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THE SCEPTRED ISLE CLUB Brent Monahan

St Martin’s Minotaur ISBN  0 312  31368 3 

The second book in Monahan’s John le Brun series is now in paperback at $13.95, a bargain for this large-format production.

“The Sceptered Isle Club” takes the now retired policeman across the Atlantic to England, where he is entertained by his friend Geoffrey Moore.   leBrun has barely unpacked his carpet bag abroad ship when he is called upon to handle the delicate matter of a string of missing pearls.  With his usual dispatch, le Brun identifies the criminals and recovers the pearls, earning the undying gratitude and handsome payment of the steamship line.

On his first day in London, he meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the two of them are all but eye-witnesses to a mass murder in the gaming room of the Sceptered Isle Club, a murder which has ramifications far beyond the mere horror of unexplained death.

The club manager begs le Brun to undertake a parallel investigation to that of the police, and with some reluctance, le Brun promises to give two days to the case.

While investigating, the widower le Brun meets a number of beautiful women, several of whom make it known that they wouldn’t mind a dalliance with the intriguing foreigner.  He manfuly withstands their blandishments, while trying to get to the bottom of the murders.  New Scotland Yard chooses to take the line of least resistence and accept superficial evidence that points to the local cop on the beat being the killer, but le Brun senses there’s a lot more to the case than a simple robbery gone wrong.

Sure enough, further complications arise, including the Irish Home Rule question,  a hot topic of the day, and one which gives rise to strong emotions and equally strong motives for assassination. While investigating the killings, le Brun runs into a killer from his previous case, who turns into an unexpectedly useful ally.

Monahan has extensively researched the early Edwardian period for his background, and the reader will learn a great deal about the social history of England while following le Brun’s tracks in pursuit of the killers.   It was  a grim world for all but the wealthy, and Monahan conveys the grit and grime and grinding poverty very well.

The release of the paperback is timed to coincide with the third book in the series,  “The Manhattan Island Clubs”, for which review see our hard-bound section.


Karen Treanor
 

 

 

Bad Girl by Michelle Jaffe 

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks  ISBN: 0345464982

Criminalist Windy Thomas and her six-year-old daughter had recently moved to Las Vegas when the first brutal slaughter occurred.  An entire family, except for the father, had been killed, and it wouldn’t be the last.  Working along side Ash Laughton, chief of the violent crime unit, the two follow forensic evidence in search of the killer, which eventually is linked to a woman named Eve, self-described as a “bad girl”.  And as Windy tries to balance her work life, with that of her home, including her fiancée who strongly disapproves of her career choice, she must also come to terms with startling revelations that lead her to question everything she thought she knew.

 

This thriller is just about as good as it gets.  Mind jolting suspense, and numerous startling twists and turns keep this a page-turning addiction. Windy is an intelligent and compassionate heroine that is easy to admire, as are most of the other characters.  And the forensic detail, reminiscent of the highly lauded drama, CSI, is also perfectly rendered.  At last a romantic suspense tale that doesn’t follow the same old boring path as too many others, and instead treats the reader to substance and matter.  Highly, highly recommended, this is one author we greatly wish to see more of.          

 

 

The Apprentice  by Tess Gerritsen

Publisher: Ballantine Books  ISBN: 0345447867 

It’s been a year since the serial killer known as the “surgeon” has been caught and locked away, thanks to Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli.  But now there appears to be a new one on the loose, one whose signature seems all too familiar, one who reminds Rizzoli of the man who almost killed her.  It appears the teacher has found a student, this time one who targets wealthy and attractive couples, torturing and killing.  So Jane must use all she knows of the surgeon if she’s too ever capture his apprentice.  With the help of FBI agent Gabriel Dean, an enigmatic man of many secrets, she must look back into her nightmares and face what she most fears so that others will live.         

Through Jane Rizzoli, Gerritsen has created a female detective that is as intensely fervent as she is deeply human.  This type of passionate character is what we like to see in our mysteries as it adds realism and depth to the reading.  Gerritsen’s villains are also frighteningly real, causing many a shudder and tremble during this fearsome read.   And those who like a lot of forensic detail will also be satisfied at the specifics that Gerritsen adds to the story.  All in all, another winner from this writer who knows horror. 

 

Left To Die by Taylor Kincaid

Publisher: Onyx Books  ISBN: 0451410963 

When their latest client approaches PI’s Ian McSwain and Jenna Capshaw, they have serious doubts as to whether they should take the case.  Not only does their latest client appear to be flat broke, but also the woman she wants them to find may already be dead.  The client, Mandy, a young mother with a serious drinking problem, had been kidnapped and assaulted a few months prior, along with another woman, a woman only known to her as “Billie”.  And while Mandy was able to escape, she left Billie alone with the madman, and unable to escape.  Now racked with guilt, she is driven to find out if the woman she left behind is dead or alive.  And the further the two detectives get involved in the case, the more questions they face, along with some serious danger.       

I was pleasantly surprised by how good this book really was.  With enough twists and turns to fool even the most vigilant reader, it’s suspense and thrills were fluidly abundant.  Kincaid’s characters were also top-notch, with plenty of depth and personality.  In addition, Kincaid’s view of the addict and addiction was treated with sensitivity and understanding, creating an even more empathetic tale.  All in all, highly recommended.  We hope there’s another case in the future for this wonderful duo, as the unanswered questions in their personal lives beg to be resolved.  

 

Justice:  The Mike Amato Detective Series by Lou Campanozzi
Publisher: 1stBooks Library  ISBN: 1410737942

Mystery author, Lou Campanozzi first introduced Lieutenant Mike Amato in The Killing Cards, a fast paced thriller about a serial killer leaving playing cards on the bodies of the victims.  He brought the detective back in Ground Lions, an action packed mystery that starts with the body of a young man found in the parking lot behind a catholic high school.  Before he passed away in 2002, Campanozzi was able to complete his last manuscript, Justice.  

Someone is murdering kids in Rochester, New York.  The bodies, when found, are arranged as if part of a showcase on display.  The investigation is long and intense.  For months Lieutenant Mike Amato and his team of investigators work more than twelve hours a day, seven days a week, aching to catch the killer and to put a stop to the murders.

The stress and nightmares from seeing the results of such horrible crimes is eating away at the entire police department.  And when it looks like all hope is lost, a lead in the case comes through.  After apprehending the killer and getting a sworn confession from the monster, the killer's attorney gets the matter thrown out of court on a technicality.  

The killer has a story to tell.  So once out on the streets, the only way he can see to continue to try and get his story heard is by returning to his old nasty and evil ways.  The killing starts again.  This time when the police go after him, dangerous questions run through their minds.  They are over cautious.  They don't want to risk messing up a second time, and risk having the killer set free again.  But what can they do to make sure the killer doesn't slip through the judicial cracks a second time?  

The heart pounding and intense police procedural is his finest book.  It can easily stand up against books by legends such as Ed McBain, Robert Parker and Lawrence Block.  It contains emotional and raw courtroom drama parallel to any book written by Scott Turrow or Steve Martini.  Campanozzi out did himself with Justice.  Thanks to his daughter and the rest of his family, Justice has been published.  However, I wish he were here to reap the just rewards of such a fine and memorable crime novel.

© 2003 Phillip Tomasso III
 

The Crush by Sandra Brown

Publisher: Warner Books; ISBN: 0446527041 (October)

Surgeon Rennie Newton is summoned to jury duty, and as her sense of fair play is in over-drive, she convinces the jury panel to acquit the monstrous Lozardo of murder.  Unfortunately, this leads Lozardo to perceive a relationship, and he will stop at nothing to possess the good doctor fully.  When a fellow surgeon is brutally murdered, the detectives on the case see Newton as the only suspect, as she was vying for the prestigious position that had been awarded her rival.  But slowly Wick Threadgill, one of the lead detectives on the case, begins to suspect otherwise, and as he begins to fall for the beautiful suspect, danger begins to shadow his every move. 

Sandra Brown is once again in top form.  And even though the reader knows from the onset who the villain is, the perfectly creepy sociopathic Lozardo, this in no way detracts from the unflagging suspense.  There are plenty of secrets, surprises, and shocks to keep the reader turning the pages as quickly as they can.  The Texas dust and heat help add plenty of atmosphere, and the budding attraction between the two main characters cause quite a bit of its own heat.  This read is a lot like jumping out of an airplane, fast and furious with just the right amount of danger, and simply put, just a whole lot of fun!