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Belshazzar's Daughter by  Barbara Nadel

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312316534

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

 
When Jewish derelict Leonid Meyer is brutally murdered in Istanbul, and a swastika is painted over his bed in blood, the case is turned over to Inspector Cetin Ikmen.  Ikmen, a chain smoker and chain brandy sipper, is meticulous in his investigative methods.  He builds a biography of the victim and then determines the motive.   It is not until a very surprising end that the murderer is revealed.
 
This book is not for the casual mystery fan who likes to flip through light novels -- but for the dedicated detective aficionado.  It must be read a chapter at a time, then put aside for contemplation and absorption.  Each character is given a distinct personality, whether it be the investigators or suspects (a Nazi sympathizing German, an English language teacher or a family of aristocratic Russians).
 
The plot is very well developed and managed, and keeps the reader on the edge of his seat guessing until the very end.

 

The Carbon Murder by Camille Minichino

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312319584

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, , New Mystery Reader

When Gloria Lamerino retired from her career in research and development in California, she decided to return to her childhood home.  Revere Massachusetts brings back wonderful memories with her friend Rose Galigani but also painful memories of losing her fiancé in an automobile accident just days before the wedding. Gloria had tried to block the hurt by becoming immersed in her chosen career of physics. Rose’s daughter and Gloria’s godchild, M.C. to all who knew her, also became interested in science and has a career in chemistry. 

Gloria had come back to Revere with no plan in mind and had lived in the apartment above the mortuary owned by Rose and her husband Frank.  Finding that her ordered and organized scientific mind was useful in other areas, Gloria became involved with the Revere Police Department as a consultant.  Discovering that she had a knack for solving murders, she became the unofficial partner of Detective Matt Gennaro.  Over the course of several cases, the two became more than working partners and decided to move in together. As Gloria put it, Matt was her second boyfriend since the Kennedy administration.  So when M.C. decided to come back to Revere unexpectedly, she moved into the apartment just recently vacated by Gloria.  It was convenient until she decided which job to accept, one at Charger Street Lab doing research or one at the local high school, teaching.  She liked doing both. M.C. confided to Gloria that she had left an abusive relationship in Houston and now felt that she was being stalked. But everyone thought it was just stress from the move and changing jobs.

When the body of a young woman discovered in a local swamp area turns out to be a former student of M.C.’s it is puzzling to everyone.  Why would a college student from Houston Poly be in Revere? And with M.C.’s name and address in her pocket, along with a card of Lorna Frederick’s at Charger Street Lab?

Because Matt is out of physical condition from having treatment for prostate cancer and needs lots of rest, Gloria works with Matt’s ‘real’ partner, Detective Berger, but still bats clues and suppositions around with Matt. What is the connection between persons working and studying at Houston Poly and Charger Street Lab? And dead horses? More bodies? Veterinarians? What a confusing mixture of events. Are they all related? Or two or three separate incidents?

Camille Minichino has created the Periodic Table Murder series. Her main characters are totally believable and have lives outside of fighting crime. The crisis of Matt having Prostate Cancer is sad and scary but IS a part of life. Plus the snooty sister of Matt’s who can’t seem to accept Gloria.. The uncertainties and insecurities which plague Gloria at times are feelings that come to us all occasionally. Gloria is smart, witty and fun to read about. Of course Ms. Minichino, being the physicist that she is, has put in a lot of scientific technical stuff that I just slid right on past, lazy person that I am. I think everyone will enjoy this series. I take it that the next book will be entitled The Nitrogen Murder? I will be looking forward to it!

 

Southwesterly Wind by Louis Alfredo Garcia-Roza

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.; ISBN: 0805068910

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, , New Mystery Reader

Brazilian Chief Espinoza is quite content, if not slightly bored, with the usual crimes in his Copacabana district, so when a young man walks into the precinct saying he's going to murder someone before his next birthday, Espinoza jumps at the chance for something different.  The young man, Gabriel, had been approached by a psychic the year before on his birthday with the terrifying prediction, and now the young man lives his life in a fearful paranoia that he is about to snap.  And when people that Gabriel knows begin to die, it seems that the young man's paranoia may be much much more, and it will be up to Espinoza to figure out this puzzle of ever-maddening proportions.

The epitome of psychological suspense, this latest from Garcia-Roza is intelligent, gripping, and simply put, an unusually clever mystery.  Reaching deep into the psyches of his characters, Garcia-Roza plays well with the intricate puzzles and paranoias that can  bamboozle our minds, and consequently take over our lives.  In addition, Espinoza is a delightful character whose tentative steps into middle-age, and perhaps a new love, are highly appealing and highly appreciated.  My first in the series, it won't be my last.