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Worst Enemies by Dana King

E-Book on Kindle

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The last one in a series of murders lies on the street, at “quarter to five in the morning, cold and dark as Stalin’s conscience.”  The dead man is the last link to the one responsible for all the deaths, and his death makes any future prosecution unlikely to succeed.  As the two cops stand looking down at the body, they know it.  One of them will respond by sliding further into the bottle; the other will find an antidote at his parents’ house, eating comfort food and fending off his mother’s attempts to match him up with a nice girl.

The story begins with two men in a bar discussing their problems with their wives.  Tom Widmer fears his is about to take him to the cleaners in the divorce court; Cropcho also wants to be free.  Ho-hum, “Strangers in a Train” again, right?  Very quickly the story moves to Act Two where Widmer brutally and ineptly murders Cropcho’s wife, and is soon behind bars wondering how the law caught up with him so fast.

From there the familiar story veers off in a plot so original and complex you will be unable to put the book down until you work your way through the last twist.  It becomes apparent who the real villain is well before the end of the book, but that doesn’t release the tension.  You really want the police to be able to pin the crime where it belongs, but every time they sort out another kink in the trail, another murder removes the chance of successful prosecution.  Through it all, the real killer seems able to avoid any blood spatter, so how can justice ever be achieved?

Just as you are resigned to having to settle for an inconclusive ending, there’s one last scene where one of the cops pays a final visit to the suspect, and you realise that justice deferred is sometimes the best punishment of all.

I finished reading this book on a gurney in an Emergency Room with crying kids, a car accident victim and a loud drunk keeping me company, and barely noticed them.  If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is!  Download this book to your e-reader today; you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

The Widow’s Daughter by Nicholas Edlin

Publisher: Penguin

Reviewer: Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

The Widow’s Daughter cover may feature a romanticized woman’s outline, glowing pearls accentuating her elegant neck, but this novel strays from the World War II romance genre it seems to convey.

In A Widow’s Daughter, Unites States Marines Captain Peter Sokol fights bouts of casualties interlaced with boredom, trying to stay under the radar during his stint as a doctor stationed in Auckland, New Zealand.  His fellow Americans, also struggling with culture shock and uncertainty, notice the initial welcome from the locals change into cold stares after the soldiers start engaging in barfights and frequenting Chinese-run bordellos and opium dens.  None of those things entice Peter, but his attention is fully captured by a chestnut-haired beauty named Emily Walters.  Nearly cloistered by her nervous and overwhelming family, Sokol knows there’s something off about the family but can’t quite figure out what.

Interspersed with segments on surgeries and courtship are shards of Peter’s life as a painter during the Vietnam War, allowing him to witness anew another generation of hopeless kids and a reminder from his past.  The reminder, linking past and present for Peter, encourages him to finally reexamine his choices and how he transformed from the man he was then to the person he is now.

Rather than follow an entirely linear narrative, author Nicholas Edlin drops significant, time-stopping one line statements like the American A20 Havocs unleashed bombs in the Pacific Arena.  While the foretelling may give a hint of future emotions or entanglements, the careful wording results in deepening the mystery and quickening the pace.  The only missteps occur when Edlin uses non-American spellings or word choice during Peter’s narration.  A Californian would say “cookies” rather than “biscuits” and would use “z” instead of “s” in words such as “realize.”

Readers may think that they know how the romance will play out in A Widow’s Daughter but Edlin shows that there is much more than a stereotypical wartime romance at stake here.  More than a romance or war story or roman a clef, A Widow’s Daughter shares the revelations of the narrator’s core, with hints of Kurt Vonnegut’s humor and insight.

 

 

 

The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

It's been 30 odd years since the group of five childhood friends spent their summer days exploring the woods of Leakin Park in Maryland.  It was following a stormy night that ended in the shocking  death of a mysterious old man who lived in a cabin in those woods that the splintering of the group began, a night that comes back to haunt them when the youngest and wildest of their members dies in what might be a suicide.  Coming together again, they can't help but relive that fateful night and what followed as they try to finally answer the most unsettling questions they are only now facing.

While this is a very well-written read, one thing to note is that there is actually very little "action" going on.  The narrative focuses mainly on the characters themselves, the past, and how the events of their lives have shaped them into who they are now.  There isn't a whole lot of suspense either, and the answers when they come are not as surprising as they are heartbreaking.  However, with that being said, this is still a highly addictive read that keeps up its steady and engaging pace till the end.    

 

 

 

The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill

Publisher: Free Press

Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery Reader

It’s 1968 and the Troubles between the Catholics and Protestants are escalating in Northern Ireland.  Instead of focusing on the difficulties of meshing Irish and Anglo-Irish cultures, expectant Anna and her husband Conor visits her dear “Nanny Madd,” the long-time family employee who helped raise her.  Nanny Madd, or Maddie, realizes that she’s near death and begins to share Anna’s legacy of family tragedy and a special butterfly cabinet with relevance to both Anna’s and Conor’s history.

When only 14 years old, Maddie became part of the house staff for the wealthy Ormond family, which consisted of a bevy of boys and one tiny daughter, an icy mistress from Scotland, and a master with a pleasant demeanor who remained happiest when left unbothered about domestic problems in his own sumptuous house.

Soon after Maddie’s arrival, the four year-old girl dies while being punished by her mother.  As a result, Harriet Ormond spends one year in prison, during which she writes entries into a diary about her experience and motivations, asking for neither pity or to be liked.  Through this effort, Harriet recounts the things that make her genuinely feel free—riding well-bred horses and the act of studying her personally caught collection of butterflies, demonstrating once more a need to be in control even though she does not see it herself.

This hidden journal sheds light on Maddie’s own recollections and confessions, with alternating chapters that fills in both physical and emotional details that make Charlotte’s death both more tragic and unavoidable.  Adding to the sense of cycles, Maddie spends her last days in a nursing home housed in the very same house once owned by the Ormonds. 

Author Bernie McGill writes comfortably as both the upper-class woman who shared the sense of socially prescribed soul-crushing restriction so ably described by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Virginia Woolf even as her instincts led her to choices difficult to understand.  Maddie and her fellow servants appear more sympathetic with their smiles, ready laughs and considerate care for the unhappy and neglected children but in The Butterfly Cabinet, no one remains innocent except for poor Charlotte.

 

 

 

The Accident by Linwood Barclay

Publisher: Bantam 

Reviewed by Ray Palen for New Mystery Reader

Quite frankly, Linwood Barclay is the King of the Suburban Thriller.  After starting his career off with a handful of darkly-comic mysteries, he turned his career in a sinister (and quite prosperous) direction with the release of NO TIME FOR GOODBYE in 2007.  That novel featured a young girl who wakes up to find her entire family has disappeared without a word.  Twenty years later, she thinks she might have seen her long-lost brother --- and then the flood-gates open.  That remains my favorite Barclay novel to date, closely followed by last year’s NEVER LOOK AWAY, where a young father loses his wife and toddler at an amusement park only to have his own sanity questioned by local law enforcement that claim there is no record of a child and that he may be guilty of his own wife’s disappearance.

With the release of his latest novel, THE ACCIDENT, Linwood Barclay has created another masterpiece of suburban terror.  Based in a prosperous Connecticut community, the seemingly normal Garber household is about to have their entire world’s turned upside down.  Glen Garber is a contractor who manages and owns his family business and lives with his young wife, Sheila, and their 8-year-old daughter, Kelly.  Sheila wants to pitch in as money gets tight around the household and begins to take business course in the evenings at a local college.  One night, Sheila does not make it home.

Glen’s worst fears are confirmed when the police notify him that Sheila was killed in an automobile accident.  To make matters that much more confounding, the always straight-laced Sheila was diagnosed as being intoxicated at the time of the accident.  Even worse is the fact that the accident not only took her life, but the lives of a father and his young son who crashed into her car that had been blocking a highway on-ramp.

Glen Garber is devastated and begins to slowly pick up the pieces of his life --- putting on a happy face for his young daughter who is now without her mother.  But inside, Glen is seething with questions.  Not just why --- but how this could have happened.  Glen allows Kelly to sleep over the home of a school-mate and is alarmed to receive a call from her a few hours later demanding to be picked up.  Glen eventually learns that the girls were playing hide-and-seek in her friend’s house and Kelly chose to hide in the closet of the parent’s bedroom.  While hiding, she overheard a cell phone conversation that her friend’s mother, Ann Slocum was having with an unknown party.  Ann freaks out when she finds Kelly in the closet and her husband, Police Officer Darren Slocum begins the interrogation. It as at this point when Kelly calls dad and requests a pick-up.

Later that same evening, Ann Slocum leaves her home to meet someone on the local waterfront docks.  She never returns --- her body found hours later and ruled an accidental drowning. In the wake of his own wife’s death, Glen Garber finds the death of Ann Slocum particularly troubling.  He starts talking to some of Sheila’s friends as well as her business course instructor to try and piece together what may be going on under the surface of the seemingly normal suburban façade they call a neighborhood.  Glen is also contacted by a Private Investigator named Arthur Twain who seems to know many secrets about Glen’s neighbors --- some of which involve some very bad people, illegal sale of contraband hand-bags and prescription medication and possibly even blackmail.  What is more frightening to Glen is where Sheila fit into all this and why things at his job begin to go awry while his world is spinning out of control.

Linwood Barclay is a master plotter and infuses THE ACCIDENT with enough suspects and story-lines to keep even the most astute mystery reader guessing.  Twist after stunning twist keep the pages turning at a break-neck pace and the conclusion will have readers gasping for breath as Glen Garber finds out that some secrets hit a little too close to home and may be better left alone.  Another winner by Mr. Barclay!

 

 

Driven by James Sallis

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is a thin, fast, violent and extremely dark book.   I picked it up and put it down several times before I got hooked enough to continue reading; then I was compelled to finish it.

This is the sequel to “Drive”, another fast and violent book.  The first book ended with a murder; this one starts with one.  On a bright summer’s morning, with no warning, a man living under the name Paul West is walking down the street with his companion, Elsa.  In a flash, he’s been badly beaten and she’s dead.  There’s no apparent motive, but West has to assume that this is some payback for the life he used to live when he was a man named Driver.

The rest of the book follows Driver as he eludes, stalks and kills a series of very dangerous and increasingly professional bad, bad men.  In between, and sometimes during, these activities, he does what he does best: drive like a bat out of hell.

That’s pretty much it.  There is one cheerful character in the story, Billie, a girl mechanic, with whom the reader hopes Driver might find some comfort and ease.  Pretty much everyone else is a variation on a theme, and the theme is psychopath.

The book is a very well-written example of its genre, and there are some striking phrases that will stay in your mind after the violence fades.  (“…a sound like swords coming out of scabbards in bad fantasy movies.”)  It’s also the embodiment of the old Confucian maxim, “Before setting out on a journey of revenge, first dig two graves.”

 

 

 

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey

Publisher: NAL Trade

When TV show producer Daniel Hayes wakes up drowning in the surf in Maine, not only does he not know who he is, but where he is or why he's there.  But once the memories start to trickle back in, he finds himself heading for Malibu with the biggest question remaining: Did he kill his wife?  Because as it turns out, she's missing and presumed dead and the number one suspect is him.  But as he searches for answers, someone dangerous and with deadly intent will throw him into a further tailspin as they do their best to track him down for reasons he himself can't explain.

Action-packed and suspenseful, Sakey's latest would make the perfect Hollywood film, and no doubt will become one.  Plenty of surprises and a splash of sweet romance make this a highly readable adventure of redemption and going home.

 

 

 

The Sauvignon Secret by Ellen Crosby

Publisher: Free Press

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Lucie Montgomery and many of the other vineyard owners in Loudoun County, Virginia have good reason to be really angry with Paul Noble. As a wine merchant, Noble has been forcing rock bottom deals, resulting in little to no profit for the owners. A few of the owners have gone out of business due to Noble’s dirty deals. Even though Lucie and many of the remaining owners wanted to kill Paul Noble for what he was doing to the Virginia wine business she was not prepared to find Noble dead, hanging from a beam in his barn.

Until Lucie discovered Noble’s body, she was looking forward to seeing her beloved grandfather, Pépé, who is planning to visit her briefly as he travels from France to California to give a presentation at an exclusive gathering of “movers and shakers” in industry and government. Charles Thiessman, a good friend of Pépé, invites Lucie and her grandfather over to tell them why he believes his life is in danger and plead for their help. Thiessman tells a story about his involvement with the Mandrake Society, a group of biochemists who worked together during the Nixon era. The remaining members of the Society are dying mysteriously, Paul Noble being the most recent death. Thiessman begs Lucie to travel with her grandfather to California to investigate Noble’s death and find out if it is tied to the recent deaths of other members of the secret society.

Lucie accepts this request as an opportunity to reunite with Quinn Santori, who was her winemaker and former lover, and is currently living in California. Lucie asks for Quinn’s help in the investigation of the Mandrake Society. While chasing clues, Quinn and Lucie struggle to determine if they have a personal and professional future together.

The Sauvignon Secret is the sixth and final novel in Ellen Crosby’s Virginia Wine Country series. Crosby eloquently describes the unique beauty of wine country in Virginia and California. The spectacular backdrop of vineyards ties in nicely with the whodunit that spans four decades and both coasts of the United States. The Sauvignon Secret is not an easy book to read without having knowledge of the series because the author does not provide detailed explanation of references to Lucie’s past experiences probably because this is the last book of the series. Ellen Crosby delivers another entertaining romp with Lucie, Quinn and Pépé through the glorious world of winemaking.

 

 

 

 

Skeleton Picnic  by Michael Norman

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press   

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

It’s amazing what you can learn from crime novels: everything from the use of herbs (the China Bayles series) to how to cook fattening goodies (The Goldy Schultz series) and a whole raft of other things including dog grooming, bounty hunting, antique dealing and drug running.  In Skeleton Picnic the second book in a new series featuring the folksy ranger from the Bureau of Land Management, J D Books, you’ll learn a lot about the pilfering of native American artifacts.  There’s big money to be made from desecrating the homes and graves of long dead—and sometimes, not so long dead—first settlers of the North American continent.

Apparently, it’s a common custom of many folks in Utah to go in search of pots, blankets, bones and jewellery left behind by the tribes that once populated the Southwestern United States.  The term for the activity provides the title of the book, “Skeleton Picnic”.

When Rolly and Abby Rogers don’t return from their most recent picnic, the local sheriff asks Books to have a sniff around and see if he can find them out in the federal government lands that Books is theoretically in charge of.  Despite his best efforts, Books can’t find the couple, but after their empty house is burgled, he finds some of their belongings in the trunk of a car belonging to his brother-in-law, Bobby Case.  This is both embarrassing and puzzling for J D as he tried to find the connection between Bobby and the young Indian boy charged with the theft.  Who’s responsible for bailing out the boy, and is it the same person who later runs him down in the street? 

The more J D digs around in the case, the worse it looks.  Rolly and Abby Rogers aren’t the first people to go missing on a pot-hunting expedition; it seems possible that there’s a serial killer on the loose—or are the murders just collateral damage in the illegal artifacts trade?

A very enjoyable second volume in what might be a long-running series. 

 

 

Plunder Mary Anna Evans

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This is the latest in a series set in the modern day, but the husband-and-wife archaeology team of Faye  Lonchamp and Joe Mantooth may remind you of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series, as will Faye’s habit of haring off in pursuit of the bad guys without a thought for her own safety, and without even Amelia’s stout umbrella to help her.

Faye’s small archaeological consulting company has been retained to do a survey of archaeological sites on Barataria Bay, Louisiana, ahead of the expected inundation of oily muck from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  This story will resonate with readers who’ve read the recent revelations that something less than the truth was told by those who knew what was going on.  (Stay tuned to see if a mid-level manager is hung out to dry while the men at the top stay unbesmirched.  Eight to five on the manager.)

Faye, Joe, and their infant prodigy Michael are living in a small bayside settlement and ‘messing about in boats’ to do their surveying.  They meet Amande, a beautiful teenager, and her fierce little grandmother, a voodoo practitioner.  They are soon drawn into Amande’s life by the murder first of her uncle and then of her grandmother.  Another uncle and a trampy aunt turn up, keen to take over Amande’s life—and potential income.  A man claiming to be Amande’s stepfather also arrives, carrying a will he says Amande’s mother wrote, leaving him everything she had. 

Murder has been done before for less than a share in a houseboat and some oil stocks, but which of the no-good relatives is the villain?  Can Faye find out before Amande joins her grandmother in the morgue?  And what’s the handsome stranger up to?

This is a fast-moving, cheerful romp through the bayous and inlets of southern Louisiana; with minimal gore, a bit of romance, interesting characters, and an unexpected plot twist or two.  Recommended for those not wanting any dark and hyper-realistic crime novels this week.

 

 

 

You're Next by Gregg Hurwitz

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Mike Wingate has the perfect family, and by some measures, perhaps even the perfect life.  Happily married for over a decade to a woman he's still very much in love with and with a daughter whose precociousness makes their family complete, his completion of a development of "green" homes is just the icing on the cake.  But when he discovers that one of his subcontractors shorted him on materials, it turns out his houses are not as green as advertised.  So when he notices at an award ceremony for the development that some not so nice men seem to be shadowing him, he's concerned that it's tied to the mistakes in his project.

But things are never that cut and dried, as it soon becomes clear that this is tied to Mike's past, a past Mike knows nothing about, a family Mike barely recalls, having last seen his father when dropped off at a playground as a very young boy following the disappearance of his mother.  Growing up in a foster home, all Mike really knows of his family is that his last memory of his father is that of a frightened man with blood on his cuff and a sense of franticness in his last movements, and of his mother's abrupt vanishing act.  And ever since Mike wondered if his father caused her disappearance because, if not, why didn't he ever return for Mike? 

Growing up in foster care soon enough enables Mike to put these questions behind him to a certain extent, mere survival being his top priority.  But at least he has one good friend, a boy named Shep whose determination, will, and strength will later come in handy as the threats surrounding Mike and his family becoming increasingly more dangerous.

Family and loyalty and the triumph of both make this tale emotionally memorable and stirringly exciting.  This is one read that has it all: white hot adventure, secretive pasts, warm sentiments of family and friends, and an explosive ending that brings it all together in a breathless rush.  Beautifully written, Hurwitz knows how to turn a phrase for maximum results, some worth reading over and over again for their sheer brilliance and fluidity and others for their ability of bringing on an extra thump of the heart.  And if the ending doesn't bring on the full water works, or at least a slight misting of the eyes, you might want to double check that you didn't already lose your heart on the way there.

 

 

 

Sixkill: A Spenser Novel by Robert B. Parker

Publisher: Berkly

Reviewed by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader

A lot of stuff happens in Sixkill. It’s a fairly action-packed and standard chapter of clearly the greatest series in the history of the genre. And it’s also impossible, at this point, to talk about without the context of the author’s passing early last year.

Sixkill is described on the flap as “the last Spenser novel completed by Robert B. Parker”.  A reasonable mind could take that to mean there will be more, perhaps, and that it will completed by someone else. Amazon is already taking pre-orders on a Jesse Stone novel written by the guy that does the Selleck TV-movies. So clearly there are plans. But, well, you know. Not the same.

Point being, we should take no finality poignancy from the events in Sixkill, as it was clearly not meant to provide any. But poignant is exactly what Sixkill becomes. Its point is redemption/renewal and it’s made in classic Parker style, going back to Early Autumn in more than one way in telling the story of one Zebulon Sixkill.

Z, as he comes to be called, is a Cree Indian bodyguard that Spenser puts a beat-down on while commencing the novel’s case: the death of a young girl in Z’s client’s hotel room. Spenser is brought into the case by Capt. Martin Quirk, whom you’ve met.

Quirk is pretty sure that one Jumbo Nelson, Hollywood Miscreant/Icon, is being railroaded for murder, so he asks Spens to sniff around and see what stinks. Enter Rita Fiore, who happens to be defending Jumbo, and the stage is set for what Parker did better than just about anyone.

After Z gets canned by Jumbo for getting whupped, he consults Spenser, who agrees to help train him as a mechanism to among other things, get his help solving the case. Parker inserts episodes from Z’s early years as Z and Spenser start training at Henry Cimoli’s gym, among other locations.  Of course, it’s all about Z finding himself. And in Zebulon Sixkill, Parker creates a fascinating character, walled-off like a supermax prison.  The fun in watching Spenser, with help from Susan Silverman, of course, re-introduce Z with his real self carries its own thrills.

There’s plenty of regular thrills here as well. Parker stages a couple of great fist-fights and brings in some other new creepy dudes as well. Lots of cameos by  the dangerous types who have helped Spens out in the past....except for, well, Hawk.  Yeah, he’s still in East Somewhere, so folks looking for those two hamming it up will have to look elsewhere. (Try A Catskill Eagle.) The last act moves really fast, with a gut-wrenching final showdown that’s among Parker’s best.

With Sixkill, Parker provides another solid chapter in the saga. Better than some, worse than others. No earth-shattering changes, and lots of Spenser/Susan navel-gazing. But it still feels great to read.

We miss him already.

 

 

 

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Publisher: Vintage

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When a young boy realizes his mother is missing, initially there’s not a lot of panic concerning her disappearance as most are willing to write it off as just another housewife’s discontent leading her to parts unknown.  As for the snowman left inexplicably in the yard wrapped with the woman’s scarf? Well, surely the kids from the neighborhood left that as a prank.  But Nordic investigator Harry Hole has his doubts when yet another body of a woman is found.  And despite the demons from his own past, he’s determined to connect the cases of now with a case unsolved from years before; a case that left one investigator dead and just might lead to the same conclusion this time around. 

Having read the previous Harry Hole novels, I was expecting something great, and I was not disappointed.  Very few authors seem to get better in their later novels, but Nesbo manages to do just that.  Finding anything wrong with this intense and suspenseful novel will be any reader’s greatest challenge.  Filled with fully realized characters,  especially the main character  whose ability to bring any and all emotions to the surface with both a sense of disarming grace and an unsettling unease, add even more to this great read.  And then there’s the clues Nesbo leaves for the readers: clues that are ambiguous enough to lead down false trails, but also strong enough that those who get them will be satisfied at the end, nodding their heads and saying “Yeah, I knew it was him.”   

This book has it all: a cold and wintry atmosphere, characters who rise above the norm in the most unexpected ways, and a plot that keeps you guessing.  Easily one of the best books out so far this year.

 

 

Secret of the White Rose by Stefanie Pintoff

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Reviewed by Joe Obermaier, New Mystery Reader

It is 1906 and Judge Hugo Jackson is presiding over the trial of his career, that of anarchist Al Drayson.  Drayson, in a failed attempt to blow up a wedding including Andrew Carnegie in New York City, killed instead a group of working-class innocent bystanders, including a child.  Judge Jackson, however, has just been found dead in his townhouse, the victim of a slashed throat and perhaps, an anarchist conspiracy, on the eve before the case was set to go to the jury.   The police seem content to round up Drayson’s fellow revolutionaries, but Alistair Sinclair, an old friend of the Judge, sees something more and brings Detective Simon Ziele in to help with his investigation.  Ziele has just returned to the city, and finds himself quickly out of his precinct’s jurisdiction and out of his league with both the high society victim and the low brow anarchist suspects.   Soon another victim is found, and the two realize they must use all their wits and Sinclair’s new-fangled methods to stop the killings before the city erupts in violence.

This is the third book in her turn-of-the-century police procedurals featuring Detective Simon Ziele and his friend, the Columbia Law professor and criminologist Alistair Sinclair, but it is the first one that I’ve read.  And I must admit I felt a great deal of trepidation as I saw the comparisons to Caleb Carr all over the back cover.  The Alienist was a revelation, and to replicate that experience is too high a burden to put on an author’s shoulders – just ask Caleb Carr himself. 

Pintoff’s series does live within the same milieu, New York around the turn of the century.  And like Carr, she wades into the issues and personalities of the past as if holding a mirror to the problems and issues of the present.  These anarchists of the last century bear more than a passing resemblance to the terrorists of our own.  But don’t read too much into that; this is, after all, a mystery, and mysteries are supposed to be fun.  Secret of the White Rose has all the wonderful touches of that era of the classic mystery in which it takes place.  The victim is found murdered at home with all the doors and windows locked.  There are secrets from the past, red herrings, conspiracy and revenge.  There are even ciphers!

The mystery is solid, and the pace is satisfying.  But the key to the book is the richly described atmosphere of New York at the start of the twentieth century.    It has all the touches we’d expect and are familiar with, like tenements, mansions, and horse-drawn carriages, and some that are unexpected, like electric automobiles.   And the meals!  So lovingly and enticingly described that you’ll wish you could pull up a chair. 

Pintoff’s recreation of the New York from a century ago is a fun place to spend some time from the safety of your favorite reading chair.  And part of the fun of discovering a series after it has begun, is that you get the chance to visit the characters in the books already in print while you wait for the next one.  I look forward to catching up. 

 

 

Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When psychologist Alex Delaware and his long time love Robin decide to have one last drink at one of their favorite watering hole located in a hotel that's about to be razed, they entertain themselves making up stories of the mysterious woman drinking alone and her beefy bodyguard waiting outside.  But when her body is found a couple of days later and Alex's detective sidekick Milos Sturgis asks Alex to consult on the case, they'll find their amusing speculations turn into a real mystery that begs to be solved.

With the secrets of her past including a notorious madam, a pair of wealthy and wild brothers with a lust for the ladies, and a retired actress who has her own secrets lusts, including one with powerful weapons, finding the answers behind her death won't be easy. 

On an engaging trip through LA's past and present, with all its wealth, infamous players, and realized and unrealized glory, Delaware treats readers to another clever read.  Peeking through the facades of the rich and famous and digging beneath the layers to the dirt just beneath these streets lined with gold, Delaware once again exposes this city in a fascinating and illuminating way; proving yet again that he can still provide fresh and unique stories that will easily please his many fans.

 

 

Murder One by Robert Dugoni

Publisher: Pocket Books

Reviewed by Ray Palen for New Mystery Reader

Robert Dugoni has quickly become one of the most exciting writers of legal thrillers working today.  His David Sloane series is well above-average as this genre goes and MURDER ONE is a fine addition to this collection of high-octane suspense rides.

Coming off the success of the most recent David Sloane effort, WRONGFUL DEATH, David is dealing with two wrongful deaths.  The first was the family of the young boy who was killed as a result of negligence at the hands of a toy company empire.  The second was the murder of his wife by a hit-man that the evil toy company hired to eliminate the lawyer who ‘never loses’.

Sloane has been reeling since these events and bounced around the globe trying to collect himself.  He has spent time forgetting himself in the seaside village of Zihuatanejo, Mexico (“The Shawshank Redemption”, anyone?). Now, he has returned to the Pacific Northwest to ease back into his old life, law practice and responsibility of raising a teen-aged son.  He bumps into an old rival, Barclay Reid, his opposing counsel from WRONGFUL DEATH.  She has softened her look from the last time they met --- and appears to be sweet on Mr. Sloane.

Barclay and David instantly hit it off because she too is suffering from a deep personal loss.  Her only daughter died of a drug overdose and she holds the local head of the Russian Mafia, an evil man named Filyp Vasiliev, ultimately responsible.  As they go on a few innocent dates, the inevitable bonding occurs and David finds himself falling for someone for the first time since his wife, Tina, was murdered.

However, Barclay and David’s little romance is abruptly halted when Vasiliev is found shot to death and all evidence points to Barclay Reid as his killer.  A .38 gun matching one in her name is the alleged murder weapon and prints from a woman’s size 7 shoes are found outside of Vasiliev’s home.  Throw in the fact that Barclay has been quite vocal since Vasiliev escaped prosecution for some of his drug trading and you have what appears to be a slam dunk case for the prosecution. She now is counting on the ‘lawyer that never loses’ to save her.

Sloane begins his own investigation into Barclay’s story --- which includes a visit with her vengeful ex-husband, a psychologist named Dr. Oberman.  Oberman paints a different picture of Barclay Reid.  He claims she is a manipulative and deeply troubled woman who would actually beat herself about the face and neck in order to get him incarcerated on a charge of spousal abuse (prior to divorcing him and costing him his practice).  He is also a key witness for the prosecution as he will testify to witnessing Barclay stating she will put a bullet in the head of Vasiliev.

As Sloane admirably defends Barclay, he sees his case as an uphill battle and finds himself at odds with both the prosecution and the police detectives determined to put Barclay away for this crime.  David Sloane begins to see part of Barclay Reid’s façade crumble and he is faced with the biggest dilemma of his legal career --- is he defending an innocent woman who is being rail-roaded by the system or is he helping an evil, mastermind get away with murder?

Robert Dugoni’s novels are always smart, face-paced and unpredictable and his protagonist, David Sloane, comes across as a real human being full of flaws and self-doubt that keeps him from ever being legal cliché.  MURDER ONE has more than a few surprises and kept me guessing right up to the final pages.  For Interview

 

 

 

Lie in the Dark by Dan Fesperman

Publisher: Soho Crime

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Inspector Vlado Petric has the dubious misfortune of making his living as a homicide investigator in war torn Sarajevo. He lives with the continuous sounds of war and threats to his life, be it incoming artillery or the precise hit from sniper fire. The Bosnian Ministry of the Interior formed their own special police force that has taken over all the high-profile cases. Vlado’s department is left with investigating primarily cases dealing with domestic violence until the Chief of Special Police is killed and informants claim that he was involved with the black market. Surprisingly, Vlado is assigned to investigate who killed the Chief of Special Police, the clues lead him to deal with black marketeers, senior military personnel that have gone “native,” ethnic prejudice and other horrors that are typically found in the underground of a war ravaged city.

Dan Fesperman leverages his experiences as a foreign correspondent to vividly develop the setting of Lie in the Dark. The author surrounds the reader with the sounds, smells and emotions of a city entrenched in war. Fesperman develops a haunted character in Vlado Petric, who struggles every day to maintain some form of balance in his life. He greatly misses his wife and daughter who are safe in Berlin and he clings to his profession as the last tie he has left to the life he had before the war. In Lie in the Dark, Fesperman weaves  the realities of war with a well-crafted whodunit.

 

 

 

 

Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Small town Painter's Creek, the bucolic village that's a mixture of Amish and non-Amish, is where Police Chief Kate Burkholder is assigned to instill law and order. And as it turns out, this town and the different cultures, especially the Amish, are no strangers to her.  But having been raised as Amish, while a teen she was forced to leave the clan after a tragic event left one man dead and the aftereffects led Kate down a very dark path.

So when Kate is called to an Amish farm where three adults have died in a deep hole of waste for the animals, at fist she's quick to agree with the others involved that it looks like an accident.  But after questioning the surviving victims, two of them head-strong teens, she begins to doubt the initial conclusions.  A feeling soon supported by the M.E.'s determinations of death; this was not in fact an accident but, instead, murder.

And as Kate feels a certain connection to two of the victim's daughters, she finds herself becoming more and more emotionally involved with the entire case, a closeness that just might be clouding her judgment.  After all, she's been down the road of tragedy, and even though she's since left the flock, her heart still connects to the trials and tribulations of this highly misunderstood sect.  But as she slowly uncovers the truth, she'll be shocked when it's discovered who is truly responsible for the crimes, a truth that will make her give her own past a second glance, along with her final understanding of how behind the image of purity there can lie a multitude of sins.

Ironically, when this title came out, I had just finished watching several documentaries on the Amish lifestyle; in particular, those involving young adults and their often times difficult decision to return to the Amish way after a foray into the "real world." That being said, I think Castillo has more than managed to portray this way of life in a compassionate and understanding way.  Her realistic depiction, and the trials and tribulations her character goes through, come off as sincere, sometimes heartbreaking, and altogether human.  And if that's not enough for most readers, she throws in plenty of twists and turns to keep things interesting until the end.  Add plenty of blowing snowstorms and snaps of cold to highlight a dreary and windswept ambience and you're left with what might perhaps be her best in the series.  This one is a keeper.

 

 

 

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks

Reviewed by Ray Palen for New Mystery Reader

S. J. Watson has written a debut novel that is one of the most memorable in many years.  Ironically, BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, deals with a woman named Christine Lucas who loses her memory every time she goes to sleep.  That plot-line opens the doors to a world of possibilities and Watson takes advantage of the most clever plot twists that keep this a constantly interesting read.

Just as Christine faces each day like it is brand new, the reader will enjoy each chapter that uncovers another thread into Christine’s past and a new puzzle piece to help to unlock the secrets of this brilliant novel.  The fact that Christine wakes each day next to a husband (Ben) that she doesn’t remember poses a daily problem for said husband as he must post photos and notes around the house to remind her of their relationship. At times, the book felt like watching Christopher Nolan’s brilliant film, “Memento”, where the lead character has no short-term memory and can only form new and fleeting memories.

Christine Lucas describes her situation in the following manner: “This is like dying every day.  Over and over…I know I’ll go to sleep tonight and then tomorrow I will wake up and not know anything…It’s not life, it’s just an existence…”.  To further complicate the situation, Christine has been seeing a Doctor who is attempting to help her gain her memory back and figure out what exactly was the violent attack years earlier that caused her to lose her memory in the first place.  The only trouble is that the reader is never quite sure who this “Doctor” is --- and husband Ben has no idea his memory-challenged wife is even seeing him.

Things pick up when Christine begins to keep a journal of each day and all that happened to her --- while the thoughts are still fresh in her mind.  This allows her to piece together each new day what has transpired in the days and weeks prior.  Unfortunately, it also creates new terrors for her as she reads the sentence she wrote in her own hand – “Don’t trust Ben!”.  What could this mean?  Could the people closest to Christine actually be lying to her and, if so, is there anyone she can trust?  When she begins to have memories of a son, Ben has to confess that their only child was actually killed in the War on Terror as a member of the British military.  Not only does Christine not remember this but something in the back of her mind tells her that she is not getting the whole story.

S.J. Watson has put together a novel that just cries to be made into a film.  Low and behold, Ridley Scott’s production has already snatched up the rights to this complex and never dull novel that holds the most brilliant twists for the last few chapters --- sure to keep the reader gasping for breath long before the final page is turned.  Well done!