mindless attack by German thugs in Rome.  Six years later, a newly ordained priest, Marco gets involved in a quagmire of Vatican politics, neo-fascism, and murder.  A long-long bronze head purporting to be that of Christ sculpted from first-hand knowledge turns up, only to be proven to be a hoax.  But behind the hoax is the genuine article, and it's the desire of several competing groups to find the real head.   The neo-Nazis want it for a horrible purpose which Marco endangers his own life to prevent, and they aren't backward about murdering anyone who gets in their path.

There's a car chase up Italy and into France and back again,  several attempts on Marco's life, a lot of stumbling blocks cast in Marco's path by the Vatican itself, and an ongoing sexual tension between Marco and the lush Laura Rosetti, whose parentage is quite a surprise to the often naive Marco.

There are some uneven spots in the book which would benefit from another edit, and the illustrations lend an unfortunately amateur look to the end product; however, you will find many things to enjoy in this adventure/mystery.   

 

A Date With The Devil by Kim Mathis Schwartz

Publisher:  AuthorHouse ISBN:  1420863053

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Have you ever walked through a cemetery after dark?  How did you feel?  Scared?  If so, you'll understand how four college girls felt on Halloween night when they accompanied a fifth girl, a friend, to the cemetery where her fiancé was buried. Think how they felt as a ceremony to raise the dead was performed over his grave.

Then think later, how it would feel to learn the fiancé's body was missing. Would you tell the police what had happened? Who could have taken the body? Why?

Does that give you shivers?  A Date With The Devil certainly will. You'll look over your shoulder as you walk out after dark, no matter where you are.

Join Dr. Ashley Ravenstone as she battles the forces of darkness when sent to the University of California to find out why a young college woman was murdered and how. Will she be in time to prevent further murders?

A book to read on Halloween or any dark, stormy night. A well told tale by talented Kim Mathis Schwartz to please the fans of the dark paranormal or horror.

 

Mortal Fools Elissa Leidy

Publisher:  AuthorHouse ISBN:  1420814141

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

Louis Souz is murdered in his pickup at his sweetheart's home while two hands worked nearby. They heard the shot, but saw nothing. The investigation leads the police to his wife, Julia, and involves two of her very good friends, Annie and Brad.

Louis was an opportunist, always seeking the better deal than the one he had. He'd lie and cheat to gain his ends. None of this was evident to Julia when they married.

Louis took a job at a restaurant shortly after they were married but it didn't last.  He was involved with other women and that led to his being fired.  While there, he managed to make several enemies. But did anyone of them hate enough to kill him? Or was there another motive?

Louis drifted from one woman to another while trying to maintain his marriage. How long could he have continued this duplicity if someone hadn't shot him? 

The complicated web that Louis wove of his life seemed to involve everyone he came in contact with.  Join the police as they try to solve the riddles he created and left behind. 

You'll cross paths with the rich and famous and poor and unknown as you track the story of Louis' life and his marriage to Julia.  A read to hold your attention by a talented new author on the mystery scene.  Well plotted with well drawn characters to show the way. Enjoy.

 

NO SUCH THING AS A SECRET Shelly Fredman

Publisher: Authorhouse ISBN 1 4208 4381 8

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

For readers who enjoy the adventures of Bubbles Yablonsky, there's a new girl in town: Brandy Alexander.  (Yes, aren't parents cruel?)

A cut or two above Bubbles in social class, Brandy is a TV feature reporter who yearns for better stories than flower shows and cute kiddie contests.  She gets more than she expected when she returns home to Philadelphia for a wedding and finds herself hip-deep in murder.

Determined to find out why someone tried to blow up her friend John's boat, Brandy finds a link to two other murders.  Along the way she's attacked by an ax-wielding trick-or-treater, visits an S&M club with a dangerously attractive man, and fights against the rekindling of an old flame--all of this amid fittings for a truly horrid bridesmaid's gown.

By luck, guts and persistence, Brandy figures out how the murders tie in to a swag of dirty construction contracts, but not before putting herself into mortal danger, in the best investigative reporter tradition.

Brandy is a likeable protagonist with a fine supporting cast of eccentric, sometimes scruffy, friends and neighbors. The book is an entertaining read which won't leave you afraid to turn out the light.