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The Final Victim by Wendy Corsi Staub

Publisher:   Kensington Publishing Corporation   ISBN: 0821779710

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Charlotte Remington returns to the family mansion on Achoco Island to live while her Savannah home is being renovated.  Charlotte has known tragedy, losing her son in a drowning accident and her marriage shortly thereafter.  She meets Royce Maitland, a man who has also lost a child, and they marry.  When her grandfather dies suddenly, she expects the inheritance to be divided equally between herself and her cousins.  She is shocked to find out that she is the sole inheritor; her cousins are livid and threaten to take her to court to get their rightful share.  Tragedy strikes again when Royce is shot and the prime suspect is Charlotte’s cousin Gib.  Charlotte believes that the mansion is haunted and is the source of many secrets but everyone in this novel seems to have secrets that they want to remain buried.  Charlotte senses that there will be more death on the island, but she does not know who will be the next victim.

The Final Victim is another psychological suspense from Wendy Corsi Staub.  The mansion on Ochoco Island is full of haunting secrets that amplify the spookiness of the plotline.  All the characters seem to have a darker side which makes it hard to tell whether they are good or bad and in some cases they have some elements of both.  Charlotte has been through more than her fair share of tragedy which has given her the internal strength that will help her to deal with the present and the demons that surface as a result of her return to Achoco Island.  The Final Victim is an exciting and darkly eerie suspenseful novel which is full of action that will hold a reader’s attention from cover to cover.

 

Shotgun Opera by Victor Gischler

Publisher:  Dell  Book  ISBN:  0440241715

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Mike Foley gives up his life of crime when he realizes that he has shot a small child and freezes on a job with his brother.  He knows that he has lost his edge and is a liability to his brother so he leaves town and never looks back.  He starts a new life in Oklahoma making wine and prays everyday that the nightmares will go away.  Andrew Foley agrees to work a job with his mob-connected buddies for what seems to be easy money.  They have to offload a container from a ship before customs screening and put it into a warehouse.  Instead of leaving the warehouse when the job is complete the trio decides to play cards.  They hear a loud explosion and see a man walk out of the container.  They know that he is a terrorist just from the way he looks and his mannerisms.  There is no doubt that the three young men are in trouble because all of the people involved in the operation are being killed.  Obviously someone wants to remove any possible links to the terrorist and the operation.  Andrew needs to disappear, since he is the only one of the trio who is still alive.  Before his father died he told him to call his Uncle Mike if he is ever in grave danger, and that is what he does.  Nikki Enders, a hired assassin, is following Andrew because he is the only one left on her “to kill” list.  She was injured during her previous operation so she calls one of her family members to get Andrew.  Little does she know but she has also become a target and her own life is in danger.  Uncle Mike resurrects his killer instincts in order to protect his nephew from harm. 

Shotgun Opera is a thriller chocked full of dark quirky characters and action.  The author weaves bits of humor into the plotline and these comic moments show up rather unexpectedly in the novel.  Mike Foley is a very interesting character who is haunted by his past while maintaining a sense of family responsibility.  Readers who enjoy a “Get Shorty” sort of dark, comic, thriller will enjoy Shotgun Opera.

 

Midnight Cab by James W. Nichol

Publisher: Canongate U.S.ISBN: 1841957925

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

It was sixteen years ago when three year old Walker Devereaux was found on the side of the road, alone and abandoned.  Now he's nineteen, and after facing years of questions regarding his biological parents, he's ready to hit the road in search of answers.  Arriving in Toronto he sets up a home, finds a job at a cab company, and forms a relationship with the beautiful and physically disabled night dispatcher, Krista.  Together the two begin searching for clues with only a letter and an old photograph found in Walker's pockets on the day he was found to go on.  But soon threatening events begin to dog their every move, and they realize that somebody will stop at nothing to keep them from learning the horrible secrets surrounding Walker's past.

This is also the story of Bobby, a boy who grows from sullen and isolated to a monster of epic proportions, and whose lust for killing will soon place Walker and Krista in a place of such danger and evil almost to be unfathomable.

Nichols has succeeding in creating a tale so suspenseful and compelling that it's almost impossible to let go of.  His depiction of good and evil as represented through the perfectly rendered qualities of courage and sweetness found in Walker and the immense depravity found in Bobby make it all come vividly alive with poignancy and depth.  Another plus is the immensely tender relationship formed between Walker and Krista, providing additional sweetness to offset some of the immense malevolence that haunt these wonderfully crafted pages. Don't miss this enchanting and breathtaking ride, with its perfectly balanced mixture of good and evil, it more than satisfies.

 

To Catch A Cook by Joanne Pence

Publisher:  Avon Books, ISBN:  0061030856

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, New Mystery Reader

A past we know nothing about can rise up and bring trouble when we are least expecting it.  So it is for Paavo Smith after a series of burglaries, including his and Angie Amalfi's homes. 

There seems to be a relationship between the murders of two Russian jewelers and an attack on the man who raised Paavo.  Since all three men are elderly, Paavo knows the answer has to be found in the past. So begins his search.

Talented author Joanne Pence gives the reader something new in her characters and story telling that will keep the pages turning.  What links the past to the present. What does this have to do with Angie or Paavo? 

Recommended as a fun read for any mystery fan.  Satisfying to the last page and you'll be looking for other books by this imaginative author.  Enjoy. 

 

 

Snakeskin Shamisen by Naomi Hirahara

Publisher: Delta ISBN: 0385339615

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

iroshima survivor Mas Arai is now a gardener is Los Angeles.  There is nothing he likes more than gambling so when a friend of his old buddy G. I. Hasuike wins half a million dollars on a SPAM slot machine he doesn't know whether to laugh, cry, or offer congratulations.  Mas goes to the celebration party a few days later and the winner is stabbed to death in the parking lot. Arai doesn't like to get involved in other people's business but when a G.I. asks him to find out about a musical instrument (shamisen) left at the scene of the crime he can't refuse.

As a historian I found this novel absolutely fascinating.  The immigration of the Japanese into the U. S., the bombing of Hiroshima, the Japanese confinement camps in the U. S. during World War II, and the McCarthy trials in the 50's are all woven into the plot.  Arai, with his respectful attitude and manners, and his dogged determination manages to get more information than law enforcement officers working the case.  What insight this character has, adding depth and sincerity to this intelligent and driven plot.

 

Bad Guys by Linwood Barclay

Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition ISBN: 0553587056

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Zack Walker is not your all American cool guy.  He is not the best dresser around and he always worries and frets about his wife and two teenagers.  His 16 year old son is getting drunk just for the sake of getting drunk and his college freshman daughter is being stalked.  Zack writes science fiction novels that never hit the best seller list, so he is now working as a feature writer for the newspaper on which his wife is part of the management team.  When he decides to ride along with a private investigator for the purpose of writing a feature, they get involved in a shootout and a few days later Zack finds the P. I. seriously stabbed.  From this point on Zack's life is turned upside down.

Barclay knows how to write a book that will keep you rolling in the aisles.  As inept as good old Zack is, he does manage to become a hero to his daughter, ferret out a crooked cop, cause the death of a drug kingpin, and find out who almost killed his P. I. friend.  The action in this novel never stops and has so many twists and turns you will be biting your nails in between fits of laughter. 

 

 

The Big Boat to Bye-Bye by Ellis Weiner

Publisher: Signet  ISBN: 0451218205

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Pete Ingalls, who wears wide-brimmed fedoras and emulates the sleuths of a  time gone by, is called in on another case.  Charlotte Purdy and Donnie Dansicker, who are producers of the PBS puppet show Playhouse Pals, have four days to come up with a million bucks or else the X-rated outtakes from the show will be released to the Internet.  Can Ingalls and his assistant Stephanie Constantino find the blackmailer in time?

Ingalls quickly finds out that there is no lack of suspects; starting with the overworked staff, disgruntled former employees, an ex-wife, and producers of rival shows.  He decides to use the payoff to track the blackmailers.  Unfortunately, the plan backfires and Ingalls not only loses the money but he has no clues.  In the meantime, Ingalls is hired by a beautiful woman who wants him to find a necklace that she lost at a restaurant.  Nothing is straightforward for Ingalls and even this task becomes more complicated when two other women come forward claiming that they lost the same necklace in the same restaurant. 

The Big Boat to Bye-Bye is the second installment in the Ingalls series.  The path to solving the whodunit is filled with quirky characters, humor, and Ingalls’ strange musings about life.  Ellis Weiner provides a strong follow-on to his debut novel, Drop Dead My Lovely, with this book and another opportunity to experience the eccentric and often humorous antics of Pete Ingalls.

 

Tilt A Whirl by Chris Grabenstein

Publisher: Carroll & Graf ISBN: 0786717815

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

The coastal town of Sea Haven, New Jersey is welcoming the onslaught of tourists for the summer season when murder strikes in what's got to be one of the most scandalous murders the town has ever seen.  Billionaire developer Reginald Hart has been killed in front of his daughter in the early morning hours in the town's amusement park, and on the case is John Ceepak, an MP just returned from Iraq, and his partner- young Danny Boyle, a summertime cop just learning the ropes.  At first things seem pretty clear with all evidence pointing to one of the many vagrants inhabiting the area, but things are never as they seem, as this duo will soon discover, for the man had many secrets and just as many enemies.

This highly engaging read is sure to garner Grabenstein a host of fans for his superb storytelling abilities and character generation.  Ceepak, a younger and more compassionate Joe Friday type of guy is refreshingly drawn as a cop with integrity and honor to spare.  His partner, Danny Boyle, is another finely drawn character, young and impressionable; he's also got plenty of wit and charm that easily delights.  And it's in this pairing that makes this such an inventive and entertaining read.  Of course the mystery itself provides plenty of suspense and shocks, all adding up for one heck of a good read.  Here's to hoping it's just the first in a series from an author who knows just how to tell a story for maximum impact. 

 

 

Burned by Carol Higgins Clark

Publisher: Pocket Star  ISBN: 0743476662

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

A terrible blizzard shuts down the airports in the East right as private investigator, Regan Reilly, prepares to leave California to spend the weekend with her fiancée.  When Regan’s best friend Kit calls from Hawaii and invites her to join her for one last “girls only” vacation before the wedding; she agrees not knowing that this will end up being a working vacation.  When Regan arrives, she finds out that the body of Dorinda Dawes, an employee at the Waikiki Waters Playground and Resort, has washed ashore.  She is wearing a valuable shell lei that once belonged to a Hawaiian princess and has been missing for over 30 years.  How did Dorinda find the lei?  Did it have anything to do with her death?

Initially, it appears that Dorinda’s death is an accidental drowning; but Will Brown, the manager of the resort, does not think so.  He finds out that Regan is a private investigator and hires her to find out what really happened to Dorinda. 

Regan quickly finds out that there is a long list of people who might have had a desire to harm Dorinda.  Dorinda was digging up dirt on people and she was planning to sell her “tell-all” articles to the sleazier publications.  Regan’s investigation takes a number of twists and turns and includes a tour group, Kit’s new boyfriend, employees at the hotel, and a pushy house-sitter.  Like a centipede, the case that Regan is working seems to have many “legs.”

In Burned, Carol Higgins Clark has done a masterful job of writing a novel that “flows like silk” through a series of whodunits.  Regan Reilly is one of the best in the women detective genre.  Burned is a delightfully unpredictable mystery, set in paradise, that is enjoyable to the last page.

 

Devil’s Corner by Lisa Scottoline

Publishers: Harper Collins ISBN: 0060742887

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader 

This must be the most serious plot Scottoline might have ever attempted in a legal thriller. Its not a whodunit, nor a murder mystery simpliciter- true there is murder, true there is violence, but its not like the ones we see in regular of the block legal thrillers.

In Devil’s Corner, Scottoline voices the concern of the growing drug menace in our Society, especially among the school children. Vicki Allegretti is a new lawyer in the District Attorney’s office. Ambitious and rearing to go and solve crimes, Vicki is impatient that “no big ones” come her way. And when she attends a call to meet a potential witness at an “odd place” she does not rethink and immediately goes there. And no sooner has reached there, she finds herself staring down the barrel of a gun…. and the person who is pointing the gun at her is a terrified teenager. Though Vicki tries to soothe him and handover the weapon- the whole thing goes horribly wrong and before Vicki knows it, there are 2 dead. Guilt-ridden she decides to launch into her own investigation – an investigation which will take her through the back alleys of the city streets to one place called Devil’s Corner- a place where crime and drug mafia rules the roost. What follows is exciting action drama, culminating in an exciting and thrilling end- one that will keep enchanted and enthralled the fans of Lisa “the female Grisham” Scottoline.

 

 

 

The Shooting Script by Laurence Klavan

Publisher: Fawcett ISBN: 0345462777

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Ray Milano, a thirtyish, divorced geek who publishes a newsletter called TRIVIAL MAN because he is a movie trivia fanatic.  He feels that his greatest coup would be to get his hands on THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED which is an unreleased Jerry Lewis film.  In his quest he is transported to Los Angeles, Amsterdam and then back to New York.  No matter where he goes, some crazy stalker is trying to kill him.

This is an absolutely zany novel with characters that are totally unreal.  During his travels he runs across such diverse characters as a former tennis pro who wants to be an actor, a former comedian who is retired and doesn't want to be, a former child star who carries her Oscar around with her and bops him with it, and a former director who owes so to the drug lords that they are always trying to beat him up.  It is also filled with loads of movie trivia that movie fans will absolutely love.