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The Big Gamble by Michael McGarrity

Publisher: E P Dutton; ISBN: 052594656X 

When a couple of corpses turn up at an abandoned fruit stand, one of a woman who has been missing for several years, and the other of a lowlife loser, the hunt for answers leads to a wide spread ring of criminals that may include politicians and big business.  While newly appointed Deputy Sheriff Clayton Istee, Santa Fe’s Police Chief Kevin Kearny’s estranged son, works his end of the case, it is soon discovered that the ties go as far as Santa Fe and soon involve Kearny in the chase.  Prostitution rings and illegal gambling connect the corpses, and when further deaths occur, the search for answers soon bring these two men’s path to the same point.   

As usual, McGarrity has put out another solid police procedural, and this should appeal to fans of this genre.  A bit dry at times, it is nonetheless a quick and fun read.  Although personally I prefer more in depth characterization, there is enough here to keep me interested.  And although they read a bit flat at times, it is only because I want to get to know them even better that I complain, meaning that at least the foundation is solid in McGarrity’s main characters.  And of course the New Mexico setting is always a plus as well.  So although this is not one of my favorite series, McGarrity’s novels still makes for a pleasant afternoon of reading, this one included. 


COLD RIDGE by Carla Neggers

Mira Books ISBN: 1551666847

     Pararescueman Tyler North and two of his companions (Manny Carrera and HanK Callihan) escort Carine Winters off a Cold Ridge mountain trail after she eludes an unknown sniper.  Carine falls in love with Ty and they plan to marry.  But a month before the wedding, Ty calls it off and returns to Florida.

     Carine goes back to Boston and accepts a job photohraphing house rennovations for Sterling and Jodie Rancourt, who had also been rescued by North, Carrera and Callihan.  Returning to work after a lunch break, she finds the security guard murdered and Carrera on the scene.

     Carrera is detained as a suspect, but knowing how curious Carine is, and her nasty habit of getting involved where she doesn't belong, he asks Ty North to keep her out of the middle of things. Ty and Carine return to Cold Ridge, but unbeknown to them, so does the murderer ----and Carine is a target.  Is it possible for Ty and Carine to put aside animosity and hard feelings ro prove Carrera innocent and save Carine's life?

     Once again Neggers has given the reader a tight, fast-paced plot that holds the attention.  With threats, kidnappings, rescues, and general mayhem, characters are woven into the plot with superb finesse.
                                                               Reviewed by Donna Padilla

The Last Place by Laura Lippman

Publisher: William Morrow & Co; ISBN: 0380978199 (october)

It seems very few authors can keep up the steam this far along into a series.  However, Lippman has not only managed this feat, but has perhaps surpassed it in her latest novel featuring Tess Monaghan, the 30-something PI in Baltimore, Maryland.  When Tess is presented with a strange request to look into the unsolved deaths of 5 seemingly unrelated cases, she soon is drawn into a baffling puzzle where she quickly discovers all clues point back to her, and her past.  Joining her in the challenge is a wonderful new co-star, the obsessed ex-cop Carl Dewitt, who has yet to get past his inability to solve one of these cases.  Together they race against time to find the killer, because he’s coming closer to his true target:  Tess herself. 

Lippman has just about topped her previous exceptional thrillers with this latest.  Weaving seemingly disparate cases, past histories, and long unsolved questions, she brings together a plot of astounding proportions.  We learn more about Tess along the way, what has driven her, and what will most likely drive her in the future.  The secondary characters, mostly Carl Dewitt, are exceptionally written as well.  This is a must read for any fan of Lippman’s, and is most likely to generate a new host of fans for both her past, and her future, exciting and wonderful novels featuring the strong yet vulnerable Tess Monaghan.


Crime School by Carol O’Connell

Publisher: Putnam Pub Group; ISBN: 0399149287 

The brutal hanging of a prostitute from Kathy Mallory’s past begins this wonderful novel in a detailed and gruesome tableau scene of terror.  As the evidence is pondered, it is revealed that a similar crime from years past bears the same details, and when another woman is found in the same manner, the hunt for a serial killer begins.  The connection between the cases is at first doubted by many, but solid detective work soon makes this truth undeniable.  And when yet another woman is targeted, the detectives must race against the clock to save this next intended victim.     

O’Connell has struck gold yet again in her portrayal of a scarred detective with a shocking past.  As she slowly reveals the events that have shaped Mallory, the reader is led down a trail strewn with abuse, neglect, and the sheer courage to survive.  If Mallory comes off as cold and sometimes even unlikable, the reader will now better understand why.  In a touching and brutal fashion, all of O’Connell’s characters become more human than ever before, and this is what distinguishes this book from so many of its ilk.  Oh, and the unbridled suspense and action-packed plot doesn’t hurt either.  This is an intelligent and genuine read that will impact the reader long after they’ve finished.


Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly

 Publisher: Little Brown & Company; ISBN: 0316153915

When computer entrepreneur Henry Pierce is tossed out by his girlfriend for devoting more time to his new project then her, life turns upside down for Pierce with a single phone call.  His new phone number once belonged to a call girl who is now missing, and as Pierce gets further involved, soon his reputation, his company, and his life are being threatened by unknown enemies for unknown reasons.  Soon Pierce is racing to find answers to save it all, before this diabolical plot destroys him.    

Many reviewers have compared this latest by Connelly to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.  And while there are many similarities, the details added based on today’s world add quite the kick.  My only complaint is that I would’ve appreciated knowing WHY Pierce felt the need to abandon all in the search of a missing hooker, earlier on in the book.  As it was, I spent too many pages wondering why this guy on the brink of fame and fortune would throw it all away for a stranger, and so had some doubts about this character. 

However, once it was finally explained, the ride became fast and furious.    A tale of obsession, greed, corruption, and more importantly, what can happen to a simple man, whose unconfronted past is used against him to manipulate him, makes for an exciting and suspenseful read.  A well-written plot, with suspense that escalates with every page until the final truth is revealed, this is a great tale that works for any era.   

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