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Sojourn by Jana G Oliver

Publisher: Dragon Moon Books ISBN 1 896944 30 2

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

One of the drawbacks to being a book reviewer is you rarely have a choice in the books that are sent for review, and not all of them will be quite your cup of tea.

Fortunately, that wasn't a problem with this book.  It's one of my favorite historical periods: Victorian London in the Ripper/Holmes era.  It's got a tough, gutsy, quirky heroine.  And it's got a time-travel and shape-shifting sub-plot.  A great mix, but one which requires some skill to handle well, and Jana Oliver does that in blue-ribbon style.

Jacynda Lassiter works for a time travel company, the well named T.I.C.  They're your typical multinational corporation, using their employees like disposable resources in the enlightened year 2057.  Same old, same old.  Jacynda's job is to return to the past to retrieve wayward tourists, those who have overstayed their time visas, so to speak.

She's just back from a retrieval in Pompeii which singed her clothes and wore her out, and she's looking for a rest.  No, that's not an option, she has to go straightaway to the grimy streets of Whitechapel to find a missing professor.  Still badly affected by her last trip, she lands in London suffering all sorts of hallucinatory side effects, including seeing--or not--a big blue spider.

She finds and returns her subject, and hopes to come home, but is informed there's another missing time tourist.  Unbeknownst to her, the doctor who lives in her boarding house is a transitive, a shape-shifter,  and thinks Jacynda might be ready for the booby-hatch.  He also has troubles of his own with his fellow transitives, who think he's abnormal for not shifting his shape as they do all the time.  And of course in the middle of all this is Jack the Ripper, who could be anyone, and who could have Jacynda in his sights.

How everything works out, and Jacynda's perilous adventures before it does, makes for a riveting tale.  Oliver leaves open the door for another adventure for Jacynda, and I hope that occurs.  (Note to NMR editor: I want that book when it comes out!)

This is a really good read for one of those days when you feel that world news has just about reached the spot where you want to unplug your TV and go off to a desert island to forget about it all.

 

The Greater Good by Casey Moreton

Publisher: Pocket Star ISBN: 0743456580 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

U. S. Vice President James Ettinger has been assassinated.  The very elusive hit man, Olin St. John, has given notice that this is his last job.  He intends to retire and get married.  But when his boss learns that the Vice President made an explosive videotape that could change everything as we know it, he kidnaps St. John's fiancée to use as leverage to get him to retrieve the tape before it becomes public.  And what follows is a non-stop adventure all the way to the end.

Moreton is a new writer who has the insight on political intrigue of an old hand.  His political characters are ruthless, greedy, without conscience, and who all too easily manipulate the civilian characters. What an outstanding first novel he has produced.  If his next book is the same caliber as this one, he should soon be on the best seller list.

 

Broken by Kelley Armstrong

Publisher: Spectra  ISBN: 0553588184 

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Elena Michaels is a werewolf, and she is pregnant.  Female werewolves are very rare and as far as she knows, none have ever become pregnant.  When an old acquaintance asks her to do a job for him she is hesitant, until she learns he wants her to steal the Hell Letter written by Jack the Ripper.  The letter was protected by a curse that would sound an alarm if it was stolen by anyone with a heart beat, so it was stolen by a vampire.  Now it is in Toronto and is protected by a curse that will sound an alarm if stolen by anyone in human form.  So who better than a werewolf to do the deed?  But when she steals it she opens a portal that allows Jack the Ripper and zombies to enter the present, along with diseases from the 17th century.  Now she and her wolf pack must close the portal and send the 17th century back where it belongs.

This is a fantasy thriller that keeps you glued from the first page to the last.  Elena, her mate Clay, and the rest of the pack alternately form alliances with and do battle with vampires, witches, sorcerers, and necromantics to try to close the portal.  So just in case you're afraid of the dark, warning; in spite of the fact that this is a fantasy, you still might find yourself biting your nails throughout all the action while looking over your shoulder for these fantastic demons.  'Nuff said about the entertainment level of this title; it'll leave the hair on the back of your neck standing on end while wishing Buffy, canceled or not, is still somewhere, somehow, on duty continuing the good fight.   

 

Not a Girl Detective by Susan Kandel

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060581085

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reaer

In Not a Girl Detective, we find Cece Caruso- beauty queen- turned- author- turned- detective working on a biography of Carolyn Keene, the creator of Nancy Drew series of mysteries which were the rage of many a teenager world wide in the Fifties. And as part of her research she meets Edgar Edwards, a die hard fanatic of Nancy Drew. Edwards offers Caruso the use of his stylish vacation house. Caruso accepts the same, and looks forward to busy writing days ahead- but all that changes when Caruso finds a dead body in the pool. Its now upto Caruso to solve the mystery, find the sly and cunning murderer, and what better way is there for the same, than to emulate her childhood heroine. And thus Cece “Nancy Drew” Caruso launches in to her investigation which would make Drew proud, reaaaaaallll proud.

Like the earlier novel, I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, the hilarity and fun is aplenty in Not a Girl Detective also. A well researched and well narrated work, I look forward to more Cece Caruso mysteries from Susan Kandel.

 

The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters

Publisher: Avon ISBN 0 06 059179X

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The indefatigable Amelia Peabody, complete with assault umbrella, is back in Egypt once again in the 17th installment off her adventures.

Accompanied with her husband Radcliffe Emerson and her son Ramses, plus
his wife, twin children, and an enormous cat, Amelia is once again on the trail of a murderer, with the added complication of a lost funerary treasure which may be that of Tutankhamon.  Skirmishing around the edges of the story are a broad cast of characters including a depressed Howard Carter--the eventual discoverer of the actual tomb of King Tut--and a wagon load of villains, archaeologists, tourists, Egyptian officials, and household staff.

An informative minor thread in the plot gives some insight into the national aspirations of early 20th century Egyptians.  As always, Peters finds the perfect balance between sharing her Egyptological expertise with the reader. but not allowing that to overpower the storyline.

The book starts with a hysterical widow and a golden statue, and moves
through various hair-breadth escapes,  sidetrips up dark alleys, chases
in the desert, and culminates with the shooting of Amelia.

Heart in mouth, the reader will turn the pages at light speed, driven by the horrid suspicion that Peters has done a Conan Doyle to rid herself of a literary creation who has assumed a life of her own.  Is this the end of Amelia Peabody, and the series that has entertained millions for nearly three decades?

To find out, Dear Reader, buy the book.  You won't spend your money in
vain.  Highly recommended.

 

 

Deadly Will by Marion Moore Hill

Publisher: Pemberley Press ISBN 0 9771913 1 1

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

This is not a traditional historical mystery, but rather, incorporates a lot of history along with the mystery.

Author Hill has come up with an original idea, not that easily done these days when every plot has been done 147 different ways.  She deposits a group of people from a wide range of backgrounds in a large house in the historic section of Philadelphia in the late 20th century.  They have nothing in common except an ancestor, one Nathan Henry, a supposed acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin.

By the terms of Nathan's will, they must stay in his house for a week, during which time they will learn what legacies they will receive.  Among the things on offer are a quilt made by Betsy Ross, a letter from Benjamin Franklin, a musket, and many other commonplace items of the late 1700's which are now worth a fortune. And then there's the fortune itself, millions of dollars that have accrued for nearly two centuries.

As the reader won't be surprised to learn, greed enters the scene, closely followed by murder.  Any time you have a pot of money to be divided, you can be sure someone will think it would be more enjoyable if it were divided among fewer people in larger shares.

The story's heroine, young single mother Millie Kirchner, finds herself in a dangerous situation, but resists the temptation to give up and go home because of her wish to give her young son a decent life.  She has scrabbled on the edge of poverty for years: this is her chance to climb up on firmer ground.  Some of the other relatives are equally determined to hang on--but are they determined enough to kill to increase their shares?

This is a gentle walk through the outskirts of an interesting period in American history, and will teach you a lot about how the Independence Hall National Park precinct worked before security was tightened up.  There's also a touch of romance to leaven the crime.  (Another plus is that Pemberley Press apparently uses human proof readers, you won't find any misplaced apostrophes or wrong spellings to irritate you.)

 

Detour by James Siegel

Publisher: Warner Books ISBN: 0446617067

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

James Siegel, author of the fantastically suspenseful "Derailed", and one whose return has been greatly anticipated, is back with yet another wildly engaging and fully unrestrained ride for his legions of fans.

This time out we meet the lovely and happily married couple of Paul and Joanne Breidbart, a couple who only need a child to complete their perfect family.  After five years of futile attempts, they finally accede to the idea of adoption, and proceed to make plans to adopt a baby girl from the drug infested, politically corrupt country of Columbia. 

And it's there that everything goes from promising and hopeful to their worst nightmare.  A nightmare made complete with real life monsters in this most terrifying world of drug lords, corrupt people of power, and friends turned enemies.  And as we follow them along in their treacherous reach for survival, we are taken on a spectacular and adrenaline filled ride through a reality all too real for many.

If you're one to enjoy action and unabated adventure, you won't want to miss Siegel's latest.  Filled with enough suspense to make you dizzy, there's also plenty of heart and soul to keep even the most timid glued to the pages.  Highly recommended, don't miss this exhilarating read, it'll keep you awake long after it's over.        

 

 

A Killing Night by Jonathon King

Publisher: Signet ISBN: 0451218167

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Florida's PI Max Freeman is a man's man; reserved but affable, loyal and strong, and for the most part, slightly emotionally distant.  And his latest case will take him back to an even more unyielding time, back to his home town of South Philly, a meet-up with his ex-wife, and more than one confrontation with the silent wall of blue that make up the society of cops.

It all starts when his ex-girlfriend, a Florida detective, seeks his aid in implicating an ex-cop in the string of disappearances of young female bartenders.  But things are not so cut and dried for Max, as this is the same cop who once saved his neck years back while on the job in Philly.  And while it's true enough that these young women are disappearing, Max has his doubts as to who the culprit might be, so caught in the middle he reluctantly starts an investigation of his own.  But his adversary, a psycho bent on destruction, is not so easily foiled and has more than a few tricks up his sleeve, putting Max straight in the line of fire.

In a narrative that weaves back and forth between Max's first person and the killer's and victim's perspectives, the reader is treated to a novel that flows effortlessly and provides a spontaneous and dynamic read.  What's interesting is that this is a tale involving a serial killer, yet King treats this aspect so naturally that it doesn't seem like yet another of the same, adding a refreshing spin on an all too familiar plot.   Of course, we would like a little more insight into Max's emotions, but then again, this is one guy you don't want to ask "so, how do you feel about that?".       

 

 

A Confidential Source by Jan Brogan

Publisher: Warner Books  ISBN: 0446615005

Reviewed by Paul Kane, New Mystery Reader

Hallie Ahern, an underachieving journalist working at a small town newspaper, is the lone shopper at her local convenience store when a hold-up seems to go badly wrong.  The owner of the store, Barry Mazursky, is shot and killed.  Hallie’s account of her traumatic experience is a front page story, and her follow-up stories are not only in tribute to the deceased (Barry was a friend of hers); they are also attempts to kick-start her hitherto stalled career.  It transpires though that no money was taken during the “hold-up” and Barry seems more likely to have been the victim of a mob hit.  And it is only Hallie, a journalist with a now high visibility, who can identify his killers. 

In A Confidential Source Jan Brogan ingeniously sets in train a plot dynamic where it is her heroine’s ambition that places her in danger, and where she is, by turns, both a private investigator (i.e., an investigative journalist) and a pursued victim.  Along the way we are given an authentic portrait of a small-town newspaper, office politics and all; a skewered romance; and an exploration of the issue of compulsive gambling, an activity to which Hallie herself seems to be fatally and addictively attracted.

Hallie is an interesting character: vulnerable, prey to moments of low self esteem, she can also be tough, sassy and not a little pissed-off on occasion.  Her response to the eponymous source of the novel’s title, when he sells her a lie and tries to wriggle out by claiming that what he had said was “metaphorically true”, is a wonder to behold.  “What the hell does that mean?” she demands, “It was true in a fucking poem?”  This is a woman who may seem weak or fragile at first glance, but she fights like a hellcat when her job is on the line!

A Confidential Source is a novel that shouldn’t remain confidential, for it is an enthralling and much-superior mystery that is deserving of the widest possible readership.

 

 

Oblivion by Peter Abrahams

Publisher: HarperTorch; ISBN: 0060832835

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

LA private eye Nick Petrov is a man who knows how to take care of business, no matter what it takes, he's always prepared to do what's necessary.  But what he isn't prepared for is what is about to happen to him, and it all begins with a visit from a young mother looking for her teenage daughter.  During his search, he suddenly finds some alarming and mysterious connections to a case he solved years before involving a serial killer, a case that made his name while a detective with the force, and a case that ruined his marriage because of his intimate relationship with his partner, the now Chief of Police. 

But just as he's about to find the definitive answers that will tie everything together, he suffers a catastrophic illness that when upon waking, he discovers he's forgotten everything.  And after being told he may only have weeks to live, he knows somehow he must start his search anew even if it's the last thing he will ever do. But where the trail leads him is down a road with answers that will shock him to the core, because he is soon to discover that he may not be the man he always thought he was, and the man he sees in the mirror may just be as evil as those he hunts.

If you can only read one book this season, make it this one.  Entirely original and one of the most suspenseful and compelling books I've ever read, there is not a single misstep in this entire novel.  Both poignant and thrilling, this one stirs the heart just as easily as it electrifies the nerves.  With surprises around every corner, don't get too comfortable thinking you know what's coming, because most likely it will be just the opposite.  Easily one of the top reads in its genre, major kudos go out to Abrahams for putting out such a creative, mesmerizing, and dazzling gem of a book.       

 

The Abbot's Gibbet by Michael Jeeks

Publisher: Avon ISBN: 0060846569

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

The fair of Tavistock is attracting merchants from everywhere and is hoped to be a profitable venture for most of them.  What they do not anticipate is a murder.  Fortunately, a former Knight Templar, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, and his friend Simon Puttock are to attend the fair.  The Abbot asks them to investigate the murder since they have successfully resolved such cases in the past. 

My initial disappointment at this not being a novel about the heroic escapades of the Knights Templar was short lived as I was soon thoroughly engrossed in a 14th century murder mystery.  Considering the historic setting, Sir Baldwin displays a fascinating knowledge of forensics and criminal psychology than one might imagine, and he cleverly uses this knowledge to eliminate the most likely suspects and narrow in on the actual murderer.  The story is filled with characters of every type, all of them interesting and well drawn.  Overall, this one has everything you could wish for in a mystery novel.