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Does Your Mother Know? by  Maureen Jennings

Publisher:  The Dundurn Group ISBN:  10: 1550026399

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

If you've ever longed to visit Scotland or the Outer Hebrides, now is your chance. Immerse yourself in the compelling tale of Christine Morris, Canadian policewoman who is attending a conference in Scotland when she learns her mother has been in a car accident and disappeared. It just happens that her mother is on one of the islands.

Christine's life has long been overshadowed by her mother's alcoholism, ruining her childhood and school years, and finally interfering with her job because of numerous arrests.  Yet when her mother is involved in a fatal accident and disappears, Christine jumps into the investigation to find her mother, Joan Morris, and finds something she hadn't expected.

The search for Joan leads to Christine's involvement in another murder investigation that brings her into an abrupt contact with her mother's mysterious past. Is Joan responsible for a woman's death? Who is the woman and why is Joan on the island?

These are questions you'll want answered as you start reading a finely written tale by talented author Maureen Jennings.  A combination of mystery and romance blended into a compelling story of how one person's past can affect another's life.  Join Christine in untangling the knots in her life.

I'm happy to recommend this story to any reader. You'll want to read other books by this fine writer.  Enjoy. I sure did.

 

 

Kill All the Lawyers:  A Solomon vs. Lord Novel by Paul Levine

Publisher:  Bantam Books  ISBN:  0-440-24275-4

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Finding a 300 pound marlin outside his front door sets the tone for the rest of Steve Solomon's day.  He soon learns that his former client, pop psychiatrist Bill Kreeger, has not only been released from prison, he has been maligning Steve on his radio talk show, calling him a shyster.

Steve suspects that Kreeger has learned that he supplied key evidence to the prosecution in Kreeger's trial—a move that could get Steve disbarred.  But Kreeger isn't interested in getting revenge through legal channels.  He'd rather threaten Steve and those he loves best:  his nephew Bobby, father Herbert, and law partner/lover Victoria Lord.

Complicating matters are Bobby's budding relationship with a neighborhood hottie, Herbert's sudden conversion to Orthodoxy, and the reappearance of Bobby's junkie mother, not to mention problems in Steve's own love life.  Steve finds an unexpected ally in "the Queen," Victoria's mother, who has fallen in love with a con man.

Even as Steve finds increasingly damning evidence against Kreeger, the psychiatrist manages to stay two steps ahead of him.  In Kreeger, author Paul Levine has created such a reprehensible, evil villain that the reader will long to crawl into the book to kill him.  Steve Solomon, on the other hand, is a t-shirt-wearing, easygoing Jimmy Buffet-devotee who follows his own moral compass, regardless of the law.  Levine expertly captures the southern Florida vibe, making this an entertaining read.

 

 

The Grief Shop by Vicki Stiefel

Publisher: Leisure Books ISBN: 0843957433

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

When Tally Whyte, head of Massachusetts's Grief Assistance Program, gets the call that someone has penetrated the security of the medical examiner's office and left the body of a young girl, she, like her co-workers could not be more outraged.  The only clue investigators have to go on is the note left with the body that reads, "Sins of the Fathers", which only causes more bafflement.  Soon enough the young girl is identified, but all are shocked to discover that the girl was not alone in this tragedy, and that her playmate has now gone missing. 

Meanwhile, Tally's foster mother, Veda Barrow, the chief medical examiner, has suddenly taken ill, a mild flu that has quickly metamorphosed into a frightening spiral of dementia, an illness of which there seems no return. 

It seems impossible that all these tragic events might be connected, but the deeper Tally investigates, the closer she comes to a decade's old secret, one that holds the key to everything, and one that involves familiar faces that will do anything to keep their secret buried, even if it means destroying old friends.

Stiefel's latest takes quite a number of interesting turns and proffers up more than one shocking surprise, leading the reader down a twisting, riveting trail of suspense, and anticipation of what's to come.  And in the courageous and sincere Tally, she gives the reader even more reason to keep reading; her struggles of love, family, and career hitting just the right dramatic chord to further immerse the reader in this outstanding tale of greed, murder, and secrets.  This one is definitely recommended, and as it hints at even bigger changes to come, it's one you won't want to miss.    

 

 

Bloodlines by Jan Burke

Publisher: Pocket Star ISBN: 0743444558

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Those who enjoyed the previous Burke novels featuring reporter Irene Kelly, will indubitably enjoy this one as well.  The book is basically separated into three parts; the basic crime which frames the book that occurred in 1958, new developments found in 1978, and the final resolution found in 2000, all coming in at around 450 pages. 

It all begins with the story of reporter Jack Corrigan, a young, brash, and handsome man who knows how to write one heck of a story.  One who soon becomes part of the biggest story of the decade when he is found beaten near to death on the same night a wealthy infant is discovered to be kidnapped, his nanny murdered, and his parents lost at sea aboard a luxurious yacht.  And as all these events began at a party that all the players had attended, the connections are easy to spot, but not so easy to make sense of.  And as Jack slowly tries to uncover the truth, he begins the mentoring of another upcoming reporter, Conn O'Connor.

Flash forward 20 years, and Connor O'Connor is now about to become a mentor to our very own Irene Kelly who begins the second chapter in the saga when she happens to be covering an unrelated story at a location where some startling new evidence regarding the decade's old crime is literally being uncovered.  And as these two fight off their initial animosity, they find themselves hot on the trail of some new discoveries that come even closer to solving the crime.  But after much investigation, they still find they are missing the ever-elusive final pieces needed to solve this complex and mystifying puzzle.

Finally it's the year 2000, and once again the case rears its mysterious head.  Kelly, now working for the same paper, has come across yet even more information, and with the advances in forensics, this time out resolution may arrive at last.  That is if she can make it out alive. 

This saga, encompassing 4 plus decades, with a myriad of side-stories and characters, is fascinating, detailed, and amazingly harmonious.  And although at times it might feel a bit long, the flow into each succeeding storyline is done so smoothly that such distraction doesn't last for long.  Most distinctive, however, are the wonderfully wrought characters found in the three very different reporters whose unrelenting love for their profession goes heartrendingly deep.  That each is unique in their own way, yet somehow all connected by some sort of innate integrity and unspoken bond, make this tale go from merely interesting to enchanting and emotionally satisfying. Save this one for when time is aplenty, you'll need it, keeping in mind, it's entirely worth it.

 

 

The Bay At Midnight by Diane Chamberlain

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778323412

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Mystery writer Julie Seller's work is interrupted by the running of the doorbell.  The visitor is the niece of Ned Chapman, the man she believes killed her sister over fifty years ago.  The purpose of the visit is to inform Julie that Ned is dead but has left behind an unmailed letter to the police stating that the wrong man was sent to prison for killing her sister.  Julie's world is turned upside down.  She must conquer the guilt and fears that have plagued her since childhood and return to the New Jersey shore to have the case reopened.

Chamberlain has given us a novel with an intricate plot woven around the lives of two families.  She explores the relationships of parents and children, siblings, friends, and lovers.  Very deftly she develops the personality of each character as a child and an adult.  Reading this novel is a very moving experience.

 

The Camel Club by David Baldacci

Publishers: Warner Vision ISBN:  0446615625

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Baldacci delivers an unusual thriller- and by unusual, I mean, totally different from the style of his earlier thrillers - in The Camel Club.

Well known- for his nitty-gritty suspense thrillers like Absolute Power, Last Man Standing and The Simple Truth, I was expecting something along those lines with The Camel Club. This time round Baldacci offers a conspiracy story of the like and style associated with Tom Clancy and Dan Brown. The Camel Club is a group of special individuals- persons who have made a mark for themselves, persons who are enigmatic and mysterious in their own way, generally persons whom you and I might feel ‘uncomfortable’ with. And the greatest passion the members of the Camel Club- enjoy is conjuring up conspiracies, giving a conspiracy touch to all strange events…

Oliver Stone is one such member of the Camel Club. Even the name is eponymous. Oliver Stone derives inspiration from the REAL Oliver Stone, one of the greatest real-time conspiracy theorists of all time. But when Stone and friends witness something that’s unbelievable, (what the unbelievable thing- was read the book and find it out), they realize that truth truly is stranger and more dangerous than the conspiracies they fantasize.

What then follows is somber action, sort of the action we associate with X- Files, you know- the numero- uno conspiracy theory television serial, culminating in an exciting and truly Baldaccian finish. Highly enjoyable, and truly Something Special from this great author. Only one question remains- who will be starring as Oliver Stone in the movie- there sure’s gonna be a movie, mark my words.

 

 

The Stranger House by Reginald Hill

Publisher:  Avaon  ISBN:  0-06-0821426

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

Edie Appledore, proprietor of the aptly named Stranger House, a pub and bed & breakfast in the Cambrian village of Illthwaite, does not strike guest Samantha (Sam) Flood as being particularly welcoming.  Sam has come to Illthwaite seeking information about her grandmother, whom she suspects had ties to the village.  What Sam doesn't realize is how deeply her questions disturb Edie.

Miguel (Mig) Madero, also a guest at the Stranger House, is researching his thesis on the hiding of priests during the Reformation.  At first glance, the goals of Sam and Mig seem to have little in common—much like the individuals themselves.  But their quests become intertwined, as they learn their families are, too.

Skillfully darting between the sixteenth century, early 1960s, and present-day, Mig and Sam are a bright, engaging couple whose skills complement each other as they search for the truth. 

Reginald Hill's suspense novel is not an easy read, and coupled with the fact that it doesn't get really interesting until about halfway through its 470 pages, this might lessen its appeal to many readers.  But those willing to make the commitment will find it worth their while.

 

 

Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

Publisher:  Ballantine Books  ISBN:  0-345-476980

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Boston Medical Examiner Dr. Maura Isles is finishing a busy day in the lab when she hears a sound inside the cooler.  Tracing the source of the noise, Maura unzips the body bag of a Jane Doe and is astonished when the beautiful young woman's eyes fly open.  After saving her life and weathering the media nightmare that follows, Maura visits Jane Doe in the hospital the next day, only to be taken hostage by her.

So goes the pace of the suspenseful Vanish.  While Maura manages a daring escape, Jane Doe soon accumulates six other hostages, including Homicide Detective Jane Rizzoli, who is in labor.  While fearing for her life and that of her unborn baby, Rizzoli sees that her captors are as terrified as she is.  Her husband, FBI Agent Gabriel Dean, seeing his entire family at risk, begins, with Maura's assistance, his own investigation of Jane Doe and her accomplice.  They soon realize there are broader political implications to the hostage situation, but can't begin to imagine how high the corruption reaches.

Tess Gerritsen interweaves procedural and political thriller in this spellbinding story of greed, prostitution, and slavery.  Boldly shifting points of view build the tension, and the good guys and bad guys aren't as self-evident as they may seem. 

 

 

The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard

Publisher: HarperTorch ISBN: 0060724234

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Few things describable in polite company are more fun than reading Elmore Leonard. His newest, The Hot Kid, is no exception. Having long ago reached the point where putting his name on a book guaranteed sales, Leonard still provides top quality for your money and time.

The Hot Kid is the story of Deputy United States Marshal Carlos “Carl” Webster, who gets a taste of both sides of the law at the age of fifteen. First, a notorious bank robber steals a lick from Carl’s ice cream cone; later, he has to defend his cattle from a Depression-era rustler. The story is a journey through Carl’s young adulthood as an up-and-coming marshal with a big reputation, The Hot Kid.

Setting plays a bigger role in The Hot Kid than in most Leonard novels. Departing from his usual haunts of modern Detroit or Florida, Oklahoma in the 1920s and ‘30s is where Carl Webster builds his reputation. This is the time and place of Leonard’s boyhood, and his affection for the times comes through in every mention of Harvey Girls, Tulsa’s Mayo Hotel, and reference to a pre-Texas Playboys Bob Wills.

It’s impossible to tell much about the plot without ruining the fun built into the clever twists that drop into the book like surprise parties when you least expect them. There are a couple of burps here; it’s okay, some of these characters aren’t the sharpest drill in the oil field. Leonard’s novels aren’t about plot, anyway. They’re about people, and the things that happen to them, usually because of their own actions or faults. Leonard’s doesn’t write books, he tells stories that meander through his characters’ lives like the Mississippi working its way to New Orleans. There’s no hurry getting to the end, you’re having too much fun enjoying the ride.

Leonard’s populates The Hot Kid with several of his most memorable characters. There’s Carl, building a national reputation as a lawman while still in his twenties, with a trademark of warning baddies that if he has to draw his gun, he’ll shoot to kill, and meaning it; Jack Belmont, son of an oil millionaire back in the days when having millions of dollars was real money, whose ambition in life is to be Public Enemy Number One; Louly Brown, jealous of a cousin married to Pretty Boy Floyd, who figures out being a gun moll isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in a hurry; Tony Antonelli, a reporter who’s slick enough to get Carl’s and Jack’s stories, yet dense enough to let the same man steal his car twice; and Carl’s dad Virgil, who was on the Maine when it blew up and will only let the oil company drill on part of his spread so as not to disturb his pe-can trees.

Leonard doesn’t waste much time with physical descriptions of his characters. You get a general idea of what each looks like, then your imagination is on its own. Looks aren’t what matter here. See what they do, and, most important, listen to them talk. You’ll have a better image of people Leonard describes in two sentences than from many “literary” authors’ two pages. When Leonard writes: “Louly sounding sure it was Jack. ‘He came looking for Carl and took a case of beer, a shotgun, and a chicken,’” it tells you more about both of them than most writers can do in a chapter.

Leonard’s main precepts of writing are simple. If it sounds like writing, he rewrites it; and he leaves out the parts people skip. The Hot Kid is a tale much more told than written, by a master who has already left out the parts you might skip. Savor every word.

 

SACRED COWS by Karen E. Olson

Publisher: Warner Books  ISBN 0 446616850

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Reporter Annie Seymour is one of the not-so-new breed of tough, single, forty-something protagonists who have attracted quite a following since V I Warshawski first came on the scene.

Annie is bedevilled by a cub reporter whom she is supposed to be mentoring, but she finds him an impediment more often than not.  Maddeningly, her editor on the New Haven Herald often forces the cub on Annie, who believes she'll get further alone when she's tracking down a hot story.  But Dick Whitfield has his uses, and occasionally finds out information before Annie does, which doesn't make their relationship any smoother.

Annie has an 'in' when it comes to crime news, because she's having a desultory affair with Tom, a local police detective.  He doesn't let her take much advantage of their closeness, however; and when he's on a case, she has to wheedle and trick every scrap of information out of him.  (Nobody should be surprised when Tom delivers one of those "This isn't working out between us" scenes;  it clears the ground for a much more interesting male character to enter Annie's life.)

The case of the suicidal co-ed is a good example: Annie knows there's more information than she's being given, and when Tom isn't forthcoming, she sets out to do some sleuthing of her own.  It doesn't take long to uncover all sorts of dark shadows in the pretty girl's past, and when it seems as if Annie is going to uncover a really huge scandal, her editor suddenly whips her off the story and assigns her to cover the annual cow parade.    She can't go over his head and complain to the publisher, because she's just discovered the publisher is sleeping with her mother, a noted lawyer, and neither of them want Annie snooping around the story any further.  Annie manages to find out there's some shaky financial dealings in the picture, before the editor orders her off the story.

What Annie thinks about being assigned to write about a bunch of fiberglass cows painted up by celebrities and artists can't be printed in a family magazine.  And that's one of the drawbacks to this otherwise good first novel: Annie seems to have to prove she's a tough-guy girl by using "the F-word" far more often than the occasions call for.   Most of us say it occasionally, but not every day--it loses impact when applied to ordinary irritations, and should be saved for major moments in a story. 

The mystery is eventually unraveled and the crime is solved, and to say more would spoil your fun.  Other than the small reservation about the overuse of strong language, "Sacred Cows" is not just a good first mystery, it's a good mystery period.  Olson deservedly won the Sara Ann Freed award for a first mystery novel.