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THE WEATHERMAN'S DAUGHTERS by Richard Hoyt

Publisher: Forge Books ISBN: 076534226X 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Portland TV weatherman Jerry Toogood has lost two grown daughters.  The police believe Sharon was murdered by her sister Mariah, who then committed suicide.  Private investigator John Denson found Sharon beside the road and spent the night with Mariah the day before she died.  He believes both were murdered and with his partner, Willie Sees the Night, he sets out to discover who murdered them and why.

Hoyt has written a novel filled with so many incredible images you read with your mouth hanging open.  Intertwined with these images is a well developed plot with a main character who has a great sense of humor.  With thousands of fish falling from the sky, Denson leaving his body to tap into his subconscious, and the mysticism of Native Americans, this is one novel you will never forget.

 

Cold Blood by Theresa Monsour

Publisher: Jove Books ISBN: 0515138630

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The second in the series featuring St. Paul homicide detective, Paris Murphy, is quite possibly better than the first.  This time around, working under a new supervisor, Paris is sent to the small town of Moose Lake to look into the case involving a missing bridesmaid.  While there, she recognizes an old high school classmate, Justice Trip, who is also helping out with the search.  And as his behavior becomes increasingly odd, especially after he finds the bridesmaid’s finger, Paris begins to suspect that he may have something to do with her disappearance.  He also seems to have it in for Paris herself, and as she begins to connect events, she realizes that he also may have played a part in a tragic event from her past.  Meanwhile, Paris must also deal with her increasingly complicated love life, as the husband she’s separated from, and the man she once had an affair with, both seem to want more than she’s ready to give.

A thoroughly human and complex character, Paris Murphy is simply one of the finest female protagonists out there these days.  Strong, yet vulnerable, and always ready for a fight, she’s likable and convincing in her role as a take-charge, messy-in-love, homicide cop.  And to say there’s suspense in this latest is a bit of an understatement, it definitely should only be read when you’ve time to finish it, as it’s addictive plot, characters, and shocks and surprises will make it impossible to stop.  Definitely one of the finer summer reads, this comes highly recommended.    

 

Collecting Candace by Susan M. Brooks

Publisher: Small Dogs Press ISBN: 0972932933

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Reading like some technicolor Quentin Tarintino movie, this highly original and disturbing tale holds all the heat and anguish as its Florida environs.   Following a couple who just met in a bar, the trail pursues one of madness, murder, oddly tender moments, and an eerily seductive carnage disguised as the ultimate love.  

He, some sort of loner with no track record of success, she, married thrice and looking for her fourth.  And the only way together they can grasp some sort of deliverance from the damage of their pasts, so as to claim their future, is to wipe it all away through a cleansing violent maelstrom.

In this short novel of under 200 pages is a world of pain, total surrender, and such a sacrilege-filled search for definitive love it's hard to believe when the final page is turned- it feels that immediate.  Highly recommended, this is brilliant, utterly frightening, and at its core, filled with a passion that's too easily understood for comfort.      

 

 

Silent Witness by Rebecca Forster

Publisher: Signet Book  ISBN: 0451214242

In this gripping follow-up to Forster's first outing featuring Hermosa Beach defense attorney Josie Baylor-Bates, Forster once again tackles the tenacious bond between parent and child.  Only this time it's even more personal, as the man standing accused of murdering his step-son is none other than Josie's lover, Archer. 

Josie, still putting her life in order after the stunning consequences of her last case, the main one being her new guardianship of Hannah, the girl she defended in the murder of her grandfather, has not been getting on well with her lover Archer.  He sees Josie's involvement in Hannah's care as disruptive and harmful to their relationship, and so their relationship has been cantankerous and shaky ever since.  But things are only about to get worse when Archer is accused of killing his developmentally disabled step-son, Tim, a boy that Josie didn't even know existed until she found out about the charges.  It appears that Tim took a deathly fall off a popular amusement park ride, and all evidence points to Archer setting the whole thing in motion.

But what is the truth; is the park responsible, or is it Archer, who admits to never loving the boy, and only barely tolerating his presence?  And as Josie begins to investigate, she will discover more secrets surrounding the man she thought she knew so well, secrets that are deadly, and secrets that will force Josie to once again untangle the complex web that surrounds parent and child.

Forster once again creates an intelligent and winning legal thriller that stuns and shocks with its many surprises.  Exploring the issues of parent and child, trust and loyalty, Forster tackles these with great aplomb and honesty.  Highly recommended, this one will have you reading deep into the night to reach its dramatic and startling denouncement.  

 

Drop Dead, My Lovely by Ellis Weiner

New American Library ISBN 0 451 2080

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

The reviewer's nightmare is being sent books that are second- or even third-rate attempts at copying a successful writer of the past.  At first glance "Drop Dead My Lovely" looks like a copycat version of a hard-boiled detective novel of, say, 1948.  But look again: this is no pale copy, it's a marvelous romp by a former editor of the National Lampoon and author of "The Joy of Worry".

Imagine a story written by a partnership of Dashiell Hammet and Douglas Adams; a sort of Sam Spade meets Arthur Dent at the restaurant at the end of the universe.  Who else could have come up with "She recited the place and the time in a tone that made you think of sacks of flour and sleeping manatees and other big inert lumpy things that don't move a whole lot."

OK, you have to swallow one big premise at the start of the book: that a humble book-store clerk would undergo a total personality change after a number of hardcover books collide with his skull.  If you're OK with that, everything else flows nicely.

Once out of the hospital, and clutching a check from the insurance company, mild-mannered  Peter Ingalls becomes Pete Ingalls, P I, with wing-tip shoes, snap-brim fedora and a line of patter that was last said well by Humphrey Bogart.

Ingalls gets himself a secretary, an office, and a couple of cases to investigate.  Soon he's up to his clichés in murder,  with a cast of unlikely-named characters including Darius and Catherine Flonger, Celeste Vroman, and Nora Shortie, not to mention a police detective named Henry David Thoreau.  (It's a darned shame Mary Astor is dead: she'd have been perfect to play Catherine Flonger.)

How Pete Ingalls solves his first cases and how a satisfied client rewards him are a treat for the unsuspecting reader.   You could analyze this book and its writer's intentions from now 'til breakfast--and no doubt some will--but far better to just relax and enjoy it.  It's a hoot.  Get it before everyone else reads it and spoils it for you.

 

Land of Echoes by Daniel Hecht

Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN 1582344736

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In the second outing featuring parapsychologist Cree Black, author Daniel Hecht gets closer to boundless terror than ever.  This time Cree is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when her old mentor gives her a call to suggest a case she might be interested in.  Involving a teenage Navajo American boy who is attending a school for the gifted in the western desert of the state, Cree wearily accepts the challenge.  Upon her arrival, she is shocked to encounter a situation that falls out of all her previously known experiences; it appears that Tommy is possessed.  There are also secrets being held by the enigmatic and beautiful owner of the school, adding to the already bewildering and frightening situation.  And as Cree attempts to discover who is possessing Tommy, she must uncover the secrets behind this vast and mystical land as well, as danger closes in on her in new and unexpected ways, with not all of them coming from great beyond. 

Daniel Hecht scores again in a series that is absorbing, lyrical, and altogether frightening.  His exploration of the supernatural, the Navajo culture, and the beauty of the New Mexican desert, all come together in a story that is as enthralling as it is evocative of the shadows that lie underneath our reality.  Cree Black is a scientist, a mystic, and always -a woman, one who deserves the love that seems to allude her in her personal quest to set aside her own ghosts.  But it’s her strength and character that  will draw the readers in, and engage them in her search for truth, hope, and deliverance.  This is one series you won’t want to miss.  (To read the interview with Daniel Hecht)

 

Wild Card by Rachel Lee

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778321290

FBI agent Tom Lawton is on probation after completing a long exhausting undercover operation  and punching his boss in the nose.  When presidential front runner Grant Lawrence is gunned down in a crowded auditorium, Lawton barely manages to get n the investigation team.  He is assigned to investigate groups with anti American philosophies.  When Tom and his partner come across an Idaho militia group that sparks their interest, he is put back on active probation and his partner is assigned a job in South America. Then Tom receives a call from a woman who wants to meet him in Idaho.  He must find out who this woman is and whether or not he can trust her, and whether or not she knows more about the militia group than he does.

What a thriller!!!  This book deals with politicians and businessmen who work outside the law and the constitution.  Their motive is greed and the end justifies any means.  The plot and characters are developed so plausibly, they send a chill through the reader, making one wonder if there really are deadly deals going down in our government.  All in all, a frightening and thought-provoking read.

 

Playing With Fire by Peter Robinson

Publisher: Avon Books  ISBN: 0061031100

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In a matter of days, two suspicious fires set Inspector Alan Banks and D.I. Annie Cabbot on the trail of an arsonist bent on hiding his real crimes, those which include art-forgery, faked identity, and murder.  Meanwhile, Banks must also deal with his growing jealousy over Annie’s new relationship with a man who plays in the same art arena they are investigating, causing trouble in their working relationship.  But the danger is closing in, and its coming from someone much closer to the investigation than they are aware of, leading them down false trails and straight into the path of harm.     

A truly talented author, Robinson scores yet again with his latest featuring the vibrant duo of Annie Cabbot and Alan Banks.  With writing still fresh and stimulating, this gripping read will please his many fans.  The growing antagonism between the pair adds much to the depth of the story, and Banks’s half-hearted attempt to further his relationship with his own amour convincingly indicates his ambivalence of putting his past relationships aside.  Don’t miss this one, the suspense and surprises, along with the personalities of these two strong characters, make this one of the more worthwhile reads you’ll find.

 

Dead Heat by Caroline Carver

Warner Books  ISBN 0 446614904

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader  

Second novels are sometimes a disappointment, but those who remember Caroline Carver's debut last year with "Blood Junction" will be every bit as satisfied with her new offering. Once again we have a feisty heroine facing unknown enemies to uncover a pharmaceutical mystery that has lead to murder.  Once again there's a helpful bush-wise friend without whom the heroine would not have survived.  And there's a cameo appearance by last year's heroine India Kane as a journalist.

Georgia Parish thought she'd escaped small-town tropical Australia forever when a career in publishing  took her to Sydney and a wider world.  Years later, the death of her grandfather brought her back to Nulgarra in the Far North Queensland, and  the crash of a small plane kept her there.

Nulgarra on the surface seems to have changed not at all. But the longer Georgia stays there, the more dark secrets she senses are hidden under the surface, like the crocodiles that infest the waterways: dangerous and possibly deadly.

The plane crash is passed off as caused by pilot error, but Georgia doubts this and sets out to clear the name of her old friend Bri.  She then discovers there are people who would be very pleased by the 'accidental' deaths of some of the other passengers.  But who had the best motive, the most urgent need?  Probably the one who stands to gain the most, but that needn't always be cash, there are other gains that might be seen as worth killing for.  A Super-drug, for instance, that can be made cheaply and sold expensively.

The suspense builds and the plot takes a number of hairpin turns until Georgia finds herself literally up a gum stump--in the dark, in the swamp, surrounded by crocodiles and at the mercy of a stone killer.  If only she hadn't worn that so-noticeable insect repellent! 

Take a break from DIY and self-improvement books--you know you're not going to lose that 10 pound bulge anyway--and relax with this rousing good adventure.

 

 

Dead on the Dance Floor by Heather Graham

Publisher: Mira Books ISBN: 0778321371 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Four women are dead in Miami.  A street walker and a wealthy widow died of illegal overdoses, while a wife and a competition dancer died of prescription overdoses.  All cases are closed and only one is thought to be murder.

When Private Investigator Quinn O'Casey is asked to look into the death of Lara Trudeau, the competition dancer, he goes under cover as a dance student, in spite of the fact that he has two left feet.  In the course of his investigation, he begins to see links among the four women and his instincts tell him that they were all murdered.

Once again Heather Graham has developed a tight intriguing plot that is hard to put down.  As always, her characters are real people with real personalities and problems that make it easy for the reader to identify with them, making for a dramatic and heart-rendering read that won't disappoint.