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The Darkness Gathers by Lisa Miscione

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN:  0312990022

It’s a year later, and true-crime writer Lydia Strong is living peacefully in New York with her lover and soul mate Jeffrey Mark when she once again gets the “buzz”, her instinctive pull towards a new case.  This time it comes in the form of an anonymous tape and letter involving the disappearance of the young daughter of a very wealthy and powerful man.   Following the leads to Miami, Lydia and Jeffrey are thrown into a new case that involves a frightening conspiracy of the highest order involving sex slaves, the Albanian mob, and a new threat from a nightmare they thought was forever in the past.

 This is a great second novel from Miscione, and Lydia, though more peaceful and content, is still conflicted enough to provide great emotional depth to the story.  The suspense is almost unbearably high, and although near the end the plot comes close to being almost unbelievable, this shocking story is still full enough of ugly truths to be not only disturbing, but highly alarming as well.  This is an intelligent thriller, and the love story between Lydia and Jeffrey adds a poignant and beautiful relief to the omnipresent evil that pervades the rest of the pages.  We can’t wait for the third, because these two are far from done.


A Fountain Filled With Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Publisher: St. Martin's   ISBN: 0312995431

When a string of attacks on gay men occur in Episcopal priest’s Reverend Clare Fergusson’s small town of Millers Kill, she can’t help but become involved.  Working with the Chief, and as the two fight their mutual attraction, they soon discover that it all may have ties to a new proposed development for a luxury resort.  What follows is humor, suspense, a nasty helicopter crash, and of course, a few bad guys and girls who must be stopped.        

Delicately avoiding any heavy-handed type of religious rhetoric, this latest from Fleming gets its message of acceptance and understanding across much more poignantly through the use of subtlety and simplicity.  Filled with genuine characters, whose situations one can’t help but feel for, this book is one that is both real and appealing.  And with just the right touch of humor, the suspense and danger facing these guys is both fun and exciting.  The attraction between the Reverend and the Chief plays a major role as well, and this adds greatly to the sense of expectancy found on every page.  Another success from Ms. Fleming, this one shouldn’t be missed.     


A Visible Darkness by Jonathon King

Publisher: Onyx Books ISBN: 0451411358

Max Freeman, an ex-Philly cop, is seeking peace in the Everglades from past tragedies when his lawyer calls needing help on a case that nobody else wants a part of.  Old women are dying, woman from the wrong side of the tracks and in an ethnic neighborhood that the police would rather ignore.  They believe it’s natural causes, but the fact that they all had just sold life insurance policies tie their deaths together in a much more sinister way.  When it’s discovered that there has also been a rash of rapes and killings of younger woman, Max can’t help but get involved.

Max is an engaging and likable character with just the right amount of machismo and sensitivity to hold most reader’s interest.  And in this outing, the reader can’t help but hope that he will get over his tragic past in order to go forward with even more cases in the future.  We’ll also be keeping a close watch on his relationship with his lady detective friend, who has her own ghosts to conquer.  This is a fast and suspenseful read that will surely satisfy, and most will hate to see it end so quickly.  Let’s hope for many more down the road.          


Star Witness by D.W. Buffa

Publisher: Onyx Books ISBN: 0451411331

Reviewed by  Narayan Radhakrishnan

Scott Turow started it, John Grisham popularized it, and D.W. Buffa has taken it to this Millennium.

            I am speaking about the legal thriller genre-, which started in 1987 with the publication of Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent- (of course there were law stories before that- but then prevalent usage was ‘courtroom drama’.) Buffa, in my opinion, is now the best legal thriller writer around. Though the reigning superstar in the genre is still John Grisham, the last 4-5 works, particularly those after The Chamber could not boast the finesse of that of the early Grisham works.

            Buffa, burst into the legal mystery scene with the highly acclaimed The Defense, featuring lawyer Joseph Antonelli- the lawyer who never lost a case he should have won and always won the case which he should have lost. Success followed with The Prosecution, The Judgment (my personal favorite), The Legacy and now this one- Star Witness.

            This time round, Buffa focuses his attention to Hollywood, carving a neat courtroom drama and an excellent legal thriller. Antonelli receives a call, late in the night- Super Director, Stanley Roth is accused of killing his wife, superstar and darling of Hollywood Mary Flanders. The case has made big headlines worldwide, and all are calling for the blood of Stanley Roth. Roth is an intriguing character, his persona borders on insane- in spite of the big conundrum he is in, Roth has only one thing in his mind- to make a movie of his trial. He dreams of being the next Orson Wells and has already planned a movie that would rival Citizen Kane. Mary Flanders I think is based on Marilyn Monroe.

            The evidence is strong against Roth and it looks like an open and shut case. However, the more Antonelli investigates, the more he is convinced that there is more than what meets the eye, What follows is heavy suspense and an exciting courtroom dram, nay a courtroom battle that culminates…… well, in an anticlimax. (What it is it is for you to find out)

            Don’t just read it, buy it and read it- a worthy read and even a more worthy buy.                                                                

And for a wonderful interview with Buffa, please visit bookreporter.com  http://www.bookreporter.com/suspense_thriller/0304buffa/buffa-dw.asp


Life Sentence by David Ellis

Publisher: Berkley Pub Group ISBN: 0425194809

Jon Soliday, the bright and successful attorney for Senator Tully, a childhood friend, finds himself in deep waters when he is accused of murdering a colleague.  Bringing up the pain of his past, 20 years previously when he was accused of the murder and rape of a young girl, he soon finds that the two cases have more in common than he could have imagined.  Not remembering anything from that long ago night, he has always wondered of his own complicity in the girl’s death, even though the charges were never brought to trial, thanks to his good friend Senator Tully, himself just a boy at that time as well.  But as the two cases begin to merge, Soliday must find the answers he’s been all too eager to avoid if he’s to get out of this undamaged. 

Although this latest from Ellis starts off rather slow, be warned, it ends with a bang.  The final courtroom scenes are enough to catch even the strongest critic off guard, revealing a plot so convincingly cunning, that although you may have seen some of it coming, it’s highly unlikely you could have guessed it all.  Politics and law, in the wrong hands, can be dry and dull subjects, but in Mr. Ellis’s more than able hand, they throw off suspense and thrills at a highly charged rate (no pun intended).  His two main characters, Bennett and Soliday, hardly likable in the beginning, soon become interesting and sympathetic, due to his ability to slowly define his characters until they are fully drawn.  And the others fit so well into some of our pre-conceived notions of politicians and crooks, that they seem all that much more real because of it.  This is a rousing and multi-faceted novel, and comes highly recommended.    


 Publisher: Mira Books ISBN: 0778320413

Reviewed by Donna Padilla

Ex-cop Campbell Cody, now a security guard, is working the gate at a closed gate retirement community on a stormy night with torrential rain when a car careens out of the neighborhood at a high rate of speed and barely misses running over her.  She recognizes the car and driver as her friend Maida Livingstone.  The next time Cody sees Maida, she is dead, killed in a one car accident.  Chuck Archer, the sheriff department’s detective, believes it is murder.

Meanwhile, under-cover cop Jackson Blade is keeping track of a group of girls in connection with a drug investigation, and one of them winds up murdered.   Cody and Jackson keep bumping into each other during their investigations.  Deciding that the two murders are somehow related, the start working together.

This is a riveting story with a fast paced plot.  The author has keen insight into the character’s personalities, whether they are elderly, middle aged, or teens.  She portrays them well with both strengths and weaknesses, making this story believable and enthralling.  Another win for Ms. Meyers that will easily please her fans.


My Ex-Best Friend by Beth Brophy

Publisher: Pocket Books ISBN: 0743464516

When Claire Newman runs into her ex-best friend Lydia after five years of estrangement, she is surprised when Lydia later calls, urgently requesting to see her.  Needing closure, and hoping for an explanation of why Lydia ended their friendship, Claire agrees.  But when she shows up, she finds Lydia dead.  Everyone thinks it’s a suicide, and Claire in search for answers to why Lydia would do it, instead finds reason to believe it was murder.   

Brophy’s debut novel is written as if by an old pro.  She deftly combines the necessary elements that make up a great amateur sleuth mystery.  A couple of notches above a cozy, and not quite a thriller, this book should appeal to a large audience.  Self-described as a “novel of suburbia”, it does indeed explore life in the suburbs, and shreds the illusion of safety and calm that can hide an underbelly of secrets and betrayal.  It also skillfully explores the issue of friendship and how it too can hide secrets.  Brophy should end up with a nice fan base, and we look forward to her next.


A BODY TO DIE FOR   by  Kate White

Warner Books ISBN: 0446613851

Reviewed by Karen Treanor

Bailey Weggins is a typical modern career woman, which means she's stressed out, suffering from romansus interruptus, and unable to afford the designer shoes she craves.  When an old friend offers a free weekend of pampering at one of the ritziest spas in New England, Bailey doesn't stop to think that this might be too good to be true. 

Of course it is: barely has she had her first massage when Bailey finds a staff member gruesomely murdered.  (Full marks to the author for an original method of death).  Danny, the Spa's operator, is panicked: this is the second death at the spa, and she can see her business going down the drain.  Of course, Bailey can't refuse the plea, and the fact that there's a handsome policeman on the case has nothing--well, very little--to do with her decision to investigate.  There's another murder, which Bailey thinks must be connected to the first, but how? 

There is no lack of suspects: Danny's leech of a husband, several staff members who seem to have something to hide, a basketful of well-heeled guests--take your pick.  Bailey snoops as discreetly as she can, well aware she will incur the wrath of the handsome policeman if he catches her interfering in his case.   

The more Bailey investigates, the more she is convinced the motive for Anna's murder lies in her past.  Suspicion points to Danny's husband.   Bailey has no liking for him, but she's determined to clear him to save Danny's business from the stigma of having a criminal on the staff.  Someone thoughtfully sends her a dead rat, but it would take more than that to put her off the track.  She pops the gift into her picnic cooler and uses it as an excuse to see the handsome policeman again.  He's sending very mixed messages, which alternately rouse and depress Bailey's lust. 

Bailey starts tracking down people from Anna's past and finds some of them in surprising places.  But nothing prepares her for where she discovers the last suspect: frighteningly close, and not averse to adding a third murder to his tally.  On a dark wet night, Bailey fights for her life against long odds.   

After reading this book you'll never again look at a mud-pack without shivering.  The pace is brisk, the plot twists are challenging, and you'll find Bailey Weggins a very likeable heroine.  This is the second book in what promises to be an ongoing series.  One shudders to think what Bailey might turn up in an acrylic nail salon!                                                              


Uniform Justice by Donna Leon

Publisher: Penguin USA ISBN: 0142004227

Reviewed by Karen Treanor

Donna Leon's latest Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery opens with the best literary hangover since "The Lost Weekend". 

Through the fog of nausea, the sufferer sees the hanging body of a fellow student at the upper-crust military academy in Venice.  The death appears to be suicide, but Leon fans will be suspicious, as well they should be. 

It doesn’t take Commissario Brunetti long to question the death.  Several things make him suspicious: his own superior's desire to have the case closed with indecent haste; the closed ranks of both students and instructors at the military academy; and the several unexplained attacks on members of the boy's family.   

Ernesto Moro's father was one of those rare creatures in Venice, an honest politician.   Dedicated to learning the truth about things, and apparently personally fearless, why did the elder Moro give up his seat and withdraw from public life?  What caused his previously idyllic marriage to break down, and where is the Moros' other child?  The more stones Brunetti turns over, the more slippery questions slither out. 

He suspects the boy's death was murder, but his superior officer is having none of that.  It takes all Brunetti's guile to manipulate the situation to allow him to continue to investigate.  This proves more difficult than usual thanks to the constant interference of the odious Lt. Scarpa, a man you just can't help hoping comes to a bad end soon. 

Helped by the clever Signorina Elletra, to whom no computer security system is invincible, his volatile wife Paola, and his old friend Beppo the newsman, Brunetti begins to discover what really happened to Ernesto Moro.  When he finally has all the facts, he still has to prove his case to the satisfaction of the legal system.  We are just beginning to think he's on the home stretch when something so unexpected happens that readers will feel they have been hit with a two-by-four.    It would be cruel to spoil your enjoyment by saying more. 

The characters are believable, the plotting is fiendish, the beautiful and evil city of Venice plays a major role in the story--what more could you want?  Another four-star production from Donna Leon.  Ring your bookseller and reserve a copy today.