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All the Dead Fathers by David J. Walker

Publisher:  St. Martinís Minotaur  ISBN:  0-312-33454-0

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader 

Kirsten would have been shocked by the murder and mutilation of a priest even if she hadnít recognized his name as one that had appeared on a list of eighteen priests accused of sexual improprieties.  The list, published in a local Chicago newspaper, also included the name of her uncle. 

Although her relationship with her uncle, Father Michael Nolan, has been strained since she learned about his past, private investigator Kirsten is nonetheless drawn to the case, as more priests are murdered.  The surviving priests canít afford her fees, but she offers them protection while she investigates the murders.  Soon she wonders if the threats sheís receiving are related to the serial killings.  When she figures out the pattern the murderer is following in choosing the victims, she knows sheís being targeted. 

It doesnít take Kirsten long to determine who the killer is, but protecting herself and the priests proves to be more difficult.  Fearing for her husbandís safety, Kirsten goes on the offensive. 

Kirsten is a fearless, if sometimes foolish, heroine who meets her match in the sociopathic killer.  Author David J. Walker deftly portrays the complexities and difficulties of family and romantic relationships.  Kirsten can forgive her uncles for what heís done, but condemns him for not telling her the truth, failing to see the parallel in her own marriage.  This suspenseful novel races to its nerve-racking ending.


Dead Reckoning by Patricia Hall

Publisher:  St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN:  0312321538

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader 

A look at a touchy subject that makes for a dark read.  An intriguing look at what could be the result of a culture clash over two people falling in love with the wrong person.

DCI Michael Thackeray is called to the scene of an accident that turns out to be a murder. At first the nameless victim goes unclaimed but as events unfold, it is learned he is the son of a local manufacturer.

Racial tensions are already high because of strike talk with the Asian workers of the plant and the possible permanent closing of the plant and the identification of the victim only deepens the problems. 

To add to Thackeray's personal problems, he is worried about his relationship with Laura Ackroyd who works for a local paper.  Will he be able to hold onto their relationship?

Movement between two worlds portrays the problems diverse beliefs can cause in such an investigation.  Will they find a missing girl and keep riots from doing permanent harm?  It's all based on finding a killer. 

Highly recommended for the mystery reader who likes complex tales that take us into the dark side of life.  Talented Patricia Hall brings us lifelike characters who you can identify with and gives us a tour into the poorer side of small mill towns we don't always see.



MAD COW NIGHTMARE Nancy Means Wright

Thomas Dunne/St Martin's Minotaur ISBN 0 312 33133 9

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

This fifth in the Ruth Willmarth series is a tale of gypsies, murder and pestilence, not a cheery mix.

Farmer Willmarth already has enough problems, prying a living from the
unforgiving soil of Vermont.  She didn't need the added complications of a gaggle of gypsy relatives of her lover Colm's cousin Darren.  He claims they aren't gypsies, but 'travellers', the Irish term for folk who move from one place to another.  They may appear rootless and feckless, but they bring a bit of life to Ruth's daily round, and some of them lend a hand with the cows.

Things get more complicated when Ritchie is found murdered and his girlfriend, who may be carrying BSE, is on the run.   A brute of a woman-basher, and probably a horse thief,  Ritchie's death focuses more unwanted attention on Ruth's farm.    Not that he didn't richly deserve murdering: hardly anyone has a good word for the man.

Ruth has her hands full trying to get to the bottom of the murder, save her cows from the US Department of Agriculture, and maintain her relationship with Colm, who never seems to appreciate the gravity of a situation.    The ending is a mixed bag and left this reader hoping that Ruth's next adventure will be a bit more upbeat.     That's not to say it isn't well-written, and peopled with some good characters--but I wouldn't read it again on a rainy afternoon.



Trial by Fire by D. W. Buffa

Publisher: Putnam Adult ISBN: 0399152814

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader  

San Francisco attorney Joseph Antonelli isn't feeling too pleased these days with the increase in media coverage surrounding scandalous trials, and he's more than happy to express this viewpoint while a guest on a TV show and to anyone who will listen.  As luck would have it, it's this very same issue that is about to profoundly affect his own life when he takes on the case of a young lawyer of whom he has grown to deeply respect and who has been accused of murdering his "mistress".  Pronounced guilty by the pundits before the trial even goes to court, Antonelli still believes that the woman's husband is responsible for her brutal death and his client innocent, but proving it is an entirely different matter when the entire country has already found him guilty. 

While the premise behind this novel, that of turning the justice system into entertainment and thereby reducing the chance for a fair trial, is certainly a worthwhile one, Buffa's own character Antonelli ends up doing the very thing he's lamenting, turning much of it into hypocrisy.  He himself pronounces the woman's husband guilty long before any trial (and long before he later tries to justify it), not to mention in the face of a total lack of concrete evidence, putting the entire concept into question even as it is being argued against.  This led to an uneven and somewhat disjointed read, as this definitely is a subject that indeed needs to seriously be addressed.  But for die-hard fans of the legal drama, there might still be enough debate within the book to generate interest.   And for fans of the series, there is of course the return of all the character favorites doing what they do best, fighting for justice with words as their weapons.