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Death Climbs a Tree by Sarah Hoskinson Frommer

Publisher: St. Martin’s Monotaur  ISBN: 031239210

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Sylvia Purcell, violinist in the Oliver Civic Symphony leaves Joan Spencer, their manager, in a lurch when she decides to stage a “sit-in” in a tree to protest the Walcher Construction Project.  To make matters worse, Joan finds out that her son Andrew is providing food to the protesters and subsequently winds up replacing Sylvia in the “sit-in” when she falls out of the tree and dies at Andrew’s feet.  Joan’s husband, police Lieutenant Fred Lundquist is put in an unusual position when Sylvia’s death is declared a murder because his stepson is the prime suspect.  Although Fred’s hands are tied, that does not stop Joan from investigating the case in order to clear her son’s name and to find the killer before Andrew becomes the next casualty in the “sit-in.”

Sarah Hoskinson Frommer provides a delightful series set in “Smalltown, USA.”  Like any mother, Joan is desperate to save her son from danger and is certain that he is innocent, but to her dismay the evidence that she finds seems to build the case against her son rather than helping her to exonerate him.  Death Climbs a Tree is the sixth book in the Joan Spencer series and is a very entertaining read that I highly recommend.

 

 

Relics by Mary Anna Evans

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press ISBN: 1590581199

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Artifacts, Evan's first novel featuring archeologist Faye Longchamp, won the Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in mystery and suspense and, after reading her sequel, it's abundantly clear that Evans has kept to her course of distinction.    

This time out Faye is ecstatic when she's offered to the post of archeologist for a project that is attempting to discover more about the Sujosa, a backwoods settlement in Alabama featuring a clan of people who seem to have a strong immunity against certain diseases.  But the project from the outset seems strife with difficulties, as much of the grant money and jobs that were promised the Sujosa have yet to see the light of day, and the head of the project, Dr. Raleigh, seems intent upon running the whole thing into the ground with his ignorance. 

But things are about to get progressively worse when first a suspicious fire claims the life of Faye's co-worker and roommate, and then shortly after a young man falls to his death from a cell phone tower, all heralding that there are many more secrets to be revealed than just the Sujosa's background.  Secrets that will bring danger to anyone involved in the project, including Faye and her indestructible curiosity. 

This highly engaging tale of archeology and mystery makes for an all too swift read that fans of either will relish.  Faye, a feisty and appealing heroine, adds great depth to this already entertaining tale, and helps move this fascinating plot along with an even greater speed.  And though the Sujosa is a fictional group, Evans provides plenty of realistic archeological detail to make it all seem more than convincing, while simultaneously intellectually gripping.  Definitely recommended, we eagerly are left waiting for the next. 

 

Heir Today  by J. J. Lamb and Bette Golden Lamb

Publisher:  Five Star  ISBN:  1-59414-356-0

Reviewed by Susan Illis, New Mystery Reader

When Paige Boylan Alper receives a letter from Heirs Apparent, an heir-tracing company, informing her of funds she stands to inherit from her deceased uncle Jock Ian Boylan, she is intrigued.  But as an investigative reporter, she is unwilling to pay the fifty percent premium to Heirs Apparent.  Contrary to the wishes of her twin sister and co-heir, Paige decides, with her husband Max’s help, to locate the monies on their own.

The couple travels first to San Diego, where sea captain Jock was killed in a hit and run accident five years earlier.  It quickly becomes obvious that there’s more at stake than a quarter million dollar inheritance, as they first encounter uncooperativeness from a nursing home administrator, then violence from two thugs in the desert.

Reading the journals Jock had left with his friend puts them on the trail of Tan Mong Kuan, kingpin of Hong Kong organized crime.  Paige learns that her cousin, Sallee, was murdered, not killed in an accident, and Tan was to blame.  Jock’s determination to avenge the murder of his only daughter consumed his final years, and as Paige and Max soon begin to suspect, resulted in his own murder.

Paige and Max’s quest takes them next to New York and finally to Hong Kong, pursued at every turn by hired assassins.  The resiliency of Paige and Max who rebound and keep pressing, despite numerous beatings, becomes increasingly difficult to believe as the novel progresses.

Excerpts form Jock’s journals keep the story moving along.  Husband and wife writing team, J. J. and Bette Golden Lamb, in their second joint novel, have created a suspenseful if implausible story.  The novel is marred by unrealistic dialog and unbelievable characters, but it still will keep you reading until the last page.

 

 

Desert Summer by Michael Craft

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur  ISBN: 0312334230

Reviewed by Robin Thomas, New Mystery Reader

Claire Gray is a modern Miss Jane Marple; she uses a “theatrical perspective” on criminology to solve the whodunit.  In Desert Summer, the fourth book in the Claire Gray mystery series, Claire is invited to an impromptu dinner party at the house of D. Glenn Yeats, the founder and president of Desert Arts College.  The reason for the party is to diffuse the intensity of an argument that Yeats is going to have with one of his ex-wives over the Santa Barbara home that she received in the divorce settlement.  The altercation goes better than expected but Felicia Yeats is found dead in her hotel room from poisoning the following day.  At the top of the list of suspects is D. Glenn Yeats, but the list is long and includes many other family members, friends and acquaintances.  Yeats knows about Claire’s talents in solving crimes and asks for her help.

Michael Craft develops a delightful character in Claire Gray, head of the Desert Arts College Theater Department and amateur sleuth.  She works with Larry Knoll, a policeman, who admires her investigative talents and wants to have more than a professional relationship with her.  Very “a la Christie” the story climaxes with all the suspects together and Claire tells the group who killed Felicia Yeats.  Desert Summer is an entertaining mystery that I highly recommend.

 

Breaking Faith by Jo Bannister

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312343019

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Brodie Farrell is a master at finding things that others can't, so when she's approached by Eric Chandos, manager of demon rock star Jared Fry, to find a home for Fry with a very specific list of requirements, she welcomes this stimulating challenge.  But fulfilling this picky rock star's whims is not going to be easy, and it's clear that it's going to take more than her usual persistence to find the perfect property.  And so when she at last stumbles upon a set of flats known as The Diligence, she is more than pleased to have finally succeeded.  But her pleasure is short-lived, for when the star demands a swimming pool built, the builders dig up more than just dirt, they dig up a body.  So now Brodie finds that she has stumbled on yet another unexplained death, and the trouble it's about to bring her professionally and personally may just once again jeopardize all she holds dear.

Bannister scores another direct hit with this captivating and beguiling read.  Continuing her astute and affecting development of these compelling characters, she succeeds in once again bringing them to life with ease, providing plenty of emotional satisfaction for the reader.  There are some surprising developments also in store concerning Brodie's sometimes ambiguous relationship with DS Jack Deacon, as well as with her best friend, the shy and highly intelligent Daniel Hood.  Bannister's strengths clearly lie in her ability to develop her characters first, and only then does she surround them with intriguing and gripping plots; a formula that works perfectly, and one that makes each read in this series a must.  Another recommended read from an author who is still going strong, don't miss it.        

 

A Shot to Die For by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press ISBN: 1590581857

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Ellie Foreman is on her way home from a corporate video shoot at The Lodge, a prestigious resort in Lake Geneva, when she stops at a rest stop for a cool drink, and once again finds herself wrapped up in a case of murder.  During a brief conversation with another woman at the stop, her moment of rest turns into chaos when the woman is shot down in cold blood by a sniper who roars off in a cloud of dust.  And after more than a few close calls with violent death, Ellie swears she will remain uninvolved this time around. 

But such promises are not easy to keep for this curious and intrepid amateur sleuth, and all too soon she finds herself asking questions and putting herself in harm's way yet again, as this isn't the first death by sniper, nor will it be the last.  But things aren't what they seem and when it begins to look like this particular shooting may very well be the act of a copycat, suddenly the trail gets hotter and the list of suspects grows, including a man who Ellie finds herself inexplicably attracted to, putting Ellie closer to danger than she knows. 

This excellent mystery provides a healthy dose of entertainment for fans of Hellmann.  There's a little romance, tons of suspense, and even a little history of the Lake Geneva area thrown in for good measure.  Ellie, single mom and weary romantic, as usual provides the reader with a worthy and convincing heroine, and in a plot that is engrossing and thrilling, there is much to enjoy in this all too quick read.  Just make sure you start it with plenty of time to finish it, as it's more than difficult to put down.