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The Nanny Murders by Merry Jones

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks  ISBN: 0312998627

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

One by one, nannies in Philadelphia are disappearing, and single mother Zoe Hayes, along with friends who are also mothers, fear the worst, especially as they all personally knew most of the young woman who seemed to have vanished into thin air.  And when Zoe's young adopted daughter finds a finger in front of their home, Zoe finds herself getting increasingly involved in the investigation, as well as with the lead detective on the case, the sexy but mysterious Nick Stiles.   But what she doesn't know is that the person responsible for the disappearances is much closer than she thinks, and it could be anybody; from the strange neighbors across the street, to her daughter's gymnastics coach, to the new man in her life, the very man who is supposed to be protecting her from a danger that is slowly closing in.

Merry Jones's debut mystery novel combines some heady suspense along with a very likable heroine, creating an engaging and exciting story that will easily please fans of domestic suspense.  There are plenty of suspects to choose from, and plenty of twists and turns to throw you off the trail every time you think you might have it all figured out, making for a deliciously stimulating read that culminates in one heck of a bang up ending.  Definitely recommended, this is one author we eagerly anticipate reading more from and hopefully soon.       

 

 

BLUETICK REVENGE by Mark Cohen

Publisher: Warner Books  ISBN 0 446617601

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader 

Serious mystery addicts will recall that last year Mark Cohen's debut novel, "The Fractal Murders" received good reviews in many forums, including this one.  It was hoped that that was the first in a series about the philosophy-reading ex-JAG lawyer turned mountain man.

Book Two has now appeared, and "Bluetick Revenge" is every bit as enjoyable as the first book.

Once you swallow the initial premise that a successful lawyer would chuck in a high-paying career to live hand-to-mouth in a small town in Colorado, you can easily accept that he'd jump at the chance to make a few bucks dognapping a pure-bred Bluetick coonhound from a motorcycle gang leader.

The successful completion of this task leads to Pepper Keane being asked by his former law partner to baby-sit the bikie's wife, who's about to turn state's evidence for the FBI.

Sounds easy enough so far, right? 

Well, yes and no.  Seems that Thad Bugg, former owner of the dog and the wife, is kind of unhappy about their disappearances, and has offered considerable financial inducement to the lower orders if somebody (1) finds the missing property and (2) kills the guy who made off with it.  Oh, did I mention that the wife on the run packed an overnight bag full of cold cash?

Things get fairly heavy and Pepper enlists a bit of help--his best buddy, Scott, and his antisocial uncle Ray.  Stuck for something to do to bring matters to a head, Pepper resorts to his favourite tactic: kidnap one of the bad guys and threaten him with unpleasant things if he doesn't talk.  (This is after parachuting into the enemy camp and setting fire to everything in sight.)

All the time he's trying to sort out the mess his dognapping activities got him into, Pepper is having to consider the ultimatum his girlfriend Jayne has given him: she wants to get married and adopt a baby from China, where she's presently working in a sabbatical year. 

If you enjoy tough-guy-with-a brain mysteries, and have re-read all your Robert B Parkers too often, give Pepper Keane a go.  I eagerly await Book Three.

 

Panic by Jeff Abbott

Publisher: Onyx  ISBN: 0451412222

Reviewed by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Car chases! Double crosses! Romance! Cliff-hanger chapter endings! Guns! Knives! Triple crosses! Jeff Abbott’s Panic has three times that and more. If you like plot twists falling over each other like dominoes, with action in chapter-sized portions, this is the book for you.

Evan Casher is a young, relatively well-known documentary film maker about to take his relationship with his new girlfriend to another level when an early morning phone call from his mother summons him home. That’s as much as can be told about the story without giving away any of the twists.

New inamorata Carrie may not be who, or what, she seems. It’s only fair; neither are Mom, Dad, or any of the people who surface claiming to protect Evan from all the rest of the people who want to protect him. By the end you’re not a hundred percent sure about Evan, although some knowledge of the genre should allow you to recognize the formula PiD=GG. (Protagonist in Danger equals Good Guy.)

Abbott has written a quintessential conspiracy-theory thriller, without asking the reader to risk back injury through too much suspension of disbelief. Not that all the events are particularly credible: a lot of things have to break just right, and Evan does much better than should be expected when pitted against baddies too clever even for their peers.

The weakness of a book like Panic is the same as in an action movie, except the movie can engage all the senses at such high speed that it’s over before you realize its only stimulation came from keeping up with the plot. A novel takes longer, and is usually read in pieces, giving the mind more time to realize what isn’t there: wit, nuance, and much interest in the characters beyond how they’re going to pull this one off.

That’s not as harsh as it sounds. The genre demands for events to occur with such rapidity that too much of the above would bog down the pace. It’s not a mystery, with the implications of puzzle-solving and threatened violence barely out of sight; it’s a thriller, an upside-down roller coaster with armed men kicking in the front door while the back door’s on fire. Not as fascinatingly researched and developed plot-wise as The DaVinci Code, but Abbott doesn’t reach as far, or ask for as many indulgences, for his plot twists.

A book like this is always hard to evaluate: excellent at what it is, while not the reviewer’s cup of tea. Take the rating with a grain of salt. Aficionados of the genre should add a bolt; those whose tastes run more toward realism in both situation and character may take a bolt away. Either way, once Abbott catches you up in his web, it’s a fun read. How fulfilled you are afterward is a matter of personal preference.

 

 

Shadow Man by James D. Doss

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312936648

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In this highly entertaining addition to the Charlie Moon series, Doss once again takes the reader on a delightfully meandering adventure through Southern Colorado with the charming team of Ute Indian Charlie Moon, his Aunt Daisy, Chief Parris, and the lovely FBI Agent Lila McTeague.  This time out, Charlie is hired by orthodontist Manfred Blinkoe to find out who is trying to kill him.  As this strange small man has left many an enemy behind in his lifetime of living on the not quite so legal edge, this is going to be a bit of tough one for Charlie, and with Blinkoe claiming that he also shares this world with a doppelganger; things can only get even more confusing.  Not to mention dangerous, as soon this someone is also targeting Charlie and his Aunt in their quest to keep the truth under wraps.  So as the reader is taken along for this sometimes mystical and always humorous ride, the truth will once again be stranger than a bald owl fishing on solid land. 

Reading a Charlie Moon mystery is like settling into your favorite recliner at the home of a good friend.  Down home dialogue that incites laugh out loud chuckles, characters that charm and enchant, and some mysticism thrown in for good measure, all conspire to provide the reader with a most captivating read.  Aunt Daisy, in particular, has got to be one of the most delightful characters in fiction today, an ornery elder who thrills in car chases, beats up bikers and druggies, and dreams visions of truth; how can you miss?   This must read comes with the highest recommendation, so give yourself a treat and pick up this latest wonderful read from Doss, you won't be sorry.     

 

The Butterfly House by Marcia Preston

Publisher: Mira ISBN: 0778322173

Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Roberta "Bobbie" Lee and Cynthia "Cincy" Jaines have been best friends since they were 7 years old, having in common the fact that they're both fatherless and live with their single mothers.  Things take a nasty turn when the girls become teenagers and Cincy's house burns to the ground, leaving death and destruction in its wake.  Lenora Jaines goes to prison for arson and manslaughter, Cincy disappears, and Bobbie winds up in a mental institution.

Now a decade later, Bobbie is married and pregnant and totally unprepared when on a cold winter Canadian morning Cincy's supposedly dead father shows up on her door step and insists that she attend Lenora's parole hearing.  Bobbie refuses at first, not knowing whether the hearing will send her back over the edge into an institution, or finally force her to face her fears and become more independent.  When she finally decides she will go, her overprotective husband leaves her. 

Make sure you have plenty of tissues on hand because this is a real tear jerker.  Preston has created characters and a plot that play very heavily on the emotions.  And after reading this superb suspense novel readers will find themselves running out to buy every book written by Marcia Preston.

 

 

Weaving Shadows by Margaret Murphy

Publisher: Leisure Books ISBN: 0843956682

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

In this electrifying sequel to Murphy's first outing featuring the determined lawyer, Clara Pascal, readers are taken on another turbulent and touching ride through the halls of justice.

Clara, still shattered emotionally and spiritually from her last encounter with violence, can't seem to get back into her old life, one of strength and willfulness and an unerring commitment to justice.  She hasn't touched a criminal case since the event that left her broken, but that all changes when she begins a custody suit that soon leads to one of murder.  Ian Clemence, recently released from prison for the brutal slaying of his girlfriend years ago, is the first suspect when another woman is found murdered in much the same way.  And as the evidence piles up against him, Clara suddenly finds herself invigorated and deeply interested in seeing justice done, and as she's the only one who doubts his guilt, it will be an uphill battle that very well may place her in the danger she has been avoiding for so long.  

One can't help but feel for this wounded soul that Murphy has so beautifully created in Clara Pascal, and watching her recover and rejoin the fight is both poignant and satisfying.  In addition, Murhpy supplies the reader with plenty of suspense, red herrings, and just good old fashion great story telling that will enthrall and surprise until the final page.  One hell of a read, don't miss this latest, it chills just deeply as it delights.  

 

Locked Doors by Blake Crouch

Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks ISBN: 0312991258

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Once again, Crouch shows no mercy to the reader in this wild and furious follow-up to Desert Places.  We catch up with suspense novelist Andrew Thomas seven years after his perfect life had gone up in flames when he was framed for the brutal murders of his mother and others.  Now hiding out in the Yukon, he's finally found a modicum of peace, thinking he has left the true killers dead in the ashes of his previous life.  But one of them didn't die and now he wants his revenge, with his first targets being Andrew's old lover and his best friend's widow.  And as the killer leaves a fresh swath of death in his wake, Andrew rises to the bait, and once again journeys to North Carolina where his path will cross with the beautiful young detective working on the case, soon putting them both in the line of fire perpetuated by an incomprehensible evil.   

As in the first outing, Andrew is an engaging and compelling victim/hero/villain/escapist.  Balancing smoothly and provocatively off his new found belief in the evil that men can do is the beautiful and naive detective Violet King, a woman who still believes more in the goodness of mankind than the malevolence that is closer to the truth.  And between these two characters lies page after page of stunning suspense.  Thankfully, Crouch has lightened a bit on the gory violence in this one, until the hugely climatic ending anyway, making for a much better read all around.  Filled with succulent detail of the places our hero finds himself, both physically and emotionally, this is an exhilarating and stirring tale of terror with just enough redemption to make it all worth it.   

 

Lifeguard by James Patterson & Andrew Gross

Publishers: Warner Books  ISBN: 044661761X

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

One thing you can predict of each James Patterson book is that you can never predict what is going to be in store for us, the teeming millions of readers worldwide.

This is the 3rd mystery work the author has published this year- and its already July, mind you- Honeymoon was astounding, Maximum Ride was fantastic and 4th of July was fabulous.

So it was with great anticipation and even more expectations that I grabbed my copy of Lifeguard- and boy….oh boy, it was s-u-p-e-r-b. This time round James Patterson takes us to the warm and sunny beaches of Florida where we are introduced to our hero Ned Kelly (who has no relation to the outlaw whatsoever). Ned Kelly is a lifeguard, and an easy going guy. But all this changes when the beautiful, sexy and rich Tess McAuliffe comes to his life. He first meets her at the Beach- and is soon attracted to her. A one-night stand and he is love bitten. But there is one problem, Tess is not ready to compromise with her riches and luxury and for the first time Ned dreams of making big money. And so when a couple of friends of his hitch upon a plan for quick money- by stealing famous paintings from a collector, Ned immediately joins the scheme. However, the plan goes foul and all but Ned are dead. Ned Kelly immediately suspects that there was a double-cross and someone whom he knew, whom he trusted had cheated him. What follows is topnotch action, of the same kind we expect from this topnotch author culminating in a grand and exciting finish.

I absolutely enjoyed the work and it is recommended read and even more recommended buy.

 

The Cadaver's Ball by Charles Atkins

Publisher: Leisure Books  ISBN: 0843957573

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When New York psychiatrist Peter Grainger lost his wife Beth in a tragic car accident he thought things couldn't get much worse.  Time has yet to heal his bruised and battered heart, and now his professional life seems to be going in the same direction.  His best friend since medical school, Ed Tyson, a man whose accolades in the medical profession seem to grow with every year, has sent him a beautiful young patient Anne.  Anne has threatened suicide, but what Peter doesn't know is that Ed has devised a plot worthy of Machiavellian, a plot designed to bring Peter down, and Anne is just the first step.  For  Ed has always been convinced that Beth was supposed to be his wife, and Ed has spent the time since the accident plotting his revenge for the death of the only woman he's ever loved, and he will at stop at nothing until Peter pays the ultimate price for all that's come before.

Atkins has created a villain of mammoth proportions, and the thrills given the reader through his plotting and planning are deliciously frightening.  And what makes it even better is the almost immediate suspicion that Peter has for his former best friend.  There's virtually no denial, as seen in too many books where it's clear to the reader with the victim remaining clueless, making this even more refreshingly creative.  Because now it comes down to wits and bravado, making this cat and mouse excursion chillingly terrifying waiting for the ultimate winner to emerge.  A psychological thriller of the first order, this one shouldn't be missed.        

 

The Only Suspect by Jonnie Jacobs

Publisher: Pinnacle Books  ISBN: 07586016698

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

When Monte Vista, CA physician Sam Russell wakes up in the middle of nowhere with his car in a ditch, blood under his nails, and absolutely no memory of the past 24 hours, he knows he's in serious trouble.  Things only get worse when he returns home to find his wife of two years missing, and with no memory of the past day's events Sam has to wonder if he is in fact responsible for her disappearance. 

To make matters worse, Sam had been charged with the murder of his first wife years earlier, and although that charge resulted in a hung jury, there are still many who believe in the doctor's guilt.  But while the detectives on the case, Hannah Montgomery and Dallas Pryor, naturally assume the doctor must be to blame, it doesn't take long for Hannah to begin to doubt the doctor's guilt as the preponderance of unanswered questions continues to grow with each question asked.  

Jacobs fills this latest gripping suspense tale with so many twists and turns that it's almost impossible to put down.  Just when you think Sam's got it all figured out, another surprise is thrown into the mix and it's back to square one.  And while the ending gets a little bogged down with perhaps one too many of these exciting twists, it all gets worked out satisfactorily, with even a hint of romance for the good doctor.  A recommended read with empathetic characters, finely tuned suspense, and a thrill a minute narrative; this is easily worth the buy. 

 

RITUALS OF THE SEASON by Margaret Maron

Publisher:  Warner Books  ISBN 0 446617652

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Margaret Maron rarely disappoints her readers, and this 11th  in the Judge Deborah Knott series is as enjoyable as the first; perhaps more so, because we know the characters so well.

There's the usual good mix of small-town southern folksiness and stone-cold criminality, which makes these books so enjoyable.  Just when you've had enough of the despicable crime, along comes Aunt Zell or Uncle Ash or one of Deborah's many sisters-in-law to lighten things up a bit--usually bearing food, or an anecdote, or both.  Maron has a light hand with the dialect and idioms of North Carolina: enough to flavor the mix without overwhelming the story.

The crime this time is worse than usual: Deborah's colleague, the assistant ADA Tracey Johnson is shot dead while driving her car, and her tiny daughter, Mei, is killed in the subsequent crash.  The deaths cast a pall on Deborah's wedding preparations.  At long last she's marrying old friend Deputy Sheriff Dwight Bryant.  Dwight has loved her silently for years, and his patience is about to be rewarded: but not before a lot of problems are resolved.

Among the difficulties littering Deborah and Dwight's path to the altar are a pair of law students who are convinced that Martha Hurst, who's about to be executed for murder, is innocent.  With more good humor than you'd think they could muster at such a time, Deborah and Dwight lend the kids a hand with their investigation, and come to a startling discovery.

As the clock ticks down towards the wedding day, Dwight keeps digging into the possible reason for Tracey's murder and one of his trooper's subsequent suicide.  On the face of it it looks so simple: a crime of passion and a suicide of remorse.  But things in Colleton Country North Carolina are rarely what they first appear, and Dwight has more than one reason to question the apparently obvious scenario.

Dwight and Deborah sort out the murders in time for the wedding, only to face one last big problem: the country club reception center burns down.  Where do you hold a reception at short notice for 250 people? Read the book; Minnie's solution will give you a smile.

 

Bethlehem Road Murder by Batya Gur

Publisher: Harper  ISBN: 0060954922

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

Well, 2004 is nearing an end and I have read almost 150 books this year- and I noticed something interesting- this the fourth work I am reading (and reviewing for this marvelous site) this year, which has the word “Road” in it- the other three being Gerard Readett’s Roadworks, Donald Westlake’s The Road to Ruin, and Max Allan Collin’s Road to Purgatory. But save for the same word in the title there is nothing similar in the tone and theme of the books.

This is the first Batya Gur work I am reading and I am mighty impressed. There have been few works from Israel and the Middle East in the realm of popular thriller fiction- the superb The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk being a notable exception- that have captured the world market. Bethlehem Road Murder is just like any other modern day murder mystery/ thriller, but where it proves unique is in the background. Set in the close world of Jerusalem and exploring the culture/ traditions of the land of Israel- Gur plots a perfect murder mystery in Bethlehem Road Murder. The blurb informs that this book is the fifth in a successful series- all featuring Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon.  The novel starts with the discovery of a body of a young woman, her face badly smashed up in a house at Bethlehem Street in Jerusalem. Ohayon is called to investigate and Ohayon’s investigation opens up a whole new can of worms. What follows is superb action involving both brain and brawn culminating in an exciting finish. I enjoyed the book very much- and am sure to check out the author’s previous works.

Highly recommended.